Review – Star Trek III: The Search For Spock

part 3 of our series reviewing past Trek movies 

sttsfs.JPGIn the wake of 1982’s enormously successful The Wrath of Khan, and particularly before the universally despised Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Leonard Nimoy’s directorial debut, Star Trek III, was the whipping boy of the burgeoning Star Trek movie franchise. On the face of it the movie was a success—feverishly anticipated, given extra buzz by Nimoy’s presence behind the camera, the mystery of the fate of Spock after his death in Trek II, and the “final mission of the starship Enterprise” tagline that teased the movie’s shocking destruction of the beloved space vessel at the movie’s climax. Reviews were good, if not as glowing as the ones for Nicholas Meyer’s Wrath of Khan (one of the few Trek movies to garner non-condescending raves from the mainstream press), and box office business was brisk.

Maybe the self-explanatory title helped. After the Wrath of Khan, it was time to Search For Spock—the Vulcan’s death had been Trek II’s trump card, there hadn’t been a dry Trekkie eye in the house and devastated fans wondered what they would do on an Enterprise bridge bereft of their favorite first officer. But the title implied hope, when interviewed Nimoy was coy about whether he actually appeared in the film, and suddenly a sequel with a quite logical and emotionally satisfying—if open-ended—wrap-up suddenly became the beginning of a three-movie arc.

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Nimoy gets behind the camera

The Search for Spock indeed picks up almost exactly where The Wrath of Khan left off, with the Enterprise limping home after its battle with the genetic superman and Kirk licking the “open wound” of his Vulcan friend’s death. And the emotional dividends of that bummer of an ending start paying off immediately when a young ensign (actor Greg Morris’ son—and future Seinfeld semi-regular—Phil Morris) asks the grieving Kirk if there’ll be a ceremony when the Enterprise gets home. “A hero’s welcome, Ensign—is that what you’d like?” Kirk asks, and the audience cringes—you wonder if Kirk is going to hit the guy. Just as effective is the eerie scene in Spock’s quarters with McCoy briefly channeling his Vulcan sparring partner’s voice. This is a whiff of classic Trek not seen in the movies up until this point—the old trope of weird “mind controlled” behavior that showed up in so many episodes—and the exercising of these vintage beats from the TV series immediately connects Trek III to its lineage in a way the less conventionoal TMP and Wrath of Khan never quite did.

The effect is redoubled when Mark Lenard shows up as Sarek. Classic Trek’s weekly parade of high-powered guest stars was one of its great pleasures, and one completely unexplored in TMP. Khan’s Ricardo Montalban returns the tradition, but Search for Spock offers not just the beloved Lenard but the oddly—but enjoyably—miscast Christopher Lloyd as Klingon villain Lord Kruge, James Sikking as the Captain of the Excelsior and no less than Dame Judith Anderson as a Vulcan High Preistess, plus Morris and Miguel Ferrer in supporting roles. Of course not all of the casting decisions are so stellar.

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Trek III sports a stellar supporing cast, including Mark Lenard

Trek III is probably the first of the Trek movies to embrace the original show’s strangely charming vices as well as its obvious virtues. It’s a grab bag of mixed greatness and pure cheese, just as the original show was mesmerizing when it was good (your Cities on the Edge of Forever) and deliciously, unforgettably cheesy when bad (your Ways to Eden). Trek III’s weakest element is easily its storyline, a collection of fun sequences haphazardly arranged around the title concept—finding Spock and restoring his “katra” back inside his physical body. They playoff from a throwaway bit in The Wrath of Khan—Spock’s “Remember” line to McCoy—is the story’s most convincing element, probably more due to the performances of Lenard and Deforest Kelley than anything else. As for how Spock is ultimately recovered, it hinges on science worthy of Lost in Space—with a rapidly growing Spock discovered on the now disintegrating Genesis Planet. Seems he’s growing at just the right rate to be exactly the way Kirk left him by the time Kirk and Spock are finally reunited at the end of the film. It seems remotely believable that McCoy might carry some psychic aftershock of Spock’s mentality inside his brain; less believable is the idea that this one-second burst of thought could successfully download a functioining Spock “soul” in McCoy that can be used to restore the empty shell of Spock’s body to consciousness.

The claptrap sequences involving Kirk’s son and Lt. Saavik exploring the Genesis Planet from the U.S.S. Grissom are mostly clumsy and awkward. The Grissom’s smug, fey Captain Esteban might be the most annoying Starfleet captain ever shown in the franchise, and the Genesis “protomatter” technobabble is embarrassingly lame. It doesn’t help that Robin Curtis is impossibly wooden as Saavik, despite looking more convincingly Vulcan than the openly emotional Kirstey Alley (oddly, Curtis was quite good as a Vulcan gone bad in the TNG episode “Gambit”).

The mix of good and bad reaches its zenith in the pre-departure scenes, as McCoy enters the franchise’s attempt at a Star Wars cantina and makes conversation with a weird, big-eared alien. The mise-en-scene is appalling—cartoon animated holographic biplanes, crappy makeups, and a cocktail waitress who looks like she lost a sorority hazing dare. Yet De Kelley makes the scene work by playing out McCoy’s always barely-concealed xenophobia (“How can you be deaf with EARS like that?”). When Bones, cornered by Starfleet security, frantically tries to give the guy a Vulcan neck pinch, it’s the movie franchise’s first dose of laugh-out-loud comedy.

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Cheesy, but Kelly makes it work

Kirk’s hijacking of the Enterprise from spacedock is another immensely satisfying extended sequence, juiced up by James Horner’s derivative but effective score and Nimoy’s simple but evocative use of color (deep steel blues for the spacedock, greens for the Klingon Bird of Prey, oranges and browns for the Genesis Planet and Vulcan). The opening beats with Uhura’s “Mr. Adventure” and Sulu’s bullying security officer (in his ridiculous Jetsons space hat and mustache) are enjoyable just because these poor bit players are finally getting a little something to do, but the throwaway humor (Kirk’s “How many fingers am I holding up?”, McCoy’s “That green-blooded son of a bitch!”, Scotty’s dismissive “Up your shaft.”) still works. And the masterstroke of pitting the outdated Enterprise against the gussied up, gaudy Excelsior and its stuffy, egotistical Captain (the always good James Sikking) beautifully plays on the underdog idea of the aging crew (with her aging, sympathetic fan base).

The same trick works as the Enterprise faces down the beautifully-realized Klingon Bird of Prey, impressively revealed in an early decloaking scene and commanded by the eccentric Lord Kruge. Apparently Christopher Lloyd had little grasp on the conventions of Trek when he played the role, addressing lines to the heavens when he was supposed to be talking on his Klingon communicator, but the effect makes for some priceless reaction shots and line readings. The fact that the Klingons (and their mangy space dog) are played somewhat for laughs makes their easy defeat of the Enterprise that much more pathetic, and Kirk’s reprise of the “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” self destruct code sequence a little more convincing (even though Kirk has gotten out of worse scrapes without destroying his ship before this).

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Sad to see, but beautifully done by ILM

For all the raggedness of the plotting, the set up results in some of the movie series’ greatest moments. Kruge’s casual execution of Kirk’s son (“Kill one of them. I don’t care which.”) leads to a tour de force from Shatner, the once indomitable starship Captain stumbling backward into his chair in shock and grief. We buy the destruction of the Enterprise because Kirk now has nothing left to lose. ILM’s visual effects work on The Search for Spock is arguably their best for the series, from Nilo-Rodis’ distinctive design work (both the Bird of Prey and the new Starfleet ships are huge infliuences on the franchise from this point on) to the choreography of the BOP’s initial appearance, the quick and dirty space battles, the horrific destruction of the beloved Enterprise, and the money shot of the BOP warping out of orbit as chunks of the exploding Genesis Planet fly with it out of frame. And it’s all topped by the juicy confrontation between Kirk and Kruge on the disintegrating Genesis Planet, which even Roger Ebert described as “the last word in fight scenes on the edge of exploding volcanoes”). In interviews Gene Roddenberry always chafed at the “action/adventure” label the original NBC Star Trek had to wear, as if he’d been forced at phaser-point to insert fistfights at the end of every episode. But let’s face it, Shatner loved doing those scenes, and part of the mystique and fun of the Kirk character is his two-fisted, drop-kicking, pro-wrestling action star persona. Kirk was a hero who loved to think his way out of a problem, but he wasn’t above enjoying a damn good fistfight either. His set-to with Kruge might rank as the best Trek fight ever done, beautifully built up to with Nimoy’s camera work and sold with Shatner’s fiery performance (his animal roar as he dives into a pit on the waiting Kruge is pure Shatner magic) and some classic Trek stunt man moves that recall the seminal brawl between Kirk and Gary Mitchell in an equally apocalyptic setting in “Where No Man Has Gone Before.” Kirk’s “I…have had enough…of YOU!” is a line that only Shatner could make work so well, and the aftermath shot of Kirk looking off onto the fiery horizon of the planet is perfect. So’s the Kirk and Spock beam-out, a fantastically dramatic shot to the tune of a great James Horner music cue, excellent miniature effects and a wind-tossed pair of Trek heroes disappearing in a glowing haze of transporter energy—this is the way movie Trek should always be: pushing all the familiar conventions of the series onto a big, mythic canvas.

The film’s final beats are largely small-scale apart from the spectacular landing on Vulcan: McCoy’s touching private moment with the still inert Spock, the meeting with Sarek and Dame Judith Anderson’s Vulcan High Preistess (it’s Star Trek meets The Ten Commandments!), and Nimoy’s effectively fragile playing of his reunion with Kirk. Only a franchise with Trek’s character-hungry fans could wrap up with this gentle, metaphysical reunion scene instead of more pyrotechnics.

So does the good outweigh the bad? The Search for Spock doesn’t really hang together that well as a movie, yet its high points dwell in the memory better than most and its balance of action, humor and genuine drama makes it highly satisfying to revisit. In retrospect the wildly popular follow-up The Voyage Home is altogether too cutesy, and The Final Frontier clearly pushed the humor envelope into full-on disaster. Trek III takes its characters seriously, but allows humor to break up a potentially depressing storyline. It’s a bridging movie and as such suffers the same way The Empire Strikes Back did—not that there’s any comparison, butTrek III will always depend on Treks II and IV for its set up and resolution. But in its way The Search for Spock digs up the thrills of the original Sixties show superbly—so cut at least half of it a break.

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Nothing like a good Kirk v Alien fight

Lessons for Star Trek XI
Think Big: the reason the original cast produced the most successful Trek movies is that they were inherently larger than life. Abrams shouldn’t be afraid to paint on a big canvas, go for bold emotions and imagery. The TNG films practically drowned in their own classiness, but the best Trek embraces its pulp origins and raises that game to the point of looney brilliance.

Cast Stars: Unknowns have their uses, but Trek has floundered with its budgetary philosophy of finding cheap players who won’t cost too much down the road in further sequels or TV episodes. The original Trek featured established actors, familiar character faces and experienced, reliable thespians who delivered the goods. I still can’t imagine any well-known actor filling the boots of Leonard Nimoy’s Spock, but would it kill us to have Matt Damon’s Kirk and Gary Sinise’s Bones?

Make Your Own Look: Unless you’re going to dedicate yourself to promulgating the great design aesthetic of Star Trek Enterprise, the TOS universe is still fairly wide open to interpretation. Take a note from Nilo-Rodis and don’t be afraid to push some groundbreaking reinterpretations of the Trek universe. The BOP and Excelsior looked radical in their day; now they’re the templates for half of the franchise’s ships.

Think Story, then Sequences: Trek III’s parts add up to more than its whole—it’s full of great moments and some superbly sustained sequences, but who gets jazzed by the plot? Yet today’s blockbusters often feature by-the-numbers action set pieces that could work in any movie and often have little bearing on the story itself. Abrams came up with some clever sequences in MI:III and he’s shown himself to be in tune to the possibilities of technology, so how about showing us cool new twists on the standard phaser shoot-outs and transporter trips? And isn’t there something else starships can do other than broadside each other like galleons in the Spanish Armada?

Kirk Kicks Ass: Love him or not, Patrick Stewart was never a very convincing action hero (putting both him and Kathryn Janeway in sweaty tank tops to show how rough and ready they were had to be two of the low points of the franchise). Shatner was, and should you cast someone like, say, Matt Damon, you’ve got a guy who’s clearly no slouch in the butt-kicking department. So forget Paramount’s (and often Roddenberry’s) PC mantra that “Star Trek is not about action”—of course it is! Give us a Kirk who sweats, punches and gets his shirt torn again!

Shake Things Up: Sure, you’re constrained by a future history we’ve already seen—but a real writer/director should be able to shock us, surprise us, make us really worry about our heroes. Trek has been too tame for too long, afraid to confront real conflict and drama, too content to make its fan base feel cozy and comfortable. Yes, we love these characters, but we want an adventure, not a warm family reunion.

 

JEFF BOND is the Editor-In-Chief of Geek Magazine and author of The Music of Star Trek. His short story, “Fracture,” appears in a 40th anniversary collection of Star Trek fiction, Constellations, from Pocket Books.

Check out Jeff Bond’s fabulous magazine Geek Monthly

 

images courtesy of TrekCore.com…click to see their entire collection of TSFS images 

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
January 1, 2007 1:10 am
“The word – is NO. I am therefore going anyway.” Wow, did Shatner SING that line or what? Honestly, I have often heard and read of the odd/even ST movie rule, that being that the even ones are great, and therefore, iii – being the oddball, sucked. I never saw it that way, though I thought it was a great movie. I also liked 5, too, though it wasnt much at all like the previous movies. Why did they construct 2-4 sort of as “the trilogy”? Perhaps the letdown of 5 not being that was the problem with it. They really milked the Spock death thing for what they could. I was disappointed in Star Trek III only that in the end, we weren’t really given the money shot that we knew that Spock was REALLY back. And then they extended that out in 4 for humor. By the time you’re midway into 4, the legitimacy of TWOK is kinda gone. Still… the Trek movies in the 80s were ALL great. Back in the late 70s when there was talk of Trek coming back first as a series, then as A, as in ONE, movie, I was disappointed logistically by the LACK of what the comeback might be. However, in hindsight the movie franchise with TOS crew alone has had a longevity much greater than that which any network TV series could have done. SO good decision there. Nimoy understands how to make a movie. ATleast a good star trek… Read more »
Adam Cohen
January 1, 2007 3:15 am

Happy Hitch Year!

I think TSFS is sorely underrated by most fans. This movie covers a lot of ground even though you don’t feel like it’s made such an effort. I tell you one thing- they should have filmed on location for the Genesis scenes in exotic places. If Paramount (the cheapest sons of bitches of all time) had decided to spend $5 million more on some choice location shoots, the movie could have sold those scenes a lot better. In the end, we got a dramatic, well-acted epic-scale tv episode instead of an epic scale motion picture. But the model work and FX were awesome.

You may have been overly critical of TSFS for my tastes, but I used to be on the same boat as you when I first saw the movie, Jeff. Years later, I now dig this movie all the way. Either way, thanks for an awesome review.

Adam Cohen
January 1, 2007 3:17 am

P.S. I don’t despise ST:V– I understand why a lot of people don’t enjoy it, but I find it charming and silly, like a lot of TOS episodes from back in the day. Learn to love it and you’ll have the gift of another ST movie to enjoy!

January 1, 2007 3:23 am
I’m glad to see The Search For Spock getting some love… It’s not, by any means, a perfect film, but there are precious few of those anyway. It has its own character, this film, and it quietly grows on you when you’re not looking, until one day something triggers a memory of a scene, or a line, in the film, and you feel compelled to seek it out again. Hands down, by far the best scene in this movie is the destruction of the Enterprise. The way that scene is edited and paced is leagues beyond most other things in the film. Even the fact that the backdrop behind the crew is shoddy and visible doesn’t make a lick of difference when McCoy opens his mouth and utters THE line… “You did what you had to do; What you always do. You turned death into a fighting chance to live.” It’s writing like that which makes or breaks a film. In the end, it’s really quite unfortunate that the film is so uneven, looking like it was shot with two different crews with no contact between them, but I like it. It’s a good film, and its heart is in the right place. Later! PS. I’m afraid I must disagree with you on a couple of points… I think the fight scene is not only bad, it’s embarrassingly bad. Painfully obvious stuntmen, terrible cuts to sfx, and cringe-worthy grunts from Shatner make it something to fast-forward past. Also, the cue… Read more »
Josh T. (Thesaurus) Kirk Esquire'
January 1, 2007 4:19 am
The Search for Spock is the LEAST film like entry in the series, yet ironically the most episodic like, literally feeling and appearing personal, in your face, and heartfelt akin to the best moments of the original series showcasing the warmth that is the crews interactions. I like this film. Alot. Nimoy’s grandiose tale of personal sacrifice, friendship, honor, and courage is probably the greatest celebration of the human spirit of any Trek film before or since. This film suffers ANY negative perception merely because it follows Khan and precedes Whales. Taken on it’s own merits, it’s a wonderful little tale of people that genuinely care for each other and the extent to which that care and friendship can drive choices made on an individual level. This is a very causal film. True to perception that the Original crew has a camaraderie unprecedented, each scene perfectly demonstrates that first and foremost, this gallant crew is a collection of friends, united in a common cause and sharing in a long standing history with each other. There is a shorthand that the Original crew related to each other with, a visual prose style of unstated understanding and nods to familiarity. If there was ever a film to contrast the differences in crews of the various series, it would be this film. The Search for Spock plays exactly as it was intended, we accompany the crew in their quest, and the advertising I recall cleverly played on this receptive, inviting notion, by boldly… Read more »
Josh T. (Thesaurus) Kirk Esquire'
January 1, 2007 4:23 am

Addendum:

My ONLY regret pertaining to this film was that Nimoy wasn’t permitted due to legalities to title the film “In search of Spock,” which I have always felt more adequately represented the epic quest these heroes undertake.

Great series of the 70s, it’s a pity the damn thing isn’t out on DVD.

(Reffering to “In search of.”)

Doug
January 1, 2007 6:16 am

TSFS is one of my favorites for the great character moments, and the brilliant scene of the Enterprise burning up in the sky. It was more moving to me than the Death of Spock in TWOK. Beautifully done, and subtlely done, like a comet crossing the early evening sky.

Had a huge impact for me.

Doug

conscience of the king
January 1, 2007 7:11 am

I recall seeing this in the theater with my family. I must have been 6 or 7 years old at the time. My mother was a fan of TOS, so I became “indoctrinated” at an early age. I recall my mother getting misty-eyed when the Enterprise was blown up.

As for TSFS, it is a good movie. Not quite as good as II, but better than IV in my opinion. Kirk stealing the enterprise is one of the best bits, evocative of Amok Time, where Kirk disobeys satrfleet to help Spock get to Vulcan (“He has saved my life a dozen times over… isn’t that worth a career”).

Al
January 1, 2007 7:26 am

Best bit of the “I have had enough of you” climax to the fight scene is that we get to see the lifts/high heels required to bring Shatner up to advertised height.

Dom
January 1, 2007 8:14 am
The film has weaknesses, sure. But it still feels more like a movie than Treks 5-10 did! Christopher Lloyd is so-so and I think Edward James Olmos (who was Nimoy’s choice!) would have been better as Kruge. Robin Curtis was terrible as Saavik, although the screenwriters are the ones who are really responsible for this by removing all of the character’s quirks. Kirsty Alley’s Saavik was emotional and prone to changing her hairstyle – the one intentionally humorous aspect of the TWOK funeral scene was that she’d changed her hair AGAIN. I can only assume that originally Saavik would have been Spock’s replacement had Leonard Nimoy not returned. Robin Curtis is still a really foxy and bubbly person in the behind-the-scenes featurettes, so I’d almost like to see her appear again at some point. Actually, I wonder if Saavik will appear as a child in one of the TOS redux films! Deforest Kelley is a standout in this film. People tend to talk about Shatner and Nimoy a lot, but I think McCoy is the most underrated character of the big three and Kelley’s wonderful work is often overlooked. For me he is perhaps the best actor/character of all the Trek casts. As for the ‘cantina’ scene, I assumed it was meant to be a cheesy, disreputable bar. It was hilarious seeing Tribbles used as a sort of recreational drug. On wonders if they get used as a 23rd century mood enhancer in the bedroom as well!! ;) And McCoy… Read more »
Magic_Al
January 1, 2007 8:27 am

TMP did too have a guest star: Stephen Collins. Persis Khambatta had been cast as Lieutenant Ilia for the Star Trek: Phase II TV series so she was arguably not a “guest” star even though this would be her only appearance. The character of Decker had not been cast and was the only major casting decision Robert Wise got to make. Stephen Collins’ pre-Trek acting credits are similar in length and fame to Mark Lenard’s.

Admiraldeem
January 1, 2007 9:09 am

So sue me–I liked TSFS quite a bit. Little touches like Scottie’s “up your shaft” being directed to the turbolift voice performed by Nimoy make this a great part of the ride for me. The best? No. But bottom line was that I enjoyed myself a lot and I love rewatching it. As often happened to Star Trek, the critics carp but the audience votes differently.

CmdrR
January 1, 2007 9:49 am

TSFS is the middle of a trilogy. It suffers number-two-itis in that it doesn’t have as much of a set-up (the opening exposition between Kirk and Sarek takes fuhevuh.) It DOES have the introduction of the space dock, the desctruction of the TOS Enterprise, and some 80’s TV actors who are clearly hating their time on set. John ‘Night Court’ Laroquette (the only surviving Klingon, in case you can’t tell under the make-up) talks about how he thought his career was over.
I also like Trek V. Not love. Too many fart jokes, flyin’ vulcans, and drunken pratfalls for that. But, when it’s on, I’ll watch.

JON
January 1, 2007 10:10 am

Trek 2 TWOK had broader audience appeal.Trek 2 had it going on while Trek 3 TSFS went down a rabbit hole to satisfy trekkie outrage at Spock’s death.Definitely more of a fanboy movie.

K
January 1, 2007 10:11 am

To the author:

Have you considered a job in marketing for Paramount?

StephenMartin
January 1, 2007 10:23 am
This is one of my favorites. It’s a story about relationships; Love, sacrifice, honor, duty, priorities, giving until it hurts… The needs of the one. I love how the entire crew feels about Spock and what they go through to help him. It was so ironic that a person who expressed no emotion could bring out such strong positve emotions of those he touched. Emotions so strong that they were willing to give everything they had or would have, to help him. And what made it more wonderful was how slim the chances were that Spock could’ve been helped. Impressive. There are so many wonderful moments in this film. Some of my favorites are: Kirk and McCoy right after the ship docked Kirk and Sarek Kirk stealing the Enterprise The death of Kirks son The Death of the Enterprise Kirk seeing his dead son and the crews reaction to that. McCoy and Spock on the BOP The merging of Spocks Katra The final scene. This is it in a nutshell for me. SAREK Kirk. I thank you. What you have done is — KIRK What I have done, I had to do. SAREK But at what cost? Your ship… Your son. KIRK If I hadn’t tried, the cost would have been my soul. Wow! Give up everything for your friend. What a concept, eh? I love it!
Chris
January 1, 2007 10:33 am

This is one of my favorite Star Trek films. It embraced everything Star Trek was about. It is also something the TNG films never captured.

Mark
January 1, 2007 11:20 am

Good review, and many of the criticisms are valid, but there is one thing wrong with this movie that prevented it from being great – Robin Curtis. If Kirstie Alley had been brought back as Saavik, the film would have been 10 times better even if nothing else was changed. Curtis ruined what would have otherwise been a terrific Trek film – even with its shortcomings. In retrospect, giving Alley whatever she wanted salary-wise would have changed the momentum of the films (and the franchise) forever.

Picardsucks
January 1, 2007 11:22 am

I agree with Adam. I love this film, own both versions and it’s been running on HBO evry day this past week as well. I feel it’s underrated and I don’t see the level of wrongness in the things people find wrong with it. I also agree that it did feel a bit too much made for tv movie at times do to Paramounts uber cheapness (Glitter-lava lamp props from Spencers in the Cantina scene) with the budgets and a few dollars more could have opened things up much more and made it feel i don’t know grander. I actually thought Christopher LLoyd was great and very menacing (who the hell knows him from his goofey Taxi character in 2007 i’ll bet more people recognize him for Trek and the Adams family)

Chris
January 1, 2007 11:29 am

Post 19…

Don’t forget Back to the Future, I bet that is where 99% of the people know him from other than Star Trek.

scott
January 1, 2007 11:49 am

I always liked Star Trek 3. Its not the best from the original series’ films, but its far better than 3/4’s of the TNG films, and it makes a lie of the odd/even rule, which was always a crutch for lazy thinkers anyway.

Picardsucks
January 1, 2007 11:52 am

point taken but (and I was only 7 at the time ) wasn’t the uproar that they hired the wacky guy from taxi to play the bad guy Klingon. Regardless I think he was a great menacing old school Klingon before the Next Gen ruined them and made them into noble, samurai- navajo- viking, spiritual characters

January 1, 2007 11:55 am

“Stealing the ENTERPRISE” is still one of my favorite music/visuals sequence in any of the TREK films.

January 1, 2007 12:04 pm

I’m not a movie critic, so I didn’t know that ST 3 doesn’t “hang together” very well. I’ve always just loved it. Period. As part of the 2 thru 4 trilogy. Christopher Lloyd miscast? Huh. I thought he was awesome. The first few hundred times I saw the movie, I -was- just a tad impatient with the longish refusion scene at the end. But I got over that before Reagan left office….

Kevin
January 1, 2007 12:07 pm

Like the movie, it’s great in portraying the friendship of the crew. Good balance between the heavy and crew story. In 2, had Spock not died, the movie might have been a letdown, as Khan, though wonderfully portrayed by Ricardo Montalban (old line Hollywood gentleman; I dare not use anything less than his full name here!) was an unusual villain for Trek in that he had no redeeming qualities, at least not anymore. They got the bad guy. Whoopee! The bit where Kirk disobeys Starfleet is totally what he would do under the circumstances. I wished they had saved the Enterprise, it was sorely needed in IV. With heavy damage given to NCC-1701, the whale job could have been as difficult as with the BOP. couldn’t agree more with the speciousness of the odd/even rule.

Dom
January 1, 2007 12:12 pm

Mark (18)

Thing is, had Kirsty Alley played the role, would Saavik have been any more interesting? The character is badly written in STIII and Curtis is given little to work with.

Nimoy and his team clearly decided to exaggerate Saavik’s Vulcan aspects and remove things like Saavik’s smouldering sexuality, her barely in-check emotions, her inexperience.

The ‘unemotional’ Curtis Saavik, unfortunately, set the template for how Vulcans were subsequently portrayed in all other Star Treks.

But the blame for Saavik’s casual dismissal from the series can’t entirely be laid at the door of Robin Curtis. With Leonard Nimoy not leaving the movie series after all, did the producers need another regular character on their wage bill? Did they need another quirky half-Vulcan in the team? Frankly, I think they should have kept her around. An couple of attractive younger castmembers would have made it easier to accept the increasingly aged original cast and maybe allowed for spin-off films when Shatner and co called it a day.

I’d rather Saavik had been played again by Kirsty Alley, but it wasn’t to be. Events as they transpired meant that Saavik became a great missed opportunity!

StephenMartin
January 1, 2007 12:27 pm

^^
I pretty much agree, but I always thought that Mark Lenard set the standard, followed by those fine actors in Amok Time.

As far as I’m concerned Kirsty blew it.

Dom
January 1, 2007 12:39 pm

Hi Stephen.

I thought Mark Lenard gave a wonderful performance as Sarek. It was perfectly clear that Sarek had emotions, but controlled them better than his son.

But when you look at subsequent portrayals of Vulcans post-TOS – Tuvok being the most noticeable culprit – they are portrayed as unemotional and deathly dull. Even making them ‘more emotional’ in Enterprise didn’t help much!

Mark Lenard, Kirsty Alley and Leonard Nimoy all played Vulcan/half-Vulcan characters with just the right amount of low-key restraint. Actors like Tim Russ merely played their characters as if they had constipation!

StephenMartin
January 1, 2007 12:41 pm

^^
Gotta disagree with you there about Mark Lenard. I’ll go along with you on Nimoy and Alley.

StephenMartin
January 1, 2007 12:42 pm

I’m also basing my opinion on the performances of the Vulcans protrayed in Amok Time.

StephenMartin
January 1, 2007 12:49 pm

Can’t get much more emotionless then these three. T’Pring, T’Pau and Stonn. Then let us not forget the High Priestess in TMP. :D

Old School Trek Nerd
January 1, 2007 1:05 pm
Most of the audience didn’t know who Kruge was during his first few appearances but once he started speaking english: “I’ve waited a loooong tiiime for the secret of Genesis…..” the whole damn audience started laughing. I kid you not. I think Saavik’s delivery of “David.. Is dead” really was too flippant, even for a Vulcan. If nothing else, tact would suggest you correct your tone for the intended audience. I think her callous delivery is what knocked Kirk over his chair in the first place. It’s funny, but their have been attempts to infuse Trek with new blood and all attempts have ended badly. First Riker and Troi, err, umm, Decker and Ilya, get transmogrophied in TMP, then Saavik and David are brought in in TWOK to change the dynamic. David is subsequently killed, Saavik is rendered persona non grata, and we’re left with nothing but old people on the bridge. Nicholas Meyer, who’s mantra seems to be “never waste a character” had written Saavik as a conspirator in STVI, and TPTB at Paramount supposedly vetoed the idea and thus came Lt Valeris. IMHO it would have been much more interesting to take a dormant Trek character and show how misguided ideals can corrupt those we believe to be the “good guys”. That notion survives a little bit with Brock Peters’ Admiral Cartright, but he was only a bit player in STIV after all. Still, the continuity was a nice bonus, and when you watch STIV, you can say… Read more »
Dom
January 1, 2007 1:05 pm

Yeah, Stephen, but I kinda figured the Vulcan priests would be pretty hardcore. And the likes of T’Pring and Stonn would be a bit stiff in the presence of their elders during a ritual more out of respect than anything else. Plus, of course, T’Pring was a cold-hearted grade-A bee-atch!! ;)

But I always felt Mark Lenard put a lot of warmth into his performance. His anger at Kirk for leaving Spock on Genesis in STIII was spot on, I thought. Indeed, his gratitude for Spock’s return and sadness for what Kirk had lost at the end of TSFS was also palpable.

Jeff Bond
January 1, 2007 1:11 pm

I guess it’s not so much that the better actors expressed subtle emotion so much as subtle CHARACTER–they brought some actor’s craft to their work that made them memorable, something mostly lacking in later Vulcan characters. But there were exceptions. I thought Tim Russ was effective in the few moments when he was given emotion to play on Voyager. And Fionula Flannagan was a terrific Vulcan matriarch in her one on Enterprise–almost seemed as if she’d studied Mark Lenard’s work.

I feel the same way about Stephen Collins–maybe he had equivalent experience to Lenard’s pre-Star Trek work when he was cast in TMP, but to me he barely registered as a character–he was just dull in the movie. For me the best actors for this kind of work “bring something to the party” as Robert Mitchum once said–you need to do more than just say the lines. Lenard became a cult favorite and was recast in the franchise many times, while I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone clamoring for a return of Will Decker…

StephenMartin
January 1, 2007 1:17 pm

lol… good point!

Trevok
January 1, 2007 2:02 pm

Another good review. Like All Trek films III had good and bad moments.
One minor correction 32 it was Roddenberry who insisted Saavik not be the trator in VI as she was part off the Trek ‘family’.
LLAP

Dom
January 1, 2007 2:11 pm

Ultimately, though, had Meyer been successful in hiring Kirsty Alley, Saavik would have been the traitor.

Meyer created Saavik and Roddenberry had no actual power over the films. It was a case of Roddenberry creating a fuss, which was the norm for Treks II-VI!!

Old School Trek Nerd
January 1, 2007 2:16 pm

RE: 36. Well, I got the gist of it right. But that “Trek family” does not allow for much change does it?

Of course, I was pissed at what they did to Phelps in the first Mission: Impossible film, so what do I know?

I don’t think even Kevin Spacey could’ve made Will Decker interesting.

Re: Vulcans and logic. In “Journey to Babel” Amanda tells Kirk that Spock and Sarak haven’t spoken in 18 years, then commences to go on saying the Vulcan way is “a better way”. You telling me there’s no emotion involved when father and son get in a fight and don’t speak for nearly two decades? You can have a logical disagreement, but not a bitter falling out. As a mother, Amanda should’ve set Sarak straight long ago by telling him he was acting like a petulant human.

Old School Trek Nerd
January 1, 2007 2:17 pm

Re: 37 All he had to do was hire the always-available Robin Curtis.

Old School Trek Nerd
January 1, 2007 2:19 pm

My apologies at misspelling Sarek more than once. I am a worm.

Dom
January 1, 2007 2:37 pm

Hi Old School Trek Nerd.

Robin Curtis was never an option for STVI, as far as I know. People hadn’t warmed to her portrayal of Saavik and when the producers couldn’t afford Kirsty Alley, they decided to create a new character rather than recast Saavik a second time!

January 1, 2007 2:54 pm

…A comment and a correction:

1) Chris Lloyd was *not* miscast as Kruge. If anything, it was quite possibly the most inspired casting of any movie-era Klingon guest star. He played it with more brilliance than even Christopher Plummer did with Chang in ST6 – Plummer, at times, went a bit too campy with his Shakespear quotes. If anyone on that show was miscast, it was Robin Curtis as Saavik. That casting ruined the character, and in retrospect Paranoidmount should have given Kirstie Alley the money she demanded for reprising the role.

Of course, we’d have had the problem with her trying to explain how a Vulcan could get fat with an guest appearance on a later Trek series, but…

2) The Klingon BOP was not designed by Rodis, but by FASA. FASA had the RPG rights – this being before Richard “Melakon” Arnold totally fracked up the merchandising – and had created the base design for their miniatures line. After the original Klingon ship design was rejected – you still get to see it, as it’s the freighter that was blown up by Kruge’s ship! – apparently FASA had come into contact with the STIII SFX team as part of the RPG suppliment development. Designs and ideas were exchanged, and the BOP was the result. Note that some of the designs in the Ship Manuals FASA put out for the Klingons were based on concept designs for that same BOP.

Dom
January 1, 2007 3:07 pm

I think the issue with the Klingons in STIII is that they get vulgarised at this point. STIII is where the OTT comicbook warrior culture of TNG and so on comes from.

Personally, I can imagine Edward James Olmos being much closer in tone to Mark Lenard’s wily and intelligent Klingon commander in TMP than Christopher Lloyd. The silly muppet that sits at Kruge’s feet doesn’t help either!

Old School Trek Nerd
January 1, 2007 3:07 pm

Re: 41.

Thanks Dom.

Thanks for correcting me. You guys are very sharp.

StephenMartin
January 1, 2007 3:08 pm

“Paranoidmount ”

LOL Oh man…did you nail it! LOL

Old School Trek Nerd
January 1, 2007 3:10 pm

And since Plummer was accused of camping it up, was that much Shakespeare always in the script of did he personally have something to do with that?

If it’s on the page, you can’t blame him anymore than you can blame Khan for endlessly paraphrasing Melville.

Old School Trek Nerd
January 1, 2007 3:12 pm

I think Parasite-mount would’ve been more appropos over the past few decades.

StephenMartin
January 1, 2007 3:21 pm

^^
HA HA… That works well too.

46. Old School Trek Nerd
Meyer loves Shakespeare. I’m sure Plummer does too. My guess is it was a little of both, Or is that much of both? lol

StephenMartin
January 1, 2007 3:26 pm

43. Dom –
” I think the issue with the Klingons in STIII is that they get vulgarised at this point.”
Most definitely. Kruge set the standard.

Old School Trek Nerd
January 1, 2007 3:34 pm

Re: Vulgarized

There’s certainly no TNG “honor” thing going on.
Despite the cranial ridges, these are stil basically TOS Klingons – sneak-attacking, backstabbing, exploitative, one-note bad guys.

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