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The Search for Spock at 30: A Retrospective

Star Trek III The Search For Spock poster

Today marks the 30th Anniversary of the theatrical release of Star Trek III: The Search for Spock,  the highly anticipated follow-up to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.  The film, which marked Leonard Nimoy’s feature film directorial debut,  was a critical and financial success and pushed the Star Trek format in new directions, ultimately being the middle film in what is sometimes referred to as “The Genesis Trilogy”, which culminated in the release of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home in 1986. TrekMovie is marking the anniversary with a retrospective from guest author Steve Vivona, who tells us why he loves this film, and gives a sense of what it was like to be a sci-fi and Star Trek fan in the early 80’s.

I’ll always remember June 1, 1984 as the day I became a Star Trek fan.

We all know that was the day Star Trek III: The Search for Spock was released, and while it is hardly the high watermark of the film series, I believe it occupies a special place in every Trek fan’s heart (and if it doesn’t it should). It certainly does in mine.

Yes, it has some plot holes you could drive a truck through (not nearly as bad as say, The Undiscovered Country), and its title is a dead giveaway for its resolution, but for me, Trek III is the first of the films that really focuses on the familial bond between our intrepid crew. They throw their careers away, risk their very lives on the vague promise they can restore their dear friend to life.

I was born in 1970, and I’d say it’s a safe bet most people of my generation came to love Trek through endless airings of the Original Series in syndication. My Dad, who always had a sci-fi bent, loved classic films like The Day the Earth Stood Still, Forbidden Planet, and 2001. On television, he watched The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits. Naturally, he gravitated to Star Trek with its intelligent and thought provoking brand of science fiction.

He stayed with it in syndication, and I can vividly remember him watching it and encouraging me to do likewise. Here’s the problem: by my recollection (and it’s murky at best) every time it was on there (seemingly) was some woeful third season episode being screened. One that springs to mind is the “way too on the nose” Let That Be Your Last Battlefield.

The other problem is that (for better or worse) I am a child of George Lucas. Star Wars blasted into my nascent consciousness at the tender age of seven, took hold, and never let go. To me, this was science fiction, not the cheesy sets of Star Trek. Star Wars dominated my life for the next six years. Each new movie brought breathless anticipation, and the wait for each was interminable.

Thanks to Star Wars, Trek got a new lease on life. A proposed 13-episode series entitled Phase II was scrapped in favor of a big budget feature film, with a big-name director and state of the art special effects. When Star Trek: The Motion Picture hit the dollar theater Dad insisted we go and nine-year old me….promptly fell asleep.

Obviously, I was still unmoved toward TrekStar Wars was all consuming for me: the toys, the comics, the novels, the cards. I devoured all of it. I was an enormous comic fan and felt compelled to buy some of Marvel’s Trek comics, and again, nothing.

Around 1982 something began to change. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was released, and again Dad took me to see it at the dollar theater. I came out thinking, “That wasn’t so bad.” Mind you, I was still wrapped up in the fervor emanating from a galaxy far, far away, but Return of the Jedi was still a year away.

A few months later, WPIX-TV, which aired Star Trek in the New York area, screened “Space Seed”, the episode that begat Khan Noonien Singh, the villain of Star Trek II. Dad suggested I watch it in order to better understand the events of that film. I did. Again, “It wasn’t so bad.” I was becoming more than a bit intrigued.

Around that time, my family finally took the cable tv plunge, and when Trek II arrived on HBO sometime in 1983 I watched it every day it was on. It was compulsory viewing. And yet, I still wasn’t watching TOS. I can’t quite put my finger on why. To some degree, I think the look of it hampered my acceptance of it, much the same way the look of classic Doctor Who did (and still does to an extent). I’m not proud of that, but in my defense, I was 12, and Star Wars looked amazing.

Return of the Jedi came and went, and my enthusiasm for Star Wars began to abate somewhat. To this day, I still love SW but it has taken a back seat to Trek.

In 1983, our main conduit for science fiction news and gossip was Starlog Magazine. Through it, I learned a new Star Trek film was on the horizon, and that Spock himself, Leonard Nimoy would direct. I was excited, and what cemented that excitement was a special that aired late in 1983 entitled Star Trek Memories, hosted by Nimoy.

An obvious promotional tie-in for Trek III, Star Trek Memories was like “Spock for Dummies,” and it saw Nimoy recounting the various iconic moments that shaped the Spock character during the Original Series (ones we can all recite verbatim now). He teased Trek III brilliantly, whetting my appetite for the new film while simultaneously piquing my curiosity for what came before. When the special re-aired early in 1984 I taped it with my new VCR and watched it constantly.

Around this time WPIX aired Star Trek late at night and possibly on the weekend at the dinner hour. Of the latter, I cannot be sure, but I vividly remember not being able to make it to 11:00 or midnight to start watching Trek. Having a VCR and the ability to time shift recordings changed all that.

My excitement for Trek III was reaching its crescendo in the spring of 1984. A few photos were released and Starlog gave us a few crumbs to gnaw on. I started taping (and saving) every episode of TOS. The first episode I ever taped was The Enterprise Incident. Ironically enough my collection started in the third season. I had to suffer through about a month’s worth of Trek at its lousiest before I got to the good stuff.

I was in such a froth to see Trek III that I outlined a plan for my friends and I to see it opening day. A friend’s mother drove the four of us to the theater, but not before I got my hands on the official movie magazine featuring Leonard Nimoy as Spock dead center on the cover, newly resurrected and wearing his Vulcan robes. I proceeded to spoil the ending for all my friends, as if there was any doubt.

Unknown

So how was it?

Star Trek III is flawed, to be sure. As a friend recently pointed out, why does Kirk need to return to Genesis with Spock’s body? What’s the point of that? Once it’s established that Spock’s katra resides in McCoy that should be all that is needed to deposit Spock’s essence in the Hall of Ancient Thought. Sarek cannot know that Spock’s body has been regenerated on Genesis, nor can Kirk.

I remember reading Vonda McIntyre’s excellent novelization of Trek III, and I vividly recall that the movie does not pick up until about 100 pages into the book, so it’s possible I am not remembering some detail that explains this seeming hole.

Star Trek III

Star Trek III is no Star Trek II, but it provides some of my favorite moments of the film series: Kirk and Co. steal the Enterprise accompanied by James Horner’s rousing score, the gradual injection of humor in just the right spots setting the stage for the all-out fun of Trek IV, the depiction of that bond I mentioned previously as evidenced by every member of the cast having their moment in the sun, my favorite being, “Don’t call me Tiny.”

As a director, Nimoy inherently knows how to pace a film. He steps back and allows these actors who have lived in the skins of their characters for nearly 20 years something of a free hand to express themselves the way they should. He carefully and gently guides William Shatner through one of the most poignant scenes of his storied career: Kirk’s reaction to the death of his son.

Thanks to the seeds planted by Producer Harve Bennett, in concert with Nimoy, Spock’s return to life is neither contrived (by sci-fi standards) nor silly. No “Obi Wan shimmer” here. It is obvious that while the grand mysteries of life and death have not been solved by Vulcan mysticism, they have a better handle on them than we do. It is a happy coincidence, however, that they happen to have a ceremony meant to reunite body and soul in case of…you know….unexpected bodily resurrection.

Trek III marked a return to prominence for the Klingons, and a offers a characterization that would be adopted for subsequent films and The Next Generation. Christopher Lloyd blows the doors off as Kruge, an obsessed Klingon captain who is more than a match for Kirk. Robin Curtis does her best trying to fill Kirstie Alley’s shoes as Saavik, but she brings little dimension to the role. She’s become a great ambassador for Trek though, and I applaud her for that.

With the release of Star Trek III, I began consuming as much Trek ephemera as I possibly could and none more so than DC’s excellent comic series that began eight months prior to Trek III’s release. Writer Mike Barr did an amazing job weaving his story into and out of the film, setting the stage for the incredible “Mirror Universe Saga” which in my opinion is the finest Trek comic storyline ever.

Star Trek III is also famous for being the first budget priced video cassette released at that price point ($29.95) when it debuted on home video. Paramount had already experimented with cassettes priced to buy, but only after they had been priced for rental for several months. That meant I could get my grubby little hands on the actual VHS! I remember pre-ordering it at my local video shop, picking it up sometime in February of 1985 and sitting through a lengthy dinner at a restaurant with my parents before I could go home and watch it (twice). Paramount continued this trend with other high profile releases such as Beverly Hills Cop and Star Trek IV.

Star Trek III was definitely a hit, ensuring yet another sequel and a return to the director’s chair for Leonard Nimoy. Does it suffer from the odd-numbered slump? I suppose if you measure it against immediate predecessor and successor Trek II and Trek IV, it does. It’s a film whose existence is predicated on the need to resurrect a beloved character that had an amazing send-off and a subsequent change of heart. Is anyone really annoyed at the fact Spock came back and the manner in which he did? Pick nits all you want. It was wonderful.

It’s the film that proved Nimoy could direct. It’s the film that showed us what was at the heart of Trek: the friendship of these amazing characters. It’s a brisk, rousing adventure with an uplifting score (no offense to maestro Jerry Goldsmith but James Horner is the right man for this job). It’s a film with heavy themes punctuated with humor and levity at exactly the right moment every time. It’s the film that made me love Star Trek.

 

Here, in 4 parts, is the “Star Trek Memories” special mentioned earlier:

And as an added bonus,  we also have the spoilerific theatrical trailer that made producer Harve Bennett blow a gasket:

 

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Dswynne
June 1, 2014 10:53 am

In hindsight, I think that TSFS is ‘Trek’s version of Star Wars’ EBS. You had the heroes in a dark place (lost a ship, the death of Kirk’s son David, the tarnishing of one’s career, etc.), and there is that spark of hope, when Spock returned from the dead. As a fan we can only guess as to what will happen next, when the sequel would come out. Thus, I definitely think that TSFS is an underrated film in the franchise.

Dswynne
June 1, 2014 10:55 am

Oh, I meant ESB. Typing on the screen of an iPad can be a bit hard, thanks to having big hands…

Elias Javalis
June 1, 2014 11:15 am

I ve got the Theatrical Poster (Bob Peak art) framed – its really something!!

June 1, 2014 11:22 am

…and the Adventure continues…

That’s exactly how ST3 ought to leave us.
So, writers & director, time to kick ass like no ass has before ;-)

Carnage
June 1, 2014 12:13 pm

I kind of enjoyed this so called “Genesis Trilogy”. I liked how TSFS was the set up for the 4th movie. I know the cast for JJ’s star trek were all initially signed for 3 pictures, so I don’t know if it’s cost prohibitive now to plan for a 4th and 5th movie, but I wouldn’t mind seeing another trilogy within this new alternate reality of Trek.

Neil
June 1, 2014 12:16 pm

Two quick corrections. Star Trek II was the first sell through VHS.

Also, the reason why Sarek knows Spock’s body is on Genesis is because the movie was re-ordered in post-production. The opening scene was supposed to be the Grissom arriving at Genesis (that’s the reason we get the stardate in the middle of the movie!).

Thorny
June 1, 2014 12:33 pm

Steve… you have to watch the previous movie to find Kirk’s motive in going back to Genesis….

“Captain’s log, stardate 8141.6. Starship Enterprise departing for Ceti Alpha Five to pick up the crew of the U.S.S. Reliant. All is well. And yet I can’t help wondering about the friend I leave behind. ‘There are always possibilities’ Spock said. And if Genesis is indeed ‘Life from death’, I must return to this place again.”

Kirk, epilogue of “Star Trek II”

That’s why he goes back to Genesis.

Buzz Cagney
June 1, 2014 12:40 pm

An interesting and enjoyable read.
I remember as if it was yesterday sitting down in the cinema to await the start of the movie and saying to my friend ‘at last’ ! It had been a long wait since TWoK.
I don’t remember being disappointed. In fact there was much in there that was new and enjoyable. New ships and space-stations that definitely marked a step forward for Trek.
30 years- where does time go!

CmdrR
June 1, 2014 12:41 pm

23rd Century sportswear looks uncomfortable.

This is the heavy one of the three. Oddly so, since Spock DIES in II. I also never felt great about Christopher Lloyd’s 2-D characterization or learning that the Enterprise was 20 years old… or having the hot Vulcan-on-Vulcan MILF sex scene left out… (look it up, people)

Anyhoo —
Hooray for: Space Dock, The Excelsior, Traswarp Fail, Vulcan Nymphs, ‘Splodin’ starships, and more…

Vultan
June 1, 2014 12:48 pm

I really like this movie. Sure, like you wrote, it’s no TWOK, but I still have a fondness for it. Mostly because of Nimoy’s direction and James Horner’s score. They manage to do a lot with very little.

Take the stealing the enterprise scene for example. It’s epic… and we’re essentially watching a very large car back out of a garage!

Happy Anniversary, TSFS!

surak1701
June 1, 2014 1:04 pm

TSFS is dear to me, as it’s the Star Trek story that got me into the world in the first place, back when I was a teen. Saw it in a cinema in the small town I grew up in, and it really turned me around to what Trek could do. I still rank it as my personal favourite of all the movies, despite its flaws. It has so many great moments – the galvanising romp that is the stealing of the Enterprise; Kirk and crew going rogue; Christopher Lloyd’s awesome Kruge, so unrecognisable from his more famed Doc Brown persona; Kirk being emotionally gutted from the murder of his son, and the fiery trail made by the shell of the plunging Enterprise. And DeForest Kelley being brilliant. And… don’t call me Tiny.

Miko
June 1, 2014 1:25 pm

Trek !!! Rules

I hope the new trek 3 plays homages to TSFS.
If but one segment, the stealing of the enterprise! Perhaps a spin on the original could be that the Klingons have captured the ship and have it stored in one of their space docks above their home world. Kirk and his crew must risk everything in an futile desperate act to escape the clutches of the klingons. Not only must they steal back their vessel from a heavily gaurded fortress, but fight their way through the orbiting birds of prey that receive this message..(in Klingon, but subtitled for the audience) “Someone is stealing the enterprise!”

Iconoclastmom
June 1, 2014 1:31 pm

The Wrath of Khan, The Search For Spock, and The Voyage Home were the best TOS films!

K
June 1, 2014 2:14 pm

What is the “Hall of Ancient Thought?” Is that mentioned in the movie? Even if the movie wasn’t reordered ( poster above), Kirk would have taken virtually any shred of a chance to save Spock — that’s what Kirk does in any life or death situation — almost all the time. Agree that Christopher Lloyd’s Kruge is awesome, would also give Mark Lenard credit for laying out the more, guttural, aggressive Klingon persona as the TMP Klingon Commander.

Red Dead Ryan
June 1, 2014 3:23 pm

“The Search For Spock” is a great Trek movie. Just as good as “The Wrath Of Khan”. It works on so many levels, and really adds more emotional depth to the characters, especially Kirk, who isn’t himself without Spock by his side. William Shatner gave his last great performance as Kirk in this movie. He really nailed it.

The movie really hit home how close the crew were to each other, and how far they’d go to save one of their own. Loyalty, friendship, and the high cost that comes along with it. There can be no victory without sacrifice, as we had seen in TWOK, when Spock gave himself for the Enterprise and it’s crew. We see David do the same thing this time, to protect Saavik and a regenerated Spock. Kirk blows up the Enterprise with about a half-dozen Klingons on board — turning certain death into a fighting chance to live.

The film introduced many new elements that would show up in later movies and series, like Spacedock, the Oberth- and Excelsior-class starships, as well as the Klingon Bird-of-Prey.

The music by James Horner — who also composed the score for TWOK — was superb, and really helped bring in a TOS feel in a way that the other TOS-films didn’t have, TWOK included.

TrekMadeMeFat
June 1, 2014 3:45 pm

30 years! Wow!

I’m so old.

June 1, 2014 4:02 pm

At this time, a grade school classmate introduced me to Star Trek (and Doctor Who) over my passion for Star Wars. So this is the movie that anchors my Trek fandom, and puts me in the minority of being a Robin Curtis fan.
Boy those magazine and novelization covers bring back memories. Time to dig them out of the closet again!

Steve Vivona
June 1, 2014 4:15 pm
Trekfan'80's.
June 1, 2014 4:42 pm

I loved ST II, III and IV, I was an ’80’s kid yes it was a great time to be a Sci-fi fan. It was such a shock when Spock died, their wasn’t a sound in the movie theater and some crying, II and III had such great action and suspense and loved the soundtrack, they just don’t make em like that anymore.

June 1, 2014 6:00 pm

While it’s true that much of Season 3 was substandard, “The Enterprise Incident” was one of the best episodes they ever made!

And yes, I love “The Search for Spock.” I enjoyed Mr. Nimoy’s description, in his autobiography, about how his time at “Mission Impossible” had informed this story, where each member of the team has a contribution to make to the mission of stealing the Enterprise.

Cygnus-X1
June 1, 2014 6:22 pm
Enjoyed the article! The one big plot hole in STIII is that Kruge has no reason to go down to the Genesis Planet other than to have a mano-a-mano fisticuffs with Kirk. I haven’t watched STVI in a while, though, and I’m wondering what plot holes Steve was referring to in that one. My induction into Trek was actually somewhat similar to Steve’s, though I’m a bit younger. Like Steve, I was first a Star Wars fan. TMP put me to sleep. I watched TWOK over and over again (my Dad had videotaped it off HBO). I remember seeing STIII in the theater when I was a kid and having a great time. And the TOS TV series didn’t click for me until I was 16. I stayed home sick for a week with gastroenteritis and there was a TOS marathon on that week. I got to watching it and, for whatever reason, these episodes that I’d never gotten into when I’d seen them before were suddenly very appealing. And from then on I devoured TOS and TNG. One thing that still puzzles me is why the most repeated episodes tended to be the worst ones. There were many episodes—and many of the best ones—which I’d never seen on TV despite watching TOS whenever I’d catch it on. And yet, I’d see Spock’s Brain every other week it seemed. It seemed like only a small portion of the series was ever on TV. STIII has some classic scenes, for sure.… Read more »
Son of Captain Garth
June 1, 2014 6:24 pm

#20 Corylea: I was fond of Elaan of Troyus, which I think was season 3. That Which Survives was also season 3 and there were a number of other good episodes–Spock’s Brain not being one of them. Throughout the season, though, if you notice, the photography’s a little more ambitious, and for a show that had its budget cut, there are a surprising number of practical sets that were built. The look of the show improved a bit, but the writing slid, due mostly, I think, to Freddie Fryburger’s sensibilities. I think he injected too much silliness, and then endings were often eye-rollers.

Steve Vivona
June 1, 2014 7:07 pm

#21 Cygnus X-1 Re: Trek VI (which I also love) one hole or at least ridiculous plot contrivance that immediately springs to mind is the Meridian Patch. Seriously? The Klingons never notice this patch velcro’d to Kirk’s shoulder after his arrest, his trial and his internment? And it’s pretty convenient that on Rura Penthe they don’t issue prisoner uniforms so Kirk and Bones can conveniently keep their uniforms (with said patch).

How did Valeris record Kirk recording his personal log? Since when do alarm claxons go off when someone fires a phaser aboard a starship? Uhura’s mashed up Klingon is good enough to pass muster?

Bart
June 1, 2014 7:22 pm

I loved Trek III. I loved the little moments of humor in it, especially for the supporting cast. I think after that, even in IV, their humor seemed more comic relief, which cheapened their characters for me.

If you’ve never read Vonda McIntyre’s Trek II and III novels, I can’t recommend them enough. There is so much more to the novels than was ever shown in the movies.

dswynne
June 1, 2014 7:27 pm

@21 (Cygnus-X1): Kruge beaming down to the planet is not a plot hole.

“A plot hole, or plothole is a gap or inconsistency in a storyline that creates a paradox in the story that cannot be reconciled with any explanation”

(Taken from Wikipedia)

Kruge was a megalomaniac, pure and simple. This was set up when he murdered his lover after she had acquired the information on the Genesis Device, he killed one of his officers for accidentally destroying the USS Grissom, and he purposely confronted Kirk so that he could kill him personally (due to being humiliated by Kirk, when the Enterprise self-destruct) while ignoring the fact that the planet Genesis was being destroyed around them. That’s being consistent in character. Now, you may not like his character for not being textured, but the character Kruge is no a “plothole”.

SImon
June 1, 2014 8:36 pm

@#2 – not because of big hands. It’s for iOS having a lousy text input.

No issue with my big hands and Kindle or Surface Pro.

Silvereyes
June 1, 2014 9:21 pm

There’s one line from this movie that I always found to be very eloquent of the relationship between Bones and Kirk…

Kirk: Bones, what have I done?
Bones: You did what you always do, turn death into a fighting chance to live.

Epic.

C Zenko
June 1, 2014 9:55 pm

This has always been my favorite Star Trek film. To me it made our favorite characters into heros by doing the right thing for their friend even at great personal cost. I think this is the film that made me a Star Trek fan. I would have been 9 or 10 when I seen it, and when I did, I left Star Wars behind. I hope Bob Orci can make me love his film.

C Zenko
June 1, 2014 9:57 pm

Don’t get me wrong, I like Star Wars, but I am a fan of Star Trek.

Ashley
June 1, 2014 10:24 pm

This is one of my favourite Star Trek films. <3

Alfred Hitchkick
June 2, 2014 12:51 am

The Search for Spock shows the big friendship between the main characters, it shows Klingons, Space-Fights, has a SciFi-Background (Genesis) and it is a thoughtful movie about friendship and loss (Kirks son and the Enterprise). After all Spock seems to remember Kirk again and rises his eye-brow. For me this emotional movie was even better than ST II! I know, the most people think different, but well, that´s the way it is.

Dr C
June 2, 2014 1:04 am

Happy birthday STIII! It’s the same age as me! I agree that it’s no TWOK, but I think that TSFS is a great Original Series story and introduces so many now-familiar Trek elements.

As for TUC, if I can defend some of the plot holes (STVI was the first Trek film I saw at the cinema so it’s quite dear to me!)

The Merdian patch: Spock’s instinct told him that if Kirk beamed over to the Qo’nos One then shenanigans may ensue (so he thought he best keep tabs on the Captain)

The lack of Rura Penthe prison uniforms: the Klingons thought it was impossible to escape from (typical Klingon overconfidence of the era) so why would they care what their prisoners wore? Or, it could be a ‘this is to remind you of your former life; what you have lost’ thing so that’s why we’re letting you keep your own clothes.

Finally, Valeris’ recording of Kirk’s log: his cabin door was open (unprofessional much?) while he was recording the personal log. So, Valeris came down to talk to Kirk (as we see in the film) and she either (i) had a recording device on her and thought ‘ooh, juicy – this’ll come in handy later!’ or, she later went back up to the bridge, hacked into the internal sensors and downloaded the audio to her ipod and emailed it to (presumably) General Chang or some other shady Klingon so-and-so.

No paradoxes here I hope!

LLAP =^=

Cygnus-X1
June 2, 2014 1:57 am
25. dswynne – June 1, 2014 @21 (Cygnus-X1): Kruge beaming down to the planet is not a plot hole. “A plot hole, or plothole is a gap or inconsistency in a storyline that creates a paradox in the story that cannot be reconciled with any explanation” The rest of that definition is… These include such things as illogical or impossible events, and statements or events that contradict earlier events in the storyline. I suppose plot contrivance might be a more appropriate term for why Kruge beams down to the planet, but I think of it as a plot hole for the following reason: It’s not that Kruge is megalomaniacal, it’s that he wants to be powerful by being the sole possessor of Genesis. Up to the point when he beams down to the planet to have a mano-a-mano with Kirk, Kruge’s one consistent motivation throughout the story is that he is bent on acquiring Genesis. His goal is for himself, and only himself, to have the power of Genesis. This goal is what motivates all of Kruge’s actions up to that point, including killing his lover after she’s seen the Genesis info. Even during Kruge’s mano-a-mano scene with Kirk, he lifts Kirk up by the neck and demands, “Give me Genesis!” As far as Kruge is concerned within the story, his primary concern is acquiring Genesis. When Kirk communicates to Kruge from the planet surface and begins trying to negotiate with him—beam the crew up from the rapidly deteriorating planet… Read more »
Cygnus-X1
June 2, 2014 2:13 am

23. Steve Vivona – June 1, 2014

Yeah, I see what you mean about those little contrivances in STVI that seem all too convenient and inconsistent with the presupposed logic of the world in which the story is set.

Cygnus-X1
June 2, 2014 2:30 am

31. Dr C – June 2, 2014

The lack of Rura Penthe prison uniforms: the Klingons thought it was impossible to escape from (typical Klingon overconfidence of the era) so why would they care what their prisoners wore?

Well, even if viridium patches were rare technology at that point in time (it’s the first time we’d ever seen one in Trek), letting prisoners keep what they’re wearing seems like it’s inviting a lot of trouble and hassle for the prison staff. As tiny as devices are today, we can only imagine the sort of things a prisoner might have stashed away in his clothing that could make loads of trouble for the prison staff later on. Much easier to make the prisoners wear uniforms, as in typical prisons on Earth.

Finally, Valeris’ recording of Kirk’s log: his cabin door was open (unprofessional much?) while he was recording the personal log. So, Valeris came down to talk to Kirk (as we see in the film) and she either (i) had a recording device on her and thought ‘ooh, juicy – this’ll come in handy later!’

You kind of sold me on this one, though. Valeris getting ahold of Kirk’s log recording is really just a matter of espionage, which is not so hard to believe of a trained agent on a mission of subversion, which is what Valeris was.

StelArian
June 2, 2014 4:04 am

“May the wind be at your back”! :)

Shran
June 2, 2014 4:11 am

I simply love ST III.

It is just a great story about friends who take care for each other.

And I love the James Horner – Score.

Edward
June 2, 2014 5:02 am
Star Trek III, fo rme, is a film of loss and dealing with it. I find it incredibly humbling watching the characters we know so well dealing with it. It’s almost painful to watch Kirk at times with Sarek at the start of the film – goodness, even Mark Leonard’s performance is stella in that scene where he almost breaks into emotion, questioning his actions towards Spock and – finally – you realise how much his son meant to him. Sarek dealing with the loss of his son. Kirk on the loss of his friend, the crew losing the Enterprise – as many have quoted Bones’ legendary line now to Kirk asking “What have I done?” – “What you had to do, what you always do, turn death into a fighting chance to live…” Let’s not forget the emotional punch to the stomach that is David’s death. Introduced in Wrath of Khan, you think David is now to be around for a bit with Savvik, yet he gives his life to save her and the younger bodied Spock. His murder, carried out via audio for the Enterprise Bridge to hear, is gutterall and ruthless. Almost Kligon like. Kruge probably thought David died a warriors death but on the bridge we see another father deal with the loss of HIS son…….Klingon bastard, you killed my SON. On the commentary on the DVD Nimoy says he doesn’t know if Shatner deliberately missteps as he falls back and misses his Cpatains chair…one thinks… Read more »
star trackie
June 2, 2014 5:26 am

Can you imagine the field day, the red matter, “Magic Blood” complainers, would have had bashing this movie back in the day with it’s magic “protomatter”! lol Thank God there was no internet back then!

I pretty much enjoy Trek 3, aside from the keystone cops brig break out and that ridiculous sputtering of the Excelsior. Talk about BAD comedy…and people bash Trek 5?? lol Not to mention it stops the whole movie in it’s tracks…serious Trek, funny Trek, back to serious Trek. But it was Leonard’s first effort and there were, as it seems to be in all Trek movies, some truly some great moments. Gotta take the good with the bad, so I cut him some slack for being new at the job.

Mad Mann
June 2, 2014 5:29 am

Yes, ST III is the most under-rated and overlooked of all the Trek films. I don’t need to restate what others have already, but I have appreciated it more as I got older.

One thing I really like about it is how much it took from the TV series, probably more than any other Trek movie. Other than the 7 crew and Enterprise, we get Sarek, tribbles, Klingons (the “We are Klingons” line is straight from Day of the Dove), Vulcan ritual very much like the Amok Time episode (even a similar Vulcan high priestess and similar shapes), the destruct code sequence taken from “Let that be your last battlefield” episode, and cloaking devices. Even the Klingon bird-of-prey is similar to the Romulan bird-of-prey from TOS (yeah, due to the fact it was planned to be Romulan at first).

I think that Harve Bennet was smart to pull Khan from TOS for STII, saw how well that worked, and then decided to pull more from TOS for the third. I’m just bummed that the later Trek films chose to avoid TOS references, especially ST VI which is so different it’s like it was from a different universe.

dswynne
June 2, 2014 7:15 am

@32 (Cygnus-X1): But Kruge motivation has been consistent throughout the story. We can both agree that Kruge wants the Genesis Plans. Where the disagreement lies is that you feel that Kruge should have be a bit more calculating, rather than engage in an action scene where the hero (Kirk) fights the villain (Kruge). And I think that you prefer a more nuanced approach towards a resolution to the story, rather than engage in “action schlock”. And I understand your point on this because I felt the same way with how Star Trek: Insurrection was resolved between Picard and Ruafo. However, the difference for me, between TSFS and INS, is that I wanted Kirk to kick Kruge’s butt, due to the fact that Kruge had no redeeming traits by the time the last act rolled in. I didn’t see either Picard or Ruafo being the type of characters that would do what Kirk and Kruge did.

Jed
June 2, 2014 7:30 am

ST3 is in many ways the Empire Strikes back of Star trek, but at its heart
ST3 has real depth and drama, TESB on the other hand has cardboard characterization and a Muppet for one of its central character!

Popular opinion does not support my view (yes, I am looking at you Empire’s best 300 movies of all time Poll) however we are all entitled to our opinion!

Perry
June 2, 2014 7:40 am

I always liked ST-III. Yes, it wasn’t as good as Wrath of Khan, but none of them are! (ST-II remains my favorite of all of the films.). But ST-III made the best use of all of the characters, particularly during the stealing of the Enterprise, and gave each of them an important role in the story.

Yeah, there were plot holes, as there are in all of the movies. The biggest issue for me isn’t a plot hole, just an inconsistency, and it’s not the fault of ST-III so much as it is ST-IV: The interior of the Klingon bird of prey is COMPLETELY different between the two movies, for no good reason. I do like the look of it in ST-IV much better, but it’s always bothered me that it changed so much with no explanation.

kmart
June 2, 2014 7:47 am

To correct the SW/ST 70s history bit. TREK had a feature film well into development, which was cancelled in may 77 just before SW came out because paramount realized they had blown it by not getting there first. Then, after SW hit, p2 happened … only to be cancelled during development.

I’ve always found SFS to be a downer, with huge dumb story holes, effect-determines-cause plotting, a lot of questionable visual choices by Nimoy, and the very troubling ILM-ification of the TREK universe with building big blimp hangars in space instead of doing it properly. Having said that, I think there are nice quiet moment in the early going and tremendous work from De, just outstanding. Shat’s CU with Morrow is great too, almost makes up for the KLINGON BASTARDS misstep which is just godawful bad, generating tons of laughter in theaters opening day.

Easily the biggest missed opportunity of all the films for me.
I like TMP TWOK TFF, I do not like the Nimoy films, and TUC (which is Nimoy influenced) is just barely watchable despite character assassination on the principals.

Phil
June 2, 2014 8:13 am

I could never get to excited about TSFS. Setting aside for the moment that I’m one of a tiny handful of people, if the decision had been mine, who would have left Spock dead, they telegraphed more then enough information at the end of WOK that Spock wasn’t going to stay dead. So, everyone knew exactly what they were getting when the opening credits rolled, that Spock was returning. We also figured out pretty quickly how that would happen, and the whole thing was pretty anti-climatic.

The production staff did the best they could with the very limited material they had. To that end, while it could have been worse, it could have been much, much better if they didn’t have to worry about resurrecting Spock.

Buzz Cagney
June 2, 2014 8:25 am

#38 at least we didn’t see a massive great blob of protomatter as we did with the daft RedMatter. This incredibly powerful material, that Spock only needed a small glob of but still felt he needed to take a bloody great load along. He could have kept all he really needed in a test tube!
No, protomatter sounds smart and conceivable. RedMatter, well, it doesn’t really matter. Its a nonsense and a plot device that clearly needed little thought. Whereas protomatter appears to have been conceived of sensibly and reasonably.

PaulB
June 2, 2014 8:41 am

#37 Edward — Beautifully written! You just described TSFS perfectly.

crazydaystrom
June 2, 2014 9:01 am

37. Edward
“….oh, for JJ and Bad Robot to have given us any of what I have written above….”

IMO they did, Edward. The Kelvin sequence in ST’09 with George Kirk’s sacrifice of his life for his wife, child and crewmates is one of the most touching and for me memorable scenes ever in all the Treks. And for that reason one of my favorites of all.

I’d hoped for more of that kind of emotional tide to ride with STiD but nothing in that film came close for me. Not Pike’s death. Not Kirk’s “death”. And certainly not Spock’s Khan scream. The latter two I found distracting enough to take me out of the the film as opposed to drawing me further in, as it ideally should have.

dscott
June 2, 2014 9:25 am

I loved TSFS, but it was a second blow to the face for me… I mean my gut wrenched when they destroyed the Enterprise. I was like… first they kill my Spock, now they’re killing my Enterprise, ahhhhh!!!!

Great article BTW, thanks!!

crazydaystrom
June 2, 2014 9:35 am

TSFS is a Trek that I liked when it was first released but I was disappointed that it wasn’t as good as TWOK, IMO. There are a lot of things that I do love about the film though. That movie has one of my three favorite Star Trek scenes. Favorites because of the emotional weight they have-

In TSFS-
When after stealing the Enterprise Chekov, Sulu and Scottie say (wildly paraphrasing here) “We’re going with you and McCoy, Captain, to help no matter what the risks to our careers might be.”

In Amok Time –
The scene with Kirk, Spock and McCoy in the turbo lift when Spock acknowledges the Bones is one of his closest friends. And McCoy’s reaction to that- “I would be honored, sir.”

And in ST’09 –
The Kelvin scene with George Kirk ultimate sacrifice.

Of all the many Star Trek scenes that I love so much in all the Treks, those three I love the most. Expressions of love, loyalty and sacrifice. They get me every time and there’s usually a tear or two (or more). I guess I’m just an old softy.

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