Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984) dir. Leonard Nimoy
Starring: William Shatner, Christopher Lloyd, DeForest Kelly, Robin Curtis
It didn’t take long for the Star Trek producer Harve Bennett to figure out how to continue on the adventure of the immensely successful 'Wrath of Khan'. Without the talents and instincts of Nicholas Meyer at the helm, it’s a technically proficient affair but less passionate and ultimately a softened version of the previous film.
When we last left the crew of the Enterprise, Kirk outsmarted his nemesis Khan, destroying him and his mutinous crew and launching the Genesis device thus creating the first artificial ‘Genesis Planet’, but not before Spock saved the day and sacrificed himself for his colleagues. At the beginning of SFS those warmongering Klingons have also caught on to the presence and power of Genesis and seek to harness its power for evil. On the flight home Bones starts exhibiting strange behaviour and speaking like Spock. In fact, it’s Spock soul which he had downloaded to Bones via a mind meld. And when signs of human life emerge on the new Genesis planet, it’s apparent Spock is alive and needs to join up with Bones to complete his reincarnation. Kirk and a the essential Trek crew hijack the enterprise while docked at Earth and go back to the Genesis Planet to find Spock.
Kirstie Alley’s Lt. Saavik character is recast with newbie Robin Curtis. Though less striking in pointy ears than a young Alley, Curtis delivers a fine performance in one of the key roles in the film. Saavik’s matronly nurturing of Spock provides some of the most tender moments in the series, not excluding the Trekkie wet dream version of the Vulcan lovemaking ritual.
Unfortunately Christopher Lloyd doesn’t stand up to the intensity of Ricardo Montalban’s passionate performance as Khan. It’s the first Klingon baddie on the big screen, and admittedly it was difficult to look past Lloyd’s comic persona to find the fear in his character.
The Blu-Ray’s featurette is a treasure of the intra-cast conflict of egos. Leonard Nimoy’s promotion to director seems to be a sore spot in William Shatner. A palpable bit of jealousy emerges as he freely describes Nimoy’s popularity among the Paramount brass after his performance in Wrath of Khan. He even is bold enough to suggest that because he got Nimoy a directing gig on his show, “TJ Hooker”, and there actually taught him how to direct.
Of course, a fourth Star Trek meant an even longer voyage for the crew. “The Voyage Home” which completes what’s been billed as the “Original Motion Picture Trilogy”. The journey through time back to 1987 to bring back an extinct humpback whale to the future works like that famous ‘Trouble with Tribbles’ Original Series episode – a blatant comedy episode, with little redeeming franchise gravitas.
“The Search for Spock” sits right in the middle of these two pictures, film which unfortunately charts the downfall of the movie version of the franchise, that is, until the JJ Abrams resurrection. Enjoy.
“Star Trek: The Original Motion Picture Trilogy” is available on Blu-Ray from Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment