Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984)
Release Date: June 1st, 1984 MPAA Rating: PG
Director: Leonard Nimoy Actors: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, Merritt Butrick, Christopher Lloyd, Stephen Liska, John Larroquette
his third theatrical outing for the ’60s cast begins with a brief recap – specifically to highlight the major twist, which was Spock’s (Leonard Nimoy) death. Of course, Spock is too popular of a character to just kill off for good. And so, it’s no surprise that this picture would become a direct sequel – and feature a flimsy excuse to bring back Kirk’s (William Shatner) second-in-command. Oddly, the other big revelation from before was the existence of Kirk’s former lover and their adult son, though this plotline is mostly dropped.
Journeying home from their trying battle against Khan, the Starfleet ship Enterprise is in shambles. And Admiral Kirk is still reeling from the loss of his best friend, Spock, who perished from radiation while saving the crew. In Spock’s sealed-off quarters, a strange force possesses Dr. “Bones” McCoy (DeForest Kelley), conveying a message about the possibility that Spock may still be alive, after his space coffin soft-landed on the Genesis planet. Plus, Spock’s father Sarek (Mark Lenard) is infuriated that his son’s body was not returned to Vulcan for ceremonial purposes. When Admiral Morrow (Robert Hooks) refuses to allow anyone to go back to look for Spock, Kirk opts to steal the decommissioned Enterprise for an illegal rescue mission – and he’s joined by his faithful crew, including Uhura (Nichelle Nichols), Sulu (George Takei), Chekov (Walter Koenig), Scotty (James Doohan), and McCoy.
Meanwhile, mercenary Valkris (Cathie Shirriff) purchases data from the Genesis Project – now a galactic controversy and a forbidden subject – to transmit to rogue Klingon Commander Kruge (Christopher Lloyd), who plots a course to the Federation’s neutral zone. Kruge’s plan is to seize control of the Genesis planet and utilize its torpedo technology as a doomsday device. It’s never explained how a life-creating system could be used in this way, but that doesn’t stop Kruge from hoping to weaponize it.
Interestingly, Nimoy is back, though he has a new role: the director. He’s unable to spice up a tremendously boring first act, however, as the script dwells on uneventful things – such as diplomatic conversations and complications, an exploration of the Genesis planet, an unprovocative hijacking of the Enterprise, and a drawn-out hunt for potential prisoners by the Klingon vessel. Despite a couple of explosions, the action is virtually nonexistent during the first half of the film. If “The Wrath of Khan” renewed interest in the “Star Trek” movie franchise, “The Search for Spock” seems fixated on squashing it. Even a self-destruct countdown sequence generates zero tension.
As the film approaches its conclusion, the excitement and enthusiasm never increase. Kirk spouts his lines as if trying to be a comedian, while fight scenes remain devoid of energy or creativity. And the Klingons speak in their native language only half of the time, nonsensically choosing to use English when it’s inconvenient to have subtitles flash onscreen. To its credit, the sci-fi themes are just as esoteric as before (and fitting for the “Star Trek” universe), but the sense of adventure has vanished.
– Mike Massie