III  Star Trek III: The Search for Spock

(release date: June 1, 1984)

Writer: Harve Bennett
Director: Leonard Nimoy

Saavik: Robin Curtis
David Marcus: Merrick Butrick
T'Lar: Dame Judith Anderson
Torg: Stephen Liska
Captain Esteban: Phillip Richard Allen

Sarek: Mark Lenard
Kruge: Christopher Lloyd
Admiral Morrow: Robert Hooks
Maltz: John Larroquette
Captain Styles: James B. Sikking

Stardate: 8210.3

Captain's Log: Following the events of the previous movie, the Enterprise returns to Earth, where it is to be decommissioned. Sarek visits Kirk and together they learn that McCoy is unknowingly holding Spock's katra, his "living spirit", inside his head. Kirk tries to get permission to return to the Genesis planet to retrieve Spock's body, but Genesis has become a sensitive political subject, with only a science team allowed there. Kirk thus steals the Enterprise with the help of his friends and takes the ship to Genesis. Meanwhile, a Klingon commander named Kruge has also learned of Genesis and has travelled there to find the secret of the Genesis torpedo. Kruge destroys the science survey ship and holds three people hostage on the surface: Saavik, David Marcus, and a young, mindless Spock, whose body was regenerated by the Genesis effect. When the Enterprise arrives, Kruge disables it and then orders Kirk to surrender, killing David to show he's seriousness. Kirk and the remaining crew beam down after setting the Enterprise to self-destruct. Kirk then defeats Kruge on the surface and captures Kruge's ship, a Klingon Bird-of-Prey, and takes everyone to Vulcan. A ceremony is performed where Spock's katra is transferred from McCoy back to Spock; Spock is now alive again.

Whoops!: The stardates provided here for the events of Star Trek II (all around 8128.7 or so) are earlier than the stardate provided at the beginning of that movie (which was 8130.3).
     Night falls incredibly quickly on Genesis, with dusk lasting approximately six seconds. Even if they're near one of the poles, this still suggests that the planet is rotating far too quickly for comfort. (And yes, the planet is tearing itself apart, but the people on the surface can still walk around and such without much issue.)
     When Saavik chews out David for his use of protomatter in the Genesis matrix, she ends by asking pointedly how many people have died as a result of his actions. Except none of the people who died in this movie or the previous one died because he used protomatter; they died because the Genesis project was ready and so they were fighting over it. But that's not really the result of his impatience: if he'd found a different, less controversial way to create a successful matrix, those people would have still died.

Classic Lines: Kirk to McCoy: "You're suffering from a Vulcan mind meld, Doctor." McCoy: "That green-blooded son of a bitch! It's his revenge for all the arguments he lost."
     Sulu, on seeing the Excelsior: "She's supposed to have transwarp drive." Scotty: "Aye. And if my grandmother had wheels, she'd be a wagon." Kirk: "Come come, Mr. Scott. Young minds, fresh ideas. Be tolerant."
     Kirk, watching the burning Enterprise: "My God, Bones. What have I done?" McCoy: "What you had to do. What you always do. Turn death into a fighting chance to live."
     Spock, wondering why Kirk came back for him: "Why would you do this?" Kirk: "Because the needs of the one... outweigh the needs of the many."

Technobabble: David Marcus used protomatter to solve certain problems with the Genesis matrix.

Don't Wear a Red Shirt: The entire crew of the Grissom is killed when Kruge's Bird-of-Prey destroys the ship. Kruge then vaporizes the Klingon crewman who accidentally destroyed the Grissom. David Marcus is stabbed and killed by a Klingon while trying to protect Saavik and Spock. Kirk knocks Kruge off a cliff into a river of lava. But the biggest "death" is the destruction of the Enterprise, which goes up in flames following the self-destruct sequence and burns up in Genesis's atmosphere. The self-destruct also takes out six Klingons who were aboard when it detonated.

Alien Love: There's the distinct suggestion that Saavik helped Spock through his pon farr by having sex with him. (Though admittedly this isn't explicit, and there aren't any scenes of either of them pulling clothing back on afterwards or anything like that. So it's possible Saavik got him through it without having to actually engage in intercourse.)

Library Computer: It's shortly after the events of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan: long enough for the Enterprise to have dropped off most of its trainee crew (as well as long enough to pick up Reliant's crew from Ceti Alpha V and drop them off somewhere as well, and for Saavik and David Marcus to transfer to the Grissom), but not long enough to have completely repaired the external damage to the Enterprise or to deal properly with Spock's quarters (or to properly evaluate McCoy). The climax of The Wrath of Khan occurred around stardate 8128.76. [But see Whoops! This marks the second time (after "Requiem for Methuselah") in which we get a stardate with a hundredths place - and this time we get additional numbers, with a second set of decimal points that appear to correspond roughly to seconds (such as 8128.76.19)]
     The Genesis planet was the planet formed from the Mutara Nebula by Project Genesis, as seen in The Wrath of Khan. The controversial nature of its creation meant that Genesis was something of a forbidden subject, not to be discussed by those with knowledge of it and off-limits to any visitors except the Federation science team aboard the U.S.S. Grissom, until such time as the Federation council had created an official policy regarding Genesis. The planet itself appeared to be Earth-like, but with several differing biomes (desert, forest, etc.) within a few hours' walk from each other. Night fell extremely rapidly there. Life on Genesis evolved very rapidly, with vegetation fully formed by the time the Grissom arrived to survey the planet, and microbes on the surface of the torpedo containing Spock's body evolving first into small pink-orange vertebrates with trapezoidal bodies and then later into large serpent-like organisms with green blood. The Genesis effect also regenerated the body of Spock, changing him from an adult male to a child and then causing him to rapidly undergo aging. This effect was likely due to the use by David Marcus of protomatter in the Genesis matrix [and note that Spock stops rapidly aging once he's left Genesis]; David used it because it was, according to him, the only way to solve certain problems, but according to Saavik, protomatter was "an unstable substance which every ethical scientist in the galaxy has denounced as dangerously unpredictable." Consequently, Genesis itself was incredibly unstable, aging in surges just like Spock, and ultimately the planet tore itself apart, with Project Genesis ultimately deemed (by David) a failure.
     The U.S.S. Grissom was a small scout-sized [Kirk speculates the scout-class vessel Chekov saw was Grissom] Federation science vessel, registry number NCC-638, assigned as a survey vessel to the Genesis planet. [It's an Oberth-class vessel, according to subsequent Trek lore; this appears to derive from the dedication plaque of the similar S.S. Tsiolkovsky, from the Next Generation episode "The Naked Now".] The Grissom consisted of a rather thin rectangular plate with a circular half-dome section resting on the front part of the plate, while the warp engines were attached directly to either side of this plate. Attached via two short struts that began on the sides of the plate and came together underneath was a large, long pod of some sort [it kind of looks like a pontoon]. The captain of the Grissom was J.T. Esteban, an older Caucasian male with dark brown hair and blue eyes and a somewhat cautious personality. The Grissom was destroyed when Commander Kruge's Bird-of-Prey inadvertently blew it up while attempting to disable it.
     Commander Kruge was a Klingon officer, the captain of a small scout-class vessel known as a Bird-of-Prey. Kruge was taller, with dark brown shoulder length hair and a Van Dyke beard [a goatee where the moustache isn't attached to the beard]. Kruge had a ruthless, cunning personality, willing to destroy a small freighter because a person on it had viewed the information on Genesis and to order that hostages be killed to prove his seriousness - it was a result of this order that David, protecting Saavik and the young Spock, was killed by one of Kruge's crew. Kruge wanted to seize information on the Genesis device to use it as a weapon, in order to (in his words) act for the preservation of their race. Kruge had a large pet that appeared to be part dog, part crocodile; it died when the Enterprise attacked the Bird-of-Prey. Kruge himself died on Genesis after Kirk kicked him off a cliff into a river of lava. [Kruge did just try to pull Kirk over the edge of the cliff after Kirk initially tried to help him up, but it's still an instance of Kirk intentionally killing an adversary.]
     As with the Klingons in The Motion Picture, Kruge (and the rest of the Klingons we see here) had a large hairless forehead with a number of ridges, including a prominent one running down the center of the forehead to the browline. [It's not as prominent as the ones in The Motion Picture, though.] Kruge's crew included Klingons named Maltz and Torg; Torg was killed when the Enterprise self-destructed, while Maltz survived the events seen here. The Klingons are wearing the same basic black-with-silver uniforms that they wore in The Motion Picture.
     A Klingon Bird-of-Prey is a small scout-class vessel with a crew of about a dozen. It's shaped like a predatory bird, with long adjustable wings with weapons on the wingtips and a small "head" on the end of a long neck extending from the center of the body. The wings are movable from roughly 45 degrees below the body up to roughly 30 degrees above the body (this is the position when it's landed), and it has a glowing orange engine at the rear of the body. A predominantly green ship, it has some orange wing patterning as well. A Klingon Bird-of-Prey can land on the surface of a planet. There's a gangway at the rear of the vessel for the crew to disembark from when the ship has landed. It can also cloak, although it leaves a slight visual distortion. The ship has to de-cloak before it can use its weapons, though not to use the transporter. [This is the first on-screen use of "Bird-of-Prey" as the name of a ship, although the term was used to describe the design painted on the Romulan ship in "Balance of Terror". The prosaic reason as to why this term is here applied to a Klingon vessel is because the initial version of the script had Romulans as the primary antagonists, not Klingons - but when the script was changed the "Bird-of-Prey" term remained. Harve Bennett suggested that the Klingon use of the Bird-of-Prey was the result of the one-time partnership between the Klingons and the Romulans ("The Enterprise Incident"), although subsequent episodes of Enterprise (beginning with "The Expanse") establish a 22nd-century version of a Klingon Bird-of-Prey, thus muddying the waters rather.] The bridge of the Bird-of-Prey includes a large, elevated central command chair, and a number of small stations around the perimeter of the small, circular bridge, with a door at the rear. [This layout will change fairly significantly for the next movie.] Scott, Sulu, and Chekov had difficulty determining which control operated the matter/antimatter inducer.
     Klingons have a different design of communicator, one that looks like a small brown box with ridges on it. There are no moving parts (like the flip-top on the Starfleet version). They also have a mean-looking disruptor pistol, with a long "barrel" with a slightly flared end, and a piece on top near the grip that looks like it could be a sight of some kind. We also see a larger rifle version, complete with a shoulder strap. These Klingons carry a large knife with spiked ball at the bottom of the hilt, an angular flared blade tip, a hollow center of the blade, and two secondary prongs that spring out from the hilt of the blade when readied by the wielder. [This is the first appearance of the typical Klingon dagger, the d'k tahg - although it won't actually be called that until the Next Generation episode "Birthright, Part II".]
     The Klingons are still using the symbol with the three prongs in a rough triangular shape ("Elaan of Troyius" et seq.), although here it's finally clearly oriented the way we now think of as "correct", with the longest prong pointing up. [It may have been pointing the "right" way in "More Tribbles, More Troubles", but as it's on the wing of the Klingon ship there it's difficult to know for certain what the intended orientation was meant to be.]
     Klingon emissaries are currently negotiating for peace with the Federation.
     Klingons measure distance in units called kellicams.
     We see a small brown freighter (called the Merchantman in the script, though not on-screen) consisting of a main long rectangular prism with a flat wing-like shape on the front of the cylinder. This freighter consisted of a small, primarily human crew and was carrying Valkris, a female Klingon with a subtle forehead ridge and an elaborate hairstyle. She transferred classified information about Project Genesis to Kruge, but because she had viewed the data beforehand, Kruge chose to destroy the Merchantman to preserve his secret. Kruge told Valkris that she would die with honor. [This is the first mention of honor in association with Klingons - something that will go on to dominate portrayals of Klingon culture starting with The Next Generation.]
     As in The Motion Picture, we hear examples of Klingon language, although we have a lot more here than in that movie. Klingon is a guttural language, with lots of sharp sounds. [Klingon is an actual constructed language designed by the linguist Marc Okrand. It's meant to be very unusual compared to most human languages, which means that it's full of non-typical phonemes (lots of uvular sounds made in the back of the mouth and such), and with an object-verb-subject agglutinative (i.e., one long word with a bunch of affixes) construction. Okrand based some of the language on the sounds made in The Motion Picture, retroactively matching them to their equivalent sentences.]
     Spock's father Sarek is still alive, looking a touch greyer and more lined than the last time we saw him ("Journey to Babel"). He mind-melds with Kirk, expecting to find Spock's life essence inside Kirk, as Kirk was the last person to speak with Spock. He admits that his logic is uncertain where his son is concerned. Sarek is the son of Skon, who is the son of Solkar. [Skon is named as the translator of The Teachings of Surak in the Enterprise episode "Two Days and Two Nights", while Solkar gets a name check in Enterprise: "The Catwalk".]
     Spock was laid to rest in his black robe (the same one we saw in The Motion Picture and The Wrath of Khan).
     When a Vulcan is going to die, they can transfer their living essence, called their katra, into another person; this way, all of their knowledge isn't lost when the body dies. Spock placed his katra inside McCoy's head before he went into the chamber to repair the warp engines in The Wrath of Khan (at stardate 8128.76.35, according to the Engine Room Flight Recorder Visual); this has left McCoy with something of a split personality, with Spock's mind occasionally surfacing - although McCoy was unable to perform a Vulcan neck pinch on a Federation security agent, suggesting an incomplete sharing of knowledge. This process seems to still require the body of the deceased Vulcan, for some reason. (Sarek is upset with Kirk for leaving Spock's body on Genesis, even after he knows that McCoy is carrying Spock's katra, while Spock-in-McCoy asks Kirk why his body was left on Genesis.) Spock's case was somewhat unique: due to the Genesis effect, Spock's body had been regenerated and aged to more or less the same age that Spock was when he died (complete with a bout of pon farr, the Vulcan mating drive), but Spock's mind remained empty. This meant that a dangerous Vulcan procedure, fal-tor-pan (the re-fusion), could be conducted, even though such a thing hadn't been done since ancient times (and then only in legend). This procedure took place on Mount Seleya on Vulcan, and it involved placing a katra inside a living, breathing body - something risky for both the body and the keeper of the katra. Fal-tor-pan involves a Vulcan placing their hands on each person's forehead [perhaps they're acting as a conduit, allowing the katra to pass into the body]. Spock's re-fusion was thus the first successful one in living memory.
     Mount Seleya is a special mountain on Vulcan. Located up the mountain, after climbing a large number of steps carved into the rock, was a form of ampitheatre, a large round shallow dish built on an outcropping, with stone blocks ringing the edge and a raised dias on one end, with two tall stone blocks at the back of the dias. This ampitheatre is reached by passing through a gigantic conical structure (with the top lopped off) with a large gap in the center of the shape. Mount Seleya is involved with ceremonies involving the katra. (Spock's-mind-in-McCoy asks Kirk to climb the steps of Mount Seleya.)
     T'Lar is a Vulcan priestess. An older woman, she is dressed in red robes with a tall white headdress. She is skilled enough to perform fal-tor-pan on Spock and McCoy. Like T'Pau ("Amok Time"), she uses the familiar 2nd-person pronouns "thee" and "thy", although she's also heard to use forms of "you".
     There's at least one Vulcan with epicanthic folds [thus making him look "Asian" to our eyes]. He's sounding a large gong when we see him.
     Lexorin is a drug that Kirk uses to stabilize McCoy while he's carrying Spock's katra, leaving him well enough to travel and to stay more or less in control of his faculties.
     According to Uhura's duty partner (who she nicknames "Mr. Adventure"), Uhura has been in Starfleet for twenty years. [Thus suggesting the Enterprise's five-year mission was her first major assignment.] The transporter room she's manning includes a sign that declares "1. No Smoking; 2. Place Feet in Center of Pad; 3. Keep Extremities within Transporter Field".
     Scott is here promoted from commander to captain. He doesn't think much of new-fangled technologies like transwarp drive.
     Sulu knows judo and is able to overpower a much larger opponent. He dislikes being called "Tiny".
     McCoy admits that he missed Spock and that he doesn't want to lose him again.
     The Enterprise is still showing the effects of the battle with Khan, with plating over damaged hull sections and scorched walls on the bridge. [The bridge also seems to be more brightly-lit than before, at least in the opening scenes.] According to a display on the bridge, the Enterprise is a Class I Heavy Cruiser. [This diagram comes from the 1975 book the Star Fleet Technical Manual.] The ship was due to be decommissioned, with Admiral Morrow stating that, as the Enterprise is twenty years old, Starfleet felt her time was over. [As has been pointed out before, Morrow's comment can't possibly be right; the refit itself is nearly fifteen years old at this point, which could be what Morrow is actually referring to. Alternately, he could be using the time span from when Kirk took command of the Enterprise (which would be about twenty years ago) as the basis of his comment, either forgetting or choosing to ignore the at least thirteen years of service the Enterprise had before Kirk, under Pike and April. Let's be charitable and assume that Morrow is referring to the age of the refit and is just rounding up somewhat dramatically.] Kirk wanted to take the Enterprise to Genesis to retrieve Spock's body; when he couldn't get official permission, he, along with the rest of the Enterprise bridge crew, chose to steal the ship and take her to Genesis on an unauthorized voyage. Kirk was forced to abandon the Enterprise in orbit around Genesis, but not before he, Scott, and Chekov set the self-destruct sequence, leading to the detonation of the saucer section and the burning up of the remainder of the ship in Genesis's atmosphere. The self-destruct code was the same as in "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield", albeit with Scott providing the second code set (instead of Spock) and Chekov the third (instead of Scott).
     The U.S.S. Excelsior is the latest design of Starfleet ship. Its registry number is NX-2000. [The "X" presumably refers to the fact that it's an experimental design; the registry changes to NCC-2000 when the ship is in regular service, in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.] The general configuration is similar to that of the Enterprise (saucer section, lower hull, two warp nacelles rising up from either side of the lower hull), but the details are different: the saucer is connected by a thicker neck that transitions more or less smoothly into the lower hull (with an inset deflector dish at the front), which curves up at the back like the Enterprise's, but with a significantly longer "tail". The warp nacelles also appear to be longer, with the "glowing" bit on the top of the nacelle instead of on the side as with the Enterprise, and the nacelles are connected by struts that head straight down and then make a 90-degree angle, joining up on the top of the Excelsior's lower hull. The Excelsior is fitted with an experimental transwarp drive, designed to go faster than any other Starfleet vessel. [We never see this work; see, if you dare, the Voyager episode "Threshold" for why this may be the case.] Kirk referred to it as "the great experiment". The bridge of the Excelsior seems much roomier than that of the Enterprise, with lots of space between consoles and stations. The captain of the Excelsior at this time was Captain Styles, an older white male with short brown hair (and a receding hairline), a thin moustache, and blue eyes. Styles was something of an arrogant man, and he carried a rather thick swagger stick around with him. He was looking forward to breaking some of the Enterprise's speed records. The Excelsior attempted to chase the Enterprise when Kirk stole it from Spacedock, but Scott (who'd been assigned to Excelsior as Captain of Engineering) sabotaged the transwarp drive by removing a handful of components from it.
     Spacedock is a massive space station orbiting Earth, resembling a long mushroom with a big cap and bulges along the "stem", with large doors on the top of the "cap". It contains a number of Starfleet vessels inside the "cap", including the Excelsior, the damaged Enterprise, a couple fat-looking shuttles, and the rear of a vessel with a tubular warp nacelle and a flat rear hull. [This is the back of a study model for a redesigned Enterprise, from the first, abortive attempt to make a Star Trek movie, Planet of the Titans.] It can take remote control of docking vessels, with the consent of said vessels. Yellow alerts are almost unheard of inside Spacedock.
     Facilities we see here include an officers' lounge in Starfleet Headquarters, a special security holding facility (complete with guards wearing grey uniforms and futuristic baseball-style caps), and a more general bar. This bar contained a tabletop video game, consisting of two wire-frame biplanes displayed in mid-air (holograms, perhaps) controlled by a joystick on either side of the table, and a number of non-human species, including a humanoid with large copper-colored scales all over his head, and a shell-like ear; a woman with a large domed head and subtle coloring above her eyes, wearing elaborate jewelry on her head; and a pale-skinned bald male with large ears and fish-like fronds on the top of his head, the sides of his eye sockets, and on either side of his chin. This last alien has a ship that he's willing to charter, although he doesn't seem willing to make illegal journeys (such as to Genesis) with it. We also see some tribbles on a table. This bar serves Arcanis Lager and Altair water, and McCoy is something of a regular there (although Altair water isn't his usual drink). [These locations are probably meant to be set on Earth, but there's nothing definitive to rule out the possibility that they're actually aboard Spacedock.]
     Federation security have plain-clothes agents, one of whom takes McCoy into custody after he overhears McCoy trying to charter a ship to Genesis. The agent flashes a badge from within a silver sleeve; the badge has a seal of some sort on it, and an old-school red LED display with a series of numbers (31621) on it.
     Admiral Morrow is Commander, Starfleet. An older black man, he has greying black hair, a thick moustache, and brown eyes. His rank insignia (four arrowheads in a circle pointing inward, connected at the bases and resting on top of a smaller hollow circle) indicates he's a fleet admiral. Morrow never understood Vulcan mysticism.
     Morrow is at one point wearing a sort of Starfleet bomber jacket, which snaps down the front and has a large raised collar around the back of the neck. It's still in the same deep maroon color, although it looks like it's made from a velour-like material.
     While off duty, Kirk is wearing a maroon jacket and a pale lilac shirt which clasps at the upper right corner of the shirt, with a pattern of sewn lines radiating out from the clasp.
     A woman who resembles Janice Rand is a commander, watching the Enterprise dock. [Rand was a chief petty officer when we last saw her, in The Motion Picture. She's going to be a lieutenant junior grade in Star Trek VI, which means that either she was demoted or this isn't actually Rand in this scene. Possibly supporting this, her hair is a different color here (red) from the blonde in every other appearance.]
     Starfleet communicators have changed design a bit again; they're now black with a gold fliptop and no lights at the bottom. The phaser Uhura wields also looks black and a bit more clunky, with an obvious place for a small palm phaser to attach in at the top. The tricorder is a bit smaller than the original series version, with more silver coloring, but it's also the same basic shape, attached with a strap. [The intention for all of these seems to be to more closely resemble the original designs than the version in the previous films.]
     Federation transporter beams are now a blue tinge, rather than the yellow they'd been up to this point. Klingon beams have a yellow tinge.
     Mark VI photon torpedo casings are made of a metallic alloy called terminium.
     Starfleet regulations specifically state that "nothing shall be beamed aboard until danger of contamination has been eliminated". They also allow personnel to beam to the surface of a planet, so long as the captain decides the mission is vital and reasonably free of danger.
     Kirk and Scotty joke that Scotty maintains his reputation as a miracle worker by padding his repair estimates by a factor of 4.

Final Analysis: "One alive, one not. Yet both in pain. ... You must bring them to Mount Seleya, on Vulcan. Only there can both find peace." If the previous movie reestablished Star Trek's dramatic action credentials for the big screen, this one leans into the character relationships instead, with similar results. This reliance on character may mean this resonates more with fans than casual viewers, but nevertheless The Search for Spock reaffirms that it's these relationships that lie at the heart of Star Trek, just as much as the more thrilling sequences - although we certainly get some of those here as well, such as the theft (and later destruction) of the Enterprise and Kirk's fight with Kruge. And Christopher Lloyd, virtually unrecognizable under the Klingon makeup, plays this deadly straight, making for a compelling adversary. Easily the most underrated of the Star Trek films.

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