Star Trek III: The Search for Spock

Year: 1984

Synopsis: Learning that Spock instilled his apparent consciousness into Dr. McCoy just before his demise, Kirk and crew go on an unsanctioned mission to reunite Spock’s mind and body.

Pros:
• The actors were more than game to portray themselves as honorable rogues.
• Largely successful in continuing the story from the reinvigorating Wrath of Khan.
• The brief subplot of the Excelsior being the “great experiment” in changing warp travel as they knew it became a good running in-joke in the franchise.
• The destruction of the old USS Enterprise was a strong, dramatic element.
• Leonard Nimoy’s surrealist talents as a director were in full view. The constantly evolving Genesis Planet and System was the true, cerebral heart of the film.
• Christopher Lloyd’s Kurge was a largely effective antagonist, albeit second to the primary antagonist of time.

Cons:
• The film moved rather slowly at times, while giving the sense of stretching a rather thin plot.
• The disobeying of direct orders for the right reasons already felt like a cliche for the franchise.
• Failed to overcome “middle story” issues of not having a strong beginning or ending.
• Though far from the weakest of the series, the film did not stand well on its own.

Discussion:
“My God, Bones, what have I done?” / “What you had to do, what you always do: turn death into a fighting chance to live.”

This film might just be the best franchise seat warmer ever filmed. One way or another, the franchise needed to keep going, and Spock was a key to that need. So, even though Spock died in sacrifice, the seed of Spock’s resurrection was literally implanted just before his apparent end into Dr. McCoy, who always seemed to lack patience with Spock. Especially in the context of further elaboration, the Vulcan Katra (essence) was a truly fascinating concept to introduce. Living on in the hearts and minds of others is far from a new concept, while we learned that Vulcans can make that tangible. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of it was how resurrection was not an expected result of the Katra transfer. Indeed, it seemed unlikely that roguish Spock assumed his body would be returned to Vulcan with Katra carrying McCoy in tow. Fellow Vulcan Saavik clearly did not say anything about it in the last film prior to the space funeral, while it was clear in this film that her likely secret mission was to recover Spock’s body. At the same time, Spock’s father was fully unaware of Saavak being in position to recover the body Kirk was “supposed” to bring back to Vulcan. It all seemed to sum up to Spock wanting some part of him out there after he was gone, and was not concerned whether his body was traditionally interned or not.

All that made the film much deeper than its rather thin plot would suggest. The themes of life, death, and renewal merely guided us through to the expected resurrection. There was a great deal of grimness to it all, while the message was that it is possible to fight past that grimness toward a hope that might never have been truly lost. This film was what they had to do to keep the franchise alive for grander stories.

Related:
Star Trek Franchise


Official Website

Rotten Tomatoes — 79%

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