Star Trek 3 - The Search for Spock (1984)

Director: Leonard Nimoy

Starring: William Shatner, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, Christopher Lloyd, Merritt Butrick, Robin Curtis

sacrifice (noun) – the act of giving up something that you want to keep especially in order to get or do something else or to help someone

Above is the Merriam-Webster definition of sacrifice, or at least the one that is most applicable to this review. Throughout history, man has made sacrifices for any number of causes, both good and ill. The most noble of sacrifices is that of self-sacrifice, the act of giving one’s own life so that others might live. This is the choice that was made by Spock (Leonard Nimoy) in the last act of “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.” Spock’s sacrifice had been forecasted by this line of dialogue: “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.” The death of Spock was hard on all of his friends, none harder than Admiral Kirk (William Shatner) who would gladly have taken his first officer’s place in the irradiated engine room. But Spock had to die in order for Kirk to experience a situation in which there can be no real victory. A friendship seemingly ended by mortality, Kirk’s next lesson would test how far he is willing to go to prove his loyalty to that friend’s immortal soul.

Following the climactic battle in the Mutara Nebula against Khan which resulted in the creation of the Genesis Planet, the Enterprise limps home to Earth to be decommissioned. A despondent Admiral Kirk receives a house-guest in the form of Spock’s father, Sarek (Mark Lenard), who is angry that his son’s final wishes to have his kaatra (i.e. “living spirit”) restored to his body have gone unanswered. Sarek assumes that Spock had joined minds with Kirk in his last moments, but Kirk knows there was never an opportunity for Spock to have done so. Sarek is about to leave when Kirk reminds him that Spock was too smart not to have a backup plan, and they later discover what we already know: it was McCoy who got the mind-meld, and that’s why the good doctor’s been acting odd as of late. He’s carrying Spock’s essence inside his noggin! Kirk makes a promise to Sarek right then and there that he will do whatever it takes to see both Spock and McCoy restored to their former selves.

The Genesis Planet has done more than create a sense of awe and wonder. It’s also created ignorance, fear and lust for power among Starfleet’s allies and enemies. The Klingon commander Kruge (Christopher Lloyd) fears that his race will face extinction at the hands of the Federation. It was the intent of the Genesis project to create life, not to destroy it. In the wrong hands, it could be a weapon of unspeakable power, as it was when Khan stole it. Kruge has gotten his hands on the report filed by Admiral Kirk to Starfleet, becoming obsessed with unlocking the secrets of this power. He’ll do whatever he has to do to get his hands on it, and sacrifice as many lives as he sees fit. I’ve seen Christopher Lloyd in all sorts of different roles over the years, some of them despicable villains like Kruge. In this case, he’s a villain who is ruthless, yes, but is too overconfident to see that he’s picked the wrong crowd to play against in a Human/Klingon game of chess. As the two commanders are set on a proverbial collision course, with entirely different purposes, it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to guess that Kirk will be the one to come out the victor. He’s far more motivated, and yet he also has that much more to give up. Before Kirk and Kruge ever come to hand-to-hand combat, both will have lost almost everything in the pursuit of their goals.

What Kruge doesn’t seem to be able to grasp is that this “ultimate weapon” he’s so keen on acquiring is, ultimately, a doomed experiment, and it was from the very start. David Marcus (Merritt Butrick), Kirk’s son, doesn’t play by the rules and doesn’t have a hell of a lot of patience. As one of the chief scientists in charge of the Genesis Project, he’d used an unstable substance to speed up the process, ensuring that there would be results now instead of years down the pike (or never). The side effect is that the planet is aging too quickly and will soon break apart. In his previous appearance in “Wrath of Khan,” David had given the impression that he was weak and quick to rush to judgment, but not that he was also an unethical scientist, however because his willingness to cheat makes him seem that much more like his father, I can easily let this new wrinkle in his personality slide.

In all the years he has played the role, it seems to me that William Shatner’s greatest scenes as Kirk have all come as his character is encountering personal loss. One of the best examples is when Kirk is panicking upon hearing Kruge give the order to have one of three prisoners… David, Lt. Saavik (Robin Curtis) or Spock… killed so that he can demonstrate the seriousness of his intentions. Though the end result is sad and painful, it only serves to motivate Kirk to make HIS next move.

James Horner became my favorite film composer based on the scores for “Star Trek II” and “Star Trek III.” I actually find myself slightly preferring his work here in “Star Trek III.” This movie’s soundtrack has a calming effect on me that I can’t really find words to explain. All I know is that listening to my copy of the album can put me totally at peace.

“Star Trek III: The Search for Spock” has long been one of my favorites of the franchise. Some fans/critics don’t care for it. I won’t presume to know exactly why, but the fact that it has the misfortune of being the story that immediately follows “The Wrath of Khan” has to be a contributing factor. Kruge can be seen as weak when compared to Ricardo Montalban’s Khan, but I’m pretty sure that most any villain would have been measured the same way. He’s not especially smart, and he’s easily defeated (although the knockdown, drag out fight he has with Kirk is epic). I can also see how some might not be able to take him or his crew seriously. After all, one of his officers is played by John Larroquette! Two actors known for comedic roles featuring as Klingons in the same movie? Unthinkable! However, Kruge does have something big in his favor: the lasting impact he will have on Kirk’s perception of the Klingon race. Because of the injuries (emotional rather than physical) that Kruge will inflict, it will leave Kirk just as distrustful of the Klingons as they are of him. By the time of “Star Trek VI,” you could even call it racism.

I will always wonder what direction the series would have taken if Spock had remained deceased after “The Wrath of Khan.” But rather than cheapen that film’s ending, “The Search for Spock” actually winds up bringing it full circle. The needs of the one have now superseded the needs of the many. Besides that, the resurrection of a major character is something that happened routinely on the TV series. Why should the movies act any differently? It was a necessary sacrifice made to ensure that moviegoers would return in two years for “Star Trek IV.”

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