Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (Paramount Pictures, 1984; see also 1984 in film) is the third feature film based on the popular Star Trek science fiction television series. It is often referred to as ST3:TSFS or TSFS. It is a direct sequel to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and has a similar feel although often with a lighter, more humorous touch.
A few days after the events of TWOK, the Enterprise limps back to Earth. Once there, Admiral Kirk (William Shatner) is informed that the 20-year-old vessel's days are over; it won't be refit, but will instead be retired, and its crew reassigned. Meanwhile, Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley) exhibits strange behavior, somehow related to the deceased Mr. Spock.
Simultaneously, Kirk's son David Marcus (Merritt Butrick) and Lt. Saavik (Robin Curtis) explore the Genesis planet, created at the end of the last film. Unknown to them, Klingon Commander Kruge (Christopher Lloyd) becomes interested in Genesis, and travels to the Genesis planet to learn its secrets.
Spock's father Ambassador Sarek (Mark Lenard) turns up on Earth to inform Kirk that McCoy possesses Spock's "katra" (soul), but that both his katra and body are needed to properly lay him to rest on his homeworld of Vulcan, or McCoy could die. Disobeying orders, Kirk reunites his officers and steals the Enterprise to head to the Genesis planet, which is beginning to self-destruct.
Kruge arrives at Genesis first, destroying the research vessel there. His crew captures the scientists on the planet — David, Saavik, and a Vulcan child — and then the Enterprise arrives. The Enterprise is much larger than the Klingon ship, but is crippled by its recent battle and skeleton crew. Kirk sacrifices the ship to kill Kruge's men, and defeats Kruge in hand-to-hand combat on the planet's surface, which is rapidly disentigrating. Kirk captures the Klingon ship and escapes the Genesis planet just in time as it explodes, and returning both McCoy and the now-aged boy — who is Spock (Leonard Nimoy) — to Vulcan, where his katra is returned to his body.
A theme of TWOK was summed up by Spock as "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one." A theme of TSFS is "the needs of the one sometimes outweigh the needs of the many." Kirk and company are willing to sacrifice their careers, lives, and ship to put Spock's soul to rest, never mind actually resurrecting him.
In the original TV series, much was made of the attachment Kirk had to the Enterprise, so his willing destruction of the vessel here is a resounding note indeed.
TSFS was directed by Leonard Nimoy, which fueled advance speculation that Spock would turn up alive and well.
The film contains much more humor than TWOK, fueled partly by the comic talents of Christopher Lloyd, DeForest Kelley and James Doohan (as Scotty). Shatner's performance, on the other hand, doesn't seem up to the level of his TWOK work, for whatever reason.
The destruction of the Enterprise had to be done twice, since the initial destruction sequence was deemed to have little emotional impact, and also appeared to be too similar to the ending of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.
Early drafts involved Romulans as antagonists, rather than the Klingons. This is why in the final film the Klingon ship is a Bird of Prey, which historically was a Romulan ship name. Star Trek: The Next Generation would perpetuate this confusion between the two races, attributing the Romulans' sense of honor to the Klingons.
The music was scored by James Horner.
Although Trekkies welcomed the return of Spock, the film did not generate the same acclaim from critics and fans as its predecessor, helping to establish the notion that odd-numbered Trek films are somehow inferior and less financially successful than the even-numbered ones, a notion that held true until 2002 when the 10th Trek film failed at the box office.
- Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0088170/) at the Internet Movie Database
- "Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (http://www.memory-alpha.org/en/index.php/Star_Trek_III:_The_Search_for_Spock)" article at Memory Alpha, a Star Trek wiki