We’re halfway through our Star Trek summer rewatch! Next on the agenda in the Star Trek Summer Rewatch is Star Trek III: The Search For Spock. This entry in the Star Trek: The Original Series films is an interesting one, picking up right where Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan ends. It also marks the film directorial debut of Leonard Nimoy, Mr. Spock himself. Without further ado, let’s take a look at the original trailer for Star Trek III: The Search For Spock.
Now that we’ve watched that, let’s dig into my thoughts on Star Trek III: The Search For Spock.
What Works: A Continuing Story
One of the things I enjoy the most about Star Trek III: The Search For Spock is that it picks up directly after the events of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. It has themes that are still used in modern filmmaking—the last hurrah for the old, risking careers and lives to save a friend, death and resurrection, and science gone wrong are all ideas still present in film and television today. For this reason, I think Star Trek III: The Search For Spock is still worth checking out.
What Works: Great Supporting Cast
In addition to the delightfulness of having our Star Trek: The Original Series cast on our screen, we have an outstanding supporting cast of characters as well. Robin Curtis takes on the role of Lt. Saavik (from Kirstie Alley, who rocketed to Hollywood stardom after her introduction in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan). Two of our Klingons are played by two of the most notable actors of the 80s—Christopher Lloyd and John Larroquette play Kruge and Maltz respectively. We also have the gone-too-soon Merritt Butrick reprising his role as Dr. David Marcus, aka Kirk’s son.
Our supporting cast does exactly what a good supporting cast should do—give motivation to our leads. The Klingons here are menacing, re-emphasizing their classic role as Federation antagonists. Christopher Lloyd is the real standout here, though I wish he’d been given a bit more leeway to lean into the manic energy of Judge Doom, who he would portray 4 years later in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. The potential is certainly there, but I just love watching Christopher Lloyd play unhinged.
What Works: Superior Score
The standout aspect of Star Trek III: The Search For Spock in my book is the musical score. As mentioned in my review of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, the gone-too-soon James Horner was brought back to compose the score for the third installment of the Trek film franchise. Horner’s musical cues give the film a depth of emotion that is lacking in the script and truly elevate the film into summer blockbuster territory. If you love a good movie score, drop the needle on Horner’s score for The Search for Spock.
What Doesn’t Work: Weak Story
There’s a lot that I do enjoy about Star Trek III: The Search For Spock. But for me, the story is a bit lackluster. We get a great dramatic performance out of William Shatner when he finds out his son has been killed. We get a great comedic performance out of DeForest Kelley as he plays a possessed Dr. McCoy. However, Star Trek III: The Search For Spock plays more like an expanded episode of Star Trek: The Original Series. It’s a fun hour and forty-five minutes, but it lacks the boldness of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. It also doesn’t have quite the shine of Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
The story point that works best for me is the courage shown by Dr. McCoy when he transfers Spock’s katra back to Spock’s body. It could have killed him. And even though he has always struggled to understand Spock, Spock is still his friend, and he would give his life for him. Self-sacrificial love amazes me with its courage, and Dr. McCoy exemplifies that ideal well here. The shots of the katra transfer ceremony are gorgeously done, and it’s fascinating to get further insight into Vulcan culture. Even so, I wish the script had a little more excitement in it.
While I do think Star Trek III: The Search For Spock is a fun night at the movies, it suffers from the same thing that affects many middle chapters—a mediocre story. Now, that being said, I think Star Trek III: The Search For Spock works best when it’s shown as a triple feature with Wrath of Khan and the film I’ll be covering next in my Star Trek Summer Rewatch, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Watching those films consecutively really enhances my viewing of all three, especially the latter two.
What do you think of Star Trek III: The Search For Spock? Leave me a comment and let’s talk Trek.