“Because the needs of the one…outweigh the many.”
Kirk to Spock on Vulcan
After the rousing Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan, its sequel Star Trek III: The Search For Spock feels like a bit of a letdown. It’s an entertaining film but it could’ve been a lot better and the cast and crew give it a good try. It can be difficult to state exactly what is wrong with film. It’s not dull like Star Trek: The Motion Picture and moves along at a brisk pace. More than the other two films, this one feels more like an episode of the original series thanks in part to director Leonard Nimoy’s obvious familiarity with the characters and situation. But a careful examination would have to conclude that the script needed another pass before filming began. The film feels disjointed at times and seems to be in a rush to go from one plot point to another; in the meantime some unanswered questions pop up about plot developments.
The film begins not long after Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan, the Enterprise is heading back to Earth after Khan (Ricardo Montalban) and Spock’s (Leonard Nimoy) death. Commanding officer Admiral James T. Kirk (William Shatner) is visibly depressed over the loss of his friend. Most of the young cadets onboard the ship during the last film have been transferred elsewhere. Saavik (now portrayed by Robin Curtis because Kristie Alley and the producers couldn’t agree on a salary) has been assigned to a science vessel called Grissom orbiting the new Genesis Planet (after Khan detonated the stolen Genesis Device, it created the planet). Assisting her with researching Genesis is Kirk’s son, Dr. David Marcus (Merritt Butrick), developer of the rapid terraforming process that created the planet. Even though his mother, Dr. Carol Marcus (Bibi Besch), was a major character in the previous film, her absence in this film is never explained at all. In reality, writer and producer Harve Bennett needed to make budget cuts and felt her character wasn’t essential to the story. That was the first clue that the script was off.
Meanwhile, Dr. Leonard McCoy (DeForest Kelley) is behaving strangely, actually he begins acting like Spock and even sounds like him. But there isn’t any effort to get him any help.
The Enterprise arrives at a huge Spacedock orbiting Earth and sees the next generation of starships, the Excelsior, whose commandeered by an arrogant Captain Stiles (James Sikking). He would’ve been a good foil for Kirk but that is never explored. Throughout the film, members of Starfleet show an obvious disregard and disrespect toward Kirk and his crewmates that is a bit baffling and undercuts their supposedly legendary status. Perhaps they weren’t that highly thought of in their time.
Kirk and his crew learn from the commander of Starfleet, Admiral Morrow (Robert Hooks) that the Enterprise will be decommissioned because of its age. They are also ordered not to discuss the matter of Genesis, since it has become a political hot potato.
Spock’s father, Sarek (Mark Lenard) visits Kirk at his apartment and demands to know why he left his son’s body on Genesis and didn’t bring back his katra or his spiritual essence to Vulcan. According to Vulcan belief, when a Vulcan is dying, he or she mind melds with a close associate so that the katra can be transferred into that person. Both the katra and body are needed to give a proper burial and that if the katra remains with the associate it will mean that person’s death. The entire matter isn’t properly explained but that is the script for you. After looking at the Enterprise’s video logs, Kirk discovers that right before he died, Spock quickly performed a mind meld with McCoy. This explains the doctor’s odd behavior since he has Spock’s katra.
Kirk decides to risk everything to retrieve Spock’s body and soul because of his friendship. However, Admiral Morrow forbids Kirk from returning to the Genesis Planet and won’t budge. Kirk gets annoyed and resolves to go anyway as he tells the Enterprise helmsman Sulu (George Takei), “The word is no. I am therefore going anyway.”
He frees an imprisoned McCoy slated to be turned over to a “Federation funny farm” because he tried to hire a ship to go to Genesis and his behavior has people convinced he’s insane. Kirk also steals Enterprise out of the Spacedock with the help of his crewmates Sulu, Scotty (James Doohan), Chekov (Walter Koenig) and Uhura (Nichelle Nichols). Apparently the only other ship in Spacedock that can pursue the Enterprise is the Excelsior, which is stopped dead in its track thanks to some sabotaging from Scotty. It seems odd that in such a space faring society, Kirk is unable to procure a private ship to go to Genesis. Stealing a badly damaged starship while fun to watch, fails to quell the question of why do it? The Enterprise needs repairs and will make an easy target. It would’ve made more sense if they quietly took another ship and snuck away.