Director: Leonard Nimoy
Original Release: 1984
My Overall Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Meanwhile, the Klingons have learned of Genesis and want the tech for themselves, craving its destructive power. When Saavik (now played by Robin Curtis) and David Marcus descend to the Genesis planet in order to investigate animal life signs, they discover a resurrected Spock, now a small boy. Unfortunately, all three are soon captured by the Klingons and David is killed.
As with The Motion Picture, I enjoyed The Search for Spock a lot more than I did when I first watched it back in the '80s. However, in trying to correct the great injustices from The Wrath of Khan, the story generates as many new questions as answers. I have two main issues with the story, one small, one enormous. Let's tackle the small one first...
Kirk and his friends essentially commit mutiny when they steal the Enterprise out of dock to retrieve Spock. To boot, Scotty sabotages the Excelsior, the Federation ship likely to run after them. Obviously, we as the audience want our heroes to succeed but it feels icky ethically and, perhaps worse, anti-Trek.
Interestingly, there is precedent for this sort of behavior in the Star Trek canon. In "The Menagerie," TOS's only 2-part story, Spock kidnaps Christopher Pike, his former commanding officer, hijacks the Enterprise and sets course for Talos IV, forbidden territory. He risks not only court martial but execution. By tale's end, he is found to have acted out of loyalty to Pike and is exonerated. With one more movie to go in our current story arc, we don't yet know what consequences may be waiting for Kirk and company but we do know there is precedence for forgiveness.
The bigger issue is far more complicated: Spock's resurrection. I can attest to the fact that at the time, the fans were happy to have him back. Trek, at least at that point, was inconceivable without him. 30+ years on, with five spin-off series and counting plus movies and a mini-series without him as a principal character, we know the broader concept thrives beyond Spock. But for the original cast of characters, he was essential. That was the scary part of losing him at the end of Khan: was Star Trek finished?
Anyone who follows comic books, sci-fi, fantasy or soap operas is fully aware that you can never assume a character is permanently dead. Even so, the "science" that brings back Spock is awfully sketchy. I have less complaint over the Vulcan spiritual side of things. Religion, after all, is the natural realm for such matters. I suppose we can write off the science problems by stating that the full capacity of the Genesis tech was not fully understood - David suggests as much. But why didn't Spock's rapid aging continue? Were the Genesis affects lessened once Spock was off-planet or is Vulcan medicine just that good? And why couldn't David's life be salvaged similarly? Was it too late in the planet's own life cycle to be of any help? What a shame that Saavik didn't think to mind meld with him in time!
It's fiction. I can live with suspension of disbelief. But it makes a guy think.
David's death and the destruction of the Enterprise - did I forget to mention that bit? - were intended as the big emotional impact moments for the movie. David's death is certainly sad and Kirk takes it hard. The effect on the audience would have been more profound, I think, with more development devoted to the character and his relationship with Kirk.
As for the ship, it just doesn't seem that big a deal now. Mind you, it was startling at the time but hardly Spock-death shattering. A ship is an inanimate object - important symbolically, sure, but ships can be rebuilt. Obviously we know all these years later that there will be other, better Enterprise starships to come. It's a moment with greater in-story impact than it has on the audience.
- While The Search is not the best Trek movie, it does contain the saga's best Bones-Spock story. The scene when Bones confesses his feelings of loss to an unconscious Spock is genuinely touching - perhaps the story's sweetest moment.
- I appreciate the fact that the damage to the lift door on the bridge of the Enterprise was maintained from the end of Wrath of Khan - the smallest details can be the most meaningful.
- There are Tribbles on a table at the bar on the spacedock!
Real world topical notes
- Kudos for taking on both scientific ethics and the weapons of mass destruction crisis in the Project Genesis story.
- Kirstie Alley was not so enamored of Star Trek that she was willing to sign on as Saavik for the sequel. She was worried about being typecast. She was probably wise to see that her brighter future was in comedy. Apparently, the woman is genuinely crazy funny. Robin Curtis, another relative newcomer but one with a fortuitous friendship with the casting director at Paramount, won the role.
|Robin Curtis via Memory Alpha|
|Kruge via Memory Alpha|
|Doc Brown via Wikipedia|
- Two of the Klingons might seem familiar to television and sci-fi fans. Christopher Lloyd won the part of Kruge, the leader of the Klingon band, over Nimoy's original choice, Edward James Olmos. Already famous for his role on Taxi, Lloyd was still a year away from his career-cementing role: Doc Brown in Back to the Future. Less well-known in 1984 was John Larroquette who played the part of Maltz, Kruge's right-hand man. Night Court, on which Larroquette played the sleazy Dan Fielding, finished its first season the night before The Search for Spock opened in theaters. Larroquette has since won five Emmys and a Tony.
|Maltz via Memory Alpha|
|Dan via Night Court Wiki|
- James Horner returned for The Search for Spock. The title theme, borrowing heavily from the Spock theme he had composed for Khan:
My ranking of the movies so far: