In the previous installment, we began to discuss one of the greatest stories told in the Star Trek universe. Like any epic trilogy, we see our heroes face death, fight for rebirth, and ultimately deal with the consequences of their actions. In The Wrath of Khan, I presented that the story, while a fan favorite, was little more than a retelling of Moby Dick, told from the perspective of the whale (there’s a joke to be had in William Shatner playing a whale – you know it and I know it). Even despite the fact that it was a continuation of the nearly forgotten Space Seed episode from 1967, and the glaring problems with the events in the story, on the whole, the movie is remember for the brilliant score by James Horner, and a brilliantly-played-out space battle. And, of course, Kirk’s epic cry, “KHAN!” So now, let’s take a look at the second installment of this trilogy, the one that deals with rebirth.
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock
Our story begins where the last one left off, replaying the scene of Spock’s death and funeral, followed by Spock himself reciting the opening mantra from the television series (“Space… the final frontier…”). The Enterprise limps home after an unspecified amount of time, still bearing the wounds of her encounter with the Reliant. By this time, we discovered that Dr. McCoy is mentally unstable, the result of Spock placing his Katra, essentially the Vulcan version of a soul, inside the doctor’s mind. The movie goes to great lengths to remind us that Spock is dead.
Once back in Spacedock, the crew is given extended leave, and will be awarded Starfleet’s highest honor. We discover that Mr. Scott has been promoted to Captain, and assigned to the new U.S.S. Excelsior, and that the 20-year-old Enterprise is to be decommission, rather than repaired and refit. All of the senior crew were anxious to head back to the Genesis Planet, but while they were returning, the Genesis Planet (and presumably the project that created it) had become increasingly controversial, and they were forbidden from returning. Of course, Kirk vowed to return anyway, because Spock’s father, Sarek, made it clear that Spock wasn’t really dead – and Dr. McCoy would pay the price if they couldn’t get Spock’s katra back where it belonged.
So, Kirk, aided by Uhura, Scotty, Chekov and Sulu, and with McCoy in tow, set about hijacking the nearly derelict Enterprise and using it to travel to the forbidden Genesis Planet, after, of course, Mr. Scott sabotaged the only ship faster than the Enterprise, the aforementioned Excelsior. While this is happening, the only ship authorized to explore the newly formed planet, the U.S.S. Grissom, had sent Saavik and Kirk’s son, David, to the planet to survey signs of possible life. They discover that Spock’s funeral tube had soft-landed and the microbes on the surface of the tube had evolved at a break-neck pace. They also discover that a newly rejuvenated Spock is also wandering about the surface with an empty mind.
Simultaneously, a spy with the Federation has gotten their hands on the information on Genesis and sent it to a Klingon, Captain Kruge (played brilliantly by Christopher Lloyd), who intends to learn its secrets for developing a weapon. They head to the planet only to discover the Grissom, which they destroy (accidentally). Heading to the surface, they begin to hunt the away team, in order to learn more about the planet and the Genesis project. The Enterprise catches up, but Sulu is too good at spotting anomalies and they were prepared better for the Bird of Prey than the Grissom, despite being almost fully automated. After a brief battle, both ships are left helpless, but Kruge has hostages, and killed David to get Kirk to surrender, despite their belief that the secret of Genesis was that it didn’t work, and it wasn’t worth killing for. Feigning defeat, Kirk, Chekov and Scotty set the ship to self-destruct and escape to the surface. All but two of the Klingons, Kruge, and his engineer, Malz (played by John Larroquette) head over to the Enterprise, only to be blown up in glorious fashion. Kirk knows that their only chance to escape the rapidly failing planet is to use the Klingon ship, so he goads Kruge down into a final confrontation, and eventually is able to join the others on the ship.
Escaping just in time, the group heads to Vulcan so that Spock’s katra can be returned to his now-adult, and now-living body once more. At the end, we’re shown that Spock, while clearly not himself, still remembers his friends, and the credit roll with the whole group greeting their old comrade.
Well, let’s start with the the Genesis Planet. According to the Admiral, the Genesis Planet was highly controversial. My main question is, “Why?” I mean, obviously Kirk sent in a report to Starfleet, and Starfleet was aware of the specifics of the project. It wasn’t ready, obviously, but why would it be controversial now, but not while it was being planned? It doesn’t make sense. Further, how did anyone even know what had happened. If there was so much secrecy that only a few people knew about it, wouldn’t Kirk’s report been similarly classified? Let’s make another assumption and say that maybe the Federation Council didn’t know what was going on, and that Kirk’s report got into their hands first. I can see that causing a stir, and I can further see them limiting the traffic to the planet, but really, it’s a far stretch.
And how did an obviously half-Klingon spy get her hands on the Genesis plans in the first place. Let’s think about this for a second. On the Project team, only Carol and David Marcus were left alive, and I doubt either of them sold it. Since Kirk was an Admiral, it’s safe to say that only he and people above him knew the full details of the project, and I doubt any of them sold out. That leaves the Reliant and Enterprise crews, so I guess some of them might – but how? I mean didn’t they get rid of money? And how is it that the Klingons even knew to look into it? It’s not like the Mutara sector is anywhere near Klingon space. And this thing was such a big secret that Spock didn’t even know about it.
That brings me to the Grissom. In Star Trek lore, the Reliant is a Miranda-class Cruiser, while the Grissom is an Oberth-class Light Cruiser. I know it doesn’t seem like a big distinction, but let’s put things in perspective. The Miranda-class ships were also used as escorts and patrols, mainly because they were smaller and more easily maneuvered than the heavier and larger Constitution-class ships, despite being nearly as heavily armed. The Oberth-class ships were used primarily for research and observation only, and were lightly armed so that they could carry batter scanning gear. So my question is, “Why the hell wasn’t the Grissom the scanning for lifeless planets for Project Genesis, and the Reliant the one sent to protect the planet while it was being studied? If there was so much danger and controversy, I would have thought that they would have sent ship better prepared for a possible attack. The Grissom was destroyed with a single torpedo. A well-aimed torpedo, but a single torpedo nonetheless. The Reliant took a torpedo and multiple unshielded phaser blasts, and while dead in space, it was intact. The Klingon Bird-of Prey, despite it’s heavy representation in the films and shows, was a scout-class ship, and not designed for heavy engagement. It would have been less than half the size of the Enterprise, but nearly the same size as the Grissom. Not really the kind of ship I’d want on the scene of a political hotbed.
And where the hell is Carol Marcus? Genesis was HER project, not David’s. And while I’m sure David played a large role, she was the project lead and should have been present on the Grissom. In fact, it would have made far more sense for her to be with David on the planet rather than Saavik, since Saavik was should still have been attached to the Enterprise as it’s Science Officer (which was her actual position as a cadet). In fact, since she was a Cadet (as evidence by her red turtleneck in Wrath), she shouldn’t have been assigned to the Grissom anyway, as I find it unlikely that she would be more qualified than any science officer on board an operating science vessel. And to boot, she was wearing the white turtleneck of a Command officer rather than the grey of a science officer. I won’t even address the actress change other than to say it was an unfortunate turn of events, because I feel it changed the character for the worse. No, I think Saavik’s presence was a bit of “meta gaming” on the part of the writers. Her only real purpose was to be there to help Spock, but they weren’t supposed to know Spock’s tube was intact. In fact, ANY mention of returning to Genesis PRIOR to Sarek’s revelation of Spock’s possible survival through the transferrence of his katra seems out of place. That puts Kirk’s urgency in a whole new light – I mean since he didn’t know what was actually going on yet when the Admiral informed him Genesis was off limits, then why was he so anxious to return?
And then there’s the hijacking of Enterprise. I get how it wasn’t exactly “easy” to put all the pieces together in the short amount of time they had. But Scotty not only had enough time to sabotage the Excelsior’s Warp Drive computer, but he also had time to fully automate the Enterprise. Remember, these large Starships were designed to have hundreds of personnel managing all of their system all the time, so it actually makes sense that they would need something like this in place to manage the whole ship with only 5 people on board. I’m actually more concerned about how seemingly easy it as to set up, and seemingly impossible to fix. I’m also concerned that the intricate working of a starship can be completely disrupted without anyone noticing. I’ve decided that Kirk isn’t the real “Gary Stu” here, it’s Scotty. And Uhura was last seen holding a fellow officer at gunpoint and putting him into a closet. Yet, somehow, she was able to get off the Station and to Vulcan without being stopped.
Also, I know the Klingons are bloodthirsty honor-hounds, but I’m curious what makes Kruge think that he can take a fully-manned Cruiser with his handful of men. I mean WE knew that there were only 5 people, but Kruge had to think he was facing a ship with a crew of over 400. And once he knew his men had been killed, why wouldn’t he had just beamed up Saavik, and his remaining man, and made back to Klingon Space? Then, he could have had his revenge, and someone in custody to torture for secrets. That brings up another point – why did the Klingons kill David? He was obviously the one who knew the most about what was going on, and he would have been far more likely to give in to torture than a Vulcan. Kruge was a horrible Klingon.
This is my least favorite of the three installments, mostly because I didn’t like the change in Saavik. The original (played by Kirstie Alley) had a warmth that you wouldn’t expect from a Vulcan. Her tear at Spock’s funeral was excellently conveyed the gravity of the loss – even a Vulcan was moved to tears. Robin Curtis’ performance was TOO Vulcan. There was no emotion, even subdued Vulcan emotions. I think that’s the problem with MOST people who play Vulcans – they overplay them. They become monotone caricatures of Spock, and never really live up to that status. The original Saavik was the closest thing.
And one last thing -