Looking back at Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984)

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Scene from Star Trek III - Search for Spock

Dazzling special effects highlight sure-fire blockbuster Star Trek III: The Search for Spock

The Star (Lincoln, Nebraska) February 28, 1984

Dazzling special effects and fantastic new worlds will beckon viewers into the 23rd century when Star Trek III: The Search for Spock comes to the big screen with a bang this summer.

Already pegged as a sure-fire monster hit, the $17-million cult epic is being hailed as a masterpiece of special-effects wizardry that will even outdo Star Wars sci-fi magic.

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock - Movie poster

Says William Shatner, returning once again as Admiral Kirk: “We used million-dollar sets the size of football fields for this one. We created whole new, magical worlds on the Paramount lot — and a story with enough action and twists and turns to keep our fans guessing until the end.”

The familiar cast — Scotty (James Doohan), Bones McCoy (DeForest Kelley), Chekov (Walter Koenig), Sulu (George Takei) and Lt Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) — are off on a terrifying mission to find their science officer, Mr Spock (Leonard Nimoy), who may — or may not — have died at the end of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

At the end of Star Trek II, Spock was caught up in a radiation trap in which he sacrificed himself to save Kirk and the rest of the crew.

Along the way, they encounter firestorms, churning earthquakes, mystical blizzards and the crazed clutches of the Klingon warlord, Kruge (Christopher Lloyd).

Klingons in Star Trek III The Search for Spock

“These aren’t merely optical special effects,” says Shatner. “Our sets were mechanically designed to go through these contortions… They took months to build and cost millions of dollars.”

While Shatner will not say whether Spock will reappear, he did say, “What is in store with Spock is going to surprise the hell out of people.”

So confident is Shatner of the super-success of Star Trek III that he boasts: “This is going to go down as the greatest Star Trek of them all.”

And regardless of whether Spock appears, Nimoy himself is taking an active role in the film — he’s making his debut as a director.


‘Search for Spock’ remains true to the tradition of the TV series

By Jack Ryan – Enterprise-Journal (McComb, Mississippi) June 10, 1984

“Star Trek III: The Search For Spock,” starring William Shatner, DeForrest Kelley, George Takei, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols and Christopher Lloyd. Directed by Leonard Nimoy. Rated PG.

Question: Is Spock alive or dead? Answer: I’m not telling. Go see the film for yourself, all you ‘Trekkies’ out there. The fate of Mr. Spock, one of television’s and cinema’s most fascinating characters, is indeed answered in Star Trek III: The Search For Spock.

Dazzling special effects in Star Trek III (1984)

But I have no intention of spoiling the show for anyone who absolutely positively doesn’t want to know whether he’s alive or dead. As background, let’s recall 1982’s Star Trek II, since that’s what the new film does.

The Genesis project, with the potential to create a living planet in a matter of days, has done exactly that.

At the same time, pointy-eared Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy, who also happens to be directing the third Star Trek installment, and is not credited as an actor in the film) saved the U.S.S. Enterprise from certain destruction when he fixed a radioactive warp engine.

Leonard Nimoy - The Search for Spock

SPOCK DIED, BUT not before an emotional encounter with Adm. James T. Kirk (William Shatner), who gave him a hero’s ceremony before the casket was shot down to the new Genesis planet.

Ah-ha, you’re saying: with the planet’s life-generating capabilities, isn’t there a chance the Vulcan himself could be regenerated? Sorry, I’m still not telling. I will not give away the movies’ most interesting question since, “Is Darth Vader really Luke’s father?

The third Star Trek film will likely appeal to most of us who remember the series, which had a network run of two years before it boldly went where no series had gone before, thanks to syndication.

It’s a film that takes some time to gather its steam, and bursts most of its bubbles before it ends, which is kind of disappointing.

Deforest Kelly - The Search for Spock

OK, THOSE ARE some of its faults. But Nimoy’s vision of the movie does have a lot of fun with its material, includes a couple of juicy plot twists, and pretty much manages to capture the tone of the series — which is really what we’re looking for, isn’t it?

The story opens with the Enterprise (Registration NCC 1701, of course) returning to its Starfleet home base after being damaged in battle. It’s there that Kirk and his crewmen — most of whom by now are the subject of “Trivial Pursuit” questions — learn that the Enterprise is scheduled to be mothballed.

MOREOVER, KIR decides there’s a logical chance his Vulcan comrade may be alive. But he’s forbidden to go to Genesis and check things out, as Starfleet has decided the planet is off limits to all but a scientific crew.

Enter the Klingons. Remember them? The scourge of the universe, the jerks who always violated space treaties and then got phasered out of the galaxy? Well, they’ve managed to get their hands on the Genesis data and head to the planet to pillage and plunder.

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Christopher Lloyd as a Klingon in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock

Suffice it to say that Kirk & Co. also manage to hyperwarp to the planet, and there you go — the ultimate plot conflict.

To my view, Star Trek III isn’t quite as entertaining as Star Trek II, which featured Ricardo Montalban of Fantasy Island fame and a villain from one of the old trek television shows. Still, the new film is nowhere near the crashing bore of the first film, which was by far the worst of the three.

I THINK ONE of the problems a lot of us may find with Star Trek III is that it’s not as fast-paced as we expect it to be. I think many recent films have drummed action into our brains, and a space adventure without six epic battles and 14 duels just doesn’t seem up to par.

Saavik - The Search for Spock

That means Star Trek III is facing a big handicap, but to its credit, it never tries to be like Star Wars. Everything else in the film is just fine —particularly the special effects, provided by Industrial Light & Magic, the company that did wonders with the Star Wars series.

It’s also good to see the Klingons again. They were always my favorite villains, and I enjoy seeing them outwit-ted by Kirk.

As for the acting, Shatner’s cockily confident James T. Kirk is true to form — a touch of humor, a dash of ego, but almost always in control. DeForrest Kelley’s “Bones” McCoy remains the comic dupe, never at a loss for words, even admitting that he misses the green-blooded, unemotional Spock.

Bones - The Search for Spock

SURE, WE ALL miss Mr. Spock. He’s sort of a Bob Hope of the space genre — it seemed like he was indestructible.

Leonard Nimoy hopes his career will take a new turn in the director’s chair, and I suppose he could use it. The man is inseparable from the character.

I’ll admit I was never the Trekkie of my family. My younger brother was the one who had visions of piloting the Enterprise. But now, at least for me, there’s a genuine affection for the TV show and the films.

The “Star Trek” series is a touch of class, and despite the occasionally plodding beat of Star Trek III, it’s good enough for me. And no, I’m still not telling.

“Star Trek III” is rated PG for limited cursing along with some other mild violence. The kids should be able to handle this one and see what they missed when the show was on TV.

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