Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984)
September 1, 2017 4:07 AM - Subscribe

On the dying Genesis planet, an incredible discovery awaits James T. Kirk, who must steal the U.S.S. Enterprise—only to face terrible sacrifice and an implacable foe.

All background information below comes from the exhaustive Star Trek fan wiki Memory Alpha:

- Harve Bennett's twenty-page outline for this film was entitled Return To Genesis and is dated 16 September 1982. Bennett has said in various interviews and the Star Trek III DVD that the script was the easiest he had ever written, starting at the end of the movie with Spock alive again and working backwards from that point. Bennett also said that Paramount green-lighted this film faster than any film he ever worked on, having been told to "Start writing Star Trek III" within days of the release of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

- According to an article on io9.com, Harve Bennett's original outline for Star Trek III would have involved Romulans coming to Genesis instead of Klingons and them finding the world very rich in dilithium. The Romulans then begin to mine the planet until the miners begin being killed by a feral Spock, whose aging was still tied to the aging of the planet. At the same time, Vulcan, upon hearing of the Genesis Device, is so horrified to discover that the Federation created such a potential weapon they want to secede from the Federation. This would have sent Kirk to Vulcan, with the crew of the Enterprise, to face the angry Vulcans. Thus, the Klingon Bird-of-Prey was originally to be a stolen Romulan vessel (the red "feather design" of the wings' underside was designed with the original Romulan Bird-of-Prey in mind).

- A copy of Bennett's original storyline was leaked to fans in February 1983, forcing him to rewrite the script, changing many of the film's original details and events. This forced the original release date to change from the Christmas of 1983, when production was delayed until 15 August 1983, partially due to the rewrite.

- Actor and director Leonard Nimoy also worked on the film's story, but his contribution went uncredited. "The only time there was any conflict about the movie's content happened during pre-production, when I said I was satisfied with the final script, and was ready to start shooting. The executives had some reservations about ending the picture on Vulcan. I felt, very, very strongly about that final sequence. I wanted to end the film by bringing Spock to Vulcan, and going through the ritual. I believed it would work, and that the audience would enjoy it." Nimoy explained, "Not being so familiar with Star Trek, the executives didn't understand what that sequence would mean to the audience. They were worried about it, and tried to convince me to substitute a different ending. They wanted to end with the dramatic escape from the Genesis planet, getting Kirk and Spock on board the Klingon Bird of Prey, reviving Spock in the sick bay, doing a little tag scene and going home." To that end, Nimoy said he "argue vehemently that we had to have the sequence on Vulcan. Showing Spock on his planet, among his people, trying to remember his friends, would be a moving scene. I managed to convince them that I wanted to do it my way, and they agreed. I didn't discuss the film with them again until I showed them my first cut."

- There is an extra long pause between William Shatner's name and DeForest Kelley's during the opening credits where Leonard Nimoy's name would have been. To keep secret Leonard Nimoy's participation in this movie as an actor, official daily call sheets mentioned the adult Spock character only as "Nacluv" ("Vulcan" spelled backwards), played by "Frank Force". Nimoy continued the joke by using the pseudonym in the end credits for his cameo role as the (Excelsior) elevator voice. According to director/producer commentary for the two-disc DVD release, the destruction of the Enterprise was to be a secret, but the Paramount promotional department made this the biggest point of the initial trailers, calling it "The Death of the Enterprise."

- Bennett has said that the destruction of the Enterprise was not in the original drafts of the script and was added later in writing when he and Leonard Nimoy realized they needed a dramatic life or death decision. After the film was finished, Bennett said he quietly vowed to restore the Enterprise at the proper time. The Enterprise was restored in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home with the introduction of the Enterprise-A.

- During production, a fire broke out behind the Paramount lot which caused minor damage to the Genesis Planet set. Among those who assisted in putting out the fire was actor William Shatner. According to William Shatner's Star Trek Movie Memories, he was in full Kirk costume and makeup when he helped with the fire. Shatner also accounted in his book that he was terrified the fire was going to hold up filming and thereby make him late for reporting back to start filming the new season of TJ Hooker, the police drama that Shatner was starring in at the time that Star Trek III (and later IV) was filmed.

- The climactic fight between Kirk and Kruge was originally supposed to feature huge boulders that would "burst" up from the ground. On the day of shooting, however, the boulders failed to work properly and the scene was shot without them (however, one of them worked correctly and was used to propel Kruge into the air to attack Kirk at the onset of their fight).

- According to the script, Kruge was described as a "Battle Commander" and was "a Klingon War Lord of handsome but frightening presence, and relative youth." This explains why Saavik, Valkris, and his crew refer to him as "my Lord." Kruge is the only Klingon in Star Trek history to have ever been addressed as such on screen. Leonard Nimoy originally wanted Edward James Olmos as Kruge, but Paramount Pictures nixed the casting.

- The species of Kruge's pet has no canonical name, but was referred to as a "Klingon monster dog" during production.

- This movie marks the first live-action appearance of Ambassador Sarek (Mark Lenard) since his introduction seventeen years earlier in TOS: "Journey to Babel". In the interim, he appeared in TAS: "Yesteryear". The Excelsior-class, the Oberth-class, the Spacedock-type station, and the Klingon Bird-of-Prey all make their first appearances here. They continued to be used in Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and Star Trek: Voyager. The Bird-of-Prey appeared in four subsequent films until Star Trek Generations, its last film appearance. Judi Durand voices her first computer in this movie. She can be heard announcing that the space doors are closed. She went on to play the Cardassian computer voice in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

- In coming up with the Bird-of-Prey's design, director Leonard Nimoy suggested to the ILM effects team that the ship should generally look swooping and frightening, like a bird on attack, and was also interested in the idea of the ship having an extended "neck", like a bird flying to attack a creature or swooping down towards water before diving to catch a fish in its beak. To demonstrate to the ILM team how he wanted the ship's wings to look, Nimoy gestured with his arms outstretched.

- The U.S.S. Excelsior is mentioned again in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and has a significant role in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. The U.S.S. Enterprise-B (in Star Trek: Generations) is a "refit" Excelsior-class whose secondary hull has a wider forward section.

- Earth Spacedock was imagined as having a total height of over three miles. At that size, the facility could easily be visible with the naked eye from the surface of Earth.

- This movie is the first time that Chekov is heard to speak in Russian. He says "Я не сумасшедший. Ну, вот!", ("Ja ne sumasšedšij. Nu, vot!") which roughly translates to "I'm not crazy. Well, look!" It is unclear why Chekov would speak Russian to Scotty.

- The toast made in Kirk's apartment, "Absent friends," is one of the traditional toasts of the Royal Navy. Jean-Luc Picard makes the same toast, in memory of one of his fallen crewmates, in Star Trek Nemesis. Kor adapted this toast, "to absent comrades" in memory of Jadzia Dax in DS9: "Once More Unto the Breach".

- The executive officer of the Excelsior was played by Miguel Ferrer—known for his roles in Robocop, Crossing Jordan, and NCIS: Los Angeles—in his second film role. (Ferrer, a cousin of George Clooney, died in January 2017.) Maltz, the last surviving crewman of the Klingon Bird-of-Prey, was played by Night Court star John Larroquette.

- When the film was released in June 1984, the box office receipts were strong. The film grossed US$16.7 million in its opening weekend, approximately US$2.4 million more than Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan made when it first opened. In the long run, however, Star Trek III grossed a total of US$76.5 million domestically, falling just short of Star Trek II's US$78.9 million gross.

- This film failed to impress Ronald Reagan, when he viewed it at the White House on 23 June 1984. Reagan mentioned the film in his diaries, commenting, "After dinner we ran Star Trek III. It wasn't too good." Despite this, he watched Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home two years later.


"And Enterprise feels like a house with all the children gone. No, more empty even than that. The death of Spock is like an open wound."

- Kirk's personal log


"Until the Federation Council makes policy, you are all under orders not to discuss with anyone your knowledge of Genesis. Consider it a quarantined planet and a forbidden subject."

- Morrow


"Oh yes. New cities and homes in the country. Your woman at your side. Children playing at your feet, and overhead, fluttering in the breeze, the flag of the Federation! Charming."

- Kruge, to his men, after watching the Genesis briefing


"All right, dammit! It's Genesis! The name of the place we're going is Genesis!"
"GENESIS!?"
"Yes! Genesis!! How can you be deaf with ears like that!?"
"Genesis allowed, is not! It's planet forbidden!"

- McCoy and the black market pilot


"How many fingers do I have up?" (Makes a Vulcan hand salute)
"That's not very damn funny."

- Kirk and McCoy, in McCoy's cell


"Level, please."
"Transporter room."
"Thank you."
"Up your shaft."

- Excelsior turbolift and Scott


"Gentlemen, your work today has been outstanding. I intend to recommend you all for promotion... in whatever fleet we end up serving."

- Kirk


"You - help us or die."
"I do not deserve to live."
"Fine, I'll kill you later."

- Kirk and Maltz


"My father says that you have been my friend. You came back for me."
"You would have done the same for me."
"Why would you do this?"
"Because the needs of the one outweighed the needs of the many."

- Spock and Kirk


Poster's Log:
Last week we discussed Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, the film to which this one is an immediate follow-up. Sometime next week, I'll post the third and final chapter of what is informally considered the "Genesis trilogy," Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.

Previously-er on FanFare: Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
And from the blue (since this movie is the one that introduces all those long-lived ship designs): Star Trek movies (ships only).
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (28 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
I really, really like this movie, and it's the one that makes me irritated at the even-odd Star Trek movie rule; at worst, it only suffers in comparison to the movies before and after it. There's also the fact that you pretty much know how the search is going to turn out; Shatner once said something to the effect of, "It's not as if we're all going to turn to the camera at the end and say, 'Sorry, we tried.'" And, OK, the way that Spock comes back is kind of contrived and opens up a big can of worms with the whole concept of the katra, including the idea that it can be temporarily transferred to an alien. (Star Trek: Enterprise would eventually put this to good use in a three-part episode.)

Regardless of its nature or requirements for suspension of disbelief, though, it's still a great movie with a lot of heart and some great funny moments. Some of the humor seems a bit forced, but there are also more subtle bits, such as the part where Uhura is stationed with the junior officer (aka "Mr. Adventure"), and he's talking about how he wanted a more exciting post, and she just gives him this Look. Or Styles carrying a swagger stick, of all the things. (This being the 23rd century, of course it has to have little blinking lights on it.) Or Kruge telling the poor bridge officer to feed his... dog... thing.

Speaking of Kruge, the film also helps establish the style and character of what you might call second-wave Klingons. (The TOS version would be first-wave, and the ones in the upcoming Discovery third.) TMP only gave us a glimpse of them, with Mark Lenard (who also appears in this film in his more typical Trek role) and others barking out improvised dialog by James Doohan which would become the basis of an entire conlang; in TWOK, they'd appear only as their ships in the Kobayashi Maru scenario. I don't know what prompted Nimoy to cast a couple of actors known mostly for TV comedy work (Lloyd, at least, had some dramacred from being in the film of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest), but it worked out great; Lloyd pulls off the role as someone who's both utterly ruthless and also honorable in his own way.

And, the really neat thing about this film is that the Klingons are right. They see the Genesis Device as a weapon, and it turns out that that's really all it's good for. That plot twist both proceeds out of McCoy's objections to Genesis after they're briefed about it in TWOK, and subverts everyone else's sense of wonder when they see it demonstrated later. David Marcus may have been a nice, well-intentioned guy who didn't deserve to get murdered by the Klingons, but the bit about his using protomatter makes it seem like he did the equivalent of creating a new miracle fertilizer by using plutonium, and it doesn't even work as fertilizer.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:07 AM on September 1 [5 favorites]


As a kid, I felt betrayed by this movie. It was kind of a bad run in blockbuster sci-fi, as far as I was concerned. In 1982 we had E.T., which I felt was poor in science and emotionally manipulative. In 1983 we had Return of the Jedi, which had great space battles, but also ewoks and the WTF reveal that "not only am I your father, but Leia is your sister, and Yoda is your uncle, and Grand Moff Tarkin was your sister-in-law." And then Star Trek comes in the next year, following up a really awesome movie by totally undermining the emotional punch of TWOK by bringing Spock back, but most insulting of all, having Kirk SELF-DESTRUCT the ENTERPRISE?! That was just too far, as far as 12-year-old me was concerned. This right after the new Indiana Jones movie turned out to be a big turd? Insult to injury, totally. And that is why Seach for Spock gets lumped in with the much-much-worse odd numbered Star Treks before and after it.

I hadn't known about the total rewrite. The original storyline seems much Trekkier, really. The Klingons seemed kind of gratuitous in the final story. And recasting Saavik felt cheap.
posted by rikschell at 7:39 AM on September 1 [3 favorites]


the equivalent of creating a new miracle fertilizer by using plutonium, and it doesn't even work as fertilizer

The Klingons comment on this directly in the movie. It's been a long time since I saw the film, but I believe the quote is:

KRUGE: "I'm sure that in the twenty-fourth century, plutonium is available in every corner drugstore, but in 2285, it's a little hard to come by."
posted by Servo5678 at 7:58 AM on September 1 [12 favorites]


And then Star Trek comes in the next year, following up a really awesome movie by totally undermining the emotional punch of TWOK by bringing Spock back, but most insulting of all, having Kirk SELF-DESTRUCT the ENTERPRISE?! That was just too far, as far as 12-year-old me was concerned.

So, it's OK for Spock to die, but not the Enterprise? I'm not being facetious here. I think that the case could be made that, without Spock, you basically don't have any more Star Trek movies--at least none that people would go see--because the character is that important to the franchise, at least the TOS cast iteration of it. (Quite a bit of the drama around the various attempts to revive the franchise in the seventies seemed to revolve around getting Leonard Nimoy back after he'd gotten mad at Gene Roddenberry for letting Heineken use Spock in an ad, among other things.) Nimoy, who cared quite a bit about the character's integrity, was OK with it. For what it's worth, I think that Nicholas Meyer agreed with you, and objected strongly to the addition of the scene at the end that implied that Spock was somehow still alive or could come back; he is the reason why movie DVD commentaries have the disclaimer that the opinions expressed therein aren't necessarily those of the studio.

Conversely, I don't think that it was wrong for Kirk to destroy the Enterprise, even with as much affection as I had for the ship. For one thing, if you look at side views of the pre-and post-refit NCC-1701, it's obviously not just a matter of the nacelles being replaced--the primary and secondary hulls are somewhat different. It may be the same ship only in a Ship of Theseus sense. I think that there's also a case to be made that, when Jim Kirk used to get all moony about being married to the ship, he was really thinking about the crew, not the physical ship itself. When he lost all of his crew to happy spores in "This Side of Paradise", he still had the ship itself and possibly could have gotten some people from Starfleet to bring it back, but he risked his life to get the crew back as well. I think that this exchange between Kirk and McCoy sums it up nicely:
"My God, Bones. What have I done?"
"What you had to do. What you always do. Turn death into a fighting chance to live."
If the ship is itself a character (and David Gerrold, who likewise agrees with you, thinks so), then it's certainly worthy of being able to make the same sacrifice as any organic crew member.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:42 AM on September 1 [3 favorites]


Well, I'm not really prepared to defend my 12-year-old self's opinions, but what made TWOK so special was that it had consequences. That was unlike Star Trek, a typical TV series that could be watched in practically any order, as the status quo was always reset at the end of an episode. Undoing those consequences felt unsatisfactory (in a narrative sense), no matter how much we wanted Spock back. I think the writers understood this and felt like they had to kill something else we loved in return (and set up the next film as "The Search for NCC-1701," in a sense). It seemed like a betrayal by the WRITERS, whereas the death of Spock was a triumph of writing Star Trek into a strange new world.

In the context of the time, it seemed to me that Sci-Fi movies had gone from exciting blockbusters to pandering trash (see also "The Last Starfighter") over the course of a couple of years. Of course, I didn't understand at the time that Sci-Fi films had a long tradition of being pandering trash. I also didn't know that this movie was setting up Star Trek IV to be the most Trekkest of all Trek movies. It just seemed particularly dire and sad at the time (though I remember the special effects of the Enterprise breaking up and exploding to be the coolest thing I'd ever seen on screen).
posted by rikschell at 9:25 AM on September 1 [3 favorites]


though I remember the special effects of the Enterprise breaking up and exploding to be the coolest thing I'd ever seen on screen

I was likewise gonna say that, dammit, this is still impressive in today's age of super-CG.

I've always been fond of this movie, and I definitely consider it the most watchable of the Odd-Numbered Trek Films (though probably not the best, because TMP has grown on me a little with each rewatch). However, compared with II or even IV, it feels shallow. It lacks…I dunno, resonance. And, though it probably couldn't be helped, everything after Kirk and Kruge start fighting feels obligatory, like the movie's just going through the motions.

I never had much of a problem with bringing Spock back, but then, I think for whatever reason I always assumed it was a foregone conclusion. The more I think about it, the more I think that my first viewings of these movies may well have been out of order.

I really like the melancholy opening, and for that matter the fact that the whole film's tone is pretty downbeat, despite the more overt wisecracking (compared with Wrath of Khan's dialogue). Here too, though, it doesn't hold a candle to the even more richly complex emotions of IV, nor to IV's far more consistently successful humor.

As weak as Kruge is as a villain, writing-wise, Christopher Lloyd really elevates him. In addition to the honor stuff Jack mentioned, he comes off as having a modicum of reason, even if it only shines through intermittently. And w/r/t these Klingons' impact on the evolution of Klingons in the franchise, consider this: would Michael Dorn have been cast if not for John Larroquette's very Worf-like voice in this?! 8o

Earth Spacedock remains badass to this day IMO. The slow pan to its big reveal in this movie is one of those shots that reliably renders me a preteen boy again. If you want to go to there, you can in Star Trek Online. (This is not a paid endorsement. But really, STO's pretty dang good for an MMO.)

If the ship is itself a character (and David Gerrold, who likewise agrees with you, thinks so), then it's certainly worthy of being able to make the same sacrifice as any organic crew member.

I always felt this way too, but since I hadn't spent all that time with TOS by the point that I became acquainted with the Genesis trilogy, it never gut-punched me as much as Spock's death. Still some gutpunchery though.

In the context of the time, it seemed to me that Sci-Fi movies had gone from exciting blockbusters to pandering trash (see also "The Last Starfighter") over the course of a couple of years. Of course, I didn't understand at the time that Sci-Fi films had a long tradition of being pandering trash.

Yeah, the bright promise of the first two Star Wars and Star Trek films—which, in their time, must have been as revelatory w/r/t bringing a bold new genre into cinema as were LOTR/Harry Potter—was indeed such that the inevitable disappointment would be all the more bitter. I had a bit of the same sense as you (e.g. Flight of the Navigator, speaking of pandering), and I'm sure many others did.

What helped inoculate this film (for me) from that general dim view, over time anyway, was the fact that hey, at least this movie stayed true to its franchise. For a brief period, I actually resisted the undeniable charms of The Voyage Home because I felt like it was trying to make Star Trek accessible by being less Star Trek than the preceding films. I guess I was a hipster geek before either term was used in that fashion. Luckily, that phase was brief, and in time I realized that (as you say) IV is actually extremely Trek, in a below-the-surface way.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 10:07 AM on September 1 [1 favorite]


I don't love III, for a bunch of the reasons people have already laid out, but I did always really appreciate the fact that it's the first of the movies that lets us get at last a tiny glimpse of what life is like outside of the decks of the Enterprise (or at least Starfleet in general).

Can we talk about how awful the clothes are in this one? Kirk's and Chekov's outfits, especially. Good god. On the other hand, Sulu's leather jacket/cape is pretty rad, even if he's wearing it over fancy surgical scrubs.
posted by the phlegmatic king at 10:28 AM on September 1


OH YEAH Chekov's Little Lord Fauntleroy getup. lolol
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 10:48 AM on September 1 [1 favorite]


If the ship is itself a character (and David Gerrold, who likewise agrees with you, thinks so), then it's certainly worthy of being able to make the same sacrifice as any organic crew member.

Damn, Halloween Jack, this comment got me teary-eyed. It's only now, some thirty years after I first saw the movie, that I understand even a little of what sailors must feel for their ships.
posted by infinitewindow at 11:00 AM on September 1 [2 favorites]


OH YEAH Chekov's Little Lord Fauntleroy getup. lolol

And somehow, despite spending all intervening time on Vulcan, where they dress entirely in bathrobes, he has a much better outfit in Voyage Home.
posted by The Man from Lardfork at 11:40 AM on September 1 [2 favorites]


By the way, some of my favorite film writing is Darren Franich's slow walk through the Trek canon last year. Here's his piece for Search for Spock, where he largely analyzes through the lens of the rivalry between Shatner and Nimoy; and there's an index of all of his other pieces here. It's good stuff, all of it!
posted by the phlegmatic king at 12:23 PM on September 1 [3 favorites]


Leonard Nimoy originally wanted Edward James Olmos as Kruge, but Paramount Pictures nixed the casting.

OOOOOOOOOHHHHHHHH. That would have been incredible.

I love this movie. It was funny and sad and snarky and a little dorky at times. And this scene was a work of art that had a packed house roaring with laughter and cheering on opening day when I saw it.

"Now, Mr. Scott."
"Sir?"
"The doors, Mr. Scott!"
"Aye sir, I'm working on it."
posted by zarq at 3:25 PM on September 1 [2 favorites]


... everything after Kirk and Kruge start fighting feels obligatory, like the movie's just going through the motions.

Wait, what? "I...have had...enough of...YOU!"(yt)
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:42 PM on September 1 [2 favorites]


I actually love the clothes in this movie; they're high camp retro-SF in a fabulous way that the series never really did before or since. The Star Trek Costumes book had some interesting notes about how the designer read the characters -- he saw Kirk as a flashy, luxurious dresser and McCoy as a dude who's trying way too hard to look younger and hipper than he is. I don't remember his remarks on Sulu, but presumably they pertained to Sulu being a man of genuine taste, because that cape is sick as hell.
posted by thesmallmachine at 12:15 AM on September 2 [7 favorites]


McCoy as a dude who's trying way too hard to look younger and hipper than he is.

It's interesting you say that, because something about McCoy's look always struck me as weird and out of character in this movie. Like, even when I saw this movie as a kid, I was like, "Why does Bones look like that?" All of a sudden he was rocking ascots and what seemed like a lot of eye makeup. I kind of thought they were trying to make him seem "off" because he was possessed by Spock, but now I know the costume designer was just trying to make him an aging Federation hipster. I don't really buy the concept. Bones was always kind of a scrappy old country doc, in space. He was too busy being outraged about everything to care about looking hip!
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:08 AM on September 2


but now I know the costume designer was just trying to make him an aging Federation hipster. I don't really buy the concept. Bones was always kind of a scrappy old country doc, in space. He was too busy being outraged about everything to care about looking hip!

Those things can go together. Just look at Maynard James Keenan.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 4:57 AM on September 2 [1 favorite]


This is, as others have said, the best of the odd-numbered Trek films. I mean, I get why people have problems with it, but I give it a lot of slack because of the heart it brings to it. And I find something interesting in the concept of what would Kirk - who is generally a creature of duty, who keenly feels his obligation to his ship and crew - do, upon learning that he left not just a crew member, but a friend behind? How far would he go to save his friend - and by extension, himself?

Loved realizing, on a rewatch at some point, that it was Christopher Lloyd playing Kruge and Dan Larroquette as Malk (I mean, I was a stupid teenager when it first came out - I really had no idea who most of the actors were, and it was only when I had it on and really just listening to it in the background that I recognized the voices). And James B Sikking as the captain of the Excelsior was fantastic casting.

If the ship is itself a character (and David Gerrold, who likewise agrees with you, thinks so), then it's certainly worthy of being able to make the same sacrifice as any organic crew member.

From the Fifty Year Mission:

Richard Arnold (Star Trek archivist): ...When it came to destroying the Enterprise, Gene felt that it was like killing off one of the characters. As a pilot during WWII, Gene felt that "she" deserved better. Harve said that he felt more like a helicopter pilot during the Korean War....if you crashed your helicopter, you could always get another one.

Ralph Winter: I remember the conventional wisdom is you can't kill Spock and the answer is you can, if you do it well. And the same thing is you can't kill the Enterprise when you can - if you do it well.

William Shatner: Two elements that were expendable, David and the Enterprise, were killed off because nothing else could be killed off. In fact, the real problem is, what else can we kill? We're looking around for people to die!

DeForest Kelley: When I read the script, I couldn't believe it. You know, I thought, "My God the Enterprise is a bigger star than any of us. If they're shooting this guy out of the script, they can shoot anybody out."

OH YEAH Chekov's Little Lord Fauntleroy getup. lolol

Harve Bennett: ...The first time you see Chekov, well, we didn't see his costume objectively next to Kirk's macho jacket and Bones's marvelous pants. But all of a sudden we see Chekov onstage and he has this great Little Lord Fauntleroy white collar. We got by it without reshooting the day with a series of clever cheats. We got a new collar, picked up close-ups on the black turtleneck for the rest of the picture. But he still has it in the master shot. Bob Fletcher, our costume designer, did Bones from his Georgia background, Kirk from his admiration of naval flyers and stuff like that. This was supposed to be Chekov's admiration - get this - of the poet Pushkin. Now that's a fine hobby for a Russian space person to have, but Pushkin is always drawn in his great Byronic collar from that period and it looks darn silly...

Walter Koenig: That little pink suit was interesting because I thought it was kind of ridiculous looking...We shot some footage with it and Michael Eisner looked at the dailies and said he didn't like it and Leonard came up to me and said "We're going to take you out of the costume." I said "Thank God," and he said "Why didn't you say something?" I was a little bit irritated, thinking "Why the hell didn't I say anything?" It was because I was so into this mindset that I was just the hired help and had no input...

On the reaction of Kirk to the death of David:

Nimoy: ...What I said to him [Shatner] was this: "You have to decide how far you want to go with this. How far you want to take this reaction. My opinion is that you can go pretty far and get away with it, maybe strip off some of the veneer of the admiral, the hero, always in charge, always on top of the situation, and show us a vulnerable person." He took it further, frankly, than I expected him too. And it was scary.
I mean, how many space epics do you see where your hero, on receiving news, stumbles back and falls on the person's own ship? You don't see that a lot. It was a scary thing for all of us hoping that it would be perceived as a very touching moment. Some little kid breaks into laughter in the audience and you're dead. We did several takes and used the one where we really thought Bill lost control and stumbled and fell. It looked accidental, not a performance. I'm very moved by it. In my opinion, it is some of the best work he has ever done...
posted by nubs at 8:27 AM on September 2 [8 favorites]


Leonard Nimoy originally wanted Edward James Olmos as Kruge, but Paramount Pictures nixed the casting.


I like Lloyd as Kruge, and I can't even picture this. It would be amazing.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:02 AM on September 3


"Captain, David is dead."

worst. Saavik. ever.
posted by Auden at 1:48 AM on September 3 [1 favorite]


don't call me tiny
posted by entropicamericana at 9:41 AM on September 4 [1 favorite]


I didn't love this, but upon rewatching it I feel like it's a pretty solid entry. I do think it was just a bit too pat to have Spock back and the new Enterprise at the end, it really felt like the writers (and studio execs) really didn't want to do anything to upset the status quo. As a result it made it difficult to treat anything that happens later in the franchise as actually having high stakes or serious consequences.

I thought Nimoy dropped the ball on the ritual on Vulcan, it was just slow crossfades between people. He should have done something visually interesting there. Of course budget is always a concern, but that scene was not impressive. It certainly did not do justice to the importance of what was happening.

The Pon Farr scene creeped me out when I first saw it, and still does.

The footage they watch to figure out who Spock deposited his essence into was from the enigine room scene in TWOK - same camera angles, same edits. So this means that at least part of what we watched on-screen in TWOK was actually from the ship's internal surveillance system's POV.

One thing that has struck me about rewatching TWOK, TSfS and TVH is how emotionally vulnerable the main characters can be, and how intimate that makes their scenes and relationships. I can't think of any other franchise that permits its main characters to ever express those depths. I wish they would.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 4:37 PM on September 4 [1 favorite]


I do think it was just a bit too pat to have Spock back and the new Enterprise at the end, it really felt like the writers (and studio execs) really didn't want to do anything to upset the status quo.

Well, the new Enterprise doesn't show up until IV, and IMO its big reveal was well-earned. Making the crew answer for the events of III at the Federation Council was a good call.

As a result it made it difficult to treat anything that happens later in the franchise as actually having high stakes or serious consequences.

I never quite felt that way. I could see an argument that stakes and consequences are maybe hurt for this crew, rather than for the whole franchise. And IV is light enough that stakes and consequences are secondary, V is lame enough that well just nevermind, and as for VI? I guess an argument could be made that, even though peace with the Klingons is threatened and Kirk and McCoy go to Klingon Prison, by this late point you do know everything will turn out OK (also because the movie telegraphs itself as the last one), and that this may indeed hurt the tension. But I digress.

I thought Nimoy dropped the ball on the ritual on Vulcan, it was just slow crossfades between people. He should have done something visually interesting there. Of course budget is always a concern, but that scene was not impressive. It certainly did not do justice to the importance of what was happening.

Yeah, I've always felt that scene to be a bit of a snoozer. I get why they didn't go all SFX-y and end-of-Raiders-y with coruscating soul energy washing over the old lady and everything—this is subtler, and doubtlessly thriftier—but I think only the really hardcore Vulcan nerds could ever bring themselves to care about the process, and the process's depiction on-screen is a bit too prolonged.

So this means that at least part of what we watched on-screen in TWOK was actually from the ship's internal surveillance system's POV.

Complete with edits for maximum emotional impact! I'm sure TV Tropes has a term for this convention, but I'm too pressed for time right now to dare delve into it.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 5:29 AM on September 5 [1 favorite]


worst. Saavik. ever.

I think she was...adequate? I think the role transition from Kirstie Alley (who apparently asked for the Shatner level of money for the film) to Robin Curtis actually made it harder for them to do anything with the character going forward; I don't think they wanted to draw attention to the change in actor, so Saavik winds up with little to do and vanishes in the first few minutes of the next film.

I wonder, if they had not brought Spock back would Alley would be known for stepping into the role of the half-Vulcan science officer on the Star Trek films going forward, bringing a whole new dynamic to the bridge of the Enterprise.
posted by nubs at 9:04 AM on September 5


Shatner has a couple of great moments in this one -- the death of David, mentioned above, and also when Sarek does the mindmeld and Kirk has to relive the death of Spock.

Nimoy had a lot of heart and it shows up in TSFS; I think where this one falls short is that it's very pragmatic, mostly -- and since he wasn't yet a proven Trek director, probably he didn't get the budget that he did for STIV.

Thanks for this! Esp. maybe for the discussion of Koenig's costume, because I was always convinced that I'd seen that collar wrong. Oy vey.
posted by allthinky at 6:02 PM on September 6


Well, the new Enterprise doesn't show up until IV

Oh yeah. I watched II, III and IV back-to-back, they kind of start blending into one movie...
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 10:19 PM on September 6


Nimoy had a lot of heart and it shows up in TSFS; I think where this one falls short is that it's very pragmatic, mostly

It is pragmatic, and where I think it really falls down is that it uses, in many ways, the beats of ST: II...except without a lot of angst for the main characters. Kirk's course is clear, and there's no real struggle for any of them in taking part in the mission. One of the changes I might make is to add some tension/stakes by having McCoy coming apart at the seams a little more; he's unable to handle Spock's katra and there's a danger of Kirk losing McCoy in addition to losing Spock.
posted by nubs at 10:22 AM on September 7 [2 favorites]


I really, really like this movie, and it's the one that makes me irritated at the even-odd Star Trek movie rule; at worst, it only suffers in comparison to the movies before and after it.

This movie does take a lot more criticism than I think it has earned. I always thought the entire II-III-IV trilogy was well done. While II and IV may be better movies, this one had more emotional impact for me. David's death hit me hard, and the destruction of the Enterprise was devastating. Maybe I just hit it at the right time--I had just turned 12, and could process those things differently than I could two years earlier for ST II. While I wouldn't claim it's the best Trek movie, it's my personal favorite, and the one I've watched the most. "What you had to do. What you always do. Turn death into a fighting chance to live." has really stayed with me.

Also, a few years after this I won a Captain Kirk impersonation contest at a Star Trek convention by impersonating Kirk impersonating Kruge yelling "matlh! jol yIchu'!" I won a Dudley Do-Right action figure, a book of Vulcan poetry, and some back issues of Starlog magazine. So there's that.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 3:49 PM on September 10 [3 favorites]


"What you had to do. What you always do. Turn death into a fighting chance to live." has really stayed with me.

That line, over the years, has really come to define what Kirk is as a commander and leader for me; it's the logical extension of his response to the Kobayashi Maru - Kirk refuses to accept the idea of a no-win scenario. There's always something to do, something to try, and you keep fighting, keep going no matter what.
posted by nubs at 9:25 AM on September 11 [2 favorites]


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