00:00:00 – 00:15:00
For days after the bridge crew of the 15-Minute Federation watched Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Commander Spork annoyed everyone within earshot, saying things like “Ship. . .out of. . .danger?” and “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few . . . or the one.” And he wouldn’t commit to a deadline for any project without saying “Hours will seem like days.” On more than one occasion, he attempted a mind meld with Dr. “Ribcage” Macklemore, saying “Remember.”
Captain Firewater eventually had enough of this. He said, “Since we have no extra torpedo casings lying around, Mr. Spork, I’m going to seal you inside a fifty-five-gallon trash barrel and shoot you into the atmosphere of the Genesis Planet.”
The crew wasn’t certain what he was referring to as the Genesis Planet since the only thing in the general direction he was pointing was the employee parking lot. But, it made the rest of the crew happy. And, Spork stopped fooling around.
Welcome to the first chapter of:
The Search for Spock Edition of the15-Minute Federation.
Time has mellowed the crew’s opinion about this movie. None of us would take the position that Star Trek III: The Search for Spock was a better movie than Star Trek II. There are people online who do say this, of course. You can find just about any opinion on the Internet. While everyone is entitled to their opinion, we suspect some people just adopt a contrarian stance in order to get views or likes. We’re not doing that. But, we are saying that this is not a bad movie.
Not as good as II, certainly. Or, IV. Even VI, the one with Christopher Plummer as General Chang, was better. But, the consensus on our bridge is that it’s better than V, the one about killing God, and we’re split evenly on I.
We’re not even going to mention Generations or the TNG era of movies, or the J.J. Abrams reboots. That’s a little like comparing apples and oranges. Bottom line: It’s not the worst Trek movie featuring the cast of the original series.
A third Star Trek movie was not guaranteed during the production of the second one. In fact, many people thought the death of Spock meant the end of the series. Well, the mechanism of Spock’s revival was written into the script, of course. But, it was true that Leonard Nimoy was ready to hang up his ears for good.
As we all know, the second movie was wildly successful. But, there could be no further story without Spock; he was just too important to the character dynamic, the necessary third leg on the stool. Nimoy decided that he wanted to direct the movie. If the studio really wanted him in another movie, they would have to allow him to direct. They did; and, he did.
Nimoy had directed for television prior to this—including an episode of William Shatner’s ’80s cop show T.J. Hooker—but this was his first feature film. He would go on to direct the next installment of Trek, plus the well-received Three Men and a Baby and several others.
Nimoy had hosted a television documentary series from 1977 until 1982 titled In Search of . . .
Since the title of this movie was The Search for Spock, the jokes just sort of wrote themselves. We have decided not to share any of them.
At the beginning of this 15-minute chapter, the Spock death scene and funeral is replayed, with Spock’s corpse fired into the atmosphere of the newly-minted Genesis Planet inside a photon torpedo casing. We even get Leonard Nimoy’s voiceover of the opening monologue again before the credits roll.
The recap was a nice reminder of how the previous movie ended. It also helped to pad the running time a little. Even with this extra five minutes of recycled footage, the movie clocks in just barely over an hour-and-a-half before the end credits start.
During the opening credits, we learn that Lt. Saavik is the Darrin Stephens of the Trek universe. Kirstie Alley has been replaced with Robin Curtis. The reason why depends upon whom you ask, but the party line is that Kirstie wanted more money than she was being offered, more in the DeForest Kelley range because of the character’s increased visibility. We had heard rumors that Ms. Alley’s cocaine use was a component of the reason. We’re certain that the money reason may be at least partially true, because, originally, the Lt. Saavik role in the movie following this one was intended to be larger, a byproduct of the character’s planetside canoodling with the [Spoiler] young Spock clone later in this installment. Pon Farr, and all that. Those plans were scrapped prior to the first day of principal photography on this movie.
If that comment was too vague, Lt. Saavik was intended to become pregnant with Spock’s lovechild. Didn’t happen, according to canon, and we’re glad.
There’s also a prolonged pause in the opening credits between “William Shatner” and “DeForest Kelley” where Leonard Nimoy’s name would normally appear. Captain Firewater insists that the pause was to feed Shatner’s massive ego, but the crew prefers the credit nod to Nimoy.
Gene Roddenberry was an executive consultant. James Horner was responsible for the music. Harve Bennett was the writer and producer. And, of course, Leonard Nimoy was the director. Take that, Shatner!
The movie actually begins at the 5:23 mark, with an entry in Admiral Kirk’s personal log.
“With most of our battle damage repaired, we’re almost home. Yet, I feel uneasy and I wonder why. Perhaps it’s the emptiness of this vessel. Most of our trainee crew has been reassigned. Lieutenant Saavik and my son David are exploring the Genesis planet which he helped create. And Enterprise feels like a house with all the children gone. No, more empty than even that. The death of Spock is like an open wound. It seems that I have left the noblest part of myself back there . . . on that newborn planet.”
That certainly sets the tone. We’re sad. Kirk is sad. Kirk has had scores of beautiful women, and at least one by-blow that we’re aware of, but there was only one Spock. Well . . .that’s not strictly true now, we guess, but you get the point. Kirk and Spock were besties.
We firmly reject any fan-fiction that suggests that Kirk and Spock were anything more than really, really good friends.
The Holy Trinity of Star Trek: The Original Series was always Kirk, Bones and Spock. Without Spock, all is not right in the world.
In addition to setting the tone, the personal log entry also establishes that Saavik and David are still characters in this movie. Since they were left on the young Genesis planet, we might even assume that it will also somehow figure into the movie’s plot.
On the bridge of the USS Enterprise, Mr. Sulu says they will reach spacedock in 2.1 hours. That’s 2 hours and 6 minutes to those of us in this timeline. The bridge is still showing signs of battle damage. After Sulu, the admiral addresses Chekov and Uhura to allow them to get in at least one line of dialogue during the first fifteen minutes of the movie. We wonder if Lt. Saavik money was anything like Chekov or Uhura money.
Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott, always a fan-favorite, gets more than a single line during this scene. Scotty has been working on automation repairs since their battle and says the ship will be fully automated—whatever that means–by the time they reach the dock. When Kirk asks what their refit time will be in dock, Scotty says eight weeks, but, for Kirk, Scotty will get it done in two.
Admiral Kirk says, “Mister Scott. Have you always multiplied your repair estimates by a factor of four?”
“Certainly, sir,” Scotty replies. “How else can I keep my reputation as a miracle worker?”
While the general consensus is that this was intended to be a joke between Kirk and Scotty, it has instead become one of the character’s defining traits. A character who routinely lies to his superiors in order to make himself look better. The creative forces behind Trek doubled down on this characteristic in Star Trek: TNG‘s one Scotty episode, “Relics,” when they had Scotty chastise Geordi LaForge for giving accurate job-time estimates.
We are then briefly introduced to Cadet Foster, one of the trainee crew left on board, who asks if a reception will greet them when they arrive to Earth. Foster is played by a very young Phil Morris, who would go on to be Jackie Chiles on Seinfeld, John Jones on Smallville and Silas Stone (Cyborg’s scientist dad) on Doom Patrol. He also appeared in an episode of the original series. He was one of the children in “Miri.” After this movie, Morris would appear in episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager.
Also Babylon 5, but we choose to ignore that for now.
Admiral Kirk asks Foster, “A hero’s welcome, son? Is that what you’d like?. Well, God knows, there should be. This time we paid for the party with our dearest blood.”
Spock was “our dearest blood,” obviously. Which would be green, as Dr. McCoy might remind us. Other people died during the battle with Khan Noonien Singh, but we’re too strong to dwell on that.
Kirk gets into the turbolift to return to his quarters. He is obviously upset about Spock’s death.
Next we get a Klingon scene. Originally, the villains of this movie were going to be Romulans, but the studio decided that Klingons were better known. We think the studio made the proper decision this time.
Valkris, a female Klingon, is waiting for someone’s arrival on a freighter. A Klingon Bird-of-Prey decloaks in front of the freighter, dwarfing it. The Klingon commander is Kruge. He is supposed to be Valkris’s lover. Valkris transmits data about the Genesis Project to Kruge’s ship. Valkris admits that she’s seen the data, so Kruge reluctantly says that means she’ll have to die. Valkris understands. Then the Bird-of-Prey blasts the tiny freghter to atoms.
We’re not sure why Valkris had to die, unless it was meant to establish the threat Kruge would pose to our heroes. After all, if he’d do that to his lady-love, he was capable of killing anyone at any time.
Also, Kruge is being played to the hilt by Christopher Lloyd, who wouldn’t become the iconic Doc Brown in Back to the Future until the following year, 1985. Lloyd wasn’t an unknown, however. He had been the Reverend Jim Ignatowski in the 1970s series Taxi. A month or so after Star Trek III premiered, Christopher Lloyd was also in the ridiculous The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai as the alien John Bigbooté.
Edward James Olmos was almost cast as Kruge. That would have been different, but not necessarily worse.
It is obvious that Kruge is intended to be the Big Bad of this movie. The bad guy. By this point, we know that this is a true sequel to the previous movie. The story of the Genesis Project is not yet over. Most people consider Star Trek II, this movie, and the next to be an actual trilogy. We’ve been reintroduced to our heroes and have a good idea of their current mental states. We’ve met the villain. And we know this is all going to somehow be tied back to Genesis, where Lt. Saavik and Kirk’s son David are located.
The Enterprise approaches spacedock. The special effects are showing some signs of age, but we think they hold up pretty well overall. As they approach, they see the USS Excelsior. Kirk calls it the “great experiment.” Sulu informs the viewer that this newer, larger vessel is supposed to have transwarp drive. Scotty scoffs.
Commander Janice Rand is watching the Enterprise from spacedock as it begins its final docking procedure. You may recall her as the beehive-wearing yeoman in Season 1 of TOS, who appeared in eight episodes or so before she was released from her contract. Grace Lee Whitney, the actor playing Rand, had alleged that an executive with the series had sexually assaulted her, which was why she left the show (or at least one of the reasons). She later wrote a book about it, but didn’t say it was Gene Roddenberry. Rumors from the time suggest that Roddenberry’s casting couch saw a lot of action during this time. It was the swinging ’60s.
Chekov announces that he’s reading a lifeform energy signature in Spock’s quarters on C deck. A room Chekov sealed himself, on Kirk’s orders. Uhura reports that Spock’s door has been forced open, according to security.
Kirk says he’s on his way, and tells Sulu to continue docking procedures.
At the 15-minute mark, Kirk is standing at the entrance to Spock’s quarters. A voice that sounds like Spock’s says, “Jim . . . Help me . . .”
And, here, this chapter ends. An exciting fifteen minutes. We have a feeling a Call to Adventure may be right around the corner.
We Preferred the Genesis Planet When Peter Gabriel Was Still in the Band at the 15-Minute Federation . . .Live Long and Prosper.