//\\ 15-Minute Federation //\\ presents . . . Star Trek III: The Search for Spock — Ch. 3: Spock’s Coffin is as Empty as Al Capone’s Vault (Or: Snow on Cacti is Major Evidence of Climate Change)

00:30:01 – 00:45:00

On our way to Deep Space 10, an old Sears location that is currently a furniture liquidator, we detoured in the shuttlecraft Copernicus Seven to pick up Galactic High Commissioner Firewater at his home planet.

Yes, the high commissioner was Captain Firewater’s elderly father.

The captain informed the high commissioner that our trip to DS 10 was a priority mission. The 15-Minute Federation was in urgent need of replacement office chairs because Ensign Shecky Pavlov suffered from separation anxiety and had destroyed two of our bridge chairs during our recent away mission to Alpha Omicron Pi.

High Commissioner Firewater pulled rank and demanded that we re-route to the CVS system immediately. He needed to pick up medical supplies to take back to his planet. The high commissioner’s wife—the captain’s mother—had warned her husband not to get caught up in their son’s delusional shenanigans. She had also asked the high commissioner to remind the captain that he was expected for dinner at six that evening. Mrs. Firewater had invited a nice young woman from church and wanted the two of them to meet.

Jeez, Pops,” Captain Firewater whined.

“That’s High Commissioner Pops,” the captain’s father said, revealing a huge cheese-eating grin. “And, you need to shampoo the carpet in this thing. It stinks.”

Welcome to Chapter 3 of The Search for Spock Edition of the15-Minute Federation.

As we concluded Chapter 2, Dr. David Marcus and Lt. Saavik were beamed, via transporter, from the U.S.S. Grissom to the surface of the Genesis Planet. They had used sensors to locate Spock’s torpedo coffin, and had detected unusual lifeform readings as well.

Elsewhere, the Klingon Commander Kruge is headed for Genesis in his stealthy Bird-of-Prey because he wants its secrets to use as a weapon.

Kirk and his team are hatching a plan to return to the suddenly forbidden planet Genesis to retrieve Spock’s corpse, and then to take both Spock’s remains and Dr. McCoy to Vulcan, climb Mount Seleya, and somehow remove Spock’s katra, his spiritual essence, from Bones and put it—where? I don’t know. Return it to the vast pool of the collective Vulcan katra.

All of these story threads have been cast. It’s up to us to see how they play out.

On the surface of the Genesis planet, Lt. Saavik and Dr. David Marcus locate the photon torpedo casket and discover the source of the lifesign readings they detected from space. The microbes on the surface of the torpedo casings had evolved and are now squirming worm-like lifeforms. In David’s words, they were “fruitful and multiplied.”

Saavik and David open the torpedo casket—why? I don’t know—and discover that Spock’s body is missing. Only his burial robe remains inside.

Then, the wind blows, trees shake, and what sounds like someone screaming gets our duo’s attention. They set off to find the source.

And, here, ends Act One of our story.

People may disagree on some details, but typically Act One of your story accomplishes the following: introduce your characters, protagonists and antagonists; establish setting and time; provide an inciting incident that will propel the story forward; clarify character goals and the story stakes; and, provide a point-of-no-return, which is the kickoff point for the rest of the story.

I would accept the argument that Act Two doesn’t begin until Kirk and his team actually head out for the Genesis planet, in direct violation of orders. We’re dealing with multiple sets of characters, in different settings, during the first act, so their turning points could come at different times. But, the overarching story goal is in the title of the movie: the search for Spock. Since that’s literally what Saavik and Marcus are doing right at this moment, that’s where, I think, we begin Act Two.

The film could have been edited a bit differently. I would have preferred that the scene where Saavik and Marcus left to find the source of the screaming came after the following sequence. But, the big turning point for James T. Kirk was his meeting with Sarek and his decision to get Spock’s corpse and his McCoy-bound katra to Vulcan.

How is that going to happen? Kirk first attempts to accomplish his goal through proper channels. He meets up with Admiral Morrow at a bar in Starfleet Headquarters. Morrow tells him no again. Absolutely not.

“Jim,” he says, “You are my best officer. But, I am Commander—Starfleet—so I don’t break rules!”

Kirk isn’t concerned about rules here. This is about loyalty and sacrifice. One man who’s died for us, and another who has deep emotional problems. It sounds funny to hear the fact that Dr. McCoy is carrying Spock’s CPU in his skull reduced to “deep emotional problems.”

In spite of Kirk’s impassioned argument, Morrow refuses to give Kirk back the Enterprise, which, as you may recall, is scheduled to be mothballed. Kirk says he’ll hire out a ship, if he has to. Morrow says the Council has ordered that no one but the science team go to Genesis. If Kirk continues to act emotionally, he will ruin both his career and his life. Morrow is giving Kirk a direct order.

Kirk tells Morrow that he hears him, but he had to try. He thanks the admiral for the drink, politely, and excuses himself.

Sulu and Chekov are loitering near the bar’s exit as Kirk is leaving. Sulu says, “The word, sir?”

Kirk responds, “The word . . . is ‘no’. I am therefore going anyway.”

I was going to comment on the awkward word order in Kirk’s line of dialogue here, but then I remembered that I, too, have a tendency to put words like “therefore” and “however” in the middle of sentences if it sounds correct to my mental ear. Besides, Star Trek singlehandedly made split infinitives grammatically acceptable throughout the English-speaking world. The franchise can do whatever it wants with language.

Dr. McCoy isn’t standing around waiting for his shipmates to get him to Genesis. He’s at a bar where the waitress seems to know him. He orders Altair water. The waitress comments that this is not his usual poison. McCoy responds that to expect one to order poison in a bar is not logical. That could be Spock’s katra talking there.

McCoy had arranged to meet an alien at the bar to arrange passage to the Mutara Sector. McCoy gets frustrated when the alien won’t make a deal to take him to the forbidden Genesis planet. Then, he gets arrested by Federation security.

Morrow’s refusal to give Kirk permission was an obstacle. McCoy getting arrested while trying to charter a black market ship: another obstacle. That’s what happens in Act Two.

We cut back to the Genesis planet and to Saavik and Marcus. The weather is doing some funky things. There are cacti about, and there’s snow on them. That’s a sign of global warming, I hear. Or, climate change: whatever we’re calling it now.

They are reading another lifeform. Something other than the microbe worms. They communicate this to Captain Esteban on the Grissom.

Meanwhile, Kirk uses his admiral status to gain access to Dr. McCoy’s prison cell. The guard tells Kirk that McCoy is about to be relocated to the Federation funny farm. I find the existence of Federation funny farms a bit disheartening.

“I hear he’s fruity as a nut cake,” Kirk says, which I think is funnier now than when I first heard it. My appreciation of dad jokes has grown over the years.

Kirk holds up his hand in the Vulcan salute. “How many fingers do I have up?” he asks McCoy.

“That’s not very damn funny,” McCoy says. Kirk administers something called Lexorin that he says will make McCoy well enough to travel. When McCoy learns that his current state is because of the mind meld Spock performed on him, he is—as expected—angry.

Sulu helps Kirk incapacitate the guards while they break McCoy out of jail. Those are what I call good friends.

Kirk calls Chekov with a coded message. “Unit two, this is unit one. The Kobayashi Maru has set sail for the promised land. Acknowledge.”

Off-camera, Chekov acknowledges, and says, “All units will be informed.”

We cut to the USS Excelsior in space dock. You may recall that Scotty was reassigned here, as Captain of Engineering. Starfleet ranks are confusing to me. Captain Styles asks Mister Scott is he’s calling it a night, to which Scotty replies in the affirmative. Styles says he’s turning in himself, and he’s looking forward to breaking some of Enterprise‘s speed records tomorrow. You can imagine how well this sits with our irascible Scottish engineer. He tells the turbolift to take him to the transporter room. When the turbolift tells him “thank you,” Scotty replies, “Up your shaft!”

Uhura has been hard at work as well. She’s managed to get assigned as a transporter operator at Old City Station in San Francisco. The man working with her seems amazed that a twenty-year veteran such as Uhura would choose to work at the worst duty station in town. Uhura says that peace and quiet appeals to her. Her co-worker says that’s okay for “someone like you whose career is winding down.” But, he needs some challenge, some adventure in his life. Maybe even a surprise or two.

Uhura quips, “Be careful what you wish for.”

Of course, Uhura has ulterior motives for being there. Kirk and his jailbreak posse arrive. Uhura locks her coworker in a closet before beaming her friends onboard the Enterprise. She tells Kirk that she’ll see all of them at the rendezvous.

Scotty is already on the bridge of the Enterprise as the others arrive. He tells Kirk that all systems are automated and ready. A chimpanzee and two trainees could run her from the bridge.

Kirk tells his crew that he can’t ask them to go any further. He and Dr. McCoy have to do this, but the rest of them do not.

Chekov tells Kirk that they’re losing precious time. Sulu asks what course he needs to lay in. Scotty’s not going anywhere either.

So, Kirk orders all the moorings cleared and one-quarter impulse power.

Chekov says that Starfleet is on the emergency channel ordering them to surrender the vessel. Kirk orders no reply.

On the Excelsior, an officer alerts Capt. Styles that someone is stealing the Enterprise.

The Enterprise, meanwhile, is slowly approaching the closed space doors of the space dock. This makes Dr. McCoy nervous, and Kirk tells him to calm himself. Chekov reports that the Excelsior is powering up with orders to pursue.

Scotty, exceptional engineer that he is, manages to override the space doors at the last minute, for dramatic effect. The ship clears the doors . . .

And, that’s where this chapter ends.

I know, right? Exciting stuff. I would say that right around here is where Act One actually ends, but that would mean the first act took nearly half of the story’s total running time (we hit credits at around the one hour, thirty-nine minute mark). That’s why I say the first act ended when Kirk told Sarek he’d get Spock and McCoy to Mount Seleya on Vulcan, while Lt. Saavik and Dr. David Marcus are literally searching for Spock, or at least his body, on Genesis. The website Memory Alpha agrees with me on this, and while it’s entirely possible for both of us to be wrong, I reject that premise.

The suddenly crazy weather on Genesis is a second-act obstacle that Saavik and Marcus must overcome during their search. Breaking McCoy out of jail and stealing the Enterprise are second-act obstacles for Kirk and the gang.

Still . . . an exciting story beat that’s not quite over. See what happens in our next chapter.

Until then . . . We Know Where All the Jeffries Tubes Are Located at the 15-Minute Federation . . .Live Long and Prosper.

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