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The Wonder of the Cinema

#42 Star Trek III: The Search for Spock

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock


After reaching the dramatic heights of Wrath of Khan, it was inevitable that the follow on would run into difficulty.  The bar was higher.  The budget larger.  The expectations were immense.  It was perhaps not the best situation for Leonard Nemoy, aka Mr. Spock, to step into the director’s role for the first time on a feature film.  He’d directed just four TV episodes prior to helming Search for Spock.

With such a high-wire act, every detail must be attended to.  However, several of the creative decisions by either Nemoy or writer/producer Harve Bennett fall short.  The costume of an early character, Valkris, is ridiculous.  It looks like something out of Buck Rogers(and that’s not a compliment in science fiction as Buck Rogers was an insanely low budget sci-fantasy serial).

Is this Star Trek or a bad Buck Rogers serial?

Is this Star Trek or a bad Buck Rogers serial?

The Klingon captain’s pet targ is clearly a bad animatronic creation.  Its movements are jerky and distractingly bad.


Good science fiction films are all about creating the illusion that what you are seeing could happen.  Any false note can cause the viewer to crash out of the universe the filmmakers have created.  Our “suspension of disbelief” is a strong necessary component to a satisfying viewing of science fiction.  Unlike a comedy or action film where a certain level of falsity is acceptable, once a wold is created–especially one with as storied a history as Star Trek with 79 episodes and two feature films as well as 22 episodes of an animated series prior to Search for Spock–the viewer finds any false step as a large fault.

What is that helmet?

What is that helmet?

Additionally there is an early scene which is confusing to the viewer.  A woman, a spy it seems, is delivering the Genesis machine data(from Wrath of Khan) to a Klingon captain.  Their entire dialogue is in Klingon… without subtitles!  There are multiple sequences where the Klingon characters either speak entirely in Klingon without the benefit of subtitles or they switch to English(presumably for the benefit of the viewer).  The switch to English is often abrupt and disorients the viewer.  At one point the Klingon captain is speaking with his officer in English when the officer hears a computer “talking” in English, but he cannot understand it.

After the action emphasis in the final act of Wrath of Khan the lack of action in the final act of Search for Spock leaves the viewer underwhelmed with the entire experience.  Good writing, like good filmmaking, is not about what you put in, but rather about what you leave out.  The Search for Spock feels like a film that could have used one or two more drafts on paper before shooting began.


About Rob Sterner

English teacher, Film buff, Filmmaker, Writer, Musician, Photographer, Runner, Taoist, Thinker, List maker...


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