With Spock dead from the events of the Genesis incident, the USS Enterprise makes its way back to Earth. While Kirk is dealing with the loss of his friend, somewhere else in space, a Klingon woman delivers information about Genesis to Commander Kruge. When she reveals that she viewed the information, he destroys the ship she is on, killing her. Kruge makes his way to the Federation to learn more about Genesis.
When the Enterprise reaches spacedock, Chekov reports that Spock’s quarters have been broken into. When Kirk investigates, he finds McCoy inside, wanting Kirk to take him to Mt. Seleya on Vulcan. McCoy passes out and is sent to sickbay. Meanwhile, the Starfleet Commander comes aboard and tells Kirk that the Enterprise will be decommissioned. Additionally, Genesis is not to be talked about at all. On the Klingon ship, Kruge views the report that Kirk filed on Genesis to Starfleet, and has decided to pursue the secret of Genesis on his own.
At the same time, the Federation science vessel USS Grissom arrives at the Genesis planet. Lt. Saavik, reassigned from Enterprise, and Dr. David Marcus, lead surviving scientist of the Genesis Project, explore the planet and the find many mysteries. Over the Captain’s objections, they form a landing party to go to the planet’s surface.
On Earth, the bridge crew holds a small reception, which is interrupted by Ambassador Sarek, demanding answers as to why Kirk did not deliver his son Spock to Vulcan. When they mind-meld, Sarek learns that Spock did not meld with Kirk. When Kirk checks the logs, he finds that Spock did meld with McCoy.
As Saavik and David Marcus explore the Genesis planet, McCoy tries to book passage on a freighter to get him to Genesis. However, his plan is rebuffed by the merchant, and the commotion attracts the attention of Federation Security. McCoy is taken into custody. Kirk, on the other hand, attempts to regain command of the decommissioned Enterprise to retrieve Spock, but is rebuffed by the Starfleet Commander.
Kirk and Sulu visit McCoy, but this is the start of an elaborate operation. They overpower the guards and break McCoy out of his holding cell. Scotty leaves the USS Excelsior, to which he had been assigned, and Uhura provides them with a transporter platform to beam to Enterprise. Chekov and Scotty finish automating the Enterprise’s normal functions, and the crew pilots the Enterprise out of spacedock. Starfleet responds by ordering Excelsior to pursue, but the ship is sabotaged by Scotty.
As Enterprise speeds towards Genesis, Saavik and David find a young Vulcan male who is quite possibly Mr. Spock. As Captain Esteban contemplates his next move, the Klingons decloak and destroy the Grissom. Kruge, unfortunately, wanted prisoners from the ship, and kills his gunner for his failure. His trusted officer Torg, however, finds that there are survivors on the planet. As Saavik and David attempt to hide, she questions him on why Genesis is acting strangely. David reveals that he used a banned substance to create Genesis.
As night falls, the Klingons have landed on the planet, and begin their surveys. David takes Saavik’s phaser when the Klingons start getting closer to them. At the same time, Spock is undergoing Pon Farr (where Vulcan men must have sex or participate in a combat ritual or they die) and Saavik deals with it.
Enterprise reaches the Genesis planet, and the Klingons cloak their ship. On the surface, the Klingons capture David, Saavik, and Spock. Before he can begin to torture them, Torg informs his Captain that a Federation cruiser has appeared. He beams back aboard his ship and they prepare to attack it. However, Kirk and Sulu deduce the distortion as being a cloaked Klingon ship and attack it as it decloaks. Unfortunately, the computers overloaded because Scotty did not completely automate the defense systems of the Enterprise. Kruge counter attacks and a single torpedo strikes Enterprise through its flickering shields, destroying the automation computers.
Kirk contacts Kruge and attempts to bluff his way out of the situation, but Kruge orders one of the prisoners to die. Saavik was chosen, but David intervenes. In the ensuing fight, he is killed. Kirk agrees to surrender, but needs a minute to do so. Kruge agrees and gives him two. As Kruge orders his entire crew to board the Enterprise, Kirk orders the ship to self-destruct. Kirk and his crew beam to the Genesis Planet, and the Klingons board the Enterprise. The ship is destroyed and its remains crashland on Genesis.
Kirk reaches the landing party and kills the remaining Klingon guard. He uses a communicator and taunts Kruge. Kruge beams down and forces everyone except Kirk to beam up. Kirk and Kruge fight on the planet, which is now engulfing itself in flames. Kirk manages to defeat Kruge and gets himself beamed aboard the ship, disarming Maltz. The Enterprise crew manages to pilot the ship away from Genesis and heads for Vulcan.
Upon their arrival to Vulcan, the monks take Spock’s body to the temple, and Sarek asks for a ritual that could bring Spock to consciousness. McCoy agrees, and the Vulcans use their powers to transfer Spock’s consciousness from McCoy back to Spock’s body. When the ritual seems like a success, the crew gathers around Spock and they share a moment of happiness.
Review and Analysis:
This is what happens when an actor, having decided that he has had enough of playing a popular character and wants to get rid of said character – changes his mind. Leonard Nimoy spent the previous 15 years trying to get from under the shadow of his Star Trek character Spock, including writing a book called I am Not Spock. By 1980, Nimoy had made the decision to end his portrayal of the character and The Wrath of Khan was supposed to be Spock’s final swan song.
In the middle of filming this movie, however, Nimoy got cold feet and changed his mind. With the success of TWOK, a sequel to the movie was assured. The change of heart happened during filming of TWOK that the final scene with McCoy saying, “He’s really not dead…” was added – over the objections of producer Nicholas Meyer. It was also the reason why he declined to produce The Search for Spock – and would not get back into Star Trek production until coaxed by William Shatner for Star Trek V.
Klingon Priorities Misplaced:
To show that Kruge is a violent and evil Klingon, he kills his lover because she viewed the information on Genesis. To reinforce his violent tendencies, he pulls a Darth Vader and kills his gunner when his gunner blows up an enemy ship that he only wanted disabled.
In movie parlance, Kruge is the villain that shoots a young girl’s cat before walking into the bank and taking hostages.
In fact, the only time Kruge is remorseful is when his Targ (Klingon Dog), is hit by shrapnel from Scotty’s torpedo attack and dies.
On the Subject of Klingon Stupidity:
Kruge asks Valkyris to spy on the Federation and retrieve information on a possible Federation secret weapon. Now, they only know of its possible existence; they have no idea what it is or what it actually does. With nothing to go on, Valkyris views the data tapes that had been given to her by her contacts. She then gives them to Kruge, having judged them to be authentic and accurate.
For doing this job correctly, Kruge…kills Valkyris.
Later in the movie, however, we see Kruge viewing the information…with two of his subordinates (Torg and Maltz). If the point of killing Valkyris was to prevent the spread of information that the Genesis report was stolen, why didn’t Kruge beam Valkyris aboard his ship and destroy it afterwards?
Cantina Scene Redux:
Science fiction has to have a scene with aliens at a bar. Many fans believe that this first started with Star Wars, with the famous Cantina scene from “A New Hope.” This is actually incorrect.
The first popular science fiction multiple alien get-together is from the Star Trek episode “Journey to Babel,” which is where the Cantina Scene gets its start.
But, in this case, this scene is a parody of the Star Wars Cantina scene. Or, more precisely, how such a scene would play in the Star Trek universe…at least in the Federation.
The merchant captain is a cross between Han Solo…and Yoda. Which is why he speaks the way that he does. His character was supposed to be a parody of Yoda’s speech patterns, which would normally be ridiculed, except that Yoda can move junk around thanks to bacteria.
The Romulans…Never Came:
Originally, the film was supposed to feature a Romulan crew aboard this ship. The design of the Bird-of-Prey was closer to the original Romulan warship design (as a result of technology-sharing between the Romulans and Klingons). The script was changed to that of a Klingon commander who steals the Romulan Bird-of-Prey and goes on his mission to steal Genesis. Finally, it was decided that the ship would simply be a Klingon ship with a Klingon crew.
And Uhura Disappears Again:
In The Motion Picture, Uhura was sidelined, specifically by Spock. Then, in The Wrath of Khan, Uhura is not of much use in the movie at all.
But neither of those compare to what happens to Uhura in The Search for Spock. When Kirk and his crew start their plan to steal the Enterprise and retrieve Spock from the Genesis Planet, everyone gets onboard the ship for the final stages of the plan…
…except for Uhura. She doesn’t show up again until near the end of the movie, where she acts as a telephone operator for Sarek(?!). So, the guys go on an adventure, and leave the girl home.
Starfleet Bureaucracy Rears Its Ugly Head…Again:
One of the other things this movie tries to show in contrast is the idea that going by the book is not a really good idea.
Admiral Morrow only sends a science ship to investigate a planet created out of almost nothing more than space dust and the remains of a battered light cruiser. The Federation Council, having continued the debate of Genesis (that was illustrated by Spock and McCoy’s heated discussion back in The Wrath of Khan), simply closes the door on open debate and tries to make the Grissom’s movements look routine.
In reality, however, this was plotted as such to make the showdown with Enterprise possible. Had Starfleet sent an Enterprise-class Battlecruiser (or even two) along with Grissom to the Genesis Planet, Kruge may have gotten cold feet and tried simply intercepting communications.
Captain James T. Esteban was supposed to be another contrast with Admiral Kirk when it comes to command styles. Whereas Kirk would beam down at the first chance of being able to explore the terrain of a new planet, Esteban does everything in his power to not explore directly. His role was one of a commander who doesn’t even go to the bathroom without checking regulations first.
Captain Styles is the other contrast. He was supposed to secure with the technology that he’s been surrounded with, and does not seem to have much experience exploring strange new worlds like Kirk does. His arrogance would be his undoing, as Scotty’s sabotage of the Excelsior would prevent it from being able to pursue and overtake Enterprise.
The year before The Search for Spock was released, Dune made it to theatres and did not stay very long. However, the movie featured Jose Ferrer as the Paddishaw Emperor Shaddam IV. His son, Miguel, would make his first foray into Science Fiction with his role as the Excelsior’s first officer in The Search for Spock.
There are two other women of color with small roles in this film. One is the Asian helmsman aboard the USS Grissom, but she was never given a name. The second is a Japanese woman who holds the rank of Lieutenant and stands by Captain Styles’ side on the bridge. IIRC, she reprises her role and is promoted to Commander in Star Trek VI. There is also one Latino male aboard the USS Grissom.
Women in this film have very subordinating roles. Valkyris dies for no apparently valid reason. Uhura disappears for the 40 most important minutes of this film, only to show up as someone else’s telephone operator. Everyone else in Starfleet is either arrogant or incompetent, except for Kirk and company. Nimoy’s directorial debut isn’t as bad as most, but the humor which would sink the Star Trek movie franchise takes a dry run here (with the Bar Scene).
Kruge was supposed to be the violent Klingon who does the Trek equivalent of Vader force-choking his own people when they screw up. But he mourns his Klingon Dog when he foolishly leaves him on the bridge when they confront a Federation Battle Cruiser?
Also, it doesn’t help matters that James Horner’s score is very sparse, especially compared his score for Star Trek II.
Basically, it is a somewhat enjoyable Star Trek film, but was created to serve a single purpose, and that was to allow the actor who first wanted to kill off his character to bring him back.