I love The Search for Spock. Sure, this might be a little biased coming from me. I do, after all, have love for every Star Trek movie (yes, even the fifth one), but the third in the TOS movie era will always hold a special place in my heart.
Overlooked and overshadowed virtually from day one by its beloved predecessor, The Search for Spock may be forever connected to the legendary Wrath of Khan, but it features enough to stand as a classic on its own right.
So join me as I embark on a daring mission to take a look back at 10 things that make The Search for Spock such a great Star Trek movie.
Expanding The Universe
The Motion Picture and Wrath of Khan had shown us new aspects of the Star Trek universe, but it’s in The Search for Spock’s early scenes that the scope of the mighty Federation was finally revealed.
Returning to Earth following brutal combat with Khan and the Reliant in the Mutara sector, you’d be expecting to see the old familiar wiry frame of the drydock seen in the previous two movies.
Not this time.
This time we were treated to an incredible visual as the heavily damaged Enterprise slowly approached the new spacedock; a beautiful and absolutely enormous space station hanging high above the Earth.
The sight of the Enterprise slowly but surely being dwarfed by this super structure remains an iconic image in the series. A sure-fire sign that our universe was about to get a whole lot bigger.
Return of the Horn
The Search for Spock is often considered a companion piece to The Wrath of Khan, more so than The Voyage Home (although the three do form a loose trilogy).
A huge part of this was James Horner’s amazing music that accompanied both movies.
Swashbuckling and full of atmosphere, Horner’s themes established in the previous movie carried over nicely here, with an added sounds to compliment the new sequences on the Genesis planet, as well as the inclusion of the mystic Vulcans.
For me, Horner’s music adds so much to both movies. The sound is completely integral to the story, and I couldn’t imagine the movie without it.
The Coolest Klingon Ship Ever!
Beat it, battle cruisers!
The Search for Spock introduced a lot to the Star Trek universe, but the Klingon’s new Bird of Prey was one of the best. The new ship, modelled after, you guess it, a bird of prey, added a new wrinkle to Trek’s long standing foes.
Smaller, sleeker, but faster and still absolutely deadly.
Designed by ILM vets Dave Carson and Nilo Rodis, this new ship received a worthy introduction as she menacingly decloaked above a hopelessly outmatched freighter early in the movie. An awesome visual that marked the arrival of a new ship that would quickly replace the old K’t’inga class battle cruiser as the iconic ship of everyone’s favourite warrior race.
Animals are awesome, regardless of species. The same is absolutely true for the Klingon’s deranged version of a beloved pet. Kruge’s trusted canine-like companion only makes brief appearances, but it was enough for me to absolutely want one as a child.
You can only imagine my disappointment when the cat arrived.
Shatner’s Finest Hour (and a half)
William Shatner’s acting style is iconic. Over the years his unique style has won him legions of fans, and also plenty of detractors.
But one thing was always certain: If the guy wanted to chew the scenery, he was damn well going to!
The man behind the legendary captain was also very capable of delivering excellent performances. What we got throughout The Search for Spock is testament to that.
What we got here was an appropriately less animated, more sombre Kirk. A man weary from battle, utterly devastated by the loss of his longtime friend. Shatner’s scenes, particularly those with Mark Lenard’s Sarak, and initial interaction with Kruge rank easily as the finest of his long career.
More Awesome New Ship Designs
The Search for Spock didn’t just deliver the gift of a new moon-sized space station and a cool ship for the bad guys. We also got treated to beautiful new ship designs in the form of the USS Grissom, and the fan-favourite Excelsior.
Both ships were, and remain unique designs for Starfleet vessels, with one perfect for small science-based missions, and the other, a sleek but titanic ship seemingly destined to become the new flagship design.
Neither fared very well on-screen unfortunately, but both would go on to become familiar in subsequent movies, shows, and the model cabinets of millions of model collectors worldwide.
Kirk’s daring theft of the Enterprise and subsequent escape from spacedock ranks high as a favourite scene, not only for myself, but millions of Star Trek fans.
Regardless of what you thought of The Search for Spock, THIS was the standout scene of the movie.
Fittingly tense as the renegade crew carried out their audacious plot, accompanied by Horner’s score which perfectly captured the simultaneous feelings of excitement, fear and exhilaration, culminating in that glorious shot of spacedock’s massive doors finally opening.
Filmmaking, special effects and score have rarely come together as well as they did in this incredible sequence.
A Team Effort
The gigantic hole left by one Leonard Nimoy did have one positive. It opened the door for many of the supporting cast to have moments to shine. Left with little to do in previous movies, Sulu, Chekov and Uhura each were afforded scenes to show what they could do.
And they took their shots wonderfully.
Sulu’s interaction with the giant security guard is clearly the best of the bunch, but Uhura’s scene with “Mr. Adventure” was another standout scene that added a cool layer of bad-assery to the Enterprise’s long-serving comms officer.
More would have been nice, but I’m happy with what we ultimately got here.
The Ultimate Sacrifice
The biggest bone of contention most have with The Search of Spock is the stunning and previously unthinkable destruction of the original Enterprise.
Seriously, some are still not over the loss of the original first lady of Star Trek.
For me the sequence remains a shocking one, but one that made perfect sense given Kirk’s determination to find his newly resurrected Vulcan friend and also exact revenge for the senseless murder of his son.
Visually the scene is incredible with the Kurge and the Klingon’s realisation of Kirk’s trap, and the melancholic shots of the Enterprise’s hull disintegrating, exploding and finally crumbling into the already fiery atmosphere of the doomed Genesis planet.
“My God, Bones. What have I done?”
The Perfect Companion
Ultimately The Search for Spock undoes The Wrath of Khan, but don’t think of it like that. What we really got was the greatest magic trick in Star Trek history. The return of a beloved character, but done in a way that didn’t really render the previous movie a waste of time.
Reunited with his Katra at the top of Mount Seleya, Spock and Kirk finally speak at the end of the movie; a wonderful mirror of the dialogue from The Wrath of Khan’s reactor room scene that beautifully links the two movies together.
It’s like poetry. Spock’s death was driven by logic. His rebirth by love.
And space magic.
Wait. Forget that last bit.