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Case Number 02379

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Star Trek III: The Search For Spock: Collector's Edition

Paramount // 1984 // 105 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Eric Profancik (Retired) // November 12th, 2002

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All Rise...

Editor's Note

Our reviews of Star Trek III: The Search For Spock (published April 19th, 2000), Star Trek: The Original Motion Picture Collection (published October 19th, 2009), and Star Trek: The Original Motion Picture Collection (Blu-Ray) (published May 18th, 2009) are also available.

The Charge

"Kirk, you do this, you'll never sit in the Captain's chair again."

Opening Statement

The word, sir, is…"
"No. I am therefore going anyway."

—Sulu and Kirk

This is Star Trek, so you know that I have many positive things to say. While quite a few believe that this movie falls prey to the "curse of the odd-numbered movies," I disagree and proclaim that there are a multitude of things (which I'll get into later) that give this movie depth, character, and charm…not to mention re-watchability (did I just invent a word?). After the immense success of Khan!, it would be a very difficult situation (and truly rare) for the sequel to be able to live up to its predecessor. The Trek franchise had just been revitalized and saved from potential oblivion, so how do you follow-up that monumental event? In addition, Khan's story somewhat limits the directions you can do in the follow-up. Nonetheless, Spock elegantly picks up where Khan left off and tells a touching story of the power of friendship.

Up your shaft.
—Scotty

Facts of the Case

"She's supposed to have transwarp drive."
"Aye. And if my grandmother had wheels, she'd be a wagon."

—Sulu and Scotty

Because the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one, Spock sacrificed himself to save the Enterprise from the imminent detonation of the Genesis device at the end of Star Trek II. But being the ever-logical Vulcan, Spock knew that his upcoming actions would be fatal and so he transferred his katra to Dr. McCoy before entering the dilithium chamber. No one was aware of this action when they sent Spock's body into the depths of space. But luckily the gravitational fields of the newly formed Genesis Planet were still in flux, and they snared the far-flung torpedo tube, yielding a soft-landing on the surface. As the Genesis device literally creates life from lifelessness, the Genesis wave reanimated Spock. Spock was alive but without his katra.

Kirk and crew have left the Mutara Sector for home, and a galactic controversy has ensued relating to the events that took place in the nebula. Upon arrival at a starbase orbiting Earth, Kirk quickly learns that he will not be able to return to Genesis because of the political troubles. Even worse, the Enterprise is deemed too old for repair and she is to be scrapped. Chief Engineer Scott is transferred to the new U.S.S. Excelsior for trials.

All is not well with Dr. McCoy, for Spock's katra is unintentionally and inadvertently causing the good doctor some mental distress. He does not know why, but he is compelled to find a way to get to Mt. Seleya on Vulcan via Genesis. As the Enterprise is unavailable, he tries to find private transport into this now-forbidden sector of space. Unfortunately, his conversation is overheard by Starfleet security; and, when confronted, McCoy tries to use the Vulcan nerve pinch on the agent to make an escape. He is unsuccessful and finds himself locked away in the "Federation funny farm."

In the interim, Kirk is visited by Sarek and learns that McCoy is carrying Spock's katra. With this knowledge, Kirk absolutely knows he must return to Genesis to retrieve Spock's body so his katra can be replaced. Kirk pleads his case with the admiralty but he is denied permission. Nonetheless, Kirk disobeys this direct order and along with Sulu, Chekov, Uhura, and Scotty, they break McCoy out of detention, steal the Enterprise, and race to Genesis.

Meanwhile at the Genesis Planet, the science vessel U.S.S. Grissom has been dispatched to survey the newly created world. Onboard are Dr. David Marcus and Lt. Saavik. During their scans, they immediately and surprisingly discover Spock's burial tube. Shockingly, they also detect life, which they did not believe was possible. This amazing discovery prompts David and Saavik to beam down to the planet to investigate. While there, they find a young Vulcan boy wandering around. David correctly deducts that Spock's body has been regenerated by the Genesis wave.

As David and Saavik explore Genesis, an unbeknownst danger strikes at Grissom: the Klingons! Captain Kruge wants the secret of the destructive power of Genesis, and has come there and will to do whatever it takes to gain that knowledge. Shortly after destroying Grissom, the Enterprise arrives. Kirk quickly deduces that thing are amiss and very quick a spectacular battle of torpedoes and wits develops between Kirk and Kruge. While Kirk has the upper hand early on, Kruge is a formidable enemy and strikes a lethal blow to the Enterprise. To bolster his point, Kruge kills David ("You Klingon son, you killed my bastard!"). Not even one of Kirk's famous bluffs can stop Kruge, so Kirk must sacrifice his ship to save his friends. Kirk sets the self-destruct sequence on the Enterprise and everyone beams down to Genesis. There, Kirk rescues Spock and Saavik, defeats Kruge, and steals the Klingon Bird of Prey and returns to Vulcan where Spock's katra is returned from McCoy.

…And the human adventure continues.

The Evidence

Don't call me Tiny.
—Sulu

The latest release in the Paramount Trek double-dip is a great improvement over the original, Spartan release. Why they couldn't do this the first time and garner a few brownie points from fans is beyond me—actually, no it is because we all know why they did it this way.

I keep reading all over the Internet that the transfers in this re-release are the same ones we were treated to on the original; however, I am dubious of that statement. In fact, contrary to what is said, I believe that the previous version was non-anamorphic. I've owned both copies, watched both versions on my widescreen TV through the same DVD player, and I can see a difference in this new version. What I see in this release is a "larger picture" with smaller black bars at the top of bottom of my TV. This difference is perfectly illustrated at The Digital Bits, thus reinforcing my conclusion that there is a difference in the transfer. I will full proclaim that I am not a videophile, and, in all truth, it's entirely possible that I could be wrong with my assertion. However, I can only tell you what I actually saw.

Because this anamorphic version utilizes more of my TV's screen, today I saw details in Spock that I have never noticed in the dozens of viewings over the years! Take, for example, the scene where the Enterprise has just entered orbit around Genesis. Kirk and Sulu are looking at the viewscreen when they notice the distortion that is the cloaked Bird of Prey. Watching the scene this time, I could actually see that the distortion they refer to is shaped like the Bird of Prey. As far back as I can recall, that distortion has been nothing more than a blob in all prior viewings. This is just one of the many subtle details that this transfer brings out. However, having more detail in your transfer isn't all good news as the age of the movie becomes clearer as well. Unfortunately, the print is marred by more dirt than there should be; I would have thought Paramount could have spent a couple bucks to clean it up a bit better, especially on a double-dip. Additionally, the print is filled with a fine grain throughout the movie. Overall, I was a tad disconcerted to see how dirty this print really is, even for something nearly twenty years old. Though however riddled with dirt and grain it is, fortunately it isn't overly distracting so it doesn't interfere with the presentation. But not all is lost for on the positive side, there is excellent definition, a rich color palette, and only minimal edge enhancement in the realm of transfer errors. It is a bit of a mixed bag with the video transfer, but it's nothing to prevent you from owning the disc.

Moving on to the audio tracks, there are several to choose from and I selected the 5.1 Dolby Digital transfer. I do believe in this instance that this audio track is identical to the previous release. The remixed 5.1 track is truly respectable and does utilize most of the channels quite effectively. Through the center channel, dialogue is cleanly and accurately presented without any hiss or distortion; the front surrounds project most of the film's ambience and special effects; the rear surrounds do get minor usage but they aren't fully utilized due to the original limitations of the audio; and the subwoofer gets moderate usage in some key sequences, namely the destruction of Genesis.

As we all know, in the pantheon of Trek movies the odd ones are typically considered inferior to the even-numbered ones. "Inferior" itself may be too strong a word, so perhaps we'll just say that most people prefer the evens. But even if that is the case, many things work very well in this movie, especially considering the huge expectations after Khan. Allow me to remind you of what works well in The Search for Spock:
• Acting: Of course Shatner is the greatest ham in the world, but I believe he remembered a few of the lessons pounded into him from Nicholas Meyer and hence turned in a great Kirk performance. Everyone, with their five seconds of screen time, did a fine job bringing their characters to life once again. Even bit players such as Captain Styles were able to instantly render their character. How many of us realized that John Larroquette was a Klingon?
• Fun: Although the main thrust of this film is the grief and despair at the loss of Spock, there's a wonderful undercurrent of fun. It's most apparent with the delicious bons mots that our characters toss at us—and I have spread some of them throughout this review—that prevent the film from being overly morbid. As cliché as they may be now, when you think of Scotty and Sulu in this film, what are some of the first things that come to mind? I'd wager it would be their infamous "shaft" and "tiny" phrases.
• Focus on Friendship: Classic Trek has always focused on the "holy trinity," which is often a disservice to the supporting cast. Even in this film, Scotty, Sulu, Chekov, and Uhura barely get any real screen time. But, they're there. We know they're crucial to the story for it's only together that Spock can be saved. Only together will they succeed. They are friends, and they care for each other deeply (at least on screen). Finally, that obvious friendship is demonstrated in this film. Their bonds are shown and strengthened, none more so obvious then when Kirk sacrifices his ship, his one true "love," to save his friends—his true family.
• Direction: Leonard Nimoy did an excellent job as a first-time director working within the strict confines of Paramount's rules and budget. The movie could truly have been bogged down by the weight of a rather dreary story, yet Nimoy was able to infuse the whole with more than just a story of death. He reminded us about the joys of life and friendship. It's not the most visually impressive movie, yet there is a certain charm due to his "informed" style.
• The Script: All of the above good points don't come to fruition without a nice script. However, I listed this item near the end, for it isn't 100% solid. There is some shaky dialogue ("This is your opponent speaking."), a lack of solid exposition ("protomatter"), and many a shortcut are apparent ("Everything not of the body."). But, I still think that it's a nice, under-appreciated script that plays out a touching story.
• Special Effects: Back in the grand old days before CGI, there were models and hours and hours of painstaking work with motion-controlled passes of the camera. Spock's special effects are still very good after all this time. They look real and do their part by helping us believe in this universe and thus propel the story forward. ILM is just too good.

Unfortunately, I must give equal time to some of the things that don't quite gel in the third installment of the Trek movie franchise:
• The Genesis Planet: What is Paramount's problem with giving Trek a solid budget? I'd bet that Best Defense, the Paramount stinker with Eddie Murphy and Dudley Moore (also in 1984), had a bigger budget than Spock. So, with what little money Nimoy had, he really had to skimp with the Genesis planet to ensure other parts of the story didn't suffer. While occasionally acceptable, it's painfully obvious that this planet is really just a set. It's not even a good set. Such a shame; a few outdoor location shots for Genesis really could have added that sense of realism that this major chunk of the movie required.
• A Languid Pace: To me, there is an interesting dichotomy in the movie. On the one side, there truly is quite a bit happening in this film—as detailed above. Yet, on the other hand, when all is said and done, this movie feels a bit lethargic. The problem stems from the final scene on Vulcan when we get serious and focus on Spock. This is absolutely essential to the movie, and is actually the whole point of the movie, yet it just slows the whole film down. It's not essentially a bad thing but merely an observation.
• Christopher Lloyd : I would be remiss if I didn't bring up Christopher's part in the Trek universe. Fresh from the recent end of Taxi, to this day people still love to make fun of his character in this film: "Kirk, I want the secret of Genesis!" "No." "Okee dokee." There absolutely is some Reverend Jim in his performance, but Lloyd really is quite an actor—and this was far from his first film role. While amusing, Lloyd in all truth does a superb job with the character and almost pulls it off. He's good, but he's just a pinch off. Thus, it really is hard to list Kruge as a great Trek villain just because of that Taxi vibe.

And now we can move on to the bevy of bonus materials on the discs. There is a nice variety of items at your disposal, but not all of them all thoroughly riveting:
• Audio Commentary with director/actor Leonard Nimoy, writer/producer Harve Bennett, actress Robin Curtis, and director of photography Charles Correll: This is not a scene specific commentary. In fact, it's painfully obvious that pieces of various interviews were assembled to make this commentary. Fortunately, whoever put this together did a good job by selecting snippets that do have a solid correlation to what is happening onscreen. Overall, there is some interesting information to be found; yet I was not all that enthralled. I guess that as a Trekkie, I am expecting more and better tidbits to be shared. I know they're out there, but why they continue to be secreted is beyond me. Further, why include Curtis and Correll in here? I think Curtis speaks at most three times—not imparting much of anything fascinating—and Correll speaks exactly once. Worst of all, a lot of the commentary here is to be found later in the actual interviews used for some of the other bonus features.
• Text Commentary by Michael and Denise Okuda: I really love this kind of special feature and wish it were standard on every DVD. Even if no one wants to talk about the movie, someone at some level should want to share all the behind-the-scenes secrets, trivia, and odds-and-ends. Thus, when this came to be on Trek I, I was delighted. Alas, this serving by Okuda is a bit weak. While he continues on with a multitude of trivia, it doesn't seem as complete or thorough (or interesting) as what he presented in his previous two efforts. Nonetheless, this is still a valued and cherished bonus item.
• "Terraforming and The Prime Directive" (25.5 minutes): This segment mostly focuses on the real-life philosophical and ethical implications of a Genesis device. In making it a reality-based discussion, the speakers focus on potentially altering Mars for colonization and the possible ramifications. While a mildly interesting discourse, it is a bit dry and boring (and I've already seen better discussions on NOVA). I applaud the effort to bring reality into the mix, but as this is your first menu choice, a touch more Trek is needed (or perhaps it should have fallen lower in the menu). Again, there is also some horrid photography as someone felt the need for us to be able to count the pores on our interviewees' faces.
• Original Theatrical Trailer: It wouldn't be so bad if they hadn't revealed major plot points! Why do studios insist on ruining movies via the trailer?
• Archives: You have two choices from here, to see either storyboards or photos.
—Storyboards: This is standard fare offering, yet I liked it since it showed some the original ideas on some sequences. You can choose to see the following scenes: "Main Titles," "The Klingons Attack" , "Entering Spacedock," "Search for Life," "Finding Spock," "Destruction of Grisson," "Stealing the Enterprise," "Self Destruct," "Kirk Fights Kruge," and "The Katra Ritual."
—Photos: I'm not a big fan of photo galleries so I quickly perused the two categories: production and movie. They both do offer a few pics I've never seen before, which adds a little more value to the Trekkie.
• "Captain's Log" (25 minutes): This featurette really meanders across a multitude of topics, and this is where you'll find the actual interviews where the audio was snagged for the commentary tracks. Hence, this one gets a bit repetitive. And, if you don't understand Shatner's sense of humor, he'll come across as the biggest egomaniac of all time.
• The Star Trek Universe: Broken down into three sequences:
—"Space Docks and Birds of Prey" (27 minutes): This sequence talks about the new models that the special effects' team was able to build for this film. In this movie, they were given an opportunity to expand the Trek universe, so they wanted to have fun. Unfortunately, this piece rambles on too much about filmmaking in general instead of focusing on Trek.
—"Speaking Klingon" (21 minutes): Perhaps my favorite bonus item is this clip that highlights Marc Okrand and his efforts to expand upon the Klingon (and Vulcan) language(s) previously introduced during Trek I and II. I know Marc does a lot of conventions, thus I imagine his bit here is very similar to what he does on the road. Still, I found it fun and informative how he decided to create a fake language and often had to modify it on the fly to account for the way in which the actors actually spoke it.
—"Klingon and Vulcan Costumes" (12 minutes): One of the original seamstresses from the first two films talks about the detail and hard work that went into creating the costumes for these two alien races. It's mildly informative, but she uses the word "beautiful" just a touch too much.
• Star Trek: Nemesis Teaser Trailer: I think this trailer is awesome, which really raises my hopes for a great tenth film.
• Easter Egg: Hidden somewhere on the second disc is a six and a half minute segment that talks a bit more about the models and props from the film.

With all of that taken care of, I would like to congratulate Paramount for finally doing something right with these re-releases: the menus. With each new release, the Trek menus are truly getting better and better. Trek I was a pathetic attempt at a navigation system, which you didn't even see unless you pressed the menu button (I personally don't like it when you pop in a disc and it goes right to the movie). Trek II was a solid step in the right direction, yet there wasn't a lot of diversity or animation in the menus. However, in Trek III, you have excellent menus with details, motion, and animation. If they continue to progress at this rate, the menus for Trek IX should be staggering!

And now that I said such a nice thing about Paramount, I think I'll retract some of it with a reminder of the stupidity that also emanates from that studio. There is no excuse for these re-releases. Paramount is simply taking absolute granted of the fans of the series by first releasing a pathetic batch of movie-only discs and then finally granting us with what we deserved in the first place. As always, shame on you Paramount! Hang your head in disgrace for plotting out such a malicious and vile act against your truest fans. We have been with you for years supporting this franchise and yet you treat us with constant disdain. Obviously, we're nothing but dollar signs to you. One day, this will all come back to haunt you. Re-release after re-release, bare-bones disc after bare-bones disc, your contempt is apparent and will be your undoing. Additionally, we are not children. Stop treating us like idiots. We know the FBI rules and we do not need to be forced to watch all of the multitudes of legalese and disclaimers before your movies! Let us skip them. Every other studio does; why not you?

Because the needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many.
—Kirk

The Rebuttal Witnesses

You want reality? This is fantasy!
—Uhura

This is Star Trek, the most played-out franchise is the history of entertainment. There is nothing original or fresh or exciting left in the pathetic attempt to rake in a few more dollars from this tired escape. Beyond that, we all know that the odd-numbered movies blow chunky salsa, so any inclination anyone would have in the first place to see this geek-fest would do better, if so desperate, to watch any of the even-numbered ones. Live long and propeller!

Closing Statement

Why that green-blooded son of a bitch. It's his revenge for all those arguments he lost.
—McCoy

It's Star Trek. You already know whether you like it or not, so little of what I say is going to sway you to jump on the bandwagon at this point in time. From my point-of-view as a Trekkie, this disc is a no-brainer and an absolute purchase (even if it is a double-dip). If you're a newbie to all this, then I've thoroughly ruined this movie for you by revealing all of the plot details; and, if you do exist, then I apologize. By chance that you haven't watched this movie in some time, then go out and give it a rental. Seeing it after all this time will remind you that not all of the odd-numbered movies are truly as bad as the "curse" would lead you to believe. There is much to praise in this film, and the bonus materials, while somewhat iffy, do add a nice complement to the set.

The Verdict

I intend to recommend you all for promotion, in whatever fleet we end up serving.
—Kirk

As a result of the studio's continued reliance on the double-dip, Paramount is hereby sentenced to five years for their unrelenting abuse of their power in the Trek hierarchy. Sentenced is reduced to time-served for actually producing a DVD of respectable quality.

Case adjourned.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 83
Audio: 85
Extras: 90
Acting: 90
Story: 85
Judgment: 90

Perp Profile

Studio: Paramount
Video Formats:
• 2.35:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
Subtitles:
• English
Running Time: 105 Minutes
Release Year: 1984
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
Genres:
• Science Fiction
• Star Trek

Distinguishing Marks

• Audio Commentary with Leonard Nimoy, Harve Bennett, Robin Curtis, and Charles Correll
• Text Commentary by Michael and Denise Okuda
• Terraforming and The Prime Directive
• Archives: Storyboards and Photos
• Captain's Log
• Space Docks and Birds of Prey
• Speaking Klingon
• Klingon and Vulcan Costumes
• Original Theatrical Trailer
• Teaser Trailer for Star Trek: Nemesis
• Easter Egg

Accomplices

• IMDb
• Official Site
• TrekWeb
• The Bible
• Genesis








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