Wed, 06 Dec 2023

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (4K UHD)

Director: Leonard Nimoy
Screenplay: Harve Bennett
Stars: William Shatner (Adm. James T. Kirk), DeForest Kelley (Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy), James Doohan (Cmdr. Montgomery 'Scotty' Scott), George Takei (Cmdr. Hikaru Sulu), Walter Koenig (Cmdr. Pavel Chekov), Nichelle Nichols (Cmdr. Uhura), Mark Lenard (Ambassador Sarek), Merritt Butrick (Dr. David Marcus), Judith Anderson (High Priestess T'Lar), Robin Curtis (Lieutenant Saavik), Christopher Lloyd (Cmdr. Kruge), Leonard Nimoy (Captain Spock)

MPAA Rating: PG
Year of Release: 1984
Country: U.S.
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock 4K UHD

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock

Following on the heels of the grandly operatic Star Trek II: The Wrath of the Khan (1982), Star Trek III: The Search for Spock feels like it is practically crawling. While in no sense a bad movie, Star Trek III is, nonetheless, something of a let-down, a longwinded paean to the grandeur of Leonard Nimoy's famous Vulcan character, which shouldn't come as much of a surprise since Nimoy directed it.

As a first-time feature film director, Nimoy proves to be capable, although still decidedly wet behind the ears. Having been with Star Trek since it began as a TV show in the late 1960s, Nimoy had an intuitive understanding of the material that neither of the previous Star Trek movie directors, Robert Wise and Nicholas Meyer, had. Yet, that actually turns out to be something of a deficit, as both Wise and Meyer brought something new and fresh to the Star Trek universe without losing its core ideas or what makes it so appealing to its legions of fans. Wise brought a (perhaps too) stately elegance to Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), while Meyer brought a sensibility of fun and melodramatic intensity that made Wrath of Khan the best of the bunch. Nimoy wrests The Search for Spock back into a more analytical mode, treating everything with a humorless sincerity that pleases some and bores others.

At the end of Wrath of Khan, Spock had sacrificed himself to save the Starship Enterprise. It is a loss that is still deeply felt by the Enterprise crew, especially its commander, Admiral James T. Kirk (William Shatner), who was also Spock's best friend. However, we learn that Spock, being a Vulcan, has not died in the simple, mundane sense in which humans die. Rather, prior to sacrificing himself, he "mind melded" with Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy (DeForest Kelley), thus imparting his spirit into McCoy's mind (of course, the beautiful irony of this is that the cold, logical Spock is the natural intellectual enemy of the sentimental, liberal McCoy). Therefore, Kirk and company must find a way to get back to the planet Genesis, which was created in Wrath of Khan and became the resting place for Spock's material body, and reunite body and spirit.

The twist here is that Kirk and the others become renegades. The bureaucratic know-nothings of the Federation don't feel this is a legitimate cause, and Kirk must essentially hijack the Enterprise, damaged and crippled as it is from the battles with Khan, to get to Genesis. There are other problems as well, notably a renegade group of Klingons (see the nice parallelism laid by writer Harve Bennett?) led by Kruge (Christopher Lloyd), who have their sights set on stealing the Genesis Device and undermining on-going peace negotiations between Klingons and the Federation.

Although the film includes several action sequences, including a stupendously ridiculous battle to the death between Kirk and Kruge on a self-destructing planet that has turned into a fiery inferno, Star Trek III never quite establishes its footing and subsequently never gets on a roll. We keep waiting for something truly awe-inspiring to happen, particularly since the film is built around mystical notions of spirituality and rebirth; unfortunately, it remains mired in its own self-importance. Star Trek: The Motion Picture had many of the same problems, but Nimoy isn't half the director Robert Wise was and he isn't working with the same level of awe-inspiring special effects.

In the end, "The Search for Spock" is completed and it turns out just as we suspected it would. There is a brief rush of emotion as the crew is reunited, and for fans in the mid-1980s, it probably felt even sweeter as it was proof-positive that the series would go on, despite stated intentions that this film would conclude a trilogy. Of course, now that we know that it has gone on ... and on ... and on, the reunion doesn't have quite the same kick.

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock 4K UHD + Blu-ray + Digital
Aspect Ratio2.35:1

  • English Dolby TrueHD 7.1 surround
  • French Dolby Digital 2.0 surround
  • German Dolby TrueHD 2.0 surround
  • Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 surround
  • Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
  • Subtitles English, English SDH, French, German, Japanese, Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish

  • Audio commentary by director Leonard Nimoy, writer/producer Harve Bennett, director of photography Charles Correll, and Robin Curtis
  • Audio commentary by Ronald D. Moore and Michael Taylor
  • "Library Computer" interactive feature
  • "Captain's Log" featurette
  • "Terraforming and the Prime Directive" featurette
  • "Industrial Light & Magic: The Visual Effects of Star Trek" featurette
  • "Spock: The Early Years" featurette
  • "Space Docks and Birds of Prey" featurette
  • "Speaking Klingon" featurette
  • "Klingon and Vulcan Costumes" featurette
  • "Star Trek and the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame" featurette
  • "Starfleet Academy SCISEC Brief 003: Mystery Behind the Vulcan Katra Transfer" featurette
  • Photo galleries
  • Storyboards
  • Theatrical trailer
  • DistributorParmount Home Entertainment
    Release DateSeptember 7, 2021

    It would be quite the understatement to say that fans have been chomping at the bit for the Star Trek films to finally get the fully remastered 4K treatment, and while it seems like the wait has been interminable, I can say that it has been worth it. The first four films in the series, included in this eight-disc box set (each film is on a 4K UHD disc and a Blu-ray, with all the non-commentary supplements on the Blu-ray discs), are generally outstanding, with the best video and audio presentation the films have ever seen on any home video format. I should note up front that this set only includes the theatrical cut of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, although it is widely known that Paramount is busy prepping a separate release for 2022 that will include both the theatrical version and the Director's Cut in remastered 4K. This set includes both the theatrical cut and Director's Cut of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan via seamless branching.

    Each film has been newly scanned in 4K from the original 35mm camera negatives and master interpositive elements, restored, and color graded for High Dynamic Range (HDR). The results are uniformly fantastic, with all four films boasting better sharpness, depth, and detail than previous releases and without some of the problematic noise reduction that marred earlier Blu-rays (notably Star Trek: The Motion Picture, although the other films also suffered from digital smoothing that removed some of the image density and resulted in a less film-like appearance.). Film grain is present throughout and beautifully rendered to create a genuinely filmlike experience that looks gorgeous in motion. There are some inconsistencies in the image, notably some softer shots here and there and notable matte lines in the visual effects shots, but these are all inherent to the source material. Colors look bold and beautiful (note, for example, the intense swirling hues in the nebula in Wrath of Khan), and darker scenes hold up well. Colors on all three movies are excellent throughout, with strong blacks and often stunning detail. All four films appear to include the same Dolby TrueHD 7.1-channel surround soundtracks that were originally created for the 2009 Blu-ray releases. I can see why they didn't create new mixes, because these are pretty incredible already, immersing you in both the orchestral scores and the various space battles. Surround effects are consistently impressive, especially during the shoot-outs in The Wrath of Khan and The Search for Spock.

    All of the supplements have been ported over from previous DVD and Blu-ray releases.

    Library Computer

    The "Library Computer" is an interactive experience that allows you to access information about the Star Trek universe while watching the film. The Blu-Ray creates a frame around the film with constantly shifting icons that represent different categories of information related to whatever is on screen at that moment: Culture, Science & Medicine, Starfleet Ops, Life Forms, Planets & Locations, People, Technology, Ships, and Miscellaneous. At any given point there can be six or seven of these icons available for clicking, and you also have access at all times to an Index that includes every term in the computer.

    Audio commentary by director Leonard Nimoy, writer/producer Harve Bennett, director of photography Charles Correll, and actress Robin Curtis

    The four participants in this screen-specific audio commentary were recorded separately and then edited together, but it is clearly dominated by director Leonard Nimoy and writer/producer Harve Bennett, who together offer a great deal of insight and detail into the making of the film and how it fits into the larger Star Trek universe. Cinematographer Charles Correll does have some interesting things to say about the film's visual look, but one has to wonder why exactly actress Robin Curtis was included, as she doesn't have a great deal to offer beyond a few amusing anecdotes and a lot of enthusiasm for having participated in the film.

    Audio commentary by Ronald D. Moore and Michael Taylor

    Moore and Taylor had nothing whatsoever to do with the production of Star Trek III, but both have plenty of experiences in the Trek universe (Moore was executive producer of The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager, as well as cowriter of the movies Star Trek: Generations and Star Trek: First Contact, while Taylor was a story editor and wrote numerous episodes for Deep Space Nine and Voyager). Between them they have a wealth of knowledge, which is what they bring to their commentary, casually but intelligently discussing the events and details of The Search for Spock in relation to the larger narrative universe.

    "Industrial Light & Magic: The Visual Effects of Star Trek" featurette

    This excellent 14-minute featurette looks back at the practical effects achieved by the always impressive ILM team for Star Trek II, III, IV, and VI, which included model work, practical explosives, and such creative low-tech techniques as melting Styrofoam and burning steel wool. The featurette includes interviews with visual effects supervisors Scott Farrar and Bill George, visual effects director of photography Pat Sweeney, and digital model artist John Goodson, all of whom clearly love talking about their craft.

    "Spock: The Early Years" featurette

    In this 6-minute interview, Stephen Manly, who played Spock at age 17 in the movie, discusses his experiences being cast as a younger version of Leonard Nimoy, getting to be the first actor to fully enact the notorious Pon Farr, and his subsequent popularity with female fans at various Trek conventions.

    "Star Trek and the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame" featurette

    The title of this 17-minute featurette is a bit misleading because it has little to do with Seattle's Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame, which is simply a backdrop for a wide-ranging interview with writer/producer Harve Bennett by Seattle Times pop culture writer Mark Rahner. Bennett has some interesting things to share and, at his advanced age, clearly has no problem taking full credit for resurrecting the franchise. Near the end of the featurette there is a brief interview with Jacob McMurray and John Brooks Peck, the curators at the museum.

    "Starfleet Academy SCISEC Brief 003: Mystery Behind the Vulcan Katra Transfer" featurette

    As on the other new Star Trek Blu-rays, this rather silly faux training film is little more than two minutes of filler.

    Captain's Log

    This 26-minute look back at the film's production includes video interviews with director Leonard Nimoy, writer/producer Harve Bennett, stars William Shatner, Christopher Lloyd, and Robin Curtis, associate producer Ralph Winter, and cinematographer Charles Correll. By far the two best moments in the featurette are when Shatner declares that he taught Nimoy everything he knew about directing and when he tells the story of how he single-handedly saved the set from burning down. The joy in watching Shatner is that it is impossible--absolutely impossible--to tell if he's serious or joking in his self-aggrandizement. A real pleasure.

    The Star Trek Universe

    The section is divided into three meaty featurettes, each of which focuses on a different aspect of the film's production. Space Docks and Birds of Prey focuses on the film's special effects and rounds up interviews with a host of behind-the-scenes people, including spacecraft designer Bill George, modelmaker Steve Gauley, and visual effects cameraman Scott Farrar, who gives a lengthy and informative explanation of the blue-screen process. If there's a theme here, it's that special effects were a helluva lot harder in 1983 than they are now. In Speaking Klingon, I was surprised to learn that the Klingon language was invented for Star Trek III. Not knowing much about Star Trek, I had somehow been under the impression that the language dated back to the original series. In this 21-minute featurette, linguist Mark Orkrand explains how he created the Klingon language from scratch, building off other languages and incorporating various mistakes made by the actors into its grammar. Klingon and Vulcan Costumes is the shortest of the three, running only 12 minutes in length. It features jewelry designer Maggie Schpack and costume designer Robert Fletcher discussing their work on the film and also includes numerous costume sketches and photographs of the props.

    Terraforming and the Prime Directive

    If you're looking for a little Discovery Channel in your Star Trek experience, here it is. Running 26 minutes in length, this featurette focuses on the scientific realities of terraforming, mostly concentrated on turning Mars into a habitable planet (this is connected to Star Trek via the fictional Genesis Project). It includes intriguing interviews with Dr. Louis Friedman, executive director of The Planetary Society, NASA research scientist Chris McKay, and sci-fi author David Brin, who offers a compelling discussion of the power of science fiction to effect change in society. While it might seem a little "out there," this featurette is definitely worth watching, if only to remind ourselves that science fiction often becomes science reality.


    This section is divided into storyboards and photos. The storyboards section contains dozens of storyboards of 10 major sequences in the film, and the photos section is divided into 25 production and behind-the-scenes photos and 26 stills from the movie.

    Original theatrical trailer

    Copyright © 2021 James Kendrick

    Thoughts? E-mail James Kendrick

    All images copyright © Paramount Home Entertainment

    Overall Rating: (2.5)


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