There’s Klingons on the Starboard Bow, Starboard Bow, Jim

Continuing my Star Trek movie rewatch, here are my thoughts on the third and fourth ones. If you missed the first two, you can find them here.


The Search for Spock – I don’t think this one has a particularly good reputation, but I don’t think it’s a bad film so much as rather uneventful, more just an attempt to tie up loose ends from the last movie than anything else. The power of the Genesis Project has brought Spock back to life, but he’s aging rapidly, as is the planet itself. And there really isn’t that much searching for Spock, as David Marcus and Saavik come across him when they’re not even looking. Saavik is the Vulcan who was played by Kirstie Alley in the previous film, but now she’s Robin Curtis instead. I’m not sure her role here is significant enough that they really needed to do a recast, but it’s what they did anyway. It’s heavily implied that she has sex with the growing Spock, who’s going through pon farr.

A group of Klingons wants to learn about Genesis, citing its potential as a weapon. Their leader Commander Kruge is played by Christopher Lloyd, a somewhat odd casting choice to my mind. Another one of them is John Larroquette, which I totally didn’t notice while watching. Also, Kruge has a cool dog-monster-thing, which unfortunately dies during the course of the movie.

Meanwhile, Spock’s mind meld with Dr. McCoy is driving him crazy, so Kirk steals his old ship to return to Genesis and retrieve his comrade’s body. Not that this makes any particular sense, as McCoy had earlier said he wanted to go to Vulcan, and none of the crew yet knows that Spock’s body has regenerated. Or did the mind meld somehow let McCoy know this? There’s a scene in a bar where he tries to charter a flight to Genesis from an alien with big ears who talks like Yoda. While I don’t think he belongs to any established species, I have to wonder if his big ears and profit motive mark him as a sort of proto-Ferengi.

Anyway, Kruge’s men kill David, and Kirk sets the ship to self-destruct with some of the Klingons on board, then fights Kruge himself on Genesis. Kirk and the crew take over the Klingon ship, which they take back to Vulcan to have Spock restored. They still have to face charges for breaking Starfleet regulations, but that has to wait for the next film.


The Voyage Home – There’s a sort of similarity to the first movie here in that something from space is harming the Earth without intending to, and the solution relates to what was the present when the movie was made. It’s much better implemented here, though. A pod is searching for humpback whales, which went extinct in the twenty-first century (possibly during the Trump administration). Kirk and his crew find this out while returning to Earth in the Klingon ship, and Kirk just casually decides to go back in time. I guess it’s old hat by this point, as they’d apparently used the slingshot effect to visit the twentieth century in two episodes of the series. As such, it incorporates an environmental message about the dangers of hunting animals to extinction, as well as some fish-out-of-water humor with the crew trying to get along in San Francisco of 1986.

In addition to finding whales, the visitors from the future also have to construct a tank for them and retrieve some photons from an aircraft carrier. We get such entertaining scenes as Spock attempting to curse and nerve pinching an annoying punk with a boombox, and Chekov repeatedly asking about “nuclear wessels.” Russian doesn’t actually have a W sound, and I don’t think he pronounces his first name “Pawel,” but it’s still funny. It’s also made pretty clear that the Federation no longer uses money in the twenty-third century, even though there were a few mentions of cost or price in the earlier movies. I guess that doesn’t necessarily mean currency as we know it, though. Since the Klingon ship has a cloaking device, they’re at least able to keep it invisible while going on these errands. The whales turn out to be under the care of biologist Gillian Taylor, played by Catherine Hicks. She and Stephen Collins, who was in The Motion Picture, later portrayed a married couple on 7th Heaven, which is kind of a weird Trek connection. She ends up going to the twenty-third century with Kirk and the whales, arguing that she knew about them and could take care of them. I’m not sure how necessary this is when we know Vulcans can mind-meld with whales, but I can totally accept the desire to relocate to a space-faring future.

Although the whales successfully communicate with the probe, I don’t suppose they’ll last much longer as a species with only two individuals. Yes, the female is pregnant, but the offspring wouldn’t have a non-relative to mate with. Does cloning exist in the Trek universe? The crew is cleared of most of the charges against them, but Kirk is demoted back to captain. It’s not really a punishment for him, however, as he gets back command of a ship, the Enterprise-A. So essentially, these two films brought back Spock and restored Kirk to captain of the Enterprise, mostly restoring the status quo.

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