Film: Star Trek III: The Search for Spock

Sulu: The word, sir?
Kirk: The word is no. I am therefore going anyway.

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock is the third movie in the Star Trek film series, released in 1984.

Incoming Late-Arrival Spoiler: in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Spock was killed, meant to be Killed Off for Real. But Nimoy changed his mind and decided he didn't want to leave the series, as working on that film was such a great experience. Thus room was left at the very end of that film for him to come back, and this film was all about this. Spock himself sat in the director's chair this time and did so again for the fourth film.

You see, Spock put his katra into McCoy before he died, so now the good doctor is Sharing a Body with the late Science Officer. Now, if only Spock's body could be raised as well. No wait, his body landed on the Genesis Planet, so now it's a living empty shell! The Rapid Aging down there means he has to repeatedly go through Vulcan PMS and Mate or Die. Fortunately, Saavik happens to be there. Now, the obvious thing would be to reunite Spock's body and soul, but the Obstructive Bureaucrats say no. The crew sets off for Genesis anyway, of course, where the Klingons are waiting, headed by Commander Kruge.

Not actually that bad considering the whole plot is just a vehicle for bringing Spock back. In particular, the scene where the crew steals the Enterprise from spacedock, leaving the newfangled Excelsior and its smug captain in the proverbial dust, is awesome. Overall it's probably best classified as So Okay, It's Average, and about the only Star Trek film that no-one really admits to loving or hatingnote .

Oh yeah, the Enterprise goes down in a ball of flame in her final "F&#$ YOU" to the Klingons.

Tropes seen in The Search for Spock include:

  • Accent Upon The Wrong Syllable: This is the first Star Trek production to feature the full Klingon language, and so a lot of the word pronunciations are different to how they would sound in TNG onwards — for example, listen to how Kruge says Qapla' (with a more phonetic sound) just before Torg's boarding party leaves for the Enterprise. The most common explanation for this among fans is that Kruge just has an odd regional accent.
  • Aliens Speaking English: Although the Klingons are shown speaking their own language at first, for simplicity's sake they speak English to each other for the majority of the film. Only Kruge and Maltz are shown to actually be able to speak English though. This becomes a brief plot point when the Klingon troopers board the Enterprise and don't recognise the computer counting down from 9...8...7...6...5...4...3...2...1....
    • It was also referenced that this was modeled after World War I French naval traditions, when officers would speak English amongst themselves while the crew spoke French, so the officers could communicate amongst themselves about matters of urgency or a sensitive nature.
      • Inverted when Kirk imitates Kruge's Klingon command to beam someone up.
  • All There in the Manual: Kruge's Bird of Prey has more in common style-wise with a Romulan ship (bird like) versus a Klingon ship (boxy and utilitarian). As a way to use Prop Recycling in the original series an episode suggested a brief Klingon / Romulan treaty where they shared technology and ship designs; it allowed them to represent the Romulans by using a (previously made) Klingon D-7 cruiser. This brief alliance (the two factions are later very antagonistic to each other) is also the source of Klingon cloaking technology and the Bird of Prey ship design first seen in this movie. Incidentally, that ship style became far more recognizable as a Klingon vessel later in the franchise.
    • Word of God is that a dropped plot point from the movie would have been that Kruge stole this prototype bird-of-prey from the Romulans.
    • There's also Word of God that the initial plan was for the villains to be Romulans. In other words, the movie went from 'Romulans using a cool new Romulan starship' over 'Klingons using a stolen cool new Romulan starship' to 'Klingons using an oddly Romulan-style (including cloak and name) cool new Klingon starship' in the final movie. This changing of the plans for the movie had an enduring effect on Klingon design aesthetic for the remainder of the franchise.
    • The novelization reveals that Saavik and David became lovers after the events of Star Trek II, making his murder doubly tragic and his sacrifice even more meaningful (he gives his life to save the woman he loves when he realizes the Klingon is about to kill her).
    • Sulu's comments about how awesome the Excelsior is, as well as Scotty calling her a piece of junk, were part of a subplot concerning Sulu being promoted to Captain of the Excelsior (Styles was in command temporarily until Sulu returned from the training mission). Scotty's comments were good-natured ribbing at Sulu, saying that the new ship was a lemon.
  • And the Adventure Continues: The end caption is exactly these words.
  • Asshole Victim: The Excelsior
  • Avengers Assemble: The scene where the crew get back together and beam aboard the Enterprise.
  • Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other:
    • Spock and Sarek were always at odds with each other, but when T'Lar questions Sarek's logic in resurrecting Spock through fal-tor-pan, Sarek answers "Forgive me, T'Lar. My logic is uncertain where my son is concerned."
    • The same goes for Bones and Spock, but the former gives a quiet little speech to Spock's body that he missed him while the latter was dead.
  • Back from the Dead: Read the title.
  • Bad Boss: Kruge. See Even Evil Has Standards below.
  • Battle Amongst the Flames: Kirk vs. Kruge as Genesis rapidly collapses during the film's climax.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Uhura says this word for word to her adventure-seeking co-worker in the transporter room, moments before shoving him in a closet while she beams the crew to the Enterprise.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Yeah they get Spock back, but Kirk loses his son David and destroys the Enterprise in the process, and leaving the fate of himself and his immediate crew in serious doubt.
  • Blown Across the Room: On the Genesis planet, when Kirk shoots a Klingon with a phaser.
  • Body Horror: Spock's Rapid Aging is not a pleasant thing to watch. And the screams he yells out adds more to the effect of what is happening to him.
  • Book Ends: In the previous film, Spock died to save the Enterprise; in this film, Kirk destroys the Enterprise to save Spock.
    • Also in this film Kirk refers to the others as "My Friends" as they commit themselves to risk everything to save Spock, and again in the next film directly after the resulting trial.
  • Broken Aesop: But replaced in a good way. Sometimes the needs of the one actually outweigh the needs of the many.
  • Call Back: Several:
    • The destruct sequence used is the same one mentioned in the TOS episode "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield".
    • And of course Spock at the end repeating his dying words from the end of Star Trek II.
    • A bit of a Brick Joke also: in Wrath of Khan, after the Kobayashi Maru scenario, Kirk asserts that Klingons do not take prisoners. In this film, Kruge ordered the attack on the Grissom with the specific aim of taking prisoners.
      • Since they destroy the Grissom by accident, possibly they don't get enough practice at it?
      • Worf and other Klingons later state that Klingons don't take hostages - keep in mind, Kruge was a renegade Klingon.
      • Also keep in mind that Worf's idea of what Klingons are supposed to do often contrasts with what Klingons actually do.
    • In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Bones growled at Spock, "You green-blooded, inhuman..." In III, he gets to complete the insult.
    • Some of the patrons at the bar have tribbles.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Where did Carol Marcus go between Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and this movie?
    • The Novelization deals with her, as well as the Novelization of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Short story: she spends most of the time in a Heroic BSODnote .
  • Casual Danger Dialogue: While Kirk and Kruge are fighting hand to hand on the rapidly disintegrating genesis planet, Kirk shouts that they'll both die if they don't help each other to escape. Kruge eagerly agrees and calls it exhilarating (since dying while fighting a worthy foe is the most awesome thing a Klingon could ever wish for).
  • Comic Book Adaptation: DC Comics adapted the film, though fans would have to wait until the 2010s for the first part of the trilogy (Wrath of Khan) to be made into a comic book.
  • Continuity Nod: Saavik is left hanging on the Genesis planet because Captain Esteban (of the Grissom) wants to do things "by the book". Having learned that lesson last movie, she's almost a Phrase Catcher, there.
  • Cool Starship:
    • Subverted with the cool-looking, but utterly useless science vessel Grissom, and the Excelsior, which was intended to be an obnoxious too-modern contrast to the good old Enterprise. Gets Rescued from the Scrappy Heap a few movies later when Sulu is in the center seat.
    • Played straight with the utterly badass Klingon Bird-Of-Prey, and the Enterprise, of course (battle damage be damned).
  • Critical Staffing Shortage: Scotty has Jerry-rigged the ship to operate with only five crew. The Enterprise is supposed to have a crew of hundreds. At least the automation breaks down later. Scotty says "The automation system's overloaded. I didn't expect to take us into combat, ya know...!" It's understandable that simply moving in a straight line could be done with a far smaller crew than usually necessary.
  • Darker and Edgier: The chief reason, according to Harve Bennett, that the next film had to be Lighter and Softer.
  • David Versus Goliath:
    • The undermanned, still-battle-damaged Enterprise is basically The Little Starship That Could compared to the big, menacing Excelsior.
    • This was Kruge's gambit when firing upon the Enterprise when they first meet over the Genesis planet. He is convinced that he is outgunned "ten to one" and is flabbergasted that the Enterprise didn't finish him off after the opening salvo. He doesn't realize that one shot was enough to disable her completely.
  • The Day the Music Lied: The Transwarp sequence has all of these awesome, booming drums and trumpets as it's getting ready to pull off the maneuver and the second the order is given to "execute", it dies out except for the sounds of strings that you can barely hear within the malfunctioning computer.
  • Death Is Cheap: Undoubtedly the filmmakers must have known that once they decided to bring back Spock that it would undermine the emotion of his Heroic Sacrifice from the previous film and with it the theme of how despite his greatness Kirk can't always save everyone, which would probably explain why they killed off Kirk's son David, in order to balance out Spock's return and retain the theme of Kirk's fallibility.
  • Demoted to Extra: Uhura, for most of the film. Mind you, her big scene in the transporter room is pretty awesome, but there is literally no reason for it ending with her being left behind other then that they didn't need her character for the rest of the film. The previous film, when everyone beams from Regula I to the caves inside Regula while leaving no one behind, shows that transporters can be operated on a time delay. This very film later also shows this, as none of the Enterprise crew remain behind when they beam off (while simultaneously beaming the Klingons aboard) before Enterprise's self-destruct. So there is no reason Uhura couldn't have put a short time delay on the transporter and joined everyone else on their mission to Genesis. (Fortunately, The Bus Comes Back just before the end of this film, so that she can be along for the next one.) The film's novelization gives Uhura a little more to do, as she scrambles Starfleet's communication channels during the Enterprise theft, hightails it to the Vulcan embassy on Terra, and joins Sarek in convincing the Vulcan government to pre-emptively grant Kirk and crew asylum there, instead of just handing them over to Starfleet authorities when they arrive.
  • Disney Villain Death: See Punctuated Pounding and/or Take My Hand below for more details.
  • Dramatic Sit-Down: Kirk stumbles backward in shock when his son is killed, missing the command chair.
    Kirk: "You Klingon bastards, you killed my son." (Kirk tries to sit, missing the command chair entirely) "You Klingon bastards, you killed my son!"
    • This is a famous example of a Throw It In. By the script, Kirk was supposed to sit down in the captain's chair, but Shatner missed it. He stayed in character to deliver his lines, and Nimoy (who was directing this time out) felt the result was too powerful not to put into the finished movie.
  • Earth-Shattering Kaboom: Genesis Planet shattering kaboom, anyway.
  • '80s Hair: Robin Curtis' (Saavik) bouffant-like perm/mullet hairstyle.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Kruge shoots his gunner and calls him an animal after he explains his destruction of the Grissom as "a lucky shot".
  • Face Death with Dignity: Valkris makes no attempt to beg for her life or flee when she realizes Kruge is going to kill her for seeing the Genesis data.
    Captain: What's going on?! When do I get paid?
    Valkris: (coolly with no sarcasm whatsoever) Soon, Captain.
    • Saavik, knowing that the Klingons are going to execute her, doesn't even blink until David performs his Heroic Sacrifice and dies in her place.
  • Family-Unfriendly Death: David getting stabbed in the throat has a Nothing Is Scarier feel because of the Gory Discretion Shot.
  • Fanservice Extra: All the female Vulcan acolytes during the Fal-Tor-Pan ritual are wearing... somewhat sheer outfits, and apparently no bra from the looks of it.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Let's face it, when your movie is called The Search For Spock, it's not going to end with Admiral Kirk turning to the viewers and saying "Sorry folks, we didn't find him". As William Shatner put it, if they had done so, "people would have thrown rocks at the screen."
  • Foreshadowing: Sulu seems to admire Excelsior. He would eventually become its Captain.
    • It's Harsher in Hindsight if you read the novelization: Sulu was supposed to take command of the Excelsior following the training mission from the previous film (he had only taken the helm as a personal favor to Kirk) and his actions in helping Spock mean that he is denied his promotion until several years later as punishment.
  • Give Me a Reason: After Kruge executes a mook for failing him, his first officer asks for his attention while he's still in full bloodlust mode.
    Kruge: Say the wrong thing, Torg!!
    • Kruge quickly cools off when Torg points out there are people on the planet that could be taken prisoner. This appeases Kruge and prevents him from killing his apparently only competent crew member.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: David is stabbed to death behind a bush.
    • Averted to hell and back with the gunner who destroyed the Grissom. While there is no gore, we see him burn to death from the inside out.
  • Hell-Bent for Leather: The uniforms worn by Kruge and his men look like they were designed by Gene Simmons.
  • Heroic BSOD: Kirk when his son David is killed and arguably again with a literal My God, What Have I Done? while watching the wreck of the Enterprise burning up in the Genesis planet's atmosphere
    • This entire movie is a long string of HeroicBSODs for Kirk. He started the movie with the one he suffered from Spock's death in Wrath of Khan, had a short one when he heard the Enterprise was due for decommission, and the above mentioned two. Kirk's really earning the happy ending, and facing down situations he's so used to cheating his way out of.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: David.
  • Hey, That's My Line!:
    Big-Eared Alien: To your planet, welcome!
    Bones: I believe that's my line, stranger.
  • How Many Fingers?: "That's not very damn funny."
  • I Am X, Son of Y: "McCoy, Leonard H., son of David."
  • I Am Your Opponent: Kruge, to Kirk.
    • Literally a line in the movie: "Admiral Kirk. This is your opponent speaking!"
  • I Lied: When the captured Maltz declares he doesn't deserve to live, Kirk promises to kill him later (let's get away from the exploding planet first). When Maltz demands he make good on it, Kirk has him taken away.
  • In the Original Klingon: This was the film that began the Klingon Dictionary, when Marc Okrand was brought on to create a language based on some of the brief Klingon improvised by James Doohan in Star Trek The Motion Picture.
  • Invisibility Cloak: While cloaking technology was used in The Original Series, this movie gave it the ripple effect that has greatly influenced the way around Visible Invisibility in media. Although, here it is a plot point as Kirk recognizes something is wrong when they reach the Genesis Planet and was able to visually point out where the ship was.
  • We Will Find You: the point of the entire film.
  • Large Ham: Shatner with a side of Lloyd, which leads to...
  • Lethal Lava Land: What the Genesis planet gradually turns into as it decays.
  • Little "No": Echoed from the previous movie, when Sarek leads Kirk (or vice versa) through the memory of Spock's death.
  • MAD: Star Bleech III: The Search for Plot.
  • Magic Countdown: The Enterprise's 60-second countdown to self-destruct lasts 100 seconds on-screen, and even that is compressed to exclude people moving around.
    • Possibly a Shout-Out to the previous film, as Khan's countdown was similarly extended, but Khan had valid reasons for extending it (he was fooled into thinking he was about to get valuable technical info handed over), while a computerized countdown shouldn't be altering its time.
  • Mate or Die: Spock, as he's aging up.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: A number of aspects of the movie play with this, even though this is science fiction.
    • Spock's katra (speaking through McCoy), asks why Kirk left him on Genesis. The katra had no obvious way of knowing that Spock's body was there, as he was given a standard space burial. That the torpedo casing soft-landed, and that Genesis regenerated Spock's body, came as a surprise even to David and Saavik when they were investigating the planet. This implies that it was not merely a bunch of transferred memories, but an actual soul with awareness that its body was still alive.
    • When the Vulcan priestess T'Lar begins the fal-tor-pan ritual, lightning dramatically flashes. This could just be a coincidence of timing and the volatile Vulcan weather, or representative of her doing something with larger metaphysical impact than a simple mind meld.
  • "My God, Bones, What Have I Done?"
  • My Greatest Failure: David feels this, on using protomatter for the Genesis matrix.
  • Mythology Gag: The ship's self destruct code from the third season episode "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield".
  • Nerves of Steel: In the Give Me a Reason moment above, Torg calmly explains to Kruge that there are lifesigns on the planet that could mean potential prisoners, placating Kruge. You get the impression he's dealt with such mood swings before.
  • Neuro-Vault: It turns out Spock implanted his soul/essence/memories in McCoy at the end of the previous film, just before his Heroic Sacrifice
    • Considering he didn't expect to be resurrected and have his soul and memories returned to him and the effect it has on McCoy (driving him batshit insane), it was kind of a dick move on Spock's part at the time.
    • This is even lampshaded by McCoy. "That green-blooded son of a bitch! It's his revenge for all the arguments he lost."
    • Presumably, another Vulcan familiar with katra transfers, like his father, was supposed to figure out what he had done after news of Spock's death and McCoy's symptoms reached Vulcan and take custody of the katra, or Spock just didn't know what a half-Vulcan's spirit would do to a human physiology.
    • Another common theory is that Spock's katra upload was supposed to include instructions for McCoy concerning what to do with Spock's body, but McCoy's allergy to mind melds prevented him from understanding the message.
      • The book confirms that McCoy's reaction was uncommon. Seems that he's allergic to mind-melds.
      • "Dammit, I'm a Doctor, not a Tape Recorder!"
  • Never Trust a Trailer: "The final voyage of the Starship Enterprise" indeed.
  • No Name Given: The lieutenant who Uhura drives into the closet is just called "Mr. Adventure" in the credits.
    • Averted in the novelisation - his name there was Lt. Heisenberg.
    • Invoked by Kruge, whose name is never actually spoken in the film, when he refuses to give his name to Kirk.
  • No Sell: Immediately after being almost strangled to death by a mutated snake like creature, Kruge calmly reports to the ship that they haven't found anything significant as of yet.
  • Not Named in Opening Credits: William Shatner. Leonard Nimoy. DeForest Kelley. Rest of the cast. (Lampshaded by a slightly longer than normal gap between when Shatner's name fades and Kelly's appears.)
  • Not So Stoic: Sarek. Despite his differences with Spock, and his own strict Vulcan beliefs, he was still a grieving and anguished father who just lost his son. When he went to pay Kirk a visit, he checked logic at the door and demanded answers. He confessed to the High Priestess of Mount Seleya herself that his logic is "uncertain" where his son is concerned.
  • Now You Tell Me:
    McCoy: Hell of a time to ask.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Admiral Morrow. It's established that he and Kirk are old friends, but Morrow still refuses to help. Kirk is "therefore going anyway".
  • Oh Crap!:
    • When Kruge hears the Self-Destruct Mechanism on the Enterprise counting down, he yells at his men "GET OUT! GET OUT OF THERE! GET OUT!" Too late, though.
    • When Kruge's pet growls loudly as he's walking away, Kruge spins and tells one of the crewmembers, "Feed him!" Cue a frightened look on the crewmember.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted .... Which might have confused casually watching viewers who see a character named David and identified as Kirk's son die, then 20 minutes later hear Bones identify himself as 'McCoy, Leonard; son of David'.
  • The Password Is Always Swordfish: The final password for the self-destruct is 0-0-0-Destruct-0. Granted, it was the fourth password of a set of four, but still.
    • It's implied in the Expanded Universe that 0-0-0-Destruct-1 will cause a slightly different kind of self-destruction.
    • All There in the Manual: There is an official guide book that states that the 1 code would cause what could be described in the TNG era as a warp core breach, with the equivalent destructive force of a very large atomic bomb, potentially obliterating the nearby Klingon ship (i.e., their only means of escape). Also, Scotty said in Star Trek The Motion Picture that such a self-destruct would have a force of 100 megatons. About as much as overloading the impulse engines in "The Doomsday Machine". Destruct-0 "only" sets off charges in the hull to render the ship a useless hulk.
      • Fridge Brilliance: The bridge is destroyed by destructive charges first - which is basically the first part of the ship you'd want destroyed in a hostile situation.
    • Also, they've apparently been using the same password for twenty years. (With voice/biometric authentication as well, but come on.)
  • People Fall Off Chairs: Kirk, a moment after he's blindsided with notification that his son David is dead. The script called for him to slump into his chair, but after a misstep caused Shatner to miss, they changed it for the extra pathos of the normally unflappable Kirk being devastated.
  • Pet The Targ: Captain Kruge, literally, several times.
  • Plot Hole: It's never made clear why Kirk has to go get Spock's body from Genesis, especially because he already has Spock's katra and no way of knowing that Spock's body has been reborn.
  • Precision F-Strike: The scene where David dies.
    • See Sharing a Body, and you'll see McCoy's always had a pretty foul mouth.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: See Punctuated Pounding below. Kirk even kicks the Big Bad off a cliff to boot.
  • Punctuated Pounding: "I... have had... enough of YOU!"
  • Rapid Aging: Said word-for-word by McCoy, about Spock, on the Genesis planet.
  • Reality Ensues: Turns out however awesome the act itself is, stealing a twenty year old spaceship that's just suffered major battle damage with less than a skeleton crew is a horrible position to put yourself in when you have a fight on your hands.
    • The fate of David Marcus is a chilling reminder that just because you're the son of one of the most Bad Ass officers in the history of Starfleet that doesn't mean that you yourself will inherit all those great qualities that, with training and experience, helped make your famous father the Bad Ass that he is.
  • Recycled Soundtrack: In a particularly shameless example even for James Horner, the movie's end credits music is exactly the same as the previous one's.
  • Rewind, Replay, Repeat: How Kirk realizes Spock mind-melded with McCoy.
  • Scotty Time: Lampshaded when Scotty tells Kirk that refit will take "eight weeks, sir. But you don't have eight weeks, so I'll do it for you in two." Kirk asks if he multiplies all estimates by four. Scott says he has to, "how else would I keep up my reputation as a miracle worker?"
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right: Kirk and friends steal the Enterprise and defy Star Fleet orders to not return to the Genesis planet in order to rescue Spock.
    Sulu "The word, sir?"
    Kirk "The word is 'no'. I am therefore going anyway."
    • This becomes an ongoing plot thread. The moment in Spacedock where Chekov says "Commander Starfleet on emergency channel. He orders you to surrender this vessel," and Kirk scoffs, "No reply, Chekov," is the sole reason Kirk ends up being demoted later on, and one of the key elements Chang uses against him at a trial, many years after the fact.
  • Self-Destruct Mechanism: "My God Bones, what have I done?"
  • Sentimental Sacrifice: A doozy of one, the Enterprise herself was self-destructed so that the Klingons wouldn't get her. This is the same ship that, on multiple occasions, has been treated almost the same as a Love Interest for Kirk.
  • Sharing a Body
    "That green-blooded sonuvabitch. It's his revenge for all those arguments he lost."
  • She Knows Too Much:
    Valkris: Transmission completed... You will find it useful.
    Kruge: (shocked) Then you have seen it?
    Valkris: I have, my lord.
    Kruge: Unfortunate.
    Valkris: (beat) Understood.
  • Shout-Out: The seedy bar McCoy goes to is pretty clearly inspired by the Mos Eisley Cantina, complete with a smuggler for hire (who talks like a bad Yoda impression).
  • Smug Snake: The dick-ish Captain of the Excelsior.
  • Space Clothes: Mostly averted, continuing from the previous film, but there are some glaring exceptions, such as the bar waitress's "Space leotard", and the security guards have outfits so ridiculous they look like intentional parodies of this trope.
  • Space Friction: When the Excelsior breaks down, it grinds to a halt relative to Spacedock.
  • Spoiler Opening: Averted. In the opening credits, there's an extra long pause between William Shatner and De Forest Kelley's names, where Leonard Nimoy's name usually appears.
  • Staff of Authority - Captain Styles of the USS Excelsior is often seen carrying a swagger stick.
  • Stealth Pun: Excelsior is a dubious technology prototype — in other words, a strange device.
  • Stock Footage:
    • To a much lesser extent than most of the other 80's Trek movies, natch; all the special effects shots are new for this film, and the stock footage from the previous movie is actually justified somewhat, since Kirk is watching it on a security log.
    • A few shots of the Bird of Prey flying towards or away from the viewer are re-used within the movie itself. The shots are not particularly noticable, except for one where the ship's wings are clearly in attack configuration when in the previous shot they were not.
    • The 2002 DVD release has a rather odd example. For some reason they were apparently unable to get anyone to record an actual commentary for the film, and so resorted to taking audio clips of Leonard Nimoy, Robin Curtis, writer/producer Harve Bennett and cinematographer Charles Correll from the "making of" documentaries and stitching them together in such a way as to make them sound like a real commentary. If you listen carefully, you'll notice that at no point does anyone in the "commentary" directly reference what's happening on-screen.
  • Stolen MacGuffin Reveal: The bits and pieces that Scotty pulled out of the Excelsior computer to cripple its transwarp drive.
  • Take a Third Option: Kirk and McCoy on the surface, watching the Enterprise explode and burn up with all the Klingons:
    Kirk: My God, Bones, what have I done?
    McCoy: What you had to do. What you always do. Turn death into a fighting chance to live.
  • Take My Hand: Kirk to Kruge.
  • Timeshifted Actor: All the young Spocks.
  • To Absent Friends: Kirk's toast in his apartment.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Uhura. Holy crap.
    • "...I'm glad you're on OUR side!"
    • Sulu as well. A towering security guard, who took exception to Sulu's sarcastic remark about his work ethic (or lack thereof) menacingly growls "don't get smart, Tiny". Cut to Sulu easily kicking his ass. "Don't call me 'Tiny'."
  • Too Dumb to Live: Maltz is SO dumb that even HE realises he deserves to die for his stupidity.
    Maltz: I do not deserve to live.
    Kirk: Fine, I'll kill you later.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: If you listen to the DVD commentary, Harve Bennett mentions that he really wanted the Enterprise getting blown up to be a total shock to the audience, so he asked the people cutting the trailer together to please, please omit it from the trailers. What's the first trailer they come back with? "The last voyage of the Enterprise", the Face Palm must have registered on the Richter scale, though it did increase interest in the film from fans who wondered if they'd actually do it.
    • It actually ramped up the tension when Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country was billed as the last adventure for the original crew, and showed Kirk being vaporized.note 
    • Titles Spoil: as remarked upon by Roger Ebert: "It's called The Search for Spock. What, do you think they don't find him?
  • Translation Convention: Bizarrely, the scenes with the Klingons only use it on about half the lines.
  • True Companions: The senior crew of the Enterprise. While Scotty rigs the Enterprise so that Kirk can man it himself, Scotty, Sulu and Chekov insist on continuing on with Kirk and Bones. This loyalty, while not surprising, visibly moves Kirk.
  • Turn Out Like His Father: "So like your father, you changed the rules."
  • Understatement: As befits a race who habitually understates, Sarek's line, when asked about his intentions to reunite Spock's mind and body, is to say that his "logic is uncertain where [his] son is concerned". Mark Lenard's subtle body language gets the point across that Sarek is grief stricken to the point he is grasping at straws.
  • Vehicular Sabotage: Scotty "performing surgery" on the USS Excelsior's transwarp drive.
  • Villainous Breakdown / Oh Crap!: When the Klingon boarding party arrives on the bridge of the Enterprise... and all they find is the computer talking to itself.
    Torg: It is the only thing speaking.
    Kruge: Speaking? Let me hear.
    Computer: Six. Five. Four.
    Kruge: GET OUT!! GET OUT OF THERE!!!
    (Torg looks confused)
    Computer: Three. Two. One.
    • This makes more sense when you remember that Kruge is the only one who understands English. Though, honestly, one can tell a countdown strictly via context. (See Predator as Evidence A.)
  • Vulcan Has No Moon: In an early episode of Star Trek, Spock tells Uhura this in response to her flirting. However, Star Trek III shows a massive "moon" in the Vulcan sky. Justified in that it's so big, in fact, that Vulcan does not technically have a moon; Vulcan is a binary planet. This specificity is quite within Vulcan character.
    • This is also a callback to the animated episode "Yesteryear". Dorothy Fontana specified in the script there be no moon in the sky. So, huge object in sky = sister planet.
  • Wacky Sound Effect: Several, when the Excelsior's transwarp drive fails.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: And Maltz was never seen again.
    • He committed suicide, according to the Novelization.
    • However, in the Expanded Universe he's still around in the 24th century, ninety years later, having spent some time as a Federation prisoner before being released, and atones for his past failure by helping out when someone gains control of the Genesis information. See Star Trek: The Genesis Wave.
    • The Klingon Dictionary credits Maltz for assisting in the Federation efforts to translate and to understand the Klingon language.
    • The Star Trek: Klingon Academy PC game has an entry on Maltz in the library computer. It insists that Maltz died heroically and that there is absolutely no truth to the rumors that he survived and is currently assisting Starfleet with Klingon language translation.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Saavik's reaction to David when he reveals he used protomatter in the Genesis torpedo, in order to solve problems that might not otherwise have made the project possible. This comes out as a result of their discussion as to why the planet is so unstable (disregarding the fact that the planet was created from the Genesis torpedo detonating inside a starship, within a nebula, and created that planet and its star from said nebula, but that doesn't change the impact of this trope).
    • The Novelization takes things a bit differently. David explains that it was the development team, not him, who used protomatter in the Genesis device. While David did have misgivings and even verbally objected over the protomatter, Saavik berates him as he ultimately did nothing to stop his colleagues.
    • The writers likely needed to render the Genesis project ineffective to ward off explaining why they're not using it all over the place in the future.
  • Why Isn't It Attacking?: See Genre Savvy above.
  • Worf Had the Flu: The jury-rigged Enterprise was still badly damaged after the last film, and Scotty didn't anticipate being in a combat situation, thus being disabled by Kruge's bird-of-prey after its circuits overload. Kruge is surprised when he wins, since the Enterprise outguns him ten-to-one.
  • You Fool!: Kirk calls Kruge this for fighting him on a burning planet instead of trying to escape. This makes an interesting Call Back to the original series, given that Kang never told him that "only a fool fights in a burning house."
  • You Have Failed Me: Kruge shoots his gunner for destroying the USS Grissom because he wanted prisoners.
  • You Would Do the Same for Me: Between Kirk and the newly resurrected Spock.
    Spock: My father says you have been my friend. You came back for me.
    Kirk: You would have done the same for me.
  • Zeerust: When viewing the footage of the engine room, Kirk rewinds the recording, and it looks like a VHS tape rewinding instead of instantly jumping back.
    • Another example is the fighter plane computer game played by the human and the alien in the bar McCoy goes to.
      • How many holographic arcade games do you play?
    • The screens, largely (though not entirely) starting with this film, are clearly CRTs. Great for making screens feature motion, but they look less like modern screens than the still-image projections and backlit photos that came before.

"Jim... Your name is Jim."

Alternative Title(s):

Star Trek III The Search For Spock