Headscratchers: Star Trek III: The Search for Spock
open/close all folders
"I never understood Vulcan mysticism"
When Kirk tells the chief of Starfleet of his plan to put Spock's soul back into the corpse, said chief reacts with disbelief and disdain. Now, the Vulcans are arguably the most important founding members of the Federation and possibly one of the most numerous, so how exactly is the head guy of the Federation's military totally ignorant of their telepathic powers? And even if he is, two minutes of a mind meld with Sarek could wipe out any doubt.
Even among Vulcans, it's a rare and dangerous ritual with a strong chance of failure. It's also likely something they don't go to any lengths to advertise.
In the 23rd century, two hundred years after first contact, the Vulcans were still keeping the seven-year cycle of pon farr - a basic fact of their biology and/or society - a secret from outsiders. They hid their common ancestry with the Romulans for the same period, through the War and beyond. And a century hence, their silence would contribute to the destruction of Romulus itself. Not big on sharing information, the Vulcans.
Remember at this point Sarek didn't want "Fal-tor-pan", just a way to let Spock's eternal soul keep on living, and Sarek says this is a normal thing for Vulcans. So, basically, a logical species known for scientific precision, with no psychological reasons for needing to believe in any sort of religious faith, consider themselves to be more than the result of pure materialism, ie to have some sort of metaphysical existence as part of their being. This shouldn't be taken lightly. In the Star Trek universe it's most likely scientific fact that Vulcans - if not all sapient species (there's several other episodes that act as if being have souls that contain their true metaphysical consciousness, although they usually call it "neural energy" or whatnot) in the show - really do have spirits.
Also at this stage, Kirk didn't know that the Vulcans would reunite Spock's katra with his body and bring him back to life. He didn't even know Spock's body had been resurrected until he asked Saavik if Spock's body was alive. Sarek only asked Kirk to bring Spock's body to Vulcan to allow Spock to find peace. The body may have been required along with the Katra for some more ordinary death ritual that would allow Spock to truly "pass on". Sarek asked for the Fal Tor Pan after it was revealed to him that Spock's body was alive and could receive the katra again.
Even if the Starfleet chief brushes off the katra thing - that still leaves them in the position of the Vulcan ambassador being understandably angry that his son's body wasn't brought home in accordance with the rules of his culture. What do Starfleet do to prevent this from turning into a diplomatic incident? Absolutely nothing, even though there's already a starship in orbit around the planet.
That is a little unfair. The Grissom's Captain only refused to beam up Spock's coffin when Saavik found it because he wanted to be sure there was no health and safety threat to his crew (admittedly an unusual course of action for a Starfleet Captain, who generally seem to want to go hand to hand fighting with a slime monster that has slaughtered a dozen Red Shirts). If they had beamed up the coffin and Spock then they would all have been on the Grissom when Kruge's "lucky shot" blew it up (Kruge was also jamming communications too). Film over.
The Grissom is at best tangentially related to the issue. Its fate is irrelevant to the conflict between Kirk and the admiral. The Vulcan ambassador is upset that his traditions are not being followed. Starfleet should have jumped at the chance to appease him. If they had any care for diplomatic relations, they would have pointed Kirk to the nearest Warp-capable ship and said "God speed."
Sarek is only an ambassador, not the leader of the Vulcan people. He has influence, but one angry ambassador is a minor issue compared to containing the intelligence and security disaster that the unplanned detonation of Genesis caused. Think of it this way: Had the son of the UK ambassador died from radiation exposure during the Manhattan Project, there's absolutely no way they'd return the body before the project was finished.
All kinds of explanations are possible, but the problem is, the movie doesn't really present any of them clearly. All we have is Morrow sniffing petulantly about Vulcan mysticism, like this is a reason for not allowing the mission!
Somebody in the Federation Council may have agreed with this; by next movie, Morrow is out and Cartwright was in - although that opened up a whole 'nother can of worms two movies after *that*.
Given the way things play out, there's a good chance that Sarek did approach Starfleet and/or the Federation about it. However, requests like "I want you to drop everything in the middle of figuring out a 23rd Century Cuban Missle Crisis so you can bring my son's dead body back from a planet who's very existence is controversial enough to ignite a full-scale war" isn't going to be met with very much positive response, especially if Sarek's main concern was simply the proper burial of the body. 'Vulcan mysticism' aka their religious beliefs, are pretty far down the ladder of importance when compared to the current situation.
The Ambassador Who Doesn't Do Anything
Why didn't Sarek use his diplomatic clout to get Kirk permission to return to Genesis? Instead, Kirk has to defy orders, steal the Enterprise, and have his officers commit assault and sabotage. If not for The Probe almost destroying Earth in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, they all could very well have ended up mining borite for the rest of their lives. And the only help Sarek gives is off-camera (in the novelization, he grants asylum to Uhura in the Vulcan embassy after she departs Spacedock). What gives?
That only raises more questions. Is there no extradition between Earth and Vulcan? It would be like if a US military officer helped steal a warship and then the British government gave them asylum and a trip to England. Besides, I think if Sarek started pulling those strings it would show that he's emotionally compromised (he's already clearly angry at Kirk for leaving Spock on Genesis) and would be put on some sort of administrative leave by the Vulcan government. The "logical" thing to do would be to accept his son's death and not encourage an admiral and his crew to throw away their careers.
The logical thing would be to just have Sarek (a high ranking politician) ask the Federation to have its science ship pick up Spock's body. Why not simply explain the situation and make it an unusual rescue mission?
Given the nature of Project Genesis and how it seemed to be need-to-know in TWOK it could simply be that there's not enough diplomatic clout in the galaxy that will get Starfleet to bring anything back from Genesis as a personal favor. This was a top secret project that went awry and now everyone knows Starfleet has a device that can reformat a planet; they're going to want to limit access to the Mutara Sector as much as possible as a matter of security. That's probably why Sarek went to Kirk because he assumed the famous Admiral Kirk would be able to pull some more strings with Starfleet than he could as a civilian ambassador, Sarek never encouraged Kirk to do all those things and is rather astonished he did at the end of the movie.
The movie states that Spock and Genesis are aging rapidly. Why is it that Genesis ended up blowing up but Spock didn't age rapidly into dust?
Once Spock is beamed off the surface the link between him and the planet might have been severed.
The transporter cannot detect the Genesis effect and therefore doesn't include it when transporting matter (or re-constructing it, depending on how the transporters work.)
Distance could also be a factor. The Genesis wave is presumably centered on the planet's core, and the farther Spock gets from it the less it affects him anymore. That might also mean that the center of the planet aged much more rapidly than the surface.
While on the Genesis planet Saavik reprimands David for using protomatter (apparently a very dangerous substance) for Genesis, asking him how many have died or gotten hurt by this. Ignoring the idea that Starfleet and the other scientists involved apparently had no idea of this idiocy, what is she talking about? Up to that point in the movie no one has gotten hurt because of it. People have died because others wanted to steal Genesis but the exact nature of the planet hasn't gotten anyone hurt and won't until later on. She would be justified in reprimanding him for using something so dangerous but she isn't mentioning that at all.
I'm guessing that the combined emotional strain of Spock's death and attempts to come to terms with it—she even shed a tear at his funeral—the realization that he's now alive but an empty shell, witnessing the bloody dead Enterprise crew members, the murdered Regula 1 staff, the suicide of Terrell, the knowledge that Grissom and her crew are all dead and the anxiety of knowing they're stranded on an alien planet with an enemy who knows they're there and little hope of rescue left her emotionally compromised. The final straw was David saying that all that was for a project that doesn't even work. David saying "it might've been years [before Genesis was developed], or never" if they hadn't used protomatter, might also have been a factor: had he not taken shortcuts, then they wouldn't have needed a ship to search for a planet to test it on, Khan might never have escaped. Had everything worked as planned, Starfleet would've been able to test the device in a clandestine and controlled way that didn't freak out the Klingons and motivate Kruge to acquire Genesis as a weapon. But really, I doubt Saavik was thinking that far ahead when she got upset.
Well, look at it logically: If David had been honest about Genesis not working, then Starfleet would never have sent the Reliant to scout planets. Reliant would never have found Khan, negating the entire second movie. The scientists at Regula 1 (10 people) would never have been killed, the trainees would have completed their mission, and Spock would still be alive. With no Genesis planet to investigate, the Grissom (crew of 80) would never have been shot down. There would be no 23rd Century Cuban Missile Crisis over the Genesis explosion. That civilian ship (crew of roughly 20) wouldn't have been destroyed, and the Enterprise would have been retired with dignity (most likely becoming a museum ship) instead of using her Self-Destruct Mechanism and incinerating in the Genesis atmosphere. That's 3 Starfleet ships and at least 100 lives that would have been spared if David had just admitted that Genesis was a failure.
They also would have had no second, third, or fourth movie - at least not *these* movies. They might had had to fall back on Roddenberry's "Let's try to save JFK" movie idea instead.
I just assumed she meant that protomatter is an unstable substance that can lead to accidents and that she was specifically referring to the use of protomatter and any fatal accidents that it caused while still in development, not after.
In a case of misassigned reinforcement of self-blame, I never understood Sarek's questioning of the cost Kirk's rescuing Spock. "But at what cost? Your ship. Your son." Way to go, Sarek. Kirk is undoubtedly already blaming himself for this, and you have to rub it in his face? Especially when, if you look at the situation logically, he would have lost those things anyway! The Enterprise was scheduled to be decommissioned, and David would have undoubtedly either been killed by the Klingons or left on Genesis to die in its explosion. Kirk's voyage to Genesis allowed him to rescue Saavik and Spock, who would have shared David's fate if Kirk hadn't done what he did. Sarek should be reminding him of this to help him get over any grief rather then rubbing in the losses Kirk suffered along the way. Good job thanking the guy who just saved your son's life!
As Sarek himself said, "my logic is uncertain where my son is concerned".
"You will be remembered with honor. FIRE!"
Why didn't Kruge just beam Valkris up to his ship?
They might have had their shields up so a cloaked ship couldn't just beam the info off the ship without paying.
Beaming Valkris up doesn't change the fact that she knew too much. She was an information dealer after all, and having her on board his ship for a span of time wouldn't guarantee that she'd never divulge what she knew to anyone else at a later date. Also, Kruge's mission may have been covert and "off the books", meaning that utmost secrecy was essential. Even Kruge's own crew (including Maltz) knew fuck all about the mission beyond "The Feds may have built a superweapon and we are going to go and stop them", and Kruge only told Torg what the real plan was.
Kruge is a bastard.
Asylum on Vulcan
Given what Kirk told the admiral when he requested permission to go to Genesis, it seems like it would be pretty obvious that Kirk and company were going to eventually turn up on Vulcan. Why wasn't Starfleet waiting there to arrest them?
They were granted political asylum by the Vulcans. Sarek most likely pulled a harp's worth of strings for them in return for bringing his son back to life.
In the novelization of Star Trek IV, Admiral Cartwright shows up on Vulcan and tells Kirk that he'll eventually have to face the music.
Let's look at it from this perspective: One of your most famous and popular captains has gone off on a mission to retrieve the body of one of your most famous and popular first officers (who is also the son of said Vulcan ambassador). Now, he's either going to do two things once he's accomplished his mission... he's going to run like hell, or he's going to come back and face the music. Having a ship or officers waiting to arrest him would probably put him in the "run like hell" move, and besides, what are they going to do? Blow up the Enterprise, one of your most famous and popular ships and the flagship of the fleet? (Since these guys aren't prescient and don't know he'll be showing up in a broken-down warbird.) Zap the famous, popular captain with phasers while he's carrying the body of his best friend? In short, sending someone to Vulcan to arrest Kirk and his crew has "Diplomatic and public relations nightmare-bordering-on-apocalypse" written all over it. Much better to just assume, once they've failed to stop Kirk from leaving, that he'll own up and come back of his own volition.
"You should take the Vulcan too!"
When Kruge told the Enterprise and Grissom survivors to gather ("all but Kirk"), why didn't someone lift Spock up and take him with them? Then Kruge wouldn't have had the opportunity to deny Spock his beam-out just to be a dick. (The real reason: Because drama demanded that Kirk beat Kruge and get back to Spock just in time to save him).
I'd imagine that nobody really wanted to move while a pissed off Klingon had them at gunpoint. All Kruge really needed was one person who had the information on Genesis that he wanted, and at that point, everybody there except for Spock had knowledge of Genesis. As long as he kept one of them alive, Kruge would have probably loved an excuse to shoot everyone else.
The Vulcan ritual that rejoined Spock and his katra (Memory Alpha calls it the Fal-tor-pan) is said to be exceedingly rare. That's understandable; after dying, not many bodies spontaneously come back to life—Spock's resurrection the result of some very, very, very unlikely events. So. . .why, exactly does this ritual exist? Are there any explanations for the Vulcans ever having practiced this ritual that aren't, you know, horrifying?
Perhaps there are situations where it could be used that don't require the person to actually die. Some sort of brain damage or mental illness that could be cured by restoring the mind to an earlier state for instance.
I imagine there was an instance where some Vulcan had a medical condition and expected to die, so he passed on his katra. But then later he didn't die, instead he merely went into a coma or something. Eventually they found a way to fix the condition, and they restored his katra to his body.
The priestess does tell Sarek that what he's asking for hasn't been done in a long long looooong time, "and then, only in legend." It's possible it actually never did happen before then.
Spock's Indestructible Casket
At the start of Star Trek 3, Kirk finds out that McCoy has Spock's Brain in his head and they need to do something about it. But crucially he has no idea that Spock's body has been 'resurected' on Genesis, and neither does Sarek or anyone else. As far as they know the body was incinerated when they fired it off inside a torpedo and there is nothing left, Saavik was surprised to find it was intact on the surface and later on Kirk was certainly surprised to find that Spock was alive. So why do they feel the need to steal the Enterprise and travel to Genesis? If you forget about the Klingons, the Grissom, Spock boffing Saavik and all that other stuff that they don't know is happening, what were they planning to do when they arrived? The most sensible thing to do, given the information they have available, is to get a few tickets on a commercial trip to Vulcan so someone can extract that annoying Katra and let McCoy get back to being grumpy. There is no reason to even consider going to Genesis, well except that the film would be pretty brief without it.
For the sake of argument let's say that Sarek explains offscreen that the dead body is required for the katra ritual (even though Spock speaking through McCoy first says "take me to Vulcan", not "we need to go back to Genesis", and if the body is crucial you'd think Spock would have made sure to slip a "take my body back to Vulcan" into his final conversation with Kirk rather than risk driving Bones insane). This raises another question - what the hell is Starfleet's problem? You've got a top-level diplomat from one of the Federation's most important worlds, who's understandably upset that his son's body has been dumped on an alien planet rather than brought home in accordance with his culture. Even if you can't agree to another ship going into that sector to go get him, why not contact your ship that's already in orbit and tell them to take ten seconds to beam the tube aboard?
As far as the casket, itself goes—and I recognize this isn't a particularly satisfying explanation—it is established on TNG that the photon torpedos Starfleet uses in the 24th century are equipped with deflector shields (Enterprise-D uses torpedos to deliver phlebotinum into a dying star). Spock's casket, a photon torpedo casing, may be similarly equipped; preventing it from burning up.
They planned to pick up the casket and bring it to Vulcan, for cultural reasons. Once there, they planned to do whatever ritual was required to release the katra from Bones. By happy coincidence Spock turned out to be alive, so they were able to just re-insert the katra instead.
From what I remember from the novelisation, the existence of the casket/torpedo was a complete surprise. They were expecting it to break up on impact - but as the Genesis process was underway, it slowed and entered the planet's atmosphere.
David addresses this with his comment of "The gravitational fields were in flux. It must have soft-landed." When the planet was forming, the gravity wasn't stable, so Spock's casket was able to get caught in a pocket of diminished gravity and was brought to the surface gently enough to leave neither a crater or an organic smear that used to be Spock's body.
The Grissom did report to Starfleet that the casket had been found. Kirk as an admiral closely concerned with Genesis might have access to the regular reports and might very well have been checking them.
Star Trek 3: The Search for Baby Klingons?
Why weren't David and the Klingons killed on the Genesis Planet turned back into babies like Spock?
If we take the novelisation at its word, Spock was regenerated because he landed while it was still forming.
Furthermore, who says David and the Klingons weren't resurrected? Certainly we never saw them but that doesn't mean it didn't happen. Remember too that the planet broke apart and exploded not long thereafter, and there ain't no coming back from that.