Study Guide

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock Cast

  • Kirk (William Shatner)

    Follow The Leader

    Does Admiral James T. Kirk even need an introduction? He's the captain of the USS Enterprise, wooer of green-skinned vixens, and owner of the most distinctive speaking style this side of the Neutral Zone.

    Oh yeah: and his mannerisms are the stuff of legend. (And satire.)

    But if you think this is all there is to his character—or, you know, aren't as Trek-happy as the people on the Starship Shmoopterprise—then maybe he does need an introduction.

    So who's this Kirk fellow? He's a natural leader who cares for his crew and approaches dangerous (or ethically dangerous) situations with a more level head than his reputation would have most non-Trek fans believe.

    In The Search for Spock, Admiral Kirk has lost his best friend, lost the Enterprise, and, with them, lost his sense of purpose. But once Sarek tasks him with retrieving his son's body and katra, Kirk sees the chance to take back what was lost and revive his raison d'être (a fancy-pants French way to say "purpose for existing"). Can Kirk rescue his friend? Will he exit this mid-life slump to keep on Kirk-ing around the galaxy?

    The short answer: yes. The long answer goes something like this—

    The 7 Premises of Trek

    Before we can assess whether Kirk can keep on Kirk-ing, we must first determine what it means to properly Kirk. And to accomplish that semi-ridiculous sounding task, we have to consider Star Trek's philosophy as a whole.

    According to Dorothy Atkins, the series' philosophical foundations can be broken down into seven premises. (Source)

    Take a look-see:

    • Humans aren't flawed because of any actual or metaphorical fall,
    • We have recognized our technology has the potential to destroy us,
    • Different races, religions, and cultures are not to be feared but valued,
    • No one has the right to interfere in the development of others,
    • Humans belong in space,
    • Space is our final frontier,
    • Humans will survive.

    These premises are the values of Star Trek, and as the series' protagonist, Kirk should embody them most of the time. And what do you know? He does so both in the Original Series and in The Search for Spock.

    But let's break it down premise by premise.

    Kirking It Up a Notch

    Kirk certainly is flawed, but, as mentioned above, this isn't because of some metaphorical fall like those found in many religious traditions (like, say, the Fall of Man as featured in the Garden of Eden). Instead, his flaws come from him being a creature of limited ability and knowledge.

    To put it another (more Vulcan) way, he's only human.

    This is evident when Sarek visits, angry at Kirk for leaving his son on Genesis:

    SAREK: Why did you leave him on Genesis? Spock trusted you, and you denied him his future.

    KIRK: I saw no future.

    SAREK: Only his body was in death, Kirk, and you were the last one to be with him.

    KIRK: Yes, I was.

    SAREK: And you must know that you should have come with him to Vulcan.

    KIRK: But why?

    Totally unaware of Vulcan funeral rites, Kirk didn't know that Spock possessed a quality known as a katra, essentially a soul or essence that Vulcans have learned to preserve in some sort of spiritual external hard drive. As a human, Kirk is also unable to interact with katras. These flaws have put Spock in quite the spiritual predicament…and poor, dumb, human Kirk is way out of his element.

    But despite his flaws, he remains a hero because he always attempts to learn from his mistakes and make amends when possible. In The Search for Spock, that means collecting Spock's katra from McCoy, his body from Genesis, and returning both to Vulcan so the proper rites can be performed.

    Those Vulcans are tricky.

    Kirk also personifies the third and fourth of Atkins' premises: he believes that other cultures and races are to be valued, and that no one has a right to interfere with another culture's development. Easier said than done, but we have to say he does an admirable job given the circumstances…for a paltry human, that is.

    Can't We All Just Not Shoot Each Other?

    We see the third premise—value other cultures and races—in Kirk's interactions with Kruge.

    Even after the Enterprise is ambushed by the Bird-of-Prey (cool name or coolest name?) Kirk opens communications with Kruge. Sure, Kirk's ship is dead in the water, but he still tries to reason with Kruge, a tactic that might have ended with no deaths on either side.

    But the Klingon knows only the value of force and has David, Kirk's son, killed as a demonstration of his power over the admiral. Ouch.

    Later in the film, Kirk and his crew are stranded on the self-destructing Genesis planet with no hope of escape. Kirk calls Kruge to discuss a trade: Genesis for their lives. Kruge beams down to the planet below, and Kirk attempts to reason with the Klingon.

    It, um, doesn't go so hot:

    KIRK: Beam the Vulcan up and we'll talk.

    KRUGE: Give me what I want and I'll consider it.

    KIRK: You fool, look around you! The planet's destroying itself!

    KRUGE: Yes, exhilarating, isn't it?

    KIRK: If we don't help each other, we'll die here.

    KRUGE: Perfect. Then that's the way it shall be.

    Kirk's being a good due here: he doesn't see the Klingon as someone to be feared simply because he is a Klingon…and even on the dying planet, after all Kruge has done to him, he proposes a situation in which they may "help each other."

    He only kills Kruge because communication is 100% impossible, and Kirk and Spock's lives remain in danger as long as the Klingon commander lives. But it's not the result of any malice toward the Klingons as a race or culture…as evident by the fact that he lets Maltz live when he could easy have killed him.

    In fact, Maltz even asks him to off him. But because Maltz isn't a threat, Kirk's pretty much says, "Nah."

    Lean on Me

    Kirk's basically a peaceful dude: he shows a willingness to not interfere with the development of others, too. In fact, Kirk will actively assist other cultures in their development…so long as they don't infringe on another culture's right to development.

    Want textual evidence? Oh, we got some textual evidence: check out this exchange with Admiral Morrow:

    MORROW: Now wait a minute. This business about Spock and McCoy, honestly, I never understood Vulcan mysticism.

    KIRK: You don't have to believe, I'm not even sure that I believe, but if there's even a chance that Spock has an eternal soul, then it's my responsibility.

    MORROW: Yours?

    KIRK: As surely as if it were my very own.

    Neither Morrow nor Kirk necessarily believe in katra because—let's face it—the idea is pre-tty far-fetched even for Star Trek standards. (And that's saying something because Kirk once meet a sentient rock.)

    But the two guys approach this cultural difference super-differently. By viewing katra as a mystical superstition, Morrow doesn't consider Spock's problem to be his or Starfleet's responsibility any more than you'd consider it your responsibility to help someone appease Odin with a nice offering of mead. (Unless they were threatening you with a hammer called Mjollnir, probably.)

    Kirk, on the other hand, considers it his responsibility to appease Sarek even if Spock doesn't have an eternal soul. Why? Because it's the path of development chosen by the Vulcan people, and because supporting them is the right thing to do.

    Also, his love of Spock has him grasping for any attempt to reunite with his Vulcan friend. And it just so happens that Spock does have an eternal soul. Bonus!

    Love Treks

    To finish up Atkins' premises, Kirk belongs in space, exploring ye olde final frontier.

    At the beginning of the film, Kirk returns to Earth and is told the Enterprise is to be decommissioned. His future becomes uncertain as he says to his crew,

    KIRK: I can't get an answer. Starfleet is up to its brass in a galactic conference. No one has time for those who only stand and wait. 

    Grounded and his request to return to space denied, Kirk is at his lowest point in the film.

    But you can take the man out of the USS Enterprise, but you can't take the USS Enterprise out of the man. He's revitalized with a sense of purpose when he chooses to steal the Enterprise and return to Genesis against orders. He's a rebel with a cause.

    Although he meets hardships along the way and loses both the Enterprise and his son, Kirk rediscovers himself in space and finds the strength to reunite with Spock against the odds.

    This brings us to Atkins' final premise: humans will survive.

    At first Kirk was afraid, he was petrified. Kept thinking he could never live without Spock by his side. But then he spent so many nights thinking how Starfleet did him wrong. And he grew strong. And he learned how to get along. And so he's back. In outer space.

    We could do the entire song…but you get the point. Kirk and his friends are going to keep on keepin' on against the odds—even when those odds are death itself.

    Home Is Where the Heart Treks

    By living the Star Trek philosophy, Kirk proves himself to be a model protagonist for the series. But there is a wrinkle to his character that's specific to The Search for Spock: a focus on his loyalty and friendship with the crew, particularly—no shocker here—Spock.

    In the Original Series, Kirk remained loyal to his crew and always acted in their best interests—so long as they didn't wear a red shirt, of course. But Kirk also remained loyal to Starfleet and his duties as an officer.

    In this film, Kirk's loyalty to each is put into conflict…causing some serious drama:

    KIRK: As surely as if it were my very own. Give me back the Enterprise. With Scotty's help I could—

    MORROW: No, Jim. The Enterprise would never stand the pounding, and you know it.

    KIRK: Then I'll find a ship. I'll hire a ship.

    MORROW: Out of the question, my friend. The council has ordered that no one but the science team goes to Genesis. Jim, your life and your career stand for rationality, not for intellectual chaos. Keep up this emotional behavior and you'll lose everything. You'll destroy yourself. Do you understand me, Jim?

    KIRK: I hear you. [Chuckles.] I had to try.

    To remain loyal to Spock, Kirk has return to Genesis to retrieve the Vulcan's body. But Kirk has been given strict orders denying his request to do so. To remain loyal to Starfleet, Kirk must abandon his quest to help Spock. To choose to remain loyal to one is to be disloyal to the other.

    He's in a pickle. And we love pickles…both the juicy green cucumber variety and the juicy movie-plot variety.

    Choosing friendship over duty, Kirk decides he has remain loyal to Spock: it's a classic case of bros before, um, Starfleet. We may think this would be a difficult decision, but for Kirk, it's the only decision.

    As he explains when he speaks with Spock at the film's conclusion:

    SPOCK: My father says that you have been my friend. You came back for me.

    KIRK: You would have done the same for me.

    Sure, they may not have a lot of time to hang, what with the extended jail time for treason and grand theft starship. But even given those consequences, Kirk's overjoyed to have his buddy-bud-bud back in the film's final scenes.

    Given all of this, we hope we've convinced you that Kirk is more than just the wooer of alien ladies and purveyor of odd mannerism that pop culture remembers him as. And with its absence of any green-skinned ladies, the Search for Spock provides a good example of the true-blue Trek captain.

  • McCoy (DeForest Kelley)

    Poor Dr. Leonard McCoy. In The Search for Spock, he's a comedic double act without a partner. He has so much emotion, and so many arguments to give.

    But when it's time for the "Most illogical" punchline, he hears only crickets. (Those judgmental crickets.)

    That's because the act's straight man, one Spock by name, is missing. And this throws McCoy's world into disarray, not least of which because his buddy's soul has claimed squatter's rights in his brain space.

    In My Head

    When we catch up with McCoy, he's sitting in Spock's room with the lights off like an emo art school kid. Kirk confronts him, and McCoy starts acting weird:

    MCCOY: Then perhaps it's not too late. Climb the steps, Jim. Climb the steps of Mount Seleya.

    KIRK: Mount Seleya? Bones, Mount Seleya is on Vulcan. We're home, on Earth.

    MCCOY: Remember.

    These are our first clues that Spock implanted himself in McCoy's brain at the end of The Wrath of Khan, since, obviously, Vulcan ain't McCoy's home. But it is also the first clue that Spock's absence has created a break in the usual Kirk-McCoy-Spock dynamic.

    Dorothy Atkins summarizes this dynamic, by being typically awesome:

    In their interaction and interdependence, it is possible to consider them as one entity, as the unified aspects of the self or the soul. Kirk, the decision maker, represents will and intuition; Spock, supplier of logic and information, represents reason; and McCoy, provider of healing and compassion, represents emotion. (Source).

    Without the logic piece of their trifecta, Kirk and McCoy are lost as to what to do with themselves. Kirk, as the decision maker, lacks the information to take proper action until Sarek, the surrogate of logic, arrives on the scene. And McCoy, usually the provider of healing, is instead the one in need of healing.

    The moral of this story? We all need a little Spock in our lives.

    Atkins also labels McCoy as the representation of emotion and compassion, but lacking his logical counterweight, he becomes a fountain of overwrought emotion. Check out this scene:

    MCCOY: I'll discuss what I like, and who in the hell are you?

    GENTLEMAN: Could I offer you a ride home, Dr. McCoy?

    MCCOY: Where's the logic in offering me a ride home, you idiot? If I wanted a ride home, would I be trying to charter a space flight?

    Notice that while McCoy speaks of logic, as though he's Spock…he, um, he isn't actually using it. He's in pure emotional purge mode, yelling about his illegal dealings to a security officer of the Federation. Not the best way to do under the table dealings, buddy. Just saying.

    Until Spock can be reintroduced into the fold, McCoy is going to be missing more than a debate opponent or someone he can try to insult with references to his green blood—he's missing a part of himself.

    A Tale of Two Besties

    But McCoy's emotional state serves a greater purpose in The Search for Spock. After traveling to Genesis and retrieving Spock's body, McCoy takes the Vulcan to the sick bay in the Klingon Bird-of-Prey.

    There, he has a heart-to-heart with his long lost pal:

    MCCOY: Spock, for God sakes, talk to me. You stuck this damn thing in my head, remember? Remember? Now tell me what to do with it. Help me. [McCoy looks concerned.] I'm gonna tell you something that I never thought I'd ever hear myself say. But it seems I've missed you, and I don't know if I could stand to lose you again.

    Our theory is that Spock gave McCoy his katra because it was necessary to give it him, even over Kirk. (And let's not forget that he had a perfectly good, unconscious Scotty mere feet away in The Wrath of Khan.) But Spock knew that McCoy would ensure Spock's katra would be kept safe. That's because, McCoy would be devastated at the loss of his friend…because he's the "emotional one."

    After all, the mission to Genesis isn't logical. It's an emotional mission, the type of mission McCoy—not Spock—would approve of. When Kirk, the decision maker, gives his reason for undergoing such a dangerous task, he tells Spock, "

    KIRK: Because the needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many.

    That's not only the exact opposite of Spock's final words…it's also the exact opposite of logic. It's more of a McCoy move.

    In a twist, logic is saved by emotion. And in the end, McCoy gets his straight man back, giving us plenty more jokes in the sequels to come.

  • Commander Kruge (Christopher Lloyd)

    Kruge is played by Christopher Lloyd, everyone's favorite bug-eyed purveyor of odd yet likeable characters. But this Klingon commander is no Dr. Emmett Brown. There's not a Delorean in sight.

    And while he may share Uncle Fester's affinity for weapons, that's where the similarities stop. Kruge's most redeeming quality is that you love to hate him…because he's bad to his core.

    A Moustache Well Twisted

    Kruge's 100% the antagonist of The Search for Spock. But let's make something clear: being an antagonist doesn't necessarily make you a bad guy. To be an antagonist, you simply have to be in conflict with the protagonist—which means that plenty of antagonists can, in fact, be good guys (see Sam Gerard from The Fugitive and Jack Valentine from Lord of War for examples).

    But Kruge ain't this type of antagonist. Not even close. For starters, he dresses like a militant Dethklok groupie and clearly bought his dog-jackel-thing from Mordor Pets and Supplies.

    But villainy is more than skin deep, and his actions clue us in to his murderous brand of evil.

    We're introduced to this characterization in his first scene. After Valkris uploads the Genesis data to Kruge's Bird-of-Prey, she accidentally lets it slip that she's seen the data:

    VALKRIS [in Klingon]: Transmission complete. You will find it useful.

    KRUGE [in Klingon]: Then you have seen it.

    VALKRIS [in Klingon]: I have, my lord.

    KRUGE [in Klingon]: Unfortunate.

    VALKRIS [in Klingon]: Understood. 

    Kruge then destroys the ship she's on. (Excessive.) And her last words?

    VALKRIS: Success, my lord, and my love.

    Yeah, the guy blew up his own sweetie-pie just because she took a peek at his evil plan. Later, he'll kill his gunner for accidentally blowing up the Grissom…despite the gunner following orders and hitting the engines as Kruge specified. Kruge is real big on explosions.

    But Kruge's most villainous moment comes after the Enterprise and the Bird-of-Prey battle each other to a stalemate. Kirk tries to strong-arm Kruge into surrendering, but Kruge sees through Kirk's bluff. He orders Kirk to surrender…or he'll kill one of three prisoners he has below, David, Saavik, or Spock:

    KURGE: I meant what I said. And now to show that my intentions are sincere, I shall kill one of the prisoners.

    KIRK: Wait a minute! Give me a chance to talk—

    KURGE [in Klingon]: Kill one of them. I don't care which.

    Ultimately, David's killed in a scuffle with his Klingon captors. What is really heinous about this scene is that Kruge didn't even need to kill one. He had the upper hand (and knew it), and Kirk had no choice but to surrender. But to demonstrate his power, Kruge got all murder-y.

    What a dude.

    Even with his deep, abiding love for dynamiting things and getting his murder on, Kruge still wouldn't be a true antagonist unless he had a quality that was fundamentally opposing to our protagonist, one James T. Kirk. Lucky for us—and unlucky for any character crossing his path—he does.

    Kirk's mission isn't for the betterment of himself or his own position in the world. He goes on this mission because, as he says to Morrow, any chance to save Spock and McCoy is a chance worth taking. In his pursuit, he sacrifices his career, his ship, and his son to do what he sees as right.

    Kruge, on the other hand, quests for Genesis because it will be the ultimate weapon. (Try saying "ultimate weapon" without following it with a "mwahaha." It's impossible.)

    Genesis will give him the power to destroy his opponents and achieve his goals. And it's this conflict between selfless actions and selfish ones where the true conflict between the two lies.

    A Word about Klingons

    Klingons in the Original Series were your typical bad-guy-of-the-week villains. Think your Decepticons, your Puddies, your Cobra Command. Adam Roberts describes them as "brutish, devious, dangerous, and murderous, the very embodiment of a racist demonization of the oriental other." (Source)

    But Roberts also notes that Klingons evolved as Trek continued, and by The Next Generation, the alien race was "treated in a more sympathetic light."

    Kruge exists between the Klingons of the Original Series and The Next Generation. He's brutish, dangerous, and murderous …but the movie makes it clear that he doesn't represent all Klingons. As Kruge points out:

    KRUGE: Even as our emissaries negotiate for peace with the Federation, we will act for the preservation of our race. We will seize the secret of this weapon, the secret of ultimate power.

    The line demonstrates the change taking place within Klingon society, and how the series is planning to handle the aliens in the future. That Klingon emissaries are negotiating for peace with the Federation suggests a large population of peace-seeking Klingons exist in the universe. They just don't appear in the film.

    This new treatment of the Klingons is in keeping with Star Trek's overarching theme of peace and cooperation between different peoples and culture. The line also deeps our understanding of Kruge as the antagonist…because he's very much not about peace and cooperation between peoples and cultures.

    And in case you wanted to put yet another check mark on the "Kruge Is A Monster" column? Dude's motivation to preserve his race isn't only evil and dangerous because it poses a threat to the Enterprise and its crew; it also poses a threat to the wishes and desires of these peace-seeking Klingons.

    Think Kruge won't turn the Genesis device against his fellow Klingons if they disagree with his politics? Do we have to remind you what he did to his girlfriend? (RIP, Valkris.)

    Thankfully, Admiral Kirk puts a stop to that threat when he kicks the Klingon commander into a lava pit—the preferred method to dispatch final bosses in movies and video games from time immemorial.

    Game over, man. Game. over.

  • David Marcus & Lieutenant Saavik (Merritt Butrick and Robin Curtis)

    David's a brass human man with a drive for adventure; Saavik's a Vulcan lady with a cool logical exterior and an even cooler logical inside. Together they'll travel across the planet of Genesis in what sounds like a setup for a science fiction rendition of The Odd Couple.

    But theirs is actually one of the more tragic tales in The Search for Spock. Get your hankies ready.

    We're combining the character analysis for David and Saavik because their time together tells a separate side story that serves to highlight one of the film's themes by exploring the darker side of scientific and technological innovation.

    And no, we're not talking about that terrifying little Microsoft paperclip—though those of us who lived through those dark days have basically no chance of forgetting about him. (Those eyes. Why was Clippy such a creeper?)

    The Next Generation

    David and Saavik's story begins aboard the USS Grissom, since both of them joined the science team to explore the newly formed planet. At first, everything goes pretty well.

    The planet has stable desert, artic, and subtropical climates within walking distance of each other. And if you're starting to think that sounds impossible, let us remind you that David has a PhD in…science stuff. And he doesn't seem all that worried.

    During their scan, they pick up a lifeform and argue with Captain Esteban to let them beam to the planet to check it out:

    DAVID: Why don't we beam it up?

    ESTEBAN: Oh, no, you don't. Regulations specifically state, "Nothing shall be beamed aboard until danger of contamination has been eliminated.

    SAAVIK: Captain, the logical alternative is obvious. Beaming down to the surface is permitted.

    ESTEBAN: If the Captain decides that the mission is vital and reasonably free of danger.

    DAVID: Captain, please, we'll take the risk, but we're got to find out what it is.

    SAAVIK: Or who.

    This exchange immediately sets up their relationship as mirroring Kirk and Spock's. David's the courageous explorer and Saavik's the logical science officer. Working together they want to explore the possibilities and potentials of the Genesis device…much like their older counterparts explored space years back.

    In a movie centered on the relationship between Kirk and Spock and the pain of the Spock-sized hole in Kirk's heart, this provides an instant connection to these two characters for the audience. We understand who these characters are, thanks to their mirrored personalities. And—bonus—it also reinforces why Kirk's desire to rescue Spock is so important.

    Unfortunately, they didn't follow their forbearer's tried-and-true procedure and bring a red shirt along to the Genesis planet. But more on that later.

    Cheating on the Test

    As they initially traipse across the planet, Genesis looks to be kind of a paradise. (Actually it looks like a sound stage…but one mocked up to look like paradise.)

    After some searching, they come across a Vulcan boy and immediately recognize him as the resurrected Mr. Spock. All things considered, they take the realization rather well. No one shouts "Zombie!" and tries to kill the newly minted Spock with fire…which would have been our first response. We passed our Zombie Preparedness course with straight A's, thank you very much.

    But then things take a turn for the worst. The USS Grissom is destroyed in orbit by Kruge's Bird-of-Prey, and at this news, Saavik changes the mission from one of research to one of survival:

    SAAVIK: It would seem that Grissom was destroyed by an enemy attack. We must go. They will soon come after us.

    (Again, check out how very logical and very Spock-like she is.)

    As they search for cover, the planet begins to show signs of distress, like a blizzard raging through a desert. As they settle beneath some snow-capped cacti, Saavik decides it's truth time, and David admits he might have cheated just a wee-tiny bit:

    DAVID: I used protomatter in the Genesis matrix.

    SAAVIK: Protomatter, an unstable substance which every ethical scientist in the galaxy has denounced as dangerously unpredictable.

    DAVID: But it was the only way to solve certain problems.

    SAAVIK: So, like your father, you changed the rules.

    DAVID: If I hadn't, it might have been years or never. 

    And here we get to the theme about the dangers of scientific discovery and technological innovation. Had David not added techno-nonsense—sorry, protomatter—to the Genesis matrix, it might not have worked. That's true. But because it worked, Khan was able to steal it and weaponize it. Now a murderous Klingon has killed the crew of the Grissom to secure it…and the thing doesn't even work the way David wants it to.

    Saavik sums up the moral of this story quite nicely:

    SAAVIK: How many have paid the price for your impatience? How many have died? How much damage have you done? And what is yet to come?"

    Yeah: all questions David probably should have asked before adding the protomatter.

    Of course, we can look into history to see plenty of real world innovations that parallel David's blunder. Caterpillar tractors morphed from grain harvesters to tanks. Chlorine was developed for the German dye industry and ushered in the age of chemical warfare. Even something as simple as barbed wire, which was original designed to keep cattle corralled, killed an unimaginable number of soldiers during WWI. (Source)

    Not long afterward, David, Saavik, and young Spock are captured by Kruge and his Klingon posse. David admits that Genesis doesn't work, but the Klingon commander disagrees:

    KRUGE: A failure. The most powerful, destructive force ever created. You will tell me the secret of the Genesis torpedo.

    A missile that can take a planet and make it a pristine planet? Yeah, David really did inadvertently create the perfect weapon.

    Always Bring a Red Shirt

    But The Search for Spock is a film about second chances. Kirk gets a second chance to save Spock, and David gets a chance to right his wrongs. For what it's worth, we think Kruge also gets a chance to change his ways…but he lets it slide by in true villain fashion.

    After the Enterprise and the Bird-of-Prey battle each other to a stalemate, Kirk and Kruge negotiate terms. To show he has the upper hand, Kruge orders his men to kill one of the hostages…and he doesn't care which.

    The Klingon warrior selects Saavik, but David attacks him. The two fight, but the Klingon overpowers David and kills him (And that's why you always take a red shirt along.)

    Although David dies, his sacrifice isn't in vain. He manages to save Saavik and Spock, and his death buys Kirk the time to devise a plan that ends with Kruge's defeat. As a result, David helps keep Genesis out of the hands of a madman who would use it as a weapon. His death also prevents countless others—not counting all the Klingons who died on the Enterprise.

    As for Saavik, she doesn't really have much else to do for the rest of the film. She joins the crew on their journey to Vulcan, observes the fal-tor-pan, and witnesses Spock's return both mentally and physically.

    And that's really it for her. In The Voyage Home, she decides to stay on Vulcan and is never heard from again. Such is the fate of all Trek characters who do not receive top billing.

    And with that we bid farewell to Saavik and David. Though their tale taught us a valuable lesson, we barely knew 'em.

  • Sarek (Mark Lenard)

    Sarek is Spock's father and the Vulcan ambassador to the Federation. His role in the story is to present Kirk with his father's lightsaber and help him get off Tatooine, so the aging admiral can fulfill his destiny and become a Jedi.


    Sorry, we got Sarek confused with Obi-Wan Kenobi again. It's all those dramatic entrances with the removing of the hood to reveal the face. Throws us every time.

    Also, there's the fact that both Sarek and Obi-Wan act as the mentor characters in their respective science fiction adventures. Just like Obi-Wan informs Luke about the Jedi order, Sarek teaches Kirk about Vulcan culture and the katra.

    And he slips into this role right away:

    SAREK: Only his body was in death, Kirk, and you were the last one to be with him.

    KIRK: Yes, I was.

    SAREK: And you must know that you should have come with him to Vulcan.

    KIRK: But why?

    SAREK: Because he asked you to. He entrusted you with his very essence, with everything that was not of the body. He asked you to bring him to us and to bring that which he gave you, his katra, his living spirit.

    KIRK: Sir, your son meant more to me that you can know. I'd have given my life if it would have saved his. Believe me when I tell you, he made no request of me.

    SAREK: He would not have spoken of it openly.

    KIRK: Then how—?

    There's a lot of dialogue there, but notice how the back-and-forth between Kirk and Sarek is exactly like a student and teacher. Sarek provides Kirk with information—and incidentally provides said information to the audience in a little thing we like to call exposition. Kirk asks a question or provides a statement that prompts Sarek to provide even more lessons.

    And so it goes until Kirk has the information he needs to start his question.

    Once they discover that Spock's katra has been locked away inside McCoy's noggin, Sarek performs the second role of the mentor: he sends the hero on the quest.

    Just like Obi-Wan telling Luke he must come with him to Alderaan, Sarek tells Kirk what he needs to get done:

    SAREK: You must bring them to Mount Seleya on Vulcan. Only there can both find peace.

    Then he disappears until the end of the story, when he appears on Vulcan to request the refusion. During the interim, we suppose he does whatever it is mentors do while the hero fulfills his quest. (Just hanging out in the mentor's lounge or something?)

  • Scotty (James Doohan)

    There are two types of Star Trek fans: Those who think Montgomery Scott, a.k.a. Scotty, is the man…and those who think other fans don't love him enough.

    Scotty's the chief engineer of the Enterprise, and perhaps the only person who loves the starship more than Kirk. That's because it's his job to keep the ship, well, shipshape. Just consider the scene when Admiral Morrow debriefs the Enterprise crew:

    MORROW: Scott. They need your wisdom on the new Excelsior. Report there tomorrow as captain of engineering.

    SCOTTY: With all appreciation, sir, I'd prefer to supervise the refit of Enterprise.

    MORROW: I'm afraid that won't be necessary.

    SCOTTY: But, sir…

    MORROW: I'm sorry, Mr. Scott, but there will be no refit.

    Just look at his face in that scene. He's visibly shaken at the prospect of losing the Enterprise—his baby—for good.

    So when Kirk rallies the crew to search for Spock, he's right there to help.

    Like the rest of the Enterprise crew, Scotty connects with the movie's theme of loyalty and family. Spock is a member of his family, so Scotty will give up everything to help the Vulcan if he can.

    Scotty's contribution to the effort is to remove important parts from the Excelsior's transwarp computer. When the starship tries to chase the Enterprise, it breaks down right in front of Spacedock.

    As Scotty puts it:

    SCOTTY: The more they overthink the plumbing, the easier it is to stop up the drain. Here, Doctor, souvenirs from one surgeon to another.

    Based on his smile when he delivered that line, we're guessing the conflict with the Excelsior might have been a bit more personal for him than the others.

    Beat the Enterprise's speed records, Captain Styles? Not on Scotty's watch.

  • Chekov (Walter Koenig)

    Poor Chekov. He's the Rodney Dangerfield of The Search for Spock. No respect, no respect at all.

    Originally the navigator and security officer aboard the Enterprise, Pavel Chekov joins the crew in their quest to rescue Spock.

    The thing is, Chekov has nothing to do. Whereas the other characters each use their skills in a scene to assist Kirk, Chekov just kind of hangs out, chilling on the comm. They even dress him in a salmon-colored onesie with a Pinocchio collar. (The man just got done being brainwashed by Khan in the last film. He's suffered enough!)

    Even given this, the Enterprise's crew is his family, and when one of its members needs help, Chekov is there for them. When Kirk gives the crew the option to leave so they won't suffer the consequences of their treason, Chekov simply replies:

    CHEKOV: Admiral, we're losing precious time.

    As a result, he still manages to play an important part thematically in his display of loyalty. (Also, their haste might explain why Chekov couldn't find the time to put on his big boy clothes.)

  • Sulu (George Takei)

    The first rule of Fight Club is: You do not pick a fight with Hikaru Sulu.

    Second rule of Fight Club is: You do not pick a fight with Hikaru Sulu.

    Third rule of Fight Club: Someone yells stop, goes limp, taps out…chances are they were fighting Sulu.

    The navigator aboard the Enterprise, Sulu really ups the awesome in The Search for Spock. Just like the rest of the crew, he joins Kirk on the quest to rescue Spock. And in doing so, he embodies the film's themes of loyalty and friendship. He plays two important roles in the operation: he flies the Enterprise to Genesis, and he helps Kirk break McCoy out of space jail.

    While Kirk talks with McCoy in his cell, Sulu arrives as backup:

    SULU: Where's Admiral Kirk?

    GUARD: He's with the prisoner.

    SULU: Get him quickly. Commander, Starfleet wants him right away. [Another guard yawns.]

    SULU: Keeping you busy?

    GUARD: Don't get smart, Tiny.

    Kirk knocks out the first, much smaller guard while Sulu takes on the behemoth guard, flipping him over his shoulder effortlessly. He then destroys the security console, so no one can follow them. On his way out, he reminds the guard,

    SULU: Don't call me tiny.

    Duly noted, Sulu. Duly noted.

  • Uhura (Nichelle Nichols)

    In the Original Series, Nyota Uhura was the communications officer aboard the Enterprise's bridge. While she had her moments, she didn't get to do much in your average episode. Send a communication here, pick up a communication there. You know, comm stuff.


    In The Search for Spock, Uhura has her moment to shine when she pulls a gun on a fellow Starfleet officer. We're guessing that's not in her communications officer job description.

    All joking aside, Uhura joins the rest of the crew to support the film's themes of loyalty and friendship. She takes a job in the Old Station transporter room, a place her fellow officer refers to as the "hind end of space." (Ew.) But the position is just a ploy to keep Starfleet from noticing Kirk's plan.

    When Kirk arrives at the station, Uhura illegally teleports him and the rest of the crew to the Enterprise, so they can commandeer it. Having already committed treason with this act, she doubles down on her loyalty to the crew and draws a gun on her fellow officer:

    UHURA: You wanted adventure, how's this? The old adrenaline going, huh? Good boy. Now get in the closet.


    UHURA: Go on. Go on.

    LIEUTENANT: I'll just get in the closet.

    Not only does Uhura show her loyalty here, but she displays strength, confidence, and character in the way she handles "Mr. Adventure." She proves herself an asset to the team, and she didn't even need to get naked and dance with palm fronds in the desert.

    Yeah…more on that when we get to The Final Frontier….

  • Morrow (Robert Hooks)

    Admiral Harry Morrow is Commander, Starfleet. That means he's the brass, the top dog, the head honcho, the—whoops, we lost our place in our thesaurus. Basically, he's the guy in charge.

    Morrow's characterization is that of the politician, playing the political game and basing his decisions on what's popular at the time rather than what is right for the people involved. When Genesis becomes a galactic controversy, Morrow orders the crew of the Enterprise to shut it and bribes them with some vacation time.

    And that might have been the end of it…had Kirk not buried his dead, not-dead friend on the planet.

    Later, when Kirk asks to borrow the Enterprise and return to Genesis again, Morrow doubles down:

    MORROW: No. Absolutely not, Jim. You're my best officer, but I am Commander of Starfleet, so I don't break rules.

    KIRK: Don't quote rules to me. I'm talking about loyalty and sacrifice. One man who's died for us, another with deep emotional problems.

    MORROW: Now wait a minute. This business about Spock and McCoy, honestly, I never understood Vulcan mysticism.

    KIRK: You don't have to believe, I'm not even sure that I believe, but if there's even a chance that Spock has an eternal soul, then it's my responsibility.

    MORROW: Yours?

    And this exchange lays it bare for the audience. Kirk's actions originate from a sense of loyalty and wanting to do right by two friends who are suffering. But Morrow doesn't see the individuals and their suffering—despite the fact that they are suffering because of their service to Starfleet.

    Morrow only sees the actions that fall within regulation and the political playbook as evident by the way he asks "Yours?" at the end. Clearly responsibility for his fellow officers never even occurred to him. His responsibility is to the system as a whole.

    We don't see Morrow much after this scene, so we don't know what happens to him or whether he learned his lesson. All we can say is that our time with Morrow has taught us one thing: a man who orders beers with straws is not someone you can trust to have your back.

  • Captain Styles (James B. Sikking)

    Captain Styles is the commanding officer of the USS Excelsior, a foil for Admiral Kirk…and a professional jerkface. We're going to focus on the foil aspect of his character here.

    Kirk and Styles both love their respective ships but for different reasons. Kirk loves the Enterprise because of the people and memories he associates with the ship. For him, the Enterprise is home. He even refers to it as a "house with all the children gone" at the beginning of the film.

    Styles loves the Excelsior because it's a great bit of tech. He's calls it an "incredible machine" and says he'll use it "to [break] some of the Enterprise's speed records." For him, the Excelsior is an impersonal machine that will bring him status within Starfleet, not a home.

    This extends beyond the ships to their crews. Whereas Kirk refers to his crew by their names and talks and laughs with them, Styles never refers to anyone by name and barks orders. Whereas Kirk knows his crew as individuals, Styles does not.

    Oops: guess we're also focusing on the "professional jerkface" part of Styles' character.

    In a film about friendship and loyalty, this is a bad example to set, and Styles gets his comeuppance, courtesy of one Mr. Scott. While working on the Excelsior, Scotty takes some rather important looking parts from the transwarp computer. When Styles gives chase to the Enterprise, his starship breaks down in front of Spacedock, the galactic equivalent of the driveway. The Excelsior's maiden voyage is a complete bust.

    Of course, we know the question you really came here to have answered: What exactly is that baton thing Styles carries around? It's called a swagger stick. Not only were swagger sticks an actual thing, but the idea behind them provide the perfect accessory for a character like Styles.

    You know: a professional jerkfa—we mean foil.

  • Captain J.T. Esteban (Phillip Richard Allen)

    Captain J.T. Esteban is the Milhouse of the Star Trek universe. Sorry, buddy, but you know it's true.

    Esteban is the by-the-books Captain of the USS Grissom. He makes no decision unless it's within the rules…and he feels even more comfortable having Starfleet provide a permission slip first.

    This characterization is evident the first time we meet him. Saavik and David request permission to beam up a mysterious life form detected on Genesis. Esteban directly quotes regulations to them, saying,

    ESTEBAN: Nothing shall be beamed aboard until danger of contamination has been eliminated.

    They manage to convince him to allow them to beam down to the planet to investigate but only after quoting a different rule to him. Dude likes his rules.

    This personality makes Esteban an interesting foil to Admiral Kirk. Unlike Esteban, Kirk acts according to what he feels is necessary and morally right. Because he feels it's right to help Spock and McCoy, he disobeys Admiral Morrow's direct order to stay away from Genesis. The quest becomes Kirk's personal responsibility, and he puts his career and life on the line to see it through.

    Esteban, on the other hand, seems to hide behind rules to skirt personal responsibility. When Saavik and David are on Genesis, he reminds them that the "landing is Captain's discretion, and [he's] the one who's out on a limb."

    Ultimately, Esteban's ineffectual, timid ways cost both him and his crew dearly. When Saavik and David find Spock, they request to be beamed aboard the ship. Instead of ordering a grab and go, Esteban wishes to get instructions from Starfleet. This allows Kruge to get the jump on them, and the Klingon gunner accidentally destroys the Grissom.

    Guess everything isn't coming up Milhouse today.

  • Valkris (Cathie Shirriff)

    Valkris and Kruge, sitting in a tree, K-I-L-L-I-N-G…

    This lady Klingon is not only Kruge's galpal, but the operative who steals the Genesis plans. When she uploads them to the Bird-of-Prey, she lets it slip that she snuck a peek, and Kruge decides she must be killed for this slight. Valkris doesn't try to negotiate or run away; she accepts her fate and says:

    VALKRIS: Success, my lord, and my love.

    Got to say, we'd be less accepting if our partners decided we needed to die because we showed an interest in their (genocidal) hobbies.

  • T'Lar (Judith Anderson)

    What can we say about the T'Lar, the Vulcan high priestess? We're not being rhetorical…we're seriously asking.

    The character first appears at the end of the film when Sarek requests the ritual of fal-tor-pan, the refusion. She warns everyone about how dangerous and illogical the request is before performing it anyway. Then she disappears from the film and is never heard from again.

    Here's the odd thing: Despite being a very minor player, T'Lar is played by the peerless Dame Judith Anderson. Judith Anderson! If you don't know why we added an exclamation point there, go watch Rebecca. Like right now.

    You back? See what we mean? If we were lucky enough to get Judith Anderson in our movie, there'd be way more Judith Anderson in it.

  • Torg and Maltz (Stephen Liska and John Larroquette)

    Torg and Maltz are Klingons serving under Kruge. It is easy to tell them apart because Torg looks like he got his hair done by a blind, hatchet-wielding grandma while Maltz looks like he had to train his eyebrows before they would settle on his face.

    Okay, maybe it's not so easy.

    Torg leads the Enterprise boarding party. Apparently having never played a video game, he doesn't recognize a self-destruct countdown when he hears one, and he perishes with the Enterprise.

    Maltz is the calmer, more rationale Klingon of the bunch. He locates David and Saavik on Genesis and stays with the ship while Kruge goes to fistfight Kirk. The last surviving member of the crew, he demands that Kirk kill him so he can preserve his honor. Kirk promises to do so but reveals he lied.

    Suffering a fate worse than death, Maltz is ultimately written out of the script. We last see him being escorted to the brig where he disappears between this film and Star Trek IV.

  • Mr. Adventure (Scott McGinnis)

    This lieutenant may have a name in the extended Trek universe, but he'll always be Mr. Adventure to us. A member of the Old Station personnel, he got his name because he wants adventure in the great wild somewhere and is dismayed that Uhura, a space veteran, would choose a provincial life in the "hind end of space."

    So, he's basically a snotty, arrogant Belle.

    Mr. Adventure's adventure kicks in when Admiral Kirk and his crew arrive to, um, borrow the transporter. Uhura holds him at gunpoint and forces him into the closet. Judging by the look on his face, he probably imagined he'd be the one holding the phaser during his adventure.

    Oh, well, beggars can't be choosers. We part ways as he settles comfortably in the closet.