Study Guide

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock Summary

The Search for Spock begins where The Wrath of Khan ended…but if you're a little hazy on the details, don't worry; Kirk's captain's log fills us in right away. (Kirk's a good captain like that.)

The Enterprise has finished its repairs from the battle with the USS Reliant and is heading to Earth, but the optimism Kirk felt in the light of the Genesis planet has been replaced with a sense of lose at the absence of Spock, who sacrificed himself to save the ship. (Spock's a good Vulcan like that.)

As the Enterprise enters Spacedock, someone breaks into Spock's quarters. Kirk investigates and finds Dr. McCoy acting weird, rambling on about going home to Vulcan. (Dr. McCoy's a good…no, wait. This is actually totally out of character for this dude.)

After a medic calms McCoy down, the ship docks, and Admiral Morrow comes aboard to debrief the crew. He informs them that the Enterprise is to be decommissioned. This is an all-around bummer.

Meanwhile, other happenings are happening in the universe. David (Kirk's son) and the Vulcan Saavik are investigating the Genesis planet when they discover an unknown life form. They beam down to the planet to investigate. Also, a Klingon named Kruge steals the information on Genesis, believing it would make a killer weapon—mostly because it absolutely would.

We cut back to Earth and find that Spock's father, Sarek, has visited Kirk. He demands to know why the admiral did not bring Spock's katra, his soul, to Vulcan. Kirk says Spock made no such request of him. After a cozy mind-meld session and a peek at the Enterprise's security footage, Kirk and Sarek discover that Spock entrusted McCoy with his katra. Sarek tasks Kirk with retrieving his son's body and katra.

Kirk visits Morrow and asks to borrow the keys to the Enterprise, but Morrow says "no" because Genesis has become a galactic controversy. Rather than point out how silly that reasoning is—like how there's already a ship there or that it's a request from the Vulcan ambassador—Kirk just decides to steal the Enterprise.

Sorry, sorry: he aims to commandeer the Enterprise.

After breaking McCoy out of Starfleet jail, Kirk and his crew commandeer the Enterprise, which Scotty was nice enough to reprogram for automated use. The USS Excelsior gives chase, but Scotty was also nice enough to sabotage the ship's transwarp drive.

Scotty's the man.

Checking in on Genesis, David and Saavik discover a young Vulcan boy on the planet and surmise it's Spock…or, at least, his newly minted body. It's all thanks to…science? They report this to the USS Grissom, but before Captain Esteban can contact Starfleet with the news, Kruge's Bird-of-Prey appears and blows them out of the sky.


Kruge and his away team teleport to the planet below. Genesis begins to self-destruct, and David admits to Saavik that he used protomatter in the matrix to solve certain problems (i.e. the McNugget method of cheating). Spock's rapid aging leads him into pon farr, a dangerous time for Vulcan males in their, ahem, sexual maturity. Saavik helps him through the worst of it, but the trio is soon captured by Kruge and his away team.

The Enterprise arrives at Genesis. After a game of cat-and-cloaked-mouse, it battles the Bird-of-Prey to a standstill. Kruge gains the upper hand when he threatens to kill one of the three hostages on the planet's surface. The Klingons choose Saavik, but David interferes, saving Spock and Saavik but dying in the process.

With his son dead, Kirk agrees to hand over the Enterprise but not before he sets the ship's self-destruct. When the Klingons board the ship, Kirk and his crew teleport to the planet, and the Enterprise explodes in a fiery death over the planet. You think they had it insured?

Kirk and his crew intercept the Klingons and kill them, freeing Saavik and Spock. Realizing he also destroyed their ride home, Kirk contacts Kruge and says he'll exchange Genesis for their safety. Kruge teleports down to the surface, and he and Kirk have a fistfight over the exploding planet. Kirk knocks Kruge into a lava pit and beams up to the Klingon ship.

After a daring escape from Genesis, the crew brings Spock to Vulcan where the ritual of fal-tor-pan is performed. Spock's katra is retrieved from McCoy's mind and placed in Spocks' brand-spanking new body. At first, Spock's memories are a mess, but he slowly comes to remember the crew, the Enterprise, and his friend Kirk. The film ends with the crew embracing Spock in a happy reunion.

Sure, they've got that whole treason crime hanging over their heads, but that's a story for the sequel…and nothing a couple of humpback whales can't fix.

  • Scene 1

    Scene 1

    • The film opens with a "Previously on the Star Trek" moment. We watch Spock's death scene and his funeral again. The credits play as the camera pans through the new Genesis planet, which looks like the Garden of Eden 2.0—but with fewer tempting serpents.
  • Scene 2

    Scene 2

    • Having its combat damage from the battle with Khan repaired, the Enterprise heads to Earth.
    • Kirk enters a captain's log and admits that he feels uneasy, his ship feeling empty with the absence of Spock.
    • Kirk checks in with the crew as they prepare to dock.
    • Everything's good to go, but Starfleet has yet to respond to their Genesis inquiries.
    • Kirk heads to his quarters, visibly distressed.
  • Scene 3

    Scene 3

    • A space-junker scans for a ship when their Klingon passenger asks to be put on hailing frequencies.
    • She informs someone she has the Genesis data, and a Klingon Bird-of-Prey uncloaks before them.
    • Valkris sends the Genesis data to the ship.
    • The ship's commander, Kruge, learns she has seen the information and decides she must die.
    • All things considered, she takes her murder rather well. The crew of the space-junker? Less so.
    • After killing his lover, Kruge orders a course for the Federation neutral zone.
    • He also reminds a crewmember to feed his dog, a creature that looks like it came straight out of Jim Henson's fever dreams.
  • Scene 4

    Scene 4

    • The Enterprise arrives at Spacedock, a space station orbiting Earth.
    • While parking the ship, the crew sees the new, experimental starship, the USS Excelsior. Sulu says it has transwarp drive, and Scotty replies, "Aye, and if my grandmother had wheels, she'd be a wagon," which—wait, what?
    • Chekov reads a lifeform in Spock's quarters at the same time security calls to say the door has been forced open. Kirk goes down to investigate.
  • Scene 5

    Scene 5

    • Kirk enters Spock's quarters while the security personnel stand outside looking very insecure.
    • He flips the light dimmer just slightly to set the mood, and someone speaks to him from the darkness in Spock's voice.
    • Kirk pulls the man into the light and it is revealed to be Dr. "Bones" McCoy.
    • McCoy asks Kirk to take him home and climb the steps of Mt. Selaya.
    • Kirk says Mt. Selaya is on Vulcan. McCoy utters, "Remember" before fainting.
    • Kirk calls for a medic.
  • Scene 6

    Scene 6

    • Admiral Morrow debriefs the crew.
    • Everybody gets vacation time except Scotty, who is being sent to help with the Excelsior.
    • Scotty says he'd rather work on the refit of Enterprise, but Morrow reveals that the Enterprise is to be decommissioned.
    • It's 20-year-old tech after all.
    • Kirk reminds Morrow about his request to return to Genesis with the Enterprise, but Morrow says no. Genesis has been deemed classified and no one is to speak of it.
  • Scene 7

    Scene 7

    • Kruge and his Klingon pals watch the Genesis data.
    • Kirk explains how the device works while we enjoy rewatching those 1980s computer graphics from Wrath of Khan. Glad Paramount got its money's worth on that one.
    • Kruge plots with one of his crewmen to go to Genesis and steal its secrets, using it as a weapon to preserve the Klingon race.
    • So add that to the list of growing evidence supporting this guy's villainy.
  • Scene 8

    Scene 8

    • The USS Grissom arrives to begin studying the planet. Dr. David Marcus and Lieutenant Saavik begin scanning and find it has deserts, sub tropics, and snowlands within walking distance of each other.
    • So…David's created a to-scale world map from the Super Mario games?
    • They also scan an unidentifiable lifeform that shouldn't be there—located at Mr. Spock's burial tube.
    • Unable to beam it up, David and Saavik convince Captain Esteban they should beam down there.
  • Scene 9

    Scene 9

    • Kirk and his crew toast to absent friends.
    • The doorbell rings; Kirk thinks it is a fashionably late Mr. Scott, but the party crasher is revealed to be Sarek, Spock's father.
    • The ambassador demands to speak with Kirk alone, and then lays into him for denying Spock his future.
    • Kirk is confused about the dead-guy-has-a-future thing, but Sarek explains that only his body was dead. Kirk was supposed to bring Spock's spirit, his katra, to Vulcan.
    • Kirk says Spock made no such request.
    • Laying Kirk down by the romantic fire, Sarek *cough* mind-melds with him.
    • He learns Spock truly made no request of Kirk. Sarek laments that everything about his son is now lost.
    • Kirk believes Spock would have found a way.
  • Scene 10

    Scene 10

    • Kirk watches the security video—is it just us or is that security footage well edited?—and sees that Spock mind-melded with McCoy before his demise, using his brain like a back-up hard drive.
    • Sarek informs Kirk that he must bring both to Mt. Selaya on Vulcan, so they can find peace.
    • Kirk swears he will.
  • Scene 11

    Scene 11

    • Saavik and David teleport to the Genesis planet. They find Spock's burial tube where the microbes on it have evolved into super slugs.
    • David opens the tube to find Spock's body missing, leaving only his burial robe behind Shroud of Turin style. Spock is definitely being portrayed as a Space-Christ figure here.
    • The planet shakes, and crying is heard in the distance. They go to investigate.
  • Scene 12

    Scene 12

    • Admiral Morrow denies Kirk's request to return to Genesis, saying he won't disrupt a galactic controversy over Vulcan woo-hoo.
    • (We know we're supposed to be rooting for Kirk here, but Morrow has a point.)
    • Sulu and Chekov meet Kirk at the elevator. He informs them that the answer is no.
    • He plans to go anyway.
  • Scene 13

    Scene 13

    • McCoy enters a lounge. Wow, even the Star Trek universe's hives of scum and villainy are classy.
    • An alien invites himself to McCoy's table, doing his best Yoda with the sentence structure. It reveals it is the one with the ship for hire.
    • They barter. McCoy says he wants to go to Genesis, and the alien loudly exclaims that's illegal.
    • A Federation security officer intercepts Dr. McCoy. McCoy tries a Vulcan nerve pinch on him, but it doesn't go as planned.
  • Scene 14

    Scene 14

    • Genesis' ecology gets all screwy as we watch Saavik and David walk through a landscape of snow-capped cacti.
    • They follow the footprints of another lifeform.
  • Scene 15

    Scene 15

    • Kirk visits McCoy in the tank, telling the security officer, "I hear he's fruity as a nutcake."
    • Kirk reveals to McCoy that he's suffering from a Vulcan mind-meld. The doctor believes it is revenge for all the arguments Spock lost.
    • Whatever makes you feel better, Bones. Kirk gives him a shot to make him well enough to travel.
    • Sulu appears at the jail, claiming the commander of Starfleet wants to see Admiral Kirk right away.
    • Kirk pulls his best Marty McFly and knocks the security guard out while Sulu flips the big guy over his shoulder. They escape.
  • Scene 16

    Scene 16

    • Aboard the Excelsior, Scotty tells off an elevator. No joke: we're just telling you how it went down.
    • We check in on Uhura at her new position at Old Station. A young lieutenant complains about his need for adventure and surprise.
    • Enter Admiral Kirk. Uhura leads them to the transporter, and by the time Mr. Adventure figures outs how illegal this is, she's drawn a phaser on him.
    • She orders him into the closet and promises to meet Kirk and the crew at the rendezvous before teleporting them aboard the Enterprise.
  • Scene 17

    Scene 17

    • Scotty and Chekov meet Kirk, McCoy, and Sulu aboard the Enterprise bridge. As promised, Scotty has completely rigged the ship to run on automated systems.
    • They go all grand theft starship on the Enterprise.
    • Aboard the Excelsior, Captain Styles is called to the bridge—yep, the guy fussing over his nails is named Styles.
  • Scene 18

    Scene 18

    • The Enterprise heads for the space doors as the Excelsior powers up to pursue.
    • We enjoy some tension as Scotty fumbles with the space doors' controls, but he manages to open them at the last possible dramatic second (of course).
    • The Excelsior follows. Captain Styles calls Kirk to warn him that if he follows through with this plan he'll never captain a starship again.
    • The Enterprise guns it to warp speed.
    • Captain Styles orders warp speed, but the Excelsior only manages to splutter out a comical, cartoony sound. In space, no one can hear you scream…but they can hear you fail.
    • On the Enterprise, Scotty hands Dr. McCoy parts from the Excelsior's transwarp computer drive, a gift "from one surgeon to another."
    • McCoy gripes at Kirk for keeping him in the dark, because he's the gripe-meister. Kirk commends his crew for their work and orders best speed to Genesis.
  • Scene 19

    Scene 19

    • Genesis continues to degrade as quickly and accurately as Earth in The Day After Tomorrow. Saavik and David traipse through a blizzard.
    • They find the mysterious lifeform, and it turns out to be a Vulcan boy about nine years old.
    • David confirms it's Spock, believing the Genesis effect could have resurrected him.
    • Saavik calls Captain Esteban and tells him the news. She requests permission to beam aboard.
    • Esteban says they'll do it by the book and ask Papa Starfleet what to do.
  • Scene 20

    Scene 20

    • While they're transmitting, the Klingon Bird-of-Prey uncloaks before them. Kruge orders the gunner to disable their engines, but the overzealous Klingon goes full OP and destroys the Grissom.
    • Upset over the incident, Kruge fires his gunner—but with a phaser. The gunner's severance package includes the severing of his molecules one by one.
    • Maltz informs Kruge that there are life signs on the planet if he is still wants prisoners.
  • Scene 21

    Scene 21

    • On the Enterprise, Kirk asks if any ships are in pursuit, and McCoy answers in Spock's voice. Everyone does their best try-not-to-look-like-it's-totally-awkward face, but it's awkward.
    • We check in on Kruge and his peeps as they bushwhack their way through Genesis. Apparently, instead of teleporting directly to the life signs, they decided now was a good time to up the step count on their Fitbits. The sedentary lifestyle of a Bird-of-Prey isn't good for the cholesterol.
    • We cut to Saavik and David taking a rest.
    • Saavik decides it's time for a heart-to-heart and asks David what's wrong with the planet. He says that he used protomatter in the Genesis matrix, the science-fiction equivalent of entering a cheat code but pretending you're just that awesome at the game.
    • Saavik asks him how many people have paid the price for his impatience and then wonders what is yet to come.
  • Scene 22

    Scene 22

    • The Klingons find Spock's pod and the microorganisms are even less micro now. One of them tries to strangle Kruge, but the Klingon squishes it. They move on as the sun sets on Genesis.
    • We return to Saavik and David. They realize Spock and the planet are connected and both are aging as rapidly as a middle-age dude with unlimited tanning booth access.
    • Saavik explains to David that Spock is entering pon farr, a reproductive stage Vulcan males must endure every seventh year of their life.
    • They hear a tricorder beep in the distance. David agrees to go and investigate.
  • Scene 23

    Scene 23

    • Chekov picks up a message from Starfleet to the Grissom, warning the science vessel about the Enterprise. There is no response.
    • Kirk wonders what the Grissom is playing at and decides to break silence and send Captain Esteban his compliments.
    • Kirk asks McCoy how he is doing. McCoy says they're doing fine, but he'd have felt better giving him a kidney.
    • Chekov receives no response from the Grissom.
  • Scene 24

    Scene 24

    • Saavik is rudely awakened as the planet throws a tantrum.
    • She sees Spock enduring pon farr and asks him to trust her.
    • They perform a mating ritual where they rub their fingers together. (But if this is a Vulcan mating ritual, and Spock is half-human, then…)
  • Scene 25

    Scene 25

    • The Enterprise enters the Genesis sector. The Klingons aboard the ship enter cloak mode before Kirk and crew can scan them.
    • On the Genesis planet, Saavik is again rudely awaken—this time by Klingons capturing her and Spock. Girl cannot get a break.
    • Saavik tries to convince Kruge that Genesis is a failure, but Kruge is actually impressed by how destructive it's turning out. He demands the secrets of the torpedo.
    • Kurge is informed of Enterprise's arrival and is beamed aboard the Bird-of-Prey.
  • Scene 26

    Scene 26

    • The Enterprise and Bird-of-Prey draw closer. Kruge orders his brand new gunner to target only the engines this time.
    • Kirk and Sulu begin to see the distortion of the cloaking device. Kirk orders all power to the weapons, forgoing shields for a knock-out punch.
    • Enterprise gets the first shot off and nails the Bird-of-Prey. Kruge's alien-dog-creature, um, thing dies. Somehow.
    • Kirk orders the shields up, but the automation system is overloaded. The Bird-of-Prey hits the engines, and the Enterprise is a sitting space duck.
  • Scene 27

    Scene 27

    • Kruge wonders why the Enterprise hasn't finished them off when a message for truce comes in from Kirk.
    • Kirk's message declares the Klingon presence as an act of war and demands they surrender or he'll destroy them. Kruge sees through the bluff and realizes the Enterprise is more damaged then he thought.
    • Kruge responses. He demands Kirk surrender immediately and threatens to kill one of the prisoners on the planet if he does not.
    • Kirk learns the prisoners are Saavik, David, and Spock. They inform Kirk that Genesis is unstable.
    • To show Kirk that he means business, Kurge orders one of the prisoners killed.
    • A Klingon goes to execute Saavik, but David interferes. He is killed in the scuffle.
    • Saavik informs Kirk that David is dead. Kirk is distraught at the news of his son's death.
  • Scene 28

    Scene 28

    • Kirk agrees to surrender the Enterprise, requesting a minute to inform his crew. Kruge, feeling generous, gives him two minutes.
    • Kruge orders all of his men save one to form a boarding party. He plans to control the ship and steal Genesis from the Enterprise's memory banks.
    • Meanwhile, Kirk hatches a plan. He, Chekov, and Scotty initiate the Enterprise's self-destruct mode.
    • When the Klingon's teleport over to the Enterprise, Kirk and company teleport down to the Genesis planet.
  • Scene 29

    Scene 29

    • The Klingons wander the ship, basically saying, "Anybody home?"
    • Torg informs Kruge that the vessel is empty, and only the computer is speaking. Kruge demands to listen. When he hears the countdown, he figures it out.
    • Too late. Enterprise self-destructs, killing the Klingons aboard.
    • Kirk and his crew watch the Enterprise's destruction from the planet's surface. The Enterprise looks like a falling star as it disintegrates in the atmosphere.
    • Kirk questions the act, but McCoy says he's given them a chance to live.
  • Scene 30

    Scene 30

    • Spock trembles in pain as Genesis crumbles.
    • One of the Klingon's tries to forcefully move Spock, but the teenage Vulcan tosses him, ragdoll style.
    • Kirk and his crew arrive, and Kirk blasts the remaining Klingon. While McCoy analyzes Spock, Kirk takes a moment to lay his coat over his son's body.
    • Saavik tells him David sacrificed his life to save them.
    • McCoy determines that Spock's condition is due to accelerated aging, but his mind is a void. Saavik exclaims they must get Spock off the planet.
    • Kirk picks up the Klingon communicator and tells Kruge that he will trade the secret of Genesis if he teleports them off the planet.
  • Scene 31

    Scene 31

    • Kruge beams down and gets the drop on them. He has Maltz beam up everyone but Kirk and Spock.
    • Kirk tells Kruge that they'll die if they don't help each other. Unfortunately, Kruge is down with the idea.
    • Kruge launches at Kirk and the two go at it. Thus begins the epic battle of two middle-aged men in silly clothes duking it out on a sound stage.
    • Kirk knees Kruge between the legs—lucky for him, Klingon males evolved the same weak points—and the two fall onto the cliff's edge.
    • Kruge hangs over the cliff. Kirk offers to pull him, but the Klingon decides he'd rather take his enemy with him.
    • Kirk goes full-on whack-a-Klingon on Kruge's face until he lets go. The Klingon commander Wil-E-Coyotes into the lava below.
  • Scene 32

    Scene 32

    • Kirk grabs Spock and the communicator. The only Klingon he knows is "Beam me up, Scotty." Lucky for him, it works.
    • McCoy takes care of Spock. Kirk offers Maltz a choice: Help us or die. Maltz says he doesn't deserve to live, so Kirk promises to kill him later.
    • The Klingon Bird-of-Prey makes a daring, last-minute escape from Genesis while Kirk bids farewell to his son.
    • Chekov goes to take Maltz to the brig, but Maltz complains that he was told he'd be killed. Kirk admits he lied.
    • McCoy demands Spock tell him what to do with the Vulcan's katra, but with Genesis destroyed, shouldn't Spock be dead, too?
    • McCoy admits to missing Spock.
  • Scene 33

    Scene 33

    • The Klingon Bird-of-Prey lands on Vulcan.
    • Kirk and his crew accompany Spock's body to the Vulcan temple where Sarek requests fal-tor-pan, the refusion, be performed.
    • The Vulcan high priestess claims the ritual has only been performed in legend and that his request is not logical. Sarek says he has difficulty with logic where his son is concerned. This answer proves convincing for a race whose entire culture is based on logic. Hmm.
    • As keeper of the katra, McCoy volunteers for the potentially dangerous ritual.
    • The Vulcan high priestess performs the ritual.
  • Scene 34

    Scene 34

    • McCoy comes out of the ritual unharmed—minus, we assume, some deep-seated trauma.
    • Sarek informs Kirk that only time will tell if Spock is okay. He thanks the admiral, but Kirk contends that he had to do it.
    • Spock walks by Kirk and turns around in reminiscence. He asks Kirk why he would come back for him, and Kirk explains that the needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many.
    • Spock turns to leave, but the memories of his final moments come back. He remembers Kirk's name is "Jim."
    • Overjoyed, the crew embraces their friend.
    • A title card promises us that the adventure will continue but more on that whale of a tale later. Roll credits.