Review for Star Trek III : The Search For Spock
The 2013 release of the first ten Star Trek films on Blu-ray certainly made for a convenient package, rich with extras, although it did mean having to own Star Trek: Nemesis as the price for having the other nine, watchable films. The problem however was that Paramount really cheaped out on the transfers, especially for the original series features, with heavily DNR’d image quality, the grain practically eliminated to erase whatever was filmic about the experience. They were catering for what they considered was the majority audience back then, who were spending their time in the cinema watching digitally shot features, with traditional celluloid having fallen out of fashion. Ten years later, and the cognoscenti have more of a say, and in addition, the latest UHD technology isn’t as forgiving of DNR. In 2021, the first four Star Trek features got UHD releases, and with that came all new restorations and transfers, which trickled down to Blu-ray as well. Star Trek II’s 4k restoration came out some time before, but last year I picked up the new transfers for the Motion Picture, The Voyage Home, and this, Star Trek III: The Search For Spock.
Things aren’t looking good for Captain James Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise. Following the events of Star Trek II, Spock is dead, the badly damaged starship limping home. Kirk’s son David Marcus, along with Saavik may be off exploring the Genesis planet, created after Khan suicidally detonated the Genesis device, but Kirk has been ordered to stay away from the planet, the Enterprise is to be decommissioned, and Starfleet security is clamping down on any mention of Genesis. On top of that Dr McCoy is behaving very erratically. When Spock’s father Sarek tells Kirk that there may be a chance that Spock’s soul has survived, if not his body, it becomes even more imperative for Kirk to return. All the answers lie on the Genesis world, but it’s not developing as expected, and the Klingons won’t countenance a doomsday weapon in the hands of the Federation.
Just as in the Motion Picture disc that I reviewed a few months back, the image has been fixed for Star Trek III: The Search For Spock. You get a 2.35:1 widescreen 1080p transfer on this Blu-ray disc, with the option of Dolby TrueHD 7.1 Surround English, Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround French, German, and Spanish, and DD 5.1 Surround Japanese with subtitles in these languages and Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Swedish and Norwegian. The image is clear and sharp throughout, the 4k restoration has brought out detail that I had never seen before, and colours are rich and consistent. Most importantly, the fine film grain is back just as it should be; there are no more plastic faces to put you off. The audio on the other hand is identical to the previous release, and once again, Paramount have missed a trick by not including the original theatrical stereo mix. The surround is good though, making the most of the action, and James Horner’s rousing theatrical score.
You get one disc in a BD Amaray style case, wrapped in an o-card slipcover, and both the case and the slipcover use the original poster art for the film. The disc boots to a static menu, albeit after quite some time. While the BD Live content has been ditched for this release, the disc offers the same extra features as the previous Blu-ray release.
The Commentary with director Leonard Nimoy, producer Harve Bennett, cinematographer Charles Correll and actress Robin Curtis was taken from the DVD and is a bit of a patchwork with the speakers recorded separately.
New for this disc is the commentary from Ronald D. Moore and Michael Taylor.
The Library Computer is the glorified pop-up trivia track.
In Production you’ll find four featurettes looking at the making of the film, and exploring some of its story elements. Two are in SD running to 52:06 in total. Two are in HD and run to 20:12.
The Star Trek Universe has the rest of the featurettes, three in SD running to 61:09, and two in HD running to 19:34.
You get the theatrical trailer in HD.
They talk about the odd-number curse of Star Trek movies, and I think it’s unfair when it comes to Star Trek III, which is actually a really good movie. I think it suffers from two problems with regards to audience reception. The first is that it relies on having seen Star Trek II for it to make sense. Of all the Star Trek films, it is the least stand-alone. The second thing is that of all the Star Trek films, it is the most downbeat. You can accuse Star Trek of getting dark, more horror oriented (especially when it came to Borg in First Contact), but that is a tonal darkness. Star Trek III’s darkness is more thematic, looking at loss and sacrifice. The film begins with Spock having died in the previous film, and as it unfolds, when you learn just what Kirk has to sacrifice to help his friend, you might be tempted to ask if it was actually worth it.
In terms of the script however, in terms of the performances and the story, Star Trek III is much more impressive than many of the films that followed it and Star Trek IV. This was back when the Star Trek films tried to do something different with each iteration instead of constantly trying to remake Khan. You could say that it does boil down to a confrontation with a scenery chewing villain over a doomsday weapon, but the weapon doesn’t get detonated in this film; the threat is more a political one, with the Klingons wanting to maintain the balance of power. What makes this film different is the length that Kirk will go to in his self appointed mission, breaking the law and stealing the Enterprise. Compare that to Picard’s weak and wobbly Insurrection in the film of the same name, and it’s clear that the personal stakes are much higher for the characters, and that helps make The Search for Spock a gripping adventure.
Once again, Paramount get incremental with their upgrades, leaving the cynic in me wondering just how many more times I am going to buy these films. This is nigh on the exact same disc as the 2013 release, but the 4k restoration means that we finally get to see a decent, filmic image, offering more detail and clarity than ever before. Star Trek III now looks fantastic, but we’ll probably have to wait for the next release for Paramount to add the original theatrical audio mix, and maybe another release after that, if we’re to hope for more, or different extra features. Still, I’m glad to finally have the first four original series films with decent image quality.