It is my sincere hope that today's generation of children will have as many fond memories as I do of my childhood. Sure there were down days, but all in all I can look back and smile. One of those days happened a staggering 31 years ago in the summer of 1984. That is when Star Trek III: The Search for Spock opened at the Cinema 19 Theater on Route 19 in Washington PA. Much like my childhood, Cinema 19 has faded away, but as I indicated earlier Admiral, the memories remain.
The problem is, with age I find myself more like my father. Confusing a few details, making up a few aspects, and exaggerating the effort involved. Truth be told, my friend Sal and I DID walk a certain distance to Cinema 19 to see TSFS. However, we did get a ride most of the way from his sister, who was on her way to work in a lime green Subaru (sadly that much is true), but we walked the rest of the way to the actual theater. In fact, I did a mapquest on the distance from the Bob Evans where she worked, to Cinema 19 the other day and it is just under 2 miles. I think I once told someone we walked 13 miles to get there, then had us walk along some railroad tracks, in the process. For that I am sorry. So like Mr. Spock I exaggerated, but unlike our trusted Vulcan, I am capable of lying for the sake of a good story. Just ask Sal about a Gorf 2 video game I tried to assure him was real.
The truth is, the third film in the Star Trek franchise gets a bad rap as one of the odd numbered films in the series. This is quite unfair given the amount of reveals and epic events we bear witness to. I believe this is where I am supposed to say "spoiler alert" and then continue typing. These events include Spock's father Sarek on the big screen for the first time, played by the late / great Mark Lenard. Who is actually one of two major Trek alumni to have played multiple aliens in the franchise. (Tim Russ ST:VOY being the other) Lenard was a Romulan commander in the ST:TOS episode Balance of Terror, in addition to being Spock's father in Journey to Babel. He was also the first Klingon to bear head ridges in ST:TMP as the commander of the Amar consumed by V'Ger. The trifecta was complete: Romulan, Vulcan, and Klingon.
The Klingon Bird of Prey would also decloak before our eyes for the very first time, captained by a Taxi driver no less, with Christopher Lloyd as Klingon Commander Kruge. Not made out of used pinball machine parts, the Bird of Prey was an impressive vessel, destroying both a pirate freighter and the USS Grissom with ease, and disabling a 30 year old refit Enterprise with one shot. Oddly enough the Bird of Prey would go "back in time" in a "future" Trek film. My only complaint here is I would have loved to see a larger battle between the Enterprise and the Bird of Prey, but it simply did not fit the plot line.
The death of David Marcus was a bit of a surprise to me back then. Watching the film now however, it seems right, and fits the tone of the film. His death at the hands of the Klingon's would fuel Kirk's hatred of them for years /movies to come. All of the emotion surrounding his death was very tangible. Kirk falling backwards to the ground in shock, then yelling out in agony. On the planet surface, the crew looks on as Kirk covers David's body on Genesis, and finally Sarek thanks Kirk on Vulcan for what he has done, but wonders at what cost, "Your ship, Your Son" to which Kirk replies "If I hadn't tried, the cost would have been my soul". Such a powerful admission.
Then of course we have the destruction of the Enterprise. We were once teased of a possible starship self destruction in the ST:TOS episode Let This Be Your Last Battlefield. The beauty here is that the codes remain the same for the countdown, but replacing Chekov as acting Science Officer instead of Spock was necessary. The old switcheroo by Kirk to eliminate most of the Klingon crew as the Enterprise explodes and burns up in the atmosphere is epic and sad all in one breath. Unlike today's Trek, the Enterprise was as much of a character in the series as her crew. Which makes the moment shared between Kirk and Bones so powerful. Kirk: "My God Bones...what have I done" Bones: "What you had to do. What you always do. Turn death into a fighting chance to live. If that doesn't get you, then you've probably undergone the Kolinahr to purge all emotion.
This is about the time where my wife would say "pass the butter". Borrowed from the Big Bang Theory, it's her way of telling me that she supports my passion for the discussion, but I have been talking for too long and it's time to move on. But not before I recall walking the railroad tracks with my other friend Jeff to get to the Franklin Mall. That is part is true, just don't ask me the distance traveled, it's likely to be inflated. Now, take the time to revisit Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, or watch it as part of the unofficial trilogy beginning with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and ending with Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. The third and fourth films were directed by the late Leonard Nimoy (Spock), which make them all the more heartfelt these days. A famous archeologist once said "It's not the years, it's the mileage." I may have fudged my mileage on my Search for Spock, but the years have been kind to this film, I'm just not so sure why the critics never were.