Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984 Movies)
Director:- Leonard Nimoy
Producer:- Harve Bennett
Story by:- Harve Bennett
Music by:- James Horner
June 1, 1984
Country:- United States
Budget:- $16 Million
Box office:- $87 Million
The Federation Starship Enterprise returns to Earth following a battle with the superhuman Khan Noonien Singh, who tried to destroy the Enterprise by detonating an experimental terraforming device known as Genesis. The casualties of the fight include Admiral James T. Kirk‘s Vulcan friend, Spock, whose casket was launched into space and eventually landed on the planet created by the Genesis Device. On arriving at Earth Spacedock, Doctor Leonard McCoy begins to act strangely and is detained. Commander-Starfleet, Admiral Morrow visits the Enterprise and informs the crew the ship is to be decommissioned; the crew is instructed not to speak about Genesis due to political fallout over the device.
David Marcus (Merritt Butrick)—Kirk’s son, a key scientist in Genesis’s development—and Lieutenant Saavik (Robin Curtis) are investigating the Genesis planet on board the science vessel Grissom. Discovering an unexpected life form on the surface, Marcus and Saavik transport to the planet. They find that the Genesis Device has resurrected Spock in the form of a child, although his mind is not present. Marcus admits that he used unstable “protomatter” in the development of the Genesis Device, causing Spock to age rapidly and meaning the planet will be destroyed within hours. Meanwhile, Kruge (Christopher Lloyd), the commander of a Klingon vessel, intercepts information about Genesis. Believing the device to be potentially useful as a weapon, he takes his cloaked ship to the Genesis planet, destroys the Grissom, and searches the planet for the survivors.
Spock’s father, Sarek (Mark Lenard), confronts Kirk about his son’s death. The pair learn that before he died, Spock transferred his katra, or living spirit, to McCoy. Spock’s katra and body are needed to lay him to rest on his homeworld, Vulcan, and without help, McCoy will die from carrying the katra. Disobeying orders, Kirk and his officers spring McCoy from detention, disable the USS Excelsior, and steal the Enterprise from Spacedock to return to the Genesis planet to retrieve Spock’s body.
On Genesis, the Klingons capture Marcus, Saavik and Spock and before Kruge can interrogate them their ship signals that the Enterprise has arrived and Kruge immediately beams back to the Bird of Prey.
In orbit, the undermanned Enterprise is attacked and disabled by Kruge. In the standoff that follows, Kruge orders that one of the hostages on the surface be executed. Marcus is killed defending Saavik and Spock. Kirk and company feign surrender and activate the Enterprise‘s self-destruct sequence, killing the Klingon boarding party while the Enterprisecrew transports to the planet’s surface. Promising the secret of Genesis, Kirk lures Kruge to the planet and has him beam his crew to the Klingon vessel. As the Genesis planet disintegrates, Kirk and Kruge engage in a fistfight; Kirk emerges victorious after kicking Kruge off a cliff into a lava flow. Kirk and his officers take control of the Klingon ship and head to Vulcan.
There, Spock’s katra is reunited with his body in a dangerous procedure called fal-tor-pan. The ceremony is successful and Spock is resurrected, alive and well, though his memories are fragmented. At Kirk’s prompting, Spock remembers he called Kirk “Jim” and recognizes the crew.
- William Shatner as Adm. Kirk
- DeForest Kelley as Dr. McCoy
- James Doohan as Scotty
- George Takei as Sulu
- Walter Koenig as Chekov
- Nichelle Nichols as Uhura
- Merritt Butrick as David Marcus
- Christopher Lloyd as Commander Kruge
- John Larroquette as Maltz
- Leonard Nimoy as Spock
- Robin Curtis as Saavik
- Phil Morris as Trainee Foster
- Scott McGinnis as `Mr. Adventure’
- Robert Hooks as Adm. Morrow
- Carl Steven as Spock
- Vadia Potenza as Spock
- Stephen Manley as Spock
- Joe Davis as Spock
- Paul Sorenson as Captain
To guard against leaks that had prefigured Spock’s death during production of The Wrath of Khan, Paramount took precautions to secure the sets. Set designer Cameron Birnie noted that the production’s security was highly unusual; sets were built out of sequence and the crew given only as many pages as they needed to fabricate each locale. Security guards checked the picture identification cards of production staff. Any mention of the production was removed from stationery and documents, and “Trois” (three, in French) was written as a code word. Offices and workshops were bereft of identifying signage, with doors double-locked for extra protection. The Search for Spock‘s scripts were chemically treated so that copies could be traced to the original; as a further canary trap, subtle changes in wording distinguished each copy. Nimoy’s name never appeared on call sheets, and Spock was referred to in the script as “Nacluv” (Vulcan spelled backwards). Despite the precautions, word of the Enterprise‘s destruction leaked out before the film’s release.
Principal photography commenced on August 15, 1983. All but two days of production were filmed on Paramount soundstages, by cinematographer Charles Correll. The Search for Spock was one of the first major feature films to use Eastman 5294, a color high speed negative film stock. The film allowed Correll latitude in choosing a broad range of exposure indexes. Since The Search for Spock was shot with anamorphic lenses and many theatergoers would see widescreen 70 mm prints, Correll needed to produce a crisp depth of field, a difficult task on many sets. For scenes on the bridge, Correll pushed the exposure index above the Eastman recommendation to keep the image crisp at less than 50 foot-candles.
Many of The Search for Spock‘s dialogue sequences feature tight close-up shots. During Kirk and Sarek’s mind meld, Nimoy chose cuts that focused on accentuating the dialogue; “Instead of watching people’s faces, all you see is the mouth or the eyes and you have the tendency to hear better,” Correll explained. Correll was unhappy that every scene save one was filmed on a soundstage. Feeling that recreating everything on set resulted in a fake look, the cinematographer suggested that Genesis be filmed on Kauai in Hawaii, and that Red Rock Canyon stand in for Vulcan. The production did not have the money to shoot on location, meaning that Nimoy was preoccupied with making sure the various outdoor settings felt believable. While the various vessel exteriors were handled by ILM, Correll was responsible for the look of the interior sets. He preferred to treat these as actual locations inside the ships; although the sets’ ceilings were designed to be removed so that lights could be rigged in the rafters, Correll used other lighting methods. In the Bird of Prey, he used fluorescent tubes to pick up the walls’ metallic paints, and kept the set smoky to convey a dirty atmosphere.
Before McCoy is arrested by security, he attempts to charter a spaceflight to Genesis in a bar. The scene opens with two officers playing a World War I-era dogfight video game. The wireframe biplanes were created using black lines on clear paper printouts placed on an overlay cell. “It was really just a gag shot”, effects artist Charlie Mullen explained, “the idea that people in the future would be playing an old war game.” To accommodate the effect, Correll had to use a large amount of exposure without making the bar appear overlit. Much of the lighting was provided by tables rigged with fluorescent tubes to provide an effect different from other parts of the film. Correll could not add smoke to the scene to enhance the bar “feel”, because the disturbed atmosphere would have made ILM’s game hard to insert. The scene was intended to end in a barroom brawl when security tried to take McCoy into custody; Nimoy decided that “it didn’t feel right” and there was not enough time or money to achieve the scene successfully.
The Genesis planet was produced via matte paintings and soundstages on Paramount lots under art director John Edward Chilberg II. Much of the planet occupied Stage 15, known as the DeMille stage in honor of the director’s Parting of the Red Sea on the stage during filming of The Ten Commandments (1956). The space measured 300 by 100 feet (91 by 30 m). The perceived boundaries of the scenes were extended via matte paintings created by Chris Evans, Frank Ordaz, and Michael Pangrazio. Because parts of the set had to literally collapse during the planet’s destruction, the set was built 16 feet (4.9 m) off the ground and featured trapdoors and pyrotechnics in the floor. The hundreds of 10,000 watt lights in the rafters were covered in silk for day scenes to soften the light, and fitted with blue filters for night; dimmers eased the transition between periods. Since the doomed planet was no longer a paradise, the art director, Nimoy, Bennett and Correll considered constant changes to the colors on the scenes, but decided not to get “fancy photographically”.While many of the scenes appeared lit with minimal light sources such as flickering fires, Correll tried to use as much light as possible. To get the fire to reflect on the actor’s faces, Correll used a variety of tricks with normal lights; using natural fire would not have provided the required intensity.
A significant feature of the Genesis planet are the alien worms that rapidly evolve from microbes on Spock’s coffin. The creatures start as small, slimy crawlers, then grow to lengths of 8 feet (2.4 m). The small worms were created by injecting molten “Hot-Melt” vinyl into epoxypolymer molds that were immediately put into cold water to create a translucent product. The resulting hundred or so creatures were painted and coated with methacyl, a slippery, slimy coating. Each worm was attached to an elevated platform by a piece of fishing line; the lines were tied to rods underneath the set. Offscreen helpers pushed the rods or pulled fishing line to create motion; the scene required many takes because the fishing line would periodically flash at the camera. The larger worms proved more problematic, with filming taking place at ILM and Paramount Stage 15. Similar to The Wrath of Khan‘s parasitic Ceti eels, the worms featured cobra-like cowls and a ringed mouth of teeth. ILM built one of the worms with more articulation than the others; Ralston operated the creature through a hole in the set floor with his hand stuck inside the creature. The other worms were animated using pneumatic bladders that caused air to pass through hoses in sequence, creating an undulating motion. During the scene the worms attack Kruge, who kills one of them. The usual method for achieving the effect of the creature wrapping itself around Kruge would have been to film the sequence in reverse, but this posed problems: the slime coating Kruge would have been out of place with reverse filming, and multiple takes would ruin the Klingon makeup Lloyd wore. ILM’s solution involved rigging the worm with fishing lines that were pulled in a choreographed fashion by multiple off-screen helpers to simulate the wrapping movement. When small pieces of the Klingon uniforms caught or snapped the fishing lines, Ralston resorted to steel cables.
The fiery breakup of the Genesis planet involved fire, smoke, and earth upheaval. “The main part of the floor was rigged so that rocks would shoot up out of the ground [on catapults]. Trees were rigged to fall and start fires,” Correll explained. Producing the shots required meticulous direction and between 20 and 30 helpers were on hand the day of shooting. Correll shot simultaneously on nine cameras; the hope was to get as many usable shots as possible in one take, in case all the trapdoors and pyrotechnics had to be reset for another round of filming. This entire sequence was completed in three weeks.
The Vulcan stairs were filmed at Occidental College—the production’s only location shooting. To create the orange atmosphere, Correll used a large 15 by 15 feet (4.6 by 4.6 m) floodlight, created for the 1983 Peter Hyams film The Star Chamber, placed on the top of a 110-foot (34 m) crane. The location’s blue-grey sky was replaced with a matte painting that covered the top half of the stairs shot. Many ornamental touches Nimoy wanted for the procession scene ultimately never materialized. The background of the set was simply a painted piece of canvas; Nimoy had the background out of focus in all the shots as a way to hide the shortcomings of the scenery. Elements removed from the Vulcan sequence included a procession through the “Vulcan Hall of Ancient Thought”, a space dominated by large heads atop columns and a sculpture towering to a height of 20 feet (6.1 m). The scene was cut because the procession dragged on for too long.
Production on the film was temporarily shut down after a fire destroyed several soundstages at Paramount Studios, one of which was adjacent to the set for the Genesis planet. Initially, the set’s pyrotechnics were suspected of causing the fire, but the cause was ruled to be arson. Shatner was among the cast members who grabbed fire hoses to stop the flames. Correll hoped the place would burn down so that he would get his chance to film in Hawaii. While most of the set was undamaged, holes in the side of the building had to be covered with heavy black curtains to prevent outside light from leaking in.
As with previous Star Trek films, time and money were major constraints for special effects. The effects artists were concerned about producing the right look no matter the time involved. While effects cameraman Scott Farrar and his assistants constantly traversed the 400 miles (640 km) separating ILM from Paramount, teams at the effects house organized post-production effects and photography. The constant travel took a toll on Ralston, who began to forget which airlines he was taking and what city he was in. As a pause in work meant wasted time, effects editors Bill Kimberlin and Jay Ignaszewski produced usable effects shots for the live-action editors at Paramount; these half-finished, monochromatic composites gave the editors an idea of scene pacing. ILM contributed 120 shots to the film. Like Correll, Ralston used Eastman 94 for all shots that did not require bluescreen.
ILM filmed starships using motion control for timed and computer-assisted model movement. The ship models required multiple camera passes because different parts of the ship and its lights were filmed at different exposure levels. The Excelsior required eight passes to supplement the main “beauty pass”, the Enterprise six. ILM could have combined passes with multiple exposures, but not without risk; “If anything got out of synch, or somehow we dropped a frame, we would have to reshoot—and then you’re stuck. You’ve ruined two pieces, two elements,” Farrar said.
The Klingon Bird of Prey’s cloaking device required a new effect. The original concept featured the layers of the ship forming up from the inside out, requiring a series of overlaid elements filmed with an Oxberry animation camera. ILM decided the effect appeared too “animated-looking”, and defied common sense: “if there was a fanfare to decloaking, everyone would know the Klingons were coming and blow them out of the sky before they could even finish materializing,” Ralston said. The supervisor decided on subtlety, throwing color separations out of sync to create a blurry ripple effect. While simple, the sequence was more effective than the elaborate planned scene. Effects such as the destruction of the merchant ship were created using projected explosions, a technique perfected during the production of Return of the Jedi. Simulated zero-gravity explosions were filmed and reflected onto a card using the same motion control program used for the models. The result was an explosion that moved with the model.
The most laborious effects sequences took place inside Spacedock; months were spent completing the station’s interior shots. The effects crew tested different looks to make sure the dock interior seemed appropriately vast. “We found the interior demanded some degree of atmospheric haze, even though there probably wouldn’t be any in space,” Farrar said. To create a slightly degraded look, the crew used blue color gels for lights and shot through smoke for fill shots. They switched to diffusion filters for light passes, as using smoke for longer shots would have required time-consuming smoke level monitoring. Due to difference in the scales of the dock and ship models, it was impossible to film the Excelsior and Enterprise inside the set. Opening the dock’s space doors was problematic because the lights illuminating the inside of the dock from the exterior had to be hidden from the camera to prevent lens flares. Massive fans were used to keep equipment cool and prevent the lights from melting or warping the dock’s interior artwork. The realism of the dock scenes was heightened by live action footage of a cafeteria, with windows overlooking the dock interior. The cafeteria was a set built at ILM and filled with 40 extras in front of a bluescreen so that the dock and Enterprise could be composited in later; matte paintings extended the ceiling of the set.
Ralston, who considered the Enterprise ugly and the model hard to shoot, delighted in destroying the ship. Several shots were combined together for the complete destruction sequence; while Ralston would have preferred to take a mallet to the original $150,000 model, a variety of cheaper models were used. The first part of the ship to be destroyed was the bridge, a separate miniature with stars added to the background. The shot switches to the Bird of Prey moving away as the top of the saucer burns, where explosions (filmed upside down to simulate the absence of gravity) were superimposed over a motion control pass of the ship. The camera cuts to a closeup of the ship’s registration number being eaten away by inner explosions. George created a light Styrofoam model that was dissolved by acetone dripped on the saucer from above. By shooting at less than one frame per second and keeping light off the model, the drips were not visible in the print. Burning steel wool on the inside of the saucer created a glowing ember effect from the ship’s inner decks being destroyed. The saucer explosion was simulated by blowing up a talcum powder-covered plaster dish. Two and four ounce bombs and gasoline were used as pyrotechnics in live action scenes of the bridge being destroyed. Stuntmen used spring-loaded platforms to launch themselves in the air.
For the final destruction of the Genesis planet, footage from the Paramount set had to be carefully matched with ILM effects footage. ILM built scale miniatures cut into sections to portray parts of Genesis’ upheaval (rock slides, fissures opening in the ground) that live-action scenes could not easily replicate. One of the largest miniatures, measuring 20 by 16 feet (6.1 by 4.9 m), had trick trees and trapdoors that could be reset, propane jets for gusts of fire, and solenoid-triggered rockfalls. For scenes where Kirk and Kruge battle at a precipice over a pit of lava, the shot combined animated lava, clouds (really cotton daubs on black), lightning, and a matte painting. Overhead shots of the lava were created by lighting a piece of clear Plexiglass with colored gels and covering the plate with methacyl, vermiculite and charcoal; the mixture dripped off the surface and coated the crew underneath. ILM simulated Kruge’s demise, a long plunge into the pool of lava, with the help of a stop-motion puppet. Lloyd fell a few feet onto a black mattress; during a lighting flash the actor was replaced by the puppet that fell the rest of the distance. Because the shot was filmed on black instead of the traditional bluescreen, the animators had to remove or rotoscope the black background around Lloyd one frame at a time. The transition between the footage of Lloyd and the puppet was hidden by a single-frame flash as a bolt of lightning struck Kruge. The scene of Kirk and Spock beaming away as the ground collapses was another created at ILM, as the level of destruction was simply not possible for the live action crew.
Among the other effects ILM had to produce were the transporter beam and the warp speed effect. Mullen noted that the effects’ look changed depending on who was directing the film; “everyone wants something distinctive, but nobody wants to get far enough away from the TV series to startle the Trekkies.” The effect was produced by cutting out or rotomatting the individual to be transported, then making a vertical slot through which a high-intensity light was positioned. A computer-controlled move would cause the light to spread from the center and fade away, then reset its position and repeat the movement on the opposite side. Handmade acetate filters and gels were applied to give the transporter beam color and patterns, followed by small flickering animated highlights called “bugs” which appeared after the character had dematerialized. The Klingons’ transporters were given a harsh red look to differentiate them from the smooth blue Federation effect. Whereas many of the multicolored rainbow warp trail shots from The Wrath of Khan were stock footage taken from the first film, the producers of the third film wanted something new. A streak effect, in which a beauty pass of the ship was combined with blurred passes for each light intensity, was tried first. The result was disappointing; as the Enterprise grew larger the streaks became distorted and out of place. Mullen rejected a straight animation of the warp drive as too bouncy, but the footage was cut in for editing while ILM went through six more approaches to the problem. The final effect, a “vaporous, colorful trail”, came together only weeks before the film’s release.
Composer James Horner returned to score The Search for Spock, fulfilling a promise he had made to Bennett on The Wrath of Khan. While Nimoy considered hiring his friend Leonard Rosenman for the score, he was persuaded that Horner’s return would grant continuity between The Wrath of Khan and the new film. Much like the content of the film, Horner’s music was a direct continuation of the score he wrote for the previous film. When writing music for The Wrath of Khan, Horner was aware he would reuse certain cues for an impending sequel; two major themes he reworked were for Genesis and Spock. While the Genesis theme supplants the title music Horner wrote for The Wrath of Khan, the end credits were quoted “almost verbatim”.
In hours-long discussions with Bennett and Nimoy, Horner agreed with the director that the “romantic and more sensitive” cues were more important than the “bombastic” ones. Horner had written Spock’s theme to give the character more dimension: “By putting a theme over Spock, it warms him and he becomes three-dimensional rather than a collection of schticks,” he said. The theme was expanded in The Search for Spock to represent the ancient alien mysticism and culture of Spock and Vulcan.
Among the new cues Horner wrote was a “percussive and atonal” theme for the Klingons which is represented heavily in the film. Jeff Bond described the cue as a compromise between music from Horner’s earlier film Wolfen, Khan’s motif from The Wrath of Khan, and Jerry Goldsmith‘s Klingon music from The Motion Picture. Horner also adapted music from Sergei Prokofiev‘s Romeo and Juliet for part of the Enterprise theft sequence and its destruction, while the scoring to Spock’s resurrection on Vulcan was lifted from Horner’s Brainstorm ending.
The Search for Spock was not heavily marketed. Among the promotional merchandise created for the film’s release were Search for Spock-branded calendars and glasses sold at Taco Bell. A novelization (ISBN 0-671-49500-3) was also released, and reached second place on The New York Times paperback bestsellers list. President Ronald Reagan screened the film for friends during a weekend away from the White House in 1984, spent with White House staff chief Mike Deaver and the president’s own close friend Senator Paul Laxalt. Reagan wrote of the film: “It wasn’t too good.”
The Search for Spock opened June 1 in a record-breaking 1,996 theaters across North America; with competing films Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Gremlins, Ghostbusters and Top Secret! released at the same time, more than half of the nation’s screens were filled by summer blockbusters. The Search for Spock grossed over $16 million in its opening weekend. In its second weekend the film’s gross dropped 42 percent. The box office strength of The Search for Spock and Indiana Jones led Paramount to dominate early summer film business. The film made $76.5 million in North America, for a total of $87 million worldwide.
James Horner‘s soundtrack to the film was released on a 43-minute LP record by Capitol Records in 1984, and also contained a 12″ single titled “The Search for Spock,” composed by Horner and performed by Group 87, a band featuring composer Mark Isham and Missing Persons drummer Terry Bozzio. It was re-released on Compact Disc in 1989 by GNP Crescendo. Film Score Monthly released an expanded two-compact disc score June 1, 2010. The Expanded Edition included both the original Capitol Records release from 1984 and an all-new version which featured the complete soundtrack as heard in the film, including alternate versions as well as many cues heard for the first time outside of the film. The soundtrack would be Horner’s final contribution to Star Trek.