Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 8-Nov-2001

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Star Trek Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1984
Running Time 100:52
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (58:55) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Programme
Region Coding 4 Directed By Leonard Nimoy

Paramount Home Entertainment
Starring William Shatner
Leonard Nimoy
DeForest Kelley
James Doohan
George Takei
Walter Koenig
Nichelle Nichols
Merritt Butrick
Christopher Lloyd
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $39.95 Music James Horner

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles Greek
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    The Search For Spock is somewhat of a strange early Trek film for a number of reasons. It is not a huge, sweeping tale, and instead of looking at themes and visions that affect the entire human race, the motivations are of a far more personal kind: the desire to help a friend and the desire for revenge. Additionally, Spock makes only a small appearance in this instalment. There is a theory that odd-numbered Star Trek films are not as good as their even-numbered counterparts - in this case it is true, as this film is certainly not as good as those that immediately precede and follow it, but that does not mean it is a bad film.

    The story follows on from where The Wrath Of Kahn finished off (pity we cannot yet see that film on DVD), with Spock (Leonard Nimoy) dead and the wounded Enterprise limping her way back to Earth. There are a few surprises in store when they get back - the Enterprise is to be decommissioned, and her crew disbanded. Then the real shock comes - as the crew are celebrating a wake for the Enterprise, Kirk (William Shatner) receives a visit from Spock's father, the Vulcan ambassador Sarek (Mark Lenard), who informs him that Spock has deposited his essence in the mind of Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelly) - much to the annoyance of the good doctor. In order for Spock to be reborn, they must retrieve his body and take it and McCoy to Vulcan for a sacred ritual. There's only one problem (well, two really) - Spock's body is on the Genesis planet, and Kirk and crew have no way of getting there as their request to use the Enterprise has been denied. What to do? Obvious really - steal the Enterprise and attempt the rescue anyway. Unfortunately for Kirk, a group of Klingons lead by the ruthless Commander Kruge (Christopher Lloyd) has already learned of the Genesis device and the Genesis planet, and have gone there to search out its secrets.

    This Trek instalment has some strong moments, and some weak ones. The scenes where the Enterprise is navigating around the Earth space station - both on her return, and after she is stolen - are visually spectacular, and the scenes of the Enterprise's abduction are easily the best in the film dramatically as well. There were a few changes in visual effects between the original Trek adventure and this film. Most notably, the visual effects for The Search For Spock were handled by the masters at Industrial Light and Magic, and they surpass themselves here, using all their experience with the Star Wars films to produce some truly spectacular space sequences that easily surpass anything from the first two Treks and the original Star Wars trilogy. The only slightly disappointing change is that, in the Star Wars style, the ship models are lit by some unidentified massive light source, unlike the Enterprise model from The Motion Picture that was "self-lit" by numerous spotlights - the majesty of the ships, and the realism of some of the scenes is somewhat reduced because of this choice.

    Dramatically, this film is a mixed bag. Any film that has its dramatic high under half-way through will always tend to lag during the second half, and that is certainly the case here. Once the crew of Enterprise get away with her, the remainder of the movie does not hold as much interest. The biggest failures are the scenes with Lieutenant Saavik (played by Kirsty Alley replacement Robin Curtis), and Kirk's son David (Merritt Butrick) - these are quite bland, are filled with terrible dialogue, and even worse acting (especially from Curtis - it is not a real surprise to learn that following the Treks she went on to appear in such well-regarded fare as Bloodfist VI and Santa With Muscles - Kirstie Alley she ain't). On the upside, Christopher Lloyd is a real joy (and almost unrecognisable) as Klingon Commander Kruge. It is easy to see that he enjoyed playing a such a ruthless character, and he throws himself into the role with passion.

    In the final wash, The Search For Spock is an enjoyable and visually spectacular entry in the Trek series that is hampered by a somewhat uneven dramatic feel. Certainly not the first film that should be seen by non-Trek fans, but a worthy addition to the collection for those who already know their Trek back to front.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


    While it does have a few small problems, this is a superb transfer, and that is not even taking into account the age of the film - it really looks like it was made in the last few years.

    Presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, this transfer is 16x9 enhanced.

    For the most part, sharpness is excellent displaying an amazing amount of detail and clarity for an 18 year old film. The first few minutes (until the mid-point of the opening titles at around 3:10) are not as good as the remainder of the transfer, and are not helped by containing virtually the only noticeable grain in the entire movie. From the point the clouds start pulling back, this is an amazing transfer. Shadow detail is very good, although the vast majority of this film takes place in well lit conditions, so it never really comes to the fore. It is during the sequences set on Vulcan (which is very much an "orange" planet) that the shadow detail is most important, as the lighting is a dark orange. There is no low level noise present.

    Colours are quite good, although they do tend to look a little muted on occasions, especially during the scenes on the Genesis planet. Where it should be lush and green, it is a more a dull green, but this does not affect the look of the film to any great extent.

    There are no compression artefacts present in this transfer. In fact, the greatest problem with this transfer is aliasing, for though it only occurs infrequently, when it does occur it tends to be extremely obvious. The most common culprit is the detailing on the various models used to represent the space ships and stations, and once the action moves away from the many model shots that occur in the first half of the film, aliasing only becomes a minor problem. In fact, while I noted many instances of aliasing prior to the half-way mark, there is only one bad instance in the second half: on the flight of stairs from 85:43 to 85:55. Film artefacts make a few appearances, although few are of a size sufficient to distract. The frequency of the film artefacts is almost inversely proportional to the instances of aliasing in that the first two-thirds of the transfer is virtually free of film artefacts, but once the story shifts to the location of the final act, there is a sharp jump in frequency. This is mostly likely due to the optical effects processes that would have been used to generate the unique look of the planet.

    The subtitles are clear, well-paced, and easy to read. They follow the spoken word closely, although there are a few words changed for the sake of brevity, however these changes did not affect the intent of the dialogue.

    This is an RSDL formatted disc with the layer change taking place during Chapter 7 at 58:55. It is not at all well placed, being mid-scene and quite easily discernible.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    This is an excellent audio transfer that would be impressive even if it were not a stereo re-mix. As with the video, this movie sounds as if it were made in the last few years.

    There are four soundtracks present on this disc, being the original English dialogue in Dolby Digital 5.1 (at 448 Kbps), and dubs in Spanish, French, and Italian in Dolby Digital 2.0 surround (at 192 Kbps).

    Dialogue is clear and easy to understand at all times. The re-mix of the soundtrack from stereo did not create any problems with the balancing of the score, effects, and dialogue. Audio sync is spot on throughout the transfer.

    The music for this particular adventure to where no man has gone before is provided by James Horner. Sadly it does not quite come up to the standards of Jerry Goldsmith's Trek scores, such as for The Motion Picture, and is badly lacking a discernible theme. Having said all that, it does still do its job, but it is just very workman-like about it.

    The surround channels are very aggressively used throughout the transfer, and carry not only score, but ambient noise and directional effects that are all quite impressive. There were the expected occasions where the sound-field collapsed back to the front channels only, but for what is a re-mix of a stereo theatrical release, this is an above-the-call-of-duty surround re-mix.

    The subwoofer gets a few opportunities to come alive, but for the most part does not play an extremely large part, only backing up the score on the odd occasions it reaches into the lower frequencies.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    As was typical for Trek discs up until The Motion Picture, this disc contains virtually no extras, and that is very disappointing.


    The menu is static, although themed around the film, and is 16x9 enhanced.

Theatrical Trailer (1:03)

    Presented at 2.35:1, 16x9 enhanced, and featuring Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio, this trailer is of relatively low quality, and only serves to make me glad the feature is of a lot higher quality.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;     The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;     Both versions of this disc are essentially equal, so I call this one a tie. Be aware, however, that Paramount are expected to release a "Special Edition" of The Search For Spock before the end of the year in the US, and it is expected to be along the lines of The Motion Picture and The Wrath Of Khan and be a two-disc set. There is no word as to whether or not we will eventually see that disc here. Until then, it really does not matter which version of this film you choose.


    The Search For Spock is certainly not one of the best Treks, but it is still a good, fun movie, and for the first half really is something to get excited about.

    The video quality is excellent, especially given the age of the transfer. There are a large number of obvious aliasing problems, but as the movie progresses they decrease.

    The audio quality is just as good, if not better, than the video. It is a brilliant 5.1 surround re-mix of a movie that was presented theatrically in stereo.

    The solitary extra leaves somewhat of a bitter after-taste, especially considering what Paramount are capable of given the presentation of The Motion Picture. Let's just keep our fingers crossed that we eventually get the "Special Edition" of this film here too.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Nick Jardine (My bio, it's short - read it anyway)
Monday, July 15, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-535, using Component output
DisplayLoewe Xelos 5381ZW. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS787, THX Select
SpeakersAll matching Vifa Drivers: centre 2x6.5" + 1" tweeter (d'appolito); fronts and rears 6.5" + 1" tweeter; centre rear 5" + 1" tweeter; sub 10" (150WRMS)

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Original Audio -