The Leonard Nimoy directed Star Trek III: The Search for Spock opened in theaters on June 1, 1984 — 35 years ago today. It is illogical to waste time letting this milestone make you feel old, as time marches on, after all (or, in Discovery's case, leaps). And so, instead, we're choosing to dwell not on the unknown nature of time, but the little known facts that make The Search for Spock an all- time classic Trek film.
Return to Genesis
Just a few days — or even a day, depending on the source — after Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan opened in theaters, writer-producer Harve Bennett started typing out what would become The Search for Spock. The title of his initial 20-page treatment/outline was Return to Genesis.
The Beginning and the End
Star Trek III began production on August 15, 1983, starting by filming the opening scene on the Enterprise bridge. Principal photography concluded on October 20, 1983 after wrapping a scene on the Excelsior bridge.
New and Old
Nimoy cast an array of veteran actors and newcomers in key roles. Mark Lenard returned to reprise his TOS role as Spock's father, Sarek, and Nimoy convinced the Oscar-nominated Dame Judith Anderson to play the pivotal role of the Vulcan High Priestess T'Lar. Meanwhile, Robin Curtis was a relative rookie when she took over the role of Saavik from Kirstie Alley, and Merritt Butrick was best known for the short-lived, but cult-favorite series Square Pegs when he reprised the role of Kirk's doomed son, David.
Taxi to the Stars
As anyone who'd seen One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest or The Lady in Red knew at the time, Christopher Lloyd knows his way around a dramatic role. But when the Back to the Future actor was tapped to play the Kruge, the Klingon commander, he was in the midst of generating laughs as Rev. Jim on the comedy series Taxi. According to Memory Alpha, Nimoy's first choice to play Kruge was actually Edward James Olmos (who would later star in Battlestar Galactica) but studio heads said no.
Nimoy, The Director
Star Trek III would be Leonard Nimoy's first stint as a feature film director. Back in a 2011 interview, StarTrek.com asked Nimoy about the experience. He replied:
"I was very comfortable shooting the movie. I did feel that I was being quite controlled, I guess is the word. I was made to justify everything that I did and explain everything that I was doing, which took a lot of energy. And I resented it. It bothered me that I was being so carefully monitored because I really felt that I knew what I was doing. I thought the script was workable and did what it had to do, which was to find Spock and get him back on his feet. I thought it was an interesting idea, the whole idea of the Genesis planet evolving and Spock’s remains evolving with the planet. It may not have been as much fun a film as some would like, but I thought it did the job. It did it what it set out to do. Maybe, in retrospect, we might have found a better story or construct, to get that job done. But we got the job done and the film was OK. At the box office, it did what was becoming the pattern for Star Trek films. It did about the same as was expected, so it was OK. It was not a gigantic runaway hit, but it was not considered a failure. And it was strong enough that they decided to go ahead and make another one after that."
Here There Be Tribbles
What's that we see in the bar scene in Star Trek III — Tribbles!? They are indeed, making their first live-action appearance since TOS.
The Bottom Line
Star Trek III cost $16 million to make. It grossed $76.5 million at the North American box office. That figure was just below the North American gross of Star Trek II, which beamed up $78.9 million on a budget of $11.2 million.
What are some of your favorite Search for Spock facts or moments? Share them with us and check in on what other fans say @StarTrek!