There is a theory that all the odd number Star Trek films are disappointing, and there is some logic behind that theory. However, despite some minor casting problems, THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK is only disappointing if you are expecting THE WRATH OF KHAN PART II. Otherwise, THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK is exactly the kind of stately, thoughtful film you would expect Leonard Nimoy to make. It offers a bit of adventure, a battle with Klingons, some unexpected deaths (human and otherwise), cameos by Tribbles and Yeoman Rand, and a handful of scenes that rank with the best of the movie or television series.
But THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK is also Trek in a holding pattern. Because of the decision to bring the character of Spock back, they had to devote an entire film to it before moving on to further adventures. The story of a group of people going to pick up a body to bring it to a place where it can be restored is, in and of itself, a boring one, so scriptwriter Harve Bennett had to invent a whole lot of fun business to make it interesting. He also wrote a great part for DeForest Kelley as the grumpy Dr. McCoy. Kelley has rarely been better as the ship's country doctor, playing to the hilt the part of a confused and agitated McCoy with Spock's consciousness buried deep his brain.
However, THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK is not all it could be. Christopher Lloyd is miscast as Kruge, the head Klingon who wants the previous film's "Genesis Device" for his own destructive purposes. It would be difficult for any actor to follow Ricardo Montalban's splendid turn as Khan, but Lloyd's face and voice are so well-defined as that of a comic actor, he can never make the part of the Klingon his own, despite some above-average "bad guy" dialogue ("Then I hope pain is something you enjoy"). Conversely, Robin Curtis of Saavik does not possess the same sharp features as Kirstie Alley, who had assayed the role the previous film. Alley looked like a Vulcan - Curtis looks like an actress made up like a Vulcan. The film has some wonderful comic scenes, especially McCoy's ill-advised attempt to hire a ship from an alien who looks and sounds like he comes from The Planet of the Vincent Prices. The twists and turns during the Klingon and Enterprise standoff above the Genesis planet are fine stuff, but the film descends to the level of a Saturday afternoon Flash Gordon serial during a Kirk - Kruge fistfight before finally aspiring to the spiritual heights of the best moments of STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE in the film's final moments.
No, it is not the best film of the series, but it does not suffer from the odd-number curse as many fans will tell you. Watch it as part of triple feature (WRATH OF KHAN, SEARCH FOR SPOCK, THE VOYAGE HOME) and it plays even better than as a standalone film. ½ - JB
IN SPACE, NO ONE CAN HEAR GOOD MOVIE QUOTES