Captain Kirk (William Shatner) is in mourning, along with the rest of his crew, because his first officer Spock (Leonard Nimoy) has died to save all of their lives. Although they are grateful to him, they dearly wish that he was still around as the Starship Enterprise simply is not the same without him, but after setting his body into space above the Genesis Planet, a world that was created scientifically to be inhabitable, they have no choice but to return in their battle-scarred craft to Earth. However, Dr McCoy (DeForest Kelley) is acting strangely - it could be stress, but it could be something Spock did to his mind before he died...
The third Star Trek film followed directly on from The Wrath of Khan, yet while that instalment was still quite accessible for non-fans, here the production felt far more of a fan pleasing effort, with the main bone of contention of the previous one, the death of a beloved character, the impetus for this story to bring him back. Not only that, but Leonard Nimoy, the actor who played him, was behind the camera to guide the crew through one of the most lovey-dovey science fiction films of all time, with everyone getting misty-eyed, gazing at each other with deep affection and emphasising their thorough respect and admiration for their friends.
Friendship would appear to be the main theme of this, turning on its head the idea that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few that Spock was so clear about before. This time, as long as Captain Kirk gets his pal back then that's all that matters, and with the logic of Spock gone missing, it's the emotional side, the Dr McCoy side, that rules his thoughts this time, resulting in the frankly crazed runaround to get the Vulcan back on board. Although maybe not onboard the Enterprise, because Kirk is willing to give that up as well in a move apparently co-ordinated to leave audiences aghast. How far will this go, we are supposed to be wondering?
And yet, for all the mayhem and sacrifice, even when a fairly major character is killed it's all a little blah, as if you were watching a bunch of mates hanging out and inventing a what if? scenario for a sturdy franchise. There are plenty of instances where this and that is thrown into the mix to jog T.V. memories, so that Klingons are the main baddies (notably almost entirely absent from the previous films), plus almost forgotten actors from the show appear, sometimes for about ten seconds in the case of Grace Lee Whitney's Janice Rand, sometimes for a more substantial bit as with Mark Lenard returning as Sarek, Spock's father.
What this means is a far sprightlier experience than what had gone before, a lesson future Star Trek films were wise to learn, yet also a sense that this was far more disposable, similar to the feeling that if you missed an episode on television then no matter because there would be another along next week. There were indeed episodes to come, both in the cinema and on the small screen, so if anything there is more than a touch of the robust, confident series that has the staying power to last for decades, again, precisely what the adherents wanted to hear. Throw in special effects that were only going to get better, and were impressive enough here as it was, and that was the only part that seemed to be ambitious as far as the medium went. It takes a certain kind of person to start dabbing away the tears at the end of Star Trek III, but it is sincerely them who this was made for. You do miss Spock, though. Music by James Horner.