In which Kirk faces consequences, yet another giant space monster is headed toward Earth, and time travel is something of a trip.
When last we left our heroes, Spock has been resurrected by the Genesis wave and stabilized to an age that matches how old Leonard Nimoy is, which is convenient. Also, his mind has been extracted from McCoy’s head and put back in his own body. The core crew of the Enterprise blew up Federation property protecting a doomsday device and stole a Klingon scoutship, which they are now flying in flagrant violation of… like… every treaty. Let’s see what happens next. Judging by the title, they’ll fly home. That can’t possibly be a very exciting movie.
We open with some weird pulsing sounds coming from an enormous probe that the Saratoga is tracking. It, like every other giant probe, is heading directly for Earth. I’m sure it just wants to say ‘hello.’ Meanwhile, footage of Kirk blowing the Enterprise to smithereens is being played by the Klingon ambassador in front of Starfleet Command and, amusingly, having technical difficulties. Where did they possibly get that footage? Fortunately, Sarek is present to shut that shit down.
Turns out Kirk is being charged with 9 Starfleet regulation violations, which does’t make the Klingon ambassador too happy. “There shall be no peace as long as Kirk lives.” The astropolitics of Starfleet has always been one of its strengths, even though they did far too little of it in TOS. For instance, we can currently deduce that the Organian peace treaty is losing some of its teeth. Maybe the Organians got fed up with the lesser ‘matter-based’ species, or maybe they just got bored. You may remember I’m not a really big fan of them. Whatever the reason, however, tensions between the Klingons and the Federation are escalating, and the Klingons are behaving like a nation under existential threat. Is this the mere result of learning about Genesis, or something far more pervasive?
Kirk and the rest of the command crew of the newly christened H.M.S. Bounty have all uninimously agreed to fly their new Klingon ship home to face justice, and incidentally learn about how the Klingon cloaking device works. They’re just waiting for Spock to finish up being asked dozens of questions by three teleprompters at once. The science, math, history, engineering, and chemistry questions he answers with ease. The question “how do you feel” stumps him, and he has to chat with his mother.
Remember that the theme of The Wrath of Khan was “The good of the many outweighs the good of the few” and the theme of The Search For Spock was “The good of the one can outweigh the good of the many.” This movie, in this scene, promises to give us some way to answer this conundrum, which is fitting since the story was written by Nimoy himself.Spock is still working on reintegrating his mind and coming to terms with pure Vulcan dogma and human feeling.
Preparations to limp home in the Bounty are well underway, and Kirk is unaware, for now, that the probe is making its way Earthward disabling everything in its path. This also marks the first movie where we don’t get a several-minute glam-shot of the embarkation process, with pretty white running lights. The probe has reached Earth Spacedock, shutting it down, and moves into position above Earth. It appears to be vaporizing large swathes of ocean, covering Earth in roiling thunderclouds, and Kirk is beginning to notice that there are no ships coming to escort the criminals home. There’s a brief calm before the inevitable storm on the Bounty where McCoy is trying to have a chat with Spock, and it goes nowhere.
Brief aside – it appears that Earth is mostly solar-powered, since the increasing cloud cover caused by the probe forces Earth Command to switch to reserve power. Whether the power is collected directly or beamed in from satellites, it doesn’t appear that a 78% cloud cover is good for them. It’s a brief note of environmentalism which will prove in keeping with the entire tone of the movie – nuclear, oil, coal, have all fallen by the wayside or are considered ‘planetary reserves’ in favor of solar-based energy. They also take this last opportunity to transmit a distress call, which finally brings our Heroes into the fold. Kirk doesn’t take it well. Apparently, a three-month ‘vacation’ on Vulcan waiting for his best friend to stop being a vegetable isn’t enough to recover from having Klingons murder your kid.
The fact that the probe is aimed at the oceans gives Kirk the idea to modulate the transmission to determine what it would sound like underwater, which tells us that the probe is talking to humpback whales, which are not extinct. And apparently the Universal Translator, which can translate never-before heard languages, can’t translate this. Or maybe the Klingons just don’t have a UT, but that seems like a glaring military oversight. So the only solution left is to have Spock do the slingshot effect calculations in his head. So they can go back in time to pick up some whales. Obviously.
Our scattered scenes of Starfleet Command desperately bracing the windows against hurricane forces show us that Starfleet is now a lot more multicultural than we ever saw it in the original series. And also that Starfleet Command was never built for extreme weather. Granted, this weather is more extreme than most, but still, they have all kinds of future materials and the glass just shatters when hit by a little bit of direct lightning? Not that the Bounty is faring much better against the rigors of time travel.
This sequence, at about half an hour in, continues the grand tradition of Trek visualizations of weird astrophysical occurrences that you just know took the VFX designer a good five-day weekend and some killer drugs. However, they do arrive safely in orbit above Earth and can judge their temporal coordinates by the pollution content of the atmosphere. That’s reference 2. Problems presented currently: Uhura is detecting whale song from the city of San Francisco, and the Klingon dilithium crystals are degraded to almost empty. Fortunately, Spock suggests that they could use nuclear radiation to repair the crystals. Apparently, such a thing isn’t possible in the 23rd century because nuclear fission is out of fashion, despite the fact that when you have cheap access to space, there’s always a moon or a star you can shoot your waste into.
We will return in two days with the most of the movie.