Star Trek III: the Search for Spock — screenplay, structure, story

"Screenplay, Structure, Story", in-which single dramas are analysed for their pace and narrative.

Theoretical structure:

Duration: 95 minutes

  • Act I: 0 – 25 minutes
    • Introduce Kirk: 0 – 10 minutes
    • Introduce Kruge: 10 – 15 minutes
    • Establish conflict: 15 – 20 minutes
    • Plot Point I: 20 – 25 minutes
  • Act II: 25 – 75 minutes
    • Conflict: 25 – 70 minutes
    • Plot Point II: 70 – 75 minutes
  • Act III: 75 – 95 minutes
    • Conflict resolution: 75 – 90 minutes
    • Ending: 90 – 95 minutes

Actual structure:

Act I (5 – 73 minutes)

Introduce Kirk (5 – 7 minutes)

After the opening credits, Kirk is introduced as the Enterprise captain, who’s uneasy after Spock’s death. He and his son David are inspecting the Genesis planet created during Spock’s death. A part of him feels missing with Spock’s absence. The Enterprise is sailing home to Earth dock for a refit following a battle.

Introduce Kruge (8 – 10 minutes)

Kruge is a Klingon commander in charge of a Warbird who’s acquired information on Project Genesis, which created the Genesis planet.

Establish conflict (59 –  71 minutes)

Kirk approaches Genesis in the Enterprise, when Kruge has already arrived. Kruge reveals his presence, and they engage in battle. Kruge’s Warbird has deprived Kirk’s Enterprise of power. They confer through video. Kirk accuses Kruge of committing an act of war by being at Genesis, an artificial planet of ambiguous political status. Kirk demands Kruge surrenders. Kruge accuses Starfleet of preparing for war by creating Genesis with a powerful terraforming device. Kruge’s soldiers on Genesis reveal Spock’s presence there to Kirk, and kill Kirk’s son, David. Kirk surrenders to Kruge and prepares for evacuation of the Enterprise. As the Klingons prepare to board Enterprise, Kirk activates the Enterprise destruct sequence and transport-beams to Genesis.

Plot Point I (71 – 73 minutes)

Kruge realises the Enterprise has been timed for destruction when its too late for his soldiers to evacuate. On Genesis, Kirk watches the Enterprise descend.

Act II (73 – 80 minutes)

Conflict (73 – 79 minutes)

Kirk finds Spock on Genesis and kills his Klingon hostage. With the leftover communicator, Kirk taunts Kruge, telling him the Enterprise’s destruction was an accident, but that they can only escape by being transported to the Warbird. Kruge believes Spock’s rapid-ageing is the Genesis secret, and transports Kirk’s crew to the Warbird, but not Kirk. Genesis is exponentially destroying itself. Kruge and Kirk fight on the fiery surface.

Plot Point II (79 – 80 minutes)

Kirk and Kruge’s fight moves to a ledge, where Kirk throws Kruge into lava.

Act III (80 – 95 minutes)

Conflict resolution (80 – 82 minutes)

Kirk escapes Genesis with Spock in Kruge’s warbird.

Ending (82 – 95 minutes)

Kirk takes Spock to Vulcan, where they reunite.

Star Trek III: the Search for Spock

Premièred by Paramount Pictures
Star Trek III: the Search for Spock
Written by Harve Bennett

The death-and-resurrection formula has been used in the hero’s journey so often that it’s become a labelled stage of the hero’s journey, the “Abyss”, which is considered a time of revelation for the characters involved in the mono-myth. It dates back as far as the death and return of Jesus Christ in the Gospel, and the general versions of that story’s been referenced by most stories featuring a character who returns from the dead.

In The Final Problem (Arthur Conan Doyle), Watson recalls how Hudson described Moriarty as having a face like the Devil. It climaxes with the apparent death of Sherlock Holmes, who’s believed to have fallen into the Reichenbach Falls, described as an “abyss”. In the following Holmes story, The Empty House, Holmes returns.

Biblical narrative was already a source of material for Star Trek: the Wrath of Khan (Jack B. Sowards), where Spock was last seen as he died in an act of self-sacrifice above the Genesis planet battling a fallen prince consumed by hate. His casket was labelled “Mark VI”, an obvious allusion to the description of Christ’s death and resurrection in chapter six of Gospel of Mark (Mark the Evangelist). Those Biblical allusions were part of made Star Trek: the Wrath of Khan such a substantial story; the references were woven into the story appropriately, as opposed to being included to seem interesting. Which is why it makes sense for a sequel to return to those themes – Kirk’s returning to Genesis, and to that story. The problem is, it’s difficult to do that when a story’s pre-determined. In fact, it’s difficult to really do anything original in a pre-determined story, because, unlike most stories which just follow a general format, Star Trek III: the Search for Spock already had more pre-requisites than usual: it has to explain how Spock returns, why he mind-melded with McCoy before his death, what happens to Vulcans after they die, how this fits into the aftermath to the creation of the Genesis planet, and it needs to have an antagonist. Tough order of the day to serve right.

Ultimately, though, that’s not the largest flaw with Star Trek III: the Search for Spock. Because, regardless of those things, the one thing we know is that Spock returns. That’s the goal Kirk’s trying to complete, and we know that happens, because otherwise Spock couldn’t be in a potential Star Trek IV. Paramount made no attempt to cover up that ending. Or indeed, any of it. The Enterprise’s destruction wasn’t just alluded to in the tagline –

“All that they loved, all that they fought for, all that they stood for will now be put to the test… Join us on this, the final voyage of the starship Enterprise.”

– but was even shown in the trailer:

It’s not as if you can blame Paramount. Star Trek: the Wrath of Khan had been a phenomenal success, and money makes the movies. While one title they could have used is Star Trek III: the Search for More Money, perhaps a more appropriate one would’ve been Star Trek III: the Enterprise Destructs at the End – as opposed to the previous one, Star Trek: Spock Dies at the End. Then again, Star Trek III: Spock Returns at the End is at least more accurate, because he’s barely in it. And I know he’s seen for most of the story, but all he’s doing is rapidly ageing due to the unstable atmosphere of Genesis. You know, the place he was taken after his death? Why is Kirk “search”ing for Spock? He knows where he is. Or is he on Genesis, and not McCoy’s head, having transferred him his katra. Exactly what a “katra” is doesn’t really get much development – why transfer the mind of a dead Vulcan into another, living Vulcan? I know the Vulcans are logical, but that’s just weird. So Spock is either in this in a large capacity or a small capacity, but either way, the Vulcan child we see on Genesis isn’t Spock until he does at least get his “katra” back, even if that’s an under-developed concept. Why he was even a child on Genesis is also a very arbitrary element of the plot – he was dead, so surely Genesis should just return him to life? Why did Spock even bother leaving the Mark VI without his burial robe? Especially since half of Genesis is just snow.

It’s possible I’m over-thinking this, but it’s directed by Leonard Nimoy. He is Spock. He understands Vulcans more than anyone. Personally, I think Spock should have stayed dead for it to actually mean anything, and this really proves why. Star Trek: the Wrath of Khan had set-up Spock’s death in such a perfect way that going back to it means moving forward with remaining elements. It’s basically saying “write your way out of it”, picking-up with leftover story and trying to carrying-it on. And it’s that kind of storytelling that leads to questions like “why didn’t Saavik tell Kirk Spock needed returning to Vulcan?”

And as if to make things even more confusing, it turns out that by the end, he still isn’t Spock, because his memories are still developing. He just about recognises Kirk, but we’re left on a cliffhanger. Say what you will, it’s really more of an afterthought to Star Trek: the Wrath of Khan, rather than a next chapter of the story that feels as if it needs telling.

Star Trek: the Search for “Spock”(?)

Screenwriters’ Dispatch: Sean Ellis and Anthony Frewin’s Anthropod

Sean Ellis and Anthony Frewin have written WWII drama Arthropod, the name of an operation using Czechoslovakian soldiers trained by the British Army to assassinate General Reinhard Heydrich, who lead Nazi forces into the country.

The Wrap reports Marc Guggenheim‘s written an adaptation of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, titled Uprising, chronicling a civil war against Earth from a Lunar colony.

Variety reports Diablo Cody‘s rewriting Barbie.

Deadline reports Michael Berg‘s adapting Mrs. Frisby & the Rates of Nimh, which Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer hope will establish a franchise. The story’s to be an origin of a mouse who teams-up with super-intelligent lab rats to escape a laboratory and lead mouse civilisation against Humanity.

Harve Bennett‘s died. Bennett’s most popular screenplays were Star Trek III: the Search for Spock and Star Trek IV: the Voyage Home.

Deadline report Jeff Buhler‘s sold Descendent to Lotus Entertainment, inspired by news reports of real events of parents who become worried over the source of their son’s above-average intelligence. Buhler said

I have always been fascinated by the concept of reincarnation which is a widely held belief for billions of people around the globe. Descendant explores this world in a very personal and frightening way that has never been realized on film.

The Hollywood Reporter claims reports Eric Heisserer has adapted Ted Chiang’s Prisoners, in-which a xenolinguist and physicist are recruited by the government to assess the intentions of aliens that have landed all over the world, but experiences flashbacks that develop the secret truth of who these beings are.

Debbie Horsfield‘s spoken to Radio Times over the adapting of Poldark:

He is a rebel and he is not an outcast so much but he stands apart from the rest of society. What I loved about Ross Poldark is that he has got a bit of Tom Jones and a bit of Mr Darcy because he’s a gentleman and bit of Rochester and a bit of Rhett Butler and a bit of Robin Hood. He is actually all the good heroes rolled into one and yet he is his own unique personality. That’s what’s great about him. He does have a strong sense of justice but he’s not priggish about it. He’s a leader but he doesn’t seek leadership – but people will follow him. That’s a true leader. I think the books are so extraordinary. I feel more pressure doing justice to [them] in the way I would feel about doing justice to a Jane Austen or a Dickens. I’d be doing [Poldark]  for years and years but I love the stories so much.

Deadline reports Drew Pierce is working on a second instalment in the Ghostbusters Cinematic Universe, featuring an all-male version of the team.

Jenji KohanBruce Miller and Tracy Miller have co-written The Devil You Know‘s pilot, about the Salem Witch Trials that divides New England.

Tax Analysts reports the federal government of Mexico have offered Sony Pictures Entertainment $20M if they make screenplay changes to more positively represent the country. They claim the intention is to show modern Mexico City structures and its skyline. Part of the conditions is to cast a Mexican as Estrella, who can’t be herself Mexican. Bond uses Estrella’s apartment as a base of operations while hunting an assassin targeting the governor of the Federal District, which the offer proposes becomes an international leader instead, while the Federal District Police becomes a special force. Bond’s confrontation with the assassin currently leads to a cage match in an ambiguous location, but Mexico are requesting it instead be a chase through Mexico City during the Day of the Dead celebrations.

Steven Moffat, co-screenwriter of the upcoming Sherlock special, has spoken to Entertainment Weekly over the function of Victorian production design seen on set:

The special is its own thing. We wouldn’t have done the story we’re doing, and the way we’re doing it, if we didn’t have this special. It’s not part of the run of three episodes. So we had this to do it – as we could hardly conceal – it’s Victorian. We wanted to do this, but it had to be a special, it had to be separate entity on its own. It’s kind of in its own little bubble.

The Hollywood Reporter claims Craig Kyle‘s written a Blue Thunder retelling about a military helicopter with technology of a potential future.

CNN reports Jonathan Herman‘s rewriting Scarface.

Indiewire reports Ehren Kruger‘s writing a serial adaptation of The Brothers Grimm.

BBC News reports Douglas McGrath‘s adapting his stage-play musical Beautiful, chronicling the career of Carol King, into a motion picture.

Armando Iannucci, writer of The Thick of It starring Peter Capaldi, has confirmed interest in writing a Doctor Who episode for the actor. Speaking to The Guardian, Iannucci said

I’m a big fan of Doctor Who and obviously with Peter, who’s loving it, it would be nice to. I’ve spoken off and on to them but it’s a case of being able to fit something in. It’s a nice thought. In our conversations there was an idea we had, but it may be a wee while yet before we get round to working out when it would be. Knowing I am committed for the next year or so, it’s all on hold. Let’s get back in touch when we can.

According to The Hollywood ReporterJason Segal and Drew Pearce have been hired by Warner Bros. to write The Million Brick Race, an installment in the LEGO Cinematic Universe.

Speaking to Comic Book ResourcesSimon Pegg has spoken about how he came to write Washington Project and what it’s about:

It just came out of conversations I was having with J.J. and Bryan Burk, and they decided to kind of like restart the process. Because I’d been on the set with Burk-y on Mission: Impossible, he said, “Maybe you should come on and write it with Doug and Justin and him and Lindsey Weber”. And I was a bit, “No. I don’t want to – it’s too much pressure!” But I think we just want to take it forward with the spirit of the TV show. And it’s a story about frontierism and adventure and optimism and fun, and that’s where we want to take it, you know. Where no man has gone before – where no one has gone before, sensibly corrected for a slighter, more enlightened generation. But yeah, that’s the mood at the moment.”

Den of Geek reports Alien Nation is to be rewritten by Art Marcum and Jeff Holloway.

The Hollywood Reporter also reports Friday the 13th‘s reboot is to be written by Nick Antosca, whose draft resulted in the production’s green lighting.

The Wrap reports Fifty Shades of Grey writer Kelly Marcel has departed the sequels Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed.

It’s been announced Jamie Mathieson and Catherine Tregenna are writing episodes for Doctor Who‘s ninth season, titled The Girl who Died and The Woman who Lived.

It’s reported that Disney have bought a screenplay by Elizabeth Martin and Lauren Hynek for a Mulan retelling, based on the Chinese legend of warrior Hua Mulan, who disguises herself as a male to join the army, becoming a national hero with her dragon companion Mushu.

On his blog, GRRM, in an entry titled Conventions and CancellationsGeorge R.R. Martin stated he won’t be writing an episode for season six of Game of Thrones, adapted from his novel series A Song of Ice and Fire. He said:

after wrestling with it for a month or so, I’ve decided not to script an episode for season six of GAME OF THRONES.  Writing a script takes me three weeks, minimum, and longer when it is not a straight adaptation from the novels.  And really, it would cost me more time than that, since I have never been good at changing gears from one medium to another and back again.

The Telegraph reports Stan Lee‘s writing an original superhero drama, Lucky Man. Detective and gambler Harry Clayton acquires a charm that gives him control of luck. His gambling’s lead to his wife and daughter abandoning him, his boss suspects him of Theistic Satanism and he’s in-debt with a crime kingpin. Lee said

Luck has always been a fascinating subject to me, and I am excited to finally share that fascination with audiences around the world.

Screen Daily report Steve McQueen and Debbie Tucker Green are co-writing a six-episode miniseries chronicling the lives of Black people in London from 1968 to 2014. McQueen said

I don’t think there has been a serious drama series in Britain with black people from all walks of life as the main protagonists. This isn’t a black Our Friends in the North.

Production company Rainmark managing director Tracey Scofield told Broadcast

He wants to reach a very wide audience with this. It is very entertaining and moving. Steve has done a lot of research on it and we’re now working on the script and appointing writers with an eye to shooting next spring.