Superstitious Trekkies will try to tell you odd-numbered Star Trek movies suck and even- numbered movies achieve warp speed every time. But, they’re wrong. Because not only is Star Trek III: The Search for Spock one of the best Trek movies ever, it’s one of the finest films of all time, and certainly one you should watch on Thanksgiving. In fact, as Thanksgiving movies go, it’s literally the best of the genre.
Perhaps you were unaware that Star Trek: III: The Search for Spock was a Thanksgiving movie. Well, it is. First, in the days before streaming access, Star Trek III would often play on various cable stations as part of a holiday movie marathon. For those of us who grew up in the ‘90s, this is simply common knowledge. Second, the color palette of Star Trek III: The Search For Spock screams Thanksgiving louder than Kirk screams KHHHAAAAAAN in Star Trek II. Basically everything in this movie is orange or beige. Here’s some proof.
Star Trek III is also the first Trek movie to wholly embrace the fact that the entire crew of the Enterprise are all linked through an eternal Friendsgiving. After Spock dies in Star Trek II, literally everyone in this movie risks their entire career, their reputations, their wardrobes, everything just to be able to hang out with Spock again. This year’s Justice League movie similarly found a group of friends trying to bring their buddy — Superman — back to life. Superman’s funeral in Batman V Superman also had bagpipes playing “Amazing Grace” which happened at Spock’s funeral in Star Trek II, but I digress. The point is, if you’re going to have a movie where a bunch of friends conspire to bring an awesome guy back to life, you shouldn’t even try to make that movie. And that’s because Star Trek III exists.
Without spoiling the movie too much, this is a film in which every single thing that happens affirms the notion that when people love another person enough, they will literally do anything for that person. Kirk, Bones, Sulu, Chekov, Scotty and Uhura all decide that spending one day with Spock is way more valuable than anything else that could happen in their lives. In what is maybe the movie’s best scene, Uhura has to endure a bunch of insensitive comments from a young guy trying to imply she’s over the hill. Of course, Uhura has taken a shitty job on purpose to be in the right place at the right time to help Kirk and the boys steal the Enterprise. In the best metafictional moment in any sci-fi fantasy movie, Uhura pulls a phaser on the dumb young-whippersnapper and rasps “This isn’t reality! This is fantasy!”
The Search for Spock presents the ultimate fantasy that everyone specifically hopes for every single Thanksgiving; the idea that they will be surrounded by a ton of great people who will only have their best interests at heart. When Kirk has to blow up the Enterprise to save the crew, he asks, “My God Bones, what have I done?” At this point, Bones has Spock’s soul in his body, meaning Bones is basically the greatest friend on the planet. And his answer to Kirk’s question is the other enduring moment of the movie. He tells Kirk that what he did was “What you had to do, what you always do; turn death into a fighting chance to live.”
If more inspiring words are spoken in other Thanksgiving movies, I am unaware of them. But I do know this. If you watch Star Trek III: The Search For Spock this Thanksgiving, I’m sure you will be more grateful for the existence of this film than ever before. And because this movie has been unfairly labeled as one of the “bad” Trek films, its enduring greatness is certain to raise more than a few eyebrows.