The Enterprise finally makes it back to earth after holding a funeral and jettisoning Spock's body. Before they reach earth, Kirk is notified that someone has broken into Spock's cabin. He immediately rushes there and finds McCoy, who seems quite delusional. Bones asks for help and why he has been left behind on Genesis. What Kirk does not now is that just before Spock's death in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, he transferred his katra (living spirit) to McCoy.
When the crew checks in, they are told that Genesis is now classified and that they are not to speak of what happened. They are given an extended shore leave with the exception of Scotty, who is sent to USS Excelsior. When Scotty says that he would like to stay and get the enterprise refitted, they are all informed that because the enterprise is 20 years old, it is being decommissioned.
In the meantime, aboard the Grissom, David and and Lieutenant Saavik are scanning the Genesis planet when they pick up life signs. They ask to bring it on board and are denied by the captain and so instead beam down to the planet to investigate. Once on the planet, they discover the capsule which held Spock's body now only contains his funeral garb.
What would a Star Trek movie be without Klingons? Well, Commander Kruge picks up on Kirks report about what happened on the Genesis planet, cloaks is bird-of-prey and heads there because he believes that Genesis is a weapon of great power.
Back on earth, Sarek seeks Kirk out to discover what happened to Spock's katra. Kirk puts two and two together and realises that Spock gave it to Mccoy. Kirk then approaches Star Fleet in the hope of retrieving Spock's body and is denied, so he hatches a plan with crew, steals the Enterprise and takes off.
What follows are the Star Trek basics: show down with the Klingons, a big fight scene for Kirk, and triumph for the crew. Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, also includes the first time ever on screen that The Enterprise is destroyed. Fans of the series know that this will happen again, in a later movie.
That is essentially the gist of Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. I am sure at the time that this movie was released it was a relief to see Spock resurrected. Unlike Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, I didn't feel like I was being hit over the head with one giant metaphor. There were few moments of the typical Star Trek humor, like Sulu kicking some butt when they break McCoy out of the holding cell but Star Trek III: The Search for Spock was far more plot driven.
One of things that continues to bother me about this franchise is the treatment of women. Uhura helped Spock, Chekov, Scotty, Bones and Kirk beam aboard the Enterprise an that was essentially her only role in the film. She was quickly dropped into the plot box and forgotten about until the final scene where she got look up adoringly at Spock. Even in the original scene, Uhura largely spent her time on the bridge taking messages but this completely erased her from all of the action and made her seem extraneous to the story.
The other female character in this film was Lieutenant Saavik who essentially takes on a motherhood role and the damsel in distress. She nurses Spock through the boiling of his Vulcan blood and generally takes on the role of caretaker while David goes off to confront the Klingons. When Kruge decides to kill someone to prove to Kirk that he is serious regarding his demand to have Genesis handed over to him because he falsely believed it to be a weapon. Though Kruge did not specify David as the one to be killed, when it became clear that Lieutenant Saavik had been chosen, David jumped her attacker and was killed in her staid. We were to see this as an act of heroism and redemption for David but it turned Lieutenant Saavik into a typical female victim in need of saving.
There were certainly human characters of colour in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, it is however rather telling that the Klingon's though an alien race, are savage, violent, without mercy and in fact dark skinned. Considering that while there are people of colour in the cast, their roles are limited and certainly secondary to the White characters. I know that some will say that the Klingons are aliens and therefore not raced but that is absolutely not true. The only way they could have avoided being raced, would have been if they had been blue like the Andorians, or any other colour which humans don't appear. Why can't the antagonist be green? Oh I know, green people, or rather women, are for Kirk to have sex with. It is not a coincidence that we have the antagonist as dark skinned animalistic entities, juxtaposed to the supposedly heroic and righteous White Kirk. Essentially, people of colour who aren't servile, cannot be trusted not to be aggressive and dangerous. Furthermore, when they step out of line the White hero is there to serve up justice.
Once again we have Kirk defying Starfleet and becoming a hero. Normally, this is reserved for talking about the Prime Directive and then ignoring it all together. If you are going to sacrifice everything, there can be no greater cause than for someone you love. They never say so explicitly but loyalty and love is what makes the crew of the Enterprise work and that is particularly true when it comes to Spock, Kirk and Bones. It's typical of male relationships to exist without the word love ever being said and so this is why it is proved through action rather than a declaration. Saying the word love would emasculate these characters too many viewers and that is a shame because clearly, love is the basis of this friendship. It elevates them beyond their roles as space cowboys resistant to authority to fully realized characters.