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Star Trek Movies I-X Discuss the first ten big screen outings in this forum!

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Old June 23 2010, 03:21 AM   #1
Whill
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The Search for Plot - please help me!

Let me preface this post by making clear I am not here to criticize or bash. I need help in appreciating one of my favorite childhood movies. I am sincerely asking for help.

When I was a kid, I loved the "Genesis Trilogy" of films. I still do, but recently I noticed something that started nagging on me about The Search for Spock. Let me also make clear that I do not think that anything is wrong with TWOK on its own. Without any future continuity to consider, Spock died and his body being launched from the Enterprise was fitting for a Starfleet officer and beloved character's funeral.

The problem comes in with TSFS and the retroactive continuity (or discontinuity) to explain how Spock comes back to life. I understand the normal Vulcan way when they are near death is transfering the katra to someone, and then that person goes to Mt. Seleya on Vulcan to transfer the katra to a katric ark, the Vulcan afterlife.

Bones, possessed by Spock's katra, asks Kirk why he left Spock back on Genesis. And then a moment later refers to going to Mt. Seleya on Vulcan. Later, Sarek also gets upset with Kirk that he left Spock on Genesis and then (believing that Kirk had the katra) said that Spock would have asked for him to be brought to Vulcan, just not openly (perhaps through his mind like when McCoy was acting posessed). Then when they discover that McCoy had the katra, Sarek says that Kirk should bring "them" to Vulcan. As far as we know at that time, Kirk, McCoy, Spock's katra and Sarek do not know that Spock's body had been regenerated on Genesis.

My issue is this...

If the body of the deceased Vulcan is not needed to transmit the katra to the Vulcan afterlife, then there was no reason go back to Genesis. It makes sense that Spock just willed a burial in space since his essense was either in someone else or not, but the body had no value either way. Kirk, not knowing that Spock's body lived, could have brought McCoy to Vulcan and then they both would be at peace (but of course Spock would have stayed dead).

But Spock's katra speaking through McCoy referred to Spock's body, the only part of him that had been left on Genesis. And when Sarek still believes Kirk has the katra, Sarek very emphatically refer to Spock's body being left behind right before stating Kirk denied Spock his future. After they discover McCoy has the katra and Sarek says to bring them both to Vulcan, Kirk's reply is clearly about the difficulty in getting the body due to Genesis being forbidden. If the body wasn't necessary, Sarek would have clarified in reply to just get McCoy to Vulcan, don't bother with the body, etc.

So it is clear the body is needed for Katric transfer to the Vulcan afterlife, which of course only serves the plot by giving the heroes a reason to go back to Genesis to discover Spock's body alive.

My problem is, if the body is necessary along with the katra-holder for the ritual to transfer a Vulcan's katra to the Vulcan afterlife at Mt. Seleya, then why wouldn't Spock have willed his body to not be launched into space in the Starfleet officer "burial at sea" type of ceromony. It is illogical for Spock to allow his survivors to get rid of the body, just to have to go back and get it (or if there had been no body because it had burned up in the atmosphere).

Sarek attacked Kirk for leaving Spock's body on Genesis, and then after their mind-meld, Sarek refers to "the Vulcan way when the body's end is near". And Kirk says, "If there was that much at stake, Spock would have found a way." Well my question is, if there was that much at stake, then why take a chance on the body being burned up or lost?

Of course I know the behind-the-scenes reality that they hadn't thought that far ahead when making TWOK, but I'm looking for an in-universe explanation that makes the two movies make sense together as a series.

I really have a soft spot in my heart for TSFS. The rebellion against Starfleet authority, theft of the Enterprise, sacrifice of Kirk's son and the destruction of the Enterprise really move me, along with the resurrection of Spock. I'm normally very good at coming up with explanations to fill plot holes and discrepencies. I really can hand-wave a lot of stuff. But this is a major issue for me and I can't resolve it on my own.

Does anyone have any possible suggested explanations? Perhaps from the novels or homespun? Please, help!
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Old June 23 2010, 03:49 AM   #2
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Re: The Search for Plot - please help me!

Perhaps it is ritual for a Vulcan's body to be returned to Vulcan, if it can be. And in this case, Spock COULD have been brought back to Vulca, but Kirk left him on Genesis.

They transfered the katra back to Spock, because they now had his body, so why not, and because he was now LIVING, but with no memories of before. It made sense to give back to Spock what was his, and what is his very essence.

But, no. If they were only bringing the katra to Seleya, then a body was not needed.
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Old June 23 2010, 04:01 AM   #3
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Re: The Search for Plot - please help me!

Vulcans know things they shouldn't. They 'feel' it from great distances.
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Old June 23 2010, 05:08 AM   #4
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Re: The Search for Plot - please help me!

Didn't the events of the movie get shuffled around in editing? Specifically, the Grissom crew found Spock's alive body before Serek talked to Kirk? It could explain why Serek and Kirk seemed to know stuff they shouldn't quite yet.
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Old June 23 2010, 07:39 AM   #5
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Re: The Search for Plot - please help me!

KobayashiMaru13 wrote: View Post
If they were only bringing the katra to Seleya, then a body was not needed.
The novelizations explain it more fully. The original ritual Sarek wanted for Spock was where the katra, in temporary storage in another's mind, would be temporarily reunited with the deceased body before its passage to the eternal Hall of Ancient Thought. IIRC, normally this ceremony only happens for certain Vulcans anyway. Not everyone's mind is pre-selected for this honour. Unknown to Sarek, Spock had seemingly chosen not to participate because his will requested burial in space.

Of course, the novelization of ST II was written long before anyone knew what events would unfold in ST III. Thus we learn that Saavik had secretly reprogrammed her mentor's torpedo/coffin so it would definitely softland on Genesis, not burn up on entry to its new atmosphere.

Due to last minute editing, the scene in ST III where Spock's intact tube is located on Genesis is switched to later in the film, so seemingly Sarek has arrived on Earth to admonish Kirk for not agreeing to Spock's wishes - not realising that Kirk had fulfilled Spock's request for burial in space. Sarek assumes Spock melded with Kirk, not realising that the radiation chamber had separated them. Kirk realises that McCoy's strange behaviour was due to Spock melding with him and they go to check the records.
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Old June 23 2010, 02:27 PM   #6
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Re: The Search for Plot - please help me!

I don't really see how any of the extra material from the novels would be helpful here. It seems superfluous at best, and dubious at worst - why would Saavik conspire, and why would the details of Spock's will be an issue?

When Sarek confronts Kirk, it's initially for Spock's katra. The issue of Spock's body does not arise. Sarek probably has no use for that piece of rotting meat - and moreover, he says he has read Kirk's report, so he has reason to believe that Spock's body is now buried in space, or burned to ashes in atmospheric entry.

Sarek only starts yearning for the body after melding with Kirk. In that event, Sarek's conviction about the survival of Spock's soul and Kirk's conviction about the possibility of Genesis reviving Spock's body come together for the first time. It should be no wonder that Sarek at that moment changes his plan, then: he now wants to bring Spock back to life, not merely deposit his katra in some moldy old pot. And Kirk is of course immediately up to speed, too, since mind melds work both ways.

The only thing that needs explaining is Kirk's conviction that the body does survive. And in both the script and the final edit of the movie, the Grissom has already observed and reported the soft-landing of Spock's coffin, and the fact that it is now empty. So... Does Kirk know what Starfleet knows? This sounds reasonable, but OTOH Kirk isn't jumping with joy when Sarek arrives, so perhaps he doesn't know. Or perhaps his belief is not strong enough that mere empty tomb would convince him.

But all the same, ST2 already had Kirk expressing his belief that Spock might be resurrected: "If Genesis really is life from death" and all that. Combine that with Sarek's knowledge of Vulcan rituals, and everything makes sufficient sense.

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Old June 23 2010, 03:17 PM   #7
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Re: The Search for Plot - please help me!

And I forgot to add in my OP that besides Spock's will about his body, Saavik should know about "the Vulcan way" and wonder about Spock's katra, who he may have mind-melded with, the necessity of Spock's body for the ritual to transfer his katra to the Vulcan afterlife, etc. If Kirk knew that "Spock would have found a way" if there was "that much at stake", Saavik would already know how much was "at stake" and also that "Spock would have found a way."
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Last edited by Whill; June 23 2010 at 06:24 PM. Reason: typos
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Old June 23 2010, 05:39 PM   #8
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Re: The Search for Plot - please help me!

Broccoli wrote: View Post
Didn't the events of the movie get shuffled around in editing? Specifically, the Grissom crew found Spock's alive body before Serek talked to Kirk? It could explain why Serek and Kirk seemed to know stuff they shouldn't quite yet.
Yes, the events of the movie got shuffled around in editing, but that is only an out-of-universe cause for the descrepencies, not an in-universe explanation for the continuity as presented in the final product. I need an in-univese explanation, even if it is a completely manufactured one never intended by the creators. As long as it works for me, I'm good.
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Old June 23 2010, 06:23 PM   #9
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Re: The Search for Plot - please help me!

Thanks everyone for your participation so far.

Timo wrote: View Post
...after melding with Kirk. In that event, Sarek's conviction about the survival of Spock's soul and Kirk's conviction about the possibility of Genesis reviving Spock's body come together for the first time. It should be no wonder that Sarek at that moment changes his plan, then: he now wants to bring Spock back to life, not merely deposit his katra in some moldy old pot. And Kirk is of course immediately up to speed, too, since mind melds work both ways.

The only thing that needs explaining is Kirk's conviction that the body does survive. And in both the script and the final edit of the movie, the Grissom has already observed and reported the soft-landing of Spock's coffin, and the fact that it is now empty. So... Does Kirk know what Starfleet knows? This sounds reasonable, but OTOH Kirk isn't jumping with joy when Sarek arrives, so perhaps he doesn't know. Or perhaps his belief is not strong enough that mere empty tomb would convince him.

But all the same, ST2 already had Kirk expressing his belief that Spock might be resurrected: "If Genesis really is life from death" and all that. Combine that with Sarek's knowledge of Vulcan rituals, and everything makes sufficient sense.
That's all well and good, but Kirk seemed genuinely surprised that Spock's body lives when Saavik tells him.

Timo wrote: View Post
I don't really see how any of the extra material from the novels would be helpful here.
Therin of Andor wrote: View Post
The novelizations explain it more fully. The original ritual Sarek wanted for Spock was where the katra, in temporary storage in another's mind, would be temporarily reunited with the deceased body before its passage to the eternal Hall of Ancient Thought. IIRC, normally this ceremony only happens for certain Vulcans anyway. Not everyone's mind is pre-selected for this honour. Unknown to Sarek, Spock had seemingly chosen not to participate because his will requested burial in space.

Of course, the novelization of ST II was written long before anyone knew what events would unfold in ST III. Thus we learn that Saavik had secretly reprogrammed her mentor's torpedo/coffin so it would definitely softland on Genesis, not burn up on entry to its new atmosphere.
I read the novelizations in the 80's and am re-reading TSFS now. IIRC, Saavik actually re-programmed the original "burn up" trajectory to change to intercepting the last remnants of the Genesis Wave energy as the planet was being finalized, thinking it was appropriate that the matter of Spock's deceased body (and tube) would be reoganized on an atomic-level into the new planet/atmosphere. Then they later found out that it unexpectently soft-landed. I've already completely accepted for the movies that no matter what intended for Spock's coffin-tube, it ended up soft-landing on the Genesis planet. My point was that Spock's body wasn't saved on the ship for return to Vulcan for the katra-afterlife ritual in the first place.

Yes, I remember reading somewhere that the Vulcan afterlife may only be reserved for important Vulcans. I've thought about the possibility that Spock was not considered important enough. That seems contrary to the fact that Spock is considered legendary on Vulcan, despite the fact that he is half-human. I've also considered that Spock may have been descriminated against because he is half-human. Maybe, but these both don't seem too likely based on Sarek's dialogue with Kirk (see below).

Spock somehow not qualifying for the Vulcan afterlife could explain why he didn't will his body to go to Vulcan upon death. Perhaps the mind-meld with McCoy was a last minute decision, based on the pending Genesis device detonation and there always being "possiblities". That however still doesn't explain Sarek's interaction with Kirk (see below)...

Timo wrote: View Post
When Sarek confronts Kirk, it's initially for Spock's katra. The issue of Spock's body does not arise. Sarek probably has no use for that piece of rotting meat - and moreover, he says he has read Kirk's report, so he has reason to believe that Spock's body is now buried in space, or burned to ashes in atmospheric entry.

Sarek only starts yearning for the body after melding with Kirk.
That's not at all the way it plays out in the dialogue:
SAREK: I will speak with you alone, Kirk.
KIRK: Please excuse us. ...Ambassador, I would have come to Vulcan to express my deepest sympathy.
SAREK: Spare me your human platitudes, Kirk. I have been to your Government. I have seen the Genesis information, and your own report.
KIRK: Then you know how bravely your son met his death.
SAREK: Why did you leave him on Genesis?! Spock trusted you. You denied him his future!
No matter who carried the katra, the only part of Spock that was left behnd on Genesis was his deceased body. Sarek is jumping on Kirk right off the bat about leaving Spock's body on Genesis, which got there by launching it out into space (which had to be allowed by Spock's will). My above speculation that Spock may not have expected to achieve the Vulcan afterlife (but transfered his katra to Bones on the spur of the moment) falls apart here.

If Spock hadn't expected his katra to eventually achieve Vulcan immortality on Mt. Seleya, then why would Sarek? Yes, Sarek may have found out all about the Genesis incident, and even that Spock's tube had soft-landed on Genesis and that there were animal lifeform readings (in the scene immediately previous to the Kirk-Sarek scene in the final edit of he film) from an off-screen transmission from Grissom to Starfleet. But Sarek interrogates Kirk like he should have known that the body should have been taken to Vulcan all along.

The novelization does go into more detail and attempts to exlain this. Perhaps some or all of it came from a earlier script or dialogue was edited out in the final film... Spock willed his body to have a burial in space, but Starfleet regulations specify that bodies of deceased officers be sent to their homeworld. Kirk chose to resolve this contradiction by honoring Spock's request over the regulations. I have to admit that is very Kirk-like. Sarek points out the regulation, and Kirk explains that he ignored it because of all the discrimination Spock received from Vulcan for being half-human and choosing Starfleet over the Science Academy, including even from his own father. Kirk felt that if Spock wanted a Starfleet burial, that he should get the Starfleet hero's burial. A fitting end to the life that he chose by enlisting in Starfleet.

Of course, since the body is required for the transition of the katra to the Vulcan aftelife, the question is why would Spock choose not to participate in the Vulcan afterlife when creating his will? This is why the novelization doesn't totally resolve things for me.

And regardless of the reason, why would Sarek not know Spock's choice? That is a little easier to explain. Regardless of their disagreements, perhaps Sarek would still want Spock to participate in the Vulcan afterlife tradition of having his katra available for future generations of Vulcans to benefit from his experiences. Perhaps Spock didn't want to have that argument with his father so lead him to falsely believe that he would participate in the Vulcan afterlife if possible, but really willed his remains otherwise (and then changing his mind to transfer his katra to McCoy at the last minute). ("You lied?" "I... mislead." ) If Sarek beleived that Spock wanted to participate in the Vulcan afterlife, that that could explain why he jumped on Kirk about Spock's body being left behind on Genesis.

I think we're making some progress here, but why would Spock not want to participate in the Vulcan afterlife when making his will in advance of the events of the movies?

Thanks.
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Last edited by Whill; June 23 2010 at 08:34 PM. Reason: typos
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Old June 23 2010, 07:51 PM   #10
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Re: The Search for Plot - please help me!

I read in one novel (I know, it's not canon) that Vulcans perceive their own versions of a God. Perhaps that would also mean that they believe in different afterlifes, and Spock didn't think his being launched into space would affect a passage to the afterlife. Of course, that's just my speculation.
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Old June 23 2010, 10:54 PM   #11
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Re: The Search for Plot - please help me!

Whill wrote: View Post
why would Sarek not know Spock's choice? That is a little easier to explain. Regardless of their disagreements, perhaps Sarek would still want Spock to participate in the Vulcan afterlife tradition of having his katra available for future generations of Vulcans to benefit from his experiences. Perhaps Spock didn't want to have that argument.
That was always my interpretation. They weren't talking as father and son again until the end of ST IV.

As for Saavik, it's highly likely, given her upbringing, that she's never been informed about katras.

KobayashiMaru13 wrote: View Post
I read in one novel (I know, it's not canon) that Vulcans perceive their own versions of a God. Perhaps that would also mean that they believe in different afterlifes, and Spock didn't think his being launched into space would affect a passage to the afterlife. Of course, that's just my speculation.
That too. Perhaps the idea with communing only with dead Vulcan minds for eternity wasn't appealing.
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Old June 23 2010, 11:49 PM   #12
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Re: The Search for Plot - please help me!

Therin of Andor wrote: View Post
Perhaps the idea with communing only with dead Vulcan minds for eternity wasn't appealing.
Although it is not explicitely stated in TSFS, my understanding of the point of the Vulcan afterlife is not to commune with other dead Vulcans, but rather to be available for prominant living Vucans to be able to meld with the deceased Vulcan's katras.

In Enterprise, it was shown that the katra of ancient vulcan leader Surak had been transfered to a katric ark upon his death. Then sometime later, to get it into hiding or otherwise protect it from destruction, Surak's katra was transfered from his ark back into into a Vulcan priest, and his katra was transfered from priest to priest for centuries until his katra was finally put back to rest in a katric ark again. So Surak's katra was not lost, and prominant Vulcans could go mind-meld with Surak to seek his wisdom.

Being a katra in a katric ark just waiting around to be melded with by the living is presumably not an uncomfortable or undesirable experience, but I guess the only way to know would be to mind-meld with one and ask them!

Yeah, so maybe Spock just didn't want his katra to be available for future Vulcans to mind-meld with him forever? At least at that time in his life, before he later resolved his human-Vulcan conflict? Perhaps he just assumed that full-Vulcans wouldn't be interested in melding with him for all time, so thought that his funeral should just be a Starfleet one to benefit his surviving friends's mourning process more than benefiting future Vulcan culture? (And then because of the possiblities of the Genesis wave Spock had a change of heart at the last minute by transfering his katra to McCoy, not to participate in the Vulcan afterlife as much as have a chance to live again?)

And maybe Sarek felt Spock should be an immortal katra after death anyway regardless of spock's wishes? That was yet another disagreement they had? And Sarek had just hoped beyond hope that Spock had gone "the Vulcan Way" of transfering his katra before death because of the possiblity of his body not being burned up by having soft-landed on Genesis? And maybe Sarek just got a little carried away with his emotions with Kirk, coming across as too critical of Kirk for leaving Spock's body on Genesis when he really didn't know if Spock had even transfered his katra to anyone anyway? Or like I said earlier, Sarek just falsely assumed that Spock had willed his body to go to Vulcan or that Kirk would follow regulations and was upset that Kirk hadn't followed that?

I think that the regenerated Spock may have later changed his mind about participating in the Vulcan afterlife (especially after retiring from Starfleet), but I will consider these motivations for Sarek, and for Spock not wanting to will his body to be returned to Vulcan and ensure his katra join the Vulcan afterlife at this time of his life, pre-TWOK...

Still, if anyone else agrees, disagrees, has another solution, etc. please offer it. Thanks.
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Old June 24 2010, 05:49 AM   #13
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Re: The Search for Plot - please help me!

The katra is not canon therefore Spock and Kirk do not believe in it. As far as we know from the movie it is only a superstitious belief about the after life. The Vulcans only 'think' they are communing with Surak. The young Spock was Spock. The telepathic energy he gave to McCoy awoke his memories is all. He still had them. He was just dead. He regenerated but his core was still there. He was reborn.
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Old June 24 2010, 07:30 AM   #14
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Re: The Search for Plot - please help me!

^ Um...what?
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Old June 24 2010, 07:39 AM   #15
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Re: The Search for Plot - please help me!

No matter who carried the katra, the only part of Spock that was left behind on Genesis was his deceased body.
Only if one assumes that somebody did carry the katra.

But in my interpretation (not necessarily the writers', but hey, whatever works), Sarek would barge in with the idea that Spock's katra ("him") had been left behind, since Kirk had not come forth with that katra. So logically Kirk either maliciously wanted to keep the katra, or then maliciously left the katra behind. Sarek would first believe the latter, but then decide to check on the former possibility as well, through the meld. Only then would the third possibility dawn on him: that Spock had been unable to transfer his katra. A typical emotional response from our second-favorite Vulcan...

Sarek doesn't speak of the body explicitly. If we assume he doesn't want the body at first, then it's obvious why Saavik is not worried about the body, either. And Saavik wouldn't worry about the katra, either, since she'd be aware of the circumstances and convinced that Spock was gone, body and soul alike.

The katra is not canon therefore Spock and Kirk do not believe in it.


Vulcan mind melds are factual enough: they provide the melder with information he or she could not have obtained unless telepathy was for real. The Bajoran touch telepathy is a bit iffier, because we've never really seen unambiguous information transfer from that ear-gripping trick. Doesn't mean it couldn't be for real, too (at least for some skilled ear-grippers) - but the Vulcan version certainly is.

If melds are factual, then why not katras? Archer got information on/from Surak that he'd probably not have had unless his telepathic communion with said deceased were factual.

Of course, Spock may still disbelieve in this katra stuff. It would just be a bit illogical for him to do so...

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