Saavik asks Kirk for suggestions after “stay[ing] with the sinking ship”
To her credit, Lieutenant Saavik maintains remarkable composure when Admiral Kirk, one of Starfleet’s most famous figures—and making a dramatic entrance to end all dramatic entrances—answer her request for constructive criticism by telling her to pray, because “the Klingons don’t take prisoners.”
Saavik starts to leave the bridge simulator with the other trainees, but then stops by the side of the command chair and spins around on her heel, giving no ground. Note the look of steely determination with which Kirstie Alley composes Saavik’s face. You can all but hear Saavik thinking, “I am not going to let this damn test beat me. And I am not going to let Admiral Kirk dismiss me that easily.”
I don’t know whether Alley, here in her first major motion picture role, felt any trepidation sharing the screen in an extended two-shot with so veteran and iconic an actor as William Shatner. I would! But if she did, she did not show it. Saavik is not going to be cowed by Kirk, no matter how much he goads her.
When Saavik insists the simulation did not test her command abilities fairly, Alley infuses Saavk’s eyes with righteous anger no one can deny. She bites off Saavik’s last line in the scene so precisely, it reminds me of Zachary Quinto’s thinly veiled disgust when he says “Live long and prosper” to the Vulcan Science Academy members in Star Trek (2009). Like Quinto’s Spock, Alley’s Saavik is young and angry and has something to prove.
Saavik’s interaction with Kirk is a marvelous moment, and shows just how deftly Alley could create a compelling character.