My wife, son, and I just watched "The Search for Spock" and we were all wondering why David didn't regenerate back, like Spock did when he got stabbed by the Klingon. Does anyone know?

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    Probably because the planet has already built itself and was actually falling apart by the time David was killed. Don't forget that they used Protomatter in the Genesis Device and it was unstable. – Buildstarted Dec 15 '17 at 3:17
  • Maybe he lives, gained the powers of a living planet... and is very, very cheesed off. – Harper Dec 15 '17 at 18:38
  • So David is Ego?! I new it! – Quasi_Stomach Dec 15 '17 at 19:34
  • Didn't need him for a sequel. – davidbak Dec 15 '17 at 21:51

Spock's corpse was shot onto the planet while the Genesis device was still working on the planet. So Spock's cells were regenerated by the device making life on the planet.

By the time David is killed, that process had begun to break down. David had revealed the cause in a prior scene: he used protomatter, which made the initial process work, but resulted in the major instability that destroyed the planet. From the transcript

SAAVIK: It's time for total truth between us. This planet is not what you intended, or hoped for, is it?
DAVID: Not exactly.
DAVID: I used protomatter in the Genesis matrix.
SAAVIK: Protomatter. An unstable substance which every ethical scientist in the galaxy has denounced as dangerously unpredictable.
DAVID: But it was the only way to solve certain problems.
SAAVIK: So, like your father, you changed the rules.
DAVID: If I hadn't, it might have been years, ...or never!
SAAVIK: How many have paid the price for your impatience? How many have died? How much damage have you done? ...And what is yet to come?

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    I never quite understand that last line. I mean, surely the answer is "minus one", since it DID bring Spock back. We don't have any evidence that his use of protomatter directly led to any other deaths. – Muzer Dec 15 '17 at 10:06
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    @Muzer, Vulcan carefulness like in Enterprise. Never do anything experimental or unorthodox, since you don't know exactly what happens. – ilkkachu Dec 15 '17 at 11:47
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    Instead of discussing that in answer comments, which are not for this, see scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/176327 . – JdeBP Dec 15 '17 at 12:43
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    @Muzer: I'm pretty sure she is referencing all the people that died in ST:II after Khan was "found". If David had not used the protomatter then they wouldn't have been trying to locate a planet for testing and, therefore, Khan would still have been on Ceti Alpha. – NotMe Dec 15 '17 at 20:09
  • @NotMe - this was always my interpretation as well. – Evil Closet Monkey Dec 16 '17 at 4:25

David didn't have enough time

The later stages of Spock's regeneration resembled typical (though accelerated) postnatal development. Earlier stages may have therefore resembled embryonic development. Although the progression of the Genesis effect[1] makes comparison difficult, it's possible that David began to regenerate similarly.

As Spock was regenerating into the form of a child[2], his crewmates had time to limp back to Earth in the damaged Enterprise, rest at home, settle into new jobs, devise and implement an elaborate plan to steal a heavily-armed starship, and return to Genesis. If David regenerated according to a similar schedule, then the process would have barely begun by the time the planet tore itself apart.

[1] In pulses, at decreasing intervals.

[2] Assuming Spock regenerated only once, instead of over and over and over.

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