Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is a 1982 science fiction film, and the the second entry in the Star Trek film series. It marked the return of the character Khan Noonien Singh, from the original series episode "Space Seed."
Twelve years after the events of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Admiral James T. Kirk has returned to working at a desk job, with the USS Enterprise now relegated to being a Starfleet Academy training vessel under the command of Spock, who along with several of Kirk's former crew are now instructors at the academy. Meanwhile, the USS Reliant, on which former Enterprise crewman Pavel Chekov is now serving as first officer, unwittingly stumbles across the planet Ceti Alpha V, where the insane genetically-engineered superhuman Khan Noonien Singh was exiled nearly two decades prior. Using parasites, Khan takes control of Chekov's and his captain's minds, and discovers that the Reliant is part of Project Genesis, an attempt to create a device capable of transforming dead planets into habitable worlds within minutes. When the Enterprise sets off on a training cruise under Kirk's supervision, the admiral gets a call from his former partner and the Project Genesis leader, Dr. Carol Marcus, who claims that someone is trying to take the device away from them. Kirk assumes command of the Enterprise, setting him on a collision course with Khan, who with his followers has taken control of the Reliant and intends to get revenge on Kirk.
Why it Rocks
- Proved that the Star Trek formula could translate well to film, after Star Trek: The Motion Picture was heavily criticized for being over-long and under-plotted.
- Khan makes a welcome return after being one of the more memorable villains from the show's original run, and is used even better here. While he still may be a madman with a superiority complex, this time he has a more legitimate grievance against Kirk, whose failure to check in on Khan left him and his followers stranded on a desolate, near-dead world, and resulted in the death of dozens of Khan's followers, including his wife. At the same time, Chekov points out that Kirk had good reason not to check on Khan considering he tried to kill Kirk and hijack the Enterprise, adding some complexity to the issue.
- The special effects, while not quite as good as those in the previous film, are still very impressive considering the budget and time period.
- The new red Starfleet uniforms are a big improvement over the "pastel pajamas" from the previous film.
- The film actually acknowledges and makes the time span (and increased character ages) since the original series a major plot point, showing how they have mostly moved on to other things, and Kirk is having doubts about his place in the world.
- Strong allusions to classical literature throughout, most notably Moby Dick.
- Marked the introduction of Lt. Saavik, who was initially intended as a replacement for Spock, but nonetheless is a welcome addition to the cast and is memorably acted by Kirstie Alley.
- Also introduced Kirk's son, David Marcus, showing that one of his small army of conquests from his younger days actually was a more serious relationship and yielded a child.
- The film's two main space battle scenes, firstly when the Reliant cripples and nearly destroys the Enterprise, and then the later Battle of the Mutara Nebula, are both incredibly tense, and boast great special effects.
- Even with the various literary quotes, the film still comes up with some great original quotes, most notably "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few."
- The Genesis Device is something a little more interesting than the traditional planet-destroying weapons you see in science-fiction, with Dr. McCoy in particular being concerned about the implications of something that could destroy as much as it creates.
- The film makes the point that, while Khan may be incredibly intelligent, that doesn't mean he can't make bad judgement calls (such as insisting on pursuing the crippled Enterprise into the Mutara Nebula over the objections of his right-hand man), nor make mistakes that are the result of inexperience (like not initially realizing that the Enterprise crew can remotely order the Reliant to drop its shields, and then later not taking proper advantage of being able to fly in three dimensions, which Kirk exploits to seemingly defeat him once and for all).
- Kirk's angrily screaming Khan's name is one of the film's most iconic moments, along with...
- Spock's death scene. The film's theme of "no-win scenarios" finally culminates in Spock having to sacrifice his life to restore engine power to the Enterprise before Khan's activating the Genesis Device destroys the entire Mutara Nebula. And then his final conversation with Kirk, the two separated by a glass wall, is incredibly moving.
- Despite the tragedy of Spock's death, the film ends on a hopeful note with Kirk vowing to some day return to the newly-created Genesis Planet, and then the image of Spock's coffin, which landed intact on the planet's surface, being shown.
- The budget is noticeably far lower than in the previous film, resulting in a lot of sets, models and stock footage being recycled.
- Due to budget and scheduling limitations, Kirk and Khan never actually meet face-to-face, and are limited to communicating over radio throughout the film.
- While it's understandable that Kirk would make a few mistakes after years out of the captain's chair, during the initial engagement with Khan he comes across as almost totally incompetent until he has the idea to get the Reliant to remotely lower its shields.
- It seems really implausible that no-one on the Reliant could have noticed that the Ceti Alpha system had one planet fewer than it was supposed to.
- The scene where Chekov and Captain Terrell get parasitic Ceti eels planted in their ears, and then later on when the eel emerges from Chekov's ear, may be a little too disgusting for the tastes of certain viewers.
- Uhura is badly under-used, and gets almost nothing to do other than passing demands of surrender between Kirk and Khan. Even the following film, which side-lines her just before the halfway point, gave her a much more memorable role.