Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)

Star Trek.

This post may be longer than usual because this is the only Star Trek movie in the project, and there is quite a bit of ground to cover.  I have previously watched The Wrath of Khan, but I have better context this time because I’ve also watched the Star Trek: The Original Series episode, “Space Seed.”

I write this review as a person who has had limited exposure to Star Trek in my life.  I remember growing up watching parts of episodes from Star Trek: The Next Generation, but other than that, I have watched very little and as such watch and review this movie from that perspective.  When I went to watch Wrath of Khan the first time, I started with the first movie and continued on watching Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.  I’ve also seen the new Star Trek movie.

The premise for this movie is that it takes place 15 years after the Space Seed episode in the original series.  In that episode, the USS Enterprise comes upon an ancient-looking ship that has 84 people on board in something like a cryogenic chamber, though 12 of them have died because of machine malfunctions.  They bring Khan Noonien Singh on board, and come to realize he is a warlord who had conquered nearly a fourth of the Earth in the 1990s (must have missed that one).  He and his other people are genetically modified and are bigger, stronger, beings (probably played a part in their conquests).  They briefly hold the Enterprise hostage, having success because Khan turned the Enterprise’s historian, but are defeated and placed in exile on the planet

Khan in the medical bay of the USS Enterprise in the episode “Space Seed.”

The episode was okay I suppose, it’s the first with the original cast I’ve seen, and it seemed too over simplistic at times.  Kirk defeats Khan by clubbing him over the head once when Khan had clearly had the upper-hand throughout their final fight.  It was also weird seeing the actors and actresses 10-15 years younger than they were in the movies.  I don’t know, it worked, it’s Star Trek.

Fast forward 15 years.  Sulu (George Takei) and Chekov (Walter Koenig), who were not in the original episode, are now part of the crew.

This film was also the first for Kristie Alley as Saavik, a Vulcan Lieutenant in Star Fleet Command, captaining the USS Enterprise.  She is participating in the “Kobayashi Maru,” a no-win situation that only Kirk has succeeded in.  This is a very interesting and one of many story arcs within the film: dealing with death and the emotional implications it has on a captain, and Kirk’s apparent inability to accept it.

As I’ve watched the Star Trek movies, I’ve really come to enjoy DeForest Kelley as Dr. Bones McCoy.  Karl Urban almost seems like an insult to the character in the 2009 Star Trek movie (though I did enjoy that and am looking forward to the next installment with this crew of actors and actresses).  Bones is one of the bigger voices of reason in Kirk’s life, and I would imagine with all the characters had been through, that relationship seems plausible and enjoyable to watch.  Bones telling Kirk to get back in command so he didn’t become and artifact like the ones he collected is the swift kick in the pants Kirk needed.  Bones never seemed afraid to put Kirk in his place.  Don’t get me wrong, they have plenty of good banter, but the balance of that demonstrates true friendship founded on mutual respect and concern for the other.

Chekov is the first officer of the USS Reliant, and they are in the process of finding a planet to test the Genesis project on.  He comes upon what he presumes is the next planet past where Khan has been exiled to.  He and his captain go down to the planet, only to realize one of the permanent structures on the otherwise desert planet is the remains of the Botany Bay, Khan’s original ship and the craft sent down with them

Khan does a very good job here establishing his strength and as a character to be feared.  Chekov’s reaction demonstrates this as soon as he realizes they are in the remains of the Botany Bay.  Lt. Marla McGivers, the crew member who betrayed the Enterprise in their first encounter with Khan, had since died at the hands of a creature indigenous to the planet.

As the story develops we learn Kirk has a son who works with his mother on the Genesis Project, a project that can turn an uninhabitable planet into something habitable.  This is a

One of the things that makes Khan such a great villain is the level of psychosis and determination he has in defeating Kirk.  Even at the point when one of his top guys keeps telling him he doesn’t need to, he sticks with it.  Nothing will stop him from accomplishing his goal.The way he’s defeated seems sad and cliche: Kirk and the USS Enterprise have more experience in space combat, and that becomes Khan’s undoing.

Kristie Alley was very good in this movie.  It took some adjusting to hear everyone else refer to her character as a male, but I imagine that’s how Vulcans are different from humans.  She turned down the role of Saavik for fear of being type-cast, as others in the Star Trek cast became.  It’s reasonable, but I think she made a better Saavik than Robin Curtis was in the next two films.

This movie ends with a tremendous plot twist.  I feel that if they would’ve ended making movies, this ending would’ve been sad, but fitting.  Each of the main characters changed or significant life events, especially Kirk.  I do like where they took this storyline though.

I found Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan to be a great continuation of the “Space Seed” episode, and taking big steps forward with the crew of the USS Enterprise.  It also renewed interest in Star Trek and allowed them to expand and branch out with different crews and new story lines, especially after a lackluster performance in the original movie.  I’d watch this again, but it’s one I would need to have quite a bit of time between viewings.
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars.


2 thoughts on “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)

  1. I just saw this one on the big screen (here in Albuquerque). It was shown as a “Midnight Movie”. Everyone shouted “Khaaan” in unison (with an angry Captain Kirk) !

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