The Rewatch 76: The Wrath of Khan

Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
Rating: PG
My Grade: 5/5

Notable Guest Stars:

Ricardo Montalban – Khan, reprising his role from the Original Series.
Bibi Besch – Carol Marcus.  She is known for several films, but I’m going to mention Tremors because I love that movie.  She had a bit part – the Doctor’s wife. She died in 1996 after a long battle with Breast cancer.
Merritt Butrick- David Marcus.  He would appear in the following film (as David) and in an episode of TNG before his untimely death at 29 in 1989.  He also had a recurring role on Square Pegs as Johnny Slash.
Kiristie Alley – Lt. Saavik.  She is known for her roles on Cheers, Veronica’s Closet, and several reality tv shows about her life. I’ve always enjoyed her acting.  This was her credited role.  Unfortunately she would pass on reprising the role for the sequel.
Paul Winfield– Captain Clark Terrell.  He is known for his role in the fim Sounder which earned him an Academy award nomination. He also had a part in 1966 on the show Man from U.N.C.L.E.

Review:

The Wrath of Khan is arguably the best Star Trek film featuring the original cast.  It directly links with the previous series, it deals more with personal motivations and character interaction then the previous film, and the acting and storylines were very good.

The theme of the movie was vengence, age and death.   Kirk is shown up against Lt. Saavik, played in this film by newly minted actress Kirstie Alley, who is learning the elements of command.  Khan is brought up against his navigator who appears quite a bit younger then him and who doesn’t quite understand how vengence can overwhealm common sense. We also have the headstrong David Marcus coming up against his more cautious and slow to show her thoughts mother Carol.

The film starts off with two plots, which will later become one.  Group A is found in Sanfransico at the training academy.  Lt. Saavik is going through the Kaybashi Maru test, a training module to test her command abilities.  Its a test based on a inverse event happening during the Earth-Romulan war, where the USS Enterprise (NX-01 I am assuming) was asked for help by the Maru, who was trapped behind enemy lines.  It had ended badly. 

Saavik ends up with a dead crew just in time for Kirk to wonder in and end the test.  She is bothered by the test, which is another ongoing theme of the movie. I think that Saavik is also a protege of Spock’s, now that Chekov has become a first officer on the Reliant.

Which brings us to group B:  Chekov is working on the Reliant as the first officer, and the ship is helping out Dr. Carol Marcus, her son Dr. David Marcus and their team to find a dead planet to go into phase 3 testing of the Genesis torpedo.  The concept is to shoot the torpedo into the planet and restart the planet into being alive again, thus creating more possibilities for agriculture and colonization for many worlds.  However, Chekov and his team have wondered into Ceti Alpha, and onto Ceti Alpha V.  The planet had once been a lush planet, but the destruction of the planet next to them had thrown it off the orbit it was in, creating a desert waste land.

And Khan Noonien Singh was on that planet.  Something Chekov realises and tries to get his captain off the planet before they run into him.  Unfortunately, Khan is already there and takes the pair captive.  He recognizes Chekov, which is a continuity mistake but we can just pretend Chekov was doing a brief tour with Enterprise as a upperclassmen before he was assigned there the following year.  We find out that Khan has become a bit focused on blaming Kirk for his troubles.  It seems he assumed that Kirk would check up on him from time to time and instead decided to leave him to rot on the wasteland.

Also, his wife died.

So Chekov and his Captain (whose name never stuck with me)  are made to become hosts to baby slugs that will put them under Khan’s control.   As you can probably tell, this does not bode well for anyone.  

On the bright side, this scene gives Chekov a bit more focus time then he usually gets.    

Chekov is led to take over the science center that the Marcus’ are using as a test subject.  They get away though, and send an SOS message to Kirk, who takes control of the Enterprise (this time Spock’s the captain is he is all for it.  He’s a teacher, not a action hero).   Kirk leds them all to Carol Marcus’ science station only to find most of the team dead, and Chekov and his Captain stuffed in a box like put away puppets.   They end up beaming down into the Genesis cave where they meet up with the Marcus’ and Chekov and Captain T end up loosing their minds.

But don’t worry, Chekov survives.  I have to wonder if this scene inspired the episode of Stargate where anti-goulad mechnims slide out of people’s ears?

We have a really good character scene in this episode as they all rest up waiting for Spock to pick them up.  Saavik, still bothered by the Maru test gets to figure out that Kirk passed…by reprogramming the test.  Kirk got in trouble but he also impressed alot of people.  (We will return to this moment when I get to Into Darkness, the Kelvin love letter to this film).  It gives a little insight into Kirk’s past.  Kirk is clearly a creative thinker, which is probably why being in charge of a starship on the front lines is more appealing to him then sitting behind a desk.

Spock eventually picks them up, much to Saavik’s surprise.  She’s a quick learner though, and Kirk doesn’t suprise her as much again. 

The rest of the film is basically a long battle squence where Khan and Kirk take turns outthinking the other.  Kirk of course ends up winning, but unfortunately there is a great loss.  Spock, knowing that power was needed, entered the radiation flooded chamber of the engines and fixed it, causing him to be fatally ill.  He ended up living just long enough to tell Kirk his goodbyes.

What Kirk doesn’t know is that Spock had a katra plan, which involves Dr. McCoy holding his katra, which will fuel the next film.

This is definately a movie you need to see if you want to see Star Trek.  It has great character moments and the characters all have motivations that are unique to themselves.  I think the crew must have had a better time with this movie then the last.  They all seem more cohesive in their roles, and in general more in sync with each other.  The writing was good, the effects were good, and most importantly of all the pacing was good. 

William Shatner did a good job in this movie showing Kirk’s shifting emotions.  The wearyness in the start of the film, the excitement of action in the middle, and the grief when Spock died. The rest of the cast did as well, though once again, the mian three were focused on pushing others into background roles. Chekov probably had the most significant story of the secondary stars, followed by Scotty.

Interesting Notes:

  • This film is the only film that directly sequels an episode.  That episode was season 1’s Space Seed.
  • Gene Roddenberry was given very little creative input into this film, as he was thought to be the blame for the not so great costs to reception ratio.
  • Directed by Nicholas Meyer (who would later pen scenes for The Voyage Home)
  • Screenplay by Jack B. Sowards based on a story he co-created with Harve Bennett
  • The budget was 12 million. TMP was 45 million.
  • The costumes and sets were inspired by naval designs
  • Originally Spock’s death was supposed to stay final, but Leonard Nimoy enjoyed filming this film and decided to persuade those in charge to create a way for him to come back.
  • James Doohan came up with the idea to play Amazing Grace at Spock’s funeral
  • Khan quotes a lot from Moby Dick, which lets face it was a popular theme in TOS.

Pros:

  • The storyline was for the most part pretty good.  It was good as a general sci-fi plot, but also as a Star Trek plot
  • I like that Chekov has advanced in rank.  I’m not sure why Sulu hasn’t.
  • The acting is amazing in this film.  Everyone brought their A game to the table.

Cons:

  • I’m not sure I understand why the crew hasn’t been promoted apart from each other.  Sulu should be captain of his own ship by now, Uhura should be head of communications at Starfleet, and Scotty should be designing his own engine.  But I can forgive that for the sake of seeing them together
  • I found the Kirk’s unknown son to be a little annoying.  I wish we had heard about him before this.  But this is more of a problem with the next movie then this one
  • How exactly does one get from the ear canal to the cerebral cortex?

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