With the latest Star Trek in theatres, we thought we should look back at some earlier Trek and this film fit the bill for a few reasons. There is a tie in to Into Darkness (and yeah, there’s a spoiler about that in the episode we recorded) but it’s also the movie that saved the franchise after Star Trek the Motion Picture almost killed it.
The Star Trek franchise is what one might call well-loved and among the films in the franchise, Star Trek II the Wrath of Khan is among the most well-loved by fans. It’s also very accessible to someone who’s never seen an episode (I don’t know anyone but I am certain they exist).
This film introduces us to Captain Kirk’s son and re-introduces Kirk’s nemesis, Khan Noonian Singh (played with scenery-chewing glee by Ricardo Montalban) and takes viewers on a roller-coaster sci-fi romp that includes some tension, some explosions, and plenty of pathos. If you’ve been around people quoting Star Trek there’s a good chance the line was from this film: Kirk’s immortal, “Khaaaaaaaaann!” yell; Spock’s logical, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.. or the one.”; or Khan’s frustrated, “The override. Where’s the override?”
Is it great cinema? Not particularly. The special effects are very dated and look incredibly clunky by today’s standards; the acting is, as you can guess, pretty over-the-top; and the plot? the plot is surprisingly above-average. In the end, this is one of those movies you just have to see. Entertaining and cannon as far as sci-fi films go.
Age changes your perceptions. When I first watched Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, I could not watch the scene with the space slug/scorpion being inserted into the ears of Chekov and some other random guy. I found it just too disgusting. Flash forward about 20 years or so. Special effects are now so good that the scene that once made me close my eyes now looks so tacky that I nearly laughed out loud. You know what? It turns out that when you’ve aged at least 20 years since your first viewing, you also realize that this movie is really about dealing with getting older, coming to grips with mistakes you’ve made in your past, and the enduring power of friendship.
But enough philosophy. Even though I can see a deeper meaning, the bottom line is that this is just full-on cheesy fun. Ricardo Montalban reprises his role as Khan-where he chews up the scenery in a most delightful way. His appearance and performance may be the best thing in this movie. Even if he is wearing a prosthetic chest. (Are those prosthetic pecs? I don’t know, but if not, wow! Not bad for a 62 year old man) The costumes and hair are 80’s chic, Spock makes logical choices, Kirk makes foolish ones (for a Captain anyway), Bones complains, and Scotty does his best to keep the engines running. Just another day in the Star Trek (TOS) universe. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. KHAN!!!!
- Episode 001 – Strictly Ballroom
- Episode 002: Star Trek II – The Wrath of Khan