Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Spock and McCoy are worried about Kirk. He’s moping around, he’s depressed on his birthday, he’s constantly talking about getting old. Spock advises Kirk to regain his active command, rather than continue his work as a desk jockey. Bones tells Jim, over a bottle of Romulan Ale, to get his act together. But nothing stirs now-Admiral Kirk out of the dumps – until, during a routine in-space inspection of the Enterprise, a curious call comes in from Kirk’s old flame. The resulting diversion leads to a confrontation with his old nemesis, Khan, in what, as many reviewers have pointed out derogatorily, is little more than a basic TV plot from the old TV show. That may be so, but Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan sure is an enjoyable episode in the ongoing mission of the starship.

It’s about ten times better than the stuffy first movie, with the cast looking very relaxed; William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and DeForrest Kelley are back in their old rhythms; there’s a cute new Vulcan crew member called Mr. Saavik (Kirstie Alley); and Ricardo Montalban is mercilessly hammy as the evil Khan. Actually, he’s not really the superior intellect he pretends to be, and it’s too bad there are no face-to-face showdowns between him and Kirk, but with a wig (and a fake chest?*) like the one he’s wearing, it’s tough to complain.

Director Nicholas Meyer (Time After Time) allows the humor to develop in the same vein as the series (funniest line: the second time somebody asks about the length of a crewman’s hair), and he fearlessly pursues and exploits every kernel of corn available. There are many, because the spirit of Star Trek is still that old humanistic message; the resourceful Kirk still believes there are no no-win situations. I’m afraid I was believing it too; and when a black box is jettisoned out of the Enterprise to seed a new planet to the strains of “Amazing Grace” – well, I got a little misty-eyed. Temporary suspension of critical faculties brought on by weightlessness? Too much Romulan Ale? Dunno. Maybe I’m just getting old, too.

*I have been assured that the well-preserved chest on display here does indeed belong to Mr. Montalban. I had suspected that he might have constructed a falsie out of that rich Corinthian leather you hear so much about, but I am glad to be corrected.

First published in The Informer, June 1982

I was 23 when I wrote this, so I guess I was getting old. Fun movie, and even at the time everybody knew that the Star Trek ship had righted itself, having come close to extinction with the ponderousness of the first movie – excuse me, motion picture. In retrospect, many universes were hanging in the balance with this one.

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