- Title: Star Trek II The Wrath of Khan
- Director: Nicholas Meyer
- Date: 1982
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: SF, Action, Drama
- Cast: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, Kristie Alley, Ricardo Montalban
- Format: Color, Widescreen
- DVD Format: R1, NTSC
“Jim, I’m your doctor and I’m your friend, get back your command. Get it back before you turn into part of this collection [of antiques], before you really do grow old.” — McCoy
“You are my superior officer, you are also my friend. I have been and always shall be yours. — Spock
“As a matter of cosmic history, it has always been easier to destroy, than to create.” — Spock
This is the film Star Trek fans wanted and deserved instead of Star Trek The Motion Picture (1979). The film focuses on the main characters of Kirk, Spock and McCoy, includes the bridge crew as well (including Scotty) and brings back a villain from the original series.
The film opens with a female Vulcan named Saavik in command of a Starship. Behind her, Spock walks around, observing. She’s on a “routine” training mission, when she receives a distress call from the freighter Korbayashi Maru. To help the freighter, she will have to cross into the Romulan Neutral Zone, a violation of treaty. She does so anyway, and is immediately attacked by three Klingon fighters, a deadly attack that kills off the entire bridge crew.
But then lights come up, and Kirk steps out of the smoke and lights, to “grade” her performance. It had been a simulation – the infamous “no-win scenario” character test that all potential command candidates must take at Star Fleet Academy. McCoy informs Saavik that Kirk took the Korbayashi Maru test three times. Later, when Saavik asks what Kirk did, he tells her that he re-programmed the computers to allow a winning result. Saavik then points out this means Kirk has never faced death. Kirk counters he doesn’t believe in no-win scenarios. But the no-win scenario, and facing true death will be a theme of the entire film.
On Earth, Kirk is facing his birthday, without the joy such an occasion usually brings. He receives gifts from Spock and McCoy, but Spock is soon off to his command of Enterprise and her trainee crew before McCoy even arrives. McCoy, noticing Kirk’s attitude, urges him to stop flying a desk and get back to active duty. Kirk considers this.
Meanwhile, Chekov and Capt. Terrell are looking for a suitable life-less planet to test the Genesis Device, a new scientific breakthrough if it works. They find a dessert world with anomalous readings and go down to take a look. On the planet, Chekov finds a wrecked Botany Bay and freaks. But it’s too late, they are captured by Khan and his men. Khan takes the young of two Ceti eels and places them in the two men’s helmets, which he then screws onto their spacesuits. The eels go into their ears, allowing Khan to control the two men and get classified information from them. He takes control of their ship, the Reliant, then travels to the research lab in charge of the Genesis project. Dr. Carol Marcus, and her son, David, are in control of the project.
Kirk boards the Enterprise, with Spock as Captain, Saavik as trainee first officer, and the crew we know from the series: McCoy, Scotty, Uhura and Sulu. They head out of space dock in an impressive and beautiful sequence, for a routine training mission. But soon they get a garbled message from the Genesis Project research lab. Kirk is concerned because he was close to Dr. Carol Marcus once, and we will learn, David is his son from his relationship with Carol, though the two men have had no relationship at her insistence. Kirk takes McCoy and Spock into his office to show them the highly classified Genesis research tape. Genesis, or new life from lifeless matter, is a type of terraforming that can create an entire planet, sun, and ecosystem.
Spock gives command to Kirk, who orders the Enterprise make best speed for the research lab. They are attacked by the Reliant. With shields down, Enterprise was helpless, and Scotty’s nephew, Peter, was killed in the engagement. Other trainees are killed as well, and Kirk and McCoy are visually and understandably upset by this.
Kirk manages to escape the Reliant, makes his way to the research lab, and he, Saavik, and McCoy beam over. On the lab, they discover most of the scientists are dead. Carol and David, however, are alright. They soon discover Chekov and Capt. Terrell as well. Chekov fills them in a bit about Khan, but not all the details. They beam down to the Genesis Project Cave in the interior of the planetoid that the lab orbits.
Once in the Genesis Project cave, Terrell and Chekov reveal they are still under Khan’s control. But Terrell commits suicide rather than kill Kirk as he is ordered. Chekov simply collapses in pain and distress, and the eel oozes out of his ear. Khan beams up the Genesis Device to the Reliant. McCoy begins treating Chekov, who slowly recovers now that the eel is out of his ear and brain stem.
Carol takes the group to see the Genesis cave, a lush forest that even has a sun-like light source. Saavik and Kirk discuss no-win scenarios. Kirk then whips out his communicator and contacts Spock and they are all beamed aboard Enterprise.
What follows is really a sub-hunt between Kirk and Khan; Kirk on the Enterprise and Khan on the Reliant. They hide and chase each other in a nebula, because Kirk still doesn’t have scanners or shields and he wants Reliant to have the same disadvantages. During the engagement, Spock points out that Khan’s fighting style suggests two-dimensional thinking. Kirk nods, then drops the Enterprise, before coming up behind her, and finishing her off. Knowing he’s beaten and dying, Khan ignores the “prepare to be boarded” order and ignites the Genesis Device.
The Enterprise had been moving and fighting with impulse power only, and now they need to get out of there quickly. For, if they are caught in the Genesis Wave, the ship will be destroyed and everyone will die. Kirk calls down to engineering for more power, and more speed, but engineering’s been hit. Then he notices Spock has left the bridge.
Spock meanwhile, has arrived in engineering. Scotty’s injured, McCoy is trying to help, and the engineering core is leaking radiation. Spock goes to enter the core area to fix it, but McCoy stops him. Spock distracts the doctor, then knocks him out with a Vulcan neck pinch. He begins to quickly try to repair the warp core, in a glass chamber, surrounded by deadly radiation.
Kirk arrives, sees Spock slumped over, and has to be held back by McCoy and Scotty, before he enters the chamber and floods the room with radiation. Spock, slowly, goes to the door. He reminds Kirk, “The needs of the many…” and Kirk answers “…outweigh the needs of the few or the one.” But Kirk, as happy as he is that his ship and crew have now survived, mourns the one he has lost. Spock then reminds Kirk, “I have been and always shall be your friend,” gives him the Vulcan salute, and tells him, “Live long and Prosper”. Kirk places his hand on the glass, their hands meet, and Kirk slumps with Spock to the floor, though they can’t physically touch.
Spock, also, when McCoy was knocked out, said to him, “Remember”. Kirk breaks up while eulogizing Spock at his funeral, then the body is ejected into space, but the torpedo coffin lands on the Genesis planet. Kirk and Carol look at the planet from the Enterprise bridge, amazed at the beauty.
Star Trek II in many ways might be the best of the Star Trek films. With the death of Spock, it certainly is the most emotional. But it also deals with emotions and feelings… revenge, fear of growing old and useless, fear of death, fear of losing those close to us, friendship, and confronting failure. These are all universal feelings. The film is really good. Yes, many of the familiar catch phrases are there, but they aren’t used to simply be cute. Rather, Spock’s sayings, especially, become the centerpiece of the film. It’s a film about friendship first, and the setting is just that — window dressing. Similar issues could be addressed in any historical setting, such as an early 19th Century British Royal Navy vessel.
Recommendation: See it!
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Next Film: Star Trek III The Search for Spock