Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

This is number two and also the best of the Star Trek movies. It’s The Wrath of Khan, starring Ricardo Montalbán in the title role. Most of the original crew from the TV series are aboard, this 16 years after the the first television episode. It’s from 1982, released by Paramount Pictures. I used to have the VHS, but I got rid of tapes years ago and never obtained a disk. I watched this on Hulu, but I’m taking the screen shots from Amazon Prime Video. Details are from Wikipedia.

James Kirk (William Shatner), previously Captain James Kirk of the Star Ship Enterprise, is now Admiral James Kirk, Star Fleet Commander. He’s out of action, pushing papers, and supervising training exercises. Here we see Hikaru Sulu (George Takei) at the controls with Lieutenant Saavik (Christie Alley) looking on. The training exercise is a complete catastrophe, with the star ship being defeated with all its crew “killed.”


Meanwhile, an old flame of Kirk’s is Carol Marcus (Bibi Besch), lead scientist of Project Genesis. She works with David (Merritt Butrick), a biological product of Kirk and Marcus. Project Genesis is about to run into trouble.


Captain Clark Terrell (Paul Winfield) and Commander Pavel Chekov (Walter Koenig) of USS Reliant get themselves taken prisoner by the notorious criminal Khan Noonien Singh (Montalbán), who forces them to cough up details of Project Genesis.


Meanwhile, Kirk has grown weary of watching the grass grow, and he sets out on the Enterprise for a training mission.


Without getting into plot details, the enterprise is defeated in combat by Reliant, now under the command of Khan. Kirk, Dr. Leonard McCoy (DeForest Kelley), Saavik, Marcus, and David get themselves transported to the interior of a desolate planet, where the are marooned, without any chance of escape, because the Enterprise has lost power to beam them back.


Of course, that was all a hoax. The Enterprise always had the power to beam them back, and Kirk resumes control of the Enterprise and defeats Khan in a final combat. It’s a great death scene, a stellar moment in Montalbán’s career.


Another great death scene is Captain Spock (Leonard Nimoy), who saves the day by entering the radiation-flooded power room to restore power. His final message is “Live long and prosper.”


The plot is supposedly inspired by Herman Melville, but the connection is thin. In Melville’s story, Captain Ahab says of Moby Dick:

Aye, aye! and I’ll chase him round Good Hope, and round the Horn, and round the Norway Maelstrom, and round perdition’s flames before I give him up.

In the movie Khan says of Kirk:

He tasks me. He tasks me, and I shall have him. I’ll chase him round the Moons of Nibia and round the Antares Maelstrom and round Perdition’s flames before I give him up!

And that’s about it, except for references to “Botany Bay” and the finding of a copy of Moby-Dick right before the Reliant officers get captured. As did Ahab, Khan pursues Kirk to his own doom.

The plot is pretty much straight line, the only intrusion being the romantic tension between Kirk and his shadow family. Even in 1982, when this came out, viewers should have had a better appreciation of how a battle ship, even a star ship, ought to appear. Enterprise is, as in the TV series, dressed out as a cruise liner, a bit more plush than some of the finer hotels I’ve stayed in. A machine of war ought to have less comfort and a grittier countenance.

Writer Harve Bennett did not have the benefit of seeing the Star Trek series, but he plunged ahead and produced a script within two days. In this production he throws ships of war at each other like a kid playing with toys, taking little advantage of the history of actual naval battles. It’s sort of, “They got us the first time, but we’re going to get back in the fight and get them in the end.” Which is about how the movie goes.

Obviously this is not going to be Spock’s (or Nimoy’s) final appearance. You’re going to see him in subsequent renditions. Nimoy died last year, and in memoriam I reviewed one of his first movies. Here he is as an Air Force sergeant in an early science fiction classic.


We originally saw Ricardo Montalbán as a police detective in Mystery Street, previously reviewed. Following this movie he went onto greater things, including leading role in the TV series Fantasy Island.

This is Christie Alley’s first feature film, and she performs spectacularly, standing around looking really good and speaking her lines without flaw. It’s a good use of her talents.


One thought on “Bad Movie Wednesday

  1. Pingback: Bad Movie Wednesday | Skeptical Analysis

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