Where One Man Has Never Gone Before:
My Thoughts Watching The Entire Star Trek Series For The First Time
Now we get to the good stuff.
This is where the series title becomes a bit of a cheat, since this is a movie I've already seen (twice I think). But today I'm presenting my thoughts and gently teasing jokes while watching Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
Three years after enduring the Motion Picture, audiences were rewarded with Wrath of Khan.
I remember I complained about the soundtrack's use in the first movie, but I don't know if I mentioned that it actually is really good, musically. This theme is awesome, and it's the first thing we get as the movie starts.
The credits say “Introducing Kirstie Alley” and this is the rare time that's both accurate (only one credit on IMDB precedes it) and refers to someone who continued to be a going concern in film and TV. The movie itself wastes no time introducing her, in the captain's seat no less, for our classic Kobayashi Maru scene. In the same scene, we are reintroduced to the idea that Starfleet uniforms can look good.
This is where the low-budget action of the TV series and previous movie become a weird kind of asset. The movie gets to play the simulation as nearly indistinguishable from the real thing up until Admiral Kirk walks in.
DeForest Kelly, after “dying,” remains posed like Miss September.
|“Did I ever tell you why they call me Bones?”|
It's Kirk's birthday, and he's feeling the age. “Galloping about the cosmos is a game for the young,” he says, though honestly it's really a game for space horses more than anything. It's interesting that the last movie set up getting the gang back together, then this one tosses that out, only to do it again.
Kirk suspects Bones is giving him a “Klingon aphrodisiac.” Sexy calendar poses aside, Kirk is clearly reading signals that aren't there. Then again, what's more Kirk than assuming every moving thing is grooving on his vibe?
Meanwhile, on the desert planet of Ceti Alpha V, Chekov and his superior officer – let's call him Captain Beard – are dressed in what appear to be modified vacuum cleaner boxes.
|“My mom helped me cut out the armholes.”|
I get that it's a reference to the episode Khan is from, but let's all admit “Botany Bay” isn't the scariest phrase for Chekov to whisper in terror.
Botany Bay Khan, here he is,
ladies and gentlemen! Khan carefully pulls off his motorcycle pimp
gloves and Mole Man visor to reveal the visage of Ricardo Montalban.
The crew of the Botany Bay was lost in space in 1996, so Khan is probably so grumpy because he didn't get to see Alanis Morissette win the Grammy for Album of the Year.
|“I've stranded you on Ceti Alpha V. Isn't it ironic? Don't you think?”|
Aww, Khan keeps a terrarium with his wife's murderer! That guy really is sentimental.
This scene with the worms that wrap around your brain is proof that Ricardo Montalban is the montalbomb.
On the Enterprise, a Starfleet officer plays a breathalyzer like Willy Wonka's flute, but instead of Oompa-Loompas, Kirk and company enter.
Regarding Kirk, Saavik comments, “He's so – human.”
“Nobody's perfect, Saavik,” replies Spock, who has maybe seen Some Like It Hot? I like the idea that he has.
This movie gives the outside of the Enterprise some love, but it also includes a grand shot of the deck, where the people are. I'd argue this is reflective of this movie caring more about its characters than The Motion Picture, which is almost exclusively interested in the exterior of the machine and shoots the inside in very utilitarian fashion.
A way-too-friendly Chekov informs the scientific research station Genesis that the Reliant will be taking their materials. Genesis checks with Kirk to see if that's true, but a failing signal disrupts their conversation. And now it's time to find out what Genesis actually is.
“It literally IS Genesis,” Spock notes. “Wow. That's a really on-the-nose reference.”
“Yes,” says Kirk. “Can we really call it symbolism if there's zero subtext, only text?”
|DISCLAIMER: They only actually say some of that out loud.|
Genesis is a great doomsday device. It has a reason to exist, specifically one derived of good intentions. That's fitting for the optimism of the Star Trek universe.
The Enterprise warps on over to the Ceti Alpha system, and gets fired on by Reliant. This is where the movie shows its prowess as a naval war movie. Crew members are freaking out; there's broadsides; there's strategic maneuvering of the ships; Kirk's sideburns have never been more aggressively pointy. Everything you'd want.
Khan appears on the big screen. Kirk gives a hushed “Khan” – something he normally reserves for “Spaaahk!”
Kirk tricks Khan and blasts the Reliant. The gang beams down to Genesis in some stylish coats. Chekov and Captain Beard and a few dead bodies are there. They also run into Genesis researcher Curlyhair McGee, who does NOT come at Kirk correct. In fact, he comes at him “with a blade.”
As if that wasn't enough disrespect, Captain Beard and Chekov's brainwashing kicks in and they pull phasers on everybody. Beard proves his stubbornness and phases himself like a champ. Chekov beats the brainwashing in a less self-destructive way by stone cold passing out. His brainworm's like “Oh uh-uh! Screw this!” and vacates his earhole.
No further comment needed.
Kirk outsmarts Khan again to get the whole gang of survivors back onto the Enterprise. Everyone remembers what a great villain Khan is, but it's not said enough that he really brings out the best in Kirk. The guy presented here is sharp as a tack, and a hero I wanna root for.
The Enterprise leads the Reliant into a nebula, which in the Star Trek universe means a big blue-purple stormcloud. THIS IS HOW SPACE WORKS, KIDS. (It's awesome.) This, plus Khan's 2-dimensional thinking according to Spock (the enemy's gate is down!), allows the Enterprise to outmaneuver the Reliant and blast one of its engines off. Now it'll never be an Olympic long jump champion. :(
A wounded Khan, continuing to deliver awesomely hammy melodramatic poetry even unto death, sets the Reliant to self-destruct. The Enterprise has to get away, but it's having engine trouble. Jiggling the key proves ineffective.
“Are you out of your Vulcan mind?” is one of my favorite PG swears ever. As is his wont, it's Bones uttering the great line, as Spock nerve pinches him on his way to a radioactive room of the Enterprise where he fixes the ship, saving everybody and sacrificing himself.
The way the Kobayashi Maru runner and the “Needs of the many” line come back here and culminate in Spock's death is evidence of how well-constructed this script is. It's nothing super complicated; it's just really effective and efficient.
Oh and by the way, Curlyhair McGee was Kirk's son. That part's a little tacked-on.
That was terrific. And it should be, 'cause we may never see one as fine as this in the rest of our time on this journey through the series. But tune in anyway for our next stop along the way... The Search for Spock!