Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) – An Amazing Exploration of Obsession, Revenge, Mortality and a Life Fully Lived

Kicking off “Star Trek Week” and the lead-up to “Star Trek Day” with my favorite of the films in the franchise. “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” is easily still the best “Star Trek” film and one of my all time favorite films. This is a film with amazing music, action, characters and themes. This film was so much fun to return to and is a beloved classic for a reason. This is a film that explores the themes of obsession, revenge, mortality and the well lived life and I can’t recommend it enough if it is a film you haven’t seen yet.

The film was directed by Nicholas Meyer with screenplay by Jack B. Sowards.

The story follows Admiral Kirk (William Shatner) as he must face an old foe in Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalbán) seeking revenge against him and to stop him from getting the powerful Genesis device.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Soundtrack – James Horner’s soundtrack is fantastic and captures the wonder of space travel and life while giving sadness in the moments of loss. It reaches the highest highs and captures the operatic nature of the film so well. This is a soundtrack I look forward to returning to.

The Action – The action is precise and always advances the plot and characters. It is action with consequence as the ships are damaged in standoffs and force Khan and Kirk to think there way out of limited options in their quests to defeat the other. It never lets up to as the moments of quiet build upon the themes and drive the characters and story forward.

The Characters – I liked all the characters in this so will give a little bit on why for each group or individual characters as what they go through is what drives the story and makes it matter. There are very few films with no weak performances and this is one of those few films.

The New Enterprise Crew – The Enterprise is crewed largely by cadets as “The Original Series” crew are their mentors as Spock captains this new crew on their first mission. Many of them die sadly too in the face-off against Khan as he pulls Kirk into his trap.

Dr. David Marcus – Dr. David Marcus is Kirk’s son who resents him at first believing him to be that bog standard evil Starfleet Admiral who wants to use Genesis to their own ends. He is proven wrong and it is great to see his relationship grow with Kirk over time to the point that he respects him and is proud to be his son by the end.

Dr. Carol Marcus – Dr. Carol Marcus is Kirk’s former lover who asked him to leave and he respected it. She wanted to raise David as a scientist and you see why in the awesomeness and wonder of the life Genesis creates. She clearly is a scientist to help others and from this you see why Kirk fell in love with her. Bibi Besch does a good job in the role returning from the show.

Scotty, Sulu and Uhura – Scotty, Sulu and Uhura are all support training the new crew and keeping the Enterprise afloat. They all are given moments to shine in their roles as engineer, helmsman and communications and I only wish they’d been given more and that we saw more of the mentorship. Scotty is the main mentor to the crew we see in action the most. Takei, Nichols and Doohan continue to be memorable in their roles.

Chekov – Chekov is working on the Genesis project and is a hostage to Khan for most of the film until Kirk and the others kill the eel larvae. His ship Reliant becomes Khan’s but Chekov does resist when he is being forced to kill Kirk and in the end gets to torpedo Khan, getting his own revenge for the death of his commander and being hostage. Walter Koenig is great.

Saavik – Alley’s Saavik is the one giving us a new perspective of Kirk and Spock as she is the one who follows regulation but questions. Her knowledge of regulation is what saves them from Khan the first time when he nearly defeats them and in the end she is who Kirk admits to that he he cheated the Kobayashi Maru, the test we see her fail at the beginning as it is the unbeatable test. She’s a fascinating Vulcan and the navigator in Chekov’s absence. Her perspective enriches the film as she notices how human Kirk is and respects him for it.

Dr. McCoy – Kelley’s McCoy is the one who most helps Kirk face his mortality and is the one to join him on any away mission. We see how deep their friendship is as McCoy brings him Romulan Ale and spectacles on his birthday and is the one to motivate him to command and not be an Admiral. It is fitting as this is what helps Kirk decide to lead the Enterprise again and stop Khan.

Spock – Leonard Nimoy’s performance in this is iconic and easily one of his best. He is there to remind Kirk that how a life is lived matters and gives him A Tale of Two Cities as a birthday gift. He is Captain but like McCoy prompts Kirk to lead. He dies as he lived in this film with “The needs of the many outweighing the needs of the few, or the one.” He saves the ship from Khan’s last act of weaponizing Genesis. I think if Spock had died for good here it would have been the perfect sendoff even though I like the stories he got later after this film.

Admiral James T. Kirk – This film is such a great exploration of Kirk as he tackles what it means to live as he is growing old and must face his mortality and eventually the “no win scenario” he avoided his entire life. Shatner gives so much here as we see him build a relationship with his son, reconnect with Carol, face Khan and his conversations with Spock and McCoy. He grows from it all and this film gives us some of his greatest speeches and probably his best character arc.

Khan Noonien Singh – Ricardo Montalbán’s return as Khan was a brilliant choice. Having him lose his wife and most of his crew gives him a compelling revenge motivation as well as Kirk did never return to check on The Botany Bay Colony on Ceti Alpha V. We see his obsession reflected in his books too as on the ship we see Paradise Lost and Moby Dick to name a few books with a focus on loss and revenge that Khan himself quotes. He is one of my all time favorite “Star Trek” villains and to his last breathe he is trying to get revenge upon Kirk even when his crew are questioning him and as he loses everything. No other versions of his story and revenge motivation have ever been as well captured in any of the other “Star Trek” films.

An Exploration of Revenge – Revenge as consuming obsession is another theme captured in Khan and his desire to kill Kirk even when he has the chance to walk away. Revenge is shown to be destructive and all consuming in Khan as he loses everything but nothing else matters but revenge, not even his life.

Mortality and Death – The “no-win scenario” and the Kobayashi Maru capture the theme of death that Kirk never had to face until this film. We see the affect it has too as Kirk is vulnerable after and that how one dies is as important as how one lives.

A Life Well Lived – A life lived for others and with awareness of those relationships is what is most important. We see this in Spock’s sacrifice and the relationships Kirk reforges with Carol and forges with David. We also see that in that new relationships in life in the Genesis device creating a planet from the nebula. Spock’s example is lived on in the life of those left behind and how important that fully realized life is where one lives for the needs of the many.

This film is a classic for a reason and one I cannot recommend enough. From the performances, the themes, the soundtrack and the action this film gives so many unforgettable moments that each time I return to this film I notice something new. This film is a favorite that does so much and I hope we can see more “Star Trek” and science fiction films as powerful as this one in the future.

Final Score: 10 / 10 The perfect “Star Trek” film.

Star Trek: The Animated Series – Season 1, Episode 2 – “Yesteryear” – Spock’s Search for Peace

Star Trek The Animated Series Season 1 ep 2

    “Yesteryear” is a great Spock and Time Travel episode. It is also one of the few times we get to see an Andorian character explored outside of the horrible “Enterprise” series. It is a subtle episode that manages to bring a lot depth and show a lot without having to say much. It’s focus on Spock also lends it a lot of strength too as there aren’t any side plots to distract from that core story.

    The episode was directed by Hal Sutherland and written by D. C. Fontana.

      The story involves the crew traveling to the planet of the Time Vortex in order to help some archaeologists explore the past of the Federation. When Kirk and Spock return though they find no one recognizes Spock and that he died as a child in this timeline forcing Spock to travel back to the past in order to prevent his death.

The Pros: The Archaeologists – The archaeologist team has a great look! We have a woman of color in charge and an alien with a beak and wings working with her. They have a minor role but they work with Spock in order to restore the Timeline.

The Guardian of Forever – The Guardian is haunting, just like the episode it first appeared in in “The Original Series.” It also lays down the rules too that Spock can only change one big event, illustrating that actions will have consequences before he even goes back in time. James Doohan plays the voice of the Guardian and other characters in the episode.

Kirk – Kirk is the only one who remembers Spock and it is he working with Spock to learn what happened in the timeline where Thelin is now his First Officer in order to bring Spock back to life and save his mother. He is supportive and we see just how deep the friendship is, from them exploring Orion together before the Timeline was changed and afterwords where Kirk is the only one who knows what happened.

Thelin – Thelin is the First Officer in the Timeline that Spock died as a child. He is a cool character and I would have liked to see more of him. He is a warrior but supports Spock in restoring the Timeline since Spock’s desire to save his mother from dying is something he finds admirable. He is one of my favorite minor characters and I wish Andorians made more appearances on “Star Trek.”

Amanda Grayson – Majel Barrett does a wonderful job as Spock’s Mom. She is the outsider on Vulcan and is doing all she can to support Spock on a path she cannot take. I feel bad for her character as she is powerless to do anything for Spock beyond show him love. She in many ways is just as much an outsider as she is, except she has chosen not to become Vulcan wholly in philosophy, much like Spock does later.

Sarek – Sarek is a harsh father and complex character. He is very much a man of Vulcan who sees the Vulcan way as the purest way to peace. It is for this reason I get why he is the ambassador to Vulcan. Sadly he does not hold other Vulcans accountable for when they bully his son though he supports Spock in setting things right for himself. When old Spock pretends to be his cousin he listens to him as well when old Spock tells him to seek to understand his son. It is a touching scene and Sarek keeps having the feeling that he knows Old Spock even though Spock is going by a different name. Mark Lenard is once again fantastic in this role.

Spock – Spock is the outsider who is choosing the Vulcan way though as a child that is hard. It takes old Spock showing him the good in the Vulcan way in harsh choices (to keep his pet alive and let it suffer after it saved his life, or to let it die with dignity) that make him see why logic is so important. It is after this that he stands up to the bullies and shows them the Vulcan Neck Pinch he learned from Old Spock. At the end he mourns the choice he made to kill his pet so it wouldn’t suffer but is grateful that the timeline is reestablished and that he can once again fulfill his role as First Officer living the Vulcan Way in the Federation.

    This episode shows the pressure that was on Spock to conform to Vulcan society and how his father never gave him any other choice. This causes conflict in their relationship later as Sarek’s refusal to show affection and only anger or disappointment mostly pushed Spock away and it really wasn’t until Sarek’s death in “The Next Generation” that they were able to resolve these differences. We see that he does love Spock though, and tried to show it as best he could.

Final Score: 10 / 10

Star Trek: The Animated Series – Season 1, Episode 1 – “Beyond the Farthest Star” – Capturing the Wonder and Adventure of “The Original Series”

Star Trek The Animated Series Season 1 Ep 1.

   “Beyond the Farthest Star” is the Pilot of “Star Trek: The Animated Series” and in my opinion it does a good job of capturing what “The Original Series” so good. In this we have a mystery, a problem to be solved and humanity shown in an enemy with most of the crew at work and active in order to solve the problem. This to me, is part of what made a good Star Trek episode.

     The episode was directed by Hal Sutherland and written by Samuel A. Peeples.

     The story involves the Enterprise being caught around a Negative Star Mass who find themselves dealing with another threat when they go to the other alien vessel trapped where they are and find it was carrying dangerous cargo which escapes onto the Enterprise. From here the crew must outsmart the creature and escape from orbit.

The Pros: The Conflict – The two conflicts are done really well. The Questar M-17 feels like a threat in how it is pulling them towards it and the malevolent being nearly kills Scotty and many members of the crew as it tires to blackmail them into getting off the planet so it will be free in the Galaxy.

The Voice Acting – The voice acting is great in this episode! Shatner, Nimoy, and the others speak like they are doing the actions and they feel invested in the events being animated.

The Ancient Alien Race – There is an ancient alien race that destroys itself in order to trap the entity around the Questar. They are cool looking and look like giant bugs and their vessel looks like a giant purple plant. This was the reason I chose it as the photo for this episode review as it captured the great creative things you could do with designing an alien species.

The Malevolent Entity – The Entity starts out as a troll and has the voice of Dalek and manages to nearly get its way until Kirk is about to manually take control of the ship and in a desperate gambit force it out onto the Questar where we alone part of it’s issue is it is alone and that is why it has always acted out from it’s isolation.

The Crew of the Enterprise – The crew is fantastic and all of them do things. From Sulu being in control when McCoy, Scotty, Spock and Kirk explore the alien vessel, to Spock figuring out the calculations in his head to get them out of the Questar and get rid of the alien and finally Kirk’s gambit to control the vessel and to risk it all to get rid of the Entity. Most of the crew has things to do this episode.

The Cons: The Animation – Filmation cuts corners and it shows. The crew walks very stiltedly and the eyes don’t feel fully real. It’s serviceable but it’s hard not to notice how cheap it is.

Too Short of Length – This episode could have been an hour long so we learn what the Entity is who the Ancient Alien race was and to raise the stakes of them being trapped. The episode only being 30 minutes made things feel a bit rushed.

   This was a good episode and it captures the wonder of space travel and shows the crew as a Team which is what usually made a good “Star Trek” episode from any series. I’m looking forward to seeing the rest of the series and after this reviewing “The Original Series” on a more regular basis as this episode reminded me so much of all I enjoyed about the very first “Star Trek.”

Final Score: 8 / 10

Star Trek: The Animated Series – Upcoming Reviews

Star Trek The Animated Series

     “Star Trek: The Animated Series” is a series that I’ve been planning to review since I did “Star Wars: The Clone Wars.” “Star Trek” and “Star Wars” are two of my favorite franchises with both having some rather horrible things tied to their name (For “Star Wars” it’s the first 2 Prequels and “The Christmas Special” and for “Star Trek” it’s “Enterprise” and some of “Voyager.”

From what I understand this series isn’t fully considered canon (much like some of the “Star Wars” animated EU) but still is an important part of “Star Trek.” For one the original voice actors from “Star Trek: The Original Series” played the voices of their characters on the show and even though the terrible Filmation produced it (lazy is another word I’d use) Gene Rodenberry did produce it and penned some of the stories as well. For this reason I’d consider it more lore than the Abrams reboot series as it is still within the “Star Trek Universe” and main timeline.

It was fan love for the revival of the “The Original Series” after it’s cancellation that lead to this shows creation from 1973-1974 which in turn helped give us “The Original Series” films and a reboot of the live action franchise. In this way it is a powerful part of history and showing just how much power a fanbase can have in reviving something they love.

I am a Trekkie and have been since Middle School but I have never watched this series. So I am looking forward to what I’ll discover and if it is able to capture the wonder, mystery and some of the great messages that made “The Original Series” so great.

I’ll be reviewing the episodes individually with a series assessment at the end and my “Top 5 Episodes” for people too. Suffice to say, I am looking forward to it.

Lets Explore the Final Frontiers.

 

Star Trek: The Next Generation Pilot – Encounter at Farpoint Part 1 and 2 – Show Don’t Tell

star-trek-farpoint

Today continues the second week of the Star Trek Pilot Series. This week we turn to “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” and the return of Trek to television after 17 years since cancellation. Suffice to say it is a very mixed return in this episode “Encounter at Farpoint,” a two part episode that shows some of the best and worst of Gene Roddenberry at the head of his creation. This again would be for better and for worse…much of what was wrong about the “Original Series” carried over into early “Next Generation,” until it was able to find it’s own voice. To get into more of what I mean.

The premise of “Encounter at Farpoint” is it is the first time The Next Generation Crew is put into action and they are challenged by Q to prove they have evolved and are worthy of being out to investigate the stars and are not the bad they were in the past by solving the mystery of Farpoint Station. Here is the assessment:

The Pros: The crew – The crew is interesting and they are given things to do throughout the episode. Everyone has a role even if the actors don’t pull off that role well. We have Picard as the voice for humanity against Q and the one who reasons through situations, Riker as the investigator, Yar as the voice of the past (grew up on a post apocalyptic type planet), Worf as the alien perspective, Data as the critique of humanity and Crusher and Troi as the empaths (the healers of mind and body) to keep the crew functioning. The show starts out with a great dynamic, that they tell us about but don’t always show us…

Q: The introduction of Q in the guise of the judge is fantastic. Some of his other stuff is less subtle but John de Lancie does a good job elevating the terrible script to at least be an intriguing antagonist. He is what makes the plot interesting since the story around Farpoint is pretty weak.

Dr. McCoy guest appearance: DeForest Kelley makes a great guest appearance speaking about the love of a crew for it’s ship which also added more to it.

Okay: The actors – They just started and are a mixed bag. Frakes does alright as Riker and McFadden does alright as Dr. Crusher. Sirtas as Troi and Wheaton are just bad. Stewart is good as the Captain and Delancie is good as Q…there are no great performances though. The episode isn’t elevated by the actors the way “The Man Trap” was.

The Special effects – The Special Effects are alright, they aren’t as good as they would be later, but they are much better than the original series. It at least gives us some interesting things to look at when the script drags, which happens often.

The Ending – It isn’t amazing, but it isn’t terrible like some of the episodes in Trek, it just feels empty considering that this was the chance for the crew to shine but we don’t get to see it really. Nothing of consequence really happens that wouldn’t happen anyway (the Space Jellyfish meeting, the introduction of Q), in that way I would say the ending of “The Man Trap” and even “The Cage” are superior. They have more awareness of themselves and the actions that occurred in the episode.

The Cons: The script – The script is bad. It made me miss the writing in the original series. It tells us rather than shows us evolved humanity most of the time which makes the crew come off as no better than Q…which wasn’t the writers’ intent I’m guessing. It is far to busy preaching (especially in regards to the aliens that inhabit Farpoint) rather than presenting a dilemma.

The tone: It never felt like the crew was ever in danger because the script presents Q as such a huge joke. He never feels dangerous, though he does look cool in his Inquistion robes, but that doesn’t change the fact that he comes off as a clown not otherwordly threat because of the episode unable to fully realize what tone it wants to take. It wants to be the “Original Series,” (Otherwordly mysteries with a something discovered about how humanity has grown) but also be “The Next Generation,” (new crew, new time, new place).

The Romance: The romance between Riker and Troi feels tacked on in this episode. I had a hard time they’d loved each other being this was the first time we as the viewers see them meet. It is believable in later episodes, but not the first one.

The “Original Series” also suffered from a few bad scripts and being too preachy at times (showing not telling), one thing the pilots do well though is show us the message rather than tell us. They present us with the danger of travel and the possibility for wonder. Here the message is preached to us by Picard with a badly written foil through Q and the sense of wonder falls flat since the aliens are just concepts. The aliens in “The Man Trap” and the “Cage” were more than just ideas…they were living creatures and had complexity, the Space Jellyfish have no complexity at all, they just wanted to mate…and we have no idea how many of them there are or what they do in the larger scheme of the galaxy. It is for this reason I have to rate this episode as less than the other pilots.

I would rate this episode as 6 / 10. It had a lot of potential (both with the conflict among the crew) and outside threats (Q and Farpoint) that were never fully realized.