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 VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991) – The Work for Peace and the Legacy of “The Original Series”

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991) - IMDb

“Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country” might be my favorite film out of all the “Star Trek” films. The biggest competitor is still “Wrath of Khan” which I need to re-watch but from my memory both are so close in score. I love the deeper themes they explore and the rich characters who are brought to the screen. Suffice to say, this film still very much holds up. It has a few problematic that I noticed this time around, but the story, without going into spoilers, is still amazing.

The film was directed and co-written by Nicholas Meyer with the other screenplay writer being Denny Martin Flinn.

After the Klingon moon of Praxis explodes from overmining Spock reaches out for a chance for peace with the Klingon Empire, and asks for Kirk to be on his envoy. From here the story unfolds as those wanting to sabotage peace act upon events.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

Relevant Cameos – I want to get some neat cameos out of the way upfront as most of the moments I’ll be describing are major events and characters (for the pros and cons) so without further ado. I loved seeing Yeoman Rand’s cameo, Michael Dorn as Colonel Worf, Worf’s grandfather were two cameos that were fantastic in this film.

Destruction of Praxis – The Destruction of Praxis was meant to mirror Chernobyl’s destruction and the ending of the Cold War with the Soviet Union. What works about this is how there is a complete shutoff of info from the Klingon Empire and that Captain Sulu witnesses it first hand so the truth of what happened can’t truly be denied. It lended weight to events especially as Spock mentions that without aid the Klingon homeworld of Qo’noS will be unhibatible in 50 years prompting the work for peace.

The Dinner Party – The dinner party is such a fun scene. In this the clash between Klingon and human cultures is on full display. You have General Chang egging on Kirk and Kirk rising to it while Gorkon is attempting to keep things civil as folks on both sides of the table alienate each other through misunderstanding. Even with how uncomfortable it is, it still gives Gorkon hope and he shares that hope with Kirk before returning to his ship.

Chancellor Gorkon – David Warner does an amazing job as the idealist Klingon leader fighting for peace. He has elements in his cabinet who want war, which means the Klingon High Council is probably similar. This in turn leads to his assassination, as people from the Klingon Empire and Starfleet do not want the war to stop. In the end he believes in fighting for peace though as his dying breathe to Kirk is to not let this be the end.

The Assassination of Gorkon – Gorkon’s assassination is visceral as it looks like the Enterprise-A fired upon Gorkon’s ship and two people beamed aboard and killed Gorkon and members of his cabinet. It is a brutal scene that does not shy away from how horrible the act is. This in turn leads to the arrest of Kirk and McCoy as being framed as responsible for the murder.

The Prison Planet Rura Penthe – Rura Penthe feels like something out of “Star Wars” both in the alien design and how chaotic it is. This works though and I enjoyed seeing the Klingon underbelly where no one was safe and how it forced Kirk and McCoy to think on their feet. It was such a fun location and I enjoyed Martia, the shapeshifter we are introduced too.

Martia – Martia is such a fun character. She is working with the Warden to frame Kirk and McCoy and escapees and get paid but before that she does help them make peace and respect with the other prisoners. She is a complicated antagonist and Amen is wonderful in the role. She honestly carries the scenes she is in more than Kirk and McCoy.

The Investigation on the Enterprise-A – The investigation begins with the Enterprise crew stalling so they have time to investigate and so that the evidence of the assassination (the magnetic boots that were used). You get to see them exploring all parts of the ship and multiple main crewmembers coming up with new excuses to give starfleet or ideas of where the evidence might be. It is really thorough and the reveal is powerful.

Uhura, Chekov and Scotty – Uhura gets to use her diplomatic skills and is with Chekov suggesting solutions to the mystery. Scotty is also on hand doing the same and in the end discovers the assassination uniforms and gets to punch the man attempting to kill the Federation President. This film makes use of the entire crew and I love that they were more than glorified cameos. Doohan, Nichols and Koenig do a great job.

Valeras – Valeras is the villainous Vulcan who believes peace is illogical as it entirely depends on faith and goes against the history the Klingons and Federation have. In a way she’s right as there would be later wars but even those wars wouldn’t have the rubric for peace if not for the events of this film. She is a great character and shows how complicated the Federation and Vulcans can be.

General Chang – Christopher Plummer is amazing as this Shakespeare quoting Klingon obsessed with war. You can see how much it has come to define him as he will work with his enemies to make sure peace will never happen, even if his homeworld is destroyed in the process. He is the driven nationalist and his defeat is rewarding. He also has a proto-type Bird-of-Prey that can fire when cloaked and nearly wins multiple times in this movie. He is easily one of Star Trek’s best villians.

Captain Sulu and The Excelsior – I love Captain Sulu. This tea drinking captain discovers the destruction of Praxis and does all he can to help Enterprise ending in his ship The Excelsior helping to defeat General Chang in the end. George Takei really deserved a mini-series with his character. He’s such a great captain.

McCoy – McCoy is there as support to Kirk through all and we see how deeply he is invested in the peace process as well as how ready he is to enjoy his retirement. This dynamic is contrasted with Kirk who doesn’t want to leave while McCoy will always do his duty and protect his friends but is more at peace with his age and the next stages of his life.

Spock and Kirk – Spock and Kirk drive the primary action of the film and we see them grow as both grow over the course of the film. Kirk confronts and overcomes his prejudice due to Gorkon’s hope and him seeing first hand where hate leads and Spock sees the flaws in the Federation through Valeras’s betrayal and how his idealism blinded him to those who would want to keep the war going on. It is really well done and Shatner and Nimoy truly gave these characters a great sendoff. In the end they both find faith and hope once more and help the Federation and Klingon Empire find it too.

Chancellor Azetbur – Chancellor Azetbur is Gorkon’s daughter and still believes in his dream as she finds justice by trying Kirk and McCoy, which was fair given what she knew. She doesn’t let the Nationalists and zealots sway her and in the end it pays off as she signs the Khitomer accords and makes peace with Kirk as the true murders are revealed. Rosana DeSoto did a fantastic job.

The Cycle of Hatred – One of the themes of the film is how war feeds the cycle of hatred. Kirk’s hatred of the Klingon’s for one killing his son almost leads to greater war happening again and because of past battles old scars are carried forward by the people wanting there to be no peace.

Empathy and the Chance for Peace – In the end it is through empathy that peace is found as it is in Gorkon’s death that Kirk realizes how wrong he was and Azetbur does in the nationalist and zealots revealed. It is beautifully handled.

The Cons:

Kirk’s Shapeshifter Panic – Kirk sleeps with Martia who at one point turns into a giant beast and changes her gender. The film makes a joke of it. I hated it. “Trans panic” and “gay panic” is real and it harms people as homophobes and transphobes use that defense for their hatred. Kirk and McCoy should have been better.

Spock and Valeras Mind Meld / Mental Assault – When Spock is finding out the conspiracy he does a mind meld against Valeras’s will as she is one of the betrayers herself. It is horrible and I wish it had been called out in the film. There should been another way like a truth serum or something akin to that or Spock simply changing her mind through logic and reason as Trek usually does at it’s best. Like the “panic” scene I hated this so much.

This film is amazing, a favorite and still problematic. In this we get the best of hope for humanity and growth and also see where that growth is still needed. This evolution and embracing all is what the heart of “Star Trek” is and I hope we can see those greater stories in the future. This film ends the Klingon War and “The Original Series” in a way that matters and truly captured what made the show and films so memorable.

Final Score: 9.8 / 10

Star Trek: The Animated Series – Season 1, Episode 7 – “The Infinite Vulcan” – New Purpose

Spock_2,_Keniclius_5,_and_Enterprise_crew

  Walter Koenig (the actor who plays Chekov) is a great writer! He has a lot of big ideas he deals with in this (the survival of a dying species and how to change ideals) and does a really good job with it! This was an episode that could have been terrible. Clones generally are a bad idea, especially cloning a major character, but this episode rises above this generally bad idea.

   “The Infinite Vulcan” was directed by Hal Sutherland and written by as stated above, Walter Koenig.

      The story involves the Enterprise being ordered to a planet at the far reaches of the galaxy where a dying plant species called the Phylosians has made a deal with a man from the Eugenic Wars who has chosen Spock to clone in order to create his Master Race to bring peace to the galaxy. It is up to the crew to stop him.

The Pros: Phylos – Phylos is a really cool planet. It is entirely made of plant life with both predatory flying plants as enemies and the dying race of the Phylos as the dominant species. It is colorful, green and dangerous and I wish the planet would make appearance in other “Trek” things.

The Phylosians – This species is fascinating as they latch onto the man Dr. Stavos who almost killed them from his germs but did everything to save him. They were once a war making species but now only want to be peacekeepers…much like humanity and Dr. Stavos.

Uhura – Uhura has a minor but great role in this. She researches the Eugenic Wars and finds that Stavos fought in it and it is from her research they are able to reason with the man and Spock 2 in order to save Spock and keep Stavos’s ideals from becoming a nightmare. 

Sulu – Sulu also has an active role in this as it is the Phylosians who save him from a plant that poisons him and it is he who later defends them when they are attacked by the Phylosians by easily throwing one. He shows that he is adapt, witty and can match wits with any crewmember or alien. He’s a lot of fun in this and Takei brings his charm.

Scotty – Is the acting Captain and does a good job as we see that he is the one who tries everything to reach Kirk as he doesn’t want to cause a war during first contact. He truly is the best engineer in “Star Trek.”

Dr. Stavos – Stavos is the idealist run amok who has lost all faith in humanity so wants to create a master race to enforce peace between worlds. He ran away from the Eugenic Wars because of the ashamed he was of his people and the war and that shame rubbed off on him when he nearly wiped out the Phylosians from simply being part human. This makes it possible to reason with him though and in the end he becomes an ally of the Federation.

Spock and Spock 2 – Spock 2 is Spock’s Clone who has Stavos’s ideals but also the Vulcan logic which leads to him stopping further clones from being created and mind melding with the original Spock in order to save him. He later stays to help Stavos further his research and save the Phylosians.

Spock agrees with the Clone and calls out Kirk for his aggression while complimenting him for when he acts with a cool head.

Kirk –  This is a good Kirk episode as we see him deal with threats in a reasoned way while still using force when absolutely necessary. He is convincing too and manages to turn the Phylosians and Dr. Stavos who were once enemies into allies of the Federation.

    This was a really great episode with the only cons being the fact that what Dr. Stavos did during the Eugenic Wars is never gone into. In a way it isn’t needed but it would have made the episode perfect if we had more time. I really recommend this episode. I had no idea Walter Koenig could write, but he did a great job.

Final Score: 9.5 / 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.