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The Khan Quagmire

Despite its Flaws it Still Rocks!

By Robert T. Trate     May 26, 2009


As May is almost finished and the first month of summer movies is just about over, I believe it is safe to say that May 2009 belonged to Star Trek. J.J. Abrams new film kicked ass and relaunched Star Trek not only for a new generation but reinvigorated it for those that have watched Trek before. A couple of weeks ago Paramount released Star Trek: Original Motion Picture Collection to coincide with the new film’s release.Finally they areon Blu-ray but for some reason they only include the first six Star Trek movies. It is a real treat to get all six movies on Blu-ray with a ton of new special features. I’ve decided to review several of them individually so look for them in the coming days.
Skipping the long and drawn out Star Trek: The Motion Picture I watched for the greatest Star Trek movie first, Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan. What Trekkie doesn’t love this movie? It is a great adventure story, ties in to the old show perfectly and is the one we love to quote more than any other. This had to be at least my one hundredth time watching Wrath of Khan but my first time as a critic. Picture wise the Blu-ray for all it’s technical brilliance with 1080p High Definition was good but it didn’t really stand out like I hoped it would. The new 7.1 Dolby TRUEHD sound on the other hand was an incredible treat. James Horner’s score required a complete sit through of the closing credits and Leonard Nimoy’s voice cut through the air like never before. Maybe this is because it is the Summer of Spock but it was nonetheless incredible.
There is a great flaw with this release of Wrath of Khan that was corrected in the 2002 Special Edition release. All of Midshipman Peter Preston’s (Ike Eisenmann), or better known as Scotty’s nephew, scenes have been cut. I also noticed a few other things about the story in Wrath of Khan which, for my over one hundredth time watching it, I thought would be fun to point out. Problems with the script are easily forgettable as Khan (Ricardo Montalban) and Kirk (Shatner) battle around Regula One and the Mutara Nebula quoting Herman Melville, John Milton and Charles Dickens. To be fair it all started with my recent screening of the first season of Star Trek on Blu-ray (see review). I had watched Khan’s episode, “Space Seed” over again and with a critical eye I noticed that one member of the Enterprise crew was not present, Chekov (Walter Koenig).
When Khan and Chekov meet on Ceti Alpha 5 Khan tells him that he never forgets a face and then says his name. This is funny because they never met. Sure this could have been moment off screen but it nonetheless made me wonder. This might be nothing new to a hard core Trekkie but it threw up a red flag. Earlier in the film Lt. Saavik (Kirstie Alley) has an emotional response during her test of the Kobayashi Maru test. An odd moment from a pure blooded Vulcan and particularly odd because she knows that it is just a test. What about her crying at the end? Is she weeping for Spock as she would a bother like Spock did for Veger?
Chekov and Captain Terrell (Paul Winfield) apparently can’t emergency beam off of Ceti Alpha  5 nor put up much of fight from people who probably have no phasers after being marooned on a planet for fifteen years. Khan’s unmasking, through incredibly dramatic, is also strange as if he was either the last one to arrive or watched everyone else undress. Should I even start on Khan’s ageless, mid-twenties followers? They seem more like the prodigy of those marooned but that was only fifteen years ago. How come none of them have the power of speech, save one (Judson Earney Scott)? Did Khan cut out all their tongues?
Another moment occurs Doctor McCoy (DeForest Kelley) encounters a rat on Regula One. The slaughtered scientists haven’t been dead long enough for rigamortis to set in but the rats have already come out of hiding. Then several minutes later Captain Terrell does turn a phaser on himself but after he fires it the phaser evaporates too? There are more than just a few leaps in logic here.
I am not turning in my Trekkie card or telling you that I am more in the Star Wars camp than the Star Trek one. I still love the Wrath of Khan and upon my next screening all this will just fade away. Just this once I saw it with a critical eye and noticed the universal favorite of all Star Trek movies does have its problems too.
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bjordson 5/26/2009 4:22:10 AM

One correction on the Reviewer's comments. Saavik was not pure Vulcan. She was half Romulan. I remember reading that point near the time the film was first released.

tacid 5/26/2009 5:09:36 AM

I've always found that people nitpicking the Chekov/Khan scene was anoying. Just because we first saw Chekoc on screen in the 2nd season it doesn't mean that he wasn't around before that point. The Enterprise had over 100 crew members. I don't recall ever seeing all those 100 crew members over the course of 3 seasons.

tacid 5/26/2009 5:12:40 AM

Since there is no edit button I'll add that I am a bit dissapointed with the blue ray release. I was hoping for the extended cut of Wrath of Khan as well as the remastered of the Mtion picture and so on. I will not be buying them on blue rays till those versions are released. Till then my regular dvd copies are good enough

karlink 5/26/2009 8:47:17 AM

I'm showing my age, but I remember an old Starlog article from 1981 or '82 where Montalban and Koenig were being interviewed on stage at a convention. They were asked about Khan remembering Chekov. Montalban and Koenig came up with a story that had Khan entering a restroom. The only working toliet was occupied by Chekov. Khan waits and waits until he can't take it any more and pounds on the stall door. Chekov says he can't go when he's being yelled at. Finally Chekov exits the stall as Khan races past him. Khan stops long enough to stare at Chekov and swear that he will never forget or forgive him for almost making him crap himself.

That story works for me.

redhairs99 5/26/2009 8:57:25 AM

If you want to nitpick, there's only what a hundred and something crew members aboard the original Enterprise.  Yet, in the new Trek film George Kirk saved over 800 lives on board the Kelvin.  That's a damn big ship for being designed at least 25 years earlier.

Still, love Khan, but it definitely has it's flaws and inconsistancies.

themovielord 5/26/2009 9:16:00 AM

It is all in fun guys....

hanso 5/26/2009 9:34:04 AM

Fine.  I thought someone would've said it by now but since it wasn't:


themovielord 5/26/2009 9:50:45 AM

thank you HANSO I was waiting for it too, but since I wrote the column I couldn't be the one to do it...

avidfan 5/26/2009 10:05:08 AM

From hell's heart I stab at thee

Meegle 5/26/2009 11:29:57 AM

Just wanted to say that I've noticed that it is really easy to "skip over" STAR TREK - THE MOTION PICTURE for some people.

Dismissing the first film as "long and overdrawn" is the mindset of the film viewer that does not find it easy to be intellectual. THE MOTION PICTURE is the most faithful story that has STAR TREK at it's core. It is about unknowns and exploration. Rarely in the following pictures does that combo rear it's head in the way it does in the first film. Robert Wise tried to creat a science-fiction film that was thought-provoking in the way that Kubrick's 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY was.

It's insulting to skip the first film because of it's pacing and lack of space battles ala Khan.

THE WRATH OF KHAN (like Abram's) is barely STAR TREK. While they are fantastic and extremely enjoyable films it seems that there exists a sacrifice with the intellectual nature of science-fiction for the kineticism of an action film.

I love the new film. I love KHAN. But they're not really STAR TREK to me. Roddenberry's vision WAS "Let's see what's out there."

For me "There is no comparison."


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