Star Trek Movie Retrospective–Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan

Spock: “The needs of the many …”

Kirk: “…outweigh the needs of the few.”

Spock: “Or the one.”

An exchange between Spock and James T. Kirk onboard the Enterprise

khan posterStar Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan was a radical departure from its predecessor Star Trek: The Motion Picture, which is what Paramount Pictures wanted. Even though Star Trek: The Motion Picture made money it was perceived as a failure. Many people complained that it was dull and pretentious. In other words, they wanted action! And that is what director Nicholas Meyer delivered with Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan, only he added a human element that elevated the film to classic status.

This film is the most personal Star Trek film out of the many that have come out. Its main characters go through some intense and heartfelt emotional journeys and are changed forever. Admiral James T. Kirk (William Shatner in his best performance as Kirk) faces the prospect of middle age and looking back at his life. His best friend Captain Spock (Leonard Nimoy) faces his mortality with a sense of bravery and nobility that touched audiences’ heart in a way that would have been more lasting if his fate had been final. On the other side of the coin, the main villain Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalban) is wracked with bitterness and hate over his lot in life and in the end this anger consumes him.

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In the original Star Trek episode “Space Seed” Khan was part of a group genetically enhanced despots from Earth’s violent past found hibernating by Kirk and his crew. After briefly capturing the Enterprise, Kirk defeats him and exiles him and the other superhumans to an uninhabited planet.

In between that episode and the film, the planet. Ceti Alpha V, underwent an environmental disaster that made it practically unlivable. Think of Tatooine on its worst day with blistering sandstorms. Most of Khan’s people didn’t survive, including his wife. Now, Khan is a seething cauldron of fury out to annihilate the one he blames for his predicament: James T. Kirk.

Even though the film is a sequel to “Space Seed” it skillfully brings viewers up to speed with only a few lines of exposition regarding Khan, who is portrayed magnificently by Montalban. The actor originated the role of Khan in “Space Seed” and testmade a solid impression in that episode but by the time that the first Star Trek sequel came around, Montalban was more known for his role in the show Fantasy Island. His performance as Khan demonstrated the true nature of his acting prowess thanks to his bringing to the role a sense of regal eloquence, animalistic charisma, and maligned fury.

The film opens with the Enterprise, commanded by a young Vulcan  named Saavik (Kristie Alley in her first role), being attacked by Klingon ships and losing the battle with main characters like Spock being killed. But it was a simulation at Starfleet Academy. Some time has passed between Star Trek: The Motion Picture and this film. One noticeable difference is that the Starfleet uniforms are now bright red jackets with black pants giving its personnel a more militaristic look. The filmmakers wanted to convey a sense of naval conditions with this film since they saw it as a retake of Horatio Hornblower. In fact, the feel of Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan feels more grounded, less lofty than in the first film. Sets look more cramped and a bit more lived in although not as severe as with Star Warsor Alien. A good eye will spot a No Smoking sign on the set, which alarmed some fans who hoped that the awful habit would’ve been gone by the 23rd century.

The actual Enterprise is now training vessel commanded by Spock for young cadets and officers, including Spock’s protogé Saavik. Kirk is no longer commanding a starship and feels like a relic, in spite of the fact that it’s his birthday. Gifts from Spock and Dr. Leonard McCoy (DeForest Kelley) do little to cheer him up, prompting McCoy to urge him to do something with himself and stop living in the past.

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Around this time, the starship Reliant approach the barren Ceti Alpha V, which is to be used as a testbed for the Genesis science experiment. Kirk’s former lover Dr. Carol Marcus (Bibi Besch) and her son David (Merritt Butrick) have developed the Genesis Device, which can initiate rapid terraforming on inhospitable worlds for colonization. The Reliant’s captain Clark Terrel (Paul Winfield) and first officer, the former Enterprise navigator Pavel Chekov (Walter Koenig) beam down to the planet investigate life signs only to find Khan and his people marooned there. After capturing the two men, Khan and his genetic superhumans gain control of the ship and set out on a mission of vengeance.

khan castKirk joins Spock onboard the Enterprise with his original crewmates to assist with a training cruise for Starfleet cadets. They receive a call from Dr. Marcus wanting to know why Kirk is taking the Genesis Device. What she and Kirk don’t realize is that Khan is trying to lure Kirk by manipulating a brainwashed Chekov into stating that Admiral Kirk wants the Device. Kirk takes the bait and orders the Enterprise to head out to Marcus’ science station Regula I, which orbits an asteroid the station is named after, and investigate. In a preemptive move, Spock relinquishes command of the Enterprise to his friend because as he famously said, “Commanding a starship is your first, best destiny; anything else is a waste of material.”

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Star Trek Movie Retrospective–Star Trek: The Motion Picture

“Out there. Thataway.”

Admiral James T. Kirk replying to a request for a course heading

posterWith the new Star Trek film coming out in a couple of months (Star Trek Into Darkness), it’s time to take a look back at the many Star Trek films that preceded it. Let’s start off with the one that launched Star Trek’s cinematic voyage, Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

This film isn’t regarded as a top tier Star Trek film and for good reason. It’s slow moving, yet seems rushed and for good reason. Director Robert Wise recounted how far behind schedule they were that the effects work was only completed just before the film made its debut, translation: Wise didn’t have time to properly edit the film. On the other hand, it does have undeniable merits.

Out of all eleven Star Trek films (twelve counting Star Trek Into Darkness), Star Trek: The Motion Picture is the most majestic and oddly the most Trek like. Meaning that this film captures the core concept of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry’s optimistic view of humanity’s future. That is largely because Roddenberry produced the film and it’s the only one where he was directly involved. After its perceived failure, Roddenberry was relegated to a “consultant” role in the other Star Trek films until his death. In this film, we get a few glimpses of Earth and see that it’s a bright, pastoral paradise where people either wear New Agey type of clothing or bland Starfleet uniforms. The conflicts in the film are largely internal believe it or not. Sure, there’s the threat of this V’Ger entity that wants to annihilate life on Earth, but the problems that capture viewers’ attention are those with Admiral James T. Kirk (William Shatner), Spock (Leonard Nimoy) and Commander Will Decker (Stephen Collins). Anyone expecting a mustache-twirling villain will have to look elsewhere.

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In between the original Star Trek show and Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Kirk was promoted to a desk-bound position as an admiral and he’s bored. He’s in charge of refitting his old ship the Enterprise, which was supposed to be commanded by Decker, but Kirk uses the V’Ger threat as a excuse to take command of the Enterprise, which naturally angers Decker. Now with Spock, he’s retired from Starfleet and off in his home planet Vulcan undergoing this ritual to purge all emotions from within him, but he finds himself unable to go through with the process. He feels a calling, which so happens to coincide with the coming of V’Ger.

The film opens with V’Ger, seen as an immense multi-colored energy cloud in space that dematerializes three Klingon battle cruisers. It should be pointed out that this film is responsible for introducing the modern take of Klingons, now adorned with thick armor and sporting their distinctive sagittal crests on their foreheads. While the film properly shows how badass the Klingons were with their guttural speech, armor and a tribal music soundtrack, they are quickly taken out by V’Ger. It effectively illustrates the entity’s power and deadliness. And of course, it’s heading towards Earth.

enterprise 2

Equally convenient to the plot is how the Enterprise, although not finished with its refitting, is the only starship that can intercept V’Ger. How many ships does Starfleet have? But hey, what’s a Star Trek film without the Enterprise and its crew being the only thing standing between life and death?

Despite’s Chief Engineer Scott’s (James Doohan) usual protests that the ship isn’t ready, Kirk orders that the Enterprise be launched to confront V’Ger. Afterwards, the engineer entreats Kirk to an exhaustive external inspection of the Enterprise while in drydock. It’s at this point, that the film first rears its indulgent tone. Continue reading

Star Trek Ornaments Wish List

One thing that was noticed while scavenging Hallmark stores for discounted ornaments were the abundance of Star Trek ornaments. This was unusual, most of the time a fan was lucky to find a spaceship ornament the day after Christmas.

Well there are plenty of Romulan Bird-of-Prey spaceships available in several stores. Meanwhile Boba Fett’s Slave I spaceship from Star Wars is impossible to find. That is surprising given that a version of Slave I was released in 2002. The original was heavy and hard to put up on the Christmas tree since its weight pulled down branches. It was painted in blue to reflect that it was the one seen in Star Wars Episode II: Attack Of The Clones and it didn’t have sounds or lights. This year’s model was painted green as seen in The Empire Strikes Back and had sound.

Regarding the characters this year, Star Trek couldn’t even compete. Hallmark released two separate ornaments: one of Spock, the second in their Legends of Star Trek series, and a diorama featuring a scene out of the classic episode “Mirror, Mirror.” With Star Wars, three ornaments were produced, one of Yoda that has sound, a limited edition of Bossk that sold out quickly when released earlier this year and a diorama featuring Han Solo’s confrontation with Greedo. The only one still seen in stores was the diorama and that was in small quantities.

So is this further proof that Star Wars is clearly edging out Star Trek in popularity at least when it comes to ornaments? There was a time when Trek ornaments were highly sought after items. The very first Hallmark ornament of the original Enterprise still commands a high price in secondary markets as does practically any Enterprise ornament. Yet some character ornaments and ships are duds.

But this year’s plethora of Romulan ships is startling given that even in years when clunkers were released (namely the Borg cube, the Rio Grande runabout, the Scorpion fighter ship and the Vulcan command ship) they were hard to come by after Christmas.

The glut of character ornaments isn’t that surprising. spockWhen it comes down to it, the Star Wars character ornaments are almost always more interesting and dynamic. Whereas the Trek ornaments feature basically humans in drab poses, the Star Wars characters are very colorful and larger than life. This isn’t meant to revive the old Trek vs. Wars debate, it’s just to point out that there is a disparity between the two franchises lately when it comes to ornaments. The first Trek character ornaments looked more interesting and featured them in various poses. Like this Spock ornament released in1996.

Compare this 2005 Khan ornament:

With this one of Chewbacca:

Now ask yourself which makes a better ornament? A better looking gift for collectors?

Let’s be clear, Star Trek ornaments are not doomed. It is possible to put out ornaments that capture the fans’ eye. The ship ornaments from the past three years (the Reliant, a Klingon battle cruiser and 2009’s Enterprise) looked fantastic and were difficult to obtain after the holidays. And by looking at older diorama scenes and characters anyone can tell that Trek has plenty of life left in it when it comes to ornaments. Trek has a vast library and history with viable subjects. Star Trek: The Experience in Las Vegas used to sell ornaments featuring aliens from the shows, Hallmark should consider that at least trying the aliens or obscure ships as a limited edition trial balloons or convention exclusives.

Here is a list of what Hallmark could produce in the next few years. Add to the list any ship or character introduced in any upcoming film or show.

Spaceships:

  • The U.S.S. Kelvin seen from the 2009 Star Trek movie, that’s the ship that Kirk’s father died in by ramming it with the Narada. NOTE: This will be an ornament for 2013.
  • The shuttle crafts and pods seen in Star Trek: The Next Generation.
  • The NX-01 Enterprise, yes they made a metal-plated ornament back in 2002 but it wasn’t lit and too heavy to put on a tree.
  • From Star Trek: Voyager how about Chakotay’s Maquis ship or the Equinox? Tie it in with the anniversary of the show for relevance.
  • For Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Hallmark could put out the Jem’ Hadar fighter ship or a Cardassian Galor-class ship.
  • The shuttlepod used by Kirk and Scotty to inspect the Enterprise refit back in the first Trek film. The characters should be clearly visible.
  • The Excelsior or Enterprise B, like the Miranda-class ship (most famously represented by the Reliant) this class of ship was often seen in the movies and shows.
  • Other possibilities include Picard’s first command the Stargazer, the Narada, future Spock’s jellyfish-shaped ship from 2009’s Star Trek, a Borg Sphere, the Phoenix from Star Trek: First Contact and even do a mini-ornament set featuring all the known Enterprise ships.

Characters and Dioramas:

  • Kirk wearing the spacesuit seen in “The Tholian Web.”
  • A diorama with Spock and his parents from “Journey to Babel” and aliens like Andorians are a must.
  • Harry Mudd or Cyrano Jones (the latter should have a tribble in his hand).
  • A pre-Starfleet Kirk on his motorbike from 2009’s Trek film.
  • Hallmark could consider releasing the original Trek characters like Kirk and Spock wearing their red uniforms from the movies. The red will contrast nicely on trees.
  • Major characters like Spock or Picard wearing those white spacesuits.
  • A Gorn (or a Gorn vs. Kirk diorama by those famous outcroppings), Gul Dukat, a Jem’ Hadar, or a Borg drone.
  • A view from a runabout or the Defiant bridge with the Bajoran Wormhole on the viewscreen. Lights and sound are mandatory.
  • A diorama depicting the fight on the Narada’s drilling platform where Kirk and Sulu face off against the Romulans from 2009’s Trek.
  • Some kind of diorama featuring the Klingons during one of their ceremonies, there are many to choose from.
  • The first meeting between humans and Vulcans from Star Trek: First Contact.

Jose Soto