James Rolfe: So we have a new Star Trek movie coming out. I thought it would be a good idea to talk about the series. But there's eleven movies, counting the new one, five TV series and an animated series. So that's a lot to work with. Rather than doing a whole retrospective or full-fledged "Trek-a-Thon", I'm gonna keep it simple and just talk about the Star Trek trilogy. Now the "trilogy", as it's sometimes referred to, is "Star Trek 2 - The Wrath of Khan", "Star Trek 3 - The Search for Spock" and "Star Trek 4 - The Voyage Home". So what happened to "Part 1"? Well, I'll tell you.
"Star Trek - The Motion Picture" was a big deal when it came out because it satisfied a long craving for new Star Trek material. The original series ended in 1969, the animated series came shortly after. But for the majority of the 70's there wasn't much Star Trek, so I can see why the first movie would've been exciting for its time. However, I don't think it has aged well. It feels to me like it's trying to be the next 2001 - A Space Odyssey. It has a very slow pace with some crazy LSD moments. There's even a moment where you can see Darth Vader and Miss Piggy. Overall, it's not a bad movie, but it doesn't have the same rewatch-value as the next ones.
Star Trek 2 is like Street Fighter 2; nobody gives a shit about the first one. Not only is it way superior and often regarded as the best, but it also doesn't require having seen the previous film. Star Trek 3, however, picks up right where "2" left off and benefits from watching them together. Part 4 is also a close sequel, so in a nutshell: "2", "3" and "4" to me and to a lot of people are the most classic of all the feature films. So that's why we call it the "Star Trek Trilogy". But now onto the movie...
"The Wrath of Khan" is actually a follow-up to the episode "Space Seed", from the original TV series. In this episode Captain Kirk finds Khan stranded in space. Khan is a man of superior strength, genetically bred as a soldier. Kirk offers him his hospitality aboard the Enterprise, not knowing that with Khan's great strength comes great ambition. So what does he do? He tries to take over the Enterprise.
Khan: Each of you in turn will go in there!
James: He's a war-waging, womanizing superman of dominion, which makes him the perfect rival for Kirk. In the end, Kirk manages to defeat Khan and send him to a deserted planet, so the movie is a perfect closure to that story. If it requires watching anything before it, it wouldn't be the first movie – it would be the episode "Space Seed".
Before "The Wrath of Khan" was released, there was a lot of talk and rumors about the death of Spock happening in this movie. It starts with a fake battle training simulation where the crew, including Spock, pretend to be dead. This helped lay to rest all the death rumors; that fans weren't thinking the whole movie 'When's he gonna die?'
The simulation introduces Lieutenant Saavik, a female vulcan played by Kirstie Alley of Cheers fame. The purpose behind this was to have the newly-promoted Admiral Kirk train cadets, in order to show the audience that Kirk's getting older, and he's having trouble passing on the torch.
McCoy: Would you like the tranquilizer?
Saavik: Ahead one quarter impulse power.
Sulu: Ahead one quarter impulse power.
James: He's trying to cope with getting older which plays into the whole theme of the movie. McCoy, always being the hard voice of reason, tells Kirk basically to stop being a pussy and get back to his command.
At the same time, Commander Chekov's out on a space mission and he accidentally stumbles upon none other than Khan. See, Chekov thought he was on an entirely different planet. What happened was that the planet he thought he was on had exploded and the orbit shifted putting Khan's planet in its place. This is the one part I find a little farfetched; a trained starfleet crew wouldn't know a planet exploded? Are they totally oblivious to stellar events? And they wouldn't even stop to think that they're near where they sent Khan? One thing fans love to nitpick is the fact that Chekov wasn't even on the original series until after "Space Seed". So how would Khan even know Chekov? Well, maybe he was in the shuttle bay the whole time – who knows?
Anyway, the whole point of this mission was to find a deserted planet to test the new Genesis device. It's basically a torpedo that creates life out of nothing. We're shown an animated computer graphic display demonstrating how it works. You fire it at a dead planet, like a moon, and it turns into a fully living planet. Back then this looked really cool. When I was a kid I always wanted to see this part over and over. But if used on a live planet the device would wipe out all previous life that existed.
McCoy: According to myth, the Earth was created in six days. Now watch out! Here comes Genesis – we'll do it for you in six minutes.
James: So getting his [Khan's] hands on it would be his main goal. However he's sidetracked by seeking revenge on Admiral Kirk.
Khan: I shall leave you as you left me...
James: People often relate this movie with "Moby Dick". All Captain Ahab wants to do is to kill the white whale that crippled him, but passes up lots of opportunities to catch other whales and become rich. Seeing Khan and Kirk interact is the highlight of the movie. Even though they only see one another through the ship's viewscreen, both actors were filmed separately. But they pull it off pretty well. My only minor complaint is that it would've been nice to see at least one scene with both of them together.
The only other thing I don't like too much is that Khan gains control of people's minds by implanting these strange creatures into their ears. I just think it goes a little extreme. What makes the movie work is that the battle scenes don't overshadow its characters.
Kirk: Mr. Spock, the ship is yours.
Spock: Jim, be careful.
McCoy: ... WE will.
James: Kirk, Spock and McCoy are given the front stage like the original series, and that's the "Trek" we love. And rather than killing off another character that we don't care about, like a random red-shirt, we actually have a main character that dies. So, yeah, I don't think anyone isn't aware that Spock really dies in this movie. It always made me sad and I never knew the point of it. But it shows that the movie isn't afraid to take risks.
Spock: Live long... and prosper.
James: So if you're lost in a whole galaxy of "Star Trek" films and don't know where to start, I'd say this is the one – so give it a watch.
James: Check-in for part 2 of the trilogy – we'll talk about "Part 3". Now THAT'S confusing...
Spock: Most illogical.
Police officer: What is your name?
Young Kirk: My name is James Tiberius Kirk.
Evil Kirk clone: Captain Kirk?! I'M Captain Kirk! I'M CAPTAIN KIRK!!