The Wrath of Khan sucked. Yes. It did.

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Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan (Paramount)

Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan (Paramount)

This week, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan turned 30 years old (Oh!  My back!), which is naturally resulting in people all over talking about how this movie was the greatest of the Star Trek franchise, bar none.

I say: Horta-marbles.

So, I’ve waited thirty years; now, I’m going to tell you why The Wrath of Khan was a lousy movie, a lousy science fiction movie and a lousy Star Trek movie.

(And recent comments have made me rethink this posting… and add to my criticisms of this mess of a flick.  Prepare to engage…)

We know that Wrath was developed from the original series episode Space Seed, in which Khan and his followers, products of the Eugenics Wars, were discovered in a stolen sleeper ship hundreds of years after they (take note) lost their war to rule Earth.  These so-called physical and intellectual supermen then tried to take over the Enterprise, but (again) lost, and were banished by Captain Kirk to a small uninhabited planet “to rule.”

Which should tell you right off that these guys weren’t the great s#!+s they thought they were.

Fast-forward about 25 years, to a movie that depicts the Enterprise being used as a training vessel (yeah… for the most celebrated ship in the Federation fleet, and recently refit to-boot, that makes sense), and the Reliant, a survey vessel from the same Federation that is apparently not smart enough to notice that the solar system they’ve entered, which has been mapped by Federation ships before (including the Enterprise) is now missing a planet.  In fact, another planet has supposedly been moved out of its original orbit (something else the crew of the Reliant should have noticed), but instead of changing the temperature severely, the planet gets stoopid dust storms.  Naturally, they find the surviving members of Khan’s group, but can’t say the words “Beam us out!” fast enough to avoid being captured.

Khan—the leader of “superior intellect”—has responded to the decaying quality of “his” planet, and the death of his non-genetically-improved wife, by apparently going insane, caring about nothing save the death of the man who bested him, James T. Kirk… even if it means the death of the last of his followers in the process.  Instead of accepting change and hardship, he’s gone from super-intelligent leader to vengeful sociopath despot.

A great deal of my angst over this movie is in its bad story and sloppy editing, leaving characters hollow and pointless, and diminishing any salient story points to utter twaddle:

  • Saavik has her part Romulan heritage left on the cutting room floor (yeah, didn’t know she was supposed to be half-Romulan… did ya?);
  • Characters like Scotty’s nephew become nameless footnotes, lessening the impact of their later death scenes and wasting perfectly good pathos;
  • Chekov and Terrell can’t just beam out of Khan’s world before Khan’s guys can cross a few dozen yards of sand to catch them;
  • Khan “remembers” Chekov, despite the fact that they never met in the original Trek episode;
  • Khan, the man of “superior intellect,” apparently responded to the loss of his wife and the change in his planet by going insane with thoughts of revenge on Kirk… but none of his “superior” followers, including his son, have the stones to explain his obsession to him, or take steps to prevent their all being destroyed by the man;
  • “Superior intellect” Khan on the Reliant could have had earworm-controlled Captain Terrell greet Enterprise and bring them within transporter range; whereupon Khan could have beamed over with his crew, taken over a superior starship and killed Kirk and crew personally.  Instead, he pulls a sneak attack with a science vessel against a heavy cruiser, which he doesn’t know isn’t staffed by a shipful of professionals.  The man exhibits the plotting ability of Daffy Duck.
  • Khan’s son is the only one of the baddies group, other than Khan, who utters a word through the entire movie (besides “Aaugh!” when the Reliant is attacked—apparently genetic supermen make great redshirts);
  • Khan’s followers are no better than slabs of meat (even the women), and in the end, we feel nothing about their being blown up… even Khan’s son’s death elicits no more than a yawn from the audience;
  • We discover Kirk had fathered a son and never met him, nor kept in touch with him or his mother… and we’re supposed to actually care;
  • The scientists are smart enough to hide the Genesis device on what appears to be a lifeless moon.  The scientists then demonstrate they are not smart enough to hide with the device.
  • One of the worms Khan dropped in Chekov’s ear could have been dropped into the ear of just one of the scientists in order to find the genesis device, preventing the need to torture the rest of them;
  • At the end, Starfleet-hater David tells Kirk that he’s “proud to be your son.”  Why?  All Kirk did was show up too late to save his scientist friends, beat up his son upon their first meeting, best Khan by conning him into making bad strategic decisions, get his ship beat to hell and a few random trainees killed or traumatized for life, and lose his best friend while saving his own skin.  What’s to be so proud of?
  • And let’s face it, the whole Moby Dick theme (with lines from Melville’s book intentionally altered to use celestial references that Khan couldn’t possibly know) is just mondo lame… even when it’s presented by Ricardo Montalban, the one man in the universe who seems to be able to out-overact William Shatner.

Throughout, we suffer through cheap cinematic gags, like the radio dialog obviously written to make sure the slower viewers can follow the action from one scene to another; horror-movie shtick like Bones being distracted by a loose lab rat (Federation scientists still use lab rats?), then backing into the bloody dangling arms of a scientist, accompanied by a bloody close-up and embarrassingly-cliche “boo!” musical cue; the (eww!) worm-in-the-ear bit; the big ancient book and granny-glasses as elephant-obvious metaphors for how old Kirk and crew are getting; and the ridiculous new Star Fleet uniforms, obviously designed to look good in technicolor, maybe in a dress parade, and when a cadet wants to leave a bloody handprint on the breast, but not good for much else.

And I don’t even want to get into the most blatant sci-fi gag, the only thing more predictable than a death of a Star Trek redshirt: The death of a Black man in a science fiction movie; not to mention that Black man being Paul Winfield, the single most doomed Black man in SF movie history!  The only cinematic gag I appreciated was James Horner’s music, which was tailor-made for dramatic presentations like this (all the same, you could make a drinking game out of the signature musical elements Horner loves to reuse, in every SF and adventure movie he does).

So, we come to the part that everyone says is the best part of the movie: The starship fights.  Okay, considering this is the first time in the history of the franchise that we see the Enterprise (or any other starship in the Trek franchise) taking serious modern-special-effects battle damage, the battles were notable and memorable.  Beyond that… meh.  We see two starships close enough to spit at each other, but which still miss each other with regularity.  We see those ships in a nebula, in reality a collection of mass and gasses that are spaced light-years apart… but here, a nebula is depicted like a technicolor fog bank a few miles wide.  We get the whole “Khan displays two-dimensional thinking” bit, and we’re supposed to buy the premise that a “superior intellect” leader who could rule a world (albeit temporarily), steal away on a sleeper ship, steal a starship, who has presumably thought about attacking and killing Kirk for many moons, who knows how space works, and who’s probably heard of submarines, has never figured out three-dimensional warfare.  We see the old TV-series holdover of having bridge equipment blow up when a piece of ship dozens of decks away gets hit with a phaser blast… so you know they’re connected.

And finally, we have the Tech-Of-The-Day, a device the size of a man that can change the life-potential of entire planets; and the stereotypical “countdown to disaster” when the genesis device is started—but they never just go off, do they?  No, we have to suffer a melodramatic countdown for it to happen.  But the Enterprise is crippled… oh noes!  Will they die?  No, because Spock manages to get the engines fixed mere seconds before it’s too late.  Whew.  And oh, yeah, Spock is now going to die of radiation poisoning.  On a ship that runs on antimatter, in which everyone in engineering is dressed like the Michelin Man to protect them from something, but no one goes where Spock dares to tread without a suit, and after we’ve seen radiation sicknesses cured with hyposprays in episodes of the original series…

You see where this is going, I’m sure.  Khan isn’t consistent to Star Trek, not the original series et al nor the particular episode in which it was birthed.  It’s not consistent with science fiction, not even the Trek brand of sci-fi.  And on top of that, it’s just not well put-together cinematically.  Everything in this movie just comes off as being contrived in order to push some incredibly obvious emotional buttons, while ignoring how much (or little) sense they make.  It’s showy, it’s pretty, it has more colorful Star Fleet uniforms… and it’s stupid.  It’s about as realistic as The Blues Brothers, complete with stupid Nazis.

And this is the movie that fans declare is the best Trek film ever.

IqnaH QaD.  (Go look it up.)

It’s funny how Trek fans, who like to proclaim the intellectual superiority of their program of choice, are amazingly unsophisticated when it comes to their preferred Trek movies.  The even-numbered movies that most cite as “the best” are in fact the worst when it comes to science fiction realism, Trek continuity and downright story quality.  And Khan leads the pack of guilty movies (okay, it’s second, right after The Voyage Home, and barely preceding the disaster right after that, The Final Frontier… but it has the virtue of being iconic of all of them).

The Wrath of Khan was a redshirts movie: Let’s do stupid stuff and beat up on each other, yargh!  It was designed to impress Star Wars fans, who (let’s face it) weren’t nearly that concerned with trifles like science and storylines.  It was fluff… pure, unadulterated fluff.  It was designed to sell tickets and T-shirts (which it did, and very well).

You want good Trek movies?  Star Trek: Generations is probably the best, in my opinion; followed by Star Trek: Insurrection.  These movies had action, but they also had stories consistent with Trek continuity and the pseudo-science fiction universe that Trek was based within, paid close attention to the established behavior of Trek characters and didn’t go in any phenomenally stupid plot directions.  Were they perfect?  No; but let’s face it, Star Trek has never been a “perfect” show.  But Star Trek has (almost) always had a way to look at the future that was thoughtful, humble and optimistic, and both Generations and Insurrection embodied that attitude.

So, I’ve said my piece, and you can now judge me according to my opinions of Star Trek movies.

Next week, I’ll discuss Lost In Space.


The Kestral Voyages represent my foray into sci-fi adventure… check it out.

cover of The Kestral Voyages: My Life, After Berserker

 

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71 thoughts on “The Wrath of Khan sucked. Yes. It did.

  1. Donn

    I have never found any of the movies an improvement on TOS or ST:TNG, but I usually welcomed them as old friends (especially for the TOS movies) and graded them on a generous curve. I never analysed them as much as you have Steven. I usually just graded them by how much I enjoyed them at the time.

    For me, the first ST movie was a disappointment. It was great to see the old Enterprise crew back in action, but the plot line was horrible. It was an overblown retread of the much better series entry The Changeling.

    When Wrath of Khan appeared it was just what the doctor ordered. It just breathed in a way the original ST film just snored. I can’t disagree with any of the analysis you’ve done. But then all of the ST universe is filled with objectionable science extrapolations, and lots of internal inconsistency.

    If the ST films were stand alone and unattached to a venerable series I would likely have howled at the flimsy, and nonsensical plot-lines, but these are Star Trek films! I gotta just enjoy them for what they are.

    For the record, my favorite “at the time” original ST film was “The Undiscovered Country”.

    My favorite ST:TNG film was “Insurrection”. In fact, “Insurrection” is just a great film drama, ST universe or not.

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    • Tim

      Insurrection’s plot was TERRIBLE! What the hell’s wrong with you! It’s the only Star Trek where I fundamentally disagree with Picard! It’s idiotic tripe that didn’t deserve to be made it is an insult to Trekkies and commonfolk who after they watch and start thinking about it realize that it doesn’t make sense! But it’s not as bad as Final Frontier.

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      • Tim, Insurrection‘s plot was about Picard deciding to protect the Baku from being forcibly removed from their homes by a more powerful Sona (with Federation backing) for the Sona’s own self-interest. (And yes, there was no reason the planet couldn’t be shared… that’s the stupid of the plot.) Is that what you disapprove of? Or is there some other point that I’m missing?

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      • What about Cardassia’s forcibly removing the Macquis from THEIR homes with Federation backing?
        But Picard’s never a hypocrite, oh no he’s ALWAYS right– the writers said so.

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  2. Donn

    As a side note: I actually sailed “tourist class” on The Lady Washington which was used for the holodeck promotion ceremony in Star Trek Generations.

    I am not sure if that makes my opinion better than yours. But it might make me a dork.

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  3. Well, that would make us both dorks, then! Here’s my dork confession: In the first Star Trek movie, when Scotty gave Kirk a shuttle tour around the newly-reconfigured USS Enterprise, I looked at it the way you’d look at a formerly gawky but beloved cousin whom you hadn’t seen in years, and then met her all grown up and beautiful. “Brought a tear to me eye.” (Scotty, ST:Generations– that doubly proves I’m a dork.)

    So I know what you mean when you say, it’s easy to simply watch all of the movies as if you were attending a reunion of old friends. All the same, Star Trek TOS was supposed to stand for high-minded concepts like tolerance, understanding, cooperation, diversity, peace, etc. Wrath of Khan was a slap in the face of all of those things, and paid homage to nothing but mindless violence/adventure… and Trek was never even that mindless.

    Sure, it was fun to watch… but it should have been given a divorce from Trek and stood on its own, with entirely new names and places. It still would have been a lousy movie… but at least it wouldn’t have reflected badly on the Trek legacy.

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    • Sarah Goodwich

      Again, I can’t agree enough; i.e. the depth was lost, and replaced by a few cheesy proverbs and biblical references. “Space Seed” addressed Earth’s past, and how Star Trek represented a BREAK from that into the future. And so “Space Seed” ended with a happy ending where Khan got his planet and they parted as great men with mutual respect for each other; but “Wrath of Khan” destroyed all that simply to end it in a lame space-battle (in which we’re told that somehow “shields don’t work in nebulas,” which also makes no sense– or that sensors wouldn’t function just as well).

      I’m also a little offended that we’re told that Trek fans should just shut up and tolerate anything with the label “Star Trek” on it; I just don’t understand such non-integrity.

      On the bright side, the 2009 movie ERASED all this from the timeline, and the SS Botany Bay is still floating around out there.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Dovel Frankfurt

    “Star Trek: Generations is probably the best, in my opinion; followed by Star Trek: Insurrection. …”

    These were the worst Star Trek movies. Especially Insurrection. paper thin plot, bad acing, horrible script that seemed very rushed in the hopes of cashing in.

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    • Funny: I’d say exactly the same about Khan. In fact, I do. Except that it wasn’t funny at all… it was an insult to my (and Star Trek’s) intelligence.

      Of course, all of the movies can be accused of “cashing in”… that’s why they were made at all. But Khan was still lousy for a Trek movie, for an SF movie, and for a movie, period. But I’m prepared to discuss it. I’ve provided my laundry list describing why it sucked; so send me your laundry list describing why it didn’t suck.

      C’mon, Khan fans. Impress me.

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      • Sarah Goodwich

        I think the problem with Wrath of Khan was all too obvious: the simplistic moral of “good vs. evil,” whereas Star Trek and “Space Seed” were supposed to be deeper than that; both Khan and Kirk were great men, but from different eras, with each personifying the progression of the human condition: Khan shows our primitive state that required tough and unforgiving leadership, while Kirk represents the more advanced era of the future. And so they understand each other, so Kirk shows his true greatness by forgiving Khan and giving him what he wanted: “a new beginning, a world of his own to command.”
        And this film destroyed it.

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  5. DJKuulA

    Insurrection was just mediocre. Generations, on the other hand, was the worst piece of excrement ever to bear the “Star Trek” name. Sure, it attempted to have an idea, but everything about it was insultingly stupid. It doesn’t stand up to the slightest scrutiny.

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    • DJKuulA

      Honestly, I’m more thoughtful than that post made me seem. 🙂 But it’s been a while and I just can’t bring myself to watch Generations again. It made me crazy. One important element of stupidity that I do recall is how they gave Kirk a fairly apropos death, then brought him back and re-killed him in an insultingly uncreative, useless way. (Note that I grew up on TOS reruns in the ’70s, so the Death of Kirk was a big deal for me. I never cared much for the overly talky and obsessed with phony technical jargon TNG. Although I loved First Contact and enjoyed Nemesis.)

      Generations was the first (and, come to think of it, still the only) Trek movie that I honestly, truly hated.

      You do make some valid points about Wrath of Khan, but for me they are overcome by the essential awesomeness of its storytelling. I haven’t watched it in a long time either, but Khan I’m more willing to revisit in order to provide further comment. 🙂

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    • Sarah Goodwich

      Ever hear that two wrongs don’t make a right? At least The Motion Picture held to the original premise of emotion vs. logic, conflict-resolution rather than violence, human evolution, populism and politics vs. rulership, man and superman, and fascinating hard science–not complete nonsense like exploding planets, planet-making magic, etc.

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  6. You want to talk hated Trek movies? The Voyage Home was the worst, to me… until The Final Frontier, that is. Those two… uhhh… uurrr… rrraaahhh… Steve SMASH! But anyway…

    I never considered Kirk’s “second death” in Generations to be useless: He was helping Picard and saving a planet full of people (not to mention a starship’s crew). Uncreative, I’ll consider… but it paralleled with Kirk’s “first death” in that he was providing needed assistance to others’ efforts, teamwork to avert a crisis and save lives… I thought that was poetic enough to earn it a pass. And think about the parallels between each death: Kirk makes the save that saves the day, just before getting it in the neck when no one is around. How is one death “better” than the other?

    Sure, I guess since it was Kirk, he should have been beating a physically-superior Soren to a pulp with his own missile (or talking the missile into not firing… he was good at that kind of thing). But this was a Next Generation movie, not a TOS movie.

    (Note: I grew up on Trek in the 70’s, too. But let’s face it: TOS was more about melodrama, Next Gen more about… well… LESS melodrama.)

    Whereas Khan gave us the deaths of relatives of the major characters, but edited to the point that we barely noticed, much less cared. Then the death of Spock: Very similar to Kirk’s in Generations, I’d point out, assisting in the rear while the others fought from the bridge; but also pointlessly cobbled together, an obvious gimmick invented just to give us a sacrificial lamb that we would care about. And which, by the way, turned out to be just as fake as Kirk’s “first death,” thanks to Search for Spock. Attaway to ruin a major event.

    So… in a way… Kirk’s death and Spock’s death were equally stupid…

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  7. Into Lightness

    Sidebar: Rick Berman should have kept the “orbital skydiving footage” for the opening scene of “Generations” because it actually dovetails with the irony that Kirk was able to survive a fall from Earth’s orbit at the start of the film, but dies at the end falling from a rickety bridge that was only a few feet above those cliffs at the Valley of Fire. Those rocketboots from “The Final Frontier” sure could have come in handy then…

    As for TWOK, you should also include in your list how dumb it was for Kirk to hesitate for an eternity to raise shields on the Enterprise when they realized something was not right with the Reliant when they first encounter each other in space. Also, if Khan was able to commandeer the Reliant, should he not already know about ship prefix codes? I mean, couldn’t he also used Enterprise’s prefix codes to disable that ship first, if you really think about it? Khan could have obtained this from the mind-controlled Terrell or Chekov, or may have even already been aware of this feature all the way back in “Space Seed?”

    Oh well…

    I also do not have high hopes for “Star Trek Into Darkness” being anywhere remotely being an intelligent science-fiction film considering the 2009 J.J. Abrams film was void of any true Star Trek ideals or messages but just being a well-structured shoot-em-up action summer tentpole merchandise generating Hollywood hype machine. HA! By the looks of its trailers, it will be another dumb, mindless, summer popcorn flick in the mold of the “Mission: Impossible” sequels brought to you from the same.

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    • Sarah Goodwich

      Not to mention that the Enterprise sensors could have seen the Reliant from far greater than phaser-range, and would notice something when it began closing. Obviously side-stepping the shield, just like with the silly notion that static discharge in the nebula would suddenly cause graviton-based shields to become useless, despite that the first film showed them withstanding a blast that would vanish an entire Klingon ship.
      In short, the science of Star Trek went from real science to plot-driven silliness.
      But this exemplifies the entire problem, i.e. they were jilting the geeks in order to sell out to the Star Wars wiz-bang crowd.
      The problem is that scientific detail gave Star Trek the realism and consistency that set it apart; and by throwing that away for the “ray-gun” stuff, it just went cheesy and out of control; it not only jumped the shark, but its tracks that kept it rooted in reality, and the rest was silliness.

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  8. I’m totally with you, IL! That would have been great irony for Kirk’s death (though the irony of dying twice in the same manner, save the day just before being taken out by phenomena beyond his control–the Nexus, and Gravity–wasn’t bad).

    Your notations for Khan are also spot-on. The prefix code bit was a cheap shot, as was the badly-used mind controlling worms bit. Sad excuses for a predictable conflict moment. The only other thing the scene needed was Admiral Akbar shouting “It’s a trap!”

    Yes, Abrams leeched all of the intelligence and exploration of the human condition and the future of mankind out of Star Trek with his first movie; I don’t expect the second to be significantly different. It’s no wonder everyone speculated that Cumberbatch would be playing Khan in the second Abrams movie; that would be just the kind of mindless frak-fest that we got from the original Khan, and just what you’d expect after Abrams’ first movie.

    Unfortunately, it’s the action and explosions that drive the box office… that’s what people pay to see. Knowing that, I’d just as soon Abrams had chosen some other franchise to reboot, and left Trek alone. I heard the late Gerry Anderson had wanted to reboot Space:1999

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  9. Into Lightness

    SLJ, let it be known to the fans here that when you deconstruct TWOK, you actually love Star Trek and it’s one of the important facets of your life that has kept you going all this time.

    Now, I personally believe that Star Trek became officially “dumb” in 1996. That is the year the franchise completely abandoned itself as a creative media pioneer in the “space operatic” pulp science-fiction genre, and whatever came afterwards were merely carbon copies of itself. We are not being cynical, mindless media consumers here. We expect quality from these corporate-owned media properties, especially when we pay good money for it.

    Since at least 1996 (if not sooner), due to being creatively bankrupt, this franchise no longer lead in the industry and now merely followed trends. It’s the year Michael Piller left his post as an executive producer and head writer on “Star Trek: Voyager.” That same year, “Star Trek: First Contact” was released in theaters around the world, which imho was a dumbed-down popcorn shoot-em-up without any of Star Trek’s morals and allegories which were the founding core of the show back in the 60’s; it was a videogame movie brought to you by a generation that grew up spending more time addicted to videogames and greasy fast food than reading literature and eating healthy, homecooked meals. DS9 did continue on TV under the creative direction of Ira Behr, but what came aftewards since then were filled with “drunk Counselor Troi,” “boob firming up jokes,” and Chris “I’m just here winging it lip-reading the lines playing myself” Pine looking for his next A-list studio gig (His acting and looks are on par with Jonathan Frakes back in the 80’s, so Pine’s not exactly a Harrison Ford in the industry but more like a lucky Mark Hamill…); good-looking guy, but he doesn’t have the acting chops to fill Kirk’s boots. People were right that no one ever could.

    “Star Trek” went off the rails a long time ago, and we have yet to see anything even remotely close to filling its lofty void coming from the dirthly, so-called imaginations of many of our Hollywood studio executives who have inherited all of this (Thank you for that “Top Gun,” you really did all of us a favor there by now having TIIC exclusively targeting demographics…). Our society is all about “instant gratification” and it’s sad to say that it’s being dumbed down as a collective culture, and most of us in society are sadly not even aware of it happening while tweeting around and not even looking up and paying attention while playing mindless games on smartphones.

    We are mostly positive and happy people; after all, healthy criticism is perfectly acceptable and it leads to healthy discussions and a much healthier and productive society. We care about overall quality here because THIS does effect the minds of billions of people on this planet.

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  10. YellowSubmariner

    Without wading into the debate, I’ll simply say that this was a very thoughtful and entertaining critique, and had me guffawing out loud in several places. Well done! 🙂

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  11. Into Lightness :

    SLJ, let it be known to the fans here that when you deconstruct TWOK, you actually love Star Trek and it’s one of the important facets of your life that has kept you going all this time.

    Absolutely. I grew up on Star Trek; I love Star Trek. I love it because it presented us with a positive possibility for our future, as well as giving us new ways to explore our reality today… our social, political and environmental ills that so desperately needed addressing, and that the world as a whole refused to acknowledge. Trek was one of few shows willing to even mention the issues, much less in an intelligent and thoughtful way, and helped bring true social consciousness to many people.

    And that’s why, like you, I look at Khan and see a complete abandonment of that basic, most valuable aspect of Trek in order to sell Star Wars‘ leftover popcorn. Worst of all, Khan wasn’t even that well-assembled as an action movie, just predictable sci-fi and horror cliches and pathetic editing. Trek should be better than that; and Khan was only the first salvo in the systematic deconstruction of the Trek franchise.

    Today I don’t look at Trek as the same franchise I grew up with. Somewhere along the ride, it hit its head, came out retarded, but somehow its retardation is a big hit with the masses, so… sshhhhh. Obviously Paramount continues to hope no one will notice that Trek has gone from taking us where no man has gone before, to playing fizzbin on Tuesday.

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    • Sarah Goodwich

      Well let’s be honest; Star Trek started out with high-minded appeal to geeks, vs. cheap simplistic fare that sold to the lowest common denominator.
      That, I can handle. But what I can’t handle, is when self-proclaimed “high-minded geeks” come out and DEFEND the later crap as “being true to the original Star Trek premise,” making cheap excuses for “how it all makes sense.”
      So much that I don’t even want to get started on it.

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  12. Into Lightness

    The very technology that was supposed to advance us as a society is making us more and more selfish everyday, and drawing us inwards and thinking more about ourselves and less and less about the considerations for our fellow man and woman next to us, let alone the preservation of our valuable resources and environment for centuries to come.

    Not to sound cliche, but what Khan Noonien Singh said in “Space Seed” was quite apropos for all ages: “How little mankind has changed…”

    The fundamental message of Star Trek and good science-fiction in general is that despite great odds and unberable circumstances — we as a collective society overlook and eventually overcome many of those hurdles and obstacles and unite together and help each other out in the present and future for the greater good.

    We don’t need more Star Trek for the sake of having more media-generated consumer goods out there to pay for corporate executive salaries and to save up our hard-earned income to pay for exhorbitant Hollywood star paychecks and their cushy, jet-setting lives. And that goes for all the corporate-owned money-generating media properties out there.

    Now, what value do we (should have) learn(ed) from all of this?: “When is the last time you helped a fellow man/woman next to you who was more in need than you?” or “When was the last time Star Trek or any of these so-called morality-based media properties helped me improve the quality of my life, my family, my (so-called) friends and acquaintances, and the community around me?”

    That is the message of Star Trek and not us feeding that machine that generates the 300+ horse breeding stable and mega-sized mansion which Bill Shatner made off of our blood, sweat, and tears while he could care less about the overall quality of our lives, but only himself. And that is really sad, man. Many of us came away from this with a different set of values than he who was one of the very men who is revered as one of the creative icons behind it. “Free Enterprise” was not far off in its parody of all things relevant here.

    If we are speaking of relevant cultural icons to emerge out of the 1960’s, we should look no further than our very own Martin Luther King, Jr. who had more doors slammed in his face in his lifetime than any Hollywood actor out there aiming to achieve a level of success which effects the global masses in our everyday lives yet his legacy has had the greatest amount of success around the globe than any other man who has emerged in our society in the past 50 years. Many people say Bill Shanter is no Robert DeNiro? Well a thousand Robert DeNiros and a hundred Bill Shatners are not going to help change the overall quality of our lives, except those of greedy corporate executives and Hollywood celebrities living cushy lives off our hard-earned dime.

    So, it doesn’t take an Einstein to realize to turn off that television and walk away from it out the door if you feel it’s taking more away from your life than actually building something creative and constructive towards it in your valuable present day lives and the quality of your remaining futures.

    I’d take “Free at last!” over “You talkin’ to me?” any hour, any day, and any week of the year.

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    • Sarah Goodwich

      “The very technology that was supposed to advance us as a society is making us more and more selfish everyday, and drawing us inwards and thinking more about ourselves and less and less about the considerations for our fellow man and woman next to us, let alone the preservation of our valuable resources and environment for centuries to come.”

      That was Khan’s EXACT ARGUMENT in Space Seed, i.e. that people were becoming too dependent on machines, rather than, as he said “Improve MAN, and you can increase production 1000 times”

      But then in Wrath of Khan, he was just a Nazi pushing his “superior mind,” and then in “Into Darkness” hey FURTHER pushed history that Khan DESTROYED everything he considered inferior… when in “Space Seed:”

      1. Kirk said there were NO MASSACRES under Khan’s rule during the Eugenics War;
      2. Khan didn’t kill ANYONE in “Space Seed,” nor did he even TRY to while he was in command;
      3. The crew ADMIRED him in history, while Spock only cited the lack of freedom,
      4. Khan said he wanted to “unite humanity,” and
      5. Kirk asked Khan why he left Earth when humanity NEEDED him.
      6. At the end, Kirk DROPPED ALL CHARGES, because sentencing Khan would be a terrible waste of his potential for good; and finally:
      7 Khan CHOSE to go to the planet, because nobody would follow him any longer, and he thought it was better to “rule in Hell than serve in Heaven” (even though Kirk said the planet was no worse than AUSTRALIA!).

      But then WoK, in typical Hollywood fashion, ignored ALL of Khan’s good points from the episode, and just turned him into General Zod escaped from the Phantom Zone.

      Like

  13. Yes, mankind has changed little. Media has changed even less: It just keeps pushing the hedonistic envelope, knowing that the cattle-prodding of base emotions is the easiest way to make a buck. That’s its job. Khan‘s fall from respectable TV episode to mindless movie is emblematic of that.

    But Shatner isn’t at fault for that; he didn’t conceive of, write, direct or produce Khan. Even he is a tool of Hollywood… he performs for them, but only what they tell him to do, and when. As an actor, it’s not his job to care about what gets made… only what he gets paid to participate. And like any other human, he gets as much as he can get away with. (Okay: We can blame Shatner for finally getting the money and power to make his own movie… and giving us The Final Frontier.)

    At any rate, the damage is being done well above—and below—Shatner’s pay grade. More blame goes to the masses, for buying in and supporting it; for, if we didn’t go to those mindless movies, Hollywood would stop making them, wouldn’t they? We daily prove that we want our base emotions prodded… we want stoopid sitcoms and “Yippee-Kay-Yay” and Megan Fox’s ass and impossible car stunts and sparkling vampires. As long as we blow off productions like Solaris for movies like Armageddon, we’ll pretty much get what we deserve.

    Like

  14. Into Lightness

    ^^

    That is why I leave as much as I decide to on the offering plate. Or, shut my wallet altogether.

    There are too many sheep among that cattle, which is why it is best to leave others to make those mindless decisions for us.

    Like

  15. Sarah Goodwich

    I LOVE this review.

    Wrath of Khan was TERRIBLE! It was just an excuse to make a Trek movie.
    The message of Space Seed was clear: Khan said “We offered the world ORDER,” and “improve man, and you can improve production a thousand times.” He wasn’t trying to “steal Kirk’s ship and murder him,” as Chekov simplistically rehashes; on the contrary, he believed that humankind had stagnated, and he was trying to SAVE humanity through old-world style leadership and of superior example and coercion..

    The moral, of course, was that order without freedom is self-defeating; this episode answered questions on why humans didn’t evolve as a species, with the moral that we evolved as a civilization; as we see, none of Kirk’s crew would follow Khan, even though he offered to spare all of them if even one single person would join him.

    ALL gone; instead Khan&Crew become space-Nazis, with Khan becoming Darth Vader, starting with holding Chekov up one-handed like Captain Antilles; I was waiting for him to say “WHERE IS THE AMBASSADOR?”

    Also the science was absolute garbage; planets exploding? Impossible! And don’t they check for that before plopping people into exile?

    And the “Genesis device?” How is that supposed to work better than anything else they’ve got, let alone a billion times better- particularly when just 15 years ago they were just barely producing quadrotriticale, a genetically-altered form of wheat? The answer: JUNK SCIENCE, as we later learn with the “proto-matter” argument, i.e. something that’s not even real.
    The reason, of course, is to have some “deep biblical moral message–” again, STAR WARS!

    And what’s with McCoy’s sudden outrage over the new tech? Did someone forget to tell him that the Enterprise could lay waste to a planet’s surface just as easily, as mentioned many times in the series? Or that a standard planetary-defense shield could stop it, as shown in “Whom Gods Destroy” and other ?

    And what’s with keeping Khan’s colony a secret, when obviously it’s public record?
    Obviously to justify surveying the system to test a new bio-experiment, when Starfleet Command could easily just pull a few strings and have it taken off the list.

    And now we learn that Kirk’s a CHEATER? Wow… talk about anti-hero messages.
    And what’s this with Kirk not raising the shields, but letting them get into weapons-range?

    The entire plot was so cockamamie and absurd, in response to the depth and significance of the original “Space Seed,” simply showed that the franchise had jumped the Shark… and the genre.

    Like

  16. Sarah Goodwich :

    (in which we’re told that somehow “shields don’t work in nebulas,” which also makes no sense– or that sensors wouldn’t function just as well).

    This was certainly one of the most absurd aspects of Khan: The suggestion that a nebula is an electromagnetic cloud bank of sorts. Nebula are made up of stellar-sized matter spanning light-years, not “space fog” covering a few hundred miles. If the ships had been in an actual nebula, they may not have encountered anything else around them for years at sub-warp speeds. Again, the realities of space and physics are hacked up mercilessly to present viewers with battleships firing blindly into the fog. Pathetic.

    (Though, in the interest of full disclosure, I have to say that the Briar Patch bit from Star Trek: Insurrection was just as sad.)

    Like

    • It’s the whole physics of Star Trek being turned on its head. Shields and sensors are graviton-based, so EM-discharge wouldn’t affect them at all; in fact, no natural phenomenon could. The nebula was, simply put, a literary equivalent of a “briar-patch… ” and Khan was Br’er Wolf. Likewise, the lightning on Ceti Alpha V wouldn’t havre interfered with the Reliant’s sensors one bit.
      Again, we got short-shrift with the “Star Wars” technology, where they couldn’t even distinguish a moon from a space-station until they were in tractor-beam range… and said station likewise couldn’t even detect living people onboard the ship inside their own cargo-bay, just because of a little bit of lead shielding. (At least, meanwhile, Star Wars tech was able to detect a MISSING PLANET!)

      Like

  17. Amazingly this review has actually made me want to watch Wrath of Khan again! And it also made me realise that it’s been ten years since I last watched them all in a marathon prior to Nemesis when I was a lot younger and perhaps didn’t pick up on as much as I thought I did back then.

    I would be fascinated to read reviews by you on the other Trek movies if you’re ever so inclined.

    Like

    • I may, sometime… but I mostly wrote this one because I felt the need to explain why this one movie deserves so little of the adoration and reverence that it gets. There may be no other movie ever made that I feel so strongly about that fact.

      Like

  18. David

    I always wondered why Star Trek the Motion Picture sucked so bad — this was the best they could do after all those years? Even the cast said they were disappointed with it. But then I read where the script had already been written without the original actors having been signed to do the movie — with Captain Decker and the bald girl as the main characters — and then they finally managed to sign up all the original actors. So they apparently had to write in the main characters and crew after the fact. Their desire to get a movie out was evidently the reason they didn’t do a new script. The biggest mistake they made was that they kept Decker and the bald girl at all. Didn’t need them. This is why Wrath of Kahn seemed so good at the time. The first pic was so bad and lacking in action.

    Like

    • ST:TMP was rushed to the screen, driven by Star Wars‘ success and Paramount’s myopic planning, and modified from existing plans for a new TV show. The script itself wasn’t really that bad… again, for a TV show. But turning it into a character reunion and repurposing actors, then hurrying Doug Trumbull into creating effects that ended up having to be redone by ILM, didn’t help the production.

      Personally, I have less problem with ST:TMP than I have with Khan; at least TMP was closer to the theme and intent of Star Trek. But it should have been given the extra care, mostly in the script, that it needed to become a great movie.

      Like

      • Wrath of Khan was also rushed as a response to make Star Trek into Star Wars, and Khan into Darth Vader– Khan’s doing a “Captain Antilles” with Chekov was a dead give-away, almost saying “I WANT THOSE PLANS!”

        The only problem, of course, was that Khan wasn’t evil, and planets don’t expode.
        A much better plot would have been to just skip STII and go right to STIIII, where Kruge goes to Ceit Alph V in order to recuirt Khan to help him take over the Klingon empire, and Khan agrees in order to fulfill his plan to unify humanity. But once Kruge takes over the empire, he double-crosses Khan and tries to conquer Earth for himself, so Kirk and Khan end up joining forces, and Khan ultimately sacrifices himself to destroy Kruge and save Earth, thus repaying his debt to Kirk and to humanity.
        This would create a great sequel which would make sense; no stupid “Genesis” devices for cheesy “biblical” messages, which were likewise a slap in the face to anyone who like Star Trek for its advanced theoretical technology. Anti-matter is real, “proto-matter” isn’t.

        Liked by 1 person

  19. The Zug

    Your criticisms about WoK are fair enough, but what’s unfair is the pass you give Generations, which had problems at least as retarded as anything in WoK. The whole “energy ribbon” never made any sense, and was purely a vehicle to get Kirk into the action. Soran’s dinky little missile was super cheapo and ridiculous–yet was remarkable in how it could reach the planet’s sun in mere seconds! And you say Kirk’s death was “poetic enough to give it a pass.” Really? Really?? “It was . . fun. Oh my . . .” Poetry? I’d take the dialogue in WoK any day of the week over that crapola. To each his own, of course. But I think you have to make a distinction between legitimate, objective plot holes (like the prefix codes, perhaps) and what’s purely subjective (like your dislike of the Moby Dick references; personally, I found the competing memes of Moby Dick and A Tale of Two Cities to be a nice touch).

    Like

    • I readily concede that Generations was also flawed. I still thought it did a better overall job than Khan. It was at least more faithful to Star Trek. We’ll have to log that under differences of opinion, I guess.

      The thing about the Moby Dick references was twofold: First, I have a problem seeing Khan imagining Kirk as some kind of “great devilish beast.” Yeah, marooning Khan on a planet was rough, but it was the result of the prowess and cunning of a worthy opponent, which Khan himself clearly granted at the end of the original episode Space Seed. Bad luck left Khan and crew in a bad way… not Kirk. Hate him for beating you, fine… but don’t elevate him to some kind of devil.

      Secondly, the first Moby Dick quote wasn’t accurate. The writers took quotes from Moby Dick and replaced terrestrial references with space references… because sci-fi. Unless you can show me where the “Moons of Nibir” or the “Antares Maelstrom” is in Melville’s novel, or why a romantic like Khan would even consider changing them to references he can’t possibly know anything about… my Moby Dick criticism stands.

      Like

      • The Zug

        I don’t see what difference the modified Dick reference makes.

        But anyway, no, I don’t think Khan literally sees Kirk as a great devilish beast. But he’s gone mad, and he’s obsessed, and not entirely without reason–yes, Captain Kirk gave Khan his own planet, but Admiral Kirk never bothered to check on their progress, in which case he might have discovered what state they were in. Entirely rational? No, but part of what the movie’s about it is what happens when you surrender to obsession.

        I think whether you buy the Dick references to some degree comes down to what you expect from a movie. While a certain amount of immersion is always desirable, total immersion is impossible–you always know you’re watching a fiction. It’s like seeing Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar–you’re always aware they’re on a stage, and there are anachronisms like references to Elizabethan dress and clocks. You can let that ruin the story for you, or you can roll with it, recognizing that it’s a representation. Now of course we all make that conceit with Trek to some degree, with warp speed, transporters, Vulcan-human offspring, just to name a few. So it’s really a matter of where you want to draw the line. For me, the stagey acting and things like the Dick and ToTC references serve to underscore the morality play aspect. But of course your mileage may vary.

        Like

      • “Yeah, marooning Khan on a planet was rough,”
        Except he didn’t. It was a challenge to TAME the planet, in Kirk’s words; and Kirk asked Khan if he was up to it; Kirk said that Ceti Alpha V was ” no worse thanthe Botany Bay colony on Earth.”
        And he wasn’t “marooned” there, Khan could have just joined 23rd century society as an ordinary man, but he didn’t want to, seeing now that nobody would follow him anymore- and that man had indeed changed much. As he quoted from Milton, “it is better to rule in Hell than serve in Heaven,” and while the planet wasn’t exactly Hell, it was HIS to rule. So Khan came off as the worst ingrate in history: “remember that planet you gave me after dropping all charges from 20 years in a penal colony? It sucked due to unforseeable causes, so now I want revenge!”
        And why couldn’t Khan, the supposed supergenius-engineer, just build a distress-beacon?
        And oh yeah… PLANETS DON’T EXPLODE! Also their orbits don’t shift, and any ship passing through would immediately notice usch a drastic difference– it would be like Krakatoa going unnoticed and shifting another island in its place, causing a passing captain to mistake a prison-planet for it, landing and getting taken over. Oh, but we’re told that Khan’s being there was a SECRET… because 300-year old mutants are dangerous? So VY VOULD YOU KEEP IT A ZECRET, HMMMM? Why not just declare it off limits — like Planet Genesis?
        The crap is piled so deep in this film that you’d need a nuclear to wade through it.

        Like

  20. Miles

    There are a lot of things I find great about Wrath of Khan. This isn’t to say your take on the movie is wrong or invalid; I simply have a different opinion. For one thing, I can’t think of another “popcorn” sci-fi film that at its core is about facing defeat and dealing with death. It begins with the “unwinnable scenario” that Kirk beat (by cheating) and ends with Kirk having to finally face up to the ultimate unwinnable scenario. The mortality of the characters is brought up throughout so that at the end, when they’re forced to deal with Spock’s death (and therefore the inevitability of their own passing), I found it incredibly moving. And yet it ends on an optimistic note (“I feel… young”), which is so very unexpected and “human.” Referencing Dickens’ “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” at the beginning was an inspired bit of foreshadowing, I thought.

    It also has ship-to-ship battles that I thought were really good, and the type of high-stakes plotting that should be expected of a Trek film. The films only come around every 3-8 years, so shouldn’t they present a truly high-stakes, important situation?

    –Apparently not, if your second-favorite Trek film is Insurrection! I don’t want to turn this into a dissertation (“Too late…”), so I’ll just focus on my biggest problem with that film in addition to its lack of drama: the Enterprise crew are the villains of the piece. The Federation wants to use the healing properties of the planet to heal billions of people who have incurable ailments. The Enterprise crew decides it’s unfair to remove the Baku who live there. But by the end, we learn that the Baku aren’t indigenous to the planet! They’re just as much “visitors” to it as anyone else, so they don’t have some sort of greater right to its healing and life-extending properties than the people the Federation want to help. So why, exactly, does Picard and company decide to let 600 people, total, populate the planet and deny billions of ailing people use of its healing properties? The needs of the few apparently outweigh the needs of the many.

    The movie attempts to make the relocation idea seem terrible by having the Sona develop a technology that will “harvest” the healing properties but will leave the planet uninhabitable for decades. But it’s also established that the healing properties take effect merely by staying on the planet’s surface long enough. So although slightly less people would be helped due to the time component, it would still be possible to help billions by simply taking them to the planet. Drop several million people dying from incurable diseases on the other side of the planet, have them stay there until they’re healed, and I doubt the Baku’s way of life would be affected in any way.

    Like

    • The ironic thing about Wrath of Khan‘s take on death is that it not only shows how to best death by cheating… but the very next movie, Search for Spock, cheapens Spock’s death by cheating it and bringing him back! So much for mortality. Comic books are constantly derided for “killing off” heroes that they only bring back later; I’m not going to let a movie get away with it without calling them on it.

      So: Star Trek’s big message is that death can ultimately be cheated? No sale for me.

      I’ll grant you that Insurrection has some serious flaws, as you pointed out. Though I didn’t think the Federation had the right to uproot the Baku, I also didn’t believe the Federation had the right to take the healing properties of the planet’s atmosphere to benefit another (actually the same) race… which weren’t planning to use it for anything except artificially prolonging their own lives. And yes, it’s a planet! Set up a healing resort on the far side, and sell tickets to visit! They could have done that, and the Baku would never know they were there!

      But Insurrection wasn’t really about the healing planet… it was about domination, bribery, corruption and plundering the natives’ resources at their expense. And to an extent, about validating the lives of natives as being worth preserving. Despite the shakiness of the premise, the Enterprise crew are not the villains: They fought to oppose the ruination of a lesser race by corrupt and selfish forces… in addition to reuniting members of the estranged races and seeking closure for their estrangement… and that is what Star Trek is about. That’s why I hold Insurrection in such high regard among Trek movies.

      Like

      • The Zug

        That’s a fair comment about The Search for Spock, but I don’t think it’s fair to hold that against Wrath of Khan, which was written before III, and with no idea what III would be about or that Spock would come back to life.

        Like

      • Actually, I’d still consider it fair game, considering it was the most powerful statement about WoK and its overriding themes of aging and death; but clearly not powerful enough for the producers of SfS to preserve it, thereby rendering WoK into so much Sehlat-droppings. In other words, the producers themselves put no value on WoK, and cashed it in first chance they got.

        Like

    • ” I can’t think of another “popcorn” sci-fi film that at its core is about facing defeat and dealing with death.”

      Because Star Trek isn’t a tragedy; in fact it’s the opposite, regarding how man CAN overcome his fate, while those who resign themselves to it ultimately come to disaster. Like in “The Doomsday Machine,” Matt Decker tries to sacrifice himself to destroy the machine, and dies; however his sacrifice inadvertently gives Kirk the information he needs to destroy the machine— which he does, and LIVES… but only because he keeps faith until the last moment; faith in his beliefs, faith in himself, and faith in his crew. BEAUTIFUL.
      Thus by making Kirk into a tragic Greek character, WoK ruined the entire depth and philosophy of Star Trek, destroying legends rather than preserving them; and thus the movie sinks to cheap dimestore epic drama, as Khan becomes Darth Vader, Spock become Obi-wan, and Kirk becomes Jar-jar. .. and the “Genesis Device” becomes the world’s biggest steaming pile of nonsense ever.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. edwardsung

    Just want to share a small correction (not to be pedantic, but because I didn’t know this until recently, and thought it was an interesting factoid) — Joachim in Wrath of Khan is NOT Khan’s son! I’ve always assumed this was the case, but Joachim is actually a member of Khan’s crew and his right-hand man. The character even appears in the original “Space Seed” episode. (I think it could be argued though that it doesn’t really matter, since their dynamic in the film is very father-son.)

    Apparently Khan did have a son — a baby — who was originally in the film, but was cut out.

    Like

    • Joachim was identified as Khan’s son in the novelization. The orginal story was supposed to be generational, but in production, it was decided that only Kirk’s son mattered to the narrative. A narrative about aging and loss. Go figure.

      Like

      • Joachim must have been Khan’s son on the S.S. Botany Bay then; because there’s no way that guy was 14, mutations or no mutations. As for aging, The Motion Picture novelization said that Kirk “knew he could have lived another century” if he didn’t get killed, while we’ve also seen Dr. McCoy at 137, and talk about people living to 140, so the idea of a 50-year old Kirk being “old” is just as stupid as his cheating his way into a starship command, when “Court Martial” clearly stated that Ben Finney lost his chance to command due to his FAILING such a test.

        Like

  22. Into Lightness

    SLJ,

    I agree with your assessment of TMP over that of TWOK. The former actually feels like it has its roots in the works of speculative fiction of the early-20th century. The latter is the very definition of “popcorn” in terms of what they are ultimately selling to its audiences. Fundamentally, I just do not believe TWOK to be a strong Star Trek story. It’s a story that could be rehashed in countless summer popcorn flicks as evidenced by the late-Jerry Bruckheimer, Michael Bay, etc.

    Now, here is “the sequel” to my original argument above. I feel just as you do about TWOK as for me in regards to the “hack” Star Trek feature films produced between 1994~2013:

    Just ignore the naysayers who cannot back up their arguments. They may enjoy something on a purely visceral level, but in terms of actual intellectual substance — the studio and the creative team behind “Star Trek: First Contact” just gave in and pandered to the lowest common denominator, where as its original counterpart TV’s “The Best of Both Worlds, Parts I and II” stuck to its guns and is still revered today.

    Many of the viewers of the one-day screening of “The Best of Both Worlds, Parts I and II” earlier this year said that they consider this to be their favorite TNG film on the big screen now. Even 23 years later, it has everything going for it in terms of story, music, dialogue, narrative scope, etc. which “Star Trek: First Contact” (in my honest observation) lacked in all areas to its predecessor save for the ILM special-effects.

    Even Ronald D. Moore himself in his famous interview over a decade back about why he left “Star Trek: Voyager” as one of its writers admitted that he and Brannon Braga wrote “Star Trek: First Contact” as a “popcorn flick” and that “there is no message.” Sure, it’s about revenge, but I serious doubt that actual theme was grasped the first time by its audience and probably took multiple viewings to nail it down compared to the other feature films in the same franchise having their themes clearly visible on the surface and resonating throughout their respective big screen stories, whether it be about environmentalism, the search for God, universal peace, immortality, etc.

    Now, I recently watched “Star Trek Into Darkness” and I was right about my earlier assessment of that film in an earlier post from 2 months back in this same thread. In fact, this 12th Star Trek film was worse than what I actually expected and followed the same, predictable “shoot ’em up” style of summer (or winter) blockbuster storytelling as that of “Star Trek: First Contact,” “Star Trek: Insurrection,” “Star Trek: Nemesis,” and “Star Trek” (2009).

    How can we have the same carbon copy, shoot ’em up revenge story for 5 feature films in a row now? Well, 6 if you count Malcolm McDowell’s Dr. Soran’s “personal revenge angle” of wiping out an entire planet’s population in order to enter the Nexus and reunite with his family taken by the Borg in “Star Trek: Generations.”

    And, let’s not even mince words here. Revenge was not even the actual angle of the last 5 or 6 films. Here’s the angle: They were all pure cashgrabs at grabbing up audiences that normally flock to LOTR and James Bond, etc. at the expense of story.

    The last pure “Star Trek” story told on the big screen was “The Undiscovered Country.” Whether you are fans of that film or not, there is no denying that that film was the last actual big screen attempt at paying homage to the morality plays and allegorical storytelling of the original “Star Trek” television series of the 1960’s which the Baby Boomers and the Generation X crowd among today’s (sad to admit, dwindling…) Star Trek fanbase grew up with.

    And, there is no way you can grow a whole generation of new, young fans to flock to this dying franchise when you cut off its fundamentals at its very roots. You have to ask yourself, what is at the core of the Star Trek feature films produced between 1994 through 2013? “Nothing,” I would have to say as a member of the theater-going public. “Pure-Cash Corporate Greed” according to Paramount. And there is no manipulation there. They are blatantly honest about that in today’s world of instant gratification.

    Even “The Fast and the Furious” franchise can differentiate itself after 6 films, and you don’t get more “popcorn” than that? Then, why can’t Star Trek, which is supposed to be on a higher pedestal when it comes to intelligent storytelling?

    That adage about today’s screenwriters producing their materials from growing up on “television and film” rather than through “their own life experiences and novels” is so apparent on the big screen in today’s overly-saturated mass market. The days of films like “The Elephant Man” (1980) being green-lit by the major Hollywood studios is long over. They are catering to a whole new market that grew up on mindless videogames.

    ——————————————————————————–

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    • “The days of films like “The Elephant Man” (1980) being green-lit by the major Hollywood studios is long over.”

      Good summation of our situation here. Today, The Elephant Man would only have been greenlit if, at some point, Merick had been so outraged by his treatment at the hands of others that he went on an incredible superhuman rampage, killing specific tormenters as well as countless innocents until the lady he’d met either stopped him and had sex with him… or killed him with an elephant gun. Choose your own ending.

      Like

  23. Into Lightness

    SLJ,

    The actual sequel to TWOK should have logically unfolded in this manner:

    Starfleet admirals would convene and hold a hearing on why Admiral Kirk was incompetent in not raising shields when his crew clearly realized that there was something wrong with that ship not responding to repeated hails. On top of that, it was the Enterprise’s captain “Spock” who risked his life in engineering in order to save the ship and crew while the admiral himself “was frozen” in his chair up on the bridge. How he would not be forced into early retirement by the admirality due to “gross negligence” at the beginning of “The Search for Spock” is beyond me.

    Even with that actual scenario, Kirk could have still stolen the Enterprise in “The Search for Spock” and regained his captaincy at the end of “The Voyage Home.”

    It literally reminds me of the time in “Star Trek: Insurrection” when at the end of that film the Federation Council informs Commander Riker that they would be re-evaluating the whole Baku relocation situation. But…wait a minute? Was it not the Federation Council itself that gave Admiral Dougherty the authorization and his own discretion to relocate the Baku with the Sona’s methaphasic collector in the first place? Why they didn’t send a fleet of 6 Federation starships to take down the Enterprise-E and silence Picard and company on the surface of the planet for good is “a conspiracy theory” only Rick Berman and his then-studio bosses can only have the answers to. And after countless drafts and revisions by the late-great Michael Piller, they have none. So, there is no more use in arguing about that film’s central premise in countless blogs on-line. 🙂

    Like

    • Yes, there was a lot wrong with that TWoK aftermath. Kirk should also have been court-martialed for taking trainees into a combat situation. And I hate to say it, but Spock, being the ship’s Captain, wasted himself as a valuable Starfleet resource by sacrificing himself in Engineering. As a later TNG episode, “Thine Own Self,” demonstrated when Deanna Troi repeatedly took and failed a command scenario required to get her commander’s rank, a commander has to be able to sacrifice a crewperson… in her case, Troi had to send Geordi into certain death in Engineering to stop a warp core breach and save the ship. (Maybe this occurred to one of the writers after TWoK, eh?) Spock should have done the same, ordering in Scotty or whichever of his crew was best able to fix the radiation-soaked plot-device dingus.

      As I said before, yes, Insurrection isn’t a perfect film by any means; it has most of the worst Data-inspired gags in the entire franchise (cough—floatation device!—cough). I reiterate that Insurrection‘s value is in its faithfulness to Roddenberry’s dream of Star Trek, which included not blindly following wrong orders, and defying morally-“wrong” beliefs and sentiments to help those who needed help.

      Like

      • Insurrection “isn’t perfect?” A conspiracy to steal The Fountain of Youth from stagnant culture, when the logical thing would be to STUDY it?
        I contend that all the “cheesy” plots in Star Trek following WoK, were becase of that film… including “Into Darkness,” where Khan was also just pure Hollywood evil, rather than the complex archetype presented in Space Seed, demonstrating that nothing comes without a price– i.e. that man will advance in the future, but at the cost of losing greatness among his own kind; this was the message behind the crew’s admiration of Khan, and how Kirk explained to Spock that they could also be against him at the same time.
        Meanwhile, nobody could possibly admire the Khan in WoK or Into Darkness, because Star Trek had also lost its greatness… except here, the price was its SOUL, and it didn’t advance but simply sold out.

        Like

  24. Bubba Stone

    Dear Steven,

    Besides “Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan,” what are your brief opinions on “The Animated Series,” the 4 TNG-era TV shows, the other 11 feature films (Especially, your opinion on the 2 J.J. Abrams ones), and homages like Saturday Night Live, In Living Color, Futurama, Family Guy, and Free Enterprise (Specifically, your personal opinion on that last one)?

    Like

    • Okay, since you asked:

      ST:The Animated Series earned high marks with me for its story quality, but equally low marks for Filmation’s horrible animation and endlessly-reused image and music elements; after awhile, every episode felt exactly the same. On a 1-10 scale, I’d give it 5 tribbles.

      I maintain a high opinion of all the Next Generation era series, ST:TNG, Deep Space Nine and Voyager, but TNG gets my highest marks for story quality, characters and the adherence to Roddenberry’s view of the future (10 tribbles, no kid). After Roddenberry’s death, all of the series suffered a loss of vision, resulting in the endlessly-escalating wars in DS9 and Voyager (8 tribbles each), sex-styled characters like Six of Nine and T’Pol and stories that were less about the exploration of space and its impact on the Human condition, and more about soap-opera relationships and silly mysteries.

      Enterprise lost me with its very first episode, specifically, the scene with T’Pol and Tripp stripping down to smear “anti-bacterial jelly” all over each other’s bodies after an away mission… it was immediately clear where that series was going, to me. I tried to watch a few other episodes, but gave up in a few weeks. To date, I haven’t watched any more than the first 6 episodes or so. 4 tribbles.

      Star Trek (2009) and Into Darkness (which I have yet to actually see) both embody a total abandonment of Roddenberry’s Star Trek, in favor of a George Lucas/Micheal Bay/Roland Emmerich-type style-over-substance film, packed with flashy effects and big-draw actors and transparently-thin on plot. Because Box Office! 2 tribbles each. Maybe I’ll have to amend that statement after I see Into Darkness… but I seriously doubt it.

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  25. Bubba Stone

    I agree with most of what you said.

    You are way too generous with the tribbles for “Enterprise.” I too gave up on it after only the first 6 initial episodes. This, in light of the fact a friend of mine worked at the accounting department at Paramount Pictures Studios at the time and smuggled me a copy of the pilot script 6 months before broadcast. I rejected it for the simple reason “Star Trek” is supposed to look into the future and not the past.

    Giving 2 little tribbles to “Star Trek Into Darkness” is a complete waste of 2 valuable little tribbles. That film is plagued with nothing but trouble. It literally is equivalent to you throwing a good, crisp $20 bill away in the middle of a rainy sidewalk.

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  26. houser2112

    Steven Lyle Jordan :
    Yes, there was a lot wrong with that TWoK aftermath. Kirk should also have been court-martialed for taking trainees into a combat situation.

    To quote the script:
    KIRK (OC): I told Starfleet all we had was a boatload of children but …we’re the only ship in the Quadrant. Spock, these cadets of yours, how good are they? How will they respond under real pressure?

    He was ordered to, plain and simple. What was he supposed to do, waste time returning to base to offload the cadets and bring aboard a new crew that may be more experienced, but not with Enterprise?

    He could perhaps be culpable for not raising shields, but even that is not necessarily the right answer either, since raising shields is generally interpreted to be taking a belligerent posture.

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    • No, that would be powering weapons. If shields can’t be raised faster than weapons can be powered and targeted, then it would be a good idea to stay out of range. However in this ridiculous sequel, sensor-range is little more than weapons-range.. when canon shows that sensor-range is thousands to milions of times greater.
      Furthermore the Enterprise was encountering a Starfleet vessel which had been unable unwilling to respond to Starfleet signals, and had never sent a distress-signal; so it should be under suspicion, and never allowed to get into weapons-range.
      Finally, one NEVER takes a trainee crew on an emergency-mission when there are trained replacements avilable! And they were at EARTH, which is Starfleet Headquarters!
      “Only ship available?” I’m sure Space-dock would have quite a few.
      One cheap excuse after another in order to trump up a plot which went against the entire spirit of the franchise.

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  27. Yes, that’s right… Starfleet should have court-martialed themselves

    One of the worst bits from Star Trek was always the “we’re the only ship in the quadrant” bit. Yeah, because Starfleet doesn’t have about a dozen heavy cruisers and who knows how many light cruisers, patrol ships, science vessels, scout craft, etc, etc. I hated it when they used it in any of the series episodes, and I hated it when they used it in Khan.

    It’s a bad-enough excuse to send a single ship into an overwhelming situation (“Admiral, the entire Russian fleet is attacking Malta, and we only have one ship in those waters!” “Well, what are you waiting for? Send it in!”)… but in anything that might be a serious or life-threatening situation (which the loss of contact with Regula was), to send a ship with nothing but trainees is inexcusable. A fast scout would have been the ship to send, even if it took a bit longer to get there… after all, there was no indication of an emergency from Regula, just an overdue communique.

    Anyway, Kirk shouldn’t have gone, and you’re right, that wasn’t his fault. It was the fault of his superiors (not to mention a lazy screenwriter).

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    • The point is that they were at Earth, where there were thousands if not millions of experienced Starfleet personnel available– you DON’T take a trainee crew into a possibly dangerous situation like that!
      Consider the situation: Kirk knew someone was taking Genesis, they lost contact with the Reliant, signals were being jammed; that spells either an enemy attack or a mutiny.
      The whole plot, however, was just an excuse to turn Khan into a cheap Trek-version of Darth Vader, after STI’s poor showing against Star Wars… and accordingly, making Star Trek into a cheap Star Wars wannabe, i.e. junk-science, cheesy morals, senseless violence etc.
      And it followed this bad formula right down to Khan holing Chekov up by the neck, like Vader did to Captain Antilles…. a universal “bad guy” move. The only problem is that it flushed the entire Star Trek premise down the troilet.

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  28. The most important failure of “Wrath of Khan,” was that it missed the complete connection of the episode with Star Trek: KHAN WASN’T EVIL! Star Trek wasn’t about that, it broke away from cheap egocentric jingoism, towards greater understanding and depth.
    Khan represented Roddenberry’s break from Nietzsche’s “ubermensch” human ideal, which many futurists believed was the desired future of mankind as a superior being– but which Roddenberry believed was not man’s future where the greatest and most charismatic men would lead and the rest would folllow in lockstep, but rather a populist world of individual self-expression in voluntary cooperation with each other. This is shown when NOBODY WOULD FOLLOW Khan when he tries to recruit the crew, offering to make them superhuman by himself, and threatening to kill them if he doesn’t; the moral here was that man had changed as a civilization rather than as a species.
    This is in opposition to Khan’s saying “how little man himself has changed,” while saying that Kirk is “quite honestly inferior;” i.e he said that he wanted to unify humanity, which he believed had become stagnant and dependent on machines like in the movie “WALL-E.” He also didn’t hurt anyone, but only threatened to kill them as a bluff — as we saw, when he told everyone that Kirk was “dead,” but in reality Kirk wasn’t even unconscious when Khan removed him from the decompression-chamber. Likewise he didn’t torture anyone, or even allow his henchman to smack Uhura when she wouldn’t answer him. Finally, the crew of the Enterprise ADMIRED Khan, even though Spock was shocked at their “romanticizing a dictator,” since Vulcans had no such history for thousands of years. In short, Khan represented the great figures of human history, which was what Lt. “Old School History fan” McGivers nostalgized about, i.e. the greatness of great men.
    This is why Kirk dropped all charges and gave Khan his own world to rule: not because he was evil and needed to be exiled, but because it was a “terrible waste” to put him in a penal colony. McGivers also could have returned to duty, but chose to go with greatness.
    Thus when Khan referenced Milton (NOT Mellville) regarding “it is better to rule in Hell than serve in Heaven,” he meant that he’d rather live on an untamed planet as a king, than be an average citizen in 23rd century civilization where nobody would follow him. He was not a “criminal in exile who tried to steal Kirk’s ship and murder him after being shown hospitality.” Khan was a PRISONER on the Enterprise, but was still able to take it over by recruiting one of Kirk’s crew; but even she turned back and realized her mistake, when she realized that despotism wasn’t all that she nostalgically cracked it up to be.
    But this is to be expected: i.e. the original Star Trek contained a depth far beyond what shallow movie-audiences can possibly understand; they wouldn’t know Nietzche’s Ubermensch from Krypton’s Superman.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. And one more thing: What’s with the Kobyashi Maru test? In “Court Martial,” we’re told that there’s a particular test which a starship captain are given, which Kirk passed by Ben Finney failed; but it measured split-second ability to make decisions and SAVE the ship, not how one dealt with LOSING it! Seriously, how stupid is that? If you’re dead, isn’t that kind of MOOT how you’d deal with it in a simulation? Whatever happened to just doing your best and not freezing up under fire?

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