It has been 40 years since the second Star Trek film, The Wrath of Khan, was released in the theatres. This now classic film saved the franchise, as the first movie had been rather underwhelming. When my oldest son told me that Fathom Events was sponsoring the movie for a week in the theatres and wanted to know if I’d like to go, I was ALL IN! While Star Wars has been an easy sell to my children, and all three are fans of that franchise, sadly, none (until now) have shown any interest in the Star Trek universe.
In preparation for watching the movie, we first watched the episode Space Seed (1967) which was one of the last episodes of season one of TOS. My God- was it equal parts awesome and cringy! The Enterprise crew come upon an old spaceship of 1990s origin, a time referred to as WWIII and the Eugenics War, thus records were spotty during that era. The ship is named Botany Bay, in reference to the penal colony of Australia from the late 1700s to the early 1800s. Kirk, Spock, Scotty and ship historian McGivers beam down and find 70+ people in deep hypersleep. The first to revive was no other than Khan Noonoen Singh, a genetically enhanced human who ruled much of Earth in the 1990s. McGiver is much taken by him, attracted to his charisma, and the feeling is mutual. As the rest of his followers awaken, he convinces McGivers to help him overthrow the Enterprise, in a disturbing masochistic scene. Of course, they don’t succeed, and in a surprising move, Kirk offers them sanctuary on a nearby uninhabited planet, with McGivers very willingly choosing to go with Khan. In the last lines of the episode, Spock and Kirk ponder what their society will be like 100 years from now.
Flash forward fifteen years, and Kirk has now been promoted to Admiral but a recent birthday makes him feel old and out-of-touch. Spock and Scotty are training a new batch of recruits on the Enterprise while it is docked, and Kirk, Bones, Uhura and Sulu head to the ship together for a tour. In the meantime, Chekov, who is now a first officer on another ship, and his captain encounter Khan and his remaining crew on the now desolate desert planet, that was knocked off orbit six months after they arrived. Khan’s wife and many of his followers are dead and he wants vengeance! This all ties in with a group of scientists who are developing the Genesis device, that alters dead matter into new life. Khan is able to use Chekov’s ship to capture the Genesis tool and they go into battle with Kirk and his ship of young and untested crew members. While Khan has the chance to escape with his followers with an incredible cargo, instead he is a revenge-obsessed megalomaniac, who is determined to make Kirk pay. An epic battle and a devastating sacrifice are made, while these two men helm their ships in a game of cat and mouse.
While I had seen both the original episode and the movie years ago, it was obviously the first time for both for my son. He laughed at the sexism (both unintentional and intentional) found in Space Seed, but he was impressed with the movie and now wants to watch the fourth movie, The Voyage Home (the one with the whales!) with me in the future. As with books and movies you revisit years later, you pick up on new things that you didn’t notice or had forgotten about. Why was Khan now so old, yet his followers were so young? I was glad that my son also noticed the glaring inconsistency with Chevok (which the actor later admitted knowing about, but he didn’t want to ruin his chance for a juicy scene) but I was truly bothered by the lack of character development that was given to Uhura and Sulu. In light of Nichelle Nichol’s recent death, it made me angry to see how little they gave her and some of the other characters to do in these movies. I still cried at Spock’s sacrifice and admired the brio Ricardo Montalban brought to the role of Khan.
This was a fun experience to share with my son, and reminded me why I became a fan of Star Trek so many years ago. Live long and prosper, my friends!