Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
August 23, 2017 3:55 AM - Subscribe

Back in command of the Enterprise, Admiral James T. Kirk meets an old flame and an old foe. Meanwhile, he wrestles with his own aging when confronted by a next generation: a brash new Vulcan lieutenant, and the son he never knew he had.

The background information below is selected from the exhaustive Star Trek fan wiki Memory Alpha.
SPOILERS AHEAD if you don't already know what happens at the end of this movie!

- Despite its weaknesses, Star Trek: The Motion Picture had been a box-office success, so it came as no surprise that Paramount Pictures decided to develop a sequel. Gene Roddenberry's first proposed storyline saw the Enterprise crew going back in time to make sure the Klingons did not stop the John F. Kennedy assassination. This idea was rejected and Roddenberry was forced to step into the background as "executive consultant" (at the request of Paramount executives who blamed him for the relative failure of the first film due to the constant re-writes he demanded).

- The screenplay for Star Trek II was written by director Nicholas Meyer, compiled from a number of drafts which all contained one or several dominant themes. One element was clearly going to be central to the audience's emotional response. Meyer was determined that his film would be about something and would do more than tell an adventure story. Meyer explained: "This was going to be a story in which Spock died, so it was going to be a story about death, and it was only a short hop, skip, and a jump to realize that it was going to be about old age and friendship. I don't think that any of those other scripts were about old age, friendship, and death."

- Meyer decided that while Khan had been waiting for a chance to avenge himself upon Kirk, he would have been reading. "I started thinking, 'What books does a superman take with him into exile?' At one point, Khan says, 'On Earth I was a prince', and certainly he's a fallen angel, so I picked all the books that were Lucifer-related – fallen angel – whether it was 'Moby Dick' or 'Paradise Lost' or 'King Lear', and began to build from there. I thought, 'He's probably been obsessively reading these books again and again until every word out of his mouth has been written by Shakespeare or Milton'. Actually, Melville was the one who finally took over; he just becomes completely Ahab."

- Newly-commissioned Paramount Television executive producer Harve Bennett, who took over the project from Roddenberry, was struck by Ricardo Montalban's performance as Khan in the original series episode "Space Seed" [FanFare discussion of "Space Seed" --ed.], and decided that he would make the perfect villain for the film.

- In November 1980, Bennett wrote a single-page outline called Star Trek: War of the Generations. In this story, Kirk is called to investigate a rebellion on a Federation world. En route he saves a woman he was once in love with and learns that their son – whom he never knew had been born – is one of the leaders of the rebellion. Upon arrival at the planet, Kirk is captured and sentenced to death by his own son before we learn that Khan is truly the mastermind behind the uprising. Kirk joins forces with his son to fight Khan, and the film ends with Kirk's son joining the crew of the Enterprise.

- Leonard Nimoy had made it clear that he was not keen to make a second Star Trek film. However, the opportunity to play his death scene was too good for Nimoy to pass up, and he agreed to come aboard. From this point on, all the scripts featured Spock's death.

- The next script, by Jack Sowards, was titled Star Trek: The Omega System, and introduced the idea that the Federation was preparing to test a terrible weapon known as the Omega System. At this point, art director Michael Minor made an invaluable contribution. Bennett was concerned that the Omega System was simply a weapon and that there was nothing uplifting about it, so Minor suggested turning it into a device for terraforming. Because it would work by reordering matter on a planet's surface, it could still be a terrible weapon in the wrong hands, but the Federation's goal was to create a paradise, not to kill millions of millions. Bennett was delighted at this, and, in recognition of its Biblical power, the Omega System became the Genesis Device.

- Asked to quantify the character of his approach, Meyer produced two examples. The first was that he brought a sense of humor to the project, which is not to say that he did not treat it with proper respect. "I think that putting humor into a serious movie makes the serious stuff more serious, and the humor becomes more of an explosive release." The other important decision he made was actually something he thought about when Bennett and Sallin had first asked him to direct the film. "I had the haziest notion of what Star Trek was, because I didn't really watch the show on television. I finally latched on to the idea that Captain Kirk and friends were really an outer-space series of novels that I had loved as a kid, by C.S. Forrester, called 'Captain Horatio Hornblower'. So I said, 'OK, this is 'Hornblower' in outer space; I've got it'. When I wrote the script in 12 days it was very, very, very Navy, or, as my late wife used to say, 'Nautical but nice.'"

- The biggest casting coup was giving a young Kirstie Alley the role of Saavik. "She said as a child she wanted to be Spock and that she was so in love with the role that she wore her ears to sleep. [...] She didn't have to find the role; she didn't have to work her way into it", Meyer pointed out. "She'd been living it somewhere in her head for years. There just wasn't a contest. I don't recall seeing another actor for that part who was as persuasive." In addition to her instinctive understanding of the role, Alley brought another, slightly more definable quality to her role. Meyer explained: "The thing about her is that she's beautiful, but she also had a slightly other-worldly quality. [...] She was also able to encompass that sort of flat unemotionality, but she's basically a comedian. What I didn't know was that that flatness, like Leonard's, frequently comes out of a kind of a deadpan. I realized that when I watched her doing it. Then, at the other end of it, there she was at Spock's funeral, weeping. I remember somebody came running up to me and said, 'Are you going to let her do that?' And I said, 'Yeah.' And they said, 'But Vulcans don't cry', and I said, 'Well, that's what makes this such an interesting Vulcan.'" In dialogue not retained in the final film, Saavik was described as being half-Romulan, which might have explained her tears.

- The production reused and expanded upon existing sets from the original film. The most obvious new addition was the torpedo room. Few people would realize it, but this set was actually a redressed version of the Klingon bridge from the first film. The torpedo room set featured a long channel where the torpedoes were loaded. Meyer wanted to have as much movement as possible in the action sequences, so he had Jennings put grates down over the channel that had to be lifted when the Enterprise went into battle.

- Meyer was unhappy with the Genesis cave set, combining live footage with a matte painting. He thought that the scene looked false and too constructed, and would have used a real location instead, but neither time nor budget would allow it.

- Director Nicholas Meyer had some very specific ideas about how the new uniforms should look. "I decided that this was going to be 'Hornblower' in outer space, so I said, 'Okay, if this is going to be the Navy, let's have them look like the Navy; they shouldn't be walking around in pajamas.' Which seemed to me to be what the uniforms in the first movie and the TV show looked like." Additionally, Meyer had one other, significant instruction for costume designer Robert Fletcher: he wanted the costumes to be reminiscent of the clothes worn in the film The Prisoner of Zenda.

- The U.S.S. Reliant is the first non-Constitution-class Starfleet starship design to be seen in Star Trek. The Reliant's registry number appeared in TOS: "Court Martial".

- No visitors were allowed on the set during the filming of Spock's death, keeping it a secret as much as possible. Nicholas Meyer remembered, when they shot the scene, he looked around and saw members of the crew, including cinematographer Gayne Rescher, crying, and did not understand their reason for bursting into tears. It was much later, he admitted, when he understood the significance of that scene.

- The visual effects for The Wrath of Khan were filmed quickly and efficiently – and, most importantly, they came in on budget. Unlike the first Star Trek feature, the effects were produced by Industrial Light & Magic, a company which would come to dominate the industry in the coming decades. Producer Robert Sallin recalled ILM's approach to the project: "They were incredible. The most professional, the most delightful, the most responsive; I couldn't say enough good things about the whole crew. It was an amazing experience."

- According to William Shatner's Star Trek Movie Memories, the original title of the film was The Undiscovered Country, the undiscovered country in this case being death. According to Shatner, as he told Chris Kreski in quoting Nicholas Meyer, Meyer was outraged when Paramount marketing exec Frank Mancuso renamed the film Star Trek: The Vengeance of Khan without consulting him. Meyer said that the title was ridiculous and that they would be forbidden to keep it with George Lucas making a Star Wars movie called Revenge of the Jedi at the same time. Months later, Paramount changed the subtitle to The Wrath of Khan, and Meyer hated that even more but was made to live with it, although it became a moot point when Lucas changed the title of his movie to Return of the Jedi. Meyer's original title was eventually used for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, which Meyer also directed.

- Since Kirk's birthdate was established in Federation computer records in the Star Trek: Enterprise episode "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II" to be March 22nd (actor William Shatner's actual birthday), this has been taken to mean that the beginning of this film is set on March 22nd, 2285.

- Khan's apparent recognition of Chekov and his remark "I never forget a face" are somewhat ironic, since Khan's appearance in "Space Seed" was in the first season and Chekov did not make his first appearance until Star Trek's second season (in the episode "Catspaw"). It is possible, however, that Chekov was on the Enterprise at the time and Khan had seen him off screen. In fact, as noted in the Special Edition DVD's text commentary, Walter Koenig often joked (at conventions and in interviews) that his character had made Khan wait overly long to use a bathroom on Khan's visit to the Enterprise and that was why Khan remembered his face so well.

- Released June 4, 1982, the film earned US$14,347,221 at the US box office in its opening weekend, a record at the time, which was broken two years later by Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom; this in turn was outgrossed by the next film in the series, The Search for Spock.

- The Wrath of Khan, the second Star Trek feature film installment, is traditionally regarded by fans as the best in the series, and considered by many non-fans as an excellent science-fiction picture. In 2014, it was ranked by Empire readers as #89 in a poll to determine the 301 greatest movies of all time.


"Captain's log, stardate 8130.3. Starship Enterprise on training mission to Gamma Hydra. Section 14, coordinates 22-87-4. Approaching Neutral Zone, all systems normal and functioning."

- Saavik's opening log


"Any suggestions, admiral?"
"Prayer, Mister Saavik. The Klingons don't take prisoners."

- Saavik and Kirk, after the Kobayashi Maru exercise


"'It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.' Message, Spock?"
"None that I am conscious of. Except, of course, happy birthday. Surely... the best of times."

- Kirk, reading from Spock's gift to him, A Tale of Two Cities


"Jim, I'm your doctor, and I'm your friend. Get back your command. Get it back before you turn into part of this collection. Before you really do grow old."

- McCoy, referring to Kirk's collection of antiques


"Every time we have dealings with Starfleet, I get nervous. We are dealing with something that... could be perverted into a dreadful weapon. Remember that overgrown Boy Scout you used to hang around with? That's exactly the kind of man..."
"Listen, kiddo, Jim Kirk was many things, but he was never a Boy Scout!"

- David and Carol


"If I may be so bold... it was a mistake for you to accept promotion. Commanding a starship is your first, best destiny. Anything else is a waste of material."

- Spock, to Kirk


"Were I to invoke logic, logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few."
"Or the one."

- Spock and Kirk


"He tasks me. He tasks me and I shall have him! I'll chase him round the moons of Nibia and round the Antares maelstrom and round perdition's flames before I give him up!"

- Khan


"As a matter of cosmic history, it has always been easier to destroy than to create."

- Spock


"Ah, Kirk... my 'old friend'. Do you know the Klingon proverb that tells us revenge is a dish that is best served cold? It is very cold... in space."

- Khan, before attacking the Enterprise


"I've done far worse than kill you. I've hurt you. And I wish to go on... hurting you. I shall leave you as you left me... as you left her. Marooned for all eternity in the center of a dead planet... buried alive. Buried alive."
"KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!!! KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!!!"

- Khan and Kirk


"I don't believe in a no-win scenario."

- Kirk to Saavik, on why he "cheated" on the Kobayashi Maru test the third time he took it


"It is a far far better thing I do than I have ever done before... a far – better resting place I go to than I have ever known."

- Kirk to Carol Marcus, looking at the newborn Genesis planet


Poster's Log:
Since Star Trek: Discovery comes out in about a month, I thought now would be a good time for a FanFare discussion of the "Genesis trilogy," like those of us doing the Deep Space Nine/Voyager posts had discussed some time ago. This film and the next two are really the only direct, serial-style sequels in big-screen Trek. Next week I'll post Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, and soon thereafter, I'll wrap up with Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.
Previously on FanFare: Star Trek (One): The Motion Picture.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (42 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
Great post! The movie has lost some of the emotional punch due to the sequels bringing Spock back but still the best Star Trek movie.
posted by KaizenSoze at 4:27 AM on August 23 [1 favorite]


I find it rather amusing to discover that the director and (uncredited) screenplay writer of what is widely considered the best Trek movie was not a Star Trek fan.

How is it possible that we make it all the way to movie 2 without seeing a non-Constitution class Starfleet ship?

The Horatio Hornblower and Navy references are obvious in hindsight. Heck, the whole pursuit scene where the Enterprise is hunting the Khan-captained Relient in the nebula is pulled tit for tat from every submarine movie ever. The uniforms are the most military looking we'll see until Enterprise gives their crew standard issue Navy poopie suits. (And of course, we also see MACOs wearing fairly standard 21st century cammies.)
posted by 2ht at 6:16 AM on August 23


How is it possible that we make it all the way to movie 2 without seeing a non-Constitution class Starfleet ship?

Money, mostly. TOS didn't have the money for that sort of thing; we don't see a Klingon cruiser until the third and last season (and, oddly, the first people we see using Klingon ships are the Romulans), and when they have to show another Constitution class ship that was damaged (the Constellation in "The Doomsday Machine"), it's a kit model that was scorched by a cigarette lighter. (Remember also that the transporters, which became an often-used plot device, came about to save money in production because filming the effect was cheaper than filming shuttle landings.)

Star Trek: The Motion Picture seemed to have the opposite problem: they had what was an extravagant budget, even one of the highest for any movie ever (although the reasons for that are surprisingly complex)--much higher than that for Star Wars, which of course had any number of ships of different sizes, classes, and variations, and put them all together in big set piece battles that were tightly choreographed--but didn't seem to know what to do with it. TMP wasn't that sort of movie, but it's still a bit of a let-down that what we got was the redesigned 1701, a few Klingon cruisers (more detailed than the TOS versions, but basically the same design), a couple of shuttles, and of course V'Ger. Nicholas Meyer, who wasn't familiar with the franchise, but maybe more importantly wasn't infected by Gene Roddenberry's personality cult, came in and laid a fresh eye on the franchise, and realized that, since it was really all about the Space Navy, maybe they could have at least one corker of a battle with some space pirates, or people who looked like such.

So, instead of space fighters having space dogfights, you had two capital ships of roughly equal firepower squaring off. It was a nice way of getting some of that spacewar action without simply ripping off Star Wars, and even though it was only one other ship, the Reliant design was an effective one, obviously of the same design school as the Enterprise while also being strikingly different.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:30 AM on August 23 [5 favorites]


Also too, CheesesOfBrazil, I'd argue for the inclusion of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, as it's a Nicholas Meyer film in which references to David Marcus (as well as a very Saavik-like character in Valeris) are present.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:32 AM on August 23 [4 favorites]


the Reliant design was an effective one, obviously of the same design school as the Enterprise while also being strikingly different.

Fun trivia: The Reliant was originally supposed to be the same Constitution class design as the Enterprise, but there was concern that would be confusing to audiences. So they created a new design out of similar "Starfleet parts", which originally was flipped over with the warp nacelles on top.


From Memory Alpha: (Do not click unless you want to go down the rabbit hole of Trek trivia)

The Miranda-class model was originally designed in a reversed orientation, with the nacelles above the dish and two counterbalancing torpedo launch pods below the dish. Lee Cole, however, later explained, that when the initial drawing was sent to Harve Bennett for approval, he viewed the drawings upside down. He liked the design and signed off on it. The visual effects team debated whether or not to send the sketches back to Bennett (who was in Israel at the time working on another project) with the correct orientation, but they decided that there was insufficient time to do so and decided to add a "rollbar" to balance out the suddenly dropped nacelles.
posted by Fleebnork at 7:50 AM on August 23 [2 favorites]


Star Trek: The Motion Picture had been a box-office success...Paramount executives who blamed him for the relative failure of the first film

Um...which was it? Success or failure? Or is Hollywood accounting involved here?
posted by Thorzdad at 7:52 AM on August 23


I'd argue for the inclusion of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

That would certainly succeed in including all the good ones.

And I'd say the "failure" of TMP is the peception that the studio could've made a movie for a fraction of the price that was equally successful. Basically, they spent too much money compared to how well the movie ended up doing.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 7:56 AM on August 23


The plot hole that always gets me about this perfect film is the whole ending with Khan supposedly not being able to think in 3 dimensional space. Of course it's his crew being unfamiliar with the controls or something, but Kirk's smug line about it kind of grates on me. And yes, I know; Kirk's smugness is plot, never plot hole.
posted by Catblack at 8:12 AM on August 23 [1 favorite]


I just want to know how Khan knows Klingon proverbs.
posted by Naberius at 8:42 AM on August 23 [2 favorites]


That does stick out, but his wife was a Starfleet historian, originally from the Enterpeise crew, so he could have picked it up from her. Or he could have read it in the Reliant's database (or the Enterprise's, back in Space Seed) while getting up to speed on current events.
posted by rodlymight at 8:52 AM on August 23 [3 favorites]


The plot hole that always gets me about this perfect film is the whole ending with Khan supposedly not being able to think in 3 dimensional space. Of course it's his crew being unfamiliar with the controls or something, but Kirk's smug line about it kind of grates on me.

OK, I love this movie to death and have seen it many times, but I'm not recalling this. Here's the video; Spock has the line about two-dimensional experience. Kirk takes that idea and runs with it, one of his considered gambles in the film, and proceeds to blow the shit out of Reliant. He then asks Uhura to signal the demand for surrender; in fact, I don't think he speaks with Khan after the entry to the nebula - and his smugness in that transmission was a deliberate goad, a tactical play to bring Khan after him. (In fact, Kirk and Khan never share the stage together for an instant in this film - they are always physically separate, which I think is an awesome choice in this movie).

Anyways, that brings me back to the concept of Kirk drift, wherein the idea that what our popculture trope of what a character is and what they actually were depicted as are sometimes two different things.

In all honesty, folks (and I've said this about this film in many other comments on here) - go back and watch it again if you haven't seen it recently. This is Star Trek II: Kirk's Midlife Crisis where a lot of his past decisions come back to haunt him. It will remind you of some things about Kirk you may have forgotten because Kirk has been depicted in shorthand in the media in the past several decades as a brash womanizer; here you see him as a commander who cares deeply about his ship and crew; who doubts himself, but largely only in private (go see TOS The Naked Time for another example, but also consider his moment on the bridge after the first encounter with Reliant where he publicly, in front of everyone, takes the blame for fucking up); who takes risks, yes, but risks that are considered; who continually offers himself in place of his crew as a sacrifice; who feels evident pain about his decision to not be a part of his son's life, or part of Carol's life - a woman he obviously still cares deeply about. If you can, find a copy of the director's cut, which restores two really important things - the knowledge that the cadet Scotty carries to the bridge is Scotty's nephew (taking that moment away from Scotty's character is one of worst disservices ever, IMO); and a quiet moment between Kirk and McCoy following the death of Scotty's nephew in which Kirk bald face admits that they only got away because he knew something about the technology that Khan didn't - an advantage he doesn't have the second time around.

Ah, gawd, you guys! I have had a huge deadline dropped on me at work today, or I could go on and fucking on about this movie. It's flawed, but also so magnificent you don't care; the music; the visuals; the tremendous, ultimate moments between the big three of Kirk, Spock and McCoy; the absolute rawness that Shatner is able to bring to Spock's death scene. I love this film; it's the best Star Trek film ever.

I will return with more thoughts later, I am sure.
posted by nubs at 9:23 AM on August 23 [21 favorites]


I just noticed that the name of the guy who gets vaporized by Terrell is the same as the name of a major planet in Star Wars: Rogue One. Ironic given the Vengeance of Khan/Revenge of the Jedi stuff.

Also too, CheesesOfBrazil, I'd argue for the inclusion of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, as it's a Nicholas Meyer film in which references to David Marcus (as well as a very Saavik-like character in Valeris) are present.

Saavik-replacement character, let's be frank. And Jack, if you want to do posts for The Final Frontier and The Actual Undiscovered Country when the time comes, I would be quite pleased. I definitely have thoughts and feelings about those movies too.

Um...which was it? Success or failure? Or is Hollywood accounting involved here?

Success in terms of cash, but perhaps it didn't seem AS successful when viewed through the Star Wars lens…and "relative failure" w/r/t what Trekkies and non-Trekkies alike wanted from a Trek film. Memory Alpha says of TMP: "The total gross was, considering the estimated US$10-$20 million marketing expenditures incurred, reported to be a disappointment for the studio. [...] it ultimately barely broke even in the home market if at all." Yet at the same time, apparently the studio decided to do the second one shortly after TMP's premiere, which is interesting.

The plot hole that always gets me about this perfect film is the whole ending with Khan supposedly not being able to think in 3 dimensional space.

This bugged me less once I really considered what Spock says immediately before the line about 3-dimensional space: "[Khan] is intelligent, but not experienced." A lack of experience, combined with megalomania, can have pretty disastrous consequences (as anyone in the United States would readily attest right now). I actually kind of like, therefore, that this superintelligent opponent is brought down by good ol' space-navy tactics.

Anyways, that brings me back to the concept of Kirk drift, wherein the idea that what our popculture trope of what a character is and what they actually were depicted as are sometimes two different things.

Yeah. And I feel like Kirk Drift influenced J. J. Trek, and I feel like that's a pretty significant part of why I detest those movies so much.

Because the thing with this movie is that it made me fond of the Kirk character. I was too young to see TMP in the theater, and I'm pretty sure I only saw this on (non-director's-cut) home video back in the day. The Voyage Home was undoubtedly what made me fond of Star Trek, but watching reruns of TOS did a lot less for me than TWOK (combined with TVH). I might even go so far as to say that, if you see this movie a couple of times, you understand Kirk. Your understanding may not be quite as complete if you haven't seen a good number of TOS episodes, but it's there.

It's flawed, but also so magnificent you don't care; the music; the visuals; the tremendous, ultimate moments between the big three of Kirk, Spock and McCoy; the absolute rawness that Shatner is able to bring to Spock's death scene. I love this film; it's the best Star Trek film ever.

Magnificent: good word choice. I agree on all counts. I think my most recent rewatch may have been the first time since I was very young that I could get through Kirk's eulogy without tearing up.

I would also add: best space battle sequence until Return of the Jedi, and best large-ship space battle sequence ever. It does so much with so little.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 10:36 AM on August 23 [2 favorites]


I had the great fortune of seeing this as a double feature with The Thing at a special Spirit of '82 screening at the New Beverly. Nicholas Meyer said a few words beforehand.

As I age, this film gets better and better.
posted by infinitewindow at 11:00 AM on August 23 [2 favorites]


The great Cinerama in Seattle featured Wrath a couple of years ago. It was fantastic seeing it up on that massive screen.

Man how I miss adventure movies like this rather than action flicks. I mean, who doesn't like an action movie, but adventures are just so much more satisfying, having a plot unfold on the screen rather than flash by.

Speaking of adventure movies, the Cinerama, Star Trek, and Nick Meyer, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country will be shown on September 02 as part of the Cinerama's 70MM festival. There's a bunch more movies too, if you're in Seattle soon. The festival itself kicks off tomorrow with a screening of Lawrence of Arabia.
posted by los pantalones del muerte at 1:11 PM on August 23 [5 favorites]


Paul Winfield, who played Captain Terrell in ST2:TWOK played Captain Dathon in the classic TNG episode Darmok.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 1:22 PM on August 23 [7 favorites]


If you're interested in more work by Nicholas Meyer, I highly recommend The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, a Sherlock Holmes adventure with a screenplay by Meyer based on his novel. It stars Nicol Williamson as Holmes, Robert Duvall as Watson(!), Alan Arkin as Sigmund Freud, Laurence Olivier as Moriarty and Vanessa Redgrave as Lola Devereaux. Joel Grey also appears.

It's not one for Holmes purists, but it's highly entertaining.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 1:28 PM on August 23 [1 favorite]


I love this movie so much and I deeply resent JJ Abrams for what he took and twisted from it for Into Darkness. I think about the people that may have seen Into Darkness and THEN go watch Wrath of Khan?! THE EMOTIONAL IMPACT IS LOST. LOST, I TELL YOU. (I may have a lot of feelings on this.)
posted by liquorice at 5:12 PM on August 23 [8 favorites]


From IMDb:

Star Trek: The Motion Picture:
Budget
$35,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend
$11,926,421 (USA) (9 December 1979) (857 Screens)

Gross
$39,658,976 (USA) (23 December 1979)
$24,289,369 (USA) (16 December 1979)
$11,926,421 (USA) (9 December 1979)
$82,258,456 (USA)
$7,400,405 (UK)
$139,000,000 (Worldwide) (26 July 2012)
$139,000,000 (Worldwide)

Weekend Gross
$12,075,000 (USA) (23 December 1979) (1 Screen)
$7,215,484 (USA) (16 December 1979) (857 Screens)
$11,926,421 (USA) (9 December 1979) (857 Screens)

Rentals
$56,000,000 (USA)
$79,000,000 (Worldwide)


---

Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan

Budget
$11,200,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend
$14,347,221 (USA) (6 June 1982) (1,621 Screens)

Gross
$78,633,541 (USA) (17 October 1982)
$78,286,635 (USA) (10 October 1982)
$77,899,943 (USA) (3 October 1982)
$77,429,039 (USA) (26 September 1982)
$76,764,452 (USA) (19 September 1982)
$76,112,497 (USA) (12 September 1982)
$75,207,582 (USA) (6 September 1982)
$74,315,012 (USA) (29 August 1982)
$73,160,218 (USA) (22 August 1982)
$72,162,280 (USA) (15 August 1982)
$70,569,881 (USA) (8 August 1982)
$69,087,488 (USA) (1 August 1982)
$66,876,358 (USA) (25 July 1982)
$64,494,039 (USA) (18 July 1982)
$61,133,473 (USA) (11 July 1982)
$57,725,957 (USA) (5 July 1982)
$50,075,734 (USA) (27 June 1982)
$42,117,952 (USA) (20 June 1982)
$31,028,226 (USA) (13 June 1982)
$14,347,221 (USA) (6 June 1982)
$78,912,963 (USA)
$2,323,800 (UK)
$97,000,000 (Worldwide)

Weekend Gross
$210,682 (USA) (17 October 1982) (204 Screens)
$204,336 (USA) (10 October 1982) (193 Screens)
$271,486 (USA) (3 October 1982) (226 Screens)
$416,995 (USA) (26 September 1982) (305 Screens)
$405,621 (USA) (19 September 1982) (300 Screens)
$448,741 (USA) (12 September 1982) (296 Screens)
$750,182 (USA) (6 September 1982) (337 Screens)
$679,531 (USA) (29 August 1982) (370 Screens)
$660,374 (USA) (22 August 1982) (390 Screens)
$695,543 (USA) (15 August 1982) (423 Screens)
$1,142,407 (USA) (8 August 1982) (593 Screens)
$1,309,277 (USA) (1 August 1982) (655 Screens)
$1,587,957 (USA) (25 July 1982) (658 Screens)
$2,027,805 (USA) (18 July 1982) (762 Screens)
$2,767,243 (USA) (11 July 1982)
$4,524,623 (USA) (5 July 1982)
$4,546,175 (USA) (27 June 1982)
$6,231,736 (USA) (20 June 1982)
$9,406,638 (USA) (13 June 1982)
$14,347,221 (USA) (6 June 1982)

Rentals
$40,000,000 (USA)
$72,000,000 (Worldwide)

posted by zarq at 5:59 PM on August 23 [1 favorite]


I actually kind of like, therefore, that this superintelligent opponent is brought down by good ol' space-navy tactics.

I love Khan, and this is one of the things I love the most about it: the climax features starship commanders actually commanding, rather than punching or swordfighting. God, I wish Trek did more of that.

If you're a Spotify user, it's worth noting that Horner's score for Khan is available over there, and it plays great as a thing to sit down and listen to. I *love* driving to it, and I can't tell you how many comics I've inked with that thing blaring....

The other thing I always bring up: after Khan, Meyer moved on to direct The Day After. Watching was very instrumental in moving Reagan from nuclear aggressiveness to conciliation with the Soviets; it led to the summits with Gorbachev. Nicholas Meyer was on a hell of a run in the early 80s.
posted by the phlegmatic king at 7:18 AM on August 24 [6 favorites]


If you're interested in more work by Nicholas Meyer, I highly recommend The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, a Sherlock Holmes adventure with a screenplay by Meyer based on his novel. It stars Nicol Williamson as Holmes, Robert Duvall as Watson(!), Alan Arkin as Sigmund Freud, Laurence Olivier as Moriarty and Vanessa Redgrave as Lola Devereaux. Joel Grey also appears.

Also the original Time After Time with Malcolm McDowell and David Warner, as H.G. Wells and Jack the Ripper respectively.

He was already adept on working with characters that someone else had created so it's not surprising that he did so well with Kirk and Spock.
posted by octothorpe at 8:29 AM on August 24 [3 favorites]


I love this movie so much and I deeply resent JJ Abrams for what he took and twisted from it for Into Darkness. I think about the people that may have seen Into Darkness and THEN go watch Wrath of Khan?! THE EMOTIONAL IMPACT IS LOST. LOST, I TELL YOU. (I may have a lot of feelings on this.)

Into Darkness is a pale, cheap attempt at emotional manipulation - it leans on Wrath of Khan so heavily for its beats to land that I was flabbergasted when watching it.

I mean, I actually had some hope in the outset with it. ST:II works well in part because the villain of the piece is a personification of what the captain is dealing with - Kirk's past choices and decisions. He's grappling with middle age, with mistakes made and doors that are closed. Khan is all of those wrong decisions come back to avenge themselves on Kirk.

So, let us consider Into Darkness - NuKirk is brash, reckless, a danger to his crew and ship. He lacks the responsibility and care a commander should have. I mean, we're fucking told this by the movie point blank. So when we figured out what was going on with Khan - found, thawed, the rest of his crew and people held fucking hostage - I thought "wow; they are again going to use Khan as a foil for the captain in terms of his personal qualities. Khan is in the fucking right here, and doing all he can to rescue his crew because that is what a commander does. Kirk and Khan will work together to fight Starfleet and set this right - and wouldn't the great fucking twist be that it is Khan who sacrifices himself to save the Enterprise and his people; Khan who tells Kirk 'the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one'. Kirk learns his lesson from Khan. It would've fucked with the fandom's expectations of a Khan story; and for the new fans (which is what I thought this reboot was supposed to be about, getting the franchise in front of those people who didn't grow up on it) it would have been a great, accessible story.

Instead, Khan becomes the final boss villain. Kirk dies instead of Spock, as a an attempt at a "fuck you twist" to the fans, but that twist is meaningless unless you have a history with Star Trek.

Into Darkness failed to realize why ST:II is such a great movie - it isn't the action (there is actually very little), it isn't the death of Spock...it's the characters, stupid. It's Kirk struggling with his midlife crisis; it's Spock taking his logic to the ultimate end; it's Kirk facing death and mortality and realizing he can face those things. But when your characters are just a couple of personality traits turned up to 11, which is what the reboots did, you can't do that. So you get a vengeful Spock beating on Khan while they fly through San Francisco and everything blows up, because why not blow the budget on special effects, we've got no story here.

As you may notice, I have feelings about this as well.
posted by nubs at 9:03 AM on August 24 [15 favorites]


I had successfully blocked most of "... Into Darkness" until I'd read your comment. Bleh. If I never see another half-remake/half-reboot movie, it'll be too soon. I'm so tired of this stuff. Tell new stories, dammit.
posted by octothorpe at 9:56 AM on August 24 [1 favorite]


Spock's death was one of the greatest heroic sacrifices in the history of cinema. He assessed the situation instantly, and stood to face his fate unflinchingly. I'm with KaizenSoze: Resurrecting him was bullshit.

I mean, I get that there would probably be no more Star Trek whatsoever if they hadn't. And I also get that III wasn't just desperately retconning, as Spock did plant the resurrection kit into McCoy in II. But yup, this is the hill I choose.
posted by whuppy at 11:15 AM on August 24


One of my favorite instances of physical acting is when Nimoy straightens his jacket as he stands up in the engine room to say goodbye to Kirk. Spock was just not going to die in a wrinkled uniform.
posted by octothorpe at 11:34 AM on August 24 [13 favorites]


One of my favorite instances of physical acting is when Nimoy straightens his jacket as he stands up in the engine room to say goodbye to Kirk

That, and then the fact that he walked into the glass wall without being aware of it. Those two moments were huge for the contrast they provide; he straightens his jacket like Spock would if all were normal and then he walks into the wall, which Spock would never do unless everything was wrong.
posted by nubs at 11:39 AM on August 24 [12 favorites]


If you're in the USA and you want to see KHAAAAAAN on the big screen, you'll have your chance next month.

No news on when we'll be able to see the far better version of Into Darkness being pitched in this thread on any screen.
posted by Servo5678 at 12:25 PM on August 24 [5 favorites]


If you're in the USA and you want to see KHAAAAAAN on the big screen, you'll have your chance next month.

<8D

God bless you, Fathom Events.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 12:48 PM on August 24 [1 favorite]


No news on when we'll be able to see the far better version of Into Darkness being pitched in this thread on any screen.

They have my number; all I've gotten back is a restraining order.
posted by nubs at 1:56 PM on August 24 [2 favorites]


I never watched the endless reruns of the hokey old TOS when I was a kid, but a friend wanted to see this so bad. I decided to watch an episode before going, and as luck would have it the episode that week was Space Seed. The next day we went to Wrath of Khan. Needless to say it sparked a bit of a mania with me for a while, and I've loved Trek ever since.

I think outsiders bring a vital contribution to franchises like this. Fans outsize things, like making the most Trektastic uniforms, often pushing key elements to their extreme. The Khan uniforms are my favourites, because they're done from the right direction - being a uniform first, then making them Trek.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 4:56 PM on August 24 [2 favorites]


I was watching cattle-call auditions for a theater festival in Seattle in 1988, and one guy did Spock's death scene for his monologue. He treated the theater's upstage wall as the containment barricade, so he was 30 feet away from the front row, playing a quiet scene to a wall, facing away from the directors.

It's one of my favorite theater experiences of all time.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 6:10 PM on August 24 [6 favorites]


Mike Daisey's Moby Dick monologue goes surprisingly deep on the production history of Wrath of Khan (if you don't mind sitting through the Moby Dick stuff and acting stuff and the Mike Daisey Mike Daiseying it up.) It's been a while, but I remember finding it pretty interesting.

Great post, thank you!
posted by jameaterblues at 7:20 PM on August 24 [2 favorites]


I swear I once saw a video art project in a contemporary art museum - someone had taken just the clip of Kirk screaming "KHAAAAAAN!" and manipulated it, isolating two- or three-second segments to loop a few times, run backwards and forwards a few times, playing with the speeds, etc. to stretch the whole eleven-second moment out into a several minute-long clip (the "Khaaaaaan" bit was drawn out quite long of course). It was oddly fascinating, especially with the weird little mouth twitches you don't notice William Shatner is doing before he shouts looped to repeat several times.

While looking for that clip, I also found this kind of cool fan theory about why that moment is not an example of William Shatner overacting.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:28 AM on August 25


I didn't know that was fan theory, it seems pretty obvious on a second viewing that Kirk was just playing up his distress to make Khan think that he's won.
posted by octothorpe at 5:03 AM on August 25 [1 favorite]


I love the nauticalness of this movie. I wish they did more of it in other Star Trek stuff. My ideal would be Aubrey/Maturin in space (guess I'll just have to write an Ancillary Aubrey/Maturin). It's not really just the nautical flavor itself, it's the basic idea of the ships having positions that matter, and the structure that comes of it, even though all that is at a very basic level in ST2. (The nebula is too convenient, too literally analogous to a storm in a sailing ship battle.)
posted by fleacircus at 7:13 AM on August 25


I love the nauticalness of this movie. I wish they did more of it in other Star Trek stuff.

It happens a couple of times in the first few seasons of TNG, and in a vague way sometimes on DS9. But I agree, it's something this franchise can and should do a lot of. With Meyer as one of the brains behind Discovery, perhaps that will happen! Their uniforms definitely have that more-naval quality.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 7:21 AM on August 25


(The nebula is too convenient, too literally analogous to a storm in a sailing ship battle.)

It's necessary; looking at this from a Dolyist perspective, the Enterprise has to be near crippled or else it could easily outrun/outgun the Reliant; there would be no final encounter between them because the Enterprise at a minimum would have fled the area and transmitted what was going on to Starfleet.

But you can't send Kirk into battle against his past demons and self-doubt at a disadvantage; so the nebula levels the playing field to Kirk against Khan, two great tactical minds. And Kirk wins, it should be noted, because he seeks out and listens to the insight of Spock - "his pattern indicates two dimensional thinking". Khan, however, pretty much ignores all advice he is given; he bridles at any suggestion that they don't pursue the Enterprise, that they slow down. Khan thinks in two dimensions both in terms of his understanding of the battlefield and in how he works - his mind against Kirk; Kirk, however, draws on the knowledge, skills, and insight of those around him to help make better decisions. Because up until Spock points it out to him, Kirk is also thinking in two dimensions in terms of tactics.

Anyways, I'm flipping through my copy of The Fifty Year Mission and finding some tidbits that I don't think are in this excellent post yet:
-On the script:
Nimoy: "...(At the time) I was really adamant that I would not work on Stark Trek II because I had been so frustrated with the other (ST: The Motion Picture) and I was feeling really negative about this whole thing."

Sowards (wrote the first draft of the script, originally titled Star Trek: The Omega System, changed on a later draft to the Genesis Project. Script included Spock dying early, in a death described as "meaningless"; but also has the key concepts of Kirk reunited with an old flame and his unknown son; and Khan as the villain, a manipulative figure who has developed psychic abilities since Space Seed): "When Harve and I had our first meeting, Harve said 'Look, Nimoy has refused to do it.' I said, 'You want Nimoy to do it?' He said 'Yeah,' and I told him to dial Nimoy's number. He picked up the phone, dialed it and said 'What do I say?' I said, 'You say, Leonard, how would you like to play your death scene?' And Leonard's comeback was 'Where does it come in the picture?'...And I said 'Right up front. Right in the very beginning.' A minute or two later Harve hung up and said 'Leonard will do it.' Of course, when we wrote it, it came in the very beginning. But every time we wrote a little bit more, we moved it back and we moved it back..."

Nimoy: "(Harve) caught me completely by surprise with that one. The more I thought about it, the more I thought 'Well, maybe that's the honest thing to do. Finish it properly rather than turn your back on it.'...

After Sowards, Samuel Peeples took a crack at the script, a version called The New Star Trek which got rid of Khan altogether, introducing alien villains, and had Spock reaching out from beyond the grave to talk with Kirk and McCoy: "I didn't like the basic premise. My personal objection to the original version was simply that it was cast too much in the mold of the 1967 Star Trek episodes...Tradition and deja vu and nostalgia cannot be major influences in the new Star Trek...I didn't hesitate to break old barriers, try new themes, ideas, dialogue and characterization...In the end though, I was never actually given an assignment, and never asked for one. I wasn't happy with what I wrote and neither was the producer, so it just died."

Bennett took a swing at the script himself, basing it on Soward's work, with input from Judy Burns (writer of "The Tholian Web"): "I could kick myself now that I didn't rewrite it, because almost everything I suggest to Harve was used in the rewrite. Since Leonard Nimoy wanted Spock to die, I said to Harve 'You musn't kill him in such a fashion that he can't be brought back.'...He also died in such a way that there was no emotional impact on the viewers, and I said what they were missing in that script was the relationship between Kirk and Spock, which was so critical and which ultimately ended up in the scene between the two of them as Spock is dying. Originally, that scene didn't exist."

They sent the script out, looking for directors, and were turned down. Robert Sallin: "I had put together a list of about thirty to fourty directors, and I was almost universally turned down. Nobody wanted to touch Star Trek, nobody wanted to do a sequel, nobody wanted to do science fiction or anything with special effects...One day my secretary suggested Nick Meyer."

Nick was a fledging director, and a writer and was approached to be the director and to maybe do a "quiet rewrite" of the script. In order to meet the deadline of having a shooting script to ILM in twelve days so that the visual effects could be produced, Meyer agreed to forgo money and credit on the writing of the script. Robert Sallin: "It is, in all candor, Nick's uncredited rewrite that is on the screen...Nick never took credit for it, and he told me his agent said he was crazy."

George Takei was unhappy with how little Sulu had to do in the script, but promises from Bennett got him to show up for the first day of filming without a contract. However, the small additions that had been made to give Sulu more to do wound up being cut.

DeForest Kelley also turned it down at first, feeling the early scripts were too busy and didn't work and that the role was not meaningful. Shatner was nervous after the first film, but was excited by the final script as was Kelley.

Nicholas Meyer: "Interestingly enough, Star Trek II is not very much about science fiction, the Genesis Planet aside. Its themes are entirely earthbound - death, aging, friendship."

Keeping the surprise:

Roddenberry was very much opposed to Spock's death.

Deborah Arakelian, on trying to prevent spoilers: "There were only like six or seven copes of the story outline and only two people who needed to know. Harve came to me and said "I need you to devise a way that is somebody leaks this we might be able to track it back to the person who leaked it." It was a typo. Everybody had a distinct typo. Literally it was like a period snuck onto each page...this rudimentary code actually worked because at one point it was leaked, it was published, and instead of retyping the text it was just photographically put out there in one of the rags...I can say with 100 percent certain that it was Gene's copy that was leaked. There was nothing Harve could do about it because it was Gene's copy."

Bennett: "...But now we're confronted with the world knowing we're going to kill him (Spock), so that ended the surprise. I then had to really convince Leonard that we could make it work, and told him how..."

Meyer: "...we were all still mumbling about getting letters and killing Spock. And the simulator scene in my script had already been written and I had started the movie off with it. But without the death of Spock. So I said 'We kill him in the simulator, right at the beginning.'"

Arakelian: "Starting out with the Kobayashi Maru was great because it threw all of the really hard core people off. It was just a publicity thing. They were not really killing Spock."
posted by nubs at 11:40 AM on August 25 [7 favorites]


It's necessary; looking at this from a Dolyist perspective...

I think you're talking about Watsonian vs. Doylist? I'll die before I use these terms ٩(ఠ益ఠ)۶

I don't have a problem with the narrative purpose of the nebula. I'm not trying to be too Tysonian, just saying that the story was obviously conceived with the nebula being like a storm or a fog bank. I was saying things don't gotta be quite so literally nautical that nebulae are written as space weather.
posted by fleacircus at 1:01 PM on August 25


I was saying things don't gotta be quite so literally nautical that nebulae are written as space weather.

Fair point; I think that is one of the things Trek sometimes struggles with when they want the nautical feel; there's no horizon, there's no "weather", and so they create oddball bits of space where sensors and shields don't work so the combat between ships feels more intimate.
posted by nubs at 3:05 PM on August 25


Upon rewatching, a few things stood out:

- When Khan hears that Kirk is an admiral he says "Admiral..." three times, which is echoed later by Kirk when he shouts "Khan!" three times.

- I don't recall any of the scenes on the Enterprise depicting any female crewmembers apart from Saavik and Uhura. Certainly not in engineering. That was disappointing. Khan's crew had several women.

- The puppet of the adult brain control creature was really beautifully made

- Carol Marcus all but disappears from the movie after they get beamed back aboard Enterprise. I think she comes on again near the end, but she was totally sidelined in favor of David.

- Where did all the matter come from that made up the Genesis planet? The device was intended to be used on an already-existing planet/moon/asteroid, it never looked as though it was intended to generate a planetary body on its own. If the matter was supposed to be from the nebula, well the nebula was blown away by the initial explosion.

- Ricardo Montalban was so good. Especially when you consider that he did almost all of his acting facing just past the camera, with no one there to act against. Other than the scene on the planet, he was mostly looking at an off-camera viewscreen.

- I'm a huuuuuge fan of Jerry Goldsmith's score for Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and I was rather surprised that what ultimately became the theme for that movie motion picture (and which became the title theme for Star Trek: The Next Generation) did not appear at all in this film. I'm not complaining, Horner's score is excellent. I just thought that theme had cemented itself as the main theme, but I was wrong.

- The script for this movie is great, and it shows how interesting a story can be when it's told by people who care about and have fun with language, and who know about such now-deprecated things as symbolism, character development and building tension. Scripts for action-adventure movies these days seem to do little more than string together action set-pieces, with a smattering of whedonesque snarky repartee. I recently rewatched Raiders of the Lost Ark, and it too had wonderful character writing as well as quieter moments to help shape the story. There are movies nowadays that do that too, but the mainstream factory movies seem to have decided that such qualities are superfluous and unnecessary to sell tickets.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 4:12 PM on September 4 [3 favorites]


Where did all the matter come from that made up the Genesis planet? The device was intended to be used on an already-existing planet/moon/asteroid, it never looked as though it was intended to generate a planetary body on its own. If the matter was supposed to be from the nebula, well the nebula was blown away by the initial explosion.

My personal interpretation was always that the nebula's matter wasn't so much "blown away" as "sucked in" to the Genesis effect, and that in essence what came to be called the Genesis Planet should really have been called the Mutara Planet Formerly Known as a Nebula. There may be some apocryphal basis for this, originating from a novel or something. This might also account for the planet's instability, since the device was never intended to be detonated within a nebula. But the whole protomatter/Genesis-effect stuff is pretty vaguely defined, so *shrug*.

Scripts for action-adventure movies these days seem to do little more than string together action set-pieces, with a smattering of whedonesque snarky repartee. I recently rewatched Raiders of the Lost Ark, and it too had wonderful character writing as well as quieter moments to help shape the story. There are movies nowadays that do that too, but the mainstream factory movies seem to have decided that such qualities are superfluous and unnecessary to sell tickets.

I think that's due in large part to the fact that subtle character-driven moments and thoughtful dialogue do not translate well between cultures, and if it wasn't for the international markets, Hollywood would be an economic crater right now. This current thread on the Blue is relevant here. The post's link is a lot less interesting than the MeFites' discussion thereof.

But yeah, it's quite sad. And on top of that, isn't it sad how young people these days are so quick to dismiss "old movies," yet also freely admit that recent movies suck? WATCH THE OLD MOVIES, dammit, there's plenty of them. </offmylawn>
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 5:59 AM on September 5


Vox wrote last year about how so many newer action films have little or no second act which is where the character development usually happens. They tend to just jump from the set-up to the climax and blow off any interesting bits in the middle.
posted by octothorpe at 8:04 AM on September 5


Carol Marcus all but disappears from the movie after they get beamed back aboard Enterprise. I think she comes on again near the end, but she was totally sidelined in favor of David.

The actress was also disappointed not to have a role in ST: III, from what I've read - she thought maybe she'd done something that people didn't like or annoyed someone somehow. Maybe this belongs in the ST:III thread, but when they put the script together, they realized that they couldn't have her in ST:III because it diffused the focus on what went wrong with Genesis from David to include her; either she was complicit in his use of protomatter, or she was ignorant of it - neither of which reflects well on her character.

Which is a shame, because one of the fallout pieces from ST: II should have been Kirk grappling with both being a father to an adult son and his relationship with Carol Marcus as a result; that final scene of the three of them watching the sunrise on the Genesis planet together should have been the start of a new, different adventure for Kirk...
posted by nubs at 8:58 AM on September 5 [1 favorite]


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