Star Trek: Wrath of Khan


While I will argue that The Motion Picture is a valid and essential Star Trek experience, nevertheless, ‘The Wrath of Khan’ probably rank at the very top of every Trekkie’s ‘best of ‘ list.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture had come out to tepid reviews from both fans and critics two years earlier. And despite a decent box office intake, the series’ future was filled with doubt. The Star Trek franchise was at a crossroads. In the second installment, therefore, things were to change. The film was given a smaller budget and Gene Roddenberry’s vision took second seat next to the characters as they drive the helm with the director Nicholas Meyer brought on board as director.

Working from an original screenplay by Jack Sowards, director Nicholas Meyer rewrote the script, crafting a story that makes no bones about its focus on aging and death, while still delivering action and adventure in the 23rd century. Meyer attempted to change the look of Star Trek to match the nautical atmosphere he envisioned and stay within budget. The Enterprise, for example, was given a ship’s bell, boatswain’s call, and more blinking lights and signage. Production designer Joseph Jennings used existing elements from The Motion Picture that had been left standing after filming was completed, to save money on set design.

Sixty-five percent of the film was shot on the same set; the bridge of the Reliant and the “bridge simulator” from the opening scene were redresses of the Enterprise’s bridge. But the few sets doesn’t matter, with The Wrath of Khan reveled in the characters and crew of the Enterprise and especially in the friendship between Kirk, Spock, and Bones. The Triumvirate of friends till the end – making the end even sadder.

One of the most memorable aspects of this film is Ricardo Montalban, who gives a performance for the ages as the titular villain. Montalbán has said that he believed all good villains do villainous things, but that they are acting for the “right” reasons, they are heroes in their own story and in that sense, Khan uses his anger at the death of his wife to justify his pursuit of Kirk.

But aside from Khan’s memorable onscreen villainy, the film is known best for the death of Leonard Nimoy’s character Spock. Most fans consider the death of the ever-logical science officer to be one of the best scenes in any Trek film.

Spock’s Death

Spock’s climactic decision to enter the reactor chamber and his poisoned slump against the translucent engineering door still reduces the sternest fan to a blubbering mess. Even 35 years later and an immediate sequel that would negate the loss, the Death of Spock is a powerful shock that would forever haunt the franchise. Both Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner have never been better than in those final moments.

Mr. Spock: The needs of the many outweight–
James T. Kirk: The needs of the few…
Mr. Spock: Or the one.

This article is part of the series Iconic Scenes from Science Fiction