Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan or Moby Kirk

shatner khan

I have to admit – my first version of this review was just the word, “Khaaaaaaan!” elongated to fill up the space of this entire article, but apparently that is not considered serious or even basic journalism. But what better way to sum up the enduring appeal of the Star Trek franchise than to simulate William Shatner shaking his fist and screaming at the top of his lungs? Here we return to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

It’s the 23rd century. Mankind has somehow managed not to blow itself up or succumb to a zombie apocalypse. In fact, everyone seems to be getting along just fine, not just on Earth, but extending to the outer reaches of the galaxy. Everything is cleaner, slicker and slimmer except for William Shatner’s waistline. It’s the future as designed by Apple. But even into this shiny, shimmering utopia a little rain must fall. Admiral James T. Kirk is in the autumn of his illustrious career boldly gallivanting across space, time and the boundaries of good taste. Now firmly ensconced within the upper echelons of Starfleet, Kirk yearns for the good ole days back in the saddle piloting a starship.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Star Trek universe, the basic plot is as follows – the crew becomes imperilled by sentient space cloud/genocidal individual/genocidal species; minor characters (affectionately known as “redshirts” are killed thus demonstrating the danger faced by the main players. At the end a crew member averts imminent disaster by going into the warp core reactor and fixing it before subsequently dying and then being brought back to life through an elaborate deus ex machina.

In Wrath of Khan, Kirk and his ageing band of intrepid explorers must dust off the lycra one more time and attempt to defeat the megalomaniacal tyrant, Khan Noonien Singh. Mexican superstar Ricardo Montalban flexes his pecs as the devious and wily Khan who looks about seventy from the neck up and at least half that age south of his Adam’s apple. Ah, the wonders of genetic engineering. Khan has spent the past few decades marooned on a dusty planet thanks to an earlier encounter with Kirk and has not spent the intervening period practising tai chi, drinking mint tea and meditating. Rather he has been plotting a sadistic and drawn out revenge on Kirk and swotting up on Moby Dick, which he frequently quotes during the film at key moments. Call me Ishmael indeed.

Khan manages to hijack a passing Starfleet vessel, the Reliant, or maybe Unreliant as it should be called, (hoho) and together with his motley crew he assaults a scientific outpost. His prize? A prototype terraforming device named Genesis which has the capability to create new life on previously dead planets. The dastardly Khan plans to use Genesis as a weapon to wipe out life on populated planets and rebuild them in his own image. But like a jealous ex-boyfriend who just can’t let go, what he really really wants is to snare Kirk and perform beastly, unspeakable acts on him.

So we head to the showdown between the Reliant and the Enterprise with no quarter given or expected. If this was set on the high seas then both Kirk and Khan would be swinging onto each other’s boats, cutlass in mouth and flintlock pistol in hand, it’s that kind of brawl. Both ships sustain heavy damage in the ensuing battle before Kirk and the Enterprise are able to strike the decisive blow. But Khan isn’t finished yet. With his final breath he detonates Genesis and gives a defiant fist shake at the retreating Enterprise. Cue main crew member entering the warp core to fix it; this time it’s Mr Spock who’s drawn the short straw so off he goes to fix it before “dying” of radiation poisoning. Spock is given a full military burial which in the 23rd century means being blasted into space while your crewmates sing “In the Navy”.

And the universe is safe once more albeit for a short space of time (until the next Star Trek film is released). Reboots and reinterpretations are all well and good, but for old-fashioned thrills, spills and the joy of watching William Shatner act then you have to go old school, you have to get back to where it all started. Together with me now -Khaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan!