REUNITED AND IT SOUNDS SO GOOD!
How far the mighty have fallen. Elisabeth Shue and (can someone please send him some money) Richard Dreyfuss have joined the cast of "Pirhana 3D," a remake of the 1978 classic (the studios words, not mine), "Pirhana." Shue plays the local sheriff of a lakeside town which is being terroried by creatures in the water. Dreyfuss' role will be a nod to his work in "Jaws."
On a more positive note, Dreyfuss turned up last week on "Family Guy," reprising his role as the narrator in a sketch modeled after "Stand By Me." The surprising part came when he was going through the characters. When he got to Joe he said, "the voice in his head was Roy Scheider's." I almost fell off the couch as the so-familiar voice of my favorite actor came through the television...greeting Dreyfuss, asking him if he wanted to reminisce about "Jaws," going for a drink later. Pretty funny stuff. If you don't believe me, take a look:
CREEPY AND KOOKY
Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth have signed on to play Gomez and Morticia Addams in the upcoming Broadway musical entitled, of course, "The Addams Family."
I achieved many great successes in my years doing film promotions. One of my best came during my promotion for the film, "Titanic." Though I'm sure other promotions were well done, mine was the only one to feature a survivor from the actual boat, Ms. Milvina Dean. Ms. Dean, her older brother and her parents were heading to Kansas to open a tobacco shop when the ship struck an iceberg and sank. Sadly, her father perished and the children and mother went back to England. A friend of mine here in the midwest, Michael Rudd (father of popular actor Paul)is a well respected Titanic lecturer and he was working to bring Ms. Dean to Kansas to meet some of her relatives. Well, of course one thing led to another and soon she was sitting in a theatre lobby being interviewed by the press. One of my proudest possessions is a "Titanic" poster signed by Ms. Dean. At the time, she was one of seven survivors still alive (her mother died in 1975 and her brother, Bertram, died on April 12, 1992....eerily 80 years to the day the Titanic sank. Today Milvina Dean is the lone survivor of the tragedy and is in poor health. Recently much was made in the news about James Cameron, Leonardo DiCapril and Kate Winslet all giving donations to The Milvina Fund, which has been set up to assist the 97 year old. Anyone wishing to contribute to the Milvina Fund may do so via the National Westminster Bank, LTD at 446 Warrington Rd; Calcheth, Warrington WA3 5QS United Kingdom; use sort code 01-02-46 and account number 24075922. A limited number of hand autographs of Ms. Dean are also available. Anyone wishing to purchase one of the photos contact Aoife Byrnes at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The proprietors of MoviePhone recently asked users to submit their list of the best films of the 1970s. Here are the top forty:
1. The Godfather Part II
2. The Godfather
4. Taxi Driver
5. Annie Hall
7. Apocalypse Now
8. Monty Python and the Holy Grail
9. The Deer Hunter
10. Star Wars
11. The Exorcist
12. All the President's Men
14. Young Frankenstein
15. The French Connection
19. The Sting
20. The Jerk
22. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
23. National Lampoon's Animal House
24. A Clockwork Orange
25. American Graffiti
26. Dog Day Afternoon
27. Monty Python's Life of Brian
29. Being There
30. Kramer vs Kramer
31. Blazing Saddles
32. The Last Picture Show
33. Invasion of the Body Snatchers
35. Saturday Night Fever
39. The Way We Were
40. Superman the Movie
Not a bad listing. Surprised to not see "Nashville" here. Of the 40 chosen, 27 films were nominated for Best Picture, with 9 of them winning.
Frank Aletter, long time television character actor, died this week at the age of 83 after a long battle with cancer. He began his career with a role in the 1955 Henry Fonda film "Mr. Roberts" and quickly moved to episodic television. He secured the role of Buddy Roberts in the series "Bringing Up Buddy" but it only lasted one season. He also had recurring roles in fanboy favorites "The Bananna Splits" and "It's About Time," the theme song of which I occasionally sing to myself at work, though I don't know why ("It's about time, it's about space...about two men in a crazy place.")
Mark Landon, actor and oldest son of the late Michael Landon, passed this week at the age of 60. No cause of death was given.
MY FAVORITE FILMS, PART II. THE YEAR WAS 1982...
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan|
Starring: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and Ricardo Montalban
Directed by: Nicholas Meyer
FIRST SEEN: Edgewood Twin, Edgewood Maryland
FAVORITE SCENE Spock's funeral
FAVORITE LINE: "Here it comes."
1982 was a great year for films. Unfortunately, I was doing my time for Uncle Sam in Germany until mid-August of that year and I had to hear about the films I was missing in "Stars and Stripes," the preferred newspaper of the times. I remember reading a blurb in February headlined "Spock dies," which mentioned the upcoming second "Trek" film and a major plot spoiler. Apparently a reporter had gotten this little tidbit out of Leonard Nimoy, who seemed at peace to be letting Spock go. WHAT? SPOCK DIES? Damn it, if I spoke German I'd be heading to Frankfut to catch the film when it was released. Unfortunately I had tried this with the film "Caligula" and, though I could kind of follow the plot, I really had no idea what the characters were saying. I wasn't about to do this with a "Star Trek" film, trust me. So when I hit the good ol' USA on my return I saw three films the first week: 'E.T.," "Rocky III" and "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan."
On a supposedly deserted planet, two figures approach. They come across a strange structure and enter. Inside they remove their protective helmets to reveal themselves: Clark Terrell, Captain of the Starship Reliant and his fellow officer Pavel Chekov. As they look around Chekov spots something...the name of the vessel...the Botany Bay. Reacting with horror, he demands they leave. But before they get to far, they are met by another group, who bring them back to the structure. There they are introduced to Khan Noonian Singh. Or, technically, re-introduced, as Khan remarks that he "never forgets a face" upon seeing Chekov. And so begins a game of cat and mouse played by two old adversaries....the genetically engineered Khan and Admiral James T. Kirk.
With the excitement over the new "Star Trek" film still bubbling over, "STWOK" is a great companion film for the new feature. After the big box office but poor reviews of "Star Trek: The Motion Picture," Paramount decided to put the franchise into the hands of a more inspiring director (multi Oscar winner Robert Wise was 64 when hired to direct "STTMP"), Nicholas Meyer. Meyer had just achieved great success with his feature directing debut, the H.G. Wells/Jack the Ripper time traveling thriller "Time After Time," which Meyer had also written. In going back through the old television series, it was agreed that the "Space Seed" episode from season one would be the best one to provide a sequel to. The original cast was reassembled, new members hired (this was Kirstie Alley's first film....Meyer had wanted to hire Kim Cattral but her schedule would not allow her to take the job....ironically he did hire her for "Star Trek VI.")
The plot has to do with a device called Genesis. Dr. Carrol Marcus, her son, David, and other scientists are looking for a way to artificially create life. But, in order to do so, they need a barren planet, hence Terrell and Chekov's original assignment. The budget was low...so much so that many of the props used in "STWOK" were recycled from the first film, most notably Dr. Marcus' science station, which was actually the model of Starfleet Headquarters turned upside down.
The film continues on, with a game of chicken being played constantly by Kirk and Khan, culminating when Kirk, pretending he's going to transmit the Genesis Device to Khan's ship, instead orders the ship to lower it's shields. Kirk has a small smile on his lips as he intones, "Here it comes. As an actor, this is Shatner's best performance in a "Trek" film hands down. The highpoint comes during his eulogy for Spock, when his voice breaks as he describes his friend's soul as as being the most...human. Oh, right. SPOCK DIES. The story goes that Leonard Nimoy agreed to do the film only if the character of Spock died. In the introduction to the new crew of the Enterprise, Lt. Savik fails to rescue the Kobyashi Maru. The ship is attacked and several crewmembers are "killed," including Spock. This lightened the minds of fans around the world, who assumed Spock's "death" in the beginning was what had been eluded to. After the film was screened to much success, the shot of Spock telling McCoy to "remember" was shot and inserted into the film, apparently even Nimoy himsef thought it best that Spock live on.
And now, a word from film fan Greg van Cott.
A SEED OF WRATH—-“STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN”
By Greg Van Cott
Gene Roddenberry may be considered one of the great producers of the 1960’s -1980’s, but he may also be one of the greatest science fiction visionaries of the 20th century (among kindred intellects like Issac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, Nigel Kneale, H.P. Lovecraft, Rod Serling, Osamu Tezuka, Jules Verne, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., and H.G. Wells), and that vision may very well live beyond the 23rd Century. It was his 1966-69 television series, Star Trek, that teleported many young, impressionable minds (the target audience turned out to be an average age of 16) into a universe where ALMOST anything was possible. I say ‘almost’ because Roddenberry was a smart enough writer that he knew there had to be some level of practicality in mankind’s abilities, which was created through a degree of limitations. Space travel throughout certain sections of our Milky Way galaxy would only take days as opposed to years, but 23rd Century technology of Star Trek is not advanced enough to travel to other galaxies. You needn’t have to travel to a planet’s surface all the time in a shuttle—you can be transferred into pure energy via some type of radio-like signal and then materialize in perfect health on the planet surface. Of course if the teleporter/transporter device quit functioning, you’d have to take the old-fashioned way as demonstrated in some episodes/films. The point is that the universe of Star Trek is one future generations can shoot for. Not only to possibly produce said technology to accomplish such tasks, but also to create a golden era of humanity where men and women of all races are equal and no longer involve themselves in war (just war with aliens it seems), poverty is nonexistent, and anyone can live on other planets/moons among the stars of our galaxy. That is some dream.
Such a dream can also be shattered by those who have a completely different perception of the future, and the television show Star Trek became famous for its ability to place mirrors in front of its viewers to create a comparison of our world versus this future. The show also revealed that tyrants, psychopaths, and criminals will still exist and that even though most people will have removed the desire to wage war, steal, and manipulate in such a future—alien races and humans lost in unforgiving space (like the sea) will not be so willing to give up such volatile instincts for survival. A lot of these themes all come together in the original series episode, Space Seed, and its sequel, The Wrath of Khan.
With Space Seed, we are introduced to a man from the 20th century. He is a product of a possible human horror that we may see in OUR 21st century called the Eugenics Wars where, very much like Hitler’s Germany, a series of selective breeding/genetic experimentations occur creating conquistadors and Napoleonic-type supermen. The infamous Vulcan alien from the series, Spock, slates him as a man who ruled all of Asia in the 1990’s and is willingly ruled by his own superior ambition. This man is Khan Noonien Singh, a man from the Northern India provinces, which can by today’s standards seem very eerily similar in allegory to many people in the troubled regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan. When Khan first wakes up in what can be estimated as the year 2267 [according to Wikipedia] with the last of his genetically bred followers remaining cryogenically frozen (in ‘suspended animation’—as also seen in Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey series), he is even surprised to hear the English language. Creating the objectivity needed to understand Khan’s inappropriately tyrannical behavior as perceived in the 23rd century is Lieutenant Marla McGivers, a historian whose specializes in Earth’s dictators, tyrants, and megalomaniacs. Knowing that in the 23rd century, figures like Khan hold no control of the Earth whatsoever, the ship’s crew look at him with cautious, but curious eyes. The infamous captain of the Enterprise, James T. Kirk, already knows something is of suspicion when a man he questions only discloses his first name, nothing else, and was found aboard a spaceship (also similar in design to the later Stanley Kubrick-Douglas Trumbull designs of 2001) that seemed directed at escaping the earth. It is also interesting to note that Khan in multiple languages means “King.” The metaphor was obviously known to the writers who have the villainous character often spout such philosophies from kindred kings and tyrants like: “such men dare take what they want” and “you let your second in command attack while you sit and watch for weakness.” Khan echoes many of these statements when he decides to force Marla McGivers to helping him take over the starship Enterprise. The two begin to fall in love with each other and it is this obligation in keeping their relationship alive, both for Marla professionally and personally, that she becomes the enemy to ship’s company. Soon the subtle admiration some of the crew had for Khan (a particular interesting example comes from Cmdr. Montgomery “Scotty” Scott who has had a “sneaky bit of admiration” for Khan from the history texts—ironic because of what he faces in Wrath), soon dissipates when Khan negotiates for the ship’s control in return for letting Captain Kirk live while letting his second-in-command, Joaquin [maybe also pronounced as Joachim], beat up crew members (particularly shocking is him belting female officer, Uhura).
Eventually through luck and ingenuity, the captain and crew wrestle back control of the Enterprise (with Kirk making great use of his agility and remarkable ability to be unpredictable) and hold a hearing on how to rid themselves of Khan and his followers. Interestingly enough, Kirk decides to not leave Khan’s small army to the authorities due to the fact that their crimes against humanity occurred more than 200 years ago, which most likely gives Kirk the notion that leaving them on a planet to fend for themselves would be far more beneficial to Khan and a more fitting punishment regardless of a trial. Khan accepts his life sentence (one marked by John Milton’s Paradise Lost where it is said “that it is better to rule in Hell than serve in Heaven”), and Marla decides to stay with him as opposed to enduring a court martial. The tyrant goes on to see this as the mark of a superior woman. This is essentially what the next fight will be. Marla, the only normal woman among these supermen and women (to Khan, the strongest of them all), will be the sole motivation for Khan’s future vengeance. Her death on this Ceti Alpha V planet will be so devastating to Khan that her cherished ability to understand him (basically because of her historian’s abilities) will be the only thing left for him to think about for the next 10+ years. Spock ends the episode with an interesting statement: “what crop had sprung from the seed you planted today.” Originally in the shooting script, Kirk responds with, “Let's just hope in 100 years that [crop] doesn't come looking for us.” This reply was rewritten, but the line itself became a seed to Harve Bennett’s first chapter in his 4-part Star Trek film series. All this backstory proves that it is almost impossible to obviously tell the story of Wrath of Khan properly without addressing this first seed.
After the disappointing critical response to the first film based on the television series, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, producer Harve Bennett of The Six Million Dollar Man and Bionic Woman was assigned by Paramount to the Star Trek film franchise. Originally, Roddenberry considered the idea of making a Part II center around the Guardian of Forever, a time portal seen in the Hugo Award winning episode, The City on the Edge of Forever, where the chivalrous and brutal Klingon aliens use it to change the timeline on Earth by altering the circumstances surrounding President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, but the studio deemed the story too expensive to produce. Hoping to make a film that would not again disappoint fans, nor Roddenberry and not be too expensive to make, Bennett turned to the original series for inspiration. After watching all 79 episodes, he found the episode, Space Seed, to be the most intriguing place to continue a Star Trek related story. After concluding that what The Motion Picture lacked was a strong and intelligent villain, Bennett decided that a new film would revolve around Khan and Kirk reengaging in battle 15 years later. Helping Bennett give the film focus—not only in the directing but as well in the writing department was Nicholas Meyer, a young, up and coming director whose filmography was limited, but already contained acclaimed hits such as Time After Time, his 1979 directorial debut, and The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, his Sherlock Holmes novel adapted to the screen in 1976. The original scripts ironed out by Harve Bennett and Jack B. Sowards detailed an attempt by Khan to steal Starfleet’s most powerful weapon, The Omega System, but it was Art Director Michael Minor who later suggested that the device be rewritten as an optimistic terraforming experiment that could fall into the wrong hands. Harve Bennett was so pleased with this change that he later praised Michael Minor for saving Star Trek. Meyer eventually added his own changes and polishes to the script by reintroducing a Navy, Horatio Hornblower-inspired, element back into the Starfleet Academy/Command where uniforms appeared more militarily influenced and cadet training stricter in discipline. Evidently, Nicholas Meyer was unaware that Gene Roddenberry too was inspired by the Hornblower mythos and allegory (as seen in the two series pilot episodes, The Cage and Where No Man Has Gone Before where Naval attitudes are more prominently displayed), but this image later diminished as the original series went on. Probably the most intriguing theme that Meyer developed within in his script was James T. Kirk’s midlife crisis and the glaring differences between the young captain of the television series and the now 50 something year old admiral.
As the film opens to James Horner’s wonderfully adventurous theme (he appropriately reapplies Alexander Courage’s opening fanfare to his own lively score—an apologetic move in response to Jerry Goldsmith’s intense Motion Picture score hardly resembling anything of the original theme), we are introduced to the half-Vulcan, half-Romulan alien Saavik, a young lieutenant under the tutelage of half-Vulcan, half-Human first officer Spock. To moviegoers not adept in Star Trek mythology, Vulcans and Romulans are very similar (apparently a part of the same race years ago until war broke them apart, which lead Vulcans to rid themselves of all emotions to remove the urge for violence—leaving Vulcans to become highly logical and very spiritual whereas Romulans apparently kept their emotions and simply developed their technologies), but the tiny differences seem to occasionally show in the character played by a very youthful and beautiful, Kirstie Alley. All the scenes that explain these differences seem to have been left out of any cut of the film, but occasional emotional outbursts including “Damn…” and shocked reactions seem to surface. The idea of having unpredictably emotional humans working among a figure only focused on logic and science was “quintessential Gene Roddenberry” who believed that humans were far too limited and focused on their feelings, and the idea of an alien only focused on the opposite was a refreshing idea in his eyes. Nicholas Meyer’s storytelling emphasizes this idea whenever we meet Kirk in the story. He is tired, frustrated, and discouraged by his cushy “desk job” he has acquired as admiral. Whenever Kirk encounters his old human friends, he seems to be reminded of days of the past and of his present age. However whenever he encounters the two logical figures of his crew, he seems almost liberated by their empty slates when it comes to the past. Like most humans, we cling to our memories fueled by our emotions, but hardly anyone comes across people who simply remember facts and not dwindling mistakes or regrets surrounding them. Kirk’s birthday presents further unveil this issue to the audience. His first gift of A Tale of Two Cities has no underlying message according to Spock, but his second gift from his very human, medical officer, Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy, reminds him of old age: a pair of glasses, practically unseen in the 23rd century.
As the audience is reintroduced to the former Enterprise navigator, Pavel Chekov, now a commander in rank and first officer on the U.S.S. Reliant, we learn that this starship is scouting for planets to test Jack B. Soward’s retooled concept of the Genesis Device. This torpedo when launched initiates a rearranging of matter into life generating results and is appropriately named after the Biblical story for the device’s power of creation. The concept is another ode to Roddenberry who relished stories that philosophically and morally examined high concepts in science and exploration, the pitfalls involved, and yet maintained a sense of optimism in finding a solution. In the story, the Genesis Device is invented by Dr. Carol Marcus and her son, David. The audience quickly learns that Carol Marcus was once romantically involved with James T. Kirk, and David does not approve whatsoever of that past relationship. This detail brings “Trekkies” and “Trekkers” to recall the episode, Where No Man Has Gone Before, where Kirk confesses he almost married a blond, lab technician at the Academy. Could this blond, lab technician and Carol Marcus be one and the same?
Chekov and the Reliant’s captain, Clark Terrell, teleport down to the surface of one of their possible Genesis test subjects, planet Ceti Alpha VI. To their surprise, they find a container/cargo carrier that appears to have been lived in for several years. As they investigate the innards of this living space, Chekov stumbles upon a shelf containing familiar repertoire: Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained, Moby Dick, Dante Alighieri’s Inferno, and a book suspiciously titled, Statutes of Regulation. It is not until he notices a seatbelt fastener labeled, S.S. Botany Bay, that he realizes who lives in this container. It is interesting to point out that the character of Chekov was not in the episode of Space Seed (neither was helmsman Sulu surprisingly enough), but Trekkies can easily make the assertion that Chekov was still a low level ensign who was not assigned to the bridge till sometime later (Walter Koenig’s character does not appear till the second season of the original series). Nicholas Meyer deliberately made Chekov the one Enterprise crewmember who encounters the tyrant face-to-face because of his vulnerability and youth (Chekov is the youngest member among all the 40+ year old original colleagues making him only in his 30’s here). When the two Reliant ‘seamen’ are captured, we see a brief appearance of Mr. Kyle, played by charming Englishman John Winston, who was originally the transporter chief on the Enterprise. His character did appear in the episode Space Seed ironically enough.
One of the most interesting bits of timing was that Ricardo Montalban had become well known in the late 70’s and early 80’s for his role as Mr. Roarke on Fantasy Island, and many film/TV buffs believe that his return to the character of Khan was quite a shock to the system for him and audiences. His charming Mr. Roarke was a clear opposite of the intensely belligerent Khan that even Mr. Montalban had trouble escaping the mannerisms of Roarke whenever he read lines for Khan Noonien Singh; having engraved Roarke into his mind over the last few years on the show. It was not until he re-watched Space Seed that he finally recalled how he performed the character 15 years before. He was quite honored that Bennett revived the character despite having almost no memory of how he created the character (this was before TV episodes were released on VHS).
Khan’s reveal is a great one. As he slowly peels away articles of clothing meant as protection from the planet’s high velocity sandstorms, we realize that he is wearing a tattered red uniform (possibly meant to be the remains of the uniform he and his followers were wearing at the end of Space Seed) and more intriguingly, a necklace carrying Starfleet insignia possibly made out of clay or stone—-a symbol of a 15-year obsession. Chekov and Terrell are quickly told by Khan that Ceti Alpha VI exploded and altered the orbit of Ceti Alpha V leaving it a baron wasteland like VI was presumably, which accounts for the crew mistaking it as such. Solidifying the fact that the death of his wife, Marla, is Khan’s entire justification for wanting to punish Kirk, he proceeds to force Chekov and Terrell to confess where Kirk’s location is using what are called Ceti Eels. The eels are a terrifying concept. The big ones may be able to snap at you, but it is the younger ones that enter through a person’s ear canal and eventually does damage by “rendering the victim extremely susceptible to suggestion.” Their growth causes madness and eventually death. Not a very pleasant way to go, no doubt.
When Kirk finally gets an excuse (in the form of an inspection) to return to the Enterprise, he greets the cadets with a well intended smile. One of Nicholas Meyer’s most brilliant ideas was the creation of the Kobayashi Maru (Japanese for ‘Little Wooden Ship’), a simulation that puts cadets and other trainees in a no-win situation on a starship. Their experiences with the Maru simulator on Earth seem to prove the cadets are not ready for actual starship assignments. He does not honestly expect much from them until he meets Midshipman Peter Preston, the nephew of Commander Montgomery Scott (it isn’t clear that Preston is Scotty’s nephew in the theatrical cut, but Meyer’s director’s cut restores these scenes that explain this). He is someone that seems to remind Kirk of his youth once again. This turns out to be third set of Mentor-Protégé pairs in the story: Carol & David, Spock & Saavik, and Scotty & Preston. Kirk’s flamboyant, teasing ways of communicating with his colleagues (which he seems to do even with cadets) grabs the attention of the young Saavik (who in Earth years might even be older than Kirk!) who begins to gossip with her mentor, Spock, about his behavior. Their talk is the first time we ever hear the Vulcan language as created by linguist, Marc Okrand. The idea of implementing a Vulcan language into this scene was a last minute idea since actor Leonard Nimoy and actress Kirstie Alley are in actuality having their quiet conversation in English. All Okrand did was create a ‘logical’ language (I say logical because all languages have their own vowels and syntax) that had a different set of sounds that would match the lip movements of the two actors. This is a particularly funny idea since the two aliens are simply having idle talk. Okrand would later go on to create an entire Klingon language put to great use in Star Trek III, V, VI, and various TV Trek episodes.
Not too long after the Enterprise leaves a scaffold version of Spacedock (the footage of the starship leaving is all lifted from Douglas Trumbull’s effects shots in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, a compromise Bennett made with Paramount in order to prevent any overbudgeting that occurred on TMP due its excessive visual effects work), Kirk gets a distorted video feed from Carol Marcus demanding an answer as to why he is taking their Genesis Device away. Displeased at her distraught nature (not to mention the fact that he is obviously weary of talking to her after all these years), Kirk attempts to convince Spock that they can investigate the Marcus’ science space station, Regula One, without having to assume command from Spock. The Vulcan captain states that Kirk’s sensitivity in the matter is unfounded due to Spock’s lack of ego and simply states, “that logic clearly dictates, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few” (“or the one” as Kirk adds). Spock reassures Kirk with their friendship by somewhat sympathetically (sympathy… from a Vulcan?) stating, “I have been and always shall be your friend.” It is a statement that will often be paraphrased in other films, but will still contain the same meaning.
There is another bit of irony involving Khan hijacking a ship called the Reliant. As their ship draws closer in an attempt to intercept the Enterprise and destroy them, Joaquin makes a strong argument against reengaging Kirk. However, Khan makes his own argument recalling space factoids and literary references: “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!” Montalban recalls Khan’s motivation to avenge the death of his wife as a noble cause and that a truly great villain is unaware of the differences between good and evil—only what feels right. It is also interesting to see how the character of Joaquin has evolved over the 15 year period. He is no longer a strongman following Khan’s orders, but has now become a Devil’s Advocate offering alternatives to fighting. Khan continues on his path to destruction with a very famous saying (its origins in Les Liaisons Dangereuses, but translated into English by writer Dorothy Parker) made even more famous by this film: “Revenge is a dish best served cold.” Khan even adds an appendix: “It is very cold in space.”
When the Reliant finally fires on the Enterprise (a science fiction version of two wooden ships blasting cannons at each other’s port side; pirates in one ship and a Naval crew in the other), an act Khan has been waiting for years to fulfill, Kirk is absolutely shocked to see this man from 15 years ago still carrying hatred for him. William Shatner’s performance shows an extraordinary lack of confidence on Kirk’s part, which is a sharp contrast to his character’s rather heroic demeanor in the original series, and his solemnness is quite painful to watch. When the Enterprise opens fire on the Reliant, Kirk exclaims on two accounts that ‘he did nothing’ and that it only worked because ‘he knew more about these ships than Khan had’ (this second line only exists in the director’s cut). Despite Khan being at least 10 years older than him, it is simply the fact that Kirk has given up on himself and his belief that the genetic strongman whose intelligence constantly surprises Spock will eventually overtake them. The 20th century barbarian versus the 23rd century tactician once again poses the same question asked in Space Seed. Despite the fact that these two men are now in middle aged, their fight seems to show that there may be more similarities between these two characters than they think. One may be a ruthless psychopath, but the other does have a dark, violent side that Kirk just needs to open up again (this darker side literally comes into physical being in a highly philosophical episode, The Enemy Within, as a matter of fact). From a technical perspective, their fight is all the work of the visual effects department headed by Ken Ralston and Jim Veilleux. Even their conversations are simple overlays of film onto the Enterprise viewing screen. The Reliant and Enterprise bridge sets were one and the same, so the Reliant set had to be filmed first, then redressed as the Enterprise one. Therefore, Ricardo Montalban and William Shatner never actually filmed a scene together. As said before, Walter Koenig is the only actor of the original series on this film who got to do scenes with both William Shatner and Ricardo Montalban whose only scene work remained to be Space Seed. Their fight is not without casualties though. Scott’s nephew, Preston, is horribly injured and dies in McCoy’s sickbay. The director’s cut offers a touching performance by James Doohan as engineer Scott who has no idea why someone so young had to be deprived of his life. Any said admiration Scott once had for Khan in the annals of history has now been lost.
When Kirk finally reunites with Carol Marcus in a hidden mine and tunnel on the planet Regula, he is displeased to see that Carol’s son (who happens to be his son!) has absolutely no love for his father. David seems content with even killing him if necessary due to mistaking the Reliant’s murderous acts as Kirk’s exploits. Carol unfortunately does not seem too interested in maintaining Jim Kirk’s reputation since she holds an ulterior motive to keep David living with her. Kirk does not make much of an effort to argue against her points and remains docile and defeated. We have to remember that Kirk has not become merely a sad derelict, but simply a man who is not sure what else there is to do. Many people go through their entire lives and never have an answer to do this, OR on the flipside, never make an effort to change themselves for a greater good. However, Kirk does have one trick up his sleeve. Spock and Kirk have fed Khan faulty information concerning the Enterprise’s condition and to prove to Saavik that he does not believe in the no-win scenario of the Kobayashi Maru—he admits that he cheated on the test (an illegal, but classic signature move of a younger Kirk) and they immediately beam up to the Enterprise setting out to find a way to stop Khan in a equal odds environment within the Mutara Nebula. Kirk’s revelation at Carol Marcus’ god-like success with the Genesis Device in the Regula mines and caves seems to have given him some encouragement and it is this revelation that allows Kirk to trust his ability to accomplish anything even at his age. Since his promotion to admiral, he has been relinquished of starship command, and like many ceremonial positions, he simply oversees other captains. These series of events give the admiral the chance to show what a great captain he was at one time.
The Mutara Nebula draws allegories to submarine battles where the crafts can not see each other and can only rely on guesses and gut reactions. It is very likely that Meyer was inspired by a similar battle that occurred in the episode, Balance of Terror, where the Enterprise quests to stop a Romulan warship cloaked in invisibility—a tactical advantage considering the Enterprise can not (or because of its peaceful intentions, it has no reason to have the ability to) go invisible. The cloudy arena proves fruitful to the Enterprise and pounds away at the Reliant with the help of a medically cleared Chekov, at the firing mechanisms, who is undoubtedly unleashing his own wrath on Khan. The dictator’s obsession takes him past the point of no return and he proceeds to activate the captured Genesis Device in a bid to destroy the Enterprise in a shock wave. David Marcus reveals that the device can not be stopped, and Kirk begins to worry that they will not be able to escape its blast radius. Actor Leonard Nimoy displays a fantastic reaction to this fact without displaying any noticeable emotion, and he quickly heads off the bridge on a ‘personal’ mission. As Khan antiquates Kirk’s petty successes to Captain Ahab’s white whale by quoting Moby Dick, he very feverishly points out: “To the last, I will grapple with thee” and “From Hell’s heart, I stab at thee. For hate’s sake, I spit my last breath at thee.” Meyer, a student of literature, was adamant in making parallels to classic literature in order to either help the audience understand the conflicts through similar situations in stories or to show character’s flaws by having them replicate other fictional characters’ flaws.
Probably one of the most effective moments in a film is one of the most simple a director can possibly deliver. When the Enterprise finally escapes to due to Spock’s intervention in the Engineering deck, the Reliant explodes in a brilliant flash of reds and blues—creating what Carol and David Marcus hardly ever imagined. The death of Khan gives birth to a planet, but as most of the crew stare in awe… someone is noticeably missing. Kirk directs his attention to Spock’s chair, which is EMPTY. The shot is incredibly effective because not only is it a spot where Spock has sat throughout most of the original series (he was inappropriately moved behind Kirk’s chair in The Motion Picture, and this incongruity was obviously noticed by fans), but an empty chair can always symbolize a tremendous sense of absence in a film. Kirk encounters the dying Spock behind a large transparency (an idea introduced by William Shatner) who can now do nothing but watch his long time friend collapse (Kirk of course is unaware of Spock’s mind “upload” to McCoy till the next film). Spock repeats his logical statements he made earlier and even offers an unusual remark: “I never took the Kobayashi Maru test until now. What do you think of my solution?” Is this a self-deprecating joke? Did the Vulcan finally understand the concept of humor? Spock repeats once again his promise of friendship and finally leaves them all with the D.C. Fontana (she is responsible for developing the majority of Spock’s disciplines and personal history in episodes such as This Side of Paradise and Journey to Babel)-influenced Vulcan goodbye, “Live long and prosper.” The salute itself was famously invented by actor Leonard Nimoy. Shatner responds with one of the better performed “No’s” in film history. He simply says in a very defeated manner, “No.” Many sci-fi buffs consider Spock’s death scene to be one of the best written, directed, and acted scenes in the genre. It may be one of the best musically scored as well. James Horner’s tender melodies in the scene bring a tear to anyone’s eyes.
It could be said that Khan wins by robbing everyone of Spock. The cadets who have now been through a real test of survival stand at attention to pay respects to their fallen mentor. Kirk says some parting words at the surprise of his son who now looks on with complete empathy. Proving the theory that Kirk relates more to Vulcans than humans a lot of the time, his eulogy ironically calls Spock “the most human” of all the souls he has encountered in his travels. Saavik’s Romulan side starts to show once again as she no longer can hold back tears for her kindred intellect. The torpedo holding Spock, obviously doubling as a casket, is slowly moved down the Torpedo Bay to be fired onto the Genesis Planet. It is a brilliant move on Nicholas Meyer’s part as it obviously resembles coffins moving downwards or forwards at funerals. The torpedo is loaded into the firing mechanism to the sounds of Scott’s bagpipes (James Doohan’s idea—recalling Scott’s proud Scottish heritage) playing John Newton’s infamous Amazing Grace piece. Ralston and Veilleux finish up the moment with a lovely “fire” trail speeding towards the planet, which is eventually obscured by the Regula sun’s light rays coming over the Genesis planet’s horizon.
Kirk attempts to continue reading the famous book Spock gave him for his birthday, but to his annoyance, McCoy’s other gift of antique glasses have broken. David Marcus unprecedentedly walks into Kirk’s quarters offering a talk. He makes a very interesting point that despite all the missions and explorations into the unknown (and fun episodes to reveal this fact!) that Kirk has never truly faced death. The mourning admiral admits that he used to revel in the idea of cheating and tricking his way out of death, but now feels he really knows nothing of life and death. Actor Merritt Butrick does a remarkable job counseling and controlling the vulnerabilities pouring out of William Shatner’s James T. Kirk by giving almost fatherly advice to his character’s own father. David finally admits that he is indeed proud to be his son and for probably the very first time… the father and son hug.
In all the anguish and grief Kirk has experienced recently, his last scenes in the film show him with a warm smile on his face. Paraphrasing Spock’s saying that “there are always alternatives” into “possibilities,” Kirk offers a hopeful, Roddenberry-inspired promise that he will return to the planet in a prospect to most likely keep his spirits up (and not in the manner that is revealed in Star Trek III humorously enough). Actor DeForest Kelley who is always unforgettable as the sharp witted, Dr. McCoy, prescribes the greatest advice a doctor can give: “He really is not dead as long as we remember him.” Kirk replies with the exact epilogue lifted from A Tale of Two Cities: “It's a far, far better thing I do than I have ever done before. A far better resting place that I go to than I have ever known.” Carol Marcus asks if that is from a poem and Kirk simply explains that it is indeed the underlying message to his birthday gift. McCoy quickly asks, “Are you OK, Jim? How do you feel?” This next line is a great example of Nicholas Meyer’s writing ability in that he established a character’s personal conflict clearly throughout most of the film and finally ends the film with a very simple revelation. Kirk’s tearful lesson and catharsis is all summed up here. Realizing what he has to give and how a friend’s death always makes one cherish their own life, he very warmly, honestly says:
“Young… I feel young.”
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan went on to become what many Trekkies considered the greatest of all the films and it became distinguished as one of the most critically and financially successful science fiction films based on a television series of all time. The success of the film led Harve Bennett to produce three more Star Trek films: the Leonard Nimoy-directed Cold War and Frankenstein/Resurrection themed The Search for Spock, a time travel and seamen-out-of-water themed picture also directed by Leonard Nimoy titled The Voyage Home, and the William Shatner-directed terrorism themed and Purgatory-inspired The Final Frontier. Nicholas Meyer would not return to directing Star Trek till the sixth picture, The Undiscovered Country, the original title for Meyer’s first Star Trek project. Roddenberry may be also remembered for his other work on The Lieutenant, West Point, and Planet Earth, but his vision for the future (continued within Star Trek: The Next Generation, his last big project) will remain as his most optimistic. From the original 50-minute episode of Seed to the feature film of Wrath, the universe and mythos of Star Trek remains not only of the most enduring avenues into our possible future, but also one of our most human examinations that will endure for all time.
Next week I'll take a look at Brian De Palma's cult classic "Phantom of the Paradise," starring Paul Williams and Jessica Harper
Well, that's all for now. Have a great week. See ya.
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