Then & Now: Star Trek II – The Wrath of Khan

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Geoff Harris

Then:

Star Trek was dead to me. I had seen the show in scattered reruns and The Motion Picture was a colossal  disappointment. I barely knew of the animated series. It just wasn’t my thing. Then, Wrath of Khan came along. If you stop and think about it, there are moments in your life when an opinion is changed or a particular outlook changed simply because something so awesome forces a change. Star Trek II was a rebirth. From the beginning tease to one of the best space battles I had seen up until then. It was a ride I wanted to take multiple times. I started looking for the show after that. When I re-watched the Khan episode, Space Seed, the movie was even better. I had gone from dislike to hardcore love of Star Trek.

This is the movie Paramount should have released first. It had everything a sci-fi fan could ask for: great characters, the return of a villain thought forgotten, excellent special effects, and (as I mentioned) tense ship on ship combat. Plus, it actually had a plot! A real beginning, middle, and ending. If I had never heard of Star Trek, this would have been the best gateway to the fandom. We see a Kirk from all angles. Retired explorer. Broken hero. Triumphant. The rest of the main cast are given little moments to shine as well. It had high adventure and even a dash of horror; Put something in my ear and see what happens. Still get the creeps about that scene. Very much like Star Wars: A New Hope, I could be happy with just this one movie to watch on a desert island.

Now:

I have seen every episode of the original series at least twice now. I looked forward to The Next Generation, which had a slow start given the first three seasons are particularly crappy. I’m sorry, but the show sucked until season four. It was so vapid and rose-colored. “Oh no! We can’t have conflict between main characters like we did on the original show! People learned to play nice since Kirk and Spock were around!” Now, character conflict is what makes Deep Space Nine work. They’re stuck on a space station so you focus more on the people than the universe around them. Both shows had their moments. Even Voyager started to shine a bit after a while. It all goes back to Wrath of Khan.

I will watch this every time its on cable. If you think about it, it’s a really long episode. It easily would have fit in except the special effects would have been subject to television budget versus movie budget. I recall hearing talk about how Paramount was considering using the movie as a type of pilot (akin to Battlestar Galactica) for a “return” of Star Trek to television. Instead DC Comics launched a series set after Wrath. Talk about what could have been. Even if the relaunch was pure fiction, it certainly got my motor running. I look back and wonder about the choices I made…the comics I bought and the ones I didn’t. The dangerous side to reflection is getting mired in the past. Even more so becoming wracked with regret and being no longer able to move forward. We all have the roads not taken in our lives. Rare are the chances to capture lightning in a bottle twice. The Wrath of Khan gave me a second chance to rediscover Star Trek. To be honest, the movies that followed are pale in comparison and I cannot say with certainty whether or not I would have become a born again fan if I had seen one of them instead. Chemistry is a fickle thing. Mix the wrong amount of a thing or use the incorrect elements and it all turns to crap. The moment was there. The stars were right. Everything clicked yet again for me.

It has been said with age comes wisdom. If that is true, I am still very much a child sitting in the dark, boldly going where no one has gone before. Second star to right and straight on til dawn.

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