I must admit to feeling a little teary eyed when The Random Box ejaculated this week’s selection into my hand. Time has been kind to the second of the Star Trek movies. It is fondly remembered by nearly everyone as the best of the bunch. Certainly it is my favourite.
But why is this? Which magical ingredient did Star Trek 2 possess that turned it from Turd Bovril into Platinum On Toast? Was it Fat Kirk? Ricardo Whatthehellisthathairabout? The sight of a thin Kirstie Alley? Or is it because this movie, more than any other in the series, was just a good old fashioned space adventure?
That’s right. It was thin Kirstie Alley.
Okay, so I know that in the past two Random Box reviews, I’ve kind of had a great time ripping into them. This, however, is a different beast.
I frinkin’ love this movie. I ask you now, to raise yourselves from your chair and salute.
To all it’s fat bald “actors”. To the production budget of ten pounds. To the sight of Shat enraged, screaming into his communicator while Khan listens with a wry smile. To the self-sacrifice of Spock. To the way he straightens his trousers when he gets up to talk to Kirk at the end, his face covered in radiation bogeys. To the incredible emotion in the funeral scene. To the worms in the ears. To a thin Kirstie Alley. To these things we salute.
I’ll make it quick. You’ve all seen this anyway.
So Kirk is now an Admiral, and spends his time having birthday parties which are, for want of a more suitable word, Shat. He drinks something blue and Bones says “Dammit Jee-um” and berates the poor old fatty for not spending his time gallivanting around the cosmos. It’s all very deep.
Meanwhile Chekhov, who is now on another starship, beams down to Seti Alpha 5 with Captain Tyrell to scan for lifeforms they’ve discovered. But Chekhov’s dropped a bollock! What he finds is Khan, the eight foot tall Latino man-slag from an earlier episode, in which Kirk marooned Khan on Seti Alpha 5 (or is it Seti Alpha 6?). Khan, incredibly, remembers Chekhov, even though Chekhov wasn’t in the original series of Star Trek. “I nah-var forget a face, Misterrrrrrrrrrr………. Chekhov!” or some such nonsense.
So Khan drops some worms in their ears which magically make them obey him, and he tells them to take him to “Ad-mee-ral Kir……kuh!”.
What follows is a beautiful game of cat and mouse as Khan and Kirk engage in an intergalactic chess match, which culminates in Khan’s demise at the hands of a Genesis device, Spock sacrificing himself to save the crew of the Enterprise, and the birth of a new planet.
Okay, so the list of Star Trek films, minus Wrath Of Khan, can basically be summed up like this:
Star Trek 1 – Ponderous. Space machine says dull things. Snore.
Star Trek 3 – Spock is a naked child. Boring.
Star Trek 4 – Whales. Spock does the death grip on a punk. Very 80’s
Star Trek 5 – Kirk punches God
Star Trek 6 – Naughty Klingons. Nice Klingons. Christian Slater.
Then it was The Next Generation’s turn, and Kirk got killed by Alex from A Clockwork Orange.
Star Trek 2: The Wrath Of Khan was the only real romp in the series, and it scored big because it was so simple. It took the elements from the TV series that everyone loved. It had a baddie vs the Enterprise, some hammy acting, Shatner’s belly and lasers. It was a revenge movie set in space, an eternal storyline that would have translated had it been set in Swindon. It boiled down the chicken stock until it got soup, instead of trying to dress the silly campness of the whole thing up as some kind of profound Sunday lunch.
The only other movie in the series that almost attained the same status was number four, whose basic concept was ‘let’s send them back to present day Earth and see what happens’.
If Trek fans, and indeed the general public, want profound science fiction, they’ll look to Kubrick not William Shatner, and that’s why the other movies smell so stale. Sure, Star Trek 2 has monologues that’ll make your head fold, it contains acting that’ll make you wish for cancer, but it wears it’s silly ass party hat on it’s head lopsided. After the bomb of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and in the wake of other sci-fi successes like Star Wars, they knew they’d taken the wrong tack. They needed something punchy, something jolly, and something fun. And they pulled it off.
And that’s why, in the midst of so much crapulence, The Wrath Of Khan stands out as a shining example of the effectiveness of simplistic storytelling. it’s the reason why Star Trek endures to this day. Remember if you will, that Star Trek had been cancelled as a TV series. The Motion Picture had been an experiment, and it hadn’t performed. If it wasn’t for Star Trek 2, people would today regard the Star Trek brand as wetter than Keane.
And if further proof should be needed, as if it should, then please remove your hat, bow your head and watch now the closing moments of The Wrath Of Khan. I thank you.
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