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For, Friday, June 17, 2016

EDITOR’S NOTE: Last week, the extended 'director's cut' of the second ‘Star Trek’ movie was given a Blu-ray release (read my Deseret News review here, available at Amazon here). So, just for fun, below is a look at the theatrical version from the historical perspective of my original review, published in the Deseret News on the day of the film’s debut, June 4, 1982.

If, like me, you were disappointed in “Star Trek – The Motion Picture,” you’re in for a pleasant surprise.

“Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” is the film that the original big-screen effort tried to be and missed by several light years.

Spun off of an episode from the TV series’ second season, “Star Trek II” is a tale of vengeance. Khan, a genetically created superhuman, tried to take over the Enterprise in the TV show and was abandoned on an isolated planet.

In “Star Trek II” we learn that the planet has become a barren death trap, his wife and most of his followers have died as a result and he as sworn vengeance on Capt. Kirk (now Adm. Kirk, of course) for dropping him there.

Ricardo Montalban drops his white suit “Fantasy Island” persona to re-create the role of Khan, a crazed superintelligent, genetically perfect specimen, and he’s very good as he alternately enjoys his victories with glee and registers shock as Kirk continually slips through his fingers.

And the original TV cast is back, with William Shatner as Kirk, Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock (now a captain) and DeForest Kelley as “Bones,” along with the rest of the gang.


Some new dimensions are added to Kirk and Spock’s characters, making for some real space-age soap opera, including some rather startling developments (one in particular with Kirk seems to be a flip side of the one we learned about Luke Skywalker in “The Empire Strikes Back”).

“Star Trek II’s” special effects are superb, especially one scene that has a desolate planet instantaneously turned into a fruitful one; attention to detail is remarkable, with all kinds of tinker toys flashing lights and even a peek at Adm. Kirk’s San Francisco apartment; and seeing it in 70mm and Dolby Stereo just adds to the already thrilling experience.

But the real secret to the success of this new film is what was lacking in the first — and what is most often the problem with failed flicks. “Star Trek II” has a great script.

Gene Roddenberry is given credit here as “executive consultant,” and it’s obvious he is responsible for much more here than in the first “Star Trek” film. As the creator of the original series, Roddenberry knows his characters, and “Star Trek II” has many familiar touches: Banter and friendly baiting between Doc McCoy and Spock, Spock educating Kirk in logical thinking, the vulnerability of Kirk the hero – and even some Vulcan dialogue with English subtitles.

As was the series, this film is filled with humorous dialogue and situations that are alternately amusing and suspenseful. This one’s a real cliffhanger with twists and turns that will take any Trekkie back to their love for the original series.

There are a few unnecessary cuss words and a couple of scenes more violent than what has gone before, but the PG rating is appropriate, and kids old enough to really care about seeing it should be able to.


And as to whether Spock gets knocked off? … Well, if you follow the news, you know the answer to that one. But, to reiterate Paramount executives, “No one ever dies in science fiction,” and “Star Trek II” leaves the ending open so you can be sure that when “Star Trek III” gets under way, Leonard Nimoy won’t be sitting on the sidelines.

In every way, “Star Trek II” is so much better and more faithful to the series than the film of two years ago, it’s almost unfair to compare them.

In addition to the thoughtful, intelligent script, the sequel boasts crisp direction by Nicholas Meyer (“Time After Time”). The action is fast-moving, the story “logical” in its progression and the film as a whole is much tighter than the first.

“Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” should definitely be another 1982 summer hit, and help keep big audiences at theaters for the next few months.