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303. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (#—)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, The 250 is a weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released Saturdays at 6pm GMT.

So this week, to mark its re-release in Irish and British cinemas, Nicholas Meyer’s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

Now supervising cadets at Starfleet Academy, Admiral James Tiberius Kirk finds himself reflecting on his mortality. A routine training mission provides an unlikely reckoning when genetically engineered superman Khan Noonien Singh escapes from his exile and vows revenge on Kirk as the man who marooned him. Kirk has lived his life on the assumption that there is no such thing as a no-win scenario, but that philosophy is about to be sorely tested.

At time of recording, it was not ranked on the list of the best movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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New Escapist Column! On “The Wrath of Khan” and “The Voyage Home”, and the Soul of “Star Trek” in “First Contact”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. Given that this month marks the 35th anniversary of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and the 25th anniversary of Star Trek: First Contact, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at their relationship within the Star Trek franchise – and how they connect to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

For many Star Trek fans, The Wrath of Khan remains the most beloved and most brilliant entire in the franchise’s cinematic canon. However, it’s notable that The Voyage Home was a much more populist hit, resonating with general audiences. For a decade following the release of The Voyage Home, it provided a template for the franchise for a decade. However, with the release of First Contact, the balance of power shifted. Suddenly, the franchise found itself caught in the gravity of The Wrath of Khan, which exerted a powerful gravity on the franchise’s direction and development.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

Star Trek: Enterprise – Borderland (Review)

This May, we’re taking a look at the fourth (and final) season of Star Trek: Enterprise. Check back daily for the latest review.

Borderland establishes the format that will come to define the fourth season of Star Trek: Enterprise; the mini-arc, a single story told over two or three episodes before moving along to the next adventure.

Technically speaking, Storm Front, Part I and Storm Front, Part II established the format for the season. However, the franchise had done multi-part season premieres before. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was particularly fond of the format, seguing from a status quo altering season finale into a multi-part season opener; The Homecoming, The Circle, The Siege, The Search, Part I, The Search, Part II, The Way of the Warrior, Image in the Sand, Shadows and Symbols. This is to say nothing of the massive six episode arc that opened the sixth season.

Put your hands together for Mister Brent Spiner.

Put your hands together for Mister Brent Spiner.

Borderland represents a departure because it signals that the fourth season of Enterprise will be comprised entirely of multi-episode stories. Historically, Star Trek shows had typically done one or two multi-part stories in a season, give or take a cliffhanger to bridge two years of the show. The fourth season of Enterprise would tell seven multi-part stories eating up seventeen episodes of the twenty-two episode season order. It was certainly a bold departure for the series and the franchise.

In fact, Borderland begins the franchise’s first three-part episode since the second season of Deep Space Nine. (Although determined fans could likely stretch logic a little to suggest that Tears of the Prophets or Zero Hour were season finales that formed a three-parter when tied into the two-part premieres that followed.) It is a curious departure, and one that immediately helps to establish the fourth season of Enterprise as something quite distinct.

A slave to continuity...

A slave to continuity…

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James Horner

It is no exaggeration to say that James Horner was one of the greatest film composers of all time.

Such measures are seldom objective, but Horner was the rare composer who could match critical and commercial success across a wide range of genre and material. Understandably, coverage around his death has focused on the biggest hits in his extensive filmography. He won two Oscars out of ten nominations. He occupied two of the five nomination slots in 1996 for his soundtracks to Apollo 13 and Braveheart. It is quite something to compete against yourself for an Oscar.


Titanic tends to headline such discussions of Horner’s work, as one might expect given that it was “the biggest selling primarily orchestral film score in history.” More than that, Horner wrote The Heart Will Go On, the love theme that sold more than 15 million copies to become one of the biggest selling singles of all time and the biggest selling single of 1998. The Heart Will Go On is credited with revitalising the “spin-off hit” in the late nineties, prompting lots of movie-launched love ballads like Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing or There You’ll Be.

Horner enjoyed no shortage of commercial success. He provided the soundtracks to two movies that could claim to be the biggest movies of all time upon their release. Titanic was the first such example, becoming the most successful movie of all time upon its release in 1998. Horner also provided the soundtrack to Avatar, the movie that would claim the title in 2009. However, the most impressive aspect of Horner’s extensive filmography is the sheer scope of his work.


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Harve Bennett

Although he will likely be best remembered by genre fans for his work on the Star Trek film franchise, Harve Bennett was a super-producer. His career began in the fifties – with his first credited work on Now is Tomorrow, a television movie starring actors Robert Culp and Sydney Pollack. However, Bennett really came into his own as a producer of seventies television. He helped to create The Mod Squad and The Invisible Man. However, he is perhaps most noted in geek circles for his work on Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

Along with director Nicholas Meyer, Harve Bennett effectively reinvented Star Trek. Taking over the reins from Gene Roddenberry after that creator’s bloated (if ambitious) work on Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Bennett stumbled upon an ingenious idea. Instead of trying to hide the fact that the cast and crew were getting older, he would embrace it. Bennett effectively came up with the idea of allowing the characters to grow older, coming up with an approach that would help to distinguish the Star Trek films from their source material.


It would be too much to suggest that Harve Bennett was the first writer to reinvent Star Trek, paving the way for creators like Michael Piller or Ira Steven Behr or Brannon Braga or Manny Coto. After all, Star Trek had already been reinvented by Gene L. Coon and D.C. Fontana before Bennett come on board. However, Bennett was part of the first creative team to reinvent Star Trek in a very overt and very conscious way. Meyer and Bennett were the first creators to be overt (rather than subversive) in how they were updating and revising the Star Trek canon.

Bennett was part of the creative team that oversaw the first truly seismic transition in what Star Trek actually was, the first without any major behind-the-scenes continuity. In doing so, Bennett was one of the first creators to demonstrate the versitility and the potential of Star Trek. In shepherding the movie franchise, Bennett was a vital part of keeping Star Trek alive long enough for the franchise to prove that it could be self-sustaining and self-perpetuating. Bennett is a much bigger figure in Star Trek history than he is given credit for.


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Star Trek (DC Comics, 1984) #1-6 – Errand of War! (Review)

This July, we’re taking a look at some classic Star Trek movie tie-ins. Check back daily for the latest reviews and retrospectives.

After Marvel lost the Star Trek license in 1982, there was a period where no monthly Star Trek comics were being published. One of the consequences of this was that Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan didn’t receive an official comic book adaptation, until IDW decided to go back and fill in the blanks in 2009. Eventually, DC comics managed to secure the license for Star Trek comics, and they began publishing in 1984, the year that saw the release of Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. DC would maintain the license into the mid-nineties, making it one of the most stable licensing agreements ever reached about Star Trek comics.

Unlike Marvel’s 1979 agreement with Paramount, DC reached an agreement that allowed them full access to the Star Trek mythology. Marvel had been restricted to using characters and concepts from Star Trek: The Motion Picture, a rather restrictive agreement. In contrast, DC had access to the whole of the Star Trek canon. Indeed, reading Mike Barr and Tom Sutton’s run on Star Trek, it seems like their opening six issues were designed to showcase the sheer breadth of continuity available to them.

At the same time, Barr’s scripts have a pulpy charm that makes them highly enjoyable, even as trying to tell an unfolding Star Trek story set between the events of The Wrath of Khan and The Search for Spock seems ill-advised.

Warp speed ahead...

Warp speed ahead…

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Star Trek: Khan – Ruling in Hell (Review)

This June, we’re taking a look at some classic Star Trek movie tie-ins and other interesting objects. Check back daily for the latest reviews and retrospectives.

Khan is a massively important figure in the grand mythology of Star Trek.

One need only look to Star Trek Into Darkness as proof of that assertion – a film that trades on how iconic the name “Khan” is, even to the most casual of fans. However, despite the fact that Khan has only appeared in a single episode and two feature films, each spaced apart by more than a decade, the character continues to exert a strong pull over the rest of the franchise. He is arguably more iconic and well-known than any lead character from a show produced after Star Trek: The Next Generation.

War of the supermen...

War of the supermen…

After all, Khan’s influence can be felt on just about every iteration of the franchise. On Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, he haunted the character of Julian Bashir. When the fourth season of Star Trek: Enterprise began its high-profile journey into the franchise’s continuity, Khan became something of a touchstone. The season’s first three-part episode (Borderland, Cold Station 12 and The Augments) was devoted to exploring the legacy of Khan Noonien Singh. Indeed, the show even tied Khan into the origin of the flat-foreheaded Klingons in Affliction and Divergence.

And yet, despite all this, there really is only so much material the character can support. Khan Noonien Singh is an iconic bad guy, but there’s a point where he ends up over-saturated.

The sands of time...

The sands of time…

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Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (IDW, 2009) #1-3 (Review)

This June, we’re taking a look at some classic Star Trek movie tie-ins and other interesting objects. Check back daily for the latest reviews and retrospectives.

Due to bad timing, the Star Trek comic book license was between publishers when Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was released into cinemas in 1982. As the license transitioned between Marvel and DC, the movie adaptation got lost in the shuffle. As a result, the film was the only classic Star Trek film without a contemporary comic book adaptation. It remained that way for over a quarter of a century.

However, on the release of JJ Abrams’ rebooted Star Trek, current license holder IDW decided to release an omnibus of the classic movie adaptations as a tie-in. In doing so, they discovered a Wrath-of-Khan-sized hole in the collection, and so set about filling it with a three-issue miniseries that could be included in the omnibus for completeness’ sake.

Stationary orbit...

Stationary orbit…

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Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan by Vonda N. McIntyre (Review)

This June, we’re taking a look at some classic Star Trek movie tie-ins and other interesting objects. Check back daily for the latest reviews and retrospectives.

Gene Roddenberry novelised Star Trek: The Motion Picture. While there’s some lingering discussion about whether Roddenberry actually wrote the novelisation, the book reads like the work of a screenwriter turning his hand to prose. It’s more of a manifesto than a novel – an excuse for Roddenberry to expand on his utopian vision for the franchise.

In contrast, Vonda N. McIntyre was hired to write the novelisation of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Unlike Roddenberry, McIntyre was an experienced and professional novelist. She had been writing since the mid-seventies, and had a wealth of experience in both media tie-ins and her own original work. In fact, McIntyre wrote The Entropy Effect, the book published directly after the publication of The Motion Picture, and only the second Star Trek book published by Pocket Books.

All of this is a very round-about way of explaining that The Wrath of Khan is very much an adaptation in a way that The Motion Picture simply was not.


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Star Trek – Untold Voyages (Review)

This June, we’re taking a look at some classic Star Trek movie tie-ins and other interesting objects. Check back daily for the latest reviews and retrospectives.

There’s something of a continuity lacuna that exists between Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Although the movies were released three years apart, more time appears to have passed for the characters themselves. Some of the changes are quite startling. After fighting so hard to get the Enterprise back in The Motion Picture, Kirk has retired to Earth once again at the start of The Wrath of Khan. After putting the Enterprise back in action in The Motion Picture, it has been converted into a cadet cruiser in The Wrath of Khan.

A lot of stuff has happened, and the gap is relatively under-explored by tie-in material. In contrast, the gap between The Turnabout Intruder (or The Counter-Clock Incident) and The Motion Picture is filled with all sorts of material designed to offer the show the type of closure that it never got on television. The same is true of the gap between The Cage and Where No Man Has Gone Before, with books and comics eager to offer accounts of Pike’s time in command and the transition to Captain James Tiberius Kirk.

Star Trek: Untold Voyages is a five-issue Marvel Comics series published in 1998 designed to bridge The Motion Picture and The Wrath of Khan. Although it wallows a bit in continuity and references, writer Glenn Greenberg uses the series to make some very clever and introspective points about Star Trek as a franchise – in effect, cleverly transitioning from Gene Roddenberry’s “future humans are the best” attitude toward Nicholas Meyer’s more reflective and introspective take on the characters and their world.

Shining star...

Shining star…

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