00:00:00 – 00:15:00
A lively conversation occurred today on the bridge of the 15-Minute Federation about movie sequels that were better than the original films.
Lt. O’Hara turned from the communications console and said Godfather II was clearly the better film, and he preferred to imagine that Godfather III didn’t exist at all. Lt. Hulu brought up The Empire Strikes Back and was boo-ed and hissed because he didn’t consider his audience before speaking up. Commander Spork said that The Road Warrior was a much better movie than Mad Max—-logically. Chief Engineer Lionel Smith offered up Terminator 2: Judgment Day as another example, and Ensign Pavlov barked his approval.
Captain James C. Firewater, sitting in the big chair and wearing that stupid-looking green wraparound V-neck tunic with the gold appliqué (Dr. “Ribcage” Macklemore threatened to burn it the last time the captain wore it), finally joins in the conversation.
He says, “The. Point. Is. Moot. The Wrath of Khan . . . is not even a sequel to Star Trek: The Motion Picture. A sequel is a continuation of a story. While Khan gives us the Enterprise and her crew, it in no way continues the story of V’ger. If anything this movie is a sequel to the episode ‘Space Seed,’ from the original series.”
“It’s named Star Trek 2,” Dr. Macklemore says, stepping onto the bridge from the turbolift. Nurse Transept is with him because she gets bored when she’s left behind alone in sick bay. Plus, the office scuttlebutt is that the two have a thing for each other. “Doesn’t that make it a sequel by default, Jim?”
“From a marketing standpoint, it made sense to consider this a sequel. Plus, no one could know at the time that the series of movies would continue as long as it has. Star Trek III: The Search for Spock is definitely a sequel to this one, since it continues the story of the Genesis planet . . .”
Lt. Hulu, attempting to make up for his earlier Star Wars misstep, interjects, “And Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home would be a sequel to that movie because it’s literally about the crew returning to Earth in their stolen Klingon Bird of Prey after outsmarting Doc Brown.”
“That’s Commander Kruge,” Captain Firewater says. “Christopher Lloyd wouldn’t be Doc Brown until the following year. Regardless, you’re correct. My point is that The Wrath of Khan is not a sequel.”
“But,” Dr. Macklemore says, “It is the better movie.”
“Without a doubt,” the captain says. “Someone hit the play button, will ya?”
Welcome to the first chapter of The Wrath of Khan Edition of the 15-Minute Federation. We are excited to be talking about this movie, fifteen minutes at a time. Having watched the first movie twice in as many years, we need something to cleanse our palates. And this is one of the better Trek movies.
After seeing the classic Paramount logo and hearing the classic Star Trek music at the beginning before it segues into the new score by James Horner, our opening credit sequence takes a full 3 minutes. The title and credits are in blue lettering against a starfield.
When the story begins, it’s with Kirstie Alley, as the Vulcan Saavik, in the captain’s chair. This is the famous Kobayashi Maru sequence. Saavik records a Captain’s log reporting that the USS Enterprise is on a training mission near the Neutral Zone. Saavik orders the starship into the Neutral Zone in answer to a distress call from the Maru.
Three Klingon attack cruisers arrive on the scene, getting the drop on the Enterprise, and attack the ship. Sulu, Uhura, McCoy and Spock are all killed, and Saavik has to order all hands to abandon ship.
Of course, this all turns out to be a simulation, a true training exercise for Saavik, who has obviously failed the test. The holodeck hasn’t been invented yet, so this is actually a practical set. Admiral James T. Kirk orders the simulation to end and the set is struck. All of the bridge crew who were previously “dead” come back to life.
Saavik complains to Kirk that the test wasn’t fair because there was no way to win in the situation. Kirk suggests that a no-win situation is something that every commander may face, and that how we deal with death is at least as important as how we deal with life. Saavik admits that she hadn’t considered this.
Kirstie Alley has been criticized by some over the years of being too emotional to be a proper Vulcan. We agreed with that assessment until learning that the role of Saavik had originally been written as a part-Vulcan/part-Romulan. The original screenplay also bears this out, even though it’s never mentioned in the film. The director, Nicholas Meyer, had been directing Alley with this in mind. It turns out that she did a pretty good job, although Robin Curtis (who replaced Alley as Saavik in the next two films) was a much better Vulcan.
Spock, who is the actual captain of the Enterprise, is interested in getting a rating for his cadets from the admiral. He mentions, as an aside, that Kirk took the Kobayashi Maru test three times himself, and that his final solution was, shall we say, unique.
We learn that Kirk is celebrating a birthday when he thanks Spock for the gift of a book. It’s Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities (“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times . . .”). Spock knows Kirk’s fondness for antiques. I guess everyone had e-readers by this point. It was actually 1982; so, no, they did not. The average person didn’t even own a personal computer, and e-readers didn’t exist yet.
Kirk returns to his apartment, which overlooks the water. Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy shows up with some Romulan ale and his gift for the captain, an antique pair of eyeglasses. McCoy knows that something is wrong with his old friend, of course. Kirk hates riding a desk; that’s no secret. He’s not about to steal the Enterprise from his friend Spock the way he did from Decker, is he?
Ever the pragmatist, McCoy suggests that Kirk does what he has to do to get back his command.
Meanwhile, elsewhere (in the Ceti Alpha system, if you demand more precision), the U.S.S. Reliant is searching for the perfect planet to test Project: Genesis. The planet must be completely lifeless, without so much as a single living microbe. Dr. Carol Marcus, the head of Project: Genesis, is adamant about this fact. The Reliant’s captain, Clark Terrell and his first officer, Commander Chekov, beam down to the planet surface to see if it’s a suitable test site.
Capt. Terrell was played by the late Paul Winfield. For many years, Winfield narrated the A&E true crime series City Confidential until his death in 2004. The show limped along a little while longer without him, but it was never the same. But, Winfield gets bonus Trek points because he played Captain Dathon in TNG’s “Darmok” in 1991. I wanted him to say “Shaka, when the walls fell . . .” in this scene. He didn’t.
Back on the Reliant, Dr. Carol Marcus’s son—Dr. David Marcus—expresses concern that Starfleet is involved with Project: Genesis at all. The project is something that could easily be perverted into a weapon. David also mentions his mother’s old friend, that overgrown boy scout Jim Kirk, with the implication being that Kirk isn’t their “type” of person. Carol Marcus assures her son that Kirk is no boy scout.
This quick scene may be a bit heavy-handed, but I believe we’re already supposed to believe that David Marcus just may be James T. Kirk’s illegitimate son. I know I did.
David Marcus was played by Merritt R. Butrick, whom I knew from the one-season sitcom Square Pegs, in which he played John “Johnny Slash” Ulasewicz, a soft-spoken new wave music fan. Butrick also appeared in a TNG episode in 1989, the year before he passed away at the age of 29.
As the first fifteen minutes of this movie ends, either Captain Terrell or Commander Chekov (who is, of course, our familiar Pavel Chekov) says, “There’s nothing here.”
I’m not certain we should believe that.
This is how it’s done. Kirk is already motivated by his mid-life crisis to seek his old command again. Now, the top-secret Project: Genesis, which we’re blatantly told could easily be weaponized, seems to be in jeopardy, along with Kirk’s old girlfriend and a young man who is probably his son. The seeds of the entire story are planted in this one chapter. Khan hasn’t appeared on screen yet, but we know he’s there.
Until next time . . . Dr. Marcus is Our Baby Mama at the 15-Minute Federation . . .Live Long and Prosper.