01:00:01 – 01:15:00
We could tell it was going to be a whimsical duty shift on the bridge of the 15-Minute Federation because comical oboe music was playing over the ceiling speakers and our alien guest stars were all speaking in exaggerated Irish brogues. On the orders of Captain James C. Firewater, Commander Spork had glued about a dozen Tribbles to his blue officer’s tunic and was directed to look bemused without cracking a smile. Dr. “Ribcage” Macklemore‘s Southern accent became more pronounced as he got drunk on Saurian brandy. In fact, he sounded a lot like Foghorn Leghorn. This week’s pretty young yeoman had shared the doctor’s bottle and was dancing around the bridge topless, which is how she was discovered by the captain on Risa the previous week. Someone suggested that she be painted green.
And meanwhile, an aimless tune from an oboe continues to play in the background. As we said, whimsical.
As we begin Chapter 5, we are still near the beginning of Act Two of
The Wrath of Khan Edition of the 15-Minute Federation.
To recap the end of our last chapter, the USS Enterprise just engaged the USS Reliant, which had been ship-jacked by Khan Noonien Singh, that genetically-enhanced warrior Sikh with tanned skin like rich Corinthian leather, in a furious space battle that pretty much knocked both craft out of commission. Captain James T. Kirk had managed to save his ship by hacking into the Reliant‘s computers using the enemy ship’s prefix codes to drop its shields at a crucial moment. All’s fair in love and war.
As that chapter ended, Kirk, Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy, and the Vulcan female Lt. Saavik are the away team who beam aboard the science station Regula I, which has not been responding to their attempts at communication. Spock was left in command of the Enterprise. With Khan not presenting an immediate threat, the story goal is to find out the status of Kirk’s former lover Dr. Carol Marcus and her brain-child Project Genesis, which is this movie’s McGuffin, that thing all of the characters want to possess.
The science station is dark and shadowy. Ominous. Kirk is wearing his collar popped, too cool for school. We get some Friday the 13th jump scares with dangling hands and scientist bodies. This is all tense and atmospheric, but we really need something to help propel the plot forward at this point.
Something like finding Commander Chekov and Captain Terrell, both from the Reliant, stuffed inside a giant storage container. As the two officers, inexplicably left alive by Khan, regain consciousness, they tell an improbable tale of overcoming the effects of the Ceti eels. The rest of the Reliant‘s crew has been marooned on Ceti Alpha V, which seems fair. Terrell tells Kirk that Khan is a madman, and that he blames the admiral for his wife’s death. Which actually also seems fair.
We not taking Khan’s side here, just trying to understand his character motivation. Kirk exiled Khan and his group (including a member of his own crew, ship’s historian Lt. Marla McGivers, who is now Khan’s dead “wife”) to Ceti Alpha V, and no one ever checked on them afterward. So, even if Kirk didn’t personally execute Khan’s wife, he’s certainly guilty of negligent homicide. What we needed here was that tried-and-true Trek trope, the space trial, so that Spock could find some last-minute way to exonerate his captain.
Nah. It’s more fun this way. Khan wants to exact his revenge upon Kirk perhaps a little more than he wants to conquer the galaxy. This makes it personal. That’s why it’s important that Kirk have a personal relationship with Dr. Marcus (and her son, also Dr. Marcus). At the moment, Kirk and Khan are at a stalemate.
Aside from the discovery of Chekov and Capt. Terrell, the scenes on Regula I also result in the discovery that the station’s records of Project Genesis have all been erased, and that a recently-activated transporter had been used to beam people directly inside the Regula planetoid. You can probably guess where Kirk and the gang will be heading next.
But, before they take the planetoid plunge, Kirk communicates with Spock, asking for a damage report for the Enterprise. Spock gives him the awkwardly-phrased message that “by the book, hours would seem like days” in making the ship repairs, and that main power wouldn’t be restored for two days. Hours . . . days. Two. Hmm.
Kirk tells Spock to take the ship out of orbit if they don’t hear from the landing party in an hour. Uhura, who needed another line of dialogue, asserts that they would never leave anyone behind, to which Kirk responds that, if they don’t hear from them, there would be no one to leave behind. No one does melodrama like Kirk.
Chekov and Terrell are now members of the landing party, and join the others as they follow the transporter coordinates to beam inside the planetoid. The group materializes inside a cavern. The Genesis device is there. Kirk is immediately attacked by Dr. David Marcus, who is acting under the belief that Admiral Kirk is trying to steal the device. As Dr. Carol Marcus is trying to defuse this volatile father-and-son moment, we get the reveal of an expertly-planted—though not entirely unexpected—plot twist.
Wouldn’t you know it? Commander Chekov and Captain Terrell are still under Khan’s control. David Marcus, who inherited his dad’s lack of impulse control, rushes the two Starfleet officers after they pull their phasers and reveal their treachery. Lt. Saavik tackles David and prevents his death from Terrell’s phaser blast, although another scientist is unfortunately vaporized by it. Collateral damage.
From the bridge of the Reliant, where he’s been listening in, Khan orders Terrell to kill Admiral Kirk. Captain Terrell resists the command, although the Ceti eel is causing him obvious pain, and then turns his phaser on himself, committing suicide through vaporization in one last heroic act. A shame about the dead scientist, though. Then Chekov collapses for some reason and his own eel crawls out of his ear. It’s vaporized by Kirk. We can’t be certain why Chekov was spared this way. Okay, we know Chekov couldn’t be allowed to commit hari-kari the way his captain did. What we mean is that we’re not certain what the in-story reasons for his body’s sudden ejection of the Ceti eel might be. Maybe it was somehow psychically linked to the other dead eel. Sure, maybe that’s it. Maybe it was explained and we just weren’t listening. No matter. Terrell’s dead, Chekov lives. Let’s move on.
Someone here on the bridge of the 15-Minute Federation suggested that the Ceti eel could have laid eggs inside Chekov’s brain. Like in that Night Gallery episode, “The Caterpillar.” Which means that Chekov in subsequent appearances in the movies might be a sleeper agent, like the Manchurian Candidate. Someone should really write that story. We would read it.
Kirk somehow managing to stay alive again is another setback for Khan. But, no matter. He beams the Genesis device up to his ship and vows to leave Kirk and his group stranded in Regula forever. You see, he knows the Enterprise is still two days from being operational and he plans to destroy it now. Hahahahaha.
Which prompts my all-time favorite line of William Shatner dialogue:
This is immediately followed by a quiet scene in which Kirk and Carol get reacquainted, and Kirk gets to meet his hotheaded son. Carol asks who Khan is, but Kirk says that’s a long story and deflects the topic by asking if there’s any food. Carol says there’s enough food in the Genesis cave to last a lifetime if necessary.
Genesis cave? Kirk thought this was Genesis.
Hold that thought. The Genesis cave doesn’t get its big reveal until the next chapter.
Kirk puts on his granny glasses and checks his watch. He doesn’t seem overly concerned for a man who’s just been entombed for eternity. We get this quiet scene for a little more character building.
To Carol, Kirk says: “I did what you wanted. I stayed away . . . Why didn’t you tell him?”
Carol says, “How can you ask me that? Were we together? Were we going to be? You had your world and I had mine. And I wanted him in mine, not chasing through the universe with his father. Actually, he’s a lot like you, in many ways.” A beat. “Please tell me what you’re feeling.”
“There’s a man out there I haven’t seen in fifteen years who’s trying to kill me. You show me a son that’d be happy to help him. My son. My life that could have been . . . and wasn’t. And what am I feeling? Old. Worn out.”
So, it’s confirmed. David Marcus is actually James T. Kirk’s son. One of them, at any rate. Space Seed, indeed.
This continues to ratchet up the personal stakes for Kirk in his battle with Khan. This grounds the conflict in character, something that many science-fiction dramas forget to do.
Dr. Carol Marcus takes us out of the chapter with her next words to Kirk.
“Let me show you something,” she says, “that’ll make you feel young as when the world was new.”
And here ends Chapter Five. We’re not quite out of Act Two yet, but Three is closer than you might expect. We’ve just slightly more than thirty minutes remaining in this movie. This chapter brought us a couple of new deaths, set the dramatic countdown for Khan’s destruction of the Enterprise, and raised the personal stakes for Kirk and his . . . family?
Next, we go deeper into the cave, find out the truth behind the Kobyashi Maru, and get back out into space where we belong.
Until then . . . The Antimatter in Our Warp Drive Pods is 100% Finely-Ground Arabica Beans at the 15-Minute Federation . . .Live Long and Prosper.