At the end of the universe lies the beginning of vengeance

The second Star Trek movie. Originally named Star Trek II: The Vengeance of Khan but they changed it because that sounded too similar to Revenge of the Jedi (later changed to Return of the Jedi) which was being made around the same time (1982)

Story by Harve Bennett and Jack B. Sowards, and directed by Nicholas Meyer.

Admiral James T. Kirk (William Shatner) has a desk job while Captain Spock (Leonard Nimoy) is working as a cadet instructor at Starfleet Academy and is also in command of the USS Enterprise (NCC 1701).

Scientists aboard Space Station Regula I are conducting the Project Genesis experiment, and the USS Reliant is assigned to it.

Commander Pavel Chekov and Captain Clark Terrell beam down to the surface of the sixth planet of the Ceti Alpha system and discover a cargo container containing (unbeknownst to them) refugees from the Eugenics Wars, with Khan Noonian Singh (Ricardo Montalban) in charge.

Khan hijacks the Reliant and steals the Genesis Device.

Admiral Kirk takes the USS Enterprise on a training mission, and is involved in a surprise attack, in which Khan vows to avenge his exile.

In the end Captain Spock dies when he goes into the radiation chamber to get the warp drive fixed. After Spock is "buried" in space, his coffin drifts until it lands on the Genesis Planet.

Next up: Star Trek III: The Search for Spock

Arguably the best of all the Star Trek motion pictures. It has some of the best performances of any of the movies, especially those of Shatner (surprising) and Montalban (is that his chest?). Khan just makes such a perfect villain, with his blind hatred and cool catch phrases ("Revenge is a dish best served cold, it is very cold in space"). This movie also had by far the best space battles (with the possible exception of the ST:VI cloaked Bird-of-Prey battle). It seems surprising to me that this was the movie that followed the first one (only ST:V was worse), it having so much more life, creativity, and drama.

There was one glaring continuity problem, however, that only die hard ST fans would catch on to. In the scene where Chekov first finds Khan, Khan mentions that he "never forgets a face" when he is talking to Chekov. Unfortunately for the writers, Walter Koenig had not yet joined the series when the original episode "Space Seed" was shot. Khan was gone long before he ever could have met him.

Other than that it was very well done, and is still, in my opinion, the best of the Star Trek films.

You are not hallucinating. The ABC Star Trek II broadcast did include some previously-cut scenes, as well as different edits. (I believe I still have the videotape, though it's old enough that the picture may have degraded significantly.)

For example, in the theaters and on home video the Kirk/Saavik turbolift scene was one continuous master shot with them at opposite sides of the screen. The ABC broadcast intercut closeups of each character instead. And, yes, when Kirk was piped on board the Enterprise, Scotty introduced Peter Preston as his "sister's youngest, crazy to get to space."

Vonda McIntyre's novelization of Star Trek II, as with her other novelizatons Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and the "origin" novel Enterprise: The First Adventure, restored the "cut" material, including references to Saavik's Romulan heritage and Sulu's promotion to captain of the USS Excelsior. The latter was actually filmed but left on the cutting room floor; according to his biography George Takei suspected that William Shatner didn't care for the scene and intentionally didn't play it well.

"I do hope that Paramount at some point revisits this film (and all the Trek films) with a DVD special edition. I've got a VHS, off-air recording of this film, as shown on ABC more than a decade ago, and there's some cool extra and extended scenes that I'd love to see in DVD quality. In talking with the studio, I think there IS reason to hope that this might happen in the next few years. In any case, I'm pretty thrilled with this disc as is."

-- Bill Hunt, www.thedigitalbits.com

There are a few other things that are seldom discussed, but have always bothered me about the film.

* SPOILER WARNING *

The Issues

First of all, why don't the crew of Reliant know all about Khan Noonian Singh before they enter the Ceti Alpha system? Either they are total incompetents, or the information is not in the Reliant's computer banks. Since they are a trained Starfleet crew, we assume it must be the latter. And since we can safely assume Spock logged it at the time, it must have been deleted later.

Second, even granting the lack of information about Khan, how could Reliant enter a known and charted system and miss the evidence of the explosion of Ceti Alpha Six, and the wrong orbit of Ceti Alpha Five (which they mistake for Six somehow). How does Reliant's database not alert them to the problem? It must contain data that was updated or altered after Ceti Alpha Six exploded.

Third, how could Spock allow the crew of the Botany Bay to be marooned on a planet with such an unstable planet as Ceti Alpha Six a neighbor? Well, he wouldn't. There's just no way Spock misses something like that. Remember:

KHAN: Ceti Alpha Six exploded six months after we were left here.

Not much time. So the instability developed suddenly, shortly after Enterprise left the system.

So what's up? Patience. All will be revealed shortly...

Another mystery: When the Enterprise boarding party finds Terrell and Chekov aboard Regula One the following conversation about Khan occurs:

TERRELL: ... He's completely mad, Admiral. He blames you for the death of his wife.

KIRK: I know what he blames me for.

Now, how does Kirk know this? He's had exactly one conversation with Khan, since he left him on Ceti Alpha Five at the end of Space Seed, which was during the recent space battle. The closest they got to the topic was this:

KIRK: What is the meaning of this attack? ...

KHAN: Surely I have made my meaning plain. I mean to avenge myself upon you, Admiral.
But I wanted you to know first who it was who had beaten you!

That's it. So how does Kirk know what Khan blames him for? Khan didn't tell him, ergo he knew already. And how did he know already?

Well, we have one more piece of data. Kirk, unbeknownst to us all, is a hacker. When they're in the Genesis cave Kirk explains to Saavik how he came to be the one and only Starfleet cadet to beat the Kobayashi Maru scenario.

KIRK: I reprogrammed the simulation so it was possible to rescue the ship.

And since no one has else ever succeeded in doing this, presumably it was a fairly difficult hack.

The Cold Hard Facts

So let's look at our facts and hypotheses:

  • Reliant's computer banks have no data on Khan or the Botany Bay crew. It was therefore deleted.
  • Reliant's computer banks have updated data on the Ceti Alpha system, but data which is not complete (misnumbered planets, for example).
  • Ceti Alpha Six exploded shortly after Enterprise's visit, and this was never discovered.
  • Kirk knows what Khan blames him for.
  • Kirk is a hacker of no mean ability.
What does this tell us? Simply this:

The Conspiracy Theory

Kirk secretly arranged for Ceti Alpha Six to be blown up, thus changing Ceti Alpha Five from an idyllic world into a hell hole. ("Try to asphyxiate me, will you, Khan?"). He later uses his position in the Starfleet Admiralty to alter the Starfleet database to remove all record of the crew of the Botany Bay and to hide the changes to the Ceti Alpha system from casual discovery.

KHAN: Admiral Kirk never bothered to check on our progress.

That's where Khan was wrong. Kirk checked up, all right. He knew. He enjoyed every minute of the suffering of the Botany Bay's crew. It was only a fluke that Kirk did not know of the Reliant's mission so that he could divert them.

Summary

The actions of James T. Kirk in this case are clear. He deliberately caused cruel and unusual punishment to be inflicted on the crew of Botany Bay and is indirectly responsible for all harmful events stemming from Reliant's contact with Khan.

Note: To the best of my knowledge, this theory is my own, original, paranoid, psychotic idea.
I enjoy this movie a great deal, despite the fact that I am now 18 years older than when I first saw it in the theater (I believe it was the old Merritt in Bridgeport, Connecticut). I enjoy it even more now that I am aware that the film is, without question, Moby Dick in space.

That this should be true of the plot is evident, as long as you assume that Khan is Ahab and Kirk is his white whale. Moby Dick took Ahab's leg, Kirk took (indirectly) Khan's wife, Marla McGivers. The mad and ultimately vain pursuit ends with disaster to Khan's ship, the death of his crew, and one final fling of an allegorical harpoon in the form of the Genesis Device. They even lift lines directly from Melville's book, such as Khan's last words:

"To the last, I grapple with thee; from hell's heart, I stab at thee; for hate's sake, I spit my last breath at thee."

These are the famous words Ahab utters before the whale takes him down. There is also the earlier paraphrase "I'll chase him 'round the moons of Nivea, and 'round the Antares maelstrom, and 'round perdition's flames before I give him up." The attentive viewer will also notice a bound copy of Moby Dick on a shelf inside the group's squalid hut on Ceti Alpha V. (BTW the novel is just as good as the movie, if not better--pick it up and give it a read!)

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