Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan

Can Khan still captivate or is it time to can the Khan?

What’s The Movie? Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan

Pre-Existing Prejudices: It’s a sequel to godawful TOS episode “Space Seed”, so it’s got that baggage to carry. It’s got Ricardo Montalban giving the kind of subtle, understated performances that Ricardo Montalban is known for (he’s still amazing). But, more than anything else, it’s The Wrath Of Khan, fanboy favourite and beloved franchise restorer after the misfire of The Motion Picture. I wonder if it will live up to its reputation? Mmm.

What’s It All About, JG?
Kirk trains a bunch of cadets while Chekov bumps into a bad guy he didn’t meet in the original series but who nevertheless recognises him. Said bad guy is Khan, marooned and out for revenge. He wants Kirk dead and he wants the Genesis project, a life-bringing scientific discovery / doomsday weapon. It’s been built by Kirk’s estranged ex, Carol Marcus, and their son, David, so that’s some handy extra motivation. It all comes to a head in a big nebula with Khan being defeated (well, defeating himself really) but at the cost of Spock, who dies sacrificing his life to save the ship and the movie. It won’t stick.

Any Other Business:

• Bea Arthur sure is looking pretty jacked in that movie poster, huh?

• Even by the standards of Star Trek hairpieces, Shatner’s toupee is distractingly terrible. I’m amazed it didn’t get its own on-screen credit.

• We get fan-favourite no-win-scenario test the Kobayashi Maru débuted for the first time. It’s an interesting idea that Starfleet might take time to train its officers in situations like a no-win, but the ship Saavik is meant to be piloting goes down very easily.

• Ah yes, Saavik debuts here as well. Kirstie Alley is quite good in the role, so she won’t be back for Star Trek III.

• The Reliant, a sort of squashed-looking Enterprise, is another new feature. It’s… OK. The special effects aren’t great, but the model is fairly decent.

• Kirk collects antiques. That’s new! He seems to have a nice view of San Francisco, at least. The leisurewear he and McCoy wear is beyond awful, in line with all future not-uniforms clothing (check out, especially, Jake Sisko’s collection of bus-seat coverings masquerading as plausible clothing a teenager might wear).

• Yeah, about the special effects here. They are… not great. The Slow Motion Picture went for high-quality effects at the expense of storytelling. Here we have the flip side – largely poor effects used to deliver on a better script. Bear with us – it’s going to be a long time before they get this balance right.

• We have yet another new transporter effect. Its horrid, worse than the one we had last time out, and they’ve ditched the distinctive high-pitched whine. Wrong choice.

• Jerry Goldsmith has been replaced, to terrible effect, by James Horner. His score is absolutely dreadful, full over over-enthusiastic strings and an inability to write to what’s actually happening on screen. We get another new “theme” for TOS (not in itself dreadful though less good than Goldsmith’s TNG one last time out) which is unnecessary, but the rest of his work feels like it belongs to a Saturday morning 30’s cartoon or Flash Gordon episode. Really poor work.

• So – Khan’s back. Setting aside why an episode as awful as “Space Seed” needed a sequel, at least Ricardo Montalban has screen presence. His supporting cast of blonde nothings barely seem to exist, but the man himself feels like a credible foe. Until he doesn’t.

• How the fuck did nobody notice that there were fewer planets in this solar system than the last time anyone passed this way?

• The ear-worm things on Ceti Alpha V are memorably nasty and striking, and linger in the memory much longer than all that faffing about with nebulas or whatever. Top marks to everyone involved with then. Walter Koenig sounds genuinely pained when they crawl in/out of his ear canal.

• The Genesis Device represents a moral horror – a device that can literally extinguish all life on a planet, but not only that, reshape it in the image of whoever fired it. Or it can be the ultimate life-bringer, changing barren rocks into something useable, an alchemists dream. What The Wrath Of Khan badly needs is more than a handful of lines between Spock and McCoy over the ethics of this. McCoy is dead right to be upset about the implications, but it’s all swept aside because McCoy isn’t allowed to make valid points any more, it seems. Not a great choice.

• Still, for all that the character isn’t given much of a chance to make moral points, DeForest is great. McCoy gets a bit more to do and although (the odd few moments apart) the movies almost entirely side-lines the character he’s used to good effect here and gets more screen-time than some outings. He’s an extremely welcome presence in among all that dour military growling at each other.

• It’s quite nice that Kirk – a superior officer – knows something that Spock doesn’t, and Spock has to actually ask for information regarding the Genesis Device. It’s a small point, but well made. And Carol Marcus’s presentation (nice effects for the Genesis Device there, by the way) explicitly asks for “funding”, so we know money is still around at this point.

• Are we supposed to find all this “regulation blah-die-blah states…” material interesting? Because it’s not, you know.

• Spock tells Kirk it was a mistake to accept promotion and that him being anywhere other than the captain’s chair was a waste. Kirk then proceeds to take a bunch of untried cadets into the heat of battle, fails to follow protocol and gets his ship half torn apart, provokes his arch enemy into a confrontation when said arch enemy (and there are few enemies more arch than Khan) has the upper hand, and loses his first office as a result. Yup – he definitely belongs in the captain’s chair!

• There’s a proper sense that the film is trying to imbue Genesis with a real sense of wonder in the “underground caves” in the asteroid. It’s a shame, then, that they’re a cheap matte painting and some inserts. Nice effort, though.

• Christ, those flip-open communicators are huge! They’re bigger than the ones in the original series!

• It’s a well-known point but I’ll mention it anyway. Why does Scotty bring the injured and dying midshipman to the bridge rather than sickbay? Did he think the movie was flagging and needed a melodramatic moment?

• Still, Doohan’s best moment in all six movies is his reaction to the death of his nephew (not named as such in the original cut of the movie, but there in the Director’s Cut and the novelization). He seems genuinely heartbroken but pulls himself together to go back to his post.

• The nebula is woefully unconvincing, like a blue and purple bath being drained away, and the models never really look like they’re “in” it, more on top. And the movie is much prouder of its slightly smug “two-dimensional thinking” material than it really ought to be.

• It’s awfully easy, in the heat of battle, for Spock to just wander off from his duty station without anyone noticing.

• He saves the ship though, so that’s alright.

• Bagpipes, “Amazing Grace”, and a soft landing on the Genesis planet. It’s almost as if this isn’t the end for Spock!

• Nimoy gets to do the ponderous “Space, the final frontier” speech this time out. Well, it’s better than “the human adventure is just beginning” at least.

In Conclusion:
There are two things that are puzzling about The Wrath of Khan. Firstly, why it’s such an ungodly mess, and secondly why it’s held in such high regard. Let’s tackle the second of these first, because whatever the flaws of this movie – and there are many, many flaws – this is manifestly better than The Motion Picture, and that at least in part explains its reputation. It being better is not, of course, a synonym for it being good, but this is clearly well paced, there’s some real character moments, and a sense that the people making this actually wanted to make a Star Trek film rather than Some Grand Statement Starring Some People You Might Remember. For this to have a better reputation than The Motion Picture it simply had to not suck. And fair enough, it just about manages to clear that incredibly low bar, even if only by a few millimetres. This was really the film that a lot of people wanted The Motion Picture to be – not thoughtful in any meaningful sense, but action-adventure oriented and with a sense of purpose. It gives some idea that tooling around the galaxy might be fun, or exciting, or dramatic, or inventive. Rather than, you know, slow and dull and rather uninvolving. For those reasons it’s easy to imagine this not only being better than its predecessor, but just a relief that this isn’t bad in the same ways.

The Wrath of Khan still isn’t a terribly good film though. There’s something very narrow about its perspective, and something very limiting in the way that perspective is deployed. We have neither the first, not sadly the last, attempt to meld Moby Dick and Star Trek, and like most attempts it’s not wholly convincing. Want to compare Ahab and Khan because their quest for revenge parallels each other? Well sure, but that’s a) hardly unique to Moby Dick and b) just not terribly interesting. Khan is meant to be a warrior-king fascist from the days of genetic experimentation, played by the staggeringly charismatic Ricardo Montalban, and the best they can think to do with him is run him through a tenth-generation copy of a book everyone’s likely already overly-familiar with? That’s not adding philosophy or a scholarly underpinning to your movie, it’s just not having any inspiration and going to the Big Book Of Literary Clichés. And Khan – his name is Khan, for Christ’s sake! – has a book collection that consists of nothing but white, liberal-appreciated Western writers like Shakespeare and Milton. I mean, it’s not that they’re bad writers, obviously, but you have a non-white actor playing a character called Khan and the production can’t even be bothered to put in enough thought to have him have even a slightly different outlook, or indeed a slightly different book collection from Kirk. Even something as blisteringly obviously as The Art Of War might have helped, but no. Khan is just This Week’s / Movie’s Bad Guy and just so happens to have been played in the original by Ricardo Montalban rather than some other random guest actor of the week. That’s why it’s tough to get worked up about the character being played by Benedict Cumberbatch in Into Darkness – there was never a sense of Khan coming from a different culture beyond a few stock “exoticisms”, he’s just a baddie in the most generic sense possible, and his quest for revenge could come from almost anyone. His sole saving grace comes from Montalban – who is, let’s be clear, amazing at playing the character – but if, back in 1967, Montalban’s diary had been full and he’d been played by, I dunno, Leslie Nielson or Dean Stockwell or someone, almost nothing would be different about the character. He’s just a stock set of bad guy clichés, given form only by the strength of Montalban’s performance, that nobody involved has bothered to think through the implications of. See Fanwankometer Reading, Captain, for more on this…

Still, at least an actor of Montalban’s presence adds something to the role, which is why there are so many great confrontation scenes between him and Kirk, right? Ah, no, actually. That’s the other strange thing here. There are absolutely no scenes of Shatner and Montalban acting opposite each other. There’s a couple of near misses, as they glower and stomp their feet at each other across viewing screens or communicator channels, but the big confrontation between these two apparently-implacable enemies? Completely absent. Shatner, whist starting to phase in to his more, shall we say, Shatnerian performance (see below) has at least worked out how to upscale his performance for the big screen as compared to the last outing. He may fall back on now-familiar ticks and mannerisms, but he actually occupies the centre of the screen, and for all Kirk’s many failings here Shatner has the character be at the middle of the movie. And, of course, Montalban simply drips charisma – Khan’s a poor character but Montalban’s portrayal of him is anything but. So… why don’t they ever meet? It looks for all the world like they have Montalban for about a week’s worth of work and it happened to coincide with Shatner being out of the country so they just recorded their bits separately and got spliced together in editing. This whole film is meant to be about Kirk and how he’s reacting to changing circumstances, being confronted by a mistake from the past. So… actually have him confront it! What this film absolutely aches for is a proper scene between these two, something to really anchor otherwise rather abstract scenes about ageing or moving on from the past. But it’s not there. Khan’s “I’ve hurt you… and I want to go on hurting you” is an outstanding performance from Montalban but there’s no comeback. The oft-derided “Khaaaaaaan!” of Kirk yelling his name is Kirk faking it for Khan’s benefit, so it’s emotionally empty and that’s the closest the film gets, unless you get teary-eyed listening to Kirk and Spock mumbling about prefix codes. Kirk’s ageing as the core of the movie – a strangely counter-intuitive stance given The Motion Picture’s sincere attempts to look to a future for TOS – doesn’t get anywhere because there’s never anything of consequence to contrast it with. 

The other big mistake from the past that Kirk is supposed to face is the “girl in every port” reputation the character had back in the 60’s, and the consequences of this for Kirk in the shape of his ex, Carol Marcus, and his son, David. This actually approaches a genuine critique of Kirk and his behaviour and is incredibly welcome – the movie doesn’t particularly take a moral stance (“sleeping around is bad, m’kay”) but rather has David simply be a fact of his former ways and have Kirk confront that head-on. This works to an extent – there’s some proper conflict between Kirk and David as one might imagine there would be, and David’s simmering resentment spilling over into open criticism of Kirk feels genuine. Carol Marcus herself is considerably less effective – Bibi Besch is something of a non-presence when the character really needs to be built up as equal but opposite to Kirk. This works on a scripting level – lab-bound scientist vs Kirk’s military explorer, responsible mother vs wayward father and so on – but there’s not a lot of weight to Besch’s performance and what should have been one of the core elements of the film rather fizzles out. It’s another element here that really needed to be pushed to the next level, but isn’t.

This seems like something of a low blow, but one of the other things about The Wrath Of Khan that simply ought to be better is the look of the film. Everything just looks so cheap. That the special effects are either cheaper than the last time out, or simply recycled, is perhaps understandable when a movie studio wants to draw in its horns but so much of this looks rather tacky. The uniforms have mercifully been redesigned, and are a vast improvement of the oceans of beige The Motion Picture presented us with, but that’s the only thing that looks better here. The Enterprise still looks great but is mostly recycled (as is our brief glance at the Klingons this time round), the Reliant model looks fine but never actually convincing within any environment, the transporters look cheaper and worse, the props are big chunky things… The Wrath Of Khan desperately wants to be top-tier spectacle sci-fi, able to hold itself alongside the likes of Star Wars but it can’t even come close to competing. The annoying thing about this is, of course, that Star Trek doesn’t need to compete in that arena, it’s perfectly capable of holding its own in other, more interesting, ways, but Star Wars dominates everything culturally in 1982 and so the desire to keep up wins out but at the expense of the movie being its own thing. To go back to our original question, that’s why this is a mess – it’s trying to serve too many masters and ends up serving none.

This also leads us to a lot of the “navel” paraphernalia we have here as Starfleet becomes a sort of space navy (because the movie is trying to look all smart and highbrow by aping Moby Dick and so of course it’s going for “naval epic” – Mutiny On The Bounty might have been a better bet if you want to go down that line, not that there’s any particular reason to), and a re-run of the “submarine” tensions of “Balance Of Terror”. The cheap, often drab, look of the movie, combined with Space Navy overtones just renders the whole thing a sort of washed out boys-own military adventure but with little of what might actually make that an interesting prospect. And of course, Starfleet was never meant to be just “the armed forces but in spaaaaaace!” anyway, so it’s pretty dispiriting to see them portrayed that way here. And when it comes to The Big Confrontation, this movie really wants you to invest in its militarism. There’s a real, deep love of the structure and function of the military here, a desire for rules and regulations, a passion for how following them keeps you safe (or “safe”) – regulations are rattled off like holy writ. It’s an unguarded, unquestioning approach that’s very unsettling in a Star Trek context – Star Trek has had plenty of brushes with the military in the past, but there were always questions raised and it was never blind obedience. It’s almost impossible to imagine the “how do we get round this?” approach of something like “The Doomsday Machine” being applied here – the Enterprise would be space dust in that episode if they followed the approach of The Wrath Of Khan. The moralising of the film whackingly unsubtle even by Trek standards and having that backed up by militaristic fetishism really leaves a bad taste. And the movie is not, in the end, even convinced of its own conclusion – the whole “Kirk didn’t raise the shields in time” is just awful, because its so glaringly obvious that despite the love of rules and regulations the only reason he doesn’t raise the shields in time is that if he does the movie ends about forty-five minutes early. Instead Kirk gets half his ship destroyed, contributes to a whole bunch of his crew dying, then sadly laments that they should be seen as “heroes”. There’s a few of those moments in The Wrath Of Khan and they make both the characters and the writing look lazy and ill-considered.

I guess we’d better deal with Spock. His death is, after all, the big climax of the film (alongside the other big climax of the film when a spaceship blows up, and also the other climax of the film where The Search For Spock is set up in the most unsubtle way imaginable). It’s quite well done. There, I found a nice thing to say about The Wrath Of Khan! I mean, it’s such a well-known piece of pop culture now it’s hard to watch it without knowing every line and that does rather blunt its dramatic impact. Nimoy has been turning in a better performance this time out – still nowhere near his best, but an improvement nonetheless – but he visibly steps up his game during the scenes in Engineering. It all flows well – his decision to sacrifice himself, Scotty and McCoy’s reaction to him going into a radiation-flooded chamber (Doohan’s “he’s dead already” when Kirk turns up is another nice moment from him) and Spock’s final attempts at dignity all work well and Nimoy’s up to the task of making them seem credibly like something Spock would do. Shatner’s pretty great there too, looking genuinely devastated as Spock dies. It all gets a bit over the top with the bagpipes and James Horner’s syrupy strings, but the moment itself is effective and manages to just about land the “no win scenario” the movie’s been running with. Which will be immediately undone next time round, but that’s another story. I haven’t really mentioned much about aging and Kirk’s attempts to grapple with it, but that’s because there’s actually not a lot to say about it. The film seems to think it’s incredibly smart in addressing this (because whoever would have believed that a middle-aged man might be worried about getting old?) and to be fair, having Kirk need glasses is actually a subtle and well-used point that hints in the direction of his ageing (alongside Carol and David’s presence) without overstating it. Unfortunately, “overstating it” is exactly how the rest of the movie runs with this and by the time we get to “I feel… young” it’s all become rather ludicrous.

Ultimately, The Wrath Of Khan just isn’t good enough, and the mistakes made here are simply too many to hand-wave away. There are certainly good points – Montalban, naturally – but the vast bulk of the film either misunderstands Star Trek or simply doesn’t care and thinks this is somehow compatible with what it is that Star Trek has aimed for in the past. Dull though The Motion Picture is, it’s (over) earnest attempts at exploring and understanding V’ger feel like they belong to the tradition of a show that’s always been about gaining knowledge through investigation and intelligence. This? We get a half-hearted revenge plot where the lead character “genius” is too thick to stop despite having basically everything he wanted, a “we’re getting on a bit” plot that stands in direct contradiction to the last outing, and a bunch of other random stuff that never coheres into anything (seriously: How can Kirk be viewed as a hero at the end of this?). Much of what’s presented is superficially entertaining, but that’s the problem – this is a very superficial film that attempts to cloak itself in the shroud of philosophy just enough to make people who “get it” feel smart, and even the action feels fairly perfunctory. Spock’s death is shocking, but that’s all it is – it’s not woven in to the fabric of the film at all, it’s just something that happens at the end of it (and is immediately set up to be retconned next time out). Ultimately, the problem with The Wrath Of Khan is not so much that it’s a bad film – which it is – it’s that there are actually people who think this is what Star Trek should be.

It absolutely is not.

What Percentage Of This Film Could Be Cut?
Not a lot. There are many, obvious, glaring flaws with The Wrath Of Khan but an overlong running time isn’t really one of them. There’s a few trims that could be made here and there, but for the most part the material we have is all actually relevant to the film we’re watching (for good or bad). There’s a few character scenes – like McCoy visiting Kirk on his birthday – that actively improve upon what was tried in the last film, and for all the stupidity of Khan and his quest for revenge what we have on screen is pertinent to what he’s doing. You know, for all that I don’t hold this film in high regard, I’ll go with 0%. It works with what it has, even when what it has isn’t that great.

How Shatner-y Is Shatner?
Oh yeah, here comes the Shatner. He’s noticeably more Shatnery this time out – still not quite the full self-impression but things are moving in that direction. He does, to be fair, get a few moments where he does well – both he and Nimoy are great during Spock’s death scene, and say what you like about his acting but there’s a reason his little voice-crack at Spock’s funeral (“his was the most… human”) is remembered. He’s getting camper though – the little “aren’t you dead” to Spock after the Kobayashi Maru is definitely leaning into what we think of as a Shatner performance. His scene with DeForest Kelley at his birthday – badly blocked and directed though it is – shows that he can still deliver and highlights what a shame it is that the two of them don’t get to share more screen-time over the course of the movies. There are fewer “Spoooock!”’s this time out, but overall we’re seeing a gradual increase of Shatnerisation rather than a sudden step up.

How Achingly 1982 Is This Movie?
Actually, for the most part it’s still firmly 1979. Cutting costs meant that a lot of what we see here is recycled from the The Motion Picture. That means that Kirk still has that brown smoked-glass sliding door, and there’s lots of reused footage and model work that helps keep those costs as low as possible – we have to get three-quarters of the way through the movie before we see a new shot of the Enterprise. Saavik tries to bridge the gap with hair and make-up that’s very early-80’s, and as mentioned the casual clothing that people wear is terrible, and very much of its era. There’s a mention of Genesis being developed because of limited resources and space, which hints at early 80’s concerns with the environment that will find much fuller expression in The Voyager Home, but at least here stands as a nod towards the era it was made in.

Fanwankometer Reading, Captain:
Well, it’s a sequel, so the fanwankometer is pinging hard. Missus. It’s weird though – you’re doing a sequel to an episode but can’t quite get the continuity right. Chekov, as is well known, never met Khan because “Space Seed” was a Season One story and Walter Koenig only joined the cast in Season Two. Yet Khan knows him. Now sure you can fanwank around this – maybe Chekov was on the Enterprise but not bridge crew at that point so Khan could have met him off-screen. Or something. Yet all you have to do is swap the characters of Sulu and Chekov here and the problem is fixed, but they don’t bother doing it. It’s an odd failing to say the least. Why bother doing a sequel if you can’t even get the basic details right? For the rest, sure Khan had a “beloved” wife, dead here as a motivating factor for his revenge. Fridged without even an on-screen appearance – how undignified. In truth, beyond Khan himself there’s very little overlap with “Space Seed” beyond mention that he’s a generic / genetic nutter from the past and the whole Ceti Alpha Something situation.

Saying that, in the interests of dedication to the cause, albeit slightly late dedication to the cause, I went back and watched “Space Seed” (fankwankometer reading from the future, Captain), which raised some interesting points regarding Khan’s origins, how they work, and how they feed into the whole Into Darkness / Benedict Cumberbatch casting argument. Everyone should know how much I have suffered for you because it really is a terrible episode. One point to make which is irrelevant to this discussion but true – Shatner is really good in it. Like, really good. The episode is dreadful but it’s amazing to see how much he puts into it.

Moving on. Firstly, in terms of his origin Khan never self-identifies as Sikh. One character, McGivers, says when he’s still unconscious in his cryochamber, “he looks Sikh!” But as he’s wearing a string mesh that any given go-go dancer would be proud of rather than anything approaching Sikh traditional dress, and lacks anything that might otherwise identify him as Sikh (specifically, with hair that long he’d be wearing a turban). So she is at best speculating and at worst actively racist, since the way the line is delivered is patronising (as if she’s pointing at an exhibit in a zoo) and it’s followed up with “they’re great warriors!” (basically one step away from the black-strongman racist stereotype). At one point she paints a picture of him with a turban but he never actually, you know, wears one. Now, you may argue, that Sikhs from the 1990’s (!) may have in Star Trek‘s timeline done away with the traditional dress or turban (or indeed any other caste-identifying symbols such as jewellery, which you would also expect him to have) but if that’s true it’s never mentioned or even alluded to. Secondly, at no other point in the episode does Khan do anything to draw attention to his ethnicity or religious background, nor do any of the other characters pass comment on it beyond the fact that he’s meant to be a genetically-engineered superman from more primitive times. Thirdly, Montalban is Mexican, so he’s not cast for the right ethnicity anyway. When discussing this in the main article this is what I mean by “he could have been played by anyone”. Indeed, the Wiki entry for this reads, “He [Montalban] had been suggested by casting director Joseph D’Agosta, who was not looking to cast an actor of a particular ethnic background due to Roddenberry’s vision for the series; Roddenberry wanted to show his perceived 23rd century values by not requiring any specific ethnicities when casting actors in guest roles”. So again, had Montalban been busy we could have had literally anyone playing that role since they were doing what we would now call colour-blind casting.

The point of all this feeds into Into Darkness and the issue of casting there. This isn’t really to defend (or attack) the casting of Cumberbatch – who in acting terms is fine as a nothing character – but more to highlight how it’s often the case with fans that they will simply repeat what they want to be true, rather than what is true. The rush to claim how “progressive” Star Trek was can sometimes occlude the reality. It could be progressive, of course it could, but it wasn’t always and this is one of the occasions when it fell short. It’s also worth pointing out that “Space Seed” is phenomenally sexist, not just by today’s standards but by those of the 1960’s as well. Female characters are stupid, led by their stupid female emotions, for stupid reasons, they are weak and easily manipulated, and then also there’s some more stupidity thrown in for good measure. McGivers is a terrible character, and even Uhura seems to have taken a sip from the Stupid Cup this time out. It’s horrific in the way that it treats female characters (another reason its a dreadful episode), and “Space Seed” is that last place anyone should be going to look for progressiveness in Star Trek. It’s OK to admit when the show got it wrong sometimes.

TL;DR “He’s Sikh” comes from one idiotic character’s basically racist assumption and isn’t supported anywhere else either within the episode or outwith it in terms of production. Which makes it hard to get worked up about one not-Sikh character being replaced by a different not-Sikh character.

Tough pick this time out. I think I’ll go with Kirstie Alley though. Meyer isn’t a bad director but he doesn’t quite distinguish himself either, the regulars are fine for the most part, and James Horner can go leap off a cliff for his work here, but there’s something rather pleasing about the way Alley plays Saavik. She’s clearly Vulcan, and clearly young, but Alley isn’t just doing a Nimoy impression to try and land the characterisation. Her reaction to the Kobayashi Maru test is nicely underplayed – she’s clearly frustrated at her failure but suppressing it well enough, she’s intellectually curious, and she’s willing to respect rank and position. Alley consistently underplays here – in contract to almost everyone else – but it suits Saavik rather well, to the extent that it’s a great shame this is her only outing in the role. The character will be back next time, the same but not quite, but for Alley’s only go-around she deserves some praise.

Movie Rankings:

1) Star Trek II:The Wrath Of Khan
2) Star Trek: The Motion Picture

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