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Star Trek II The Wrath of Khan (1982) - Illustrated Reference

Updated on October 16, 2017

Star Trek II The Wrath of Khan was directed by Nicholas Meyer and premiered on 4th June 1982. Starring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Kirstie Alley, Bibi Besch, Paul Winfield and Ricardo Montalban. Screenplay by Jack B. Sowards and Nicholas Meyer. Music by James Horner. 113 mins.

It is the 23rd Century… scientists on the USS Reliant are experimenting with Project Genesis, the ability to create habitable worlds from lifeless planets. The USS Enterprise is on a two week cadet training cruise under the command of Captain Spock. Admiral Kirk confronts an old enemy bent on revenge.

Director Nicholas Meyer (1945-) had previously written and directed the time travel movie Time After Time (1979) starring Malcolm McDowell as H.G. Wells and David Warner as Jack the Ripper. Meyer would also write the screenplay for another time travel adventure, Star Trek: The Voyage Home (1986) and direct Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country (1991).

Producer Harve Bennett (1930-) watched the original series and singled out the first season episode “Space Seed”. He decided the character of Khan would be a strong villain for the new film. And luckily for them 62 year old Ricardo Montalban was still in pretty good shape.

Saavik: Admiral, may I ask you a question?
Kirk: What's on your mind, Lieutenant?
Saavik: The Kobayashi Maru, sir.
Kirk: Are you asking me if we're playing out that scenario now?
Saavik: On the test, sir... will you tell me what you did? I would really like to know.
McCoy: Lieutenant, you are looking at the only Starfleet cadet who ever beat the no-win scenario.
Saavik: How?
Kirk: I reprogrammed the simulation so it was possible to rescue the ship.
Saavik: What?
David: He cheated.
Kirk: I changed the conditions of the test; got a commendation for original thinking. I don't like to lose.

William Shatner (1931-) / Admiral James T. Kirk

Born in Quebec, Canada, William Shatner has also starred as James Kirk in Star Trek The Motion Picture (1979), Star Trek III The Search for Spock (1984), Star Trek IV The Voyage Home (1986), Star Trek V The Final Frontier (1989), Star Trek VI The Undiscovered Country (1991) and Star Trek Generations (1994).

Leonard Nimoy (1931-) / Mr. Spock

Born in Boston, Massachussets, Leonard Nimoy has played Spock in Star Trek The Motion Picture (1979), Star Trek III The Search for Spock (1984), Star Trek IV The Voyage Home (1986), Star Trek V The Final Frontier (1989) and Star Trek VI The Undiscovered Country (1991).

DeForest Kelley (1920-1999) / Dr. Leonard 'Bones' McCoy

Born in Atlanta, Georgia, DeForest Kelley has appeared as Dr. McCoy in Star Trek The Motion Picture (1979), Star Trek III The Search for Spock (1984), Star Trek IV The Voyage Home (1986), Star Trek V The Final Frontier (1989) and Star Trek VI The Undiscovered Country (1991).

Khan: Ah, Kirk, my old friend, do you know the Klingon proverb that tells us revenge is a dish that is best served cold? It is very cold.. in space!

Ricardo Montalban (1920-2009) / Khan Noonien Singh

Born in Mexico City. Ricardo Montalban's films include - Fiesta (1947), Neptune's Daughter (1949), Battleground (1949), Across the Wide Missouri (1951), Sayonara (1957), Cheyenne Autumn (1964), Sweet Charity (1969), Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971), Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972), The Train Robbers (1973), Cannonball Run II (1984), The Naked Gun (1988) and Spy Kids 2 and 3 (2002-2003). TV series Fantasy Island (1977-1984 as Mr. Roarke)

Bibi Besch (1940-1996) / Carol Marcus

Born in Vienna, Austria, Bibi Besch's films include - The Pack (1977), Hardcore (1979), Meteor (1979), Who's that Girl? (1987), Date with an Angel (1987), Steel Magnolias (1989) and Tremors (1990).

Merritt Butrick (1959-1989) / David Marcus

Born in Gainesville, Florida, Merritt Butrick's films include - Zapped (1982), Star Trek III The Search for Spock (1984), Head Office (1985) and Fright Night II (1988).

Kirstie Alley (1951-) / Lt. Saavik

Born in Wichita, Kansas, Kirstie Alley's films include - Champions (1984), Blind Date (1984), Runaway (1984), Summer School (1987), Shoot to Kill (1988), Look Who's Talking I-II-III (1989-1993), Madhouse (1990), Sibling Rivalry (1990), Village of the Damned (1995), Deconstructing Harry (1997) and Drop Dead Gorgeous (1999). TV series Cheers (1987-1993).

Paul Winfield (1939-2004) / Captain Clark Terrell

Born in Los Angeles, Paul Winfield was Oscar Nominated Best Actor for Sounder (1972), his films include - Conrack (1974), Huckleberry Finn (1974), Hustle (1975), Twilight's Last Gleaming (1977), The Greatest (1977), Damnation Alley (1977), Carbon Copy (1981), The Terminator (1984), The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988), Presumed Innocent (1990), Cliffhanger (1993) and Mars Attacks! (1996).

Khan: He tasks me. He tasks me and I shall have him! I'll chase him 'round the moons of Nibia 'round the Antares Maelstrom and 'round Perdition's flames before I give him up!

Khan was a genetically enhanced human, tyrant and conqueror during the “Eugenic Wars” on Earth in the 20th century. After being deposed he escaped Earth in a “sleeper” ship, the Botany Bay, with others of his kind.

In cryogenic sleep for hundreds of years, the Botany Bay was discovered and the “supermen” revived by the crew of the Enterprise. Khan attempts to take over the Enterprise but fails. Captain Kirk maroons him and his companions on Ceti Alpha V. These events were chronicled in the classic first season episode “Space Seed”.

Star Trek II was originally to be titled The Revenge of Khan. But it was changed after people felt it sounded similar to the upcoming Star Wars film Revenge of the Jedi which was later changed to Return of the Jedi (1983).

Star Trek II cost just $11m to make, a quarter of the cost of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Most of the movie was filmed on one set, the bridge of the Reliant was the redressed bridge of the Enterprise. Some shots of the Enterprise in space dock was borrowed from the previous film'

Leonard Nimoy was fed up playing Spock and wanted to be killed off in Trek II, his request was granted, but Trekkies were not happy with this decision, ironically he even received death threats from irate fans. Just to play it safe an additional scene was added later showing Spock mind melding with Dr. McCoy and the single word “Remember”.

Lt. Saavik played by Kirstie Alley is a young Vulcan mentored by Mr. Spock. A line of dialogue revealing that Saavik was half Romulan was taken out of the script before filming and might have helped explain Saavik’s emotional reaction to Spock’s death.

The cat and mouse game between a US battleship and a German U-boat in the WWII movie The Enemy Below (1957), starring Robert Mitchum and Curt Jurgens, was the inspiration for the battle between the Enterprise and Reliant in the Mutara Nebula.

Award-winning special effects company ILM created the visual effects for the film.

The excellent music score was composed by James Horner (1953-), who went on to compose the music for Star Trek III (1984) too. He won an Oscar for Titanic (1997).

Kirk: Khan, you've got Genesis, but you don't have me. You were going to kill me, Khan. You're going to have to come down here!

Khan: I've done far worse than kill you. I've hurt you. And I wish to go on hurting you. I shall leave you as you left me, as you left her; marooned for all eternity in the center of a dead planet... buried alive! Buried alive!


Despite being the movie’s main opponents, Kirk and Khan do not have one scene together. Though they did meet face to face and clashed violently in “Space Seed” (1966).

Khan recognises Pavel Chekov in the film and says “You! I never forget a face. Mr. Chekov isn’t it?” which is odd since Chekov didn’t join the series until the second season. Actor Walter Koenig jokes that Chekov was just an unknown crew member when Khan came on board the Enterprise and he had kept Khan furiously waiting while using the men’s room. Khan vowed never to forget his face.

The DVD includes a Director’s cut of the film with a few extra scenes added back in, in this edition we find out the young engineering cadet who dies during the battle with the Reliant was Scotty’s nephew. The Blu-ray edition only includes the theatrical version of the film.

While not as successful as Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Trek II still grossed a respectable $97m worldwide and with a smaller budget was far more profitable than the first movie. Like ST-TMP the opening weekend of Trek II broke records, grossing $14.3m in three days.

Star Trek II The Wrath of Khan is generally regarded as the best of the Star Trek movies.

Enormously popular among Star Trek fans. Faster moving than ST-TMP, the actors are more relaxed and comfortable in their famous roles.

The film has humour and sadness, there is action and suspense and one of the great Trek villains Khan Noonien Singh, played with scenery-chewing gusto by the late Ricardo Montalban.

Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise would return in Star Trek III The Search for Spock (1984).

The Critics Wrote –

"NOW this is more like it: after the colossal, big-budget bore that was 'Star Trek: The Motion Picture' here comes a sequel that's worth its salt. The second Star Trek movie is swift, droll and adventurous, not to mention appealingly gadget-happy. It's everything the first one should have been and wasn't." (Janet Maslin, New York Times)

“A very satisfying space adventure, closer to the spirit and format to the popular TV series than its big-budget predecessor. Open ending should leave the fans panting for the next Trek feature” (Variety)

“The net effect, between embarrassed guffaws, is incredulity: a movie at once post-TV and pre-D.W. Griffith.” (Paul Taylor, Time Out)

“Wonderful dumb fun. The director, Nicolas Meyer, hits just the right amused, slightly self-mocking note... Montalban plays his fiery villainy to the hilt, smiling grimly as he does the dirty; his bravado is grandly comic. (Pauline Kael)

"Star Trek" stories have always been best when they centered around their characters. Although I liked the special effects in the first movie, they were probably not the point; fans of the TV series wanted to see their favorite characters again, and TREK II understood that desire and acted on it.” (Roger Ebert)


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    • Steve Lensman profile image

      Steve Lensman 6 years ago from London, England

      Thanks Rob, your comments and views are always appreciated.

      A bit of trivia, the scene near the beginning where Spock and Saavik are talking in Vulcan, they were originally talking in English and it was dubbed into Vulcan later, if you look at their lips when they talk they match the words in the subtitles.

    • Robwrite profile image

      Rob 6 years ago from Oviedo, FL

      Far and away the best of the 'Trek' films and one of the best Sci-fi films of the 80s. It's a perfect adaptation of the series. It balances the action, characterization and humor in the proper amounts, just as the original series did. The interactions between the main trio of Kirk/Spock/McCoy recapture the feel of the classic show.

      Ricardo Montalban was a terrific villain, and I believe is probably generally considered one of the all-time great movie villains. I recall that Mark Leonard (who played Sarek in the classic series) criticized his performance in this film as too hammy, as compared to his more restrained interpretation of Kahn in the original show. But I think it works the way he played it because Kahn had clearly gone insane during his 15 years trapped on the planet.

      As for the whole Chekov thing, it's obviously a mistake but I never let it bother me because every show has it's continuity gaffs. It is definitely a continuity mistake, since it was mentioned several times in season two that Chekov was new to the ship (Trouble with Tribbles and Catspaw, for instance, mention that he was new) so he wouldn't have been around during Space Seed. But it never bothered me. You can nitpick mistakes in any series.

      Back in the early 80s when VCRs were still a new fad, my three buddies and I rented out this movie at least once a month. I can't remember how many time we saw it all told. I had it memorized.

      A very entertaining sci-fi film and a sensational 'Trek' film. Thanks for another good Trek hub.


    • Steve Lensman profile image

      Steve Lensman 6 years ago from London, England

      Hey thanks Mentalist, I can use all the tweets I can get. :)

      I've just joined Digg and posted the two Star Trek hubs there, still not sure how that works.

    • Mentalist acer profile image

      Mentalist acer 6 years ago from A Voice in your Mind!

      Actor Walter Koenig jokes that Chekov was just an unknown crew member when Khan came on board the Enterprise and he had kept Khan furiously waiting while using the men’s room. Khan vowed never to forget his face...Hilarious!

      "Revenge Is A Dish Best Served Cold"

      This Has Been Tweeted And Stored In The Ship's Computer Steve.;)

    • Steve Lensman profile image

      Steve Lensman 6 years ago from London, England

      Thanks Cogerson your comments appreciated as usual.

      Leonard Nimoy's book "I am not Spock", was followed decades later by his book, "I am Spock". :)

      Spock is the most famous extraterrestrial in all science fiction. Leonard Nimoy played him to perfection and has lived long and prospered from the role.

    • Cogerson profile image

      UltimateMovieRankings 6 years ago from Virginia

      1. Nice addition to your Illustrated Reference Khan is one of my favorites of the Star Trek franchise.

      2. I am sad that so many of the actors have already passed away from this movie...and some so young.

      3. The actor that played Scotty's nephew was Ike known for playing Tony in the popular Disney Witch Mountain movies.

      4. I never understood the Trekkies getting so upset about Khan and Chekov, there are thousands of ways Khan could have run into Chekov.....just because it was not on Space Seed does not mean it could not have happened.

      5. Ricardo Montalban proves again what a great actor can do with a role....many actors saying playing the bad guy is way more fun than playing the good looks like Montalban had a blast playing Khan.

      6. Leonard Nimoy....for a man trying to get away from Spock for years....he pretty much stopped running when he got the director job on the next Star Trek movie and took over Rodenberry's role as the Captain of the Star Trek franchise....for the next 4 Star Trek movies.

      7. Awesome hub ....voted up and awesome.

    • Steve Lensman profile image

      Steve Lensman 6 years ago from London, England

      Thanks for the comment and info Flora, much appreciated.

      I didn't know Montalban broke his back on that film. I've got it in the collection I might watch it again during the week.

      Kirstie was a cute Vulcan, a shame she wanted too much and was replaced.

      One of the sad things about researching these hubs is finding so many of the actors had since died. The shocker was Kirk's son Merritt Butrick, he died of AIDS at the age of 29.

    • FloraBreenRobison profile image

      FloraBreenRobison 6 years ago

      This movie still gets mentioned when talking about the best Science fiction movies of all time. I love this movie although I do not see it oftn because it's so sad.

      I love the three main characters, although I think my favourite is Dr. McCoy. I love his dry humour. I have seen a lot of Deforest Kelley's early career and there was always something about him that stole scenes-at least for me-even when he was opposite someone like Henry Fonda.

      I adored Ricardo Montalban. It is amazing he wasn't in a wheelchair his whole adult life following his accident on the set of Across the Wide Missouri when his back was broken. I've seen a lot of his movie career. He was always cast in roles of all races. The most bizarre in terms of the wrong skin tone was when he played a Japanese in The Inn of the sixth Happiness. I don't know what the studio was thinking. There were a lot of white actors playing Japanese, but a Latino playing a Japanese was unfathomable. Oh, the studio system era.

      I'm not surprised Leonard Nimoy got death threats. Lots of fans are unhinged. There are plenty of examples of fans murdering celebrities.

      I had no idea that the actor who played Kirk's son died (although I did know about the actress in the first film dying).

      I have always attributed Khan's comment to Chekov to the fact that we don't always see Khan, and there never was a reference to any date when Pavel joined the crew -he could have been done in the engine room etc. during the time of Space Seed. There is no reason why you can be promoted within the same ship.

      That being said, it never ceases to amaze me that some fans go so crazy about Star Trek that everything must be explained in logistics as to what happens in terms of the Star Trek World. It can never be because , gee it is a tv show and the producers decided wanted to use a different colour uniform for certain actors, etc.

      Re: kirstie alley: she wanted to be paid more money than Deforest Kelley had ever been paid and he was a star of Star Trek-so says Leonard Nimoy in I Am Spock.


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