Sunday, August 07, 2016

Re-Viewing Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan: Part 1


            If you want to read my previous obsessive and silly rumination, on Star Trek: The Motion Picture, you may view it here.
            This one starts with Courage’s fanfare.
When the action starts at 3:00, notice the 1980s state-of-the-art computer graphics in Spock’s console.
A minute or two later, we see the starboard turbolift, over Saavik’s right shoulder.  For some reason there’s some sort of transparent covering over it.


Throughout this scene, the reverse angles on Saavik still show the starboard turbolift’s label “A” – for Deck A – still with its tape covering.


But when the simulation is over, Kirk walks past Saavik, completing his round of the bridge, in front of the starboard lift.  It’s still labeled A, but now without the taped covering!


Note Saavik’s shoulder at the extreme right of the frame.
Don’t forget that part of this Kobayashi Maru sequence was intended as a nod to the vociferous fandom rumors that “they” (Paramount) were going to bump off Spock.  When you watch this sequence and Spock falls “dead,” and then gets up, you can almost imagine the suits at Paramount elbowing each other and chortling as they think of the trick being played on those dumb Trekkies.  “They said he was going to die.  There … we killed him!”
After Spock gives A Tale of Two Cities to Kirk outside the blown-up Kobayashi Maru bridge, they march on down the hall, and while Kirk is gigging Spock about the messy simulation, Kirk notices a vacuum cleaner guy. 


This is only notable because we see that same equipment later on in the movie, with the implication that it’s something needed when going on Red Alert.
When Kirk reads off the first lines of A Tale of Two Cities, it’s kind of cute that he does the ol’ in-out-to-focus thing.
In White Christmas, Bing Crosby called this “playing the trombone.”


When Kirk gets the eyeglasses from McCoy, we get the first of the lines that weren’t in the theatrical release, when the doctor says, “More antiques for your collection.”  A bit more dialogue tells us the spectacles are 400 years old.  Since this film takes place “in the 23rd century,” as the opening tells us, the glasses are from the 19th century, the 1800s.
I think there’s a nice audio touch at the end of this scene.  Just as McCoy is warning Kirk about becoming “part of this collection,” a clock starts to chime, reminding us of the passage of time.
We cut to the Reliant and Chekov’s technobabble about the Genesis Project and fluxes and dynoscanners.  Don’t forget those particles of pre-animate matter, caught in the matrix!  Walter Koenig’s performance is doubly fun here.  Not only does he say these things with a straight face, he says them with a straight face in a Russian accent!
But on the bright side, we get to see that the Reliant’s comm officer is good ol’ Mister Kyle, from the original series!
Meanwhile, on Space Station Regula One, Dr Carol Marcus has a lab with pretty red neon flashing tubes.


Interestingly, these same pretty red flashing tubes were used in another Paramount film about the same time, Airplane II: The Sequel.  It was released in December, 1982, six months after Khan.


These props had a respectable life, turning up again in the January, 1988 Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Datalore.”


            And Data doesn’t tell us what these pretty red lights do, either.

And now, back to our story … We begin to gather that whatever Genesis is, it has to be tested on a sterile, lifeless planet.  Hmmm … sounds like another Democrat’s social experiment to me:  sounds great in theory, but causes devastation when it’s introduced to real life.
Meanwhile, down on Ceti Alpha VI, there’s a slight dust storm.  As you may have read in Allan Asherman’s fun-but-short The Making of Star Trek II -- although post-production SFX added to the haze, a lot of those dusty clouds were caused by huge airplane-propeller-type fans and lots of Fuller’s Earth.


When they get inside the cargo carriers, Chekov glances at the library.  We’ll skip over the legal statutes books, and consider the other ones:

  • ·         John Ciardi’s translation of Dante’s The Inferno – which describes an interesting punishment for traitors.  Circle 9 of Dante’s cosmology of Hell is for traitors, and Zone 3 is named Ptolomea.  It’s the realm of those who betrayed friends or guests (based on I Maccabees 16).  Further, of course, the bottom rung of Hell is ice, all ice … How appropriate for the fate Khan eventually tries to lay on Kirk! 
  • ·         Milton’s Paradise Lost – Remember that in “Space Seed,” Khan quoted Paradise Lost?

“Here we may reign secure, and in my choyce
To reign is worth ambition though in Hell:
Better to reign in Hell, then serve in Heav'n”
·         Milton’s Paradise Regained – perhaps the appropriate quotation from this work is,
“Know'st thou not that my rising is thy fall,
And my promotion will be thy destruction?”
  •          Melville’s Moby-Dick provides another obsessional commentary, leading of course to Khan’s final lines to Kirk, even after Kirk can’t hear him.  As Ahab mutters in chapter 135, “Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; 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.” 
  •     Shakespeare’s King Lear depicts Lear’s gradual descent into madness.  Hmmm … sounds like a certain genetic superman we both know!  You may also recall that the title of the animated “How Sharper Than a Serpent’s Tooth,” is from Lear.  Some might say that the line, “The prince of darkness is a gentleman!” is a fine description of Khan – or, “But I am bound upon a wheel of fire, that mine own tears do scald like moulten lead.” – or, of course, “I am a man more sinn'd against than sinning” – in khan’s own opinion, anyway.

            Oh, boy. Chekov figures out “Botany Bay” on the seat belt buckles, but it’s too late.  He and Terrell stumble outside to meet the sand people – only these are a little taller than the Jawas on Tattooine.
            Then comes the grand unveiling of Khan.  Note that from here on out, Khan keeps that right-hand glove on!
            And we’re all familiar with the joking explanation of how Khan recognizes Chekov, when Chekov wasn’t in the original Khan episode?  The story goes that during an untold moment in “Space Seed,” Khan really had to hit the head – galactic Montezuma’s Revenge, perhaps – and he almost lost control before the potty was vacated by … Pavel Chekov, whom Khan then swore never to forget (or forgive).


            When Khan shows off his crew, marooned with him 15 years ago, it’s pretty obvious that most are a lot younger than him.
            Also note the close-up of Judson Scott, who plays Khan’s aide-de-camp.  He’s evidently Khan’s second-hand man, but did you know why his name isn’t in the credits?  Because he and his agent did something dumb.  While arguing over Scott’s billing, Paramount wasn’t willing to list Scott in a high-enough place to satisfy the actor’s representative.  So during the negotiations, Scott’s agent threatened to “waive billing,” as some sort of odd bargaining tactic against Paramount, and Scott gave his agent permission to take this tack.  He thought that meant that his role would not be in the opening credits, but prominent in the closing credits.  DUMB!  “Waive” means to forego completely!  So, the name Judson Scott isn’t listed at all!
            Soon afterwards, there’s a pretty obvious redub of a line as Khan asks Terrell if he knows who Khan is.  Ricardo Montalban’s face is averted, but the line “To amuse your captain?” still somehow sounds different from the next line.  Probably because that looped line was recorded in a booth and not on the set.
            Khan thunders that “THIS is Ceti Alpha 5!” and you start to wonder how Starfleet numbers the planets in a system.  If you count planets from the sun outward, then you wouldn’t mistake Planet Six for Planet Five, unless somebody threw an extra planet into a closer orbit, bumping Planet Five down a number.  Then you wonder what kind of record-keeping Starfleet science uses, if they’ve lost track of a whole planet and didn’t notice one blowing up.  And this star system is one that they were going to use for an important experiment?!?
            A minute ago, Khan said that he was from 1996.  Now he reminisces about how he was “a prince,” two hundred years ago.  That reference makes “now” to be around 2200.  This barely gets us into the “23rd century” mentioned in the opening titles.
            On the other hand, you’ll have to credit Starfleet with designing spacesuits with a handy handle for lifting by genetic supermen.  Of course, when Chekov is lifted by Khan, it was really on a wire.  Some claim to see those wires, but I can’t.  However, it’s kinda funny that, to “let” Chekov down, Montalban has to YANK down on Koenig’s spacesuit, against the wire holding Koenig up.
            As reaches into the plastic eel tub, Khan refers to his wife.  In the original “Space Seed,” the backstory of this film, Khan’s “wife” was Marla McGivers, a mutinous Starfleet member who defected from Kirk’s ship because she’d never been swyved like that before (check your Chaucer if you don’t know that word).  This character was also intended to be part of the film, until producer Harve Bennett discovered that actress Madlyn Rhue was suffering from MS and was wheelchair-bound.  So her character was merely addressed and then dismissed through a couple of clumsy references.


            Now, I think the Ceti Alpha eel is pretty cool-looking, in a creepy way.  Although part of its menace is mitigated by its cheesy-sounding voice.  After Khan removes the babies from under its shell and withdraws his tweezers, the angry thing makes a sound almost identical to an angry, sputtering Donald Duck!
            We cut to Kirk’s shuttle approaching the Enterprise.


            What’s that image on the wall behind Kirk?


            To me, it seems strangely familiar.  But probably only to a few long-memoried people in the OKC area.  Why?


            Because something eerily similar was used in 1979 as a logo for one form of STAR OKC, a club of which I am one of a few survivors!

            See you next Monday for Part II of this exhausting look at the movie that saved Star Trek.

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