Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan (1982)

Director: Nicholas Meyer

Ah, now this is more like the thing. Fortunately the first Trek film did sufficiently good box office business to warrant making a sequel—originally to be a TV film but upgraded to theatrical early on—which was what really got the film series going… Right from the off, Khan improves on its predecessor by the sheer act of Doing Stuff; you cannot accuse it of being inert at all. Plotwise, it obviously revisits an old episode of the original series, “Space Seed”, though you don’t need to have seen that (I actually didn’t see it myself until maybe just a couple of years ago), the situation is clearly enough laid out… revenge plots are always a good hook, and Meyer handles it well; Khan doesn’t feel like a blown-up TV episode like the first one did, and there is a noticeably greater emphasis on character, which is to the film’s considerable advantage. Still, plenty of other action and effects work to look at, too, if you want that from your Trek, all of which adds up to what I presume is still generally considered the best of the film series (probably the best for casual fans, which is, after all, what I am myself; I’m not a full-blown Trekkie like some of my friends). It should go without saying, though, that the film reserves its best trick for last; if the revenge plot is a good narrative hook, then the death of Spock was not only a fairly bold move but also an excellent hook for the next film (and also showed considerable faith that a third Trek film would go ahead). Speaking of which, let’s move on…

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