Why is ‘The Wrath of Khan’ Star Treks Greatest Film?

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Let’s get things straight first of all; I am of the ‘The Next Generation’ generation. I grew up watching Picard and co and gained adulthood with Deep Space Nine and Voyager. It is this era of trek that is what I relate as ‘mine’.


Like any true Trek fan I watched the Original Series, usual at 6pm on BBC 2 at dinnertime, but it never really spoke to me. It was fun and light but never grabbed me the way TNG did. I liked Kirk as a character and loved the interplay between him, Spock and McCoy. My favourite was always Sulu, which is why I enjoyed The Undiscovered Country so much, seeing him as Captain of the Excelsior was a dream come true. The pinnacle, however, was the second feature film made with the original crew.


‘The Wrath of Khan’ premiered in 1982. It was directed by Nicholas Meyer and featured a story by Harve Bennett and Jack B. Sowards with direct input by Gene Roddenberry. The film was well received and stepped up the tempo from the Motion Picture with greater action and more pace.

So what makes it great here are 8 reasons why?

  1. Its story – The film picks up a plot thread from episode 24 of Season 1 of the Original Series, ‘Space Seed’. This was a fascinating story at the time, dealing with escapees from the Eugenics War and introduced us to Khan Noonien Singh which leads us to point 2.
  2. A credible villain – the motion picture didn’t really present much of a villain and subsequent films were unable to compete with Ricardo Montalban’s scenery chewing menace. He epitomised the spirit of revenge at all costs. He has some of the best lines and delivers them with relish and gusto. Kruge, Chang and Shinzon don’t come even close.

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  3. The Enterprise becomes a character – One of the key aspects of Star Trek was the fact that the ship was always one of the characters in the show. It was never sentient but its iconic design is given a polish for the film and she looks great, even when being savagely beaten.
  4. A new visual language – The motion pictures visual look was very unique in star trek history, in many ways it could be seen as a visual successor to the original series but ‘The Wrath of Khan’ gave us an identity that ran for the rest of TOS’s run at the movies. LCARS in a rudimentary form could be seen. New uniforms gave a more ordered military like feel to Starfleet and who can forget the iconic red alert signs.
  5. A wider universe – The film showed us other captains and other ships. It gave us Captain Clark Terrell with Chekov as his XO showing that the crew were growing and continuing their career. We got to see the Federation conducting science and we learned more about how Starfleet operates.
  6. The Battle of the Mutara Nebula – Scored wonderfully the climax of the film is the battle between Khans ‘Reliant’ and Kirk’s ‘Enterprise’. It has a pace and tension and the feel of old Second World War submarine thrillers.

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  7. That death scene – The death of Spock is iconic. He was one of the three main characters of the original series and his death was well chosen. I doubt McCoy or Shatner doing the same would have had the same impact. Spock’s vulnerability and limited emotional range made the emotion shown in those last few moments of life all the more poignant.
  8. It had heart – There are light moments in the film but on the whole, it has a very dark tone. The search of Regulus 1 was reminiscent of alien horror films, the abandoned station, hanging bodies and strange noises. It was hard not to feel the grief of Scotty as he carries the body of his nephew, killed during the Enterprise’s first encounter with the Reliant.

There is only one way to end a post like this: “KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANN”


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