This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Star Trek franchise, a sci-fi phenomenon that started, ironically enough, with a TV show that ran just three seasons before being canceled. Fans refused to let the franchise die, however, and it has since spawned countless movies and spin-off TV series. While Star Wars was, and always will be, my first love, I do have a special place in my heart for the Star Trek Original Series. The special effects may not be as polished as some of the later Star Trek series, but the show featured so many now-iconic characters and dared to dream up big ideas beyond what its limited budget should have allowed.
Since this year is the 50th anniversary of Star Trek and there’s a new movie coming out about a month from now, I thought it might be fun to look back at some of my favorite Trek films, starting with “The Wrath of Khan.”
“The Wrath of Khan” followed the very first Trek film on the big screen — a film that was not necessarily applauded by fans and critics. However, “The Wrath of Khan” is generally regarded as one of the best — if not the best — film in the Trek franchise. It draws from a famous episode from the Original Series, which had the crew of the Enterprise facing off against a genetically enhanced superhuman known as Khan (Ricardo Montalbán). Kirk and Co. maroon Khan on what they think is a hospitable planet, but a natural disaster turns the planet into a desert wasteland. Now, Khan is desperate for revenge, and he has sworn to make Kirk suffer.
“The Wrath of Khan” was released more than 30 years ago but I think it has aged remarkably well. Although the special effects may not be quite as flashy as the ones in the most recent Trek films, the story is still fascinating. Khan is probably my favorite Trek villain, and Montalbán is clearly having fun with the role; his Khan is colorful, crazy, charismatic, and most definitely not a person to dismiss lightly. He makes a great foil for Captain Kirk.
It’s also great to see the chemistry between the Original Series cast, and it’s wonderful for fans to see them back in action, especially since the TV series was cut short. Kirk, Spock, Uhura, Dr. McCoy, Scotty, Chekov, and Sulu each bring something to the Enterprise team, but my favorite is the friendship between Spock and Kirk. They are the ultimate odd couple — Kirk is brash and emotional, while Spock is careful and logical. But somehow, it works, and their strengths and weaknesses balance out and make them more effective as a pair than they would be apart.
Another thing I appreciate about “The Wrath of Khan” is despite the fact that it is a sci-fi action film with some great action scenes and dogfights in space, it also takes the time to touch on some thoughtful themes. In this film, Kirk grapples with the fact that he is aging and his role within Starfleet is changing. Some of his past mistakes are catching up with him, too; he has to face Khan and repair his own estranged relationship with his son and the mother of his child.
This film also contains one of the most moving scenes in Star Trek: Spock quietly leaves the bridge and fixes the Enterprise’s damaged warp drive, exposing himself to deadly radiation. He and Kirk have to say goodbye separated by a wall of glass. Spock’s “I have been and always shall be your friend” still gets to me.
I’m planning to review several other Star Trek films throughout the summer, leading up to “Star Trek: Beyond” on July 22. I’d love to hear about your favorite Trek film, and feel free to share links to your own Trek reviews in the comments section!