Film: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
is the second movie in the Star Trek
film series, released in 1982.William Shatner
and Ricardo Montalbán fight
to see who is the Largest Ham
in the galaxy.
You see, the charismatic Khan Noonien Singh of the original series
episode "Space Seed
" is back, fifteen years later. Khan escapes his exile with revenge against Kirk as his goal and using a stolen Weapon of Mass Destruction
to make good on it. Meanwhile, Kirk has fallen victim to The Peter Principle
and is facing a mid-life crisis. It doesn't get any easier for him when a Hot Scientist
he once knew turns up and her son says Admiral, You Are My Father
. Kirk doesn't like to lose, but this time he may only be able to achieve a Pyrrhic Victory
. The film's Bittersweet Ending
was created with the assumption that Nimoy would be leaving the show for good, but ironically, he liked making this film so much that he wanted to come back, and the next film
revolved around mashing the Reset Button
.Star Trek II
is considered by many fans to be the best movie in the series, and it's the yardstick against which all other installments are measured. This is largely attributed to the direction of Nicholas Meyer
, who had previously penned the best-selling Sherlock Holmes
novel The Seven Percent Solution
and directed the film Time After Time
, as well as the work of Harve Bennett. While Meyer hadn't actually seen the show before, he managed to watch all of the original series's episodes before sitting down to work, concluding that the premise was essentially "Horatio Hornblower IN SPACE!
," and did a Re Tool
to emphasize the Space Is an Ocean
angle. Some of Harve's work included getting rid of the ridiculous Space Clothes
used in the previous movie
(which took guts considering the small budget; to their credit, they still found a way to get extra mileage out of a lot of those pieces).
Outside the world of Star Trek
, Wrath Of Khan
is notable for containing two big breaks. Kirstie Alley
made her acting debut in this film playing the young Vulcan Saavik
, even getting the onscreen credit "and introducing Kirstie Alley
". This was also the first major motion picture to be scored by James Horner
, who would go on to do The Land Before Time
, The Rocketeer
, and Avatar
. As Nicholas Meyer once put it, they hired James Horner to do Star Trek II
because they couldn't afford Jerry Goldsmith, but by the time Meyer returned for Star Trek VI
they hired Cliff Eidelman because they couldn't afford James Horner. (Horner would succeed Goldsmith on another sci-fi franchise
, modifying one of his cues from this movie to great effect.)
While not flawless, it is a rousing (and emotional) adventure movie and is even now considered one of the best examples of a Surprisingly Improved Sequel
No relation to the aborted Star Trek Phase II
TV series, whose pilot became Star Trek The Motion Picture
Tropes seen in The Wrath of Khan include:
- Abandon Ship: Said by Saavik at the end of the Kobayashi Maru simulation. Admiral Kirk points out that Klingons don't take prisoners.
- Action Prologue: Which turns out to be an Unwinnable Training Simulation.
- All There in the Manual: Multiple examples
- Amazing Freaking Grace: On bagpipes too, no less.
- Ambiguously Brown: Khan himself (a Mexican actor playing an Indian).
- An Aesop: Kirk learns several lessons about his inappropriate behavior in the past and the present.
- And Starring Ricardo Montalban as Khan, which is literally the billing in the opening credits, after all the other main cast is listed, "And Starring Ricardo Montalban as Khan". This might be the only film using that specific credit (most of the examples on the Trope page are billed simply "And") making this film the Trope Namer.
- Antagonist Title: Khan is Captain Kirk's enemy.
- Arc Words:
- "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few." "Or the one."
- "You are my commanding officer. You are also my friend. I have been, and always shall be, yours."
- Aren't You Dead?: Kirk quips this to Spock after the Kobayashi Maru scenario.
- Artistic License – Music: During Spock's funeral, Scotty plays Amazing Grace on the bagpipes. It is very obvious (especially if you are an actual piper) that James Doohan isn't actually playing them, but merely holding them and twiddling his fingers. Not that it breaks the drama in any way.
- Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: When he mentions his "Beloved Wife", he is referring to Marla McGivers, a historian on the old Enterprise. Anyone who watched "Space Seed" would see that he was only charming her to get her to help him take over the ship. Here, however, his revenge is motivated by her death at the hands of the Ceti Alpha eels.
- Awesomeness by Analysis: Saavik in the Kobayashi Maru scenario, but only in the novelization. She takes on a dozen Klingon fighters and might have actually won by running away, if it hadn't been for the last three. (She gets her ass handed to her far more quickly in the movie.)
- Back in the Saddle: Kirk gets command of the Enterprise to investigate the Regula Station situation, but his rustiness gets the better of him when Khan uses Reliant for a surprise attack.
- Badass Boast:
- Khan taunting Kirk after thinking he's marooned him on Regula.
Khan: I've done far worse than kill you. I've hurt you, and I mean 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...
- Followed shortly by:
Kirk: I don't believe in the no-win scenario.
- And later on, after showing Khan he survived his attempt to maroon the Enterprise crew:
Kirk: We tried it once your way, Khan. Are you game for a rematch? (beat) Khan, I'm laughing at the "superior intellect".
- Batman Gambit:
- Kirk's plan to trick Khan into chasing the Enterprise into the Mutara Nebula (where the Enterprise will have an advantage), which works since Khan is becoming unhinged and irrationally bent on revenge.
- Exploited when Kirk tried to goad Khan into beaming down to Regula to dispose of him personally. He knew Khan wouldn't take him up on the offer as there was no advantage to the fight. Kirk counted on Khan continuing his pursuit of the Enterprise, knowing that Khan would be certain he'd be able to come back to deal with Kirk in his own way at his leisure since, as far as Khan knew, Kirk had no way to get off of Regula.
- Battle Butler: Joachim.
- Best Served Cold: "It is very cold in space..."
- Big Word Shout: Kirk's enraged "KHAAAAAAAAAAAAN!" at the end of Khan's taunt about marooning him on Regula.
- Billions of Buttons: After Enterprise has remotely ordered Reliant to lower her shields, Khan's Oh, Crap moment is punctuated by a rapidly panning POV shot of a bank of buttons of switches as he desperately tries to find the override before Enterprise can open fire.note This highlights the fact that while Khan might be smarter than Kirk, Kirk has much more experience.
- Birth/Death Juxtaposition:
- "And yet it should be noted, that in the midst of our sorrow, this death takes place in the shadow of new life, the sunrise of a new world, a world that our beloved comrade gave his life to protect."
- Near the end of the Nebula Battle: Khan's aide Joachim dies aboard the USS Reliant, juxtaposed with Chekov rejoining the bridge crew on the USS Enterprise.
- Bittersweet Ending: Kirk escapes Khan, but Spock dies repairing the Enterprise to make it happen. In a way, this means Khan succeeds in avenging himself upon Kirk, as Spock's death is by far the worst injury he could have inflicted upon Kirk, besides actual physical harm.
- Bottle Episode: A majority of scenes were set on the Enterprise bridge set (which was also redressed as the Reliant bridge) and Stock Footage, space suits and uniforms from Star Trek The Motion Picture were reused.
- Brain Slug: A particularly notorious and gross example (entering and leaving).
- Breakout Villain: Before this film, Khan was just a Villain of the Week for the show. Ever since this film, he's been arguably the most memorable and highly regarded individual villain in the entire franchise.
- Broken Aesop: The movie makes a big deal of the fact that Kirk thinking he could solve everything was the reason for Spock's death...except that Spock wouldn't be alive to teach him that lesson if Kirk hadn't been so confident in his ability to solve things in the past.
- Bus Crash: The actress who played Marla McGivers, Khan's lover from "Space Seed", was not able to appear in the film, so she was killed offscreen by the Ceti Eels to explain her absence.
- Real Life Writes the Plot She was suffering at this point from severe multiple sclerosis, forcing her to end her acting career.
- But for Me, It Was Tuesday: The rare variant from the villain's point of view. Part of the reason Khan is so pissed at Kirk is because when he was exiled Kirk promised to return and check on the colony's progress someday, but never did and forgot all about him.
- In the novelization, he also believes that Kirk was promoted to Admiral because Kirk exiled him. Touched on in the movie by the way Khan emphasizes Admiral after being corrected by Capt. Terrell.
- Call Back: Several of Kirk's lines.
- Kirk and Spock's exchange before he assumes command of the Enterprise contrasts the previous movie. Kirk used the emergency as an excuse to oust Decker and they spent most of the movie at each other's throats. This time, Kirk is reluctant to take command but Spock (now the Captain) insists.
- The Cameo: Mr. Kyle, the Transporter Chief from Star Trek: The Original Series, is the Communications Officer on the Reliant - making him the only Red Shirt known to have survived the five-year mission. (In fact, he even survived having been tossed aside by Khan in the transporter room in the original episode.)
- Captain Obvious: When the Enterprise is trying to contact Regula One, Spock has this insightful comment, "There are two possibilities. They are unable to respond. They are unwilling to respond."
- Cat Scare: More like Rat Scare, but that's being picky.
- Character Aged with the Actor:
- Characterization Marches On: Spock, promoted to Captain and assigned as training instructor for a crew of cadets, has become more easygoing and patient than he was on the original series.
- The Chessmaster: Khan is remarkably intelligent and this is stated (and shown) many times throughout the film. His main flaw (besides Pride) is that he's not very good at thinking outside the box, which happens to be Kirk's specialty.
- Coldblooded Torture: What Khan does to the scientists on Regula I. It's even worse in the Novelization.
- Comic Book Adaptation: Due to the comic book rights being in limbo at the time (Marvel Comics had cancelled its version a year earlier, and DC Comics wouldn't launch its comic for nearly a year), this was the only original-crew film not to get a contemporary comic book adaptation. Fans had to wait nearly 30 years before IDW Publishing filled the void.
- Cool Starship: The Miranda-class U.S.S. Reliant and of course the original Lady E.
- Creating Life: The science team at Regula seem very excited about the Genesis Device, one can only assume they never read Frankenstein: A Modern Prometheus.
- Critical Staffing Shortage: The Enterprise is on a cadet cruise, with only vital systems manned by the cadets and a few senior staff supervising, and none of the science labs, or other stuff Starfleet usually has, active. The Reliant is similarly under-manned with only Khan's dwindling number of loyal followers. Space Station Regula 1 is also on short staff, with David noting that everyone is on leave.
- Cryptic Conversation: With an incredibly obvious code. "By the book", yes — but only selectively so.
- Cultured Badass/Wicked Cultured: Apparently even in the 23rd century there will be villains that read and quote Herman Melville.
- Curse Cut Short: "You green-blooded, inhuman..."note .
- Damage Control: The Enterprise is taken by surprise in the initial attack, but Kirk and Spock are able to turn the tables and deal some swift damage to Reliant. Both ships are forced to withdraw and effect repairs before they can fight again. In the final battle, both ships are again crippled, and it is only a Heroic Sacrifice by Spock that allows them to survive.
- Danger Room Cold Open: The Kobayashi Maru is an example of the variant.
- Dangerously Genre Savvy: Khan (except when he isn't) and Kirk, because he knows more about how Starfleet ships operate than Khan does.
- Dare to Be Badass: McCoy when he visits Kirk on his birthday, advising him to stop moping about his age and seek out a command. Spock concurred separately and said anything other than command of a starship is a waste of Kirk's talents.
- Darkest Hour: "Marooned for all eternity in the center of a dead planet... buried alive. Buried alive!" As it turns out, the planet isn't dead. They're not even marooned.
- Darker and Edgier: Than The Motion Picture and much more than the series.
- Dead Sidekick: Joachim and Spock, at the end.
- Deconstruction: The subtitle of this movie could just have easily been The Deconstruction Of Kirk. Most of the core traits associated with Kirk and their probable consequences in Real Life are pulled apart and examined. The adventurer who faces a problem on a weekly basis, solves it and promptly forgets it ever happened is suddenly brought face to face with one of those problems from a decade and a half before, and discovers the consequences of his thoughtlessness can be measured by the body count. The suave lady-killer with a girl in every port has to revisit the fact that one of his conquests (and it's implied that it's the only one he ever truly loved) has resulted in a son he never had a chance to get to know and who hates him. His tendency to play fast and loose with the rules leads to his ship being crippled and a score of dead cadets, all of which could and should have been avoided by simply raising the shields, and his trait of finding novel solutions to intractable problems ends the life of his best friend and trusted right hand. It also shows what happens when you take the dashing, devil-may-care heroic adventurer, let him get old and put him in a desk job: a full-blown mid-life crisis.
Bones: Dammit, Jim, what the hell's the matter with you? Other people have birthdays! Why are we treating yours like a funeral?
- There were shades of this in the previous film, The Motion Picture, where it was shown that Kirk was clearly unhappy when he was anything other than being the captain of the Enterprise, and was shown to be more grumpy than usual when things didn't fall into place the way he wanted them to be. While lost in the shuffle of the previous film these elements are explored more thoroughly here.
- Dies Wide Open / Died in Your Arms Tonight: Joachim.
- Disappeared Dad: Kirk knew about David, but kept his distance because of Carol's wishes.
Kirk: Why didn't you tell him?
Carol: How can you ask me that? Were we together? Were we going to be? You had your world and I had mine. I wanted him in mine... not chasing through the universe with his father.
- Does This Remind You of Anything??: The barren moon featured in the Genesis demonstration tape bears a distinct resemblance to Star Wars' Death Star; especially since it is mostly in shadow and what is most visible is a big crater that looks for all the world like the Empire's planet-killer laser dish. (Probably a Shout-Out as well, since ILM did the effects for this film as well.)
- And after the simulated Genesis run it gets replaced with an awfully familiar Blue Marble.
- Doomsday Device: Ironically, Genesis, if it falls into the wrong hands.
- Dying Moment of Awesome: Khan and Spock get one each, activating the Genesis device and saving the Enterprise respectively.
- '80s Hair: Khan and his followers◊ look like the entourage of a hair metal group.
- Emotional Torque: You're not going to find many films that attempt what this film does with a popular franchise and still be regarded as a masterpiece. People say that Nicholas Meyer giving Kirk reading glasses saved Star Trek. Why? Because it works so well.
- Enemy Rising Behind: The Enterprise does this to the Reliant in the Mutara Nebula.
- Mr. Fanservice: Khan has a lot of really pretty boys in his crew. And he's not exactly hard on the eyes himself!
- Everybody's Dead, Dave: When the Enterprise crew explore the remains of the Regula space station.
- Evil Gloating: Put the freaking Villain Ball down and just blow him to bits, Khan!
Khan: I deprive your ship of power, and when I swing around I will deprive you of your life! But first I wanted you to know who it was who had beaten you.
- Although he did actually want to see if he could threaten them into giving him the Genesis information first - whether he intended to use it as a weapon or as a way to create a new planet for himself and his followers is not certain.
- Lampshaded by Joachim, who advises both shooting Kirk straight away when their shields were down, as well as retreating once they have Genesis and the Reliant had suffered damage. Naturally, Khan ignores him both times.
- Plays very well into both of Khan's flaws, wrath and pride. He can't let Kirk live, but at the same time Kirk has to know that Khan was the one who beat him... which is ultimately what grants Kirk victory.
- Evil Overlord: Khan. He ruled roughly 1/3 of the Earth, but was overthrown and went into exile like Napoleon Bonaparte, in a fictional late 20th century.
- Face Death with Dignity:
- Spock straightens his uniform before facing his captain and friend for the final time.
- Khan didn't exactly go out like a slouch either.
- Failed a Spot Check: The crew of the Reliant failing to notice that they were on the wrong planet, related to the fact that they failed to notice another planet ceasing to exist due to a Ceti Alpha VI Shattering Kaboom.
- Faking the Dead: Spock supposedly dies at the beginning of the film. This scene was concocted hastily by Nick Meyer after hearing that spoilers had leaked about Spock dying in the film. To preserve the wham factor of Spock dying, the Kobayashi Maru and its disastrous aftermath was added to fool viewers into thinking that this was the "Spock dies" moment the spoilers meant.
- False Flag Operation: Khan and his crew using the hijacked USS Reliant to sneak up on the unsuspecting USS Enterprise.
- Famous, Famous, Fictional: "Newton, Einstein, Surak."Who?
- Fatal Flaw:
- The wrath of Khan. Like Ahab before him, his all-consuming desire for revenge on Kirk ultimately gets in the way of his better judgement and ends up destroying him.
- Kirk's hubris; his unshakable belief in his own ingenuity and command instincts. Therefore he's taken off guard by something that even raw cadet Saavik saw coming. And he arrogantly believes there's no such thing as a situation that he can't win. As his character develops throughout the film, he learns just how misguided he's been.
- Fate Worse Than Death: Ricardo Montalban's monologue on the subject is just fantastic.
"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..."
- Actually more of a slow death, the planet being dead and death by starvation imminent.
- What Kirk suffers when Khan's last gambit with the Genesis Device forces Spock to sacrifice himself to save the ship. "I've hurt you" indeed.
- Fix Fic: A classic Star Trek example, fixing an apparent continuity glitch — in the film, Khan and Chekov recognize each other upon meeting. However, "Space Seed", the episode of Star Trek: The Original Series in which Khan appears, is a first season episode, and Chekov did not join the cast of the show until the second season. The semi-official retcon (not explained in any of the shows or movies, but widely propagated by producers and actors in convention appearances) is that Chekov was on the Enterprise at that time, he just wasn't part of the bridge crew yet and thus didn't appear on screen. A very funny fanfic distributed in print ('zines, photocopies, etc.) not long after the movie came out expands on that, envisioning Khan and Chekov bumping into each other in the bathroom. Sillier versions have Khan vowing revenge on Chekov for making him wait for the cubicle.
- This is actually Walter Koenig's own joke.
- To Spock, after the Kobayashi Maru scenario, where everyone but Saavik played dead:
Kirk: Aren't you dead?
- The movie is full of this. For example, Khan's chess set is a 2-D version (in the original series, Kirk was often seen playing 3-D chess), which points out Khan's difficulty in fighting in three dimensions (as a Starship would), which helps lead to his defeat. Also, in Khan's quarters, you can see titles of books that Khan will draw inspiration from and frequently quote, including Moby Dick.
- Spock gives Kirk an antique copy of A Tale of Two Cities. Kirk quotes the iconic passage, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times," asking Spock if he's trying to say something. Spock meant nothing by it, only saying that Kirk's birthday must be "the best of times." Naturally, what follows is "the worst of times."
- Forgotten Phlebotinum: This film introduces the Genesis device. The planet it creates disintegrates within a couple weeks, thus rendering it useless for its original purpose (terrarforming). But surely the heroes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and Star Trek: Voyager might have found it useful as a handy-dandy instant Borg Cube Killer.
- Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke
- Khan is a "product of late 20th century engineering" and the chief reason for The Federation's policy against it.
- The Genesis Device is a literal genetic engineering (as well as terraforming) nuke.
- Genesis Effect: Trope Namer.
- The Glasses Come Off: Right before the Enterprise takes out the Reliant's shields. Kirk also tells Khan "I see your point" as he does it.
- Grand Finale: This movie was supposed to be this for TOS, complete with Spock dying. But because Leonard Nimoy had second thoughts about completely parting ways with Star Trek, a scene was shot with Spock putting his katra into McCoy's mind in case Nimoy wanted to return for any sequels.
- Ham-to-Ham Combat: Pretty damn literal example. And it's delicious. William Shatner and Ricardo Montalban gloriously ham their way through the whole movie, taking big bites out of every piece of scenery they can along the way.
- Haunted House: The Regula space station after Khan has paid it a visit.
- The Hero's Birthday
- Heroic BSOD:
- Scotty, when his nephew is mortally wounded staying at his post after the ship suffers a surprise attack.
- Kirk, when Spock dies.
- Heroic Build: Khan, and Ricardo Montalban in Real Life.
- Heroic Sacrifice
- He's Back: When Kirk appears on the Enterprise again after Khan attempts to maroon him on Regula.
Kirk: We tried it once your way, Khan. Are you game for a rematch?
- Hesitation Equals Dishonesty: Justified Trope with Chekov reporting to the Genesis scientists. He's under mind control, and being fed lines.
- Hide And No Seek: Lampshaded when Carol Marcus wants to have a private talk with Kirk without her David or the others listening in.
Carol: David, why don't you show Dr McCoy and the Lieutenant our idea of food? ...
David: This is just to give us something to do, isn't it? Come on.
- Made especially funny because the wounded Chekov is laying in the background with eyes open and stays there through their conversation. A silent And Zoidberg?
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Khan, repeatedly. Despite his "superior intellect", he fails to anticipate that the crew of the Enterprise might be more familiar with how another Starfleet ship like Reliant works, especially after so many years (and the fact that Khan had never actually engaged in starship-to-starship combat before ever!). Then he futilely blows himself up with the Genesis device, because he simply cannot imagine that anyone (i.e. Spock) could possibly be smart enough to get the Enterprise's warp drive working again in time to escape the detonation. Had he listened to Joachim in the first place, he could have taken the Reliant and the Genesis device and carved out a nice empire for himself somewhere. Instead, every asset he gains is turned against Kirk, and ends up doing him more harm than it does Kirk.
- Hollywood Hacking: Actually handled fairly realistically. Khan wants Kirk to hand over all data regarding the Genesis Project, so he opens a network connection between Reliant and Enterprise. Kirk and Spock take advantage of this to execute malicious code on Reliant's computer. It's even lampshaded that it will only work if the supergenius who stole a starship didn't think to change the password on the computer.
- Holy Backlight: Kirk's entrance.
- Honor Before Reason: Peter Preston stays at his post, saving a fellow engineer along the way.
- Like most Augments, Khan suffers from this flaw. He's very intelligent, but he lets his Pride and desire for revenge get the better of him, causing him to make mistakes.
- Kirk and David.
- Saavik, by Vulcan standards is prone to some quite emotional outbursts. She swears mildly and mutters under her breath about being in over their heads during the Kobayashi Maru sim, is visibly frustrated at her failure after it, is quite bemused at human behaviour in general and shows obvious, if subdued, grief at Spock's death. In the novelization and the Star Trek Expanded Universe, this is explained by Saavik being half Vulcan and half Romulan.
- I Never Said It Was Poison: Chekov unintentionally reveals he and Terrell meant to beam down to Ceti Alpha VI.
You lie! On Ceti Alpha V, there was life! A fair chance- Khan: THIS is Ceti Alpha V!
(some hammy exposition later
You did not expect to find me. You thought this was Ceti Alpha VI. Ah... Why are you here?
- Idiot Ball: The fact that Carol called Kirk demanding to know why "they" were taking Genesis clearly implied that "they" (actually the Reliant's captain and Chekov) had to be from the Federation, as she would have just screamed for help if "they" were random raiders. Kirk subsequently runs into the Reliant, which is mysteriously uncommunicative, but fails to connect the dots and associate the ship's odd behavior with Carol's earlier message about Genesis being taken.
- Acknowledged In-Universe when Kirk beats himself over his mistake that let Khan cripple the ship.
- Khan fails to recognize the incredibly simple code used by Kirk and Spock when discussing repair times.
- Imminent Danger Clue: Chekov finds a buckle that says "Botany Bay" and instantly realizes they're on Khan's ship seconds before they're captured.
- Indy Ploy: Kirk's quick thinking about hacking into Reliant's main computer using her command codes.
- Informed Attribute: The Augments. Of them all, only Khan really seems at all impressive. The rest are just Mooks, and seem to contribute little beyond filling seats on the Reliant bridge.
- In the Original Klingon: "Do you know the old Klingon proverb that revenge is a dish best served cold? It is very cold... in spaaace." (Who knew Pierre Choderlos de Laclos was a Klingon?)
- Insufferable Genius: Khan.
- Intrinsic Vow: Captain Terrell resists Khan's order to murder Admiral Kirk enough so that he can commit suicide and save Kirk's life.
- Irrevocable Order: Once the Genesis Device's countdown is started, it can't be stopped.
- I Shall Taunt You: Kirk does it to Khan a couple of times.
- "I'm laughing at the 'superior intellect'." This was to infuriate Khan into making a mistake. It works.
- "...But like a poor marksman you keep missing the target!" Subverted in this case when Khan refuses to rise to the bait and decides to leave Kirk on the planetoid to rot. Khan might have taken the bait had Ricard Montalban's schedule allowed him to share production time with the rest of the cast. This is why Khan and his crew never interact with Kirk and his.
- It Has Been an Honor: Implied and results in Manly Tears with "Do not grieve. It was... logical."
- It's a Long Story: Kirk's response to Saavik's question on how he beat the Kobyashi Maru test. Considering they are trapped inside a moon, his son responds, "We appear to have plenty of time..."
- It's What I Do: Same with It Has Been an Honor.
- Jerkass Has a Point: Khan complains that no one ever bothered to check up on his crew after Kirk stranded them, so most of them died when Ceti Alpha VI exploded. As Chekov inadvertently reveals, the Federation didn't even realize the system was missing a planet or that Khan's crew were supposed to be on one of them. Since it's a small colony of dangerous megalomaniacs, you'd think Kirk would have arranged for better oversight.
- Just Think of the Potential: The idiotically idealistic science team see Genesis simply as "instant terraforming, just add water", and consider it to be the ultimate salvation to problems of overpopulation and food supply. Plenty of other people (including McCoy) see an entirely different potential... one that doesn't even have the nasty side effects of other superweapons as it leaves verdant worlds behind in its wake. David seems aware of the Genesis Device's potential less-than-altruistic uses.
- Kicked Upstairs: Kirk is an Admiral again, though in this case he accepted promotion willingly out of a feeling of being over the hill, and has to be talked into getting his command back by both Bones and Spock.
- Kill 'em All: In the opening Kobayashi Maru sequence, the TOS crew dies, except for Kirk, who is absent and unmentioned. Then a door opens, Kirk walks out of a cloud of light and smoke, everybody picks themselves up, and the viewers realize they've been had.
- Lampshade Hanging: Multiple examples.
- Large Ham: A double serving.
- A Lesson In Defeat: Kirk learns that he can't always find a way to win when Spock is forced to sacrifice his life to save the crew.
- Like Father, Like Son: David. His Establishing Character Moment has him attack Kirk under the mistaken belief that Starfleet were the ones who tortured and executed their fellow scientists, showing that he's brash and hot-blooded. Remind anyone of someone we know, when he was younger?
- Little "No": From Kirk, of all people, when Spock dies.
- Lock and Load Montage: Commentary from the DVD's special features lampshade that much of this, particularly crewmen manually preparing the torpedo tubes and hand-loading them, made absolutely no sense at all, but it looked awesome.
- Luke, You Are My Father: Doesn't actually occur on screen, so the viewer is left unsure as to when David finds out who his father is. When David and Kirk first meet the former is extremely hostile to the latter, even going so far as to accuse Kirk of killing everyone at Regula. At the end of the movie, David and Kirk reconcile and he says he's proud to be Kirk's son. It's possible David knew all along and just refused to acknowledge it. The dialog makes it fairly clear that Kirk knows he's the father, but has obviously also never met David face to face before this film.
- Magic Countdown: Khan's "sixty seconds", since he's not going by exact times but is ok with delaying as long he perceives that Kirk really is complying and believes that he is about to get the Genesis info turned over to him, along with Kirk continually begging for more time on the grounds that battle damage has slowed the computer down) and Kirk's "We need warp speed in 3 minutes or we're all dead."
- Man Hug: Kirk and David. Awwwk-waardd. note
- Mathematician's Answer:
Saavik: May I ask how you dealt with the test?
Kirk: You may ask.
- Lampshaded by Kirk after a confused look from Saavik: "Bit of a joke."
- Moby Schtick: From hell's heart Khan stabs at thee.
- Moral Myopia: Yeah, Khan, get really upset that Kirk hurt your crew on accident and forget that you hurt his crew on purpose, right after they'd finished saving your hide. Chekov calls him on this, to no effect.
- Mutual Disadvantage: Going into the Mutara Nebula means that both ships will be blind as Tiberian bats and without shields; the fact that Reliant is less damaged becomes practically negligible.
Spock: The odds will be even.
- My Friends... and Zoidberg: A minor case when Kirk is about to beam to Regula I and Spock tells him to be careful, McCoy replies "We will."
- Mythology Gag: As noted above, how Kirk dealt with growing older was a major subplot of the movie. In the Kobayashi Maru test at the beginning, the simulated Enterprise was heading to the Gamma Hydra system; the TOS episode "The Deadly Years" (in which the Enterprise crew had to deal with rapid aging) took place there.
- Naďve Newcomer: Saavik.
- Neck Lift: Khan does this to Chekov to show how badass he is, but he's really lifting him by a handle on the front of his spacesuit, not his neck.
- Never Give the Captain a Straight Answer: McCoy not telling Captain Kirk that Spock was dying from radiation poisoning. Justified in that he didn't want to rattle the whole crew in the middle of a life-or-death situation.
- New Meat: Peter Preston.
- No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Wrath of Khan is often praised for its fast-moving, intense space battles. This is unusual for Star Trek because all of the ship-to-ship combat in this movie is done without shields — Kirk couldn't get the Enterprise's shields up in time when Khan first attacked, and then hacked the Reliant's computer to lower shields before retaliating; during the climax, conditions in the Mutara Nebula disabled the shields of both ships. Conversely, Star Trek: Insurrection and Star Trek: Nemesis were criticized for having boring space battles, since they follow the normal style of Trek combat where ships gradually chip away at each other's shields before doing damage.
- Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Khan. An East Indian (sure) with a Mexican accent.
- Not Important to This Episode Camp: Until the reboot, this was the only Star Trek film not to feature Klingon characters.
- Not So Different: Carol admits this regarding Jim and David.
- Not So Stoic:
- Spock is clearly distraught when an anguished Scotty carries his badly burned, dying nephew to the bridge.
- Saavik is just about the most emotional Vulcan one will ever see. She gets visibly flustered and prickly when Kirk critiques her Kobayashi Maru test (and utters a "Damn!" during the test - highly uncharacteristic of Vulcans, as Spock lampshades in later films). She also sheds a few tears during Spock's funeral. A deleted scene points this out, with Spock offering a Hand Wave that she's half-Romulan. The novelization expands on this, describing Saavik as one of many half-Vulcan/half-Romulan children left to fend for themselves on a Crapsack World when the Romulan colony there was abandoned. She was never even exposed to Vulcan culture until adolescence, when Vulcans came to the planet and rescued her and her fellow half-breeds; therefore, she doesn't yet have the emotional mastery one would expect from a person who was raised with Surak's teachings from birth.
- Nothing Is Scarier: As mentioned above, the Battle in the Nebula at the end is not what you'd expect from two warships duking it out. It's slow, quiet, tense and very effective.
- Oh Crap: Done several times.
- Possibly most noticeable when Khan is told the shields are going down.
- Only Mostly Dead: Spock after the final battle.
- Only Sane Man: Joachim seems to be the only one on Khan's crew rational enough to realize (and actually voice the opinion) that revenge against Kirk is silly, but unfortunately for him, Khan's too bent on his revenge.
- Lampshaded by Khan, who responds to Joachim's advice by quoting Moby-Dick, specifically a speech showing Ahab's too obsessed to care about the consequences of his hunt. Khan acknowledges his desire for revenge is suicidal, and pushes himself anyway.
- Orchestral Bombing: James Horner is awesome.
- Orifice Invasion: The worms that enter through the ear.
- The Other Darrin
- The character of Joachim, recast and slightly renamed, from his appearance in the original "Space Seed". Note .
- Lieutenant Saavik was played by Kirstie Alley in this movie and by Robin Curtis in the following two movies.
- Out-Gambitted: Khan thinks he's trapped Kirk on that planet, but Kirk used a coded message before to ensure his escape. Kirk takes that extra step to convince Khan of the hoplessness of Kirk's situation as well.
- Parody Commercial: Bones sarcastically enacts one in describing Genesis to Spock's exasperation.
According to myth, the Earth was created in six days. Now watch out! Here comes Genesis! We'll do it for you in six minutes!
- Permission to Speak Freely: Savvik to Kirk.
- Plot Archaeology: Khan has become such an iconic Star Trek villain that it's easy to forget that he was originally a one-episode character from the first season of the original series.
- Poor Communication Kills: The "needs of the many..." speech is really beautiful and all, but had Spock instead said, "Captain, I put my katra in Doctor McCoy. Ask my father about it. I'll be fine.", a lot of conflict in the next movie could have been avoided.note
- Spock had no idea that he would be fine. That his fatally irradiated body would be regenerated by the Genesis effect is something he could not have known. The transference of the katra is implied to be part of a Vulcan funeral ritual, since even the Vulcan priestess says that rejoining the katra to a body is something that has only been done in legend.
- Power Of Hate: Khan's rage and hatred give him the strength to launch one final Taking You with Me attack on Kirk and the Enterprise. As well as providing inspiration for some great last words (quoted from Moby-Dick).
- Precision F-Strike: A behind-the-scenes example. Shortly after the first film was released, Harve Bennett was brought before a group of Paramount executives. Jeffrey Katzenberg and Michael Eisner asked if he could make a better movie. Harve replied he could, and then Charles Bluhdorn replied "Can you make it for less than 45-fucking-million dollars?" Harve replied, "Where I come from, I could make five movies for that."
- Proscenium Reveal: The entrance of Admiral Kirk ends the Kobayashi Maru test.
- Proud Warrior Race Guy: Khan. He is a Sikh after all.
- Public Secret Message: Spock tells Kirk on an open channel, "Admiral, if we go by the book, hours could seem like days". To anyone else, this might sound like a case of Lawful Stupid, but Kirk, who'd been discussing regulations about coded messages with Spock earlier, knows that this means to decode the next message, replace the word "days" with "hours". In Real Life, this counts as Roddenberry's second attempt to reconnect with his long lost World War II buddy, Kim Noonien Singh.
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: A precursor to the former Trope Namer and so close to it, it almost counts as the Trope Maker to its Trope Codifier.
Khan: THIS. IS. CETI ALPHA FIVE!!!
- After Kirk survives Khan's attempt to have Captain Terrell murder him in the Genesis Planet cave:
Khan: Kirk, you're ... still alive, old friend.
Kirk: Still! Old friend!
- And later in the same conversation:
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. You're going to have to come. down. here.
- Pyrrhic Victory: Part of what makes Khan one of cinema's most respected villains is how much his actions cause Kirk to lose.
- Railing Kill: It's a blink-and-you'll-miss-it example, but during the Enterprise's final attack on the Reliant an explosion in the latter ship's engineering section throws one of Khan's henchmen over the railings surrounding the warp core.
- Reality Is Unrealistic: Khan's "prosthetic pecs" - no, Montalban just buffed himself up really well.
- Recycled In Space: A 19th-century naval adventure IN SPACE.
- Red Alert: The basis for the Lock and Load Montage, complete with closeups on viewscreens flashing the RED ALERT message.
- Red Right Hand: Khan never takes off his right glove, nor is it commented upon, but his removal of his left is a key part of his Establishing Character Moment.
- Red Shirt
- Subverted. Screws with your expectations by having every main character wearing red uniforms for most of the film.
- A non-literal Red Shirt is the member of the science station's crew who gets shot by a mind-controlled Terrell.
- Remember the New Guy:
- Khan meets Chekov and says he knows him because "I never forget a face." Which means that Chekov was on ship during "Space Seed," a first-season episode, despite the character not appearing on screen until the second season. Numerous explanations have been thrown about (he was on the ship, just not as bridge crew; Chekov was the officer in charge of delivering the supplies and food to Ceti Alpha V; an obvious joke about Chekov occupying a latrine Khan wanted to use), but ultimately it comes down to this trope.
- Another example is Doctor Carol Marcus, Kirk's old flame. They even a had a son together. McCoy's aware of her too (presumably from back in the day). And yet we're only hearing about her now, after all these years.
- A popular fan theory is that the "little blonde lab technician" mentioned in the second pilot episode of the series that Kirk "almost married" is Carol Marcus.
- Re Tool: Director Nicholas Meyer made some changes, most notably making Starfleet like an actual navy and giving the crew uniforms which looked less like a product of the 60's/70's, sporting uniforms with a more classical and thus timeless look.
- Revenge Before Reason: Khan has this pointed out by his underlings, twice no less. They have a Federation starship, they can go anywhere. Then they have Genesis and a Federation starship, so they can go anywhere and have a planet-killing bomb as insurance. Khan refuses to listen to this both times and proceeds with his plan of revenge.
- Revenge Myopia: Lampshaded. After Khan explains his beef with Kirk, Chekov says, "Captain Kirk was your host. You repaid his hospitality by trying to steal his ship and murder him!" Khan ignores the point. Neither does he consider that he owes his life to Kirk, on account of the fact that his ship almost certainly would have fallen victim to age sooner or later; a dozen of his fellow augments died from stasis malfunctions before the Enterprise even found them. Even their exile was an act of charity (even if it went horribly wrong); Kirk could have just dragged them all back to Earth for war crimes trials. But Khan has a Never My Fault sort of mentality.
- Rule of Cool: The primary reason for the Lock and Load Montage: There really isn't any reason why a 23rd century starship should require a dozen crewmembers performing manual labor to load a torpedo, but damn if it isn't awesome to watch. It's possible that the automated loading system was damaged in their first encounter with Khan so they had to resort to the human backup system, but this isn't stated in the film.
- Say My Name: "KHAAAAAANNNNNN!!!"
- Scenery Porn: The cave underneath Ceti Alpha V, and also the clouds of the Mutara Nebula.
- Sealed Evil in a Can: Khan Noonien Singh and his cryogenically frozen followers, when they're abandoned on Ceti Alpha V (which the crew of the Reliant mistake for Ceti Alpha VI after a natural disaster alters its orbit and destroys its environment).
- Sealed Good in a Can: Khan attempts to do this, but Kirk has other plans.
- Self-Disposing Villain: Khan attempts to take Kirk with him. It doesn't turn out as planned.
- Separated-at-Birth Casting: Actor Merrit Butrick who played Carol Marcus' and Jim Kirk's love-child, David really does kind of resemble a young William Shatner at times.
- Sequel Hook: So last minute, it wasn't even reflected in the novelization of the movie: Spock does not mind-meld with McCoy, and his will specifically states he is not to be taken to Vulcan. the novelization of Search For Spock simply retcons in the former while attempting to justify the latter by saying Spock felt he was incompatible with the ritual.
- Sequel Reset: Kirk is back to being an Admiral again, only this time is one willingly out of a feeling of being too old to be captain, rather than being Kicked Upstairs as TMP!Kirk was. It also reuses the Back in the Saddle plot from the last one, but the results are much more tragic here.
- Series Continuity Error: The most famous of which is Khan recognizing Chekov, even though the character wasn't in "Space Seed".
- When asked about this at conventions, Walter Koenig likes to tell a humorous story about how Chekov, then a lowly Red Shirt, met Khan by using a restroom Khan had much need of. Upon discovering that Chekov had also depleted the toilet paper, Khan cursed the poor ensign and declared he would never forget his face.
- Koenig was joking, of course, but it's entirely possible that Chekov was a junior officer on the Enterprise at the time of "Space Seed", and only later got promoted to the bridge crew (and thus became an on-screen character). This is explicitly the case in the novelization: it describes Chekov having an encounter with Khan while still a junior officer assigned to the overnight watch on the bridge.
- The second season episode "Catspaw" features Chekov not at his usual navigator station but filling in at Spock's science station while Spock is off the ship. The stardates given in the episode (3018.2) place it before "Space Seed," (3141.9) providing on-screen evidence that Chekov was on the ship before Khan, but not yet assigned to the navigator post that would make him a regular fixture on the bridge.
- Shoot the Shaggy Dog: The whole point of "Space Seed" was that Kirk was giving the Augments a second chance to redeem themselves, allowing them to start their own colony on an uninhabited planet, with the intention to come back and see what kind of civilisation would eventually develop from this "seed". Here we learn that in over fifteen years, neither Kirk nor any other Federation starship came back to check on them. If they had, they would have noticed that the colony was destroyed by a natural disaster a mere six months later. No wonder Khan is so incredibly bitter.
- Multiple direct references to Moby-Dick and A Tale of Two Cities, the two books which represent Khan (irrationally obsessed with revenge) and Kirk (coming to terms with his own mortality).
- The concentric tubes of the Genesis control panel resemble the ones that Ripley uses to activate the self-destruct sequence in Alien.
- Shown Their Work: According to this short documentary, the ILM team that put together the Genesis proposal scenes used the stars as seen from Epsilon Indi (a nearby K-class dwarf) as the background. The Sun is visible toward the end below the Genesis planet as an extra star in the Big Dipper.
- Skyward Scream: A sort of Beam Me Up, Scotty!, parodies always turn Kirk's "KHAAAAAANNNN!" into this. In the film itself it shows a level view of Kirk screaming into the communicator and then cuts to a shot of the planetoid's barren, cratered surface.
- Small Role, Big Impact: Ricardo Montalban once said that he almost passed on coming back for Wrath of Khan because, as it is written in the script, Khan is actually only onscreen for about fifteen total minutes over the course of the entire movie, and his actual spoken dialogue is pretty minimal as well when compared to the main characters. But then he realized, as he read the story, that Khan's impact on the other characters is present on every single page of the script, and immediately agreed to reprise the role. (It's worth noting that Khan's name hadn't been put in the title yet.)
- Smart People Play Chess: A chess set is one of the few creature comforts Khan and his followers had on Ceti Alpha V. This becomes a plot point later on. Khan may be The Chessmaster, but in the 23th century, they play three-dimensional chess.
- Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome: Given the youthful appearance of Joaqim and the rest of Khan's followers (compared to Khan himself who clearly looks at least fifteen years older), there has been speculation that this group is actually not his original followers but their children. However, they clearly look more than fifteen years old. And even assuming that they began having children immediately after being exlied on Ceti Alpha V (which would be a foolhardy choice at best considering the initial work required to at least make the world livable), the oldest child born wouldn't be older than thirteen or fourteen.
- Space Clothes: Semi-averted. The badass maroon jacket and department-colored turtleneck combo is a million steps up from TMP's Starfleet pastel pajamas.
- Played straight with Khan and the other augments' wardrobe, as well as the Regula scientists' uniforms.
- Khan and his followers' clothes were supposed to look like they had been scavenged from whatever fabrics they could find, which is why their outfits are more Rummage Sale Reject than an actual uniform.
- Space Clouds: The Mutara Nebula.
- Space Is an Ocean: More pronounced than ever before, as the movie is essentially a naval combat movie IN SPACE!, but comes with a Lampshade Hanging, as well as a famous aversion, where the main characters take advantage of the fact that the villain believes this trope, but they know better.
Spock: His pattern indicates two-dimensional thinking.
- There's a very brief hint about this when the Enterprise and Reliant first meet. There's a quick shot of the Reliant approaching the Enterprise and the ship is clearly spinning to have the same orientation...meaning that Khan's 2D space (or at least his sense of "up") was initially different from Kirk's, but Khan didn't take this to its obvious conclusion.
- That being said, given the way Reliant's phasers are mounted, matching orientations may have been done to open the best firing arcs. Recall that Khan had been on the Enterprise before and this is how he knew where he needed to shoot for best effect (Spock: "They knew exactly where to hit us.")
- Also, the Enterprise rotates herself to match orientation with Kronos One in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, so doing such might just be considered good manners in the Trekverse.
- Space Mines: In the Unwinnable Training Simulation that starts off the movie, the ship the Enterprise needs to rescue was disabled by a gravitic mine.
- The Spock: Naturally. Quite notable here, however, in what Spock's Heroic Sacrifice said about how this archetype should be written. Yes, Virginia, that "cold Vulcan logic" that McCoy is always harping on Spock about applies to his own life as much as anyone else's... and he doesn't hesitate even for a moment when applying it.
- Stock Footage: Much of the Scenery Porn of the Enterprise from The Motion Picture was reused to help stretch the budget, specifically several flybys and scenes involving the spacedock.
- The original teaser trailer features the STTMP blue 'Enterprise going into warp' effect shot. The warp shots made for STTWOK (and following movies) are more subdued.
- The Klingon ships in the Kobayashi Maru simulation were the same ones that attacked V'ger in the first movie. Of all the reused footage, this one makes the most sense. We already saw that Starfleet had recorded footage of the V'ger incident.
- Stock Phrase: In the Genesis Cave sequence, right after Kirk asks if there's anything to eat,
McCoy: How can you think of food at a time like this?!note
- The Stoic: We get a twofer with Spock and Saavik as the Vulcan officers. For bonus points, Spock's experience-tempered calmness contrasts with the younger Saavik's relative Hot Bloodedness, who gets visibly flustered and swears in frustration (if rather deadpanned frustration) during the film's opening scene.
- Story Arc: This is the beginning of a storyline that continues into Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Arguably beyond.
- Take a Third Option: Deconstructed. See An Aesop above.
- Taking You with Me: Khan, at the end, attempts to destroy Kirk and the Enterprise by detonating the Genesis device.
- Technology Porn: The Genesis effect was so spectacular, that it was seen fit to be reused it for two more movies, as a visual side to exposition and recapping of said device.
- Tempting Fate: Mercifully subverted for the Enterprise. When going over how they're going to disable Reliant using the prefix code, Spock feels it necessary to note that Khan might have changed it. Fortunately fate lets this one slide, else the movie would have ended there.
- Theme Music Power-Up: No less than three.
- There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Kirk phasers a Ceti eel, vaporizing it, even though his foot would have worked equally well.
- Time Bomb: When Khan activates the Genesis device on the Reliant, the Enterprise has four minutes to get away before it detonates, but it can't reach a safe distance unless the warp drive is repaired....
- To the Pain: The fate Khan thinks he's given Kirk.
- Before that, Khan went into excruciating detail to Terrell and Chekov about what the Ceti eels do to their hosts.
Khan: You see, their young enter through the ears, and wrap themselves around the cerebral cortex. This makes the host very susceptible to... suggestion. Later, as they grow, follows madness... and death.
- Troll: Spock orders the inexperienced Saavik to take the Enterprise out of drydock, knowing it would make Kirk nervous to stand by and watch her.
- Try And Follow: Kirk mocks Khan to goad him into following the Enterprise into a nebula, counting on Khan's Pride to override his better judgment, as the gambit is a very obvious trap.
- 2-D Space: Both used (for filmmaking purposes) and inverted (for story purposes).
Spock: He's intelligent, but inexperienced. His pattern indicates two-dimensional thinking.
- The Übermensch: Khan would like to think he is. In reality, he's gone half-mad since being marooned on Ceti Alpha V.
- Even without that, Khan and his followers were part of a group of genetically enhanced children that did manage to seize control of over forty nations simultaneously, are superhumanly strong, and most likely with enhanced intellect to back that up. It's heavily implied that had Khan not been half-mad, he would have been an even greater threat.
- Unintentional Period Piece: In the director's commentary, Nicholas Meyer paraphrases Orson Scott Card's claim that all works are a product of their time, when it's pointed out how Khan's followers look like the entourage of a hair metal group.
- Unwinnable Training Simulation: The Kobayashi Maru test. Kirk is the only Starfleet cadet ever to have beaten it, and his method was - by his own admission - as unorthodox as it was unauthorised. The extent to which the reboot truly reflects what Kirk Prime did is arguable.
- Villainous Breakdown: In response to Kirk's Batman Gambit.
Khan: ...full impulse power.
Joachim: No, sir! You have Genesis, you can have anything you wa-
Khan: FULL POWER, DAMN YOU!
- Weapon of Mass Destruction: The Genesis Device.
- Wham Line:
- Whole Plot Reference: Loosely, to Moby Dick, from the perspective of the whale.
- Window Love: Kirk and Spock, just before Spock dies.
- Worf Had the Flu: The rather puny-looking Reliant sneak attacks the Enterprise and leaves the ship hobbling along for the rest of the movie, thus prolonging a confrontation that, under normal circumstances, would've resulted in the Enterprise mopping floors with the Reliant within about two minutes. Most of the crew being cadets didn't help, and Khan was Genre Savvy enough to have studied the Enterprise in detail.
- The X of Y
- Xanatos Speed Chess: Kirk plays without a net. Don't look down.note
- You! Exclamation: David upon seeing Kirk, before attacking him.
- Zeerust: Khan's followers and their clothing, Federation computers (the one in Kirk's San Francisco apartment is actually a 1970s Commodore PET), and how David wears his sweater.
- Moderately averted by the Genesis simulation. While it's clearly CGI, it still holds up as good CGI.