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Film / Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

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"Ah, Kirk, my old friend. Do you know the Klingon proverb that tells us 'revenge is a dish that is best served cold'? It is very cold in space..."
Khan Noonien Singh

The one where Kirk screams Khan's name.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is the second movie in the Star Trek film series, released in 1982.

About 12 years after the events of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Admiral Kirk has been overseeing students at Starfleet Academy and Enterprise largely serves as a training vessel in orbit around Earth. Kirk has been promoted beyond his usefulness and is facing a mid-life crisis, with Spock and McCoy encouraging him to head back out into the galaxy to regain his confidence.

Unfortunately, Kirk finds himself drawn into a conflict with Khan Noonien Singh, a Worthy Opponent he encountered during Star Trek: The Original Series fifteen years ago, during the events of "Space Seed." Khan has escaped his exile on Ceti Alpha V through capturing the crew of Reliant, who were surveying the planet for a project called "Genesis." His goal is to get revenge against Kirk and secure his own territory through the "Genesis Device," a terraforming explosive that can be used as Hostile Terraforming against any who oppose him. Kirk struggles against his rusty skills and instincts as Enterprise and Reliant do battle, and it doesn't get any easier for him when the scientists in charge of "Genesis" turn out to be his Old Flame and their son.

Star Trek II starts a loose trilogy arc that continues with Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and concludes with Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Nimoy directed the latter two films.

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 the first major motion picturenote  to be scored by James Horner, who would go on to be one of the most prolific film score composers of his era. 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.note 

Not to be confused with Star Trek Phase II, a TV series that eventually became Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Because of this movie Khan and his backstory has gone on to be notable in several other works including Star Trek: Enterprise, Star Trek Into Darkness and Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.

Tropes seen in The Wrath of Khan include:

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    Tropes A-D 
  • 2-D Space:
    • Both inverted and played straight. Spock observes of Khan that "He's intelligent, but inexperienced. His pattern indicates two-dimensional thinking." (This was foreshadowed by Khan having a traditional 2-D chess set.) Kirk then orders "Z-1000 meters" so Enterprise can come in under Reliant. But it's still played straight in a different way; Enterprise has to rise back onto the same plane as Reliant to fire instead of shooting up from below (which is especially bad, as this would give them a much better "profile" to shoot at).
    • Watch closely when Reliant first blasts Enterprise with phasers and you can see a display on a bridge panel showing the ship tilting wildly out of trim, as if concepts like list and trim had meanings in space.
  • '80s Hair: Khan and his followers look like the entourage of a hair metal group. On the good side, David Marcus has a truly fabulous perm.
  • Abandon Ship: Said by Saavik at the end of the Kobayashi Maru simulation. Admiral Kirk points out that Klingons don't take prisoners.
  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene:
    • Kirk and McCoy on Kirk's birthday.
      McCoy: Dammit, Jim, what the hell's the matter with you? Other people have birthdays; why are we treating yours like a funeral?
      Kirk: Bones, I don't want to be lectured.
      McCoy: What the hell do you want? This is not about age, and you know it. It's about you flying a Goddamned computer console when you want to be out there hopping galaxies.
    • Kirk in the Genesis Cave, admitting how old he feels.
    • Of course, Spock's death.
  • Actionized Sequel: The Motion Picture was a rather slow-paced affair in the vein of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Wrath of Khan features remarkably more action and an overall faster pace, already setting its tone with the Kobayashi Maru opening.
  • Action Prologue: Which turns out to be an Unwinnable Training Simulation.
  • Activation Sequence: After Enterprise shoots Reliant to pieces, Khan, in a final act of spite, begins activating the Genesis Device, a process that involves turning a series of cylinders on a control panel and then pushing them down to reveal the next one which starts a final countdown.
  • Actor Allusion: Kirk owns an antique Commodore computer. William Shatner was Commodore's spokesperson at the time.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The novelization goes into considerably more depth on certain characters, especially Saavik and Peter Preston. We get a full backstory of Saavik's origins as a half-Vulcan half-Romulan Child by Rape and how Spock was responsible for saving her from the Romulan prison planet of Hellguard, a story arc for Peter clashing with his uncle Scotty over a number of issues as well as a heartwrenching scene of his Heroic Sacrifice staying too long in the middle of a coolant leak in order to get Enterprise's power back online after the initial clash with Reliant, and a minor overlap between the two of them (Saavik was tutoring Peter and he seemed to have a crush on her) which devastates Saavik when Peter dies.
  • Aesop Collateral Damage: Unlike in the original series, where Kirk went into It's All My Fault easily but there were very few deaths in total; what he did with Khan, and Khan’s ensuing revenge, left a large death toll, including Spock, David and Enterprise. More detail in the books is given to Carol mourning her lover amongst the scientists killed, and Scotty/his family’s grief over Peter dying.
  • An Aesop:
    • The overarching moral is shared with Moby-Dick, from which it drew a lot of inspiration: Revenge is a self-destructive course that will not only be your end, but the end of everybody and everything you care about.
    • Kirk learns to be less hateful of himself.
  • Ageless Birthday Episode: At William Shatner's insistence, Kirk's exact age was left unstated onscreen. (In the series, he's the ripe old age of 52, in a time when people live past 137 ... meaning that Kirk has Progeria, perhaps a relapse from "The Deadly Years.")
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Khan dies in the exploding Reliant after failing to kill Kirk. When you think you're tough enough and smart enough to tame a planet with only a dozen or so disciples to back you, and you pointedly reiterate Satan's Badass Boast from Paradise Lost, you owe it to your sense of integrity to take the death like a man when the Hell that you proclaimed it better to rule than serve in Heaven actually turns out to be Hell and not Eden after all. Alas, poor Khan for not being quite the superior being he thought he was.
  • All Abusers Are Male: Averted in the novelization, as all Saavik knows is that she’s a Child Of Rape by a Romulan guard and a Vulcan prisoner, but is unsure if the rapist is her mother or father.
  • All There in the Manual: The film's deleted scenes and novelisation contains two major plot points that are not in the film (at least not the original theatrical release): the first is that Saavik is half-Romulan, which explains her displaying emotion; the second is the establishment of a romance between Saavik and David Marcus, which is only lightly hinted at in the film and its sequel.invoked
    • Preston, the young midshipman who aids Scotty in engineering but gets horribly burned and dies on the operating table? The director's cut includes a scene that shows us that he's also Scotty's nephew. Ouch.
    • The Blu-Ray releases include the Library Computer, an interactive database that will appear on screen as the movie plays offering entries on characters, ships, places, etc. with additional information on them.
    • It’s only in The Autobiography of James T. Kirk do we get the expanded version of Kirk disappointing Carol; while he had good intentions, he kept promising her and David he’d be around, but always going off on his career (like his mom did with him), and finally when David is two, she tells him to stay away. Definitely not a boy scout.
  • Amazing Freaking Grace: On bagpipes too, no less.
  • Ambiguously Brown: Khan is an Indian being played by a Mexican actor. This is a carryover from the original series, of course.
  • And Starring:
    • Ricardo Montalbán as Khan, which is literally the billing in the opening credits, after all the other main cast is listed, "And Starring Ricardo Montalbán 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.
    • Kirstie Alley gets an "Introducing," while Paul Winfield gets the more traditional "And."
  • Antagonist Title: Khan is Captain Kirk's enemy.
  • Apologetic Attacker: After nerve-pinching McCoy, Spock tells him "Sorry, Doctor, but I have no time to discuss this logically.".
  • Applied Phlebotinum: The "Genesis Device" is an inexplicable gadget that defies all known science of the era — as well as logic, achieving a controlled reaction that transforms a planet's surface, with magnitudes more energy than any weapon. In fact, the first discussion Kirk and Spock have after watching Carol Marcus' video on the device is about its potential destructive capabilities if it were to be used as a weapon (despite the obvious fact that, logically, weapons are more powerful than complex tools, due to the lack of need for control, with the purpose being destructive rather than constructive; just like fusion-weapons exist, but not controlled fusion-reactors). Naturally, it falls right into Khan's hands — conveniently just at the same time as Kirk.
  • 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."
    • "I don't believe in the no-win scenario" and "I don't like to lose" are used fairly interchangeably.
  • 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.
  • Ascended Extra: Khan himself (and the mythos around him) was only in a single episode of the Original Series and the events of that episode are rather low key to start with; it is more a character drama discussing Khan's history and thwarting an attempt to take over the ship. The movie turned out the way it did because Nicholas Meyer reviewed all episodes of the Original Series and found himself drawn to Khan's charisma and the strength of Ricardo Montalban's performance. Without this movie Khan would have just been an amusing footnote.
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: As usual, the entire Enterprise crew. Spock analyses Khan's attack patterns, Kirk analyses Khan's mental state to pull a gambit based on his personality, and discovers the scientists hiding on Regula One through his intuition. Using the ship's weapons, Chekov pulls off a near-perfect crippling salvo to Khan's ship while in a sensor-clouding nebula...
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: When Khan mentions his "beloved wife", he is referring to Marla McGivers, a historian on Enterprise when they found Khan's ship. During "Space Seed" Khan rather abusively took advantage of her romantic view of twentieth-century men to get her to help him take over the ship. At the end of the episode Khan did seem to have some genuine affection for her, and accepted her going to Ceti Alpha V with him.
  • Backing into Danger: While exploring the raided space station at Regula 1, McCoy gets a Cat Scare when a rat scuttles past behind him. Instead of turning and continuing forward, McCoy walks backward for a bit, and ends up backing straight into a Peek-a-Boo Corpse.
  • Back in the Saddle: Kirk gets command of 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 Enterprise's 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:
    • Khan makes Chekov tell the Regula 1 lab that Kirk gave the order for Reliant to take control of Genesis. Khan knew they would contact Starfleet to try to verify the order, which would get Kirk involved. The fact that Dr. Marcus is Kirk's old flame is a happy coincidence for Khan.
    • Khan's surprise attack on Enterprise hinges on them believing Reliant to still be an ally despite its strange behavior. This only works because Kirk ignores regulations that would require him to raise Enterprise's shields when they haven't been able to establish visual communication with another Starfleet vessel.
      • Kirk later reverses this when he pretends to surrender and upon "agreeing" to Khan's terms demands proof that Khan won't just kill them all anyway and Khan refuses, telling Kirk he doesn't have a choice. Kirk seems to just meekly back down, but Khan's response tells Kirk that Khan isn't aware Enterprise can remotely control Reliant, otherwise he wouldn't have been so assured that Kirk was beaten and also that Khan hadn't been aware and altered the computer so this trick wouldn't work as he'd have taunted Kirk about this.
    • Exploited when Kirk tries to goad Khan into beaming down to Regula to dispose of him personally. Kirk's obvious frustration (KHAAAAAAAAAN!!!) when this gambit fails helps to convince Khan that he has won. The actual gambit is that Kirk wanted Khan to think he had won so that Enterprise can return to pick them up while Khan still thinks she is crippled and trying to run.
    • Kirk's plan to trick Khan into chasing Enterprise into the Mutara Nebula (where both ships will have a mutual disadvantage and thus be equal), which works since Khan is becoming unhinged and irrationally bent on revenge. Furthermore, this is all justified by Kirk's critical observation about Khan and his Berserk Button:
      Kirk: I'll give him this: he's consistent!
  • Best Served Cold: "It is very cold in space..."
  • Big Bad Wannabe:
    • This is what Kirk reduces Khan to at the climax of the film. Khan spent the whole movie in Smug Snake mode, convinced that his superior intellect and ability would always ensure he came out on top. The problem is, his pride is off the scale as well, and it will not let him walk away satisfied with a draw. Sure, he's probably smarter than Kirk, but he lets Kirk goad, embarrass, provoke, humilate, and enrage him into a fight where his intellect means nothing, because Kirk's experience is several orders of magnitude greater than his and experience is the deciding factor. Kirk doesn't have to be smarter. Even the most trusted member of Khan's crew literally begs him just to let things go and walk away, but he won't listen.
    • Notably, Khan is completely aware of this, as evidenced by his literary references. He repeatedly compares the situation to Moby-Dick, casting himself as Ahab. Also, his tendency to compare himself to Satan goes all the way back to "Space Seed."
      Joachim: Sir, may I speak? We are all with you, sir, but consider this: We are free. We have a ship and the means to go where we will. We have escaped permanent exile on Ceti Alpha Five. You have proved your superior intellect, and defeated the plans of Admiral Kirk. You do not need to defeat him again.
      Khan: He tasks me. He tasks me and I shall have him. I'll chase him round the moons of Nibia, and round the Antares maelstrom, and round Perdition's flames before I give him up! Prepare to alter course.
  • 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 and 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:
    • In his eulogy, Kirk explicitly juxtaposes Spock's death with the creation of life on the Genesis planet.
      Kirk: 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 Reliant, juxtaposed with Chekov rejoining Enterprise's bridge crew.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Kirk escapes Khan, but Spock sacrifices his life repairing 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.
  • Blatant Lies: Before Reliant first attacks Enterprise, Kirk attempts to hail his sister ship. Khan, eager to maintain his element of surprise, does not answer. Realizing that Kirk will find the silence suspicious, he sends a token message stating that Reliant's coil emissions are overloading her comm systems. Spock runs a scan of the ship which reveals normal coil emissions. This alerts Kirk that something is up, though by this time, it is too late.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: Khan's Fatal Flaw is that he cannot resist toying with Kirk.
  • Both Sides Have a Point: Downplayed; while Khan is justifiably miffed at Kirk's failure ever to check in on Ceti Alpha V, which resulted in the death of his wife and many of his followers, Chekov points out that Kirk had a very good reason not to visit the planet again, considering that the last time they met Khan tried to hijack Enterprise and murder Kirk. Khan then loses any tiny sliver of moral high ground he may have held by putting Ceti eels in Chekov and Terrell, which will eventually kill them if not removed, then hijacks Reliant and dumps its crew on the planet.
  • Bottle Episode: The film is functionally a bottle episode because of the absurdly high budget of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. In order to conserve this sequel's budget, its script was written with a focus on the bridge set.
    • The existing bridge set from the first film was made of modular wedge shapes, allowing it to be easily redressed as the Reliant bridge (along with a little paint and changing a few displays). Engineering, sickbay, and Kirk's quarters also appear pretty much just as they were in the first movie.
    • Stock Footage from the first movie was used for the Klingon ships in the Kobayashi Maru test, Enterprise leaving spacedock, and a few establishing shots.
    • Reliant was the only new starship model used (with Regula I being a re-use of the "orbital office complex" from the first film just turned upside down). Both models would also be heavily re-used later on in The Next Generation.
    • The only new sets are Kirk's apartment, the main set for Regula I, Khan's home on Ceti Alpha V, and a few corridors (in Starfleet Command and on Regula I), with matte paintings and miniatures used to make them more impressive.
    • Space suits and uniforms from the first movie were also reused. Chekov wears Kirk's suit from the first movie while Terrell wears Spock's. The engineering crew all wear the same radiation suits they had in the first film. The red jumpsuits seen by the trainee crewmen were recycled from the pale colored TMP uniforms. Red happened to be the dye that worked the best.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: Not too bad in comparison to most examples but out of all the original series movies, this one has the most actual on-screen bloody wounds. Some of the Enterprise cadets get very badly burned, Khan spends the last half of the movie with a big red slash across his chest, and the corpses of the scientists on Regula One are rather severely bloodied. Khan himself gets burned rather horrifically across the side of his face after Enterprise fires the final shots that cripple Reliant. Then there's the memorably unpleasant scenes with the Ceti eels.
  • 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.
  • Burial in Space: One of the most famous examples following the death of Spock.
  • The Bus Came Back: Oh boy, did it ever. Khan goes from ho-hum Villain of the Week to one of Trek's most iconic Big Bads.
  • Bus Crash: Marla McGivers (Khan's lover from "Space Seed") has died offscreen at some point in the interim between the original episode and the film, which is not surprising considering the ordeal killed many of Khan's own (superhuman) people. It is popularly believed that McGivers was killed off because Madlyn Rhue, the actress who played her, was suffering from multiple sclerosis, which would eventually confine her to a wheelchair, and the production team opted against giving McGivers a Written-In Infirmity to account for this. However, this bit of Common Knowledge received a thorough debunking from Fact Trek. In short, credits dating from the time when the film would have been in production (including, amusingly, an episode of Fantasy Island, though she and Montalban don't have any scenes together), show that Rhue is still mobile, and she would remain so for some years thereafter. (She also continued to act even after being confined to a wheelchair, including in a recurring role as the Cabot Cove librarian in Murder, She Wrote.) In addition, when Rhue revealed her MS diagnosis to the public in the late 1980s, she confessed that she had been concealing it from everyone and that nobody knew about it. Although McGivers appears in earlier drafts of the screenplay, she largely plays the role filled by Joachim in the finished film. The reason for killing her character offscreen is that it gives Khan some serious motivation for wanting personal revenge against Kirk.note 
  • 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 (in "Space Seed" Kirk said he'd "come back in a hundred years"), but never did and forgot all about him. In the novelization, Khan also believes that Kirk was promoted to Admiral because Kirk exiled him (in "Space Seed", Khan was not exiled but granted the planet by Kirk after dropping all charges, to give Khan what he wanted — i.e. "a new life, a new world to rule"). 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 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.
    • A callback to "Requiem for Methuselah", where Spock had done a mind meld on Kirk, saying "Forget" in order to help ease his pain. Here he does a mind-meld with McCoy and instead says "Remember."
  • The Cameo: Mr. Kyle, the Transporter Chief from Star Trek: The Original Series, is the Communications Officer on Reliant—making him, Scotty, Uhura and Rand the only Red Shirts 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 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."
    • McCoy's unfinished insult to Spock, "You green-blooded, inhuman..." Yes, Vulcans have green blood and they're not human, so...?
  • Cat Scare: More like Rat Scare, but that's being picky. Bones is startled by a rat aboard Regula 1. While backing away from it, he bumps into a corpse hanging from the ceiling.
  • Cavalier Consumption: While everyone else is worried about being stranded inside Regula, Kirk casually munches an apple; another hint that he has something up his sleeve.
  • Central Theme: Regret, rejuvenation, sacrifice.
  • Character Aged with the Actor
    • The film takes place 16 years after the last episode of the original series, and was made 13 years after said episode was made. Kirk's advancing age is a major theme of the film.
      Kirk: There's a man out there I haven't seen in 15 years who's trying to kill me. You show me a son that'd be happy to help. My son! My life that could have been ... and wasn't. How do I feel? Old. Worn out.
    • On the other hand, Khan's followers (but not Khan himself) appear to be affected by Comic-Book Time. None of them is played by the original actors from the television episode. There is speculation as to whether or not these are the same persons from "Space Seed", especially given the obvious difference between Joaquin ("Space Seed") and Joaquim (Wrath of Khan), who are said in Expanded Universe to be father and son, Joaquin having died in the intervening years. The relatively youthful appearance of Joaquim and the other Augments suggests that these are all the children of Khan's deceased original crew. The novelization and comic book of the movie, in contrast, posit that Khan has aged more rapidly than his followers due to The Chains of Commanding on what is essentially a Death World.
  • 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.
    • Kirk, who arrogantly assumed command of Enterprise in the last film and put himself at odds with Captain Decker, has become a lot more humble and is reluctant to take command of a ship again until the Captain, Spock, gives him absolute assurance that he's the one who should be in the captain's chair for the rescue mission. He also addresses the crew and apologizes that what was supposed to be a training cruise will now be much more intense for them.
  • 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.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: What Khan does to the scientists on Regula I. It's even worse in the Novelization; they're tied up, stabbed and brutally beaten while bleeding to death, and it's all an explicit taste of what Khan plans to do to Kirk once he gets him. Plus, putting very painful brain slugs in Chekov and Terrell's ears.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: While all Starfleet officers wear red uniforms, they wear turtlenecks, shoulder badges and cuff bands in differing colors signifying which division they belonged to: Command (white), Science (gray), Operations (gold), Medical (light green), and Trainees/Cadets (red). Non-Commissioned Officers wear black turtlenecks with the same jumpsuits that Trainees wear. The later TOS films would add Security (dark green) and Special Services (light blue) to the mix.
  • 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.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • As the movie is a sequel to "Space Seed," the entire film is one big one to that episode.
    • Like many times before in the original show, Bones helps out his depressed friend with booze, this time Romulan Ale.
    • As in TMP, at least one supporting character from TOS turns up, with a promotion. As noted in The Cameo, transporter operator Lieutenant Kyle from the original series shows up, still serving with his old crewmate Chekhov, as Reliant's communications officer, now promoted to commander. The implications are more significant than the usual cameo because of Khan's prior interactions with the Enterprise crew: Since Kyle played a prominent role in "Space Seed" while Chekov did not, and Khan recognized Chekov instantly, there is little doubt that Khan recognized Kyle, but this is not shown onscreen.
    • Enterprise's training cruise heads for the Gamma Hydra sector — the same location as the TOS episode "The Deadly Years". In the TV episode, the aging of the command crew (and how to overcome it) drove the plot; here, it's subtext.
    • After the first exchange, Reliant is forced to withdraw when Kirk's attack cripples their torpedo controls and warp drive, rendering them unable to return fire. It's established in Star Trek: The Motion Picture that the new phaser system channels power through the warp drive, therefore damage to that system cuts off power to the phasers.
    • One of the books seen in the Botany Bay is Paradise Lost. Khan referenced Milton when choosing exile over imprisonment.
    • From the last movie, Kirk is still miserable about his growing age/not having a ship, while Spock is trying to deal with being okay regarding emotions and the human niceties like giving your best friend pressies.
  • Continuity Snarl:
    • Khan immediately recognizes Chekov, even though the ensign wasn't yet a part of the crew when Khan tried to take over the ship in the original series. A common fan theory is that Chekov was part of the crew, but not on the bridge. Walter Koenig joked that he believes Chekov accidentally made Khan wait an uncomfortable amount of time to use the bathroom.
      • There is some evidence for the fan theory. Chekov appears in “Catspaw,” which has an earlier stardate than “Space Seed.” Chekov does not appear at the navigator’s station in “Catspaw,” which is consistent with the theory that this was before he became part of the regular bridge crew. note 
    • A minor one: when Khan takes off his makeshift environmental suit in his first scene in the film he is already wearing a medallion that looks like the belt buckles worn with the then-current Starfleet uniforms, with a notch taken out of the circle around the arrowhead. The problem is that at the time Khan was marooned on Ceti Alpha V not only was such a buckle not part of the uniform, but Starfleet had not yet adopted Enterprise's Command section insignia as a universal emblem (each ship had its own emblem in the original series). So where did it come from? Some fans suggest it is a Tragic Keepsake from his wife Marla McGivers but she was not part of the command department: her "arrowhead", even if she had worn one, would not have had the star in the center but the "support services" spiral.
  • Cool Starship: The Miranda-class U.S.S. Reliant and of course the original Lady E. Rich Evans pointed out that Khan managed to cripple Enterprise seriously with a weaker ship, whose main job was scientific.
  • Costume Evolution: This film introduced radically different Starfleet uniforms compared to the tunics and slack worn in TOS and the Space Clothes in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Everyone worn maroon double-breasted jackets with black pants and a belt, with department insignia sometimes indicated by the color of the collar. The very sharp look made them reused for all later Original Series movies and In-Universe some version of the uniform and general style was used for the next 70 yearsnote .
  • Covers Always Lie:
    • Check the poster at the top of this page and you'll see Enterprise engaged in an all-out battle with the Regula One space station. Not only does this never happen, but it's Enterprise blasting away at an unarmed research station.
    • Another poster is composed of film stills showing scenes that didn’t exactly happen: Enterprise phaser-blasting Reliant's torpedo launcher (it was photon-torpedo-ed instead). A knife-wielding David crouching over a fallen Kirk. A close-up of Kirk and Spock at a ladder that will lead them to the bridge.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Starfleet ships come with a prefix code, allowing another ship to access their computer and make commands remotely. Kirk mentions it comes standard for the exact reason they were facing at that moment: the code prevents an enemy who doesn't know it from taking remote control of a Starfleet vessel, while allowing a Starfleet vessel who does know the code to take control in the event of...well, pretty much exactly what happens in the film.
    Saavik: I don't understand...
    Kirk: You need to learn why things work on a starship.
    Spock: Each ship comes with its own unique prefix code.
    Kirk: To prevent an enemy from doing what we're attempting: using our console to order Reliant to lower her shields.
    • The shooting script goes into a bit more detail about this. Command signals are transmitted around the ship by subspace, because it's faster than closed circuits (which are limited to relativistic speeds). That’s why the prefix code is necessary. By using Reliant's code, Enterprise is able to transmit a signal that looks to Reliant's shield generator like it's coming from Reliant's bridge.
  • 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: 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. 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.
  • Cruel Mercy: Khan doesn't kill Kirk when he has the chance, but instead leaves him marooned in the Genesis Cave, thinking him completely impotent and helpless there.
  • Cryptic Conversation: With an incredibly obvious code. "By the book", yes—but only selectively so.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Enterprise versus Reliant, two high tech, immensely powerful spacecraft both crippled from their previous engagement and then partially blinded by the effects of the nebula, reduced to slugging it out at point blank range like a pair of ships of the line from ages past.
  • Curse Cut Short: From McCoy: "You green-blooded, inhuman..."note 
  • Damage Control: Enterprise is taken by surprise in the initial attack, but Kirk and Spock can 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 (Reliant from the devastating volley Enterprise just delivered, and Enterprise still from lingering damage from the very first encounter), and it is only a Heroic Sacrifice by Spock that allows them to survive.
  • Danger Room Cold Open: The Kobayashi Maru scenario is an Unwinnable Training Simulation, but we don't find that out until it's over.
  • 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 concurs separately, saying that anything other than command of a starship is a waste of Kirk's talents.
    • Once the mission turns from a training cruise to a real mission, Admiral Kirk gives a broadcast to the cadets stationed on board, telling them that the mission has turned real and that they will have to grow up sooner than they expected.
  • Darker and Edgier: Than The Motion Picture and much more than the series. With all the graphic injuries on display, it very likely would have gotten a PG-13 rating a few years later. And indeed, it's the only Star Trek film with a 15 certificate in the UK. Even First Contact is only a 12.note 
  • 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.
  • Dead Sidekick: Joachim and Spock, at the end.
  • Deconstruction:
    • Of Kirk. His being Married to the Job with his Type being women also devoted to their careers ends up with Carol being bitter and a son he had to stay away from, the show’s habit for running off at the end of every week comes back to bite him in the form of Khan, and being a traumatised Determinator with a penchant for denial means he’s actually forced to face loss when Spock dies (and not just try and pretend everything is fine) and cheated on a test expressly designed to deal with loss. The movie also amplifies Starfleet’s military nature, as they as well as Kirk forgot about Khan until it was too late.
      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 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.
  • Did You Die?: Kirk quips, "Aren't you dead?" to Spock after the Kobayashi Maru scenario.
  • Didn't See That Coming: An identification code that would enable the Enterprise crew to remotely command Reliant to lower her shields then lock them out while they open fire? Never occurred to Khan.
  • Died in Ignorance: At the end of the film, a defeated Khan decides to pull a Taking You with Me rather than surrender to Kirk. Khan succumbs to his injuries shortly before Enterprise manages to warp to safety, and he thus dies believing that he won.
  • Dies Wide Open: 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.
  • Diving Save: As Captain Terrell is about to fire at David Marcus (Kirk's son), Lieutenant Saavik rushes forward and pushes David out of the way. As a result, Terrell's phaser blast kills a Red Shirt scientist, one of David's colleagues.
  • 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. A device that re-orders matter into whatever form you want it, creating your very own habitable planet ... by destroying everything that was on the planet you fired it at. A rare planet killer weapon that leaves a perfectly intact, usable planet behind for you.
    Spock: As a matter of cosmic history, it has always been easier to destroy than to create.
    McCoy: Not anymore. Now we can do both at the same time!
  • The Dog Bites Back: Khan tortures Chekov and manipulates him to act against his former colleagues. It is therefore fitting that in the final showdown, it is Chekov who returns to the crew and fires the shots that fatally cripple Khan's ship.
  • Dramatic Irony: When the warp core is repaired in the climax just before the Genesis Device detonates, Kirk thinks that Scotty has pulled off another miracle before ordering Sulu to bring Enterprise to warp ("Bless you, Scotty"). The audience however knows the price Kirk has paid (through Spock's sacrifice) for his escape.
  • Dramatically Missing the Point: Khan owns a copy of Moby-Dick, and quotes the book, but apparently has completely ignored the message of the book.
  • Drama-Preserving Handicap: While Kirk managed to outsmart Khan, and Enterprise wasn't as damaged as Khan was led to believe, it was still badly damaged, and Spock pointed out that the ship was still nowhere near fully operational.
  • Dude, Not Funny!: In-universe when Spock is dying, he makes a Gallows Humor joke saying he never took the Kobayashi Maru test until now, and what does Kirk think of his solution. The attempt at humor just makes Kirk cry harder.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: Khan and Spock get one each, activating the Genesis device and saving Enterprise respectively.

    Tropes E-N 
  • Elevator Conference: The Star Trek practice of using a halted turbolift as an ad hoc conference room is lampshaded, after one such meeting concludes only to reveal a very annoyed Doctor McCoy waiting to board when the doors open.
    McCoy: Who's been holding up the damn elevator?
  • 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: Enterprise does this to Reliant in the Mutara Nebula. This is either for dramatic purposes, or Kirk himself fell victim to the 2-D Space phenomenon that Spock attributed to Khan. (Nicholas Meyer admitted it was because he wanted the sequence to feel like a submarine battle.)
  • Everybody's Dead, Dave:
    • When the Enterprise crew explore the remains of the Regula space station.
    • When Enterprise blows the nacelle off Reliant, Khan is left as the only survivor.
  • Evil Gloating:
    • Put the freaking Villain Ball down and just blow him to bits, Khan!
      Khan: First I deprived your ship of power, and when I swing around I mean to deprive you of your life! But I wanted you to know first who it was who had beaten you.
    • Although he does actually want to see if he can threaten them into giving him the Genesis information first—whether he intends 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 Enterprise's shields are down, as well as retreating once they have Genesis and Reliant has 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 one-third of the Earth, but was overthrown and went into exile like Napoléon Bonaparte, in a fictional late 20th century.
  • Exact Words: McCoy tries to stop Spock from working in the warp core by saying "No human can tolerate the radiation in there!". To which Spock says "As you are so fond of pointing out, Doctor, I am not human," and nerve-pinches McCoy into submission.
  • Explosive Instrumentation:
    • Played with at first. The Unwinnable Training Simulation has the consoles explode harmlessly whenever the operator is supposed to "die".
    • Played brutally straighter during the battles. One solid torpedo hit on Enterprise causes half The Bridge to explode. Later on, the destruction of Reliant's port nacelle sends backlash throughout the ship, with one of the bridge consoles exploding into pieces just as Khan walks by it, horrifically mangling and burning him.
  • Exposed Starship Bridge:
    • In the first confrontation between Khan and Kirk, as Reliant is closing in on Enterprise, Kirk orders Yellow Alert. Saavik responds with "Energize defense fields!", and a console shows a secondary shield layer activating over the upper dome on the saucer section, giving the bridge an extra layer of protection the rest of the ship doesn't have.
    • When Reliant and Enterprise engage at nearly point-blank range in the Mutara Nebula, Enterprise's phaser salvo hits the port side of Reliant's upper dome. Since both ships' shields are down due to being in the nebula, this causes severe damage to Reliant's bridge and kills everyone inside except Khan.
  • 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: Reliant's crew fails to notice that they're 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 Reliant to sneak up on the unsuspecting Enterprise.
  • Familial Chiding: McCoy tries to stop Spock from entering the highly radioactive compartment to effect repairs.
    McCoy: Are you out of your Vulcan mind? No human can tolerate the radiation that's in there!
    Spock: As you are so fond of observing, Doctor, I am not human.
    McCoy: (stands between Spock and the core) You're NOT going in there. (Spock then takes matters into his own hands, gently incapacitating McCoy)
  • 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 Montalbán's monologue on the subject is just fantastic.
      Khan: 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...
    • 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.
  • Fictional Disability: Kirk has to wear antique reading glasses, because he's allergic to the drug that most people take to correct their vision.
  • Fix Fic: A classic Star Trek example, fixing an apparent continuity glitch—in the film, Khan and Chekhov 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 Walter Koenig 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 Enterprise at that time, he just wasn't part of the bridge crew yet and thus didn't appear on screen. After all, Khan was trying to recruit the crew to follow him, with the implied narrative that every single crew member (other than Lt. McGivers, of course) refused to do so, out of a ship's complement of 430, while only about 30 of the crew are shown onscreen, so Chekov could easily have been among those not shown, since there was never any canonical evidence showing when Chekov officially came onboard Enterprise. Likewise, Khan had full access to the names and other information of the crew, who as prisoners would likewise give their names, ranks and serial-numbers, etc.
    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 Chekhov for making him wait for the cubicle and/or using all the toilet paper (which is actually Walter Koenig's own joke).
  • Flat "What": When Kirk tells Saavik just how he beat the Kobayashi Maru.
    Saavik: On the test, sir. Will you tell me what you did? I would really like to know.
    McCoy: Lieutenant, you are looking at the only Starfleet cadet who ever beat the no-win scenario. [Points at Kirk]
    Saavik: How?
    Kirk: I reprogrammed the simulation so it was possible to rescue the ship.
    Saavik: What?
    David: [Chuckling] He cheated.
    Kirk: Changed the conditions of the test. Got a commendation for original thinking. I don't like to lose.
    Saavik: Then you never faced that situation. Faced death.
    Kirk: I don't believe in the no-win scenario.
  • Flying Saucer: Reliant is, essentially, what you get if you mush Enterprise's engineering section into the saucer section rather than have two distinct parts, with the warp engines flipped downward. This was only the second Starfleet starship design to appear in the franchise, as all other Starfleet vessels seen earlier were Constitution class ships like Enterprise note . It must have been influential, as many Starfleet designs seen in later series would be variations on the Flying Saucer theme.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • 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."
    • The closing lines of that book ("It is a far far better thing I do than I have ever done before") also foreshadow the ending of the film, as both works feature people who willingly sacrifice themselves so that others may live.
    • While supposedly "marooned for all eternity" inside the planet Regula, Kirk nevertheless keeps checking his watch. He's keeping tabs on the real repair estimate so Enterprise can beam them all up.
    • Gee, the close-up shot of that photon torpedo being lowered into the chamber makes it look an awful lot like a coffin, doesn't it?
    • One of Bones's last lines foreshadows the plot of the next film:
      Doctor McCoy: He's not really dead. As long as we remember him.
  • Forgotten Phlebotinum: This film introduces the Genesis device. As we'll see, the planet it creates disintegrates within a couple weeks, thus rendering it useless for its original purpose (terraforming). But surely Captain Picard and Captain Janeway might have found it useful as a handy-dandy instant Borg Cube Killer. note 
    • Spock also displays a trick whereby he can transfer his life-force, or "k'atra," to another person to allow him to transcend death, even while he's still alive. Furthermore, the Vulcans later prove able to re-insert this "k'atra" into a clone of Spock, which conveniently ages to the same degree as Spock's body when he died. Thus, while this Phlebotinum would normally allow immortality, Spock proves the first and last case of it ever being used this way.note 
  • Funny Background Event: While Kirk is telling Blatant Lies to Saavik ("There's no such regulation!"), Sulu, behind her back, is smiling from ear to ear, both because it's so perfectly in character for Kirk to just brazen it out, and because she obviously knows it's a lie, and stares Kirk down until he gives in.
  • Gallows Humor: After absorbing fatal amounts of radiation, Spock tells Kirk that he never took the Kobayashi Maru, then asks, "What do you think of my solution?"
  • Gargle Blaster: Judging by Kirk's reaction to just one sip, Romulan ale is a pretty potent brew. And as opposed to Earth ale, which is served in mugs, McCoy pours just a tiny amount into a small glass. Wonderful stuff, indeed.
  • Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke:
  • Genesis Effect: Trope Namer—the Genesis device turns a lifeless rock or cloud of gas into a living, breathing planet. And, if aimed at a living, breathing planet, it'll erase it entirely and create a brand-new living, breathing planet, making it also a potentially devastating weapon.
  • The Ghost: Marla McGivers. Her death in the Back Story hangs over the entire film as the main motivation for Khan's tumble down the slippery slope of revenge.
  • The Glasses Come Off: Right before Enterprise takes out Reliant's shields. Kirk also tells Khan "I see your point" as he does it.
  • Glasses of Aging: Bones gives Kirk a pair of glasses on his birthday, which only reinforces his belief that he's getting old and obsolete.
  • Guile Hero: Echoing a number of TOS episodes, this film sets up Kirk as completely outmatched in physical power, but maintains a clear head.
  • Ham-to-Ham Combat: Pretty damn literal example. And it's delicious. William Shatner and Ricardo Montalbán despite never meeting face-to-face on screen 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.
  • Headache of Doom: Symptoms of infestation by Ceti Eel larvae include extremely painful headaches and suggestibility, making them ideal when Khan needs a way of controlling Captain Terrell and Commander Chekov.
  • Helpless Window Death: In the climax, Spock sacrifices himself to repair Enterprise's damaged warp core, taking a lethal dose of radiation from the core in the process. Once Kirk arrives in Engineering, he's forced to speak to Spock through the clear wall of the warp core chamber, as opening the chamber would flood the area with radiation, and can only watch as Spock succumbs to his injuries and dies.
  • 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 Montalbán in Real Life.
  • Heroic Sacrifice:
    • Spock won't be coming home from this one. There are several examples of Heroic Sacrifice in Star Trek, but this one is by far taken the most seriously and played the most straight. Even Family Guy takes this one seriously. That should tell you just how highly it's regarded.
    • And again, Midshipman Preston:
      Scotty: He stayed at his post... when the trainees ran...
  • Heroic Self-Deprecation: According to Kirk, his own thinking that he can solve everything is 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, and the fact that Spock's death had nothing to do with his action or inaction. In addition to the fact that he would oftentimes lapse into self doubt back then. By the end of the film, he learns to appreciate himself more.
  • Heroic Suicide: While under Khan's Mind Control, Captain Terrell is ordered to kill Admiral Kirk. Realizing he can't resist the order, he kills himself with his own phaser to save Kirk's life.
  • He's Back!: When Kirk appears on 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 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 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.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Khan, repeatedly. Despite his superior intellect, he fails to acknowledge that Enterprise's crew would 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 could possibly be smart enough to get 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 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 far 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 order Reliant's computer to deactivate their shields, leaving her open to counterattack. 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.
  • Hold Your Hippogriffs: "Revenge is a dish best served cold" is actually a Sicilian (or French, depending on who you ask) proverb.
  • Holy Backlight: Kirk's entrance.
  • Honor Before Reason: Peter Preston stays at his post, saving a fellow engineer along the way.
  • Hopeless Boss Fight: The Kobayashi Maru simulation is unwinnable by design, ending in an encounter with a numerically superior Klingon force that inevitably overpowers Enterprise.
  • Hostile Terraforming: Discussed. The Federation is trying to find a completely lifeless world to try the Genesis Device on so they avoid this, but it is quickly brought up that it would make a very effective weapon as the Genesis Device would overwrite any existing life present. Then Khan steals it.
  • Hot-Blooded:
    • 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 afterward, 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.
  • Hot Sub-on-Sub Action: The battle in the nebula is a spacefaring version of this, with the two ships groping around blindly until they catch a glimpse and fire off a few shots. Indeed, Nicolas Meyer mentions that in addition to Horatio Hornblower, he was also inspired by The Enemy Below.
  • Humble Hero: Kirk starts off the film tired and aware of his own mortality, which becomes more pronounced as the film progresses. His way of stalling for time with Khan as they prepare a counterattack was praised by the cadet bridge crew but he knew it was a lucky shot.
    Sulu: Sir, you did it.
    Kirk: I did nothing! ...except get caught with my britches down. I must be getting senile.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: Chekov unintentionally reveals he and Terrell meant to beam down to Ceti Alpha VI.
    Chekov: You lie! On Ceti Alpha V, there was life! A fair chance-
    Khan: THIS is Ceti Alpha V!
    [some hammy exposition later]
    Khan: You did not expect to find me. You thought this was Ceti Alpha VI. Ah... Why are you here?
  • Idiot Ball:
    • When Carol calls Kirk to demand answers for why Reliant is trying to seize Genesis, she uses nothing but pronouns and vague statements ("they", "the order", etc.) which only serve to confuse Kirk, since he has no idea what she's talking about or any context. The signal is jammed eventually, but they converse long enough that Carol could have given some specific details if she only thought to do so. When Kirk subsequently runs into Reliant, which is mysteriously uncommunicative, he 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.
    • Carried by Reliant's crew as they mistake Ceti Alpha V for Ceti Alpha VI (imagine mistaking Earth for Mars), and by Chekov for not remembering that Khan was left on. In their defense, Ceti Alpha VI was destroyed, Ceti Alpha V's orbit was shifted to be closer to Ceti Alpha VI's, they are both in an out-of-the-way system that was not well surveyed, and Ceti Alpha V had formerly been a life-filled planet, but was devastated by the orbit shift to more closely resemble Ceti Alpha VI.
  • Imminent Danger Clue:
    • Chekov finds a buckle that says "Botany Bay" and realizes they're in Khan's camp seconds before they're captured.
    • Reliant approaches Enterprise, but refuses to open a visual channel, claiming a malfunction. When she raises her shields and locks weapons Kirk realizes what's going on and orders his own shields raised, but not soon enough to prevent Reliant from crippling them in a single pass.
    • When Enterprise successfully hacks Reliant's computer during the brief ceasefire that follows, the only warning that Khan gets that he's about to be attacked is his ship's shields abruptly dropping.
  • Indy Ploy: Kirk's quick thinking about hacking into Reliant's main computer using her command codes.
  • Insistent Terminology: Kirk did not cheat on the Kobayashi Maru, he just "changed the conditions of the test."
  • 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?)
  • Intercom Villainy: Khan never meets the Enterprise crew face-to-face, and instead menaces them through viewscreens, communicators, and whatever other devices he can use to threaten them with Moby-Dick quotes.
  • Intrinsic Vow: Captain Terrell resists Khan's order to murder Admiral Kirk enough so that he can kill himself 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 Surrender, Suckers: In the initial confrontation between Enterprise and Reliant, Kirk pretends to accept Kahn's surrender demand. This is just a ploy to stall for time while his crew looks up Reliant's prefix code. Once found, he uses the code to deactivate Reliant's shields and force them to withdraw.
  • It Has Been an Honor: Implied and results in Manly Tears with "Do not grieve. It was... logical."
  • It's All About Me: When Captain Terrel mentions he's never even met Admiral Kirk, Khan immediately thinks that Kirk was promoted as the result of exiling him.
  • It's a Long Story: Kirk's response to Carol asking him who Khan is. 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, created out of mercy, you'd think Kirk would have arranged for better oversight.
  • Just Ignore It: Explicitly deconstructs Kirk’s flaw from the series, as he’s always tried so hard to not deal with death, either with Tarsus making him the good Starfleet soldier or going more codependent after Edith dies, but Spock’s death forces him to face up to loss and try and cope instead of just ignoring it.
  • 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 wakenote . David at least seems aware of the Genesis Device's potential less-than-altruistic uses.
  • Kicked Upstairs: Kirk's promotion to Admiral (established in the previous film, though he briefly downgrades his rank voluntarily to captain for that mission) is explained. 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. (Expanded Universe and other media have suggested that Kirk voluntarily downgraded himself to captain for the duration of a second five-year mission with Enterprise, however there is no actual indication of this on screen and certainly not in this movie, so as far as the film continuity is concerned, Kirk never lost the admiral rank he had at the start of Star Trek: The Motion Picture.)
    • It should be noted that the tradition in the British Navy, as reflected in works like the Hornblower books that exerted significant influence on Star Trek in general and this film in particular, was that the proper, functional title of the person explicitly charged with commanding a ship, having been "read in" as the vessel's commander on boarding, was "Captain" even if his rank was higher. If Starfleet followed the same model, Kirk answering to the functional title of Captain when taking up formal command of Enterprise did not affect his graded rank of Admiral and did not constitute demotion (self-inflicted or otherwise). Kirk's reduction to Captain at the end of the fourth movie, in contrast, was a demotion in graded rank imposed as punishment for disobeying orders.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Multiple examples.
    • David's well aware he, Saavik, and McCoy are being told to Hide and No Seek.
    • Joachim playing Khan's Only Sane Man.
    • Khan all but turns to the audience and explains his willfully engaging in a Moby Schtick.
  • Large Ham: A double serving: Kirk and Khan in Ham-to-Ham Combat!
  • Last-Second Term of Respect: In the Director's Cut, Admiral Kirk takes delight in teasing Scotty's nephew, Peter Preston, about the state of Enterprise's engine room.
    Preston: Oh, no sir! Wha... this is the finest engine room in the whole Starfleet! If the Admiral can't see the facts for himself, then, with all due respect, he's as blind as a Tiberian bat!
    Scotty: Ahem!
    Preston: Sir!
  • The Last Of These Is Not Like The Others: Khan's library has Moby-Dick, Paradise Lost, Paradise Revisited, The Bible, King Lear, Dante's Inferno... and Statute Regulating.
  • 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.
  • Let Them Die Happy: Kirk does this for Preston right before the latter dies:
    Preston: Is the word...given?
    Kirk: The word is given. Warp speed.
    Preston: Aye...(dies)
  • Like a Son to Me: Joachim, while not being related to Khan by blood (expanded universe materials revealed he was the son of Khan's right hand man in Space Seed named Joaquin), is the closest thing Khan has to a son. Joachim gets Khan to listen to him at several crucial moments when his thirst for revenge is overriding his common sense and Khan is devastated when Joachim dies in his arms towards the end of the film.
  • 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? But then again...
  • Like Father, Unlike Son: David Marcus may be the son of James T. Kirk and he may be just as hot-blooded as Kirk, but he clearly does not have his father's combat prowess, as Kirk disarms and overpowers him pretty easily after David ambushes him. This would be taken to its logical, tragic conclusion in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.
  • Little "No": From Kirk, of all people, when Spock dies, just to punctuate how broken the man is.
  • 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, makes absolutely no sense at all, but it looks 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.
    • It's notable that David knows who Kirk is, based on his early dialogue explaining his distrust of Starfleet. He brings him up, not Carol. And refers to him as "that overgrown Boy Scout (she) used to hang around." David's a smart man, he might have had his suspicions already. After things calmed down, he might have analyzed his mother's and Kirk's reactions ("Is that David?" from Kirk, and when David accuses him of killing the Regula scientists, Carol immediately defends Kirk, with a pointed "You're just making this more difficult.") and confronted his mother off screen.
  • 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: "...That's a little joke."
  • Meaningful Gift: Subverted. The gifts given to Kirk for his birthday are thoughtful and reflect the knowledge the givers have of the Admiral. Spock gives him a copy of A Tale of Two Cities because he "knows of his fondness for antiques". Bones gives him a pair of reading glasses, knowing that Kirk is allergic to a medication that would have improved his vision. In fact, it's worth noting that Kirk is later seen reading the book with those glasses on his way to Enterprise to run an inspection. But the gifts don't make him happy, because as Bones observes, Kirk would prefer to be "out there hopping galaxies" instead of bound to desk duty, the one thing his friends can't give him.
  • Milestone Birthday Angst: Kirk is celebrating his fiftieth birthday, and is so sullen about it that Bones calls him out on it, saying that he's treating it like his own funeral. The events of the film rejuvenate him, by the end he says that he feels young.
  • Misaimed Fandom: In-Universe. Moby-Dick is part of Khan's private library and he quotes Captain Ahab throughout the movie. Either Khan misses the point of the novel or alternatively, he understands the point of the novel completely and recognizes the parallels between himself and Ahab, but is so consumed by his rage that he doesn't care, or is just so arrogant that he believes that, unlike Ahab, he could slay his white whale without destroying himself and his crew. Also, it's possible that Khan knows he will die as a result of his actions, but he wants to take Kirk with him. A "The Only One Allowed to Defeat You" sort of thing.
  • Misfit Mobilization Moment: The boatload of trainees move with a purpose during the Lock-and-Load Montage.
  • Moby Schtick: From hell's heart Khan stabs at thee.
  • Mood Whiplash: Done skillfully throughout. Kirk manages to buy the crew some time by crippling Reliant, and it's a great badass moment to remind us how smart Kirk is. Then Uhura gasps in horror, and the camera pans to see an agonized Scotty holding the horribly burned body of one of the young cadets (a deleted scene shows it's his nephew) in his arms, reminding us that Kirk has unwillingly dragged a bunch of untrained kids into a violent battle with one of the smartest enemies he's ever faced.
  • 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.
    Chekov: Captain Kirk was your host. You repaid his hospitality by trying to steal his ship and murder him!
  • Mr. Fanservice: Khan has a lot of really pretty boys in his crew. And he's not exactly hard on the eyes himself!
  • 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, because any hits that do land will be crippling.
    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."
  • My Greatest Failure: Kirk felt guilty for Spock's death after the events of the movie, as he failed to foresee the apocalypse of Khan's homeworld.
  • 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.
  • Naïve Newcomer: Saavik quotes regulations by their number, only to be brushed off by Kirk. Subverted in that she had a pretty good point about the regulation regarding Federation vessels acting strangely. Kirk swallows his pride after it results in Enterprise getting blindsided by Reliant, and gives her free reign to go "right on quoting regulations".
  • 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. Still, this is a grown (if below-average sized) man wearing wearing many pounds of space suit, and Khan lifts him effortlessly with one hand. Turns out "five times your physical strength" was no idle boast.
  • The Needs of the Many: The Trope Namer. This is essentially the reasoning why Spock performed his Heroic Sacrifice
  • Never Give the Captain a Straight Answer: McCoy merely tells Kirk that he should get down to engineering and that he had better hurry. Justified in that he didn't want to rattle the whole bridge crew by saying outright that Spock was dying of radiation poisoning.
  • New Meat: Everyone on Enterprise aside from the bridge crew and Scotty is a trainee.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: If someone on Reliant hadn't come up with a lame story about Chambers coil emissions, Spock would not have been scanning the ship during their first encounter, and the Enterprise crew would not have had even a shred of warning that they were about to be attacked. Not that it did much good, but Kirk at least ordered the shields raised at the last second, which may have stopped some damage.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished:
    • Both Kirk and Khan (who are biased against Kirk for different reasons) take it as Kirk's fault that Khan was marooned on the planet. While it's part of a bigger issue that Kirk is impulsive with choices and runs away from problems pretending they're not there, Kirk was probably kinder than Khan deserved, as Chekov points out.
    • Cadet Peter Preston goes back into the gas-filled engine room during Khan's first attack and drags another trainee out before he can be trapped behind a closing door. His reward is being left on the floor while the kid he rescued hotfoots it to safety .
  • 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 can't get Enterprise's shields up in time when Khan first attacks, and then hacks Reliant's computer to lower shields before retaliating. During the climax, conditions in the Mutara Nebula disable the shields of both ships. Conversely, Star Trek: Insurrection and Star Trek: Nemesis have been 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.
  • No Kill like Overkill: Kirk vaporizes the brain slug with his phaser, when simply stepping on it probably would have worked. Then again, he's seriously pissed.
  • No Man Should Have This Power: Dr. McCoy immediately realizes that not only can Genesis create life on desolate worlds, it can easily eradicate life on hospitable worlds as a weapon of mass destruction. Spock initially believes McCoy's overreacting, until they find out Khan wants Genesis for himself. David Marcus also pointed out the same thing even before Khan got involved.
    Spock: I do not dispute that in the wrong hands...
    McCoy: "In the wrong hands"? Would you mind telling whose are the right hands, my logical friend?
  • Non-Indicative Name: The Ceti eels are actually arthropods, not fish.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • Scotty had "a wee bout" in his shore leave which Dr. McCoy pulled him through. Out of universe it's a reference to James Doohan having had a heart attack and a coronary bypass a short time before filming.
    • While explained in All There in the Manual (he kept promising he’d be around but was too interested in his career to balance it out), it’s never expanded in the movie on why Kirk thinks of Carol as an old wound, or she gets annoyed at people thinking he’s perfect.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Khan. An East Indian (sure) with a Mexican accent.
  • Not Now, Kiddo:
    • Spock of all people does this to Saavik. When Saavik cautiously reminds Kirk of a regulation about keeping shields up until communication is established Spock brushes her off and tells her that the Admiral is well aware of the regulations. Once it's clear that this was an almost fatal error, Kirk gives Saavik a standing order to keep quoting regulations.
    • Then brought back almost immediately when Kirk decides to beam down to Regula One himself. Saavik does exactly what he told her to do and reminds him of the regulation that states he can't as a flag officer without a proper escort in a dangerous situation. The novelization makes it clear that his immediate assertation that "there's no such regulation!" is Kirk blatantly trying to invoke this trope in the hopes she'll drop it. She just stares him down, and he acquiesces.
  • 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 space-based warships duking it out. It's really more like a submarine battle - slow, quiet, tense and very effective.

    Tropes O-Z 
  • Oh, Crap!: Done several times.
    • Chekov's reaction when he realizes what he and Terrell have stumbled upon.
      "Botany Bay... Botany Bay?! Oh, no! We've got to get out of here, now!"
    • Kirk when he sees Khan on the viewscreen and can't believe this guy has come back to haunt him.
    • Khan, when Reliant's Deflector Shields go down.
      Joachim: Sir...our shields are dropping!
      Khan: Raise them!
      Joachim: *after the controls don't respond* I can't!
      Khan: Where's the override? The override? note 
    • Most heartbreakingly, Kirk when he realizes what just happened to Spock.
  • Only Mostly Dead: Spock after the final battle. He still has time to say goodbye to his friend.
  • The Oner: Kirk, Saavik, and Bones conversing in the elevator.
  • The Only One: Kirk mentions they are the only ship in the area and able to investigate Regula One going dark. Not quite as bad as other Trek examples, as at least they were some distance from Earth by the time they got the mission. This also sets up a Closed Circle-type situation, there was no one else around to help out.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Outrun the Fireball: Or in this case, Outrun the Genesis Effect - the Genesis Effect works at light speed and just Warp 1 is faster than that.
  • Override Command: Kirk uses Reliant's prefix code to remotely lower its shields, allowing Enterprise to disable its weapons with the limited offensive capacity they have after Khan's surprise attack. Khan's inexperience with the vessel prevents him from locating the override on Reliant that would be able to reverse Kirk's sabotage.
  • Parody Commercial: Bones sarcastically enacts one in describing Genesis, to Spock's exasperation.
  • Peek-a-Boo Corpse: Right after getting a Rat Scare while on Regula 1, McCoy turns around and finds himself face-to-face with a dead scientist, hung upside-down.
  • Permission to Speak Freely: After the Kobayashi Maru.
    Saavik: Permission to speak candidly, sir.
    Kirk: Granted.
    Saavik: I don't believe this was a fair test of my command abilities.
    Kirk: And why not?
    Saavik: Because there was no way to win.
    Kirk: A no-win situation is a possibility every commander may face. Has that never occurred to you?
    Saavik: No, sir, it has not.
  • The Peter Principle: Kirk has long since been an Admiral at Starfleet Command, with Enterprise in orbit serving mostly as a training vessel. He is feeling old and useless because all he is doing is paperwork and chastising cadets. Both Spock and McCoy tell him at different points that, although more than qualified to be an admiral, his greatest destiny is as a starship captain. This is echoed through the remainder of the Original Series films, as he is eventually demoted back to captain and he is perfectly fine with that. (In Generations he even spells this out as advice to Picard.)
  • 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.
  • Plot Hole: Khan immediately recognizes Chekov, even though the ensign wasn't a character on the show at the time Kahn's episode took place, and didn't join the cast until the following season. A common fan theory is that Chekov was part of the crew during the first season, but not assigned to the bridge or any other location seen by the audience. Walter Koenig joked that he believes Chekov accidentally made Khan wait an uncomfortable amount of time to use the bathroom. He also says he spotted the hole immediately when he was given the script, but he wasn't about to mention it to the producers and give up such a large role in the story for Chekov.
  • Power Of Hate: Khan's rage and hatred give him the strength to launch one final Taking You with Me attack on Kirk and Enterprise, as well as providing inspiration for some great last words (quoted from Moby-Dick).
  • Precision F-Strike: Bones uses the curse "goddamn". This was the first time a word of this strength had been uttered in any Trek production, and the last until the sixth film.
    • 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."
  • Pre-Mortem Catchphrase: Spock gives Kirk the Vulcan salute and says, "Live long... and prosper," before finishing his Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Properly Paranoid: After watching the informational video on Genesis, McCoy immediately realizes that Genesis could also be used as a weapon of mass destruction. Spock thinks McCoy's being his overemotional self. Then, they encounter Khan, who wants Genesis for himself, and they become determined to prevent him from taking it.
  • 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!:
    • After Kirk survives Khan's attempt to have Captain Terrell murder him in the Genesis Planet cave:
      Khan:'re still alive, my 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!
  • Puppeteer Parasite: A particularly notorious and gross example is seen both entering and leaving its victim.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: Part of what makes Khan one of cinema's most respected villains is how much his actions cause Kirk to lose, but at a great cost to himself.
  • Race Against the Clock: When Khan activates the Genesis device, it counts down from four minutes before it detonates. This is the amount of time Spock has to get down to the engine room and repair Enterprise's engines so that she can go to warp and escape the blast radius.
  • Railing Kill: It's a blink-and-you'll-miss-it example, but during Enterprise's final attack on 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: First, a 19th-century naval adventure, and later a 20th-century submarine vs submarine battle, all IN SPACE.
  • Red Alert: The basis for the Lock-and-Load Montage, complete with closeups on viewscreens flashing the RED ALERT message.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Reliant's running lights become red once the ship's hijacked by Khan. Especially apparent when Reliant is bearing down on Enterprise in the first attack.
  • Red-Flag Recreation Material: The meagre library on Ceti Alpha V includes some very dark works, including Paradise Lost, Dante's Inferno, and Moby-Dick. As such, Khan's thematic connections to Lucifer and self-destructive obsession with revenge are hinted at well before he formally reintroduces himself with the ambush on Chekhov's team.
  • 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
  • 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.note 
  • Repeat to Confirm: When Saavik is piloting Enterprise out of Spacedock.
    Saavik: Aft thrusters, Mr. Sulu.
    Sulu: Aft thrusters.
    Saavik: Ahead one-quarter impulse power.
    Sulu: Ahead one-quarter impulse power.
  • Retool: 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. So timeless, in fact, that they used those same uniforms for the rest of the TOS films and, in continuity, were used by Starfleet in some form up until 2350's, about 70 years after this film and 10 years before Star Trek: The Next Generationnote .
  • Revenge Before Reason: Khan has this pointed out by his underlings, twice no less. First 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. There's a reason he owns a copy of Moby Dick and routinely quotes Ahab.
    Khan: He tasks me. He tasks me, and I shall have him. I'll chase him round the Moons of Nibia and round the Antares Maelstrom and round Perdition's flames before I give him up.
  • Revenge Is Sweet: Khan engages in such feelings, ultimately stranding Kirk in the Genesis Cave in retaliation for leaving him and his followers on Ceti Alpha Six after a failed attempt to take over Kirk's ship, which while hospitable when Kirk left, not too long afterwards was turned into a Death World by a catastrophic ecological disaster. These feelings disappear after Khan finds out that Kirk has found a way onboard Enterprise, making him bent on taking down Kirk for good despite his underling Joachim pointing out Khan has much more to gain from ignoring Kirk and taking his new starship and planet-killing Genesis device to carve out a new empire.
  • 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 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.
  • Riddle for the Ages: Invoked behind-the-scenes. Nicholas Meyer told Ricardo Montalban to keep Khan's right glove on at all times, to create a little mystery about the character that viewers could work out for themselves.
  • 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 manually lifting deck grates in order to load a torpedo, but damn if it isn't awesome to watch. note 
  • Rummage Sale Reject: Khan and his followers wear clothing comprised from whatever they could cannibalize from the Botany Bay.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: Peter Preston is introduced in the Director's cut as Scotty's young nephew. He perishes in the line of duty during Khan's attack. Besides Saavik, he's the only trainee highlighted, and his death helps us view the deceased trainees as more than just Red Shirts.
  • Say My Name: "KHAAAAAANNNNNN!!!"
  • Scare Chord:
    • Used with the Peek-a-Boo Corpse scene.
    • The original soundtrack features a Scare Chord at the end of the track "Kirk's Explosive Reply", though it wasn't used in the movie itself.
  • Scenery Porn: The cave inside the planetoid orbited by the Regula 1 station, and also the clouds of the Mutara Nebula.
  • Screw the Rules, They're Not Real!: After failing the intentionally unwinnable Kobayashi Maru scenario twice, Jim Kirk cheated by hacking the computer to make it possible to win. Kirk justifies this with the belief that he doesn't believe there is such a thing as an unwinnable scenario, only ones with non-obvious solutions, and says he "received a commendation for original thinking."
  • 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 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.
  • Secret Test of Character: The stated purpose of the Kobayashi Maru, which is kept from the cadet taking the test, is to find out how the cadet will react in a "no-win" situation. The test, however, is flawed in that, even if the cadets taking the test will always find themselves in a "no-win" problem, he or she always knows that it is just a test. How each cadet might later act under actual combat conditions is still unknown.
  • Self-Disposing Villain: Khan attempts to take Kirk with him. It doesn't turn out as planned.
  • Separated by the Wall: Spock inside the lethally radioactive chamber, with Kirk outside unable to do anything but exchange a few last words.
  • Sequel Hook: So last minute, it isn'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 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. It should be noted, however, that it wasn't until Star Trek: The Next Generation that stardate use was made consistently chronological (for example, there are a couple of Star Trek: The Animated Series episodes with stardates higher than that of the first movie, yet clearly set before.
  • Shabby Heroes, Well-Dressed Villains: Inverted. Enterprise's crew wear pristine uniforms while Khan and his followers are Rummage Sale Rejects.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: The whole point of "Space Seed" was that Kirk was giving the supermen a second chance to redeem themselves, allowing them to start their own colony on an uninhabited planet, with the intention to come back "in a hundred years" and see what kind of civilization would eventually develop from this "seed". Here we learn that in a mere fifteen years, it developed into a threat to the entire galaxynote .
  • Shout-Out:
    • 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.
    • Two of the crates in the Genesis cave are marked for locations called Bellus and Zyra.
  • Shown Their Work:
    • According to this short documentary, the ILM team that put together the Genesis proposal scenes used the stars as actually 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.
    • Harve Bennett, when given the reins of the Star Trek franchise, had no experience whatsoever with it. So, one weekend he had a marathon session of watching each and every episode to bring himself up to date on the franchise. Keep in mind, he didn't watch it on videotape - he watched it on kinescope.
    • Spock's death is a fairly accurate depiction of acute radiation poisoning, which causes blindness and skin damage similar to burns.
  • Sink the Lifeboats: When Saavik gives the order to Abandon Ship during the Kobayashi Maru, which ends in failure, Kirk steps in to inform her that the Klingons don't take prisoners.
  • 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.
  • Slobs vs. Snobs: Played With. Khan and his followers are the slobs, forced to scrounge together anything they could find after Ceti Alpha VI's destruction ruined Ceti Alpha V's environment. Kirk and Starfleet are the snobs, wearing clean, orderly uniforms, with the twist being the "snobs" are the heroes.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: Ricardo Montalbán 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, a concept used in the expanded universe novel "To Reign in Hell" by Greg Cox. note  Conversely, the comics and novelization of the movie suggest that they are indeed Khan's original followers and that Khan himself has simply aged prematurely due to the immense stress of his situation (losing his wife and most of his crew while having to fight to keep the survivors alive for 15 years on a Death World).
  • Sorrowful Stutter: Captain Kirk manages to get through most of his eulogy for Spock before stopping to gather himself before the final word of the line "Of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most... human."
  • Space Clothes:
    • Averted with the new uniforms. 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.
  • Space Mines: In the Unwinnable Training Simulation that starts off the movie, the ship 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. 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.
    • Saavik serves as a second example, being a young protégé of Spock. She insists on citing regulation at Admiral Kirk, and he quickly decides to start heeding her counsel. Being a younger Spock-in-training, she is more impulsive and hot-headed (for a Vulcan, anyways) in contrast to her mentor's mellow, seasoned approach.
  • Spy Speak: Cleverly used. After getting screwed badly with not following regulations on approaching a silent ship, Kirk asserts that they will be following regulations more closely from then on. When on Regula One Kirk asked Spock for an update on the repairs and Spock tells Kirk that "By the book, hours will seem like days." and explains that it will take several days to get transporters back online. Kirk then tells them that if they don't hear from him in one hour they are to leave the combat zone and contact Starfleet. Several hours later everyone else thinks Enterprise has left and Kirk reveals his trump card, assuming that Khan was listening in on their communications regulation stated they needed to speak in code. "Hours will seem like days" meant that transporters would be online in two hours, not two days. Kirk's command to leave in one hour meant one day, and waited to contact Enterprise when they could transport them back. Khan WAS listening, and attempted to ambush Enterprise at Regula One right as they were to leave but Spock had them on the other side of the planet. When he finally sees Enterprise again he remarks that the ship was not as crippled as he was led to believe.
  • Standard Starship Scuffle: The battle between Enterprise and Reliant provides the trope's page image. This only comes into play because both ships' warp drives are damaged in the first exchange, and the Mutara nebula negatively affects sensors—typically, the ships would be firing missiles at each other from thousands of miles apart.
  • Stock Footage:
    • Much of the Scenery Porn of 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 are the same ones that attacked V'ger in the first movie. Of all the reused footage, this one makes the most sense, as 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?!
    Kirk: First order of business: survival.
  • 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; Saavik 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, and beyond, as Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country is indirectly shaped by those three films, and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine explicitly states that Khan is the reason the Federation bans bio-augmentation and genetic engineering (though that has as much to do with the historical Eugenics Wars as the events of this film).
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: The movie takes Kirk’s penchant for ignoring things (villain of the week after it’s done, his age, the forgotten fallen friends) and runs with it. It’s not that he’s never had a no win scenario or not dealt with death (Tarsus IV for instance), it’s that he doesn’t want to deal with it, and is now forced to.
  • Take a Third Option: When Kirk took the Kobayashi Maru, he failed it twice. Too stubborn to admit to it being unwinnable, he altered the simulation so it would have a winning outcome. The fact that he was the first person to ever cheat as such got him a commendation. Deconstructed in that this reflects Kirk's major failing: an unwillingness to accept loss.
  • Taking You with Me: Khan, at the end, attempts to destroy Kirk and Enterprise by detonating the Genesis device.
  • Technology Porn: The CGI simulation showing the Genesis effect was so spectacular that it appears again in two more movies, as a visual aide to exposition and recapping of said device.
  • Tempting Fate: Mercifully subverted for 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.
  • Thousand-Yard Stare:
    • Poor Captain Terrell looks like he's rebooted in safe mode when they find him on Regula I.
    • Kirk after Spock dies. The script describes him as "beyond seeing or hearing anything".
  • Time Bomb: When Khan activates the Genesis device on Reliant, Enterprise has four minutes to get away before it detonates, but it can't reach a safe distance unless the warp drive is repaired...
  • Time Skip: The Motion Picture was set shortly after the end of the original series, despite the fact that it was filmed a decade later. This film advances the chronology to roughly real time, and Kirk had spent a decade as an admiral. This was deliberate, and the passage of time is important for both Kirk and Khan.
  • Together in Death: Three men (Bones, Scotty and another crewman) have to restrain Kirk from rushing into the radiation room, which would have killed him and everyone else, and it’s too late to save Spock anyway. After a brief moment of not caring, Kirk collects himself and settles for a crying goodbye.
  • To the Pain:
    • The fate Khan thinks he's given Kirk.
    • Before that, Khan goes 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 has the effect of rendering the victim extremely susceptible to... suggestion. Later, as they...grow...follows madness... and death.
  • Too Injured to Save: Happens twice.
    • Peter Preston is horribly wounded after Khan's first attack. McCoy does all he can, but it is clear to all present that the brave man is going to die. In the Director's Cut, Scotty even tearfully says he knows that McCoy did all that he could, acknowledging that his injuries were simply too severe.
    • At the climax of the movie, when Enterprise's warp drive is damaged and the ship is in danger of being consumed by the Genesis device detonation, Spock sacrifices himself to save everyone by manually fixing the warp core, giving himself a lethal dose of radiation in the process. When Kirk sees him in the dilithium chamber, he tries to charge in to get him out but is restrained by McCoy, Scotty, and one of the crew.
      Bones: No! You'll flood the whole compartment!
      Kirk: He'll die!
      Scotty: Sir, he's dead already.
      McCoy: It's too late.
  • Trapped with the Therapy Session: Kirk and Carol Marcus have an intense discussion about their past relationship and their adult son. In the background is a recovering Chekov, who is clearly still conscious as he's holding a bandage to his ear, but decides to keep his eyes closed as if he's asleep.
  • Troll: Spock orders the inexperienced Saavik to take 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 Enterprise into the Mutara nebula, counting on Khan's Pride to override his better judgment, as the gambit is a very obvious trap.
  • Two-Faced: Khan gets the right side of his face horribly injured following an explosion on Reliant's bridge.
  • 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.
  • Unknown Rival: Kirk knew about Khan, but had honestly believed that all issues between them had been settled fifteen years prior and hadn't spared much thought for the man since the last time they'd met. Which makes it rather surprising to him when Khan turns out to have been nursing a grudge for fourteen of those years and is now in a position to seek revenge.
  • Upgrade vs. Prototype Fight: This is often overlooked: in the previous film, Enterprise had just completed a massive refit using updated technology. The ship was entirely rebuilt, effectively making it a totally new ship. Reliant is effectively an upgrade, using all of the same technology without the bugs of the old design. Even more, it has more guns, including a twin rear mounted photon torpedo launcher, and a pair of oversized phaser cannons. It fits all of this in a space less than half the size of Enterprise.
  • Undying Loyalty: Khan points out to Captain Terrell that trying to reason with Khan's band of followers is useless, given they pledged their loyalty to him long ago. This extends so far as to Joachim's last words being those of reassurance that Khan is who he follows.
  • Unwinnable Training Simulation: The Kobayashi Maru test is likely the Trope Codifier. The test is designed to end in failure, and its purpose is to see how cadets will react in a situation which has nothing but bad outcomes. 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. This film provides the page quote. As further proof of its influence and impact the page also lists all the other works that have called their Unwinnable Training Simulation a variant on the Kobayashi Maru test.
  • Victor Steals Insignia: Twisted. Throughout the movie Khan wears a Starfleet emblem on a necklace. It isn't seen until he takes over the Reliant, so one has to assume that he stole it from one of the crewman that he marooned on Ceti Alpha VI, perhaps even Captain Terrell himself. Furthermore, it's damaged to serve as a reflection of Khan himself. He stands in clothing made of rags while Kirk stands in an immaculate uniform.
  • A Villain Named Khan: Khan Noonien Singh is the Big Bad.
  • Weapon of Mass Destruction: The Genesis Device, as a side effect of its primary purpose of Terraforming. It instantly fills a world with new life—whether or not there's any life already on the world.
    • Even more true after the next movie reveals problems with the "terraforming" part of the process, leaving only the "destroy what was there before" part.
  • Wham Line:
    • In-universe as well as to the audience (at least, those who saw "Space Seed"), near the beginning:
      Chekov: [reading ship's name on seatbelt] Botany Bay... Botany Bay... oh no...
    • Khan provides one a short while later, showing just how much he feels Kirk betrayed him:
      Chekov: You lie! On Ceti Alpha V there was life! A fair chance-
      Khan: [furious] THIS IS CETI ALPHA V! [calmer] Ceti Alpha VI exploded - six months after we were left here. The shock shifted the orbit of this planet, and everything was laid waste. Admiral Kirk never bothered to check on our progress. It was only the fact of my genetically-engineered intellect that allowed us to survive.
    • As with the above, there's another towards the end that serves to shock the characters and the audience:
      Kirk: He'll die!
      Scotty: Sir, he's dead already.
    Reportedly this was to be McCoy's line, but DeForest Kelley couldn't bring himself to say this variant of his Catchphrase, so it was given to Scotty.
  • Wham Shot: Kirk hears the following from McCoy:
    McCoy: [over comms] Jim... I think you better get down here.
    Kirk: Bones?
    McCoy: Better hurry. [Kirk looks to Spock in confusion, only to see an empty chair]
  • White Glove Test: Captain Kirk does this in the engine room inspection. Scotty gives him a knowing smirk when it passes.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: Loosely, to Moby-Dick, from the perspective of the whale.
  • The "Why Wait?" Combatant: Kirk is relying on this response from Khan. Enterprise is heading into the Mutara Nebula, where none of Reliant's tactical advantages will matter. Kirk NEEDS Khan to follow him, because if he breaks off, they have a starship and can go anywhere they want with a Doomsday Weapon on board. So, he goads Khan with a taunt. Khan swallows the bait, hook, line, and sinker.
    Kirk *over comms* This is Admiral Kirk. We tried it once your way, Khan. Are you game for a rematch? *condescendingly* Khan. I'm laughing at the "superior intellect".
    Khan: *simmering with rage* ...full impulse power.
    Joachim: No, sir! You have Genesis! You can have whatever you—
    Khan: *grabs Joachim* FULL POWER! DAMN YOU! *shoves Joachim aside and furiously inputs the command*
  • Wicked Cultured: Apparently even in the 23rd century there will be villains that read and quote Herman Melville, though, admittedly, Khan is from the 20th century.
  • Window Love: Kirk and Spock, just before Spock dies.
  • Wistful Smile: Kirk, in the end, has a sad smile as he recites a line from A Tale of Two Cities, while reflecting on what Spock was trying to tell him, while still mourning Spock's death.
  • With My Dying Breath, I Summon You: Khan does this before activating the Genesis device. It's not technically a summoning, but it follows pretty much the same form.
  • Won't Do Your Dirty Work: Kirk tries to invoke this as part of a feint to get Khan to fight him man-to-man after Khan's failed assassination attempt. It doesn't work, as Khan instead opts to leave him "Marooned for all eternity in the center of a dead planet... buried alive, buried alive..."
  • Worf Had the Flu:
    • Enterprise is in a heavier weight class than Reliant (although Reliant is a newer design) and would likely win or at least be evenly matched in a straight up fight, and Kirk quickly proves himself the superior strategist and leader over the course of the film. But in their first confrontation, both ships ended up being attacked aggressively with their Deflector Shields down, and for the final confrontation both ships are in a nebula which disables shields and impairs scanners. This makes weapons fire very risky for both parties, as all damage is taken directly to the hull.
    • Enterprise is additionally handicapped because it is staffed with a cadet crew, meaning Scotty loses most of his crew at a vital moment when the trainees panic and flee the engine room during the first attack. This is balanced in turn by the fact that Khan and his people are lost in time, even less numerous, and barely understand how to work their ship.
  • Writers Cannot Do Math:
    • Kirk tells Carol "There's man out there I haven't seen in fifteen years who's trying to kill me," which is the real-life timespan between "Space Seed"'s original airdate in 1967 and this film's release in 1982. However, "Space Seed" took place in the year 2267, while this film takes place in 2285, which is 18 years later in the Star Trek universe. Khan makes a similar error by saying that Kirk marooned him 15 years before.
    • Likewise, unless some of Khan's followers were made up of literal children when they were left on Ceti Alpha V, his remaining followers are all far too young to have been his original crew but too old to have been born to the original Augmented humans in the period of time which passed. Some expanded universe materials attempted to solve this by saying they were in fact the children born to the original Augments who aged at a faster rate than normal into their prime due to their superior genetics.
  • The X of Y: The Wrath of Khan.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: Kirk plays without a net. Don't look down.note 
  • You Are in Command Now: At the beginning of the movie Spock is actually Enterprise's captain, with a cadet crew for a training mission. Kirk comes along primarily to get out of Starfleet Command and back into space. When Carol calls them up asking about Genesis and the transmission is jammed, Kirk gets orders to investigate. A long scene in Spock's quarters has Kirk dancing around the issue of taking command and Spock gladly hands it to him, citing both regulation and echoing McCoy's earlier thoughts that Kirk is at his best commanding a starship.
  • "You!" Exclamation: David upon seeing Kirk, before attacking him.
  • You Said You Would Let Them Go: Done preemptively when Kirk asks Khan for proof that Khan will honor their deal to trade himself and Genesis for the lives of his crew. Khan bluntly points out that he hasn't and won't give any such assurances, as Kirk has no other choice (so far as Khan knows) than to hope Khan keeps his word.
  • Zeerust:
    • Khan's followers and their clothing, CRT displays plus physical buttons on the bridge console, and how David wears his sweater.
    • The (apparently operational) 1970s Commodore PET in Kirk's apartment is actually part of his antiques collection, and thus doesn't technically count.note 
    • Moderately averted by the Genesis simulation. While it's clearly CGI, it still holds up as good CGI (especially for 1982), and it's also supposed to be CGI in-universe.



Alternative Title(s): Star Trek The Wrath Of Khan


Enterprise / Reliant faceoff

Enterprise and Reliant engage each other at close range, with Enterprise's phasers hitting Reliant's bridge and killing everyone except Khan.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / ExposedStarshipBridge

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