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Episode 95: STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN

  

214 members have voted

  1. 1. Is WRATH OF KHAN canon?

    • Yes
      139
    • Khaaaan!
      75


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I'm a huge Trekkie and I honestly don't consider Wrath of Khan to be "so well plotted and themed and executed" that it can "break out and touch people who otherwise have no interest in the genre."

 

I think it's an okay, but fun movie that mostly appeals to people that have already watched 60+ hours of a television show. Which really just makes it good supplemental content to a television series than a great film. That's why judging it on its own merit is important. I really don't think this movie has the universal appeal to non-genre lovers that some people think. I also think it's clunkier than people like to admit.

 

I saw Wrath of Khan before I'd ever seen an episode of the original series, and I immediately understood that it was a good, well-told story. Honestly, the opinion that it doesn't hold up outside of Trek fandom baffles me. It is THE movie that showed Trek could hold up outside of that.

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I'm glad Dave was here for this episode because it was Devin and Amy at their most bullheaded otherwise-- both latch onto certain concepts or nitpicks like bulldogs and just gnaw away. I was a soft yes on Khan until the deconstructionist argument and once it was said, it became obvious in its cultural impact.

 

That said, I'd like to ask the public at large what you guys would think about a Harry Potter film in the canon? Devin is too old to sop over this particular fandom, the series is clearly influential on the culture, the modern blockbuster and "cinematic universes" in an important way but it's also clear that the importance of the series is more from fans of the books than the quality of the film.

 

I think it would end up being a Wrath of Khan argument, but with Devin and Amy switching sides.

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Everyone says this movie is accessible. It is boring as fuck. Devin mentions the TV-Movie quality of the production design as if it is in any way something that is worth appreciating. It looks dark and cheap. They argued for the cultural impact of Star Trek the TV series: great points that don't apply to this movie, which has had almost no cultural impact. If the best point you can make is a Kill Bill title card you are not convincing anyone. People love Star Trek because they think it has anything interesting to say about humanity etc. It doesn't, but this movie doesn't really try for that either. Instead you get old people fretting about their lives and then skyping with another older man and that is the whole movie. Devin refers to submarine thrillers and Master and Commander as movies that similarly have tense "action" sequences comparable to what goes on at the end of Wrath of Khan. It's super fucking boring.

 

It was very clear from the conversation that this movie is well-loved by fans of the TV show, but as a movie on its own it doesn't have much going for it. I would argue that the conversation itself bears this out. Also just because the story is trying to comment on contemporary society does not make it particularly special, since there are plenty of movies that attempt that including basically all science fiction. Star Trek is not unique at all in this regard.

Commenting on the duality of life and death is also not provocative or groundbreaking, even for the genre.

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That said, I'd like to ask the public at large what you guys would think about a Harry Potter film in the canon? Devin is too old to sop over this particular fandom, the series is clearly influential on the culture, the modern blockbuster and "cinematic universes" in an important way but it's also clear that the importance of the series is more from fans of the books than the quality of the film.

 

I think it would end up being a Wrath of Khan argument, but with Devin and Amy switching sides.

Devin loves Harry Potter, so I don't know if that's quite true. Personally, I've been asking for a Harry Potter episode since the old forums. 100% it deserves an episode, and, for my money, canonization.

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Finally got my dumb profile for Earwolf to work after many weeks of trying unsuccessfully to vote!

 

I am voting yes, due to the historical significance of the film as a boundary-pusher for genre cinema, but also because I can see the immense impact Star Trek has had on our culture.

 

This is anecdotal, but felt like sharing:

 

I am not a Trekkie, but my sister is. I would often half-watch the various 90s-era shows with her while I did my homework, and to be honest I thought they were sort of boring. Eventually, my sister had started to seek out the original series--finding VHS tapes at used video stores, recording episodes on TV if she ever came across them, etc. Finally, she got to the films. She bought a big VHS box set of the original crew movies. She watched them in order, and after she finished Wrath of Khan, she basically forced me to watch it with her.

 

I went from bored to intrigued to entranced in the span of about 20 minutes. The film just works. I re-watched it for this episode and I loved it. Like Devin's story about Meredith: I bawl like a baby when Spock dies. It's a great movie. I think I finally am going to go back and watch the original series now. Devin, Amy, and Dave's discussion has inspired me to seek it out.

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Devin loves Harry Potter, so I don't know if that's quite true. Personally, I've been asking for a Harry Potter episode since the old forums. 100% it deserves an episode, and, for my money, canonization.

 

I agree, but picking which one would be a helluva task. The Hallows' put together? Sorcerer's Stone? Often-said-to-be-peak Prisoner of Azkaban?

Arguing about the entire damn thing, now that'd be interesting. It's difficult to deny that Harry Potter has to enter one way or another, but asking future Canonologists to watch all 20 or so hours, whether they give a damn about the story? Potentially a dealbreaker for a lot of people. But does any one installment encapsulate the series enough on its own to warrant singular induction? I'd be inclined to stump for Sorcerer's for posterity and delight or Azkaban for damned-goodness, or else, hell with it, all of em, myself.

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I saw Wrath of Khan before I'd ever seen an episode of the original series, and I immediately understood that it was a good, well-told story. Honestly, the opinion that it doesn't hold up outside of Trek fandom baffles me. It is THE movie that showed Trek could hold up outside of that.

 

Well I never said it was a bad movie. But do I think this movie works so well that anyone would hail its greatness? No, I think most people would just be entertained by the ship-to-ship stuff and amused by the characters but not inordinately impressed with any of it. That's fine, but it's not good enough for the canon.

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Well I never said it was a bad movie. But do I think this movie works so well that anyone would hail its greatness?

 

"Anyone" is a tough standard.

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I agree, but picking which one would be a helluva task. The Hallows' put together? Sorcerer's Stone? Often-said-to-be-peak Prisoner of Azkaban?

Arguing about the entire damn thing, now that'd be interesting. It's difficult to deny that Harry Potter has to enter one way or another, but asking future Canonologists to watch all 20 or so hours, whether they give a damn about the story? Potentially a dealbreaker for a lot of people. But does any one installment encapsulate the series enough on its own to warrant singular induction? I'd be inclined to stump for Sorcerer's for posterity and delight or Azkaban for damned-goodness, or else, hell with it, all of em, myself.

You know, the first one might actually have to be the one. Personally, I'd go with Prisoner of Azkaban or Deathly Hallows Pt. I. I think those are the strongest films in the series. That said, Sorcerer's Stone has the most in terms of world-building and setting a tone for the whole series.

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We have so few examples of a genre movie like this, that are so well plotted and themed and executed, that they can and do easily break out and touch people who otherwise have no interest in the genre, that we can really hold them up as an example of what cinema can be at its best.

 

I would argue the opposite - American cinema is rife with movies that transcended the confines of their particular genre - whether it is sci-fi, western, musical, romantic comedy, noir, thriller, horror, etc. - and become culturally and artistically significant. Since the genre we're talking about here is sci-fi, I'd say there is no shortage of films that achieve what you describe, films that drew many viewers outside of the sci-fi audience. Just off the top of my head: Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Forbidden Planet, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Planet of the Apes, 2001, The Andromeda Strain, Close Encounters, Star Wars, Alien, Blade Runner, Terminator, Robocop...

 

I voted no because I believe that the banal directing style of this film prevents it from fulfilling the "great film" part of the equation which I think has to complement the "cultural impact" part of it.

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I think it's funny that Devon mentioned showing this movie to non Trek fans as an introduction, because I've done literally that!

 

My proudest moment as a video store clerk was when a 10 year old boy approached me asking about renting "the first Star Trek movie." I showed him to "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" but advised him that "Wrath of Khan" was far superior. Weeks later his mom shows up and asks for the next Trek movie (by that point he had been through 3 and 4). She told me that ever since he rented Khan their dinner table was nothing but arguments over Star Trek vs. Star Wars between this boy and his brother. Sorry exhausted mom, but that made my day. By far best thing that ever happened working there.

 

It would be impossible for me to divorce Trek from my view of the world, and the impact it has had on my life. That being said, even my friends who don't like most Trek agree that "Wrath of Khan" is one of the best sci-fi films of the 20th century. I would pick it to represent Trek, and sci-fi as a genre, over my personal favorites. It has action, it has heart, and it has tension.

 

P.S. We do exist, those of us who like both Trek and "Working Girl." Although I registered now to vote for this film, I will happily log in and defend "Working Girl" and it's Canonness if it goes under the boot.

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"Anyone" is a tough standard.

 

This specific exchange started with someone holding Wrath to an extremely high standard. Probably higher than it needs to be for the canon. I don't think it meets either standard. If Star Wars hasn't already made someone interested in the genre then Wrath won't come close.

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Once again, I'm a little ashamed to say that I can't vote because I haven't seen this one. And I'm a Trekkie for god's sake, I've just never gotten around to watching this one. However if I were to vote, I would vote yes if nothing else but for the zeitgeist penetration this film has had. You don't need to have seen it to know what someone is referencing when they yell "KHAN!!!" And beside that, I do think we need some Trek in the Canon, because of the cultural influence it has had. Interesting bit of tid, Khan's full name is Khan Noonien Singh, and the scientist who built Data's name is Noonien Soong. I wonder why they did this and what the connection is.

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Interesting bit of tid, Khan's full name is Khan Noonien Singh, and the scientist who built Data's name is Noonien Soong. I wonder why they did this and what the connection is.

 

Found it:

During World War II, he had a friend named Kim Noonien Singh; after the war Kim disappeared, and Gene used his name for some characters in the Star Trek series (Khan Noonien Singh from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) and Noonien Soong from "Star Trek: The Next Generation" (1987)) in hopes that Kim might recognize his name and contact him.

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I see a lot of what Amy's saying (except Spock knowing he's going to die as he's running downstairs), but I was completely taken with this movie. I loved it despite the imperfections and how the intelligence and emotion is derivative of other things, but fully agree on its cultural impact alone qualifying it for the canon. I loved Montalban's performance, it's part of what makes it fun. Thought the emotional beats were really effective. Definite yes.

 

Also, on a non-movie note, liked having Dave around to temper Devin's condescension, but goodness the episode was a bit too long. Starts to get repetitive at the end and the tone shifts from friendly to frustrated.

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Found it:

During World War II, he had a friend named Kim Noonien Singh; after the war Kim disappeared, and Gene used his name for some characters in the Star Trek series (Khan Noonien Singh from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) and Noonien Soong from "Star Trek: The Next Generation" (1987)) in hopes that Kim might recognize his name and contact him.

 

They even connected the lore on Star Trek: Enterprise. Brent Spiner played Arik Soong who is the great grandfather of Noonien Soong (who he also played on TNG). Arik was an admirer of illegal genetic "augments" like Khan, implying that the name "Noonien" was likely passed to his descendant for that reason.

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Devin is the only person I've come across to think that Scotty's 'wee bout' was an STD.

 

Scotty hated shore leave full stop, especially when forced to go.

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Soft no. Very fun movie, and certainly the best in the franchise. I saw this when I was very young, and the ear worm haunted my dreams for years. But canon, nope. Not that influential except on its own series. Most of the arguments put forward to why Star Trek more generally should be in, not this film. Unlike Goldfinger, which was not only the apex of its own series, but influenced an entire genre immeasurably.

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I suspect that this will not be an entirely popular opinion, but I cannot vote for this movie to enter The Canon because I have some pretty major issues with the villain.

 

Before I dive into that, I think Devin's comments from this week about where this sits in the timeline of the Star Trek film universe and specifically what it does with Kirk's story about getting older are all very fair points and are things that make it a very worthwhile part of the Trek, uh, canon. The "naval battle" aspect of the finale is really enjoyable and a nice contrast to what Star Wars was doing at the time.

 

That being said, I remember seeing this film in the mid/late 80's as a kid with no familiarity with the Original Series episode that served as the genesis for Khan and this story. What struck me at the time was how ineffective and inert a villain Khan is. Don't get me wrong - he obviously causes huge headaches for the heroes in the film, but it's almost completely circumstantial. Both times that Khan directly influences the plot and causes conflict are essentially matters of surprise - Chekov and Terrell don't know that Khan is on the planet they're surveying, so it was pretty easy for Khan to catch them off-guard and take over the Reliant. Then, his attack on the Enterprise is also a matter of catching the heroes by surprise. After that, Khan essentially sabotages himself and his mission by being a bellicose dummy.

 

I understand that part of the point is that Khan is just really really mad and that does make him fun to watch, and Montalban leans all the way into the performance in grandiose fashion. But, that's not enough for me. To me, villains are best when they feel like credible threats. When the film's climactic showdown in the Mutara Nebula occurs and we have a chance to see Khan actually face-off agains his nemesis, he's so clearly outmatched by Kirk that it changes him from a credible threat to a punching bag for the Enterprise. I might have sympathized more with him as a tragic figure whose lust for revenge was his undoing, but I don't think there's much else about Khan that makes him sympathetic aside from the nuts-and-bolts details of his marooning.

 

There's lots of other things I like about this movie. I think the cast and their characterizations have probably never been better. Spock's iconic death scene is indeed quite moving. For the most part, the thematic material is interesting (if not a little heavy-handed). But because so much of the plot (and hey, even the title) rests on Khan's involvement, I can't say that this is a great, Canon-worthy film, or even my personal favorite Trek film.

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... I would pick it to represent Trek, and sci-fi as a genre, over my personal favorites...

 

Is Wrath of Khan really a sci-fi film, though? Yes, it takes place in space and in the future, and yes there is some interesting technology that raises questions about what man can/should do - but none of that really has any relevance to the plot or central themes of the movie. As noted by the numerous allusions to Moby Dick, this is a story that could very easily be transplanted to another setting and lose none of the basic elements that make it what it is. You can't really say the same about 2001: A Space Odyssey, Moon, Solaris, Ex Machina, or a bevy of other genuine sci-fi films that really use technology and the advancement of humans as a lens through which we can view ourselves and re-examine just what the heck it is we're doing on this floating rock. Wrath of Khan does not do that, so I can't really picture why anyone would pick it to represent sci-fi in cinema.

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Long time listener, first time caller. This is where the power of The Canon truly hit me. As I was refreshing my followed podcasts I noticed that this week The Canon was discussing "Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Kahn" and my stomach instantly started to ache with the force of a Romulan ale bender. The potential casting off of one of my favorite films of all time (in a forum that has no real substantial value) was almost too much for me to bear. I'm not really commenting on the movie of the week as much as I'm congratulating you on putting together that not only got me to vote, constantly check those votes, but also to comment with my lackluster usage of verbage and click post. I appreciate your efforts greatly.

 

To Devin and Amy (even though you didn't care for it) I have been, and always shall be, your friend.

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Devin is the only person I've come across to think that Scotty's 'wee bout' was an STD.

 

Scotty hated shore leave full stop, especially when forced to go.

 

 

This is interesting because it was something of a running joke on TOS that Scotty had a habit of getting into brawls and shenanigans on shore leave, but someone not terribly familiar with Star Trek probably would just assume that Scotty had picked up the clap or something. Can be interpreted either way, I think.

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Great episode... I love original cast Star Trek stuff but Wrath of Khan is the only canon worthy piece. It is excellent and non-Star Trek fans see it too. I still well up when Spock dies, every time - that scene never loses it's power no matter how much I prepare myself. I liked the guest a lot too.

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"Anyone" is a tough standard.

 

Agreed. "Anyone" definitely should not be the standard of a "great film" nor of "The Canon". Art that anyone can appreciate tends to be terrible or, worse, mediocre and harmless. I kind of hope that the majority of The Canon gets filled with titles that not everyone would think are "great". (speaking of, isn't it about time some David Lynch films got nominated?)

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Regardless of what anyone thinks of this movie, this episode was bad. So much (to use an awful neologism) mansplaining. If you're not going to listen to Amy just let her take a day off

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