Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

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"Beyond the darkness, beyond the human evolution, is Khan."

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..."
Kirk: "KHAAAAAAAAAN!!"

William Shatner and Ricardo Montalbán fight to see who is the Largest Ham in the galaxy.

You see, the charismatic Khan Noonien Singh of the original series episode "Space Seed" is back. In "Space Seed", Khan, a Human Popsicle from the far-off year of 1996, was awakened and turned out to be a genetically-engineered warlord on the run after his side lost the Eugenics Wars. Kirk thwarted his attempt to hijack the Enterprise, depositing him and his followers on an uninhabited planet.

It's fifteen years later now. Khan escapes his exile with revenge against Kirk as his goal and using a stolen Weapon of Mass Destruction to make good on it. Meanwhile, Kirk has fallen victim to the Peter Principle and is facing a mid-life crisis. It doesn't get any easier for him when a Hot Scientist he once knew turns up and her son says Admiral You Are My Father. Kirk doesn't like to lose, but this time he may only be able to achieve a Pyrrhic Victory. The film's Bittersweet Ending was created with the assumption that Nimoy would be leaving the show for good, but ironically, he liked making this film so much that he wanted to come back, which was the point of the next film.

Star Trek II is considered by many fans to be the best movie in the series and it's the yardstick against which all other installments are measured. This is largely attributed to the direction of Nicholas Meyer, who had previously penned the best-selling Sherlock Holmes novel The Seven Percent Solution and directed the film Time After Time, as well as the work of Harve Bennet. While Meyer hadn't actually seen the show before, he managed to watch all of the original series's episodes before sitting down to work, concluding that the premise was essentially "Horatio Hornblower IN SPACE!" and did a Retool to emphasize the Space Is an Ocean angle. Some of Harve's work included getting rid of the ridiculous Space Clothes used in the previous movie (which took guts considering the small budget).

Outside the world of Star Trek, Wrath Of Khan is notable for containing two big breaks. Kirstie Alley made her acting debut in this film playing the young Vulcan Saavik, even getting the onscreen credit "and introducing Kirstie Alley". This was also the first major motion picture to be scored by James Horner, who would go on to do The Land Before Time, The Rocketeer, Braveheart, Titanic, and Avatar. As Nicholas Meyer once put it, they hired James Horner to do Star Trek II because they couldn't afford Jerry Goldsmith, but by the time Meyer returned for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country they hired Cliff Eidelman because they couldn't afford James Horner.

While not flawless, it is a rousing (and emotional) adventure movie and is even now considered a great example of a Surprisingly Improved Sequel.

No relation to the aborted Star Trek Phase II TV series, whose pilot became Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Contributed a great deal to 2013's Star Trek Into Darkness.


Tropes used in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan include:
  • 2-D Space: Both used (for filmmaking purposes) and inverted (for story purposes).

Spock: "He's intelligent, but inexperienced. His pattern indicates two dimensional thinking".

  • Action Prologue: Which turns out to be an Unwinnable Training Simulation.
  • An Aesop: This movie (and by extension the next one) can be seen as being about consequences. Most of the events in this film occur because of Kirk's actions in the past, or reference his cavalier attitude to rules -- the entire film would have been averted if Kirk had not been so careless as to have marooned Khan on Ceti Alpha V without doing a complete survey of the planet and the surrounding system. He even acknowledges this when he ruefully admits that he never actually learned the lesson that the Kobayashi Maru test from the beginning of the film was actually trying to teach -- instead of accepting some situations for what they were, he merely kept cheating until he was able to get his way. Both Spock, and later David die for his hubris. And his refusal to raise the shields despite the fact that Starfleet regulations state that if ANY approaching ship does NOT respond to any communications, you are to RAISE THE SHIELDS. Saavik was cut off by Spock before she quoted the regulation in in its entirety; however, the implication is pretty clear. Plus the fact that after the attack Kirk said to Saavik "You go right on quoting regulations."
  • All There in the Manual: The original script described Saavik as being half-Vulcan, half-Romulan.
    • Doubles as an Aborted Arc in conjunction with Star Trek VI, as Valeris was intended to be Saavik.
    • The Red Shirt who dies when Engineering is attacked is Scotty's nephew, which explains why he reacts so emotionally. A scene explaining their relation was cut.
    • Some people consider the remake's revelation that Spock created the Kobayashi Maru test to be a distracting change, but subtle hints throughout the movie imply it here. Spock knows the number of times Kirk took it, and the way he finally beat it, but a captain's academy test results aren't usually shared with his junior officers. That Spock never took the test himself is also telling.
  • Amazing Freaking Grace: On bagpipes too, no less.
  • Ambiguously Brown: Khan himself (a Mexican actor playing an Indian).
  • And Starring Ricardo Montalban as Khan.
  • Antagonist Title
  • Arc Words: "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few." "Or the one."
  • Awesomeness By Analysis: Saavik in the Kobayashi Maru scenario, but only in the novelization. She takes on a dozen Klingon fighters and might have actually won by running away, if it hadn't been for the last three (she gets her ass handed to her far more quickly in the movie).
  • Badass Boast: "I don't believe in the no-win scenario."

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.

  • Batman Gambit: Kirk's plan to trick Khan into chasing the Enterprise into the Mutara Nebula.

Kirk: Khan, I'm laughing at the "superior intellect".

  • Battle Butler: Joachim.
  • Best Served Cold: "It is very cold in space..."
  • Big Word Shout (KHAAAAAAAAAAAAN!)
  • Birth-Death Juxtaposition: "And yet it should be noted, that in the midst of our sorrow, this death takes place in the shadow of new life, the sunrise of a new world, a world that our beloved comrade gave his life to protect."
  • Bittersweet Ending: Kirk escapes Khan, but Spock dies repairing the Enterprise to make it happen. In a way, this means Khan succeeds in revenging himself upon Kirk, as Spock's death is by far the worst injury he could have inflicted upon Kirk.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Not quite, but of the two Reliant crewmen affected by the Ceti Eels, guess which one commits suicide? Of course, it helps that Chekov's a main character, and that the Black Dude has a noble motive for his suicide: to avoid killing Kirk on Khan's eel-enforced order.
  • Bottle Episode: A movie version. Paramount was determined to save money after spending $40 million on Star Trek: The Motion Picture (including development on the aborted Star Trek: Phase II TV series), which is why Bennet hired a production team with mainly TV movie experience, reused Stock Footage from the first movie, and Meyer wrote the script so that a majority of the scenes would be shot on the Enterprise bridge set (which was also redressed as the Reliant bridge).
  • Brain Slug: A particularly notorious and gross example.
  • 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.
  • Broad Strokes: Somebody asked Meyer how they would explain the new uniforms, and he said "We don't. The other film doesn't exist."
    • The new uniforms reused parts of the ones from the first movie, but ditched the horribly designed full body "glove" of the first, which included features like a zipper that went from neck to ankle, requiring several stagehands to help the actors get to the bathroom, and a need to have wrinkles steamed out constantly, almost turning them into wet-suits by the end of the day.
    • Amusingly enough, the interior sets for the Enterprise changed with every movie... but the uniforms introduced in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan stayed the same, featuring up to the opening of Generations.
      • Hell, the uniforms were so amazing that they ended up being used in The Next Generation productions when depicting any scene that took place before 2350. They were apparently only replaced because, well, they sort of clash with the D's bridge.
      • Services do change their uniforms, and the "Monster Maroons" were the smartest design in the Star Trek franchise, the only challenger (and a distant second) being the later, two-piece Star Trek: The Next Generation version.
  • Bus Crash: The actress who played Marla McGyvers, Khan's lover from "Space Seed", was not able to appear in the film, so she was killed offscreen by the Ceti Eels to explain her absence.
    • Which makes Khan's desires for revenge more believable. Rather than simply wanting revenge on Kirk for "You defeated me", it becomes "You killed my wife."
    • Although this makes Khan's motive a sort of Informed Attribute. He wants revenge for something that happened between the original episode and the movie, which has to be told to the audience.
  • Call Back: The last line, delivered by Kirk (if you don't count Spock's "space: the final frontier" voiceover) call back to what he told Dr. Marcus during the Darkest Hour ("How do I feel? Old. Worn out."), and what Dr. Marcus told him back ("Let me show you something... that'll make you feel young as when the world was new.").

McCoy: You okay, Jim? How do you feel?
Kirk: Young. I feel young.

  • The Cameo: Mr. Kyle, the Transporter Chief from The Original Series, is the Communications Officer on the Reliant - making him the only Red Shirt known to have survived the five-year mission.
  • Cat Scare: More like Rat Scare, but that's being picky.
  • Character Aged with the Actor: Takes place 16 years after the last episode of 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.
  • 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 thinks two-dimensionally.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: What Khan does to the scientists on Regula I in the Novelization. We only see the aftermath in the movie.
  • Cool Starship: The Miranda-class U.S.S. Reliant, the first new class of Federation ship to be introduced onscreen in the franchise.
    • Of course, the original Lady E. Despite being converted to a training ship and getting her shit wrecked, the Enterprise simply doesn't go down, and comes back to mop floors with the Reliant.
  • 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.
  • Cryptic Conversation: With an incredibly obvious code. "By the book", yes--but only selectively so.
    • They later mention that The Book (Starfleet Regulations) specifies that they shouldn't openly discuss their plans when they think their communications were compromised. It was an incredibly obvious code to Kirk and Spock, but then it had to be for Kirk to catch on and go along with it. Khan has only been around either of them for a few hours, years in the past, and may not realize when they are hint-hinting at each other.
  • Dangerously Genre Savvy: Khan (except when he isn't), who is pretty much reliving several major revenge epics.
    • Fridge Brilliance sets in when you realize that Khan's quoting of Moby Dick is because he realizes where his obsession will lead, and doesn't care. It takes Jaoquim's death to make him remember the consequences would extend beyond himself -- like Queequeg's death, and paralleling Spock's.
    • Kirk, thanks to the fact that he knows more about how Starfleet and their ships operate than Khan does. He is able to pull a number of remarkably cheap tricks to regain the upper hand because of this. Not to mention that he knows he can hand Khan the Idiot Ball by mocking him.
  • 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 at the end.
    • And Spock.
  • Deconstruction: The subtitle of this movie could just have easily been The Deconstruction Of Kirk. Most of the core traits associated with Kirk and what their consequences in Real Life would probably be are examined and pulled apart. The adventurer who faces a problem on a weekly basis, solves it and promptly forgets it ever happens is suddenly brought face to face with one of those problems he faced a decade and a half before, and no doubt never gave another thought, and discovers the consequences of his thoughtlessness can be measured by the body count. The suave lady killer with a girl in every port discovers that one of his conquests (and it's implied that it's the only one he ever truly loved) has resulted in him having a son he's never known and who hates him. His tendency to place fast and loose with the rules leads to his ship being crippled and a score of dead cadets, all of which could and should have been avoided by simply raising the shields, and his trait of finding novel solutions to intractable problems ends the life of his best friend and trusted right hand. It also shows what happens when you take the dashing, devil-may-care heroic adventurer, age him a few years and put him in a desk job; a full-blown mid-life crisis.
  • Dies Wide Open: Joachim.
  • Disappeared Dad: Argued about with Jim and Carol.

Kirk: Why didn't you tell me?
Carol: How can you ask me that? Were we together? Where 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.

  • Doomsday Device: Ironically, Genesis, if it falls into the wrong hands.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: Khan and Spock get one each, activating the Genesis device and saving the Enterprise respectively.
  • Emotional Torque: You're not going to find many films that attempt what this film does with a popular franchise and still be regarded as a masterpiece. People say that Nicholas Meyer giving Kirk reading glasses saved Star Trek. Why? Because it works so well.
  • Enemy Rising Behind: The Enterprise does this to the Reliant in the Mutara Nebula.
  • Everybody's Dead, Dave: When the Enterprise crew explore the remains of the Regula space station.
  • Evil Gloating: Put the freaking Villain Ball down and just blow him to bits, Khan!
  • Evil Overlord: Khan. He ruled roughly 1/3 of the Earth, but was overthrown and went into exile like Napoleon Bonaparte, in a fictional late 20th century.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Spock straightens his uniform before facing his captain and friend for the final time.
  • Failed a Spot Check: The crew of the Reliant failing to notice that they were on the wrong planet, related to the fact that they failed to notice another planet ceasing to exist due to a Ceti Alpha VI Shattering Kaboom.
  • Faking the Dead: Spock supposedly dies at the beginning of the film. This scene was concocted hastily by Nick Meyer after hearing that spoilers had leaked about Spock dying in the film. To preserve the wham factor of Spock dying, the Kobayashi Maru and its disastrous aftermath was added to fool viewers into thinking that this was the "Spock dies" moment the spoilers meant.
  • False-Flag Operation: Khan and his crew using the hijacked USS Reliant to sneak up on the unsuspecting USS Enterprise.
  • Famous, Famous, Fictional: "Newton, Einstein, Surak."
  • 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.
  • Fate Worse Than Death: Ricardo Montalban's monologue on the subject is just fantastic.

"I've done far worse than kill you. I've hurt you. And I wish to go on hurting you. I shall leave you, as you left me... as you left her. Marooned for all eternity in the center of a dead planet... Buried alive... buried alive..."

    • 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.
  • Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke: Khan is a "product of late 20th century engineering" and the chief reason for The Federation's policy against it.
    • And of course the Genesis Device is a literal genetic engineering nuke.
  • Genesis Effect: Trope Namer.
  • The Glasses Come Off: Right before the Enterprise takes out the Reliant's shields. Kirk also tells Khan "I see your point" as he does it.
  • Good-Looking Privates: The general Trekker consensus is that those maroon uniforms introduced in this film were the best the franchise ever had for the cast to wear.
  • Ham-to-Ham Combat: Pretty damn literal example. And it's delicious.
  • Haunted House: The Regula space station after Khan has paid it a visit.
  • Heroic BSOD: Scotty, when Ensign Preston is mortally wounded staying at his post after the ship suffers a surprise attack.
    • Also Kirk, when Spock dies.
  • Heroic Build: Khan, and Ricardo Montalban 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.
  • He's Back: When Kirk appears on the Enterprise again after Khan attempts to maroon him on Ceti Alpha V.

Kirk: We tried it once your way, Khan. Are you game for a rematch?

  • Hide and No Seek: Lampshaded when Carol Marcus wants to have a private talk with Kirk without her David or the others listening in.

Carol: David, why don't you show Dr McCoy and the Lieutenant our idea of food?...
David: This is just to give us something to do, isn't it. Come on.

  • Holy Backlight: Kirk's entrance.
  • Honor Before Reason: Peter Preston stays at his post, saving a fellow engineer along the way.
  • Idiot Ball: Raise the damned shields, those Starfleet regulations were written for a reason, Kirk! So much for one big happy fleet? U.S. warships go to combat readiness when they come across a fleetmate with radio problems, especially a fleetmate with radio problems, who also refuses to respond to visual and audio communication such as a signal lamp, signal flags, or loudspeakers, and continues to bear down on you. Kirk chastises himself after the fact though.
    • Scotty bringing Peter Preston all the way up to the bridge instead of straight to sickbay. At least it was a 50/50 shot that McCoy would be in either place.
  • 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?

  • Insufferable Genius: Khan.
  • 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?)
  • Irrevocable Order: Once the Genesis Device's countdown is started, it can't be stopped.
  • I Shall Taunt You:
    • "I'm laughing at the 'superior intellect'."
    • "...But like a poor marksman you keep missing the target!" Subverted in this case, when Khan refuses to rise to the bait and decides to leave Kirk on the planetoid to rot.
      • Khan might have taken the bait had Ricard Montalban's schedule allowed him to share production time with the rest of the cast's. This is why Khan and his crew never interact with Kirk and his.
  • It Has Been an Honor: Implied and results in Manly Tears with "Do not grieve. It was... logical."
  • It's What I Do: Same with It Has Been an Honor.
  • 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 see an entirely different potential... one that doesn't even have the nasty side effects of other superweapons as it leaves verdant worlds behind in its wake.
    • David seems aware of the Genesis Device's potential less-than-altruistic uses.
  • Kicked Upstairs: A major reason why Kirk feels so old.
  • Kill'Em All: In the opening Kobayashi Maru sequence, the The Original Series crew dies, except for Kirk, who is absent and unmentioned. Then a door opens, Kirk walks out of a cloud of light and smoke, everybody picks themselves up, and the viewers realize they've been had.
  • Lampshade Hanging: The story borrows themes and ideas from from King Lear, Paradise Lost and Moby Dick. Guess what books are on Khan's shelf.
    • There's a lingering shot of the (2D) chessboard when Chekhov and Terrell first enter Khan's cargo container refuge, foreshadowing the way Kirk defeats Khan at Spock's suggestion - "His pattern indicates 2-dimensional thinking."
    • It also borrows from A Tale of Two Cities. Guess which book Spock gives to Kirk as a birthday present.
    • The age of the actors, a fact that the previous movie tried to gloss over, became a major plot point for this movie as Kirk hits 50 and has a mid-life crisis.
  • Large Ham: A double serving.
  • Little No: From Kirk, of all people, when Spock dies.
  • Lock and Load Montage
  • Luke, You Are My Father: Doesn't actually occur on screen, so the viewer is left unsure as to when David finds out who his father is. When David and Kirk first meet, the former is extremely hostile to the latter, even going so far as to accuse Kirk of killing everyone at Regula. At the end of the movie, David and Kirk reconcile and he says he's proud to be Kirk's son. It's possible David knew all along and just refused to acknowledge it. The dialog makes it fairly clear that Kirk knows he's the father, but has obviously also never met David face to face before this film.
  • Magic Countdown: Khan's "sixty seconds".
    • "We need warp speed in 3 minutes or we're all dead."
  • Man Hug: Kirk and David. Awwwk-waardd.
  • Mathematician's Answer:

Saavik: May I ask how you dealt with the test?
Kirk: You may ask.

  • Misaimed Fandom: In-universe. Moby Dick is part of Khan's private library and he quotes Captain Ahab throughout the movie. Seems like Khan kind of missed the point of the novel.
    • Alternatively, it could be said that Khan understood the point of the novel completely and recognized the parallels between himself and Ahab, but was so consumed by his rage that he didn't care, or just so arrogant that he believed that, unlike Ahab, he could slay his white whale without destroying himself and his crew. Also, it's possible that Khan knew he would die as a result of his actions, but he wanted to take Kirk with him. A "The Only One Allowed to Defeat You"-sort of thing.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Khan has a lot of really pretty boys in his crew. And he's not exactly hard on the eyes himself!
  • 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.
  • Naive Newcomer: Saavik.
  • Neck Lift: Khan does this to Chekov to show how badass he is, but he's really lifting him by a handle on the front of his spacesuit, not his neck.
  • Never Give the Captain a Straight Answer: McCoy not telling Captain Kirk that Spock was dying from radiation poisoning.
  • New Meat: Peter Preston.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Khan. An East Indian (sure) with a Mexican accent.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: As mentioned above, the Battle in the Nebula at the end is not what you'd expect from two warships duking it out. It's slow, quiet, tense and very effective.
  • Not So Different: Carol admits this regarding Jim and David.
  • Oh Crap: Done several times.

Joachim: Sir, our shields are dropping!
Khan: ...Raise them!
Joachim: (bashing console) I can't!
Khan: (dawning realization) Where's the override!? THE OVERRIDE?!!

    • And earlier on:

Chekov: Botany Bay?... Botany Bay?! Oh, no! We've got to get out of here, now!

    • During the final battle: The viewscreen clears just in time to reveal Reliant bearing down on Enterprise, the music goes nuts, and there's barely enough time to order evasive maneuvers before they slam into each other.
    • The most brutal one of all is the last one....

McCoy: Jim, you'd better get down here.... Better hurry.
And then Kirk looks over to see Spock's empty chair.

  • Only Mostly Dead: Spock after the final battle.
  • Only Sane Man: Joachim actually seemed pretty smart, but unfortunately for him, Khan's too bent on his revenge.
  • Orchestral Bombing: James Horner is awesome.
  • Orifice Invasion: The worms in the ear are probably the most notorious example.
  • Poor Communication Kills: The "needs of the many..." speech is really beautiful and all, but had Spock instead said, "Captain, I put my katra in Doctor McCoy. Ask my father about it. I'll be fine.", a lot of conflict in the next movie could have been avoided.[1]
  • 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, "If we go by the book, hours become 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".
    • And, in Real Life, this counts as Roddenberry's second attempt to reconnect with his long lost World War II buddy, Kim Noonien Singh.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: Part of what makes Khan one of cinema's most respected villains is how much his actions cause Kirk to lose.
  • Recycled in Space: A 19th-century naval adventure IN SPACE.
  • Red Alert: The basis for the Lock and Load Montage, complete with closeups on viewscreens flashing the RED ALERT message.
  • Red Right Hand: Khan never takes off his right glove, nor is it commented upon, but his removal of his left is a key part of his Establishing Character Moment.
  • Red Shirt: Subverted. Screws with your expectations by having every main character wearing red uniforms for most of the film.
    • A non-literal Red Shirt is the member of the science station's crew who gets shot by a mind-controlled Terrell.
  • 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.
  • Revenge Before Reason: Khan has this pointed out by his underlings - they have a Federation spaceship, they can go anywhere.
  • 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.
  • Rule of Cool: The primary reason for the Lock and Load Montage: There really isn't any reason why a 23rd century starship should require a dozen crewmembers performing manual labor to load a torpedo, but damn if it isn't awesome to watch.
    • The automated loading system was damaged in their first encounter with Khan, so they had to resort to the human backup system.
  • Say My Name: "KHAAAAAANNNNNN!!!" Hell, The Khan even redirects to this trope.
    • Though it's the most famous example of Large Ham ever, Fridge Brilliance reveals it's justified in retrospect: Kirk, who actually has a backup plan, is acting in order to convince Khan that he's won -- in other words, he's hamming it up deliberately.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Khan and his crew being trapped for 15 years on a desolate world.
  • Sealed Good in a Can: Khan attempts to do this, but Kirk has other plans.
  • Self-Disposing Villain: Khan attempts to take Kirk with him. It doesn't turn out as planned.
  • Series Continuity Error: The most famous of which is Khan recognizing Chekov, even though the character wasn't in "Space Seed".
    • When asked about this at conventions, Walter Koenig likes to tell a humorous story about how Chekov, then a lowly Red Shirt, met Khan by using a restroom Khan had much need of. Upon discovering that Chekov had also depleted the toilet paper, Khan cursed the poor ensign and declared he would never forget his face.
    • Koenig was joking, of course, but it's entirely possible that Chekov was a junior officer on the Enterprise at the time of "Space Seed", and only later got promoted to the bridge crew (and thus became an on-screen character).
      • This is explicitly the case in the novelization: it describes Chekov having an encounter with Khan while still a junior officer assigned to the overnight watch on the bridge.
  • 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.
  • Shown Their Work: According to this short documentary, the ILM team that put together the Genesis proposal scenes used the stars as seen from Epsilon Indi (a nearby K-class dwarf) as the background. The Sun is visible toward the end below the Genesis planet as an extra star in the Big Dipper.
  • Skyward Scream: A sort of Beam Me Up, Scotty, parodies always turn Kirk's "KHAAAAAANNNN!" into this. In the film itself it shows a level view of Kirk screaming and then cuts to an image on the planet's surface.
  • Smart People Play Chess: A chess set is one of the few creature comforts Khan and his followers had on Ceti Alpha V.
  • Space Clothes: Semi-averted. The badass maroon jackets and turtleneck combo is a million steps up from TMP's Starfleet pastel pajamas.
    • The production had no choice but to change the costumes. Nick Meyer wanted something more Prisoner of Zenda or Horatio Hornblower, but more importantly, the entire cast threatened to not do any more Trek unless the extremely-overengineered outfits were jettisoned -- the TMP costumes were constructed in such a way that the cast needed assistance donning the outfits, even unto having assistants standing by while using the restroom. So in effect, the Enterprise crew mutinying brought about the second-most iconic costumes in Trek history.
  • Space Clouds: The Mutara Nebula.
  • Space Is an Ocean: More pronounced than ever before, complete with a Lampshade Hanging.

Spock: His pattern indicates two-dimensional thinking.

  • Space Mines: In the Unwinnable Training Simulation that starts off the movie, the ship the Enterprise needs to rescue was disabled by a gravitic mine.
  • The Spock: Naturally. Quite notable here, however, in what Spock's sacrifice said about how this archetype should be written. Yes, Virginia, that "cold Vulcan logic" that McCoy is always harping on Spock about applies to his own life as much as anyone else's... and he doesn't hesitate even for a moment when applying it.
  • Stock Footage: Much of the Scenery Porn of the Enterprise from The Motion Picture was reused to help stretch the budget, specifically several flybys and scenes involving the spacedock.
    • The original teaser trailer features the Star Trek: The Motion Picture blue 'Enterprise going into warp' effect shot. The warp shots made for Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan (and following movies) are more subdued.
    • The Klingon ships in the Kobiyashi Maru simulation were the same ones that attacked V'ger in the first movie.
      • Of all the reused footage, this one makes the most sense. We already saw that Starfleet had recorded footage of the V'ger incident.
  • 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.
  • Take a Third Option: Deconstructed. See An Aesop above.
  • Taking You with Me: Khan, at the end.
  • Technology Porn: The Genesis effect was so spectacular, that it was seen fit to be reused it for two more movies, as a visual side to exposition and recapping of said device.
  • The Telltale Drapes: Chekov finds a buckle that says "Botany Bay" and instantly realizes they're on Khan's ship seconds before they're captured.
  • Theme Music Power-Up: No less than three.
  • This Is Sparta: A precursor to the Trope Namer and so close to it, it almost counts as the Trope Maker to its Trope Codifier.

Khan: THIS. IS. CETI ALPHA FIVE!!!

Khan: ...full impulse power.
Joachim: No, sir! You have Genesis, you can have anything you wa-
Khan: FULL POWER, DAMN YOU!

  • Weapon of Mass Destruction: The Genesis Device.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Khan. His wife and people died because Kirk forgot to check up on him after he exiled him, remember?
  • Whole-Plot Reference: Loosely, to Moby Dick.
  • Window Love: Kirk and Spock, just before Spock dies.
  • Xanatos Gambit: Khan plans ten moves ahead. Are you sure you want to put your queen on that square?
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: Kirk plays without a net. Don't look down.
  • The X of Y
  • Zeerust:
    • Khan's followers look like the entourage of a hair metal band.
    • The computers look pretty 80's too, although they're at least better than those in Star Trek: The Original Series.
      • In the novelization, one of the Regula 1 scientists complains that a portable computer doesn't have enough memory for his "fifty meg"[2] game.
    • On the DVD Commentary, Nicholas Meyer talks at great length about how dated the way David wears his sweater is, citing it as an example of how "all works of art are inevitably products of their time".
    • You'd think one of the first things you'd do on taking over a fully stocked starship would be to find some clean uniforms in your size to replace the tattered rags you've worn for the last 15 years.
      • A rational person would do just that. An Ax Crazy, genetically engineered madman on the other hand... well, he was wearing someone's uniform over his shoulder. Besides, if you had a chest as manly as that, would you want to cover it up? Remember, that's the chest so manly people have refused to believe it's real.

Notes

  1. The reason that they didn't is that the katra sequence was actually written and shot slightly later than the rest of the death sequence, to give a sequel hook to a potential Star Trek III, should The Wrath of Khan actually prove successful enough for Paramount to demand one (everyone thought that The Wrath of Khan would be the last of the Star Trek films, and this, not any rumored loathing of the character was why Leonard Nimoy was so interested in Spock's death -- hoping to close the book on Trek by giving an emotional death scene to Spock).
  2. It's not specified whether he means megabits or megabytes