Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan–The Making of the Classic Film is time travel to 40 years ago

Review by C.J. Bunce

What makes Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan: The Making of the Classic Film a worthy update to Allan Asherman’s 1982 book The Making of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is its wealth of full-color, behind-the-scenes photographs, assembled together in a book for the first time.  This wasn’t possible when the paperback by Asherman (who passed away this weekend) made it out the door in time to meet the success of what we now look back on as the best production of 56 years of Star Trek.  Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan remains one of the best science fiction films of all time, and one of the great films of the best year of cinema, 1982.   After a lackluster movie debut with Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Leonard Nimoy’s voice echoed throughout the theater with authority and teased his final appearance as Spock.  Kirstie Alley’s Lieutenant Saavik fit right in as the new crew member.  Director and screenplay writer Nicholas Meyer went to great lengths to make the Enterprise look like a functioning naval vessel, and became known as the man who saved Star Trek (check out my interview with him for the 35th anniversary here at borg).

Titan Books’ new Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan: The Making of the Classic Film is available now here at Amazon.  Although I could only identify six photographs I hadn’t seen over the years on the Internet, in books, and on video special features, most readers will agree the rare and previously unpublished archival material, behind-the-scenes photography, production art, cut scenes, script extracts, and other content makes this book the must-have Star Trek collectible of 2023.

A pair of potential marketing photos shows Spock’s Enterprise trainee crew and Khan’s surviving henchmen, giving diehard fans views of the characters and costumes they’ve never seen before.  Readers will find good quality photographs of every character and every costume, as well as archival interviews with key and supporting cast and crew.  Writers John Tenuto and Maria Tenuto might have a modern lean in emphasizing actors who died more recently–Leonard Nimoy and Kirstie Alley–but they dig in less on Nichelle Nichols and other key cast members who died years ago, like James Doohan and DeForest Kelley.  Attentive readers may notice the large number of cast and crew that died young, as well, like Merritt Butrick and Bibi Besch.  As a celebration of 40 years of The Wrath of Khan, the book serves as a reminder of how long ago that is.

The book looks at the film as if you might be approaching it for the first time, incorporating a summary of the infamous draft scripts that were ultimately tied together by Nicholas Meyer.  The best book about Star Trek II is Meyer’s must-read The View from the Bridge, which would make a good companion read to this new volume.  Production members Harve Bennett, costumer designer Robert Fletcher, writer Jack B. Sowards, Jack-of-all-trades Mike Minor, creature maker Ken Ralston, makeup artist Werner Keppler–the expected subjects of the book–get appropriate coverage.  But the writers also find key women contributors to highlight, including  designer Carole Lee Cole, animator Judy Elkins, and groundbreaking first assistant camera woman (and later, actor) Catherine Coulson. 

And of course there is that title character, Khan.  This book appears to have collected every clip and production shot of Ricardo Montalban and those real (yep, real) pecs.  The entire cast and crew, including director Meyer, seem to be having a good time making this movie.  But there is one exception:  Leonard Nimoy.  The reason he maintains his character even when not filming is made clear in a foreword by his daughter Julie, who accompanied her father on the filming of Star Trek II.

Khan’s henchwomen.  Kirk’s son.  Savik, then Savvik, then Saavik.  Scenes (and titles) left for future Star Trek movies.  Paul Winfield.  Costume designs.  Deleted scenes that make you wish we were still in the days of books that included CD-ROMs so you could just press a button and watch them instead of viewing mere stills.  Star Trek II, the TV movie.  Scotty’s engineering radiological suits and his blown-up staff.  The Genesis device.  Concept artwork.  Wee eels in your ear.  It’s all in there.

I saw the movie with my brother at the neighborhood drive-in in the summer of 1982.  This is a good time travel trip back to that summer.  Don’t miss it–Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan: The Making of the Classic Film is available this month for the first time.  Order your copy here at Amazon.

Leave a Reply