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Tag Archive: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan Director’s Cut


The best production of 50 years of Star Trek, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, returned to theaters Sunday for two screenings nationwide, and audiences packed theaters from coast to coast.  The 35th anniversary of the biggest summer of movies continues Wednesday with your last chance to see 1982’s The Wrath of Khan back on the big screen as Paramount Pictures partners with the Fathom Events series once more.  We couldn’t wait to see it again and saw the first screening Sunday and were quickly reminded why the film was such a success.  What were my takeaway thoughts this time through the film?  Leonard Nimoy’s voice echoed throughout the theater with every line (was this his finest work as Spock?).  Kirstie Alley’s Lieutenant Saavik fits right in as the new crewmember.  The lengths director and screenplay writer Nicholas Meyer took to make the Enterprise look like a functioning military vessel:  from the boatswain’s whistle, to the formality of the uniforms and ship inspection by Admiral Kirk, the pulsating real-world sound effects of the two competing vessels, and the military tactics and trickery as Khan and Kirk try to one-up the other that always connects this film for me to another favorite, The Hunt for Red October.  William Shatner was so cocky and confident.  Tightly edited action sequences, camera angles placing the audience inside the bridge and into every nook and cranny inside the Enterprise (Turbolift doesn’t work? Let’s take the ladder), and James Horner’s unforgettable and unique musical score.  And it was fun for me to think back of all the people who made this film that I have had the good fortune to meet, like Shatner, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, and Walter Koenig.  Each of these actors seem to have done their best work in this film.

What surprised me?  After watching Sunday’s screenings I heard remarks from viewers about how many new scenes they did not remember, and this was echoed across the Internet, including comments from long-time Star Trek fans and insiders.  But it makes perfect sense–unless you are a rabid Star Trek fan, you probably didn’t track all the variations in the film that have been released over the past 35 years.  If you have a photographic memory at all, you may hear lines in this week’s presentation that don’t quite match up.  But if you only saw the film in theaters or via early DVD and Blu-ray releases, you will have seen different versions of the film (for one example, the original cut didn’t include the current title, instead it was Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, without the II).  If you watched the expanded ABC TV movie re-broadcast on television in 1985–as many did before the prevalence of home video options–you saw a version different from the 1982 release, full of entirely different takes of several scenes.  In 2002 a Director’s Edition was released, and if you saw the film recently at all, but before 2016’s official Director’s Cut, then you probably last saw the Director’s Edition.  The differences from what was scripted and filmed and what made the original theatrical version alone literally fills ten pages of Allan Asherman’s 1982 book The Making of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, but even that book of course couldn’t include the differences found in the much later ABC TV version and subsequent editions.  The version in theaters this week is the official 2016 Director’s Cut, itself absorbing so many modifications from the original 1982 release from prior incarnations.  But this is the final, the version Nicholas Meyer (the reputed “Man Who Saved Star Trek”) discussed with me in my interview with him here at borg.com last month.

Wait–What’s going on here?  I don’t remember this scene in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan! (Keep reading!)

So if you recall a more suggestive relationship between Kirk and Kirstie Alley’s Lieutenant Saavik, or sensed a romantic relationship brewing between Saavik and Kirk’s son David (played by the late Merritt Butrick), you won’t notice that so much in the Fathom Events presentation (below you’ll see the ABC TV version offered more “steamy” close-ups and additional dialogue amplifying the more womanizing Kirk of the original series).  If you don’t recall that Scotty has a young relative aboard the Enterprise, be prepared for a pleasant surprise, including some great additions featuring Kirk and Scotty.  The midshipman’s (played by Ike Eisenmann) death is more poignant in the latest cut, and an entire sequence between McCoy and Kirk gets us further into Kirk’s thoughts in the aftermath of Khan’s attack.  A conversation about ego between Spock and Alley adds further justification for Kirk’s actions as he taunts Khan into the nebula.

Newspaper advertisement for the 1985 ABC television presentation of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

But do you recall seeing a child in Khan’s crew on Ceti Alpha V?  McCoy mentioning he served with Paul Winfield’s Captain Terrell?  How about McCoy operating on Chekov after he returns from the Genesis planet and Chekov struggling to return to help on the bridge?  Sulu’s promotion to the Excelsior, or Kirk’s final line, quoting Peter Pan’s “first star on the right, and on ’til morning”?  That Saavik is half-Romulan?  David besting Kirk and holding a knife to his throat?  How about these lines from Khan:

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We’re back today with the second part of my interview with Nicholas Meyer, director, screenwriter, and storyteller, as we celebrate the 35th anniversary of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and its return to theaters next month as part of the Fathom Events series.  Meyer directed Star Trek II and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, and he was a screenwriter on both movies as well as Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.  He chatted with me about his films and more this past week.  If you missed part one of the interview, check it out here.

CB:  You’ve written words spoken on-screen by Lawrence Olivier (The Seven-Per-Cent Solution), David Warner (Time After Time, Star Trek VI), and Christopher Plummer (Star Trek VI).  Are there any other great actors you maybe fantasize, or would like to write, dialogue for?

NM:  I’ve also worked with Jason Robards and John Lithgow (both in The Day After).  I’ve worked with some really wonderful actors.  Fantasizing about working with actors is interesting.  When I listened to the Chandos recording of the music from Henry V–the Olivier film with Christopher Plummer reciting or acting out the various Shakespeare vocal parts–I thought, “Wow, I’d really love to work with this man.”  And I wrote the part of Chang in Star Trek VI specifically for him.  That’s the first time I’ve ever written for an actor other than the Star Trek cast.  I said to my casting director Mary Jo Slater, “Whatever you do, don’t come back without him.  Because there’s no movie unless it’s him.”  It would take me longer than this conversation to rustle around in my brain other actors I’d love to work with–Benedict Cumberbatch–sure, of course.

Nicholas Meyer directing the production crew, with Christopher Plummer as General Chang, on the Klingon courtroom set of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

CB:  Your Time After Time co-star Malcolm McDowell joined Star Trek in the seventh movie in the series, Star Trek Generations, after you were no longer with the franchise, and it always seemed to me to be an obvious choice to get him into the Star Trek universe.  Did he ever contact you about taking on a Star Trek role?

NM:  No… we never discussed it.  David Warner, who actually has been in two Star Trek movies (as Chancellor Gorkon in The Undiscovered Country and St. John Talbot in Star Trek V: The Final Fronter), was the great post-war Hamlet with the RSC (Royal Shakespeare Company), and I think Malcolm at one point was a spear carrier in that company at the time when David was this huge star.  In Time After Time they used to kid each other about those times.  Something about carrying a pack of cigarettes under your costume.

CB:  You have said you see yourself first as a writer and have been writing and telling stories since you were five years old.  Are you as excited today to sit down and craft a story as you were in 1982?

NM:  I think when I get going the answer is yes, and if it’s going well the answer is yes, and the hours can go by and I look up and it’s a week later.  But as I’ve gotten older, the process of actually starting, of facing what used to be a blank page, which is now a blank screen, having done it again and again and again…  Most of the stuff I’ve written has never been produced.  Most of the stuff I’ve written for books I’m happy to say has been published, but I haven’t written that many books.  But most of my screenplays–including probably my best screenplays–have never been done.  So as you get older and you embark on this again and again and again there is a kind of a weariness of picking up the yoke and putting it on your shoulders.  That said, getting paid for telling stories beats work any day.

On the Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan Engineering set, that’s Catherine E. Coulson (later Twin Peaks’ Log Lady) with the camera, director Nicholas Meyer (in Starfleet captain’s jacket) and James Doohan as Scotty, filming the emotional finale.

CB:  In your memoir The View From the Bridge, you mentioned some of your best ideas or solutions when writing come while doing laundry, while in the tub, or even building a model boat.  What was your biggest revelation and strangest place you found it?

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Khan crew image

One of the greatest all-time sci-fi villains and best productions of the 50 years of Star Trek is coming back to the theaters this summer.  The 35th anniversary of the biggest year of movies continues, with the 1982 masterpiece Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan hitting theaters across the country as Paramount Pictures partners with the Fathom Events series.  It is the sequel not only to Star Trek: The Motion Picture but a direct follow-up to the original series episode “Space Seed” starring the incomparable Ricardo Montalban–and his Khan has remained the unchallenged best villain in the franchise ever since.  Initially Montalban envisioned his character as a brash, over-the-top, shouting image of villainy, but director Nicholas Meyer took Montalban aside to coax from him his iconic, sinewy, scarily subdued personification of the Klingon proverb, “Revenge is a dish best served cold.”

The legendary test of character for a Starfleet officer, the Kobayashi Maru, and the death of the entire Enterprise bridge crew revealed in only the first minutes…  A ship full of trainees…  An experiment called Genesis…  Where Jaws prompted us to fear water everywhere, The Wrath of Khan made us fear anything crawling into our ears.  Kirstie Alley as Lieutenant Saavik…  Paul Winfield as Captain Terrell…  Ike Eisenmann as Scotty’s ill-fated nephew…  Who would have guessed James T. Kirk had a son?  The most emotional of scenes of the series as Spock says goodbye to Kirk…  And with all the new faces, the familiar ones were back again, at the top of their acting game: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, and Walter Koenig…  All rounded out with a score by James Horner and the most memorable of uniform styles for our heroes created by Robert Fletcher.

But you already knew that, right?

“Making Star Trek II seems like only yesterday,” Shatner said announcing the theatrical re-release.  “Even back then, we knew we were creating something really special, and to have The Wrath of Khan back on the big screen 35 years later is a wonderful testament both to the film itself and to the incredible passion of Star Trek fans.”  *Don’t miss our borg.com interview with The Wrath of Khan director Nicholas Meyer here.

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