Tag Archives: Khan

Literary References in “Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan”

WrathOfKhan

I recently attended a convention, and while I was there I happened upon a copy of the script to “Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan.” The book also includes nice glossy photos from the film. Since this is by far my favorite of all the Star Trek movies, I could not pass up buying the script and closely reading the text that I had so often seen played out on the screen.

There are three main literary texts that figure prominently in “Wrath of Khan,” and those are pointed out to the viewer early in the film.

ANGLE – CHEKOV’S POV

Lethal-looking old swords on one wall, a bookshelf; CAMERA PANS by 20th Century volumes; MOBY DICK, KING LEAR, THE HOLY BIBLE – and a seat belt dangling with the name on it – BOTANY BAY.

(p. 18)

The references to the Bible are very clear in the text. Project Genesis is the creation of life out of nothing and implies that humans have attained god-like powers. There is also a sense that this is somehow connected to the proverbial fall. In fact, the Genesis cave is described as Edenic.

A huge cavern. Kirk is actually standing in the middle of it. Space extends vastly above and below his point of view. Like Eden, lush growth everywhere, waterfalls, and a cobalt blue sky high, high above where a round orb glows sending light and warmth downward. There is a path from where Kirk stands down to the lower level where Bones, and the others are waiting and calling to him. Mist and haze waft gently across the cavern.

(p. 80)

In the film, Kirk exhibits characteristics of King Lear. He is aged; his emotions cloud his judgment; and he struggles to figure out his relationship with his now adult child. This is most poignantly expressed in a dialog between Kirk and Carol Marcus, Kirk’s former lover and the mother of his son.

CAROL: Actually, he’s a lot like you in many ways. Please. Tell me what you’re feeling.

KIRK: There’s a man out there I haven’t seen in fifteen years who’s trying to kill me. You show me a son that’d be happy to help him. My son. My life that could have been and wasn’t. And what am I feeling? Old – worn out.

(p. 79)

Of the three books that are most referenced in the film, Moby Dick is the primary. Khan is the embodiment of Ahab, obsessed with enacting his vengeance upon Kirk and the Enterprise, which symbolize the great white whale. Additionally, Khan’s helmsman, Joachim, symbolizes Starbuck, a voice of reason contrasted against Khan’s insatiable need for revenge.

KHAN: Helmsman?

JOACHIM: Sir, may I speak? We’re 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.

(p. 41)

There is a scene in the nebula where the Enterprise and the Reliant are engaged in battle, and the Enterprise is depicted as rising like a great whale, strengthening the connection to Melville’s novel.

Reliant motionless in the f.g. amid occasional flashes. Now, behind Reliant and from below, like a great whale rising from the depths, Enterprise rises vertically, slowly passing the unsuspecting enemy. When Enterprise is above, behind and quite close:

(p. 94)

Finally, as Khan is in the throes of death, he quotes Moby Dick as he takes one last stab at his adversary.

KHAN: No . . . You can’t get away . . . From hell’s heart I stab at thee . . .
(amid the pain)
For hate’s sake . . . I spit my last breath at thee!

(p. 102)

This film proves an important point: It is not special effects and lavish CGI that make a great film, it’s the writing and the storytelling. “Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan” is a masterpiece in storytelling and that’s why it still holds up today. I suspect I will be pulling my DVD copy off the shelf in the very near future and watching the film yet again.

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Star Trek: Khan – Issue #5

StarTrekKhan_05

This is the final issue in the series and it concludes nicely. Essentially, Khan finishes his testimony and the sentence is handed down (I will abstain from saying what the sentence is—you’ll have to read the comic to find that out for yourself).

After the trial, there is a great conversation between Kirk and Spock regarding human nature and the construct of history. For me, this was the most interesting part of the final issue. How we construct history based upon stories and scraps of information is something I find fascinating. Anyway, here is the conversation.

Spock: We have no way to verify his account of the late twentieth century. Records from that period are simply too scarce,

Kirk: That’s just it, Spock. Khan knows that. Now he gets to write the history he wants, and it’s human nature to make yourself the hero of your own story.

Spock: I fail to see the logic in that approach, Captain, if that was truly his intention. History will hardly judge him kindly given the destruction he has caused in both the past and present.

Kirk: Like I said, Spock, human nature. Logic doesn’t have much to do with it.

Most of humanity’s early history was written by the victors, and they certainly wrote the histories in a manner that put them in a positive light. Currently, with the internet and the democratization of information, modern history appears to be a little less biased. At least you can find alternate versions of events. But we still relate our history from biased perspectives. Just compare how FOX News and MSNBC tell totally different versions of the same event. This makes me wonder how our history will be interpreted 500 years from now. Digital records can be easily manipulated or erased. What historical documentation will remain in our future, and how will that color the images that our future generations have of events that are transpiring today? It is an interesting question and one worth pondering.

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Star Trek: Khan – Issue #4

StarTrekKhan_04This issue takes a big leap forward from the previous one. Khan awakens in a secret Federation facility with amnesia. He is told that his name is Lieutenant John Harrison and that he is a Federation soldier who was injured on a mission to the Klingon home planet of Kronos. He is retrained and sent to destroy the Klingon moon of Praxxis, which he successfully does. As he watches the satellite explode, he experiences a flash of memory as he recalls his true self. The issue ends with him being called back to the base.

There are no “deep or profound passages” in this issue, but it is well-written and the artwork is good. The story moves along nicely and it ties the comic storyline in with the Star Trek: Into Darkness film. I have to say, though, that since Khan is such a fascinating villain, this adds another dimension to his character, one that inspires empathy. Khan is manipulated and used as a tool to carry out the violent desires of others, and as a result, he feels anger and resentment. Who wouldn’t? Any one of us would have the same reaction if we discovered we were lied to about who we are and coerced into carrying out the will of others.

I really don’t have anything else to say about this issue. Keeping this post short and sweet. Thanks for reading!

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Star Trek: Khan – Issue #3

StarTrekKhan_03In this third installment of the series, the story really begins to flesh out. It’s been great so far, but now the story is getting even more interesting.

Khan describes how he ruled on Earth. He was a benevolent ruler and was able to secure the loyalty of his subjects by providing them what they lacked: education, food, healthcare, and so forth. In contrast, the other genetically enhanced leaders fought amongst themselves and abused their subjects, resulting in war and devastation.

Khan asserts that humans actually prefer to be ruled, to feel that they are cared for.

To understand the extent of my power, is to understand a simple, fundamental fact about human beings. They long to be ruled. They long for order, for security, for a voice from above to tell them how things will be. They longed for my voice. In the years after I rose to power, I used my superior intellect to revolutionize society. Together with my brothers and sisters, I eliminated poverty and sickness within my borders. The concept of need was as archaic as rubbing two sticks together.

There is some truth in this passage. A society in which people are content is a society that is peaceful and prosperous. Problems tend to arise when people feel abused, neglected, and disregarded. I feel that our leaders could learn something from this. Instead of making decisions based upon self-serving ideals, leaders who genuinely put the needs of the people first and foremost would enjoy wider support.

In the end, the oppressed humans discover a biological weapon that could be used against the genetically enhanced persons. In order to save himself and his companions, Khan boards a spacecraft, the infamous Botany Bay, and escapes to the stars, seeking a new world that he can colonize.

If I had to rate this, I’d give it a solid 4 ½ out of 5 stars. The story and the artwork are both great, and I found it thought-provoking as well as enjoyable to read.  Look for my review of Issue #4 soon.

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Star Trek: Khan – Issue #2

StarTrekKhan_02When I picked up this issue from the comic store, I was puzzled by the blank cover. I later discovered that it is intended for you to draw and color your own cover. I think it’s a creative idea, but knowing how I draw, I think my cover is going to remain blank.

In this issue, Khan continues his story, which Kirk finds incredulous. Khan responds by asking: “Which part of my testimony strains your credulity, Captain? The secret schools turning genetically engineered children into killing machines? The fact that private enterprise funded the programs in order to sell those killing machines to the world’s governments? That those same killing machines rebelled against the scientists who bred them?” The truth is that if something like this happened today, it would not surprise me in the least. In fact, my cynical side assumes that this is already going on. We live in a world where suicide bombers, chemical warfare, secret medical experiments, and corporate influence on government decisions all exist. A genetically altered Manchurian Candidate certainly seems plausible.

But I digress. The issue is decent. The artwork and writing are solid, and the storyline moves along well. There are some slightly interesting things to ponder, but nothing too deep. Basically, this issue moves the story forward. The genetic “super humans” rise up and overthrow the world governments, establishing a unified world under their control. Also, the young Singh Noonien takes on the assumed name of Khan.

I really don’t have anything else to say about this, so I am not going to waste time trying to expound on this. It is good and so far, I’m enjoying the series. I’ll share my thoughts on issue #3 next month.

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Star Trek: Khan – Issue #1

StarTrekKhan_01Yes, I love Star Trek, so when I heard that IDW was running a comic series on the origins of Khan, I knew I had to read it. I went to the comic store, but they had already sold out of the first issue. Thankfully, they got more in and I was able to purchase a copy.

The story begins with a Federation trial where Khan is facing charges. Kirk asks him to come clean and give a truthful account of his origins. He agrees, and thus begins the tale.

The first issue traces Khan’s childhood as an orphan in India. He is rounded up with other orphans and subjected to genetic experimentation designed to create a perfect soldier. In addition to the genetic modifications, he is also subjected to psychological conditioning designed to stifle fear and compassion. The issue ends with Khan leading the eugenic soldiers in an uprising against their genetic creator and about to enter the world.

OK, so as a pseudo-trekkie, I admit that I am somewhat biased. That said; I really enjoyed the first installment. I found the writing to be solid, the artwork is very good, and the story is consistent with the Star Trek films. Also, I am fascinated with villains, and Khan is one of the greats, right up there with Iago and Raskolnikov. If you like comics and Star Trek, then this is a must-read for you; if not, you should probably avoid it at all costs.

Cheers!

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