Tag Archives: Star Trek

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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RIP Leonard Nimoy

I am so sad to hear of Leonard Nimoy’s passing. He was an inspiration in my life. He died at age 83 from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

I will share this. One of my favorite Spock scenes. It brought tears to my eyes watching it again. “Of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most…human.”

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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: The Ashes of Eden” by William Shatner

StarTrekAshesOfEden

Several months ago, I stopped at a yard sale to look for books and records. Among the various items I discovered a couple of Star Trek novels, one of which was written by William Shanter. A Star Trek novel written by Kirk himself? In hardcover? For one dollar? I couldn’t pass it up. Well, I finally got around to reading it and it was everything I expected: sci-fi adventure, some philosophical ideas to mull over, enough cheesiness to make it endearing, and a healthy portion of Shatner’s ego. In fact, there were several places where other characters wondered what Kirk would do in the situation, which made me chuckle and think “WWKD.” Anyway, combined together, all these things made for a fun, entertaining read, which was what I was in the mood for.

The general theme of this book is how we as humans deal with getting old and our quest for youth. It’s a universal concept, that we seek immortality through fame and that we try to keep ourselves feeling young; but there is always a cost. Early in the book, Kirk reflects on his fame and the issues associated with it.

But then his recognition had moved beyond the Fleet. Civilians began approaching him, asking the same questions, seeking more details. Always details. After the incident with V’Ger, the floodgates had opened. All Earth claimed to know him. Most of the other worlds too.

Now Kirk couldn’t go anywhere without detecting the unsettling flash of recognition in strangers’ eyes. All the more intense because, unlike the sudden recognition awarded a new sports star or politician, people had come to recognize him over decades of his career.

(p. 39)

I see this as very autobiographical. Shatner certainly gained fame as Kirk, but he had plenty of other roles which added to his fame and recognition, such as T. J Hooker and his role as Denny Crane in Boston Legal.

As Kirk struggles to find his place in life as a person who is no longer young, he turns to his memories. There is a great passage about how memories mark your journey through life. By following the path of your memories, you begin to see patterns which enable you to make a reasonable guess at where the path is leading you.

Memories were the markers of the journey through life. It was necessary to know where you had come from. Only then could you know where you were going.

(p. 72)

At one point in the book, Kirk considers a question that resonated with me: “When was it ever right to give up doing what you lived to do?” (p. 126) I have asked myself this question many times throughout my life, particularly in regard to playing music and writing. These are things I love. They are a part of who I am. Would I be more successful if I gave them up and focused all my energy on the pursuit of material gain? Yes, but at what cost? I would be sacrificing a part of who I am. I could never do that and continue living a happy life.

One of my favorite quotes from this book appears in the later part.

… we’re not responsible for the world we’re born into. Only for the world we leave when we die. So we have to accept what’s gone before us in the past, and work to change the only thing we can—the future.

(p. 268)

This is so very true. I make a conscious effort to think about the future whenever I am acting or making a decision. Everything I do, every choice I make, directly affects the future in ways that I may never know. My actions may not have a recognizable impact on the world today, but I know that what I do now will impact the world that my children’s children will inherit.

So I want to close this post with one last quote that ties in with a little nerdy Star Trek trivia.

Then Kirk gave an order he had never given before.
“Beam me up, Scotty.”

(p. 282)

If you’re a Trekkie, you know that Kirk never actually said “Beam me up, Scotty” in any of the Star Trek episodes. I found it funny that Shatner pointed that out in the book.

So, this is not great literature, but it is a fun and easy read, and if you are a Star Trek fan, you’ll definitely get a kick out of it.

Live long and prosper.

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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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