Star Trek II 35th Anniversary Movie Experience

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Last September, Trekkie fans across the world celebrated the 35th anniversary of what is arguably the best Star Trek film of the entire franchise—Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. The film returned to the big screen on limited engagements by Fathom Events, and in spite of challenges and delays due to Hurricane Irma, I managed to arrange a viewing.

My good friend Chris, on behalf of his recently launched Big Fat Geek Podcast, invited me to share my thoughts of the experience. Alas, the news was overshadowed by the release of Star Trek: Discovery, and the topic of Star Trek II was shelved—I presume permanently at this point since so much time has passed since the anniversary month.

Rather than let the write-up I spent time creating just languish away and die, I’m sharing it here for posterity’s sake.

The expression, “come hell or high water,” never felt more apropos than it did as I made plans to once again see Star Trek II in celebration of its 35th anniversary. I had fully intended to go on the first day, Sunday (Sept. 10). Mother Nature, however, had entirely different plans, having literally sent hell and high water to Florida in the form of Hurricane Irma.

I couldn’t even be sure I’d make it to the second scheduled day, Wednesday (Sept. 13) in the aftermath of the storm. Thankfully, my neighborhood sustained little damage. I didn’t even lose power for more than a few seconds. And so, after my work schedule, I charted a course for the Winter Park Village theater and engaged warp 9.

Seeing Star Trek II on the big screen again felt especially important to me, not just because The Wrath of Khan is, no debate, the best Star Trek TOS film. (The debate whether The Wrath of Khan or First Contact is best of any Trek film can take place in another venue! **NERD FIGHT**) Also not just because I am a fervent fan of the franchise with only one acquaintance (Gedeon Maheux) who I regard as a bigger fan than me.

The most significant importance for me to go to the theater for this film was that, unless my memory is sorely mistaken, Star Trek II was the very first movie (Trek or otherwise) that I ever saw in a theater. I was 12 years old and, after what I’m sure was a considerable amount of pleading with my parents, I was permitted to go.

Before the 2017 re-screening began, the audience was treated to an interview between Film Critic Scott Mantz and Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner. To my delight, the interview was enjoyable. Not too short, not too long. Shatner shared a lot of insight about the film—some of which I was aware and some completely new information for me.

The film itself was the extended director’s cut version. The funny thing about directors’ cuts is that it’s usually quite apparent why the cuts were made. All the additional scenes in Star Trek II are perfectly fine to leave out, and one can still thoroughly enjoy and understand the story. The lines about Genesis being a civilian project certainly adds an interesting, if not critical, piece of information. The extended argument between Bones and Spock about the implications of Genesis is perfectly classic for those characters. But probably the best of the director’s cut scenes is Spock’s reply to Saavik affirming the Reliant would follow the Enterprise into the nebula. “Remind me to explain to you the concept of the human ego.”

My sole disappointment in the whole experience was the lackluster audience. In the pre-film interview, Mantz makes a comment that the single most famous scene, KHHAAAAANNNN, would be met with an eruption of cheering in every theatre. I was looking forward to that, and I almost initiated a cheer, but sensed that the vibe in the theater would result in no audible reaction. I was right, and it was kind of sad. In hindsight, I wish I had cheered anyway, even if I had been the only one doing so.

In my opinion, Star Trek II is the only TOS film worthy of a return to the big screen. Worthy, in fact, of many returns in the future. Here’s to hoping!

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