Synopsis: It is the 23rd century. The Federation starship U.S.S. Enterprise is on routine training maneuvers, and Admiral James T. Kirk (William Shatner) seems resigned to the fact that this inspection may well be the last space mission of his career. But Khan is back. Aided by his exiled band of genetic supermen, Khan (Ricardo Montalban) — brilliant renegade of 20th century Earth — has raided Space Station Regula One, stolen a top secret device called Project Genesis, wrested control of another Federation starship, and now schemes to set a most deadly trap for his old enemy Kirk…with the threat of a universal Armageddon! Co-starring Kirstie Alley (Cheers) in her stunning motion picture debut.
eyelights: the clearer relationship between Scotty and Peter.
eyesores: its less subtle delivery.
“Remind me to explain to you the concept of the human ego.”
After the excitement that rippled through fandom when a Director’s Cut of ‘Star Trek: The Motion Picture’ was released in 2001, it’s pretty clear that Paramount Pictures wanted to reproduce the effect.
Also, no doubt, the corresponding sales.
And so it is that a so-called Director’s Cut of ‘The Wrath of Khan‘ was released for home video in 2002, despite director Nicholas Meyer having no real preference for this new cut over his original one.
Unlike its predecessor, this “Director’s Cut” wasn’t a way to complete the director’s vision, nor did it change much to the original picture. Instead, it merely added a few minor scenes here and there.
Here’s a breakdown:
- The first new addition to the picture is a brief scene while Admiral Kirk is inspecting the Enterprise. He comments to a new recruit, Peter Preston, about the condition of the ship, how he’s always been mocked for it being a “flying death trap”. Peter gives him lip and even tells him that he must be blind if he doesn’t see that the Enterprise is the best.
The problem with this scene is multifold: it’s completely out of character for Kirk, in his role as Admiral, to accept back talk from a new recruit. He wouldn’t have made it in that position if he didn’t know about the need for discipline. Secondly, you can see another crewman smirking the whole time. The whole scene looks like an outtake that didn’t work.
Then comes the only reason for its inclusion: it is revealed to Kirk by Scotty that Peter is the latter’s nephew. This is merely useful because it’s the only way that Scotty’s reaction to Peter’s death makes sense later. Without this bit, the Theatrical version makes Scotty seem way overemotional about one of many new recruits. Here, at least we understand his grief.
- There’s a small amount of additional dialogue when Chekov announces to Dr. Marcus and her team that Starfleet is taking over the project. And, afterwards, Marcus tells the others that they should get their gear together. When asked where they’re going, she responds that it’s for them to know and for Reliant to find out.
The problem with addition is that it ruins the shock when Kirk, McCoy and Saavik arrive and find them all slaughtered. There’s no mystery: we know that they were able to hide elsewhere. Plus which, if they did prepare to hide, then why were the crew even slaughtered in the first place? It just doesn’t make sense.
- During the Genesis briefing, we see the sides of the monitor that Kirk, McCoy and Spock are watching it on. It sort of makes sense, contextually, except that it’s obtrusive to some degree. I could have done without it altogether.
- Afterwards, McCoy and Spock debate the ethics of using such a device. It’s very short and doesn’t contribute anything other than highlighting the notion that it’s not Genesis that’s dangerous, it’s its ill use.
You know, in case we hadn’t already contemplated it. In a society that tells us that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people”, I think it’s already an abundantly clear concept. This just feels redundant.
- After Dr. Marcus tells David to show McCoy and Saavik the Genesis cave, there’s an insert of Kirk putting on his glasses to look at the time. In the next shot, he’s no longer wearing them. What a meaningless addition this is. Or just a poor cut.
- When Kirk boards the Enterprise anew, after having been in the Genesis cave, we see him and Spock climbing between decks and he announces that David is his son, to which Spock responds “Fascinating”. There’s nothing fascinating about it, so it would be stupid for Spock to respond this. It’s utterly redundant and contributes nothing to the picture or the characters.
- The scene of Peter’s death is longer, and unnecessarily so: Kirk reiterates (to Scotty) why they’re being attacked and then explains (to McCoy) why he had the upper hand. You know, in case we didn’t already get it. Duh.
- As Kirk contemplates luring Khan into the nebula, Saavik ponders why he thinks that Khan would even follow him. Spock retorts that he’ll explain to her human ego someday – as though we didn’t already understand Khan’s motivation.
There are additional inserts of Genesis developing as Kirk runs to Spock, who is dying in engineering. Not sure why. Maybe it was in the original and I hadn’t noticed it. That scene seems choppy, poorly edited with those inserts in.
I also got the impression that some of the visuals had been enhanced in some fashion, as though there was some CGI thrown in there to change the ships and bases. But I’ve found no online data to that effect.
It may just be an impression.
But, for instance, when the Enterprise takes off on its mission, you see an opening in its base that suggests that the whole front is hollow. It may be in the original, but I never noticed it before and it looked weird.
In any event, I find that the few noticeable changes only serve to weaken the storytelling. This version basically lays it all out in case people just couldn’t get the message the first time around.
It’s not the Director’s Cut, so much as the Dummies’ Cut. Or ‘The Wrath of Khan for Dummies’.
It doesn’t change the fact ‘The Wrath of Khan’ is an excellent motion picture, but I have to knock this cut’s rating down slightly if only for its overall redundancy and the fact that it eschews all subtlety.
Date of viewing: June 25, 2016