Cinema: Beaming Up

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STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN Directed by Nicholas Meyer Screenplay by Jack B. Sowards

For once it is not an obscure virus from a faraway planet that threatens the good starship Enterprise. No, this time the malaise comes aboard in Admiral Kirk's ditty bag, and it is that common cold of the earthling's psyche, a mid-life crisis. Since his promotion to flag rank, he has been deskbound and restless. For his latest birthday "Bones" McCoy has presented him with a pair of granny glasses for his failing eyes, a bottle of booze to lift his sagging spirit. Meanwhile, there is unfinished business that ought to be attended to: a grown son whose existence Kirk has never properly acknowledged (all those long business trips didn't help) and who is understandably resentful about his inability to get Dad's attention.

There is nothing like a spot of action to cure the blahs, and luckily the Enterprise, now under Mr. Spock's command, is about to take off with a crew of cadets on a training mission, and Kirk decides to come along. Equally luckily, "the wrath of Khan" has been bottled up out there in the galaxy, steeping in its own malevolence, just waiting for someone to pull the cork. It happens that Khan, played by Ricardo Montalban, who appears delighted to send his dinner jacket to the cleaners and slip into something scruffy, blames Kirk for all his troubles. It seems the captain marooned him, his family and crew on a forbidding planet 15 years earlier. Now he decides to invade the space platform where Kirk's scientist son and his scientist mother are engaged in good works, creating nothing less than a new Garden of Eden. By capturing Kirk's family, Khan hopes to lure his old enemy into a fatal rescue attempt. This is the kind of situation that makes Kirk feel positively boyish. Lifted out of his psychological lethargy, he manages to can Khan and tie up the loose ends of his life. Why, with Mr. Spock helping him to plot his spiritual course, Kirk even comes rather touchingly to terms with mortality.

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