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It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like...Star Wars

The air outside is crisp. You can see your breath and the end of your nose is red and cold. The houses that you pass have Christmas trees in the windows. There are lights arranged all over the front lawns. The stores are all lit up and twinkling. The bell ringers are sitting in front of the shops collecting your spare change for charity.

But it’s not a Christmas party that we’re going to tonight.

I’m sitting in a restaurant with my wife and my daughter. It’s not a fancy place. “It’s not the Shangri-La,” as I’ve been known to say in description of any place that doesn’t require a jacket and tie. No, this is just a hamburger joint.

We’re sitting in a booth enjoying big, fat cheeseburgers, shoestring fries, and ice cream sundaes. There is electricity in the air. There is a smile on my face. This is a special day.

At the table next to us there are two men about my age. They’re having a casual conversation about their work and if you just listened to the words you’d think they were in bus…

40 Movies For 40 Years: 1982

The school that I was enrolled in when I was very young was run by a church. They had classes for children as young as 3 which was when I was enrolled. They had three kindergarten classes but two of them were really just day care or preschool. When I turned 5 in 1982 I went to 5 year old kindergarten which is the real deal. So, by this point I thought I was a “big kid”.

The year that I became a “big kid” there were a lot of movies that came out. People believed in aliens again with ET: The Extra-Terrestrial, teenagers were learning some very bad things while watching Porky’s, and Stallone was taking on Mr. T in Rocky III.

If you’ve been reading this then you’ll know that in 1979 the Italian Stallion was in the ring with the USS Enterprise to earn the top spot on my list for that year. Rocky II won that battle. In the rematch the decision goes the other way.

My favorite movie of 1982 is, hands down, Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan.

I have loved all things Star Trek since I was ten years old. The pilot to The Next Generation (TNG) was heavily promoted and shown almost every day on television for about a month. So, I watched it because it was the 80s and there wasn’t much else to watch. I fell in love with Star Trek, which I now see as a miracle because the first season of TNG might contain some of the worst Star Trek episodes ever made. As I was watching it one evening my dad came into the room and I casually mentioned that I had never really watched an episode of the original series. He told me that they showed reruns late on Saturday night on our local TV station and that I could stay up and watch if I wanted.

The world of Star Trek opened up after that. I decided that I had to devour every morsel of Star Trek that was available to me. In this age before streaming media that meant that I had to wait until it actually came on TV. I would record episodes onto blank VHS tapes and watch them over and over.

I went to my local video store I rented the movies. At the time there were only four of them but I cycled through them about 12 or 13 times before my dad jury-rigged a way for me to copy them onto some blank tapes using two VCRs…a very illegal thing to do according the FBI warning at the beginning of the film but my dad probably saw it as saving him a lot of money in the long run.

My ten year old self knew that these films were meant to be watched in a particular order and when I started watching them that’s exactly how I did it. However, after I had seen all four about three times each I started focusing on my two favorites, II and IV.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is continuation of an episode of the original series entitled Space Seed. In that episode Kirk and crew meet a man who is a molecularly engineered super soldier by the name of Khan, played by Ricardo Montalban. At the end of the episode Kirk leaves him stranded on a planet where he can’t hurt anyone.

After some disappointing reviews of Star Trek: The Motion Picture Paramount made some changes before moving ahead with a second movie. It was decided to make this film a sequel to that famous episode. We meet Khan again at the very beginning and learn that Kirk actually stranded him and his crew on the wrong planet. Instead of being left in the Garden of Eden he was stranded on an inhospitable and barely survivable desert planet.

Chekov, who is now the first officer of another ship, find Khan and they immediately recognize each other. True Trek fans see the problem here since Space Seed was a season one episode and Chekov didn’t become a member of the crew until season two. Either way, Khan hijacks their ship and goes on a mission to not only get his revenge on Kirk for his fifteen years of exile, but also to steal the terraforming Genesis technology.

This movie is miles above The Motion Picture as far as quality. The characters feel more genuine and the whole thing just feels more like the original series. And it hearkens back to old naval military films…you know the ones that I’m talking about that have submarines stealthily making moves to hide from one another before one of them blows the other out of the ocean. This had that same kind of thing going on…but with starships.

In Space Seed, William Shatner had one of his famous fist fights with Montalban. In Star Trek II, Kirk and Kahn are never in the same place at the same time. All of their communication came from view screens and comm channels. And yet, the chemistry and the suspense are still there. This is the movie that made us realize that Star Trek might be able to pull off a film series after all.

The biggest thing that happened in Star Trek II is inarguably the death of Spock. Of course, going back and watching the film now with many years and a few dozen viewings having passed, I can see where it had been telegraphed from the very beginning. The words “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few…or the one” were uttered very early on. Obviously, someone was going to sacrifice themselves for the safety of the crew. Turns out it was Spock.

We know now that Spock was destined to return to life a couple of years later when Star Trek III hit theaters. But at the time that scene occurred, the audience didn’t know he’d be back. Leonard Nimoy even said that he didn’t know he’d be back. Everyone thought that this was it for the character.

I even remember the first time that I saw it, which would have been sometime around 1987 or 1988. Star Trek was still new to me, especially the original series. But I was glued to that screen and when Spock weakly placed his hand on the glass to say goodbye to his friend…I had tears in my young eyes.

“It’s no big deal,” my dad had said. “They bring him back in the next one.”

The feeling of relief that washed over me was mixed with the anger that I had felt with my first spoiler experience.

A few years ago the film Star Trek Into Darkness tried to emotionally manipulate us by recreating the famous death scene. This time it was Kirk that sacrificed himself and Spock was trapped on the outside. It didn’t work…at least not for me. The main reason was that the reboot movies take place early in the careers of the Enterprise crew. That movie was set at the beginning of their original five year mission. So, in that universe, Kirk and Spock had only really known each other for a couple of years and they really didn’t like each other very much. In the original (Prime) universe the death scene took place about 15 years after the series. These two men had spent over a decade exploring the galaxy side by side. They were brothers.

Star Trek II is not only my favorite movie that was released in 1982…it is absolutely my favorite Star Trek film out of the 13 that have been released to date.


“Of my friend, I can only say this: Of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most.... [voice breaks] human.”  --James T. Kirk

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