Thirty-Five Years Later, William Shatner Reveals That He Didn't Want Khan in 'Star Trek II'

Monday, 21 August 2017 - 10:26AM
Star Trek
Monday, 21 August 2017 - 10:26AM
Thirty-Five Years Later, William Shatner Reveals That He Didn't Want Khan in 'Star Trek II'
Image credit: Paramount Pictures
At this point, William Shatner has firmly earned a reputation for being, shall we say, a little eccentric. So when he says that he wasn't too keen on bringing back legacy villain Khan for the second Star Trek movie, it's easy to dismiss what he had to say as little more than another burst of classic Shatner oddness. Which is a shame, as he actually has a point. Speaking to IGN for the thirty-fifth anniversary of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Shatner explained his initial hesitation at the plot of the movie:

Opening quote
"I recall that they began to talk about the second movie, and the talk began to be about what segment of the 79 [TV episodes] that we shot would be useful. And I kept saying, why do we want to go to a segment? Why don't we invent something absolutely new? And the people in charge were much more aware than I was that the fans would be more sympathetic to… [it] would be a better vibration if it echoed a popular hour from the series, and make that, and then further the story as a film. And they were absolutely right that there was a ramification doing it that way, and the fact that the actor [Ricardo Montalban] was able to repeat his role was another singular advantage."
Closing quote


It's hard not to see Shatner's point when he puts it like this. The idea of taking a single obscure storyline from the history of the original Star Trek and blowing it up years later into the plot for an entire big budget movie seems like an easy way to make a film that would be bewildering to all but the most dedicated of Star Trek fans.



Had a different part of Star Trek lore been chosen, the movie might not have turned out quite as well, nor would it have gone down in pop-culture history as the most memorable Star Trek movie (even more memorable, strangely, than one about the crew going back in time to save the whales). A large part of the movie's popularity no doubt comes down to its director, Stephen Meyer, who also initially created the character of Khan, and who was able to continue the work that he started in the show. Thanks in large part to the way the movie sets up Khan and his crew, it's not necessary to know who he is going into the film, but those who are up to speed with the show will be delighted to see the movie paying tribute to the wider Trek lore.

It's easy to dismiss this now, but at the time, this was a pretty big deal—a wide, interconnected continuity of stories that are referenced in later adventures is part of the reason why Star Trek's legacy has lived on during the gaps when the show hasn't been appearing regularly on television or in movies. The deference that Star Trek II shows to the series that inspired it has become an established part of the Star Trek fandom, and in retrospect, bringing Khan back is perhaps the smartest move that anyone has made in the history of the franchise.

William Shatner's initial apprehension was understandable, and Star Trek fans everywhere should thank their lucky stars that the movie ended up being as good as it is. Had things gone differently, we'd have never got the chance to enjoy the single most iconic moment of Shatner's entire acting career. All together, now:

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