Star Trek: the Wrath of Khan — screenplay, structure, story

Theoretical structure:

Duration: 103 minutes

Act I: 0 – 25 minutes
Introduce Kirk: 5 – 10 minutes
Introduce Khan: 10 – 15 minutes
Establish conflict: 15 – 20 minutes
Plot Point I: 20 – 25 minutes
Act II: 25 – 75 minutes
Conflict: 25 – 70 minutes
Plot Point II: 70 – 75 minutes
Act III: 75 – 100 minutes
Conflict solution: 75 – 95 minutes
Ending: 95 – 100 minutes

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"Screenplay, Structure, Story", in-which single dramas are analysed for their pace and narrative.

Theoretical structure:

Duration: 103 minutes

  • Act I: 0 – 25 minutes
    • Introduce Kirk: 5 – 10 minutes
    • Introduce Khan: 10 – 15 minutes
    • Establish conflict: 15 – 20 minutes
    • Plot Point I: 20 – 25 minutes
  • Act II: 25 – 75 minutes
    • Conflict: 25 – 70 minutes
    • Plot Point II: 70 – 75 minutes
  • Act III:  75 – 100 minutes
    • Conflict solution: 75 – 95 minutes
    • Ending: 95 – 100 minutes

Actual structure:

Act I (minutes 2 – 56)

Introduce Kirk (minutes 5 – 11)

Kirk’s introduced at the five minute mark to review Saavik’s test on the Kobayashi Maru, which generates a no-win scenario to test character. Kirk considers a test of death the test of life. Kirk beat the Kobayashi Maru test on his third try. McCoy visits Kirk at his home to celebrate his birthday. Kirk’s retired from Starfleet, but still wishes he could be living his old life.

Introduce Khan (minutes 17 – 24)

Khan is a genetically-engineered warrior living a solitary life on Ceti Alpha V with the seventy-six survivors of his crew in the SS Botany Bay, which was launched into space in 1996 after Khan fell from power over Earth, then marooned by Kirk in 2267 after Khan tried to take over the Enterprise. When Terrell and Chekhov investigate Ceti Alpha V, Khan recognises Chekhov from the Enterprise. Khan deduces that Chekhov and Terrell thought Ceti Alpha V is Ceti Alpha VI, which exploded six months after they were marooned and made survival difficult. Khan takes control of Terrell and Chekhov by infecting them with mind-controlling bugs, and then asks them about Kirk.

Establish conflict (minutes 49 – 53)

Khan attacks the Enterprise with the Reliant and reveals his identity for Kirk to know who it is that’s beaten him. Khan offers to negotiate with Kirk if Kirk surrenders the Genesis Project. Kirk feigns ignorance of it and uses the façade of recalling its data to hack the Reliant and override its shields. The Enterprise retaliates against the Reliant, and Khan evacuates.

Plot Point I (minutes 53 – 56)

Kirk inspects the medical bay and sees the crew casualties. Spock informs Kirk of the engine’s repair, and the Enterprise thrusts away from the battle sector.

Act II (minutes 56 – 85)

Synthesis (minutes 56 – 78)

Kirk goes to inspect Genesis Project’s lab, Regular I, where Chekhov and Terrell have been kept hostage. The crew have been tortured to death by Khan, and the data-banks have been cleared of Genesis Project information. As Kirk confers with Spock, Khan listens over their frequency. Kirk beams-down to Regula’s underground testing facility, where Chekhov and Terrell take him hostage, their hypnosis not resolved. Khan orders Terrell to kill Kirk, Terrell fights-back against Khan’s control and turns his phaser on himself instead. McCoy helps Chekhov back to sanity. Khan realises Kirk is still alive, which is a better alternative – he’s trapped Kirk beneath Regula, having now taken the Genesis Device. Kirk marooned Khan on Ceti Alpha V, Khan’s marooned Kirk in Regula. But the Genesis Device has already been tested, leaving Kirk with a lair of renewable food. In the “Genesis cave”, Kirk admits to Saavik that he cheated the Kobayashi Maru test by hacking it because he “doesn’t like to lose”. The Enterprise has now broken-past Khan’s signal block, and Kirk beams back aboard. The Reliant and the Enterprise are now circling Regula. The Enterprise leads the Reliant toward the Mutara Nebula.

Plot point II (78 – 85)

Kirk address Khan and taunts him as the Enterprise disappears into the Mutara Nebula. They engage in cat-and-mouse. The Enterprise takes the upper-hand and devastates the Reliant, but not before the Reliant attacks the Enterprise, causing a radiation leak.

Act III (minutes 85 – 103)

Conflict solution (minutes 85 – 91)

Ordered to surrender the Reliant, Khan programmes the Genesis Device for detonation. The Enterprise is too damaged to warp away. Spock enters the radiation chamber to repair the Enterprise’s warp core. Kirk doesn’t believe the Enterprise can escape detonation range. Spock’s repaired the warp core, and the Enterprise escapes detonation range as the Reliant explodes.

Ending (91 – 103)

The Genesis Device explosion terraformed the “Genesis planet” beneath. Kirk arrives at the engine room, separated from Spock by glass as Spock dies. Kirk holds Spock’s service funeral and realises this is the true no-win scenario.

Author: the Purple Prose Mage

I'm not Batman, but I wish that I were.

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