Space Quest

Space Quest
Written by Bertie Gilbert

Two reviews of Space Quest on Letterboxd describe it as a piss take of Star Wars/Star Trek and the hype over their next films, the most anticipated of these being Star Wars: the Force Awakens (J. J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan), which Abrams has directed. And he deserves it. Looking back at Abrams’s Star Trek reboot films, Star Trek (Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman) and Star Trek Into Darkness (OrciKurtzman and Damon Lindelof), the story isn’t the strongest element, but Abrams directs them with a vision, almost like Star Wars: the Force Awakens test footage. Say what you will about the Alternate Reality – which I regularly criticise – but it’s not entirely Abrams’ fault.

A director might have creative authority over a film (apart from the producers), but what Abrams did was to not alter elements that clearly weren’t working, rather than create those faults himself. And yeah, those new films did cause a rift in the fanbase, and it’s for a good reason, but it shows that Abrams, when applied to something that already works on its own, can make it even cooler. Look no further than the final shot of the first Star Wars: the Force Awakens trailer. That shot on its own could be a whole trailer by itself.

To be honest, it looks more “realistic”, in the visual sense, than any of the other Star Wars films. That’s not just because of advances in digital technology, but because of the choices made in using it. Already, I’m sold on a franchise that didn’t really appeal to me before. I do like Star Wars, but the matte boxes and jump-cut/crossfade explosions were always a bit weird.

But I’m not going to judge a sci-fi film on its special effects – pulp appeals to some people. And, as someone who used to think Doctor Who was pretty neat – especially the Classic Series – I’ve come to see special effects as simply a story-telling mechanism. So Space Quest, then. And not the video game series, either.

Space Quest is a television series within the short film Space Quest, and is clearly an homage to Star Trek. And I do think it’s an homage. Why? Because making a film so accurate in spirit yet also with such a precisely-controlled Roger Corman-esque B-movie feel to what inspired it takes so much INSANE passion for that subject that dismissing it as a piss-take would be to accuse the film-maker of having instead an insane hatred.

There’s that shot of the door closing, which I guess was done through rota-scoping? And the simulated English dubbing of what’s supposed to look originally “foreign”. The reason genuine B-movies include these production methods is because of low budgets and unimaginative film-making. But with today’s access to technology, none of that comes-up unless done… deliberately.

There’s a myth that film-making is difficult. But it’s not. Making a film is easy. What’s difficult is making a good one.

And what takes even more skill is making a film resembling one that isn’t. A film so good it doesn’t look it. My previous review acknowledged the fun pulpiness of a film otherwise terrible – but the difference was, that was supposed to be good. Whereas Space Quest is a step-backwards to a more primitive style of film-making.

In an age of going forwards, going backwards requires more creative acrobatics than simply making a good film with special effects that aren’t laughable. So in creating special effects that recall cult sci-fi, when it’s easier to make them professional, they’ll actually not laughable at all. They’re applaudable. Abrams has been openly promoting his use of practical effects when making Star Wars: the Force Awakens, rather than digital effects.

One can only hope so. It makes “Episode VII” aesthetically consistent with its preceding instalments. Even though there’ll still be digital effects, simply because it’s more convenient in some places. Every mainstream film uses digital effects. Even genres that wouldn’t obviously seem to require digital effects use digital effects.

They’re shooting it on film, too. Actual film! Which means that Star Wars: the Force Awakens isn’t just called a “film”, but really is one. And I care about film more than digital, because it’s less convenient for shooting.

Yes, there’s a better picture quality, and every other reason you can find listed in Mark Kermode’s The Good, the bad and the Multiplex, but apart from that – it requires more care and precision. Which means, if a production’s using celluloid, it tells me the film-makers are of a certain mindset that ensures at least some immediate quality. There’s that question of – so if Space Quest didn’t emulate B-movies, would Space Quest be any good? But that’s question’s invalid.

Because, if Space Quest didn’t emulate B-movies, Space Quest would be pointless. I think. But that’s how I’ve read it. Just about every Bertie Gilbert film is about contrast in some way – contrast between the sane and the insane, contrast between one time period and another, and in some ways, contrast between between two ends of an infinite spectrum.

The contrast here is between digital and film, with digital being a bookend to the “main event”, like old cinema programmes that would present the feature with a shorter, less impressive piece, a… “B-movie”. And although the digital scenes are more presentable, ticking the boxes of YouTube’s video player, the Space Quest film itself is a better achievement because there was more to get right. It’s easy to reassure yourself with the knowledge that something can be added later, but it takes real balls to say “We’re doing it NOW!”. There’s a reason Gilbert’s considered the new Wes Anderson.

Anyway, point is – if these were two films, the Space Quest act in the middle is obviously the bigger achievement, because mimicking a specific style takes a certain kind of skill that requires a film-maker to go inside their own creativity and emerge on the other side having proven they can do minimal. And if I come out of Star Wars: the Force Awakens impressed with it, it’ll be because it looks like the Episode VII that should’ve already been released thirty years ago. The reason Star Trek Into Darkness is so controversial is because, even though it’s a good-looking film, it’s got “Star Trek” in the title, but doesn’t try to actually justify that on screen. And that’s the story here.

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Star Trek Into Darkness — screenplay, story, structure

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

Theoretical structure:

Duration: 118 minutes

  • Act I: 0 – 30 minutes
    • Introduce Kirk: 0 – 5 minutes
    • Introduce Khan: 5 – 10 minutes
    • Establish conflict: 10 – 25 minutes
    • Plot Point II: 25 – 30 minutes
  • Act II: 30 – 89 minutes
    • Conflict: 30 – 85 minutes
    • Plot Point II: 85 – 89 minutes
  • Act II: 89 – 118 minutes
    • Conflict resolution: 89 – 115 minutes
    • Ending: 115 – 118 minutes

Actual structure:

Act I (1 – 54 minutes)

Introduce Kirk (1 – 9 minutes)

Kirk’s the first character we meet, being chased through a forest on Nibiru with McCoy. We learn he’s captain of the Enterprise, and that he’s violated the Prime Directive by interfering in the development of a primitive species.

Introduce Singh (11 – 12 minutes)

Singh’s first seen in London offering to save Thomas Harewood’s daughter.

Establish conflict (26 – 28 minutes)

Kirk’s amongst the starship captains assembled at Starfleet HQ when Singh attacks before beaming away.

Plot Point I (43 – 54 minutes)

The Enterprise, armed with untraceable torpedoes but a malfunctioning warp core, arrives at Qo’nos and orders Singh to surrender. Kirk travels to the surface, followed by Klingons. Singh intercepts the negotiations with the Klingons, and surrenders to Kirk when he’s told there are seventy two of the torpedoes.

Act II (54 – 95 minutes)

Conflict (54 – 92 minutes)

Singh’s arrested and incarcerated in the Enterprise. McCoy takes a blood sample, while Singh shows his knowledge of the Enterprise’s malfunctioning warp core and claiming a connection between the seventy-two torpedoes and specific coordinates. Kirk considers whether to open one of the torpedoes while the warp core’s damage reports are returned. A torpedo’s opened, revealing a three-hundred year-old man inside. Singh explains to Kirk that all the torpedoes contain a person, which he placed. He and his army were genetically engineered to lead the world to peace, but were exiled in space before he was awoken by Starfleet to be used as a weapon. Admiral Marcus planned to use Singh to destroy London, who would then beam to Qu’nos. Kirk’s intervention would trigger a war with the Klingons, without Kirk being able to escape due to a sabotaged warp core. Marcus arrives in the Vengeance and demands to take Singh and his army prisoner. Kirk pilots the Enterprise into warp, at risk of further damaging the core. Marcus peruses and knocks the Enterprise out of warp. Kirk turns to Singh for help, whose regenerative blood is being tested. Singh and Kirk jump from the Enterprise to the Vengeance while Spock assesses Singh’s personality. Kirk and Singh take over the Vengeance, but Singh turns on Kirk and Marcus.

Plot Point II (92 -95 minutes)

Singh takes Kirk hostage and blackmails Spock into lowering the Enterprise shields. Singh beams the torpedoes into the Vengeance and Kirk back to the Enterprise before proceeding to attack it. The torpedoes explode, destroying the Vengeance.

Act III (95 – 118)

Conflict resolution (95 – 154 minutes)

Singh gains the upper hand when the Enterprise loses orbit and falls toward Earth. Kirk enters the engine room and repairs the warp core. The Enterprise regains altitude, but Kirk’s dead. The Vengeance crashes into San Francisco, levelling Downtown. Singh survives and heads for Starfleet HQ. Spock personally apprehends Singh and Kirk’s revived with his blood.

Ending (115 – 118)

Singh’s resealed in cryo-freeze. Kirk speaks at the memorial a year later, and recites the Captain’s Oath. The Enterprise is rechristened and begins its five-year mission.

Star Trek Into Darkness — single drama review

Premièred by Paramount Pictures
Star Trek Into Darkness
Written by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof

Star Trek Into Darkness represents the fear I have with any of my favourite fiction franchises. I say this as someone who likes all science fiction, but also anything that’s popular and has a lot of money in it. First, there came Star Trek‘s reboot, and that naturally meant following it up with a dark and gritty reboot sequel. Star Trek‘s been dark before. It can be done. And the Star Trek franchise is all about pulling-through and remaining optimistic. But what this instalment seemed to want is to take the franchise itself into a dark place, rather than just the characters.

I won’t deny that J. J. Abrams is a visionary science-fiction director. Visually, he’s good. But that’s where it ends. His Star Trek films may look the most realistic, but they lack anything beneath the surface. Which is unfortunate for people like me who prefer that films don’t patronise them or treat its audience like they’re idiots. And Star Trek Into Darkness does this unlike any film has ever done, because it’s directed in such a way as to make you forget that none of it makes any sense. Because the cinematography makes the world look so exotic, and because the production design is not only consistent and imaginative but also presented by a director that can use it all to his advantage, that the film, as it plays is trying to district you from the fact that it has no confidence or understanding of how to tell a good story.

And the greatest offender is that none of the characters have any consistency. For instance: Captain Kirk. He’s a womanising wise-cracker who’s shown to be an incompetent captain. Not only does he begin Star Trek Into Darkness by violating the Prime Directive in such a blatant way with motives that are never explained, but he manages to escape tricky scenarios through coincidence. “They’ve taken the Enterprise away from you”, says Admiral Pike. But when he next see Kirk, it’s been given back to him. I could never really grasp why, except that it seemed to be for the plot to advance, which asks the question of, if you’re going to insert such a quick solution for an otherwise seemingly-unsolvable problem, why bother inserting the problem at all? It’s not that there’s no character development, it’s that none of it’s addressed. If Kirk is such a risky choice for a Starfleet captain, play into that. You can’t just acknowledge it and then ignore it, because that’s wasting your own potential.

And then there’s Commander Spock. While I understand that Spock struggles to balance his two Human and Vulcan sides, the switch from a logical strategist to a vengeful action figure didn’t feel natural. It’s saved until the end, and then he transforms suddenly. I get that it’s an outburst of anger, but it didn’t feel like it. Instead, it felt like a dramatic shift in tone purely to have a dramatic shift in tone.

Now, Doctor McCoy. Karl Urban clearly understands his role, and I’ve gotta say – McCoy’s the most consistent character in all of this. He feels like a genuinely caring person who’s also a good doctor, and he alone demonstrates what Star Trek Into Darkness could’ve been – through everything that happens, he remains fundamentally the same person. He’s still clearly in a dark place, but McCoy I actually understand to be who it was that was in that dark place, rather than him just becoming a generic “dark hero”. What perplexes me is that none of the other characters were recognisable, especially when McCoy was clearly developing naturally rather than just shifting in style.

Of all the problems with the way the characters are handled, Lieutenant Commander Scott’s the worst. The problem seems to be that Star Trek Into Darkness has too many characters to know what do with, so it was figured that one of them needed to be written-out as soon as possible. So Scott’s the one that randomly quits for reasons that do play into the rest of the film, but are just arbitrary at the time. When Scott resigns suddenly, the reaction I had was “that was really rushed”, as if there was no time to explain why it was happening or to justify that storytelling decision. Or was it because a character needed to be on the Vengeance during the confrontation, and he was somehow suited to it best? Either way, it felt forced, and makes me wonder if there was a plan that had gone into the story.

Another character that troubled me was Lieutenant Sulu. Kirk and Spock are both absent, which means he’s in charge now? When he was used for the scene on the drill during the destruction of Vulcan (in aforementioned reboot), he was there because officers were needed who had hand combat training. See? A little explanation for why he was there. Here, he fills the captain’s chair for yet another arbitrary reason. Orci even admits to writing characters like action figures. Sulu shows how individuality of character isn’t important in this universe, where they can all fill-in for each other perfectly, which therefore makes none of them important. You know what would’ve been dramatic? If Sulu struggled with such a large responsibility of becoming captain all of a sudden. It would’ve at least it made it more acceptable.

With regards to Lieutenant Uhura… I wouldn’t describe myself as a feminist blogger. There are others out there who’ve written far more detailed, legitimate and authoritative pieces on the Star Trek reboot’s treatment of female characters, but even to someone like me, Uhura is clearly a problematic storytelling piece. I find myself inclined to ask yet another question about an element of her character: why? A lot of fans have a problem with Spock and Uhura’s relationship, but I don’t, surprisingly. This is an alternate reality, these characters are in a different situation, they’re going to react in different ways. And if Spock and Uhura are going to be a thing, surely an alternate reality’s the best way of doing it? What I do find troublesome is the way it never seems real. We get it. Spock’s sad because Vulcan’s gone. He’s sensitive. But is that the only reason he’s with Uhura? Because the basis of their relationship never feels established. It’s just “there” for an arbitrary reason. And it’s not as if a Vulcan/Human relationship can’t work – that’s a fundamental element of Spock’s character, that he’s a Human/Vulcan. But this particular relationship never felt real to me, and I suspect that’s because Uhura doesn’t feel like a character with enough depth to be in a relationship with any character and it feel real in the process. Not to mention Carol Marcus’ underwear shot, which was just gratuitous. Not to mention the thing about her character that troubles me the most – that she contributed nothing to the story. Why was she there? What did she do that lead to the final scene? The fact that I can sum-up her character in a few sentences with the only other female character here is another problem. And yes, I know it doesn’t pass the Bechdel test. I personally don’t think the Bechdel test is of the Biblical importance that others consider it to, because that leads to both it disrupting the story and the story being judged entirely on that one thing. But I’ve already acknowledged my lack of authority when it comes to speaking about these kind of things, especially when those that are more validated than myself also debate its important. That said, Star Trek Into Darkness‘ failure to pass the Bechdel test does back-up my criticisms of it in this instance.

Ensign Chekov. At this point, I’m running out of new criticisms, so I’ll cover this quickly. Chekov has the same problems as the other characters – he’s used as a plot device. Yeah, he was upgraded to Chief Science Officer in Scott’s absence, but why? Because he’s an ensign? Why him in particular? Kirk never bothered to explain. I suspect it’s because he’s also driven by arbitrary reasons rather than his character.

But then there’s Commander Singh, my biggest problem with Star Trek Into Darkness. Here’s the thing: including this character from the original version of the franchise was the worst decision made, because it meant certain things had to happen, based on Singh’s character. But that itself dictates parts of the story, so that the characters end-up being warped around what has to happen, rather than everyone fitting into it naturally. Because Singh was included, there had to be an origin story, there had to be a reveal of his identity and he had to have certain motivations. And that was handled here by directly lifting scenes from it, rather than adding something. Abrams denied that “John Harrison” was Singh, even though everyone already knew that he clearly was. Kurtzman said this:

“It’s so easy to fall into the trap of doing something because you think people are going to love it. You must come up with what the movie can be on its own and then, if it turns out the villain maybe can be Khan, then you can do it. But you can’t start there.”

This statement alone exposes the mentality taken toward the story. Because it’s effectively admitting to making it up as the story progresses. That is not the way to tell a story. You have to know where you’re going, you have a plan first. As soon as the character of Harrison was decided to be Singh, it meant that everything had to be altered around it, at their own expense. So much so that when he reveals his real name to Kirk, anyone unfamiliar with Star Trek wouldn’t have reacted in the intended fashion, because they don’t recognise the name. And it’s not as if Harrison doesn’t work as his own character, because he does. But as soon as it was decided that he’d be the alias of a previous character, any value about him was lost because everything he is suddenly becomes a very long-winded excuse to do something we’ve already seen. That’s why the homages to previous, iconic Star Trek scenes don’t work – normally, with an homage you’re supposed to add something, rather than just recycle what’s come before. Because it tells me that nobody had any ideas for how to use this character other than in exactly the same story as before. I don’t like to accuse films of being “pointless”, because they all are. None of them need to exist, but when I see a film that eventually becomes a remake of another film, rather than just being honest about it, I do feel inclined to ask why it exists. If this film was so intent on being a gritty reboot sequel, why couldn’t it just be that? Instead, it was so desperate to replicate a previous film – despite denials of it, that’s what it ultimately turned out as being – that I get the impression of it being unable to stand on its own. It lacks so much confidence that it relies on a previous instalment to do the story. But they can do their own action. It might mean sacrificing characters and insulting your audience’s intelligence, but the action’s all original. If only the heart of it were, too.

“I think the article above is akin to a child acting out against his parents. Makes it tough for some to listen, but since I am a loving parent, I read these comments without anger or resentment, no matter how misguided.  And frankly, your tone and attidude make it hard for me to listen to what might otherwise be decent notions to pursue in the future. As I love to say, there is a reason why I get to write the movies, and you don’t. You prove the cliche of shitty fans. And rude in the process. So, as Simon Pegg would say: FUCK OFF!” – Roberto Orci

Star Trek: the Wrath of Khan — single drama review

Premièred by Paramount Pictures
Star Trek: the Wrath of Khan
Written by Jack B. Sowards

Is Star Trek II: the Wrath of Khan the best of the Star Trek features? It’s considered and accepted to be by fans, but critically, it’s only the third highest-scoring. Nevertheless, it’s still extremely popular, and has inspired the most homages in popular culture. Whatever one subjectively thinks of it, the creative industry has looked to the second Star Trek feature for material more than the others. Which is both interesting and ironic, given that the story is essentially Moby Dick; or, the Whale in space, inspired by Herman Melville‘s novel. That was the approach taken by director Nicholas Meyer – it’s a modern day ocean adventure with a science fiction dressing. That’s when science-fiction is at its best – when it’s telling a universal story through a particular style. Is science fiction even a genre? A genre is a category of an artistic medium based on form, style or subject matter.

The form in this case is a motion picture feature. Using moving images to tell a story, based on a written blueprint that follows the composition of others to make sense to the other artists involved. Whereas a style is just a “manner of doing something”, which is more attributable to the director than anything else. The auteur theory suggests that each film-maker has their own, unique style, but then that’s obvious, because the director’s the principal artist. Every artist has fingerprints on their works. So in that sense, Star Trek: the Wrath of Khan is simply “a film by Nicholas Meyer”, which is just a factual statement. It even says “a film by Nicholas Meyer” in the credits. But then subject matter is really where the meaning comes-from. And in that sense, Star Trek: the Wrath of Khan is the best of the Star Trek features because its subject matter is the most substantial. Science fiction is so popular because it raises questions and tries to answer them by creating fantastical analogies that all relate back to the real world.

But it’s not “just science fiction”, it’s Star Trek. And the core of the Star Trek universe is Leonard Nimoy as Spock. He’d been hesitant to reprise his role based on confirmed suspicions from previously, but was persuaded to do so by the plot point of Captain Spock dying. This, Nimoy figured, would be a way to finally put the role to rest with a definitive end. And Meyer embraced that element of the story as the strongest character moment. The reason Spock’s death works so well is because it resonates with the rest of the narrative in perfect synch. The story was crafted around the concept of killing a character like Spock, which gives Star Trek: the Wrath of Khan a thematic overtone that other Star Trek features simply don’t have.

Spock’s death became the key scene in a story with themes relating to it, but that meant those themes had to be developed. Death is finite in storytelling, and often impacts the story less because a character’s now absent, but because other characters will be affected by that absence. And there was never going to be anyone more affected by Spock’s death than Admiral Kirk. Which meant that, if Kirk were to be affected by Spock’s death, Kirk’s own feelings about such things had to be established. That lead to the scene in Kirk’s apartment in-which Doctor McCoy visits Kirk and their conversation brings-up those themes. Kirk’s next strongest bond after Spock was to McCoy; therefore, using McCoy to establish Kirk’s own feelings about death would be a more subtle way of giving his reaction to Spock’s own death meaning than having Spock be the one with whom he discusses those feelings. This scene in particular is the second most important in the story, and shows how Star Trek: the Wrath of Khan uses storytelling-by-numbers to create something artistic, substantial and meaningful.

By having established Kirk’s evasive personality to matters such as death, a character flaw’s established. The Kobayashi Maru test is explained in the plot as being something Kirk cheated to win his captaincy, despite being rewarded for it. The character development as such follows a natural pattern: Kirk confronts his own fear of death, then has to deal with it when it confronts him. But for that second element to make sense (the first being explained with the death of Spock, Kirk’s oldest friend), it must be presented as a challenge. Kirk, in the Star Trek series, was presented as a great space hero, a man who could overcome anything. Gene L. Coon and Carey Wilber created Khan Singh in the episode Space Seed, which ends with Kirk banishing Singh to Ceti Alpha V, which is referenced in dialogue. That episode was very much in keeping with Kirk’s status as a flawless hero, which fit the period for 1960s television being very pulpy but no less entertaining. Star Trek: the Wrath of Khan‘s status as a Star Trek: Space Seed sequel also makes it, in that regard, a sequel to Star Trek itself. As arguably the protagonist, Kirk’s development as understanding himself to be a flawed hero is the franchise itself coming to understand itself as it reaches its age. The Kobayashi Maru test presents us with a man who can’t be beaten, not even by a dictator, who then has to understand that inevitably he’ll be defeated by time, in the same way as Singh – the aforementioned dictator – being defeated himself.

This also makes Singh the other side of this. He’s the figure from Kirk’s past – the embodiment of everything he was during that time. Kirk finds himself facing Singh, and this is the reason he finds himself reflecting on his past. The two characters are fixed against each other ironically – Singh has thought about Kirk constantly since his exile, but Kirk’s forgotten Singh until he sees him on the view screen. Singh made the decision to reveal his identity to Kirk in order for Kirk to know who’d beaten him, but finding himself faced with his past is what made Kirk able to defeat him, as it helped him address the mid-life crisis he felt he was having, and to finally move on from it. But the cost of that was Spock’s death, which presented the next challenge to Kirk. Star Trek: the Wrath of Khan shows an example of an effective storytelling technique – if the protagonist’s experiences are to change them, the story must end with them facing their next challenge, which fits with the challenge they’ve just overcome. Spock’s death prompted Kirk to finally understand that he was flawed, and the next stage of his life is to tackle the problem of understanding those flaws, and the conduit for that is how he’s to live without his oldest friend.

But Star Trek: the Wrath of Khan succeeds as a story because it allows the audience catharsis. Kirk’s acceptance of the challenge to live without Spock presents the audience with the possibility that he may yet become heroic again, an exciting prospect. It’s often said that science fiction serves as an analogy for real life, and the inclusion of a major character’s death is the closest it can come to reality, because death is the one thing everyone must eventually face. By having a fictional character face that universal prospect, it’s the most accurate mimicry of real life, and the one to which everyone can relate the most. Star Trek: the Wrath of Khan is not the only Star Trek feature to include the death of a major character, but it’s the only one that shows death for what it is by having another major character with some connection to them be affected by it. Kirk dies in Star Trek Generations (Ronald D. Moore and Brannon Braga), but nobody from the original Star Trek series was with him, so it wasn’t as impacting. When Lieutenant Commander Data was destroyed in Star Trek Nemesis (John Logan), he was only an android anyway. When Lieutenant Yar died in Star Trek: the Next Generation – Skin of Evil (Joseph Stefano and Hannah Louise Shearer) , that didn’t have an impact either because she’d only been a regular for one season. In fact, the only other Star Trek franchise character death that works is considered to be Lieutenant Commander Dax in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Tears of the Prophets (Ira Steven Behr and Hans Beimler), because she’d been a regular for six seasons. And when Commander Tucker died in Star Trek: Enterprise – These are the Voyages… (Rick Berman and Brannon Braga), it was considered forced and unnecessary. Star Trek: the Wrath of Khan‘s the only Star Trek death to actually have both impact and cultural resonance. So much so that it was even famously recreated in Star Trek Into Darkness (Roberto OrciAlex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof), to much criticism, which also noticed the way the Alternate Reality’s death had been cured when Captain Kirk’s revived using alternate Singh’s blood.

What Star Trek: the Wrath of Khan gives us is an ordinary story with added elements for style to make it unique. A man faces something from his past –> realises he isn’t indestructible –> must face the death of an old friend –> accepts the challenge and goes on living, being a changed person. And it takes place within the Star Trek universe, combining elements of it in such a way as to still make sense, and developing them to have a greater meaning than previously. It takes a lot to use elements from something already existing and transform them into something more. And the fact that everyone involved did that should show other storytellers how a story should first be universal, and only then, unique. Contrary to popular cynicism, there’s nothing wrong with franchises if the story has some substance. The reason Star Trek: the Wrath of Khan‘s often cited as the best of Star Trek is – get this – because it’s got the best story. All people want from Star Trek is a good story that makes sense and means something. And, based on the given analysis above, it’s clear Star Trek: the Wrath of Khan does that the most.