Darren Franich’s Wrath of Khan retro-review was just posted on Entertainment Weekly’s site. His Motion Picture review was spot on, but, for me, the TWOK one lacked a critical edge to it. Even the best films have an Achilles Heal. It’s been 34 years. Certainly if one can find something positive about TMP then they can also find something negative in TWOK besides the uniforms. For me it’s the characterization of Kirk.
Kirk is gravely misunderstood by Harve Bennett and Nicholas Meyer. Where did they come up with this idea that Kirk never faced death? Kirk was on Tarsus IV where he saw half the population murdered by Governor Kodos. He lost his brother to space pancake monsters in Operation:Annihilate. He blamed himself for the crippling of the U.S.S. Farragut and the death of her captain. He buried his best friend alive. He held McCoy back as Edith Keeler was hit by a truck. He mourned every damn redshirt as if they were his own kid. Remember him scooping up the powdered remains of Yeoman Thompson in By Any Other Name? Kirk has never tricked his way out of death and patted himself on the back for it. Never. He’s faced it head on again and again. Even Claudius admires Kirk’s ability to face his own death and the death of his crew in Bread and Circuses.
TWOK created an image of Kirk as some kind of irresponsible man-child that couldn’t deal with reality until he lost his best friend. A best friend, by the way, that he had previous blinded, taunted, beat up, seen fatally wounded, and ordered to his apparent death more times than I can count. And when that friend’s only way out of a marriage contract was Kirk’s own demise he accepted it. It was McCoy who gave Kirk the neuro-paralyzer in secret. Kirk didn’t ask for an easy way out. The only way Kirk’s ever cheated death was in having the sense to say “energize and detonate” instead of the other way around.