‘Wrath of Khan’ at 40: Kirk vs. Khan, That Funky Armband, & Why ‘Space Seed’ Got the Sequel Treatment

'Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan' poster

Paramount 'Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan' poster

“Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” opened nationwide on June 4, 1982, or 40 years ago this week. The film was a critical and box office success, and it is widely credited with setting in motion everything that followed for the franchise. One of the key behind-the-scenes figures of “The Wrath of Khan” was Harve Bennett, who, according to the Internet Movie Database, produced the film and co-wrote its story. Bennett later produced and co-wrote the stories for “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock,” “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home,” and “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.”

Fans — especially newcomers just learning about “Star Trek” history after coming on board with “Star Trek: Discovery” or ” Star Trek: Prodigy” or one of the other current shows — often ask specific questions about “The Wrath of Khan.” For example, many wonder how and why Bennett chose to build the story as a sequel to the “Star Trek: The Original Series” episode, “Space Seed,” which introduced Ricardo Montalban as Khan Noonien Singh. People frequently inquire as well about the decision to not have Khan and Captain Kirk (William Shatner), who were mortal enemies and the film’s antagonist and protagonist, confront each other in person. Rather, Kirk and Khan sparred at each other verbally via viewscreens throughout the movie. Also, fans have expressed curiosity about the metallic wristband-like device that Montalban sported on his character’s unglovedleft arm in “The Wrath of Khan.”

The Episode ‘Space Seed’ Inspired ‘The Wrath of Khan’ 

VideoVideo related to ‘wrath of khan’ at 40: kirk vs. khan, that funky armband, & why ‘space seed’ got the sequel treatment2022-06-04T20:24:35-04:00

Bennett and others, including director Nicholas Meyer, have answered those three questions over the years, in interviews and books, but Bennett addressed them directly and in detail during a conversation with StarTrek.com in 2010. Bennett, who died in 2015, according to The Los Angeles Times, was only vaguely aware of “Star Trek” when he was asked by Paramount Pictures to lead the charge on “Star Trek II.” He told the official site that he first read the “Star Trek Concordance” reference book by Bjo Trimble to absorb what he could about the show and then spent three months in the “dusty old 16-millimeter screening rooms at Paramount” watching every episode of “The Original Series.”

“I found myself fascinated,” he told StarTrek.com “I found that one third of the episodes were brilliant, that one third were good, and that one third were eh-eh; I didn’t like them. Now compare that to baseball batting averages. If you’re batting .333 you’re a hell of a hitter. If you do that percentage of strong episodes you’ve got a great series. I felt that. I also came to love the triangle between Kirk, Spock, and McCoy, and that became the basis of what I wanted to do with ‘Star Trek.'”

At some point in the process, Bennett recalled, he came across “Space Seed,” which, according to Memory Alpha, was the 22nd episode of the show’s first season. “It was like God had sent a present down to me,” Bennett told StarTrek.com “‘Space Seed’ ends having deposited Khan on some desolate planetoid and Kirk, I think it was, saying ‘If we came back in 25 years, I wonder what he’d be like.’ Spock says, ‘Hmm.’ I jumped up out of my seat and said, ‘Thank you, God! Thank you. That’s it. That’s my story.'”

Khan’s Unusual Wrist Device Was Never Explained

Khan's Unique Wrist Device

ParamountA close-up of Khan’s unique wrist device.

Bennett went on to explain why Khan and Kirk never came face-to-face. It was, he noted, a practical matter. “If you watch ‘Space Seed,’ Khan is a superman,” he said. “He was cryogenically engineered to be invulnerable. That would have given him a tremendous advantage if we’d chosen to put him in the same place as Kirk. We just felt that if they never saw each other, except on screens, it’d work better. You had the distance of time – the 25 years since they’d seen each other – and the physical distance of space. If I had it to do again, I wouldn’t change a thing. It was a novel way to have the protagonist and antagonist fight through two hours of a movie.”

The metallic wristband-like device, which never came into play in the movie after Khan removed his glove, was, according to Bennett, apparently an accouterment selected by Montalban. “The armband, when I first saw it in wardrobe, I didn’t even ask Ricardo about it,” Bennett told StarTrek.com in that 2010 interview. “It looked like what you see on rappers now. It was a masculine thing, like a wrist brace. That was Ricardo’s choice, and I thought it worked. Certainly, people are still talking about it now.”

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