The events which took place in “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” are the stuff of legend. The way that Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) dueled with Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalbán) is considered by many to be the best action ever produced in the franchise.
Spock’s role was also significant — as he served as a member of the crew and as a teacher to the trainees aboard the Enterprise when the emergency happened. Thanks to Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) and Dr. McCoy’s counsel, Kirk was able to eventually defeat Khan — at significant cost.
The roles of the supporting characters were important too. Saavik (Kirstie Alley) appeared to be taking the mantle as the ‘next generation’ of Starfleet’s leaders. At the same time, Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) and Scotty (James Doohan) remained at their posts to support the crew and ship during the battles.
Stealing the Enterprise
All served admirably. But some fans have mentioned that things might have turned out differently if two characters had been swapped — Sulu (George Takei) and Chekov (Walter Koenig). According to a Reddit opinion posed by a Trek fan, if Sulu had been transferred to the U.S.S. Reliant instead of Chekov, the story would have played out quite differently.
“On Reliant, Sulu would certainly have made first officer, more so than Chekov his junior,” wrote the fan. “Even by the events of ‘Star Trek IV,’ Chekov didn’t have quite enough gravitas to get a posting like first officer on a ship of the line like Reliant.”
“‘Star Trek’ would have been better If Sulu had taken Chekov’s place on Reliant,” the fan wrote. “It really ought to have been Sulu who transferred out, giving him a better shot for advancement to the command chair — if not the Enterprise, then another ship of the line.”
The Inglorious Treksperts
The opinions about Sulu and Chekov held by this Reddit user are shared by the voices who create the “Inglorious Treksperts” podcast. In a recent episode of their show, Trekspert Ashley Edward Miller asked if Chekov was a character who needed to be with the rest of Kirk’s crew.
“I mean… do we need Chekov?” Miller pondered during an episode examining “Star Trek III.”
“I’ll put it to you this way,” Miller said. “If you’re going to leave somebody behind, isn’t it cooler to bring Uhura and leave Chekov?”
The Treksperts have gone into detail a few times regarding Chekov’s value to the Enterprise, including when he could not fire photon torpedoes during the famous “wormhole scene” in “Star Trek: The Motion Picture.”
One scene, which was deleted from the final edit of “Wrath of Khan,” would have made Sulu’s presence aboard the Enterprise feel a bit silly. Originally, Sulu was supposed to have been promoted to the rank of captain, and his new ship was the U.S.S. Excelsior. Had they left the scene in the film, that would have meant that there would have been four captains aboard the Enterprise — Kirk, Spock, Sulu, and Scotty.
Had Sulu been promoted to captain as planned, the “Stealing the Enterprise” scene would have been much different. Instead of Captain Styles (James Sikking) chasing Kirk out of Spacedock, it would have been his old ally, Sulu.
Mr. Scott, as noted in “Star Trek III,” was promoted to Captain of Engineering aboard the Excelsior. Eventually, as most fans know, Sulu did get his chance at the center seat in “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.” Sulu played a major role in that film and would return as Captain of the Excelsior on the “Voyager” episode, “Flashback.”
In the original encounter with the villain, neither Sulu nor Chekov faced Khan. In the classic TOS episode “Space Seed,” Takei did not appear, and Koenig had not yet joined the cast. For years, fans have pointed out that Chekov did not encounter Khan in “Space Seed,” and it assumed that Chekov was aboard the Enterprise somewhere, and Khan met him. This scene was just not included in the main story. It is safe to say that Sulu might have met Khan during “Space Seed” as well.