Why William Shatner Didn't Want Khan To Be In Star Trek 2

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

This year marks the 35th anniversary of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. It became one of the most popular pieces of the entire franchise, and yet, William Shatner apparently thought it was a bad idea. The man who played Captain Kirk admits that when plans got underway for the second film, he didn't understand why they wanted to go back and use something from the original series as opposed to trying something more original. According to Shatner...

I recall that they began to talk about the second movie, and the talk began to be about what segment of the 79 [TV episodes] that we shot would be useful. And I kept saying, 'Why do we want to go to a segment? Why don't we invent something absolutely new?'

It's an understandable argument to make. It's similar to the idea that people get frustrated when countless movies and TV shows get rebooted, rather than seeing more new ideas make their way to screens. The original Star Trek: The Motion Picture had been an entirely new idea and while the film isn't seen too fondly these days in comparison to the other movies in the series, it had been a huge hit. Also, this was the early 1980s, and while the original Star Trek series had been in syndication for a couple of decades, there's certainly a risk that some portion of the audience hasn't actually seen every episode of the TV show.

However, William Shatner, in a moment of humility, admits to IGN that in this case, he was wrong and that the powers that be understood that the film could actually be stronger by incorporating an aspect of the series. Shatner credits a large part of that success to the fact that they didn't need to recast their villain...

And the people in charge were much more aware than I was that the fans would be more sympathetic to... [it] would be a better vibration if it echoed a popular hour from the series, and make that, and then further the story as a film. And they were absolutely right that there was a ramification doing it that way, and the fact that the actor [Ricardo Montalban] was able to repeat his role was another singular advantage.

Many will argue that Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is still the best Star Trek movie ever made. A large part of that is because the movie acts as a sequel to the original series episode "Space Seed" as well as a sequel to the original film. William Shatner is also correct that getting Ricardo Montalban back was key to its success. His Khan is quite simply one of the best movie bad guys ever.

In celebration of the film's 35th anniversary, Fathom Events is screening the director's cut of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan next month.

Dirk Libbey
Content Producer/Theme Park Beat

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.