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Spoilers for the Arrow episode “The Return” are ahead!
There was a lot to take in during this week’s episode of Arrow. In the present, Oliver and Thea fought Slade Wilson on Lian Yu, which resulted in Thea learning what Malcolm Merlyn had done to her. In the past, Oliver discreetly checked in on his loved ones and stopped China White from selling the Omega virus. So among all the island hijinks, disagreements, what you may not have noticed is that the episode included a fun reference to one of the most famous science fiction franchises of all time: Star Trek.
In their recap for the “The Return,” io9 noted how the episode seemed to take a lot of its cues from the 1982 movie Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, specifically the scene when Slade tells Oliver “I’m going to leave you as you left me” after trapping Oliver and Thea in the A.R.G.U.S. prison cell. To the Arrow-only fans, this simply was Slade’s way of getting back at Oliver for locking him up instead of killing him in the Season 2 finale, but to those who have seen both, it did have some of the same beats as Wrath of Khan. As it turns out, the io9 folks were right on the money.
The next day, executive producer Marc Guggenheim wrote on the recap’s comment section that Slade’s line was a deliberate reference to Wrath of Khan, citing it as one of his “all-time favorite movies.” For those who haven't seen the movie, Khan and his followers were on the planet Ceit Alpha V by Kirk following the events of the Star Trek: The Original Series episode “Space Seed.” In addition to decades of exile, Khan’s wife died during that time, so rather than kill Kirk in revenge, he decided to leave Kirk stranded on the “center of a dead planet.” Of course, like Oliver, Kirk was able to escape, but unlike Khan, Slade lived through the encounter.
It’s always cool when writers can reference stories that they enjoy, whether it’s subtle homages like this or outright name dropping movies like The Flash did this week with The Terminator and Back to the Future. Guggenheim also teased that there were references to the TV show Wiseguy, so if you were a fan of the 1987 crime series starring Ken Whal, cue the episode up and see if you can catch those.
So there you have it. Oliver Queen is James T. Kirk, Slade Wilson is Khan Noonien Singh (albeit the Star Trek Into Darkness version since he survived) and Lian Yu is Ceti Alpha V. If the CW wanted to take this a step further (okay, maybe several steps further), they could try to bring Kirk himself William Shatner (sorry, Chris Pine) on for a guest appearance. Arrow is one of the many CW series that Shatner live tweets during the Pacific Coast airings, so it might be fun if he can participate in the DC TV world.
Arrow airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on The CW.