Pros and Khans, or Star Trek into Dorkness: How the new movie reflects a 32-year-old battle for a 47-year-old franchise’s soul.

I once attended a midnight screening of the Cadillac of Star Trek films — that would be numero dos, The Wrath of Khan — wherein the projector bulb burnt out right in the middle of Mr. Spock’s heroic death scene. If the theater hadn’t given us four free movie passes to compensate for this effrontery against all that is good and decent, I would’ve suspected an especially cruel prank, perhaps orchestrated by a partisan of the bloodless, squeaky-clean Next Generation-flavored Star Trek, which I suppose is okay if vanilla is what you like.

Naturally, I had to dig up my Khan DVD at home and watch the final 10 minutes before I could go to sleep that night. Spock’s grand and tragic expiration would soon be reversed in a not-so-good movie with the surprise-negating subtitle The Search for Spock, but whatever.

All of which is to say that my love for The Wrath of Khan is mean and true. And it fascinates me that that film, more than any other of the hundreds and hundreds of subsequent Star Trek items (a great number of which — like the entire Deep Space Nine and Voyager and Enterprise series, for instance — I’ve never seen or read), remains the primary source document that continues to guide the cinematic Star Trek universe, especially in the heavily Khan-indebted new movie Star Trek into Darkness.

J.J. Abrams’ second Trek film takes a generation-old, backstage fight over the meaning and purpose of Star Trek and drags it right to the center of the camera-flare-buffered frame. I make my case today on NPR’s Monkey See blog.

​On further reflection, I guess The Wrath of Khan is really more like the Toyota Corolla of Trek than the Cadillac. It was the lowest-budgeted of the theatrical films by a good margin, and yet it’s proven, three decades on, to be the most reliable one.

Oh, and I really wanted to quote John C. McGinley’s unforgettable, rhymed description of Keanu Reeves’ character in Point Break to describe Chris Pine’s portrayal of the young horndog Kirk in the J.J. Abrams Star Trek pictures. Unsurprisingly, that didn’t make it past Standards & Practices at NPR. But I tried, you guys. I tried.

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