Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

The Gospel According to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

This second film of the Star Trek franchise, ‘The Wrath of Khan,’ is the first part of a trilogy, including ‘The Search for Spock,’ and ‘The Voyage Home,’ which taken together exhibit close parallels with the Christian messages of sacrifice, resurrection and restoration. Following last years series on Disney, some may be wondering why it is that so many films, and especially these futuristic science based ones, have such clear references to biblical themes. I believe the answer is twofold; firstly, the bible is concerned with real life issues, which are hugely important to us, and films too, seek to address the same issues albeit in a variety of modern contexts. Secondly, the biblical narrative is a good news story, and one filled with hope, which we all need and long to hear over and over again. Filmmakers know this and so, consciously or unconsciously, the Christian gospel is presented to us in many different ways and contexts. This is especially true in the Star Trek trilogy that we will think about over the coming weeks.

353ef07f685ee76bb205f220dddd4b33a786e1bf[1]Following that preamble, the Wrath of Khan introduces us to the Genesis Device, a terraforming torpedo that has the capability to transform planets making them habitable for life. However, in the wrong hands it can also be used to destroy life and when Khan, an exiled villain acquires it, he seeks to use it as a means of exacting revenge for the death of his wife. When Kirk critically disables Khan’s starship, Khan releases the Genesis device in an attempt to destroy the Enterprise. Spock saves the Enterprise crew by repairing the warp drive allowing the starship to escape the explosion. However, in doing this Spock himself sacrifices his own life and dies of radiation exposure.

The story has parallels with the biblical account of creation, sin and sacrifice. In Genesis chapter 1, we read of God transforming a dark piece of rock floating in space into the planet earth we now inhabit that is abundant with life. When God sees his creation, he says ‘it is good,’ but soon after God is distraught to see the way humanity uses his power and authority to pursue selfish aims that tragically spoil, pollute, corrupt and destroy his creation. Out of a thirst for revenge Kahn uses his knowledge of the Genesis device to destroy life, which is so often the story of humanity. I’m reminded of the devastation caused by the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 in revenge for the attack on Pearl Harbour and the horrors of the holocaust and other acts of genocide.

st2aIn the film the only solution is for Spock to give his life to bring an end to the violence. As Spock dies to save his friends, so the bible speaks of Jesus as the one who sacrifices his life to bring an end to sin and death and to bring about the re-creation of the world. The film title, ‘The Wrath of Kahn,’ speaks of the anger of one man to bring about destruction and yet the film closes with the triumph of the love of one person, Spock, for his friends. In the same way the glorious hope given us in the bible is that all the hatred and anger of humanity has been overcome by the love of God, ‘for God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.’ We look at our world and wonder what hope we can have for the future. The answer lies in the love of one man, Jesus, whose death opens up a new way and a new life. As we accept Jesus’ sacrifice for us, so we find peace with God and with one another and we discover that his love does indeed conquer all.

  John Harries (Chaplain)

Sir Thomas Boteler Church of England High School by STB