Study Guide

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country General Chang (Christopher Plummer)

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General Chang (Christopher Plummer)

In many ways, with General Chang, the creators of Star Trek VI have attempted to recreate the magic of The Wrath of Khan. Constantly chewing scenery and even quoting Shakespeare, this outsized villain might not live up to the great Ricardo Montalbán, but he does get pretty darn close.

Chang Gang

Chang is almost entirely defined by his military background. Interestingly, he frequently tries to connect with Kirk based on this shared background—even though it often comes across as if he were insulting the guy. Here's one telling example:

CHANG: I have so wanted to meet you, Captain.

KIRK: I'm not sure how to take that.

KERLA: Sincere admiration, Kirk.

CHANG: From one warrior to another.

We detect some shade. Kirk has killed many Klingons in his day, so it's doubtful that Chang has much respect for him outside of his strategic know-how. But respect is respect, and it makes the relationship between these men extra complicated.

A similar exchange happens over dinner, after Spock suggests that Starfleet's mission is a peaceful one:

KIRK: Far be it for me to dispute my first officer, but Starfleet has always been–

CHANG: Captain, there's no need to mince words. In space, all warriors are cold warriors.

In both of these instances, Chang emphasizes his status as a warrior—as well as Kirk's. More than that, however, he makes it clear that he's opposed to peace. It seems as if he expects Kirk also to be opposed to peace. What do warriors do in peacetime, after all?

Chang vs. Kirk: Electric Boogaloo

In fact, Kirk is in a similar boat for most of the movie. At first, he's too prejudiced against Klingons to even consider giving peace a chance. But here's the big difference: Kirk changes his mind. Instead of perpetuating an endless cycle of bloodshed, Kirk steps aside and lets a new generation of leaders take the reins.

Chang, on the other hand, is revealed to be the chief instigator behind the conspiracy to stop the peace deal, which began with the assassination of Chancellor Gorkon. What a shady dude, right? Like many a leader throughout history, General Chang is driven entirely by a need to win, even at the expense of the people he's promised to serve.

Thankfully, Chang and his fellow conspirators are taken down by time the end credits roll. Or—in the words of Chang's favorite Englishman—these baddies have simply "shuffled off their mortal coil."

That's a Shakespeare burn, y'all.

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