Study Guide

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan Point of View

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Point of View

Third-Person Omniscient

You know it, you love it, and it makes the whole "narrative thread" thing just go down a whole lot more smoothly. Yes, it's Third-Person Omniscient: the god-like ability for the filmmaker to go anywhere he or she needs to in order to unload that nifty plot exposition we all crave.

It's useful, however, to note where that camera goes and why. Meyer focuses on the basic POV for three characters and uses any other perspectives to either set them up or help them stand out.


The first is Kirk, of course: our manly-man hero who leads the Enterprise into battle and serves as the head of the whole gang on board. We rarely leave his side when we're aboard the Enterprise. Even Mr. Spock gets only a few precious moments away from him to, you know, die.

In many ways, that's as it should be. We start with Saavik to clue us in to who she is and raise the inevitable "Where's Kirk?" question, but once that's done with, it's James T. for you and me.


A similar narrative trick takes place with our lucky Contestant Number 2: Khan, the sinister yin to Kirk's yang, and the guy who makes sure we have a story to follow in the first place.

Like Saavik setting up Kirk, Khan gets set up with Pavel Chekov, a well-known member of Team Good Guy with a new gig on the Reliant and a survey mission that goes disastrously wrong. Like Saavik, he becomes an instant surrogate for the audience during those scenes…and, like Saavik, our sympathies serve only to point us firmly in Khan's direction.

Once the whole ear-worm unpleasantness is out of the way, we're pretty much following Khan anytime we're on the Reliant. Other members of its pirate crew are background color at best, and in fact the scene never really departs Khan's brooding, Moby-Dick-quoting butt.

But that only covers the whole "hate-filled revenge" half of the plot. What about the "Kirk has regrets" half?


For that, we get the third and final character that the narrative chooses to focus on: Carol Marcus, Kirk's ultimate gal-who-got-away who's busy getting the Genesis Device together and showing the universe what happens when the power of creation inadvertently ends up in the hands of a madman.

Her scenes run far shorter than Kirk's or Khan's, and we don't get a funky rope-a-dope setting her up like we do the two boys, but she does more than just plot exposition to cover the consequences of Kirk's space cowboy lifestyle. She's the reminder of what he's lost; and, while they're clearly on the same side, she won't let him forget that skipping out on her and David is on him.

CAROL: Were we together? Were we going to be? You had your world and I had mine. And I wanted him in mine, not chasing through the universe with his father.

That's pretty harsh. It's also a key part of the plot. And in order to get the full impact, we need at least of couple of scenes where Carol is front and center. Once again, it's the third-person omniscient narrative to the rescue, letting us see what we need to in order to grok her overall mood.

The comparative discipline with which it sticks to these three characters helps accentuate the drama and makes sure we know what's going down at every opportunity. The technique lets us go anywhere the filmmaker wants us to, but by focusing on these three, Meyer provides the right sense of discipline to help hammer his story home.

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