Study Guide

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan Competition

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SAAVIK: I don't believe this was a fair test of my command abilities.

KIRK: And why not?

SAAVIK: Because...there was no way to win.

KIRK: A no-win situation is a possibility every commander may face. Has that never occurred to you?

SAAVIK: No sir. It has not.

Saavik, like Kirk, doesn't like to lose. She's bothered by the notion that there are some scenarios that you just can't win, and the need to find a way around it drives her forward as an officer. It's a tough way to live, but you can see the results in the officer she's becoming.

KIRK: You're bothered by your performance on the Kobayashi Maru.

SAAVIK: I failed to resolve the situation.

KIRK: There is no correct resolution. It's a test of character.

SAAVIK: May I ask how you dealt with the test?

KIRK: You may ask. That's a little joke.

Saavik isn't strictly competing with Kirk here, but she is interested in seeing how he topped the scenario she couldn't, perhaps in hopes of finding a way to top it herself.

SPOCK: Really, Doctor McCoy, you must learn to govern your passions. They will be your undoing. Logic suggests...

McCOY: Logic? My God! The man's talking about logic! We're talking about universal Armageddon! You green-blooded, inhuman...

The joke goes that Spock is the passionless superego and McCoy is the rampaging id, both competing to have the final word of advice for their buddy Kirk. That competition helped define the original series.

SPOCK: The prefix code?

KIRK: It's all we've got.

It always pays to have an ace in the hole out in space: in the kind of game they're playing, they're playing for keeps.

KIRK: Khan, how do I know you'll keep your word?

KHAN: Oh, I've given you no word to keep, Admiral. In my judgment, you simply have no alternative.

You can sense the battle of wits and wills here: Kirk with a little surprise waiting for his enemy, Khan convinced that he's finally gutted out a win after fifteen years. It's a deadly game, but it's still a game, and to paraphrase Kirk, neither of them likes to lose.

JOACHIM: They've damaged the photon-control and the warp drive. We must withdraw.

KHAN: No! No!

JOACHIM: Sir, we must! The Enterprise can wait. She's not going anywhere!

Wow, somebody doesn't like letting go, does he? Even when it's in his best interests. On some level, Khan's in this solely to win…to show Kirk who had "beaten" him at long last.

KHAN: Kirk! Kirk, you are still old friend.

KIRK: Still, "old friend." You've managed to kill just about everyone else, but like a poor marksman, you keep missing the target.

This is one of those moments where characters overtly refer to their conflict in terms of a sport, a game or some other competition. If you believe this phrase, Khan isn't trying to kill Kirk; he's just aiming at a "target" that he can't quite nail down.

SAAVIK: Sir, may I ask you a question?

KIRK: What's on your mind, Lieutenant?

SAAVIK: The Kobayashi Maru, sir.

KIRK: Are you asking me if we are playing out that scenario now?

SAAVIK: On the test, sir, will you tell me what you did? I would really like to know.

This is a girl who does not like to lose, and when she does, she ends up staring up at the ceiling thinking about it. All. Night. Long.

McCOY: Lieutenant, you are looking at the only Starfleet cadet who ever beat the no-win scenario.


KIRK: I reprogrammed the simulation so it was possible to rescue the ship.


DAVID: He cheated!

KIRK: I changed the conditions of the test. I got a commendation for original thinking. I don't like to lose.

And again, we are talking about this in terms of a game, complete with rules that Kirk broke and a passion for victory that drove him to it. In this case, competition is also a character trait, defining how Kirk got here and why even someone like Khan has a very hard time taking him down.

SAAVIK: Trouble with the nebula, sir, is all that static discharge and gas clouds our tactical display. Visual won't function and shields will be useless.

SPOCK: Sauce for the goose, Mister Saavik. The odds will be even.

Not even Spock is immune to the tendency to describe things in competitive terms: eliminating the opponent's advantage and trying to counter with a few of their own.

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