Study Guide

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan Life, Consciousness and Existence

Life, Consciousness and Existence

DAVID: Every time we have dealings with Starfleet, I get nervous. We are dealing with something that could be perverted into a dreadful weapon.

Something we were saying about life and death being two sides of the same coin?

SPOCK: Lieutenant, have you ever piloted a starship out of Space dock?

SAAVIK: Never, sir.

SPOCK: Take her out, Mister Saavik.

SAAVIK: Aye sir.

SPOCK: For everything there is a first time, Lieutenant.

That's profound, man. It also reminds us in the middle of a movie about growing older, that something new always arises to take its place…and that that's really kind of awesome.

KIRK: I told Starfleet all we had was a boatload of children, but we're the only ship in the Quadrant. Spock, these cadets of yours, how good are they? How will they respond under real pressure?

SPOCK: As with all living things, each according to his gifts.

That's not really an answer, Spock, but okay. It is accurate. And more importantly, it reveals that no one really knows how someone will respond in a situation until they're actually in that situation.

CAROL: The reformed moon simulated here represents the merest fraction of the Genesis potential, should the Federation wish to fund these experiments to their logical conclusion. When we consider the cosmic problems of population and food supply, the usefulness of this process becomes clear. This concludes our proposal. Thank you for your attention.

SPOCK: It literally is Genesis.

KIRK: The power of creation.

There's a fairly big literary precedent for this kind of musing. It comes from Frankenstein, the story of a man who sought to take the power of creation for himself only to see it all go pear-shaped. Considering what Genesis is capable of here, it's actually a very apt comparison.

McCOY: But, dear Lord, do you think we're intelligent enough to... Suppose, what if this thing were used where life already exists?

SPOCK: It would destroy such life in favor of its new matrix.

McCOY: It's new matrix? Do you have you any idea what you're saying?

SPOCK: I was not attempting to evaluate its moral implications, Doctor. As a matter of cosmic history, it has always been easier to destroy than to create.

McCOY: Not anymore! Now we can do both at the same time!

Well said, McCoy. The Genesis device can be seen as a metaphor for the atomic bomb, but with an added twist: genuine creation attached to all the destruction.

SPOCK: Don't grieve, Admiral... it is logical. The needs of the many... outweigh…

KIRK: ...the needs of the few.

SPOCK: Or the one.

This is Spock's reason for doing what he does, a tenet of logic that he accepts as an absolute good, and which he gives his life to fulfill. Suddenly, dying for that doesn't seem so bad.

KIRK: We are assembled here today to pay final respects to our honored dead. And yet it should be noted that in the midst of our sorrow, this death takes place in the shadow of new life, the sunrise of a new world, a world that our beloved comrade gave his life to protect and nourish. He did not feel that sacrifice a vain or empty one... and we will not debate his profound wisdom at these proceedings. Of my friend, I can only say this. Of all the souls I have encountered in my travels... his was the most... human.

This is a cry-worthy moment, made all the more powerful because of Shatner's understatement. He really is just barely keeping it together, isn't he? Some lessons are just that powerful. Some friends too.

KIRK: I know nothing.

DAVID: You knew enough to tell Saavik that how we face death is at least as important as how we face life.

KIRK: Just words.

DAVID: But good words. That's where ideas begin. Maybe you should listen to them.

This is important because it's the younger generation delivering the lesson to the older one, indicating a reversal of positions of authority. Also, it makes us cry every time.

DAVID: I was wrong about you and I'm sorry.

KIRK: Is that what you came here to say?

DAVID: Mainly. And also that I'm proud...very proud...to be your son.

That's what we're talking about: spiritual resolution, full closure, and an old wound that finally heals. It's even got that Hero's Journey sweetness to make it all go down smooth.

McCOY: He's really not dead. As long as we remember him.

KIRK: "It's a far, far better thing I do than I have ever done before… A far better resting place that I go to than I have ever known."

CAROL: Is that a poem? 

KIRK: No, no. Something Spock was trying to tell me. On my birthday.

Like Khan, Kirk ends things with a quote from classic literature. But as Khan's was all fire and blood and bitterness, Kirk's exemplifies peace, wisdom and acceptance.

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