I thought I knew Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. After all, it has been my favorite movie for most of my life, ever since it came out in 1982. I’ve watched it more times then I can recount. (My sister was downright sick of it when we were kids! “You’re watching that again?”) It is one of the few movies I’ve deemed worth going to see in a theater even if I can watch it in the comfort of my own home on my nice big TV whenever I wish.
I’ve devowered behind the scenes materials. I’ve absorbed the supplements on the DVD. I’ve refused to buy the Blu-ray, because, damn it, Paramount, knowing that Preston is Scotty’s nephew is important to understanding Scotty’s emotional journey throughout the film!
So imagine my surprise today when I go over to Cracked.com to kill some time, and I come across an article titled 6 Classic Movies That Were Saved By (Wisely) Deleted Scenes. Now normally, I’ll take anything I find on Cracked with a huge grain of salt. But this list had some things on it that I had heard about before, such as Marvin Acme’s funeral in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? So I knew that (unlike some other things on Cracked) that this list wasn’t total bull.
But there was one thing on the list that seemed completely inconceivable to me! The list claimed that in Star Trek II, it was originally planned for Khan to have a baby son, who Chekov and Terrell would briefly glimpse on Ceti Alpha V, and who would only show up again at the climax of the film, attracted by the bright lights on the Genesis Device right before it exploded.
What horse hokey was this? I thought. I’d never heard mention of this. Not in any director’s commentary or behind the scenes feature. Not in any making of book. Not on Memory Alpha. This had to be made up!
But I’ve done a little more digging... Aparently, this story originally dates back to a 1982 issue of a science-fiction magazine called StarBlazer, from an article on Nicholas Meyer titled The Man Who Saved Star Trek. I’ve found two websites other than Cracked talking about Khan’s deleted baby, and (assuming these photos are not faked) these websites have photographic evidence to back this story up.
This is apparently from the scene on Ceti Alpha V:
This would be a behind the scenes photo of the climatic scene:
And this would be an actual still from this scene:
Although I am a bit suspicious that the child on Ceti Alpha V and the child in the Reliant’s transporter room don’t look like the same child... But anyway, if you wish to see what these websites have to say for yourself, this is an article from birthmoviesdeath.com, and this is an article from geektyrant.com. They’re not websites I profess great knowledge of, so I don’t know if they can be taken as reliable sources, but that I found two additional sources on top of the Cracked article that got me started on this has me wondering if this might be true, after all!
And finally, one further bit of evidence. One book I have that I haven’t read for years is Vonda N. McIntyre’s novelization of Star Trek II. Frankly, I’d rather watch the movie. (I can enjoy a good novilization, but this one just seems to pale too much in comparison to the source material.) But novelizations are often based more off of early drafts of the script rather then the final film itself. Might there be any evidence in there that I’d just forgotten about? I grabbed the book off of my bookshelf, and skimmed through it until I found this:
“These look like cargo carriers,” Terrell said.
Chekov leaned over to put his faceplate against a porthole, trying to see inside the ruined ship.
A child popped up, laughed silently, and disappeared.
“Bozhe moi!” Chekov cried, starting violently. He fell backward into the sand.
“Chekov! What the hell-?” Terrell stumbled toward him.
“Face! I saw-face of child!”
Terrell helped him to his feet. “Come on. This place is getting to you.”
“But I saw it,” Chekov said.
“Look, there’s the airlock. Let’s check it out.”
Now as I said, it has been years since I’d read this book. I didn’t remember this passage before seeing it again tonight. And, since it doesn’t specifically say, “Hey, look! Khan’s son!” I probably, years ago, just wrote it off as some random kid of one of Khan’s followers, or perhaps even (as Terrell seems to suspect) Chekov being jumpy. But reading it again now, it seems to take on a new light.
Skimming the climax, there was no reappearance of the child on Reliant’s transporter pad as the Genesis Device built up towards detonation... Still, things are starting to look pretty conclusive! Did this actually almost happen in Star Trek II? Signs are pointing to yes.
If this is true, I am glad it was cut. The Enterprise’s victory was already a bittersweet one with the cost of Captain Spock’s life. (Oh, um... Spoiler alert there, if you hadn’t seen the movie!) But if there had also been an innocent child on the exploding Reliant? Would that just have been too much? Or would it have deepened Khan’s character, showing that his vengance was so all consuming that he was willing to sacrifice his own offspring for one last chance to achieve it?
But personally... while I do love all of the things that the director’s cut of Star Trek II did reinstate, some things really are better left on the cutting room floor, and I am glad this was not one of them.