One of the recurring criticisms of sci-fi stories is that they all too often emphasize technology over character development. Trekkies know that this saga will never fall into that trap. The Enterprise crew are old friends; we care about them.

William Shatner's Admiral Kirk is a familiar strong and sensitive leader. Leonard Nimoy's Spock still defends reason against the criticisms of DeForest Kelley's Dr. McCoy. Stationed behind their consoles, George Takei as Sulu and Nichelle Nichols as Uhura are always dependable. James Doohan's Scotty will never let the spaceship go down, no matter how badly it is damaged in battle.

When Captain Terrell (Paul Winfield) of the Federation Starship Reliant erroneously lands on the planet Ceti Alpha 5, he comes upon the treacherous Khan (Ricardo Montalban) who has been exiled there for 15 years along with other renegades. This genetically engineered superhuman commands the Reliant with the intention of reaping revenge upon Admiral Kirk who he holds responsible for the death of his wife.

It happens that Kirk is aboard the Enterprise checking out the training of new students for the starship's crew. He takes charge when the Regula One Space Laboratory signals for help. There Dr. Carol Marcus (Bibi Besch) and her son David (Merritt Butrick) have been heading the Genesis Project — exploring means of bringing barren planets into luxuriant life. Khan has stolen some of the equipment and is determined to use it for destructive purposes.

Nicholas Meyer, the director of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan nicely orchestrates some razzle-dazzle spaceship battles in outer space but gives equal emphasis to the rich thematic material in Jack B. Sowards' screenplay. Kirk is preoccupied with the onset of middle age. He takes a fresh look at himself when he learns that David, the scientist at the Regula Space Laboratory, is his son. They put each other through some uneasy paces before realizing how much they have in common.

Kirk is compelled to consider the connection between mortality and the renewal of life by two events — the transformation of a barren planet and the death of one of his dearest friends aboard the Enterprise. The story also offers some worthwhile thoughts about the negative energy of revenge and the nobility of sacrifice. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan works as both a science fiction adventure story and as a thematically rich drama.