Gene Roddenberry Hated Star Trek’s Best Movie, Except For One Key Thing

By Zack Zagranis | Published

gene roddenberry
Gene Roddenberry

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is considered by many Trekkies as the Entrerpirse’s definitive big-screen outing. So, it may come as a shock to find out that Trek creator Gene Roddenberry hated it. In fact, you could go as far as to say he was either underwhelmed or downright disgusted by every aspect of The Wrath of Khan except for one: Ricardo Montalban.

Ricardo Montalban As Khan

star trek ii: wrath of khan

The Mexican actor’s performance as Khan Noonien Singh is the stuff of legends. Montalban originated the character in an episode of Star Trek, the original series titled “Space Seed,” before reprising the role for 1982’s Star Trek II.

As a villain in Gene Roddenberry’s original show, he was good, but as the 23rd-century version of Captain Ahab he played in Wrath of Khan, he was legendary.

Montalban’s Performance

It’s often said that heroes are defined by the villains they face and part of what makes Captain Kirk such a great hero is how he deals with a nemesis like Khan.

That Gene Roddenberry recognized how great Montalban’s performance was comes as no surprise. What is surprising is that he would dismiss every other aspect of the film.

The Wrath of Khan

Wrath of Khan

To understand why Gene Roddenberry didn’t like The Wrath of Khan, one first has to understand Roddenberry’s initial concept of what Star Trek should be.

Roddenberry wanted Star Trek to represent a utopian future where diplomacy is the first choice in any conflict and violence is only used as a last resort. He wanted Star Trek to be about exploration and the betterment of humankind, not lasers and explosions like rival sci-fi franchise Star Wars.

Gene Roddenberry’s Issues

Gene Roddenberry

So when Star Trek: The Motion Picture—a heady sci-fi film heavily influenced by Roddenberry—flopped at the box office and Paramount purposely directed the sequel to be more like Star Wars, Gene Roddenberry unsurprisingly balked at the finished product.

The creator didn’t appreciate his baby being taken in a more violent, action-packed direction.

“Remember when the eel came out of Chekov’s ear? What did Kirk do? He had a look of disgust on his face and grabbed his phaser and went ‘zap.’ How dare he destroy a life form that had never been seen before? It needed studying.” Roddenberry is quoted as saying in one unauthorized Star Trek biography.

He went on to state that the Captain Kirk William Shatner portrayed in Wrath of Khan was “not the Kirk we built up for three years.

Checkov’s Ear

Gene Roddenberry

As much as we feel unworthy of challenging the father of one of the greatest sci-fi franchises of all time, we must point out that the “eel” Gene Roddenberry referred to was actually a tiny slug thing that had just been inside Checkov’s skull wrapped around his cerebral cortex and directing him to turn on his friends.

Anybody would have blasted the nasty bugger, especially after seeing it crawling, blood covered, out of someone’s ear.

His Version Much Better

star trek khan Gene Roddenberry

And despite the fact that he praised Ricardo Montalban’s performance, Gene Roddenberry was even critical of how the Khan character was handled in the movie.

“I thought they were very lucky they had the actor they did in Ricardo Montalbán to play Khan since it was not a well-written part.”

Roddenberry further complained that Khan was not an “exciting character” and that the version of Khan from the ’60s series was a “much deeper and better character.”


Star Trek Fans Disagree

star trek movies Gene Roddenberry

Most Star Trek fans would disagree with Gene Roddenberry about Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan being a flawed movie.

Many Trekkies look at Khan as a film that managed to make the property a little bit more exciting but still crammed in enough sciency stuff to set it apart from Star Wars and the other sci-fi movies of the time.

As far as the best performance in the movie, Gene Roddenberry is spot on. Wrath of Khan is Ricardo Montalban’s film, although we would argue he didn’t get to say the very best line in the whole movie. That honor went to William Shatner and his iconic scream of anger and desperation.