Star Trek’s Biggest Plot Hole Is There On Purpose

By Chris Snellgrove | Published

chekov khan star trek

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan might be the best film in the franchise, but that doesn’t keep fans from nitpicking it. That’s especially true when it comes to the scene where Pavel Chekov, who never met Khan in The Original Series, hears the genetically augmented villain say “I never forget a face.” Fans love to cite this as a major plot hole, but here’s a surprise: director Nicholas Meyer was aware of the plot hole and deliberately kept Chekov in this famous Wrath of Khan scene. 

The Director Preferred Cool Over Continuity

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This info comes to us courtesy of The Wrath of Khan DVD commentary in which Meyer insisted that he knew about the Chekov plot hole and pointed out that he could have easily swapped Uhura into the scene instead. Why didn’t he do so and keep consistency with The Original Series? Simple: he preferred Chekov for this iconic moment, and he wasn’t going to let continuity get in the way of telling a good story.

Following Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Example

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Based on this commentary, you might think that Meyer putting Chekov into Wrath of Khan was a spur-of-the-moment decision. But in the commentary, he referenced how Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was never afraid to contradict himself across the various Sherlock novels because his main priority was simply keeping the audience entertained. Meyer subscribes to the same belief, effectively choosing the “rule of cool” over continuity for this scene.

Speaking Of Sherlock

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Incidentally, Meyer’s love of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was present in his later Star Trek film The Undiscovered Country. Many years after he deliberately put Chekov into the infamous Wrath of Khan scene, Meyer directed a film in which Spock said “An ancestor of mine maintained that if you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

Thanks to Leonard Nimoy’s gravelly line delivery, it sounds like he is quoting a Vulcan adage, but in reality, he is paraphrasing a line from the Sherlock Holmes novel The Sign of the Four. Some fans have taken this dialogue very literally and think that Spock is seriously claiming that his ancestor was the famous fictional detective. In reality, Spock is just being ironic: this is the same movie, after all, where Spock claims that “only Nixon could go to China” is an “old Vulcan proverb.”

Koenig’s Own Explanation

chekov khan star trek walter koenig

While Nicholas Meyer was happy to set the record straight about why he wrote Chekov into that Wrath of Khan scene, this belated DVD commentary revelation was too late to keep Chekov actor Walter Koenig from constantly getting questioned about how Khan would even know who his character was. Across various Star Trek conventions and interviews, Koenig began joking that during the events of The Original Series episode “Space Seed,” Chekov made Khan wait too long to use the bathroom. Because of this, Koenig cheekily alleges, Khan will never forget Chekov’s face.

Continuity Isn’t Always King

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It was a real surprise that Nicholas Meyer knew about this seeming plot hole all along, and it was downright refreshing to learn that he favored telling a good story over slavish devotion to franchise continuity. This is a lesson that many fans of Discovery and Strange New Worlds should learn: that it’s okay to introduce cool new story elements that don’t always jibe with a series that came out in 1966 and never even took its own continuity very seriously. Forget the Kobayashi Maru: the real “no-win” scenario is pretending your favorite franchise should never “boldly go” far, far away from the continuity police trying to hold it back.

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