Most Trekkies – and even just your average film fans – are agreed that the best Star Trek movie is 1982’s The Wrath of Khan. It is now so iconic that it might be surprising to learn that it didn’t always have this title and that its change was due to a pesky rival science fiction movie series called Star Wars.
In an episode of the Inglorious Treksperts podcast from 2020, Mark Altman, who has written documentaries and books about Star Trek, said; “Now why was it changed, because even the marketing materials said, ‘At the end of space, lies the beginning of vengeance?’ Well, because at the same time, Revenge of the Jedi was announced, and they felt it’d be too confusing … So this became the Wrath of Khan, and Revenge of the Jedi became Return of the Jedi.”
Prior to being forced to change its name due to the finale of Lucas’ first Star Wars trilogy, The Wrath of Khan had been titled The Vengeance of Khan, but as Altman reveals this was deemed too similar to Revenge of the Jedi. Finding out that Return of the Jedi was once called Revenge of the Jedi is interesting, because of Episode III being called Revenge of the Sith (2005) and Episode VIII being called The Last Jedi (2017) – which is frankly, pretty confusing.
1982’s Wrath of Khan features all of the stars of the original series, including William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, George Takei, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, and Nichelle Nichols. Ricardo Montalban played Khan – who would go onto become an iconic movie villain. Kirstie Alley also joined the cast as Spock’s protégé Saavik.
The character of Khan was controversially brought back for 2013’s Star Trek Into Darkness, played by Benedict Cumberbatch. The character was such a misfire, it’s a large reason why that movie is generally considered by far the worst of the most recent Star Trek movie trilogy. We’re still holding out hope for a Star Trek 4 release date, but we’re not going to hold our breaths.