There’s zero doubt The Wrath of Khan is an action-packed masterpiece. Two men with an ancient grudge battle through pain, loss, and the fear of growing old and irrelevant while shooting blindly at each other in a nebula. What’s not to love?
Like any classic, The Wrath of Khan could be and has been nitpicked to death. Minor errors in continuity and lapses in logic have been discussed in nerd circles for ages. There’s Khan recognizing Chekov when the young ensign wasn’t on the show when Space Seed aired. Or the Genesis Device making a planet and star from scratch when just an hour early it could only terraform an existing world. Or the fact that the Enterprise and the Reliant would never find each other again in a lightyear-wide nebula and no sensors. Ghaah! Whatever! More Melville quotes!
Catching the Idiot Ball, however, is a narrative sin that goes far beyond pickable nits. It’s when a character suddenly becomes bafflingly stupid in order to advance a sequence of events that are integral to the plot. Events that the character, at their previously established intelligence level, would see through immediately.
Unfortunately, much of Wrath of Khan’s plot, and even some of its major emotional hooks, depend on people who should know better acting like morons. Here’s seven major examples.