Tag Archives: Wrath of Khan

Star Trek II: “Inside Regula I” (1982)

One doesn’t normally associate the horror genre with Star Trek in any way, shape or form (though the infamous “Genesis” episode in Star Trek: The Next Generation comes awfully close in my opinion), and yet there is a scene midway through Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan that could be straight out of a horror film.

“Aboard Regula One” (beginning to 1:35)

The Enterprise is diverted from a routine training mission by an emergency call from space station Regula One and along the way are ambushed by Khan Noonien Singh, who seeks revenge against Admiral Kirk for stranding him and his followers on Ceti Alpha V fifteen years previously. Barely surviving this attack, the Enterprise limps to the space station, knowing Khan has been there and gone, not sure what they’ll find. Kirk, McCoy and Lieutenant Saavik beam over to see what, if anything, remains on the space station.

From the moment they transport down, the music is like something straight out of a horror film. The space station appears totally abandoned, and the music is dark and ominous. Even though Khan has left, there’s still no way of knowing if he’s left any “surprises” for Kirk and his crew.

Kirk, Saavik and McCoy walk through the empty corridors of the station, and the air is thick with tension. But it isn’t until we go back to a last shot of McCoy that we get the big “horror film” moment. He’s about to cross into a new section when he’s suddenly startled by a rat (because of course there are rats on space stations). And just when he thinks it is safe to keep going….WHAM!! He walks headfirst into the arms of a dead crew member, hanging upside down from a balcony.

It’s a truly horrifying moment, and one that I think is slightly underrated, due to the space battle that happens before and after this segment of the film. But this music is beautiful foretaste of what will come when Horner scores Aliens a few years after this film. I hope you enjoy a look at the scene “Inside Regula One.”


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Star Trek II “Surprise Attack”

I have something of an obsession with the music of Star Trek and James Horner’s score for The Wrath of Khan is one of my all time favorites.

“Surprise Attack” comes in Act II of the film, when the Enterprise is en route to space station Regula One to find out why someone is trying to usurp the Genesis Project from Dr. Carol Marcus (who happens to be a former love interest of Admiral Kirk). Unbeknownst to our heroes, the villain Khan (first introduced in the original episode “Space Seed” (1967)) has hijacked the starship Reliant and is on an intercept course to have his vengeance on Kirk for stranding him and his crew on the planet Ceti Alpha V over fifteen years ago.

You can listen to the soundtrack here: “Surprise Attack” Soundtrack Version

The film version can be found here: “Surprise Attack” Film Version


Khan and Kirk in their first meeting

The cue begins in the film when Kirk is informed that the Reliant is approaching their position. The music begins with a menacing horn tone that slowly builds in volume and intensity until it cuts off in a percussion burst.This repeats several times, growing faster until the camera cuts to a shot of Reliant approaching and Khan’s theme is heard for the first time.


Reliant is coming…

Composer James Horner stated that he wrote Khan’s theme to be a reflection of his increasingly unstable mind. That is why the theme (beginning at 0:20 in the soundtrack version) is full of quickly trilling horns and woodwinds: Khan is so hellbent on revenge that it is literally driving him mad.

Meanwhile, going back to the Enterprise, the crew still has no idea they’re about to be ambushed. And from this point on, Horner begins a musical back-and-forth where the music quickly switches from the Enterprise theme to Khan’s theme and each time Khan’s theme builds a little more until a sequence begins that I like to call “the final countdown.”

Beginning at the section where Khan orders his crew to lock phasers on target (2:11 in the soundtrack version), the music begins a very slow build, starting very soft but gradually growing louder and more frantic as the crew of the Enterprise realizes, a moment too late, that they are about to be attacked. Once the attack starts, something very interesting happens. In the film, the first attack is full of the sounds of explosions, yelling and other sound effects. But in the soundtrack version of this cue, it comes out that Horner has created what can only be described as “musical chaos,” which is perfectly fitting for the mayhem that follows (musical chaos begins at 2:28).


Khan might just succeed in his dastardly plan!!!

The music violently shifts back to Khan’s theme as the Reliant circles around for another attack. Caught off guard with a crew filled with cadets, the Enterprise doesn’t really stand a chance (especially since Khan knows all the vital areas of the ship from the last time he was there.)

Disarmed and stunned (Scotty informs Kirk that the phasers only have power for “a few short bursts”), everyone is shocked when the commander of the Reliant sends a message asking them to surrender (4:29) The strange “twang” sound heard at that moment comes from an electronic instrument called a Blaster Beam, a 12-18 foot long metal beam strung with several metallic wires. The music dies away as Khan finally reveals himself to Kirk.

I hope you enjoyed this look into the score of The Wrath of Khan!

For more on live-action soundtracks, see also: Live Action Soundtracks F-Z

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"Enterprise Clears Moorings" from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan


This is one of my favorite pieces from James Horner’s score for the second Star Trek motion picture. In this scene, Admiral Kirk has boarded the Enterprise as it is about to leave for what is supposed to be “a minor training cruise” with some cadets from Starfleet Academy. Right before they depart however, Captain Spock decides that Cadet Saavik should be the one to pilot the Enterprise out of space dock (even though she has never done so before).

McCoy: “Would you like a tranquilizer?”

The best part (in my opinion) begins at the moment when the ship begins to move out of space dock. The way Horner builds and swells the music, it reminds me always of an actual sailing ship moving out into the open water.


To hear the music in context, check out the clip below (music begins at 0:43)

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