Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan premiered on June 4, 1982, and in its opening weekend earned $14,347,221 – then the biggest opening weekend in movie history. It is fascinating to consider that despite the positive reviews and reactions from journalists and fans alike, what it meant to be a Star Trek blockbuster more than 30 years ago is different than today, especially in terms of merchandising and collectibles. Despite The Wrath of Khan being an unqualified success, there was surprisingly little for collectors to purchase themed around the film. In fact, The Wrath of Khan wouldn’t get a proper and extensive action figure line until 25 years after its release -- from Diamond Select Toys. There were of, course, some collectibles available: soundtracks, novelizations, collector’s magazines, cups, pendants, hats,, and the like, but many more items became available after the film’s premiere than when it first captured its place as one the best science fiction films of all time.
One collectible that was available at the same time Wrath of Khan was in theaters was the PPC/Movie Players, Inc. playing card set. Easily one of the best examples of this subset of the trading card collectible world, the set featured 54 playing cards, each with a different image from the film. The quality of the images was impressive, with some of the cards featuring publicity stills and other cards featuring moments from the film itself. At the time, many of those publicity images had not been seen except for the PPC set, and some remain rare even today.
There are many deleted scenes/alternative takes never released for The Wrath of Khan, including hints at romance between David Marcus and Saavik, an extended Kirk/McCoy interaction about his birthday glasses, in which the good doctor explains how to use them, and a more vigorous fight sequence between Kirk and son in the Genesis Cave - all of which were filmed. The PPC set did provide fans during 1982 a glimpse at another extended sequence in whcich Chekov attempts to leave sickbay a bit too early for Dr. McCoy’s liking, the scene of which as presented in the finished film is reduced to a quick cut-a-way to sickbay during the end battle.
Another important aspect of the cards is that they played a role in helping to launch the Official Star Trek Fan Club under the presidency and publishing of Dan Madsen. The club became the lifeline of exclusive information and direct fan access to producers/writers/actors for almost 20 years. Dan had been publishing, as a labor of love, a professional-looking and quality unofficial fan newsletter in the late 1970s and early 1980s when he was asked by PPC to provide an endorsement for the card set. It was that endorsement, used in advertisements, that brought Dan to the attention of Paramount executives. Gene Roddenberry, already familiar with Dan’s great work, recommended him to be the fan club president and publisher.
While there may not have been a “Khan-lectible” smorgasbord available for fans during 1982, the limited amount that was available made those item that much more special, including a fondly remembered playing card set.
Advertising image: source Starlog Magazine, Issue 62.
Maria Jose and John Tenuto are both sociology professors at the College of Lake County in Grayslake, Illinois, specializing in popular culture and subculture studies. The Tenutos have conducted extensive research on the history of Star Trek, and have presented at venues such as Creation Conventions and the St. Louis Science Center. They have written for the official Star Trek Magazine and their extensive collection of Star Trek items has been featured in SFX Magazine. Their theory about the “20-Year Nostalgia Cycle” and research on Star Trek fans has been featured on WGN News, BBC Radio, and in the documentary The Force Among Us. They recently researched all known paperwork from the making of the classic episode "Space Seed" and are excited to be sharing some previously unreported information about Khan's first adventure with fellow fans. Contact the Tenutos at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.