In this alternate version of Khan’s fate, according to my logic, he has the necessary tools to survive and thrive, but he instead uses them as he’s always used his resources, to do more than that. He creates a radio and lures another ship there. The whole point of Kirk was that he could one way or another get out of situations that would baffle others. Basically Khan’s opposite number. Khan used brute logic as his main tool, because he tended to dominate every situation (until invariably being sent into exile; there’s a fascinating story waiting to be told of his first defeat, too), where Kirk outsmarted every problem.
Where Khan gets it right in its internal logic is in Reliant’s easy capture. The whole movie then logically becomes a battle of wits between Kirk and Khan. Because this time he has experience with Khan, Kirk isn’t in nearly the disadvantage he was last time.
But the no-win scenario that’s supposed to be another key point of the movie is another thing that’s cheated as depicted. Kirk doesn’t cheat; it’s entirely Spock’s solution that saves the day. At the last minute it changes from a Kirk story to a Spock story, and we’re told Kirk learns something about himself because of it. That he doesn’t have to cheat? That if someone else pays the price for his recklessness it’s…okay? Is that what we’re supposed to take from it?
Admittedly that would be pretty interesting.
But the battle should never have played out that way. Just imagine a version of the story where Khan gets off the planet far earlier. It’s Kirk who leads the survey mission, trying to discover what happened to Khan. Khan tricks him and the Genesis team into being marooned on the planet. Or, as in the movie only so he thinks, because Kirk has anticipated this. Then they have their duel and Kirk, I don’t know, having definitively learned from the past, outwits Khan by giving him the Genesis device, on Ceti Alpha V, where Khan and the device detonate. Kirk’s sacrifice becomes knowingly killing his enemy this time. (Although he kills Kruge anyway next movie, so this is hardly a Superman dilemma.)
Much of the reason Khan as it does plays out is because they were scrambling to find a workable story. If they’d had just a little more time, they’d have gotten there. That’s likely one of the reasons why so many of the later movies mirror its basic plot. Even Spock’s death, as perfect as it is in the emotional goodbye, only happens at all because Leonard Nimoy was convinced he was ready to walk away from the character.
As I’ve said, I have no emotional attachment to this movie. It allows me to look at it from a different perspective. Star Wars fans hate Return of the Jedi and/or the Ewoks, but I wonder if it’s mostly the fans who watched these things in the theaters and/or heard from those fans. Me, I see it as a logical conclusion to that trilogy. That’s what it’s always been. Khan has always been that Star Trek movie other fans irrationally cling to. For me, anyway.