The best-received installment in the science-fiction franchise created by Gene Roddenberry is a much more conventionally structured action movie than its debut. Yet if this is the supposed high point for the Star Trek movie series, it’s still a low point for sci-fi. Despite phaser shoot-outs and starship battles, these pictures remain inert affairs, obsessed with meaningless technical jargon and philosophical pretensions. Here the intellectualism involves broad allusions to Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, which is quoted by the title villain (Ricardo Montalban) as he maniacally pursues vengeance against former rival James T. Kirk (William Shatner, introduced in back-lit glory but otherwise looking awfully sweaty). Montalban is remembered as a classic villain, but that’s only because his outrageous overacting doubly stands out among the catatonic performances that mostly surround him. Wrath of Khan also persists in the memory because Kirstie Alley, about 10 years before her “Cheers” run, shows up as a pointy-eared Vulcan and Walter Koenig, as Chekov, has an alien bug crawl in his ear. Still, I’d rather endure that than have to listen to Spock (Leonard Nimoy) prattle on again about his commitment to pure logic. Wrath of Khan climaxes with Spock’s death, but considering his name is in the title of the next installment it would be illogical to expect my respite to last.