Jun 18 2009 5:32pm

Star Trek Re-watch: “Space Seed”

“Space Seed”
Written by Gene L. Coon and Carey Wilber
Story by Carey Wilber
Directed by Marc Daniels

Season 1, Episode 22
Production episode: 1x24
Original air date: February 16, 1967
Star date: 3141.9

Mission summary
The Enterprise stumbles across an unknown vessel, as it often does, but this one is transmitting a repeating signal in Morse Code: CQ. Kirk doesn’t even need Uhura to translate this old message, “calling any station,” leaving her with nothing to do. When they get in visual range, Spock identifies it as a DY-100, an Earth ship built in the 1990s. It has no business being out there, and they determine it must be a derelict or is being used by aliens. McCoy’s bioscanners do pick up faint non-human heartbeats, averaging “only four beats per minute,” and sensors detect functioning equipment on the other ship, though there’s no other activity.

The Enterprise moves alongside the smaller vessel and they continue to gather data on it. McCoy’s sensors indicate there may be as many as seventy bodies over there, with no life signs other than their weak heartbeats. They manage to read the name of the ship on the beat-up hull, the S.S. Botany Bay, but there’s no record of any vessel with that name in the official registry. Spock reminds them that records from the mid-1990s are spotty since Earth was in the midst of its last World War, the so-called Eugenics Wars that aimed to “improve the race through selective breeding.” (How could any of us forget those dark times? It seems they were only yesterday. But yesterday is tomorrow, isn’t it?)

Kirk locks their tractor beams onto the Botany Bay and decides to lead a landing party to check it out. He summons their late twentieth century historian, Lieutenant Marla McGivers, who seems none too pleased to have her painting interrupted to actually do her job for a change. The Botany Bay seems to prepare for their arrival, bringing its dormant life support systems online, and Kirk, McCoy, Scotty, and McGivers beam over.

Scotty is delighted with the antiquated amalgamation of atomic power and transistors in the old vessel. McGivers starts earning her keep by identifying it as a “sleeper ship.” Before 2018, it was necessary to place passengers in suspended animation for long voyages. She also observes that they’re “a handsome group of people,” which Scotty notices includes a variety of Earth races. Their presence has triggered some mechanism: one of the sleepers is awakening, apparently the leader of the crew. McGivers takes one look at the man and goes all soft-focus and distracted. When Kirk snaps her out of it, she can’t stop talking about the guy: “From the northern India area, I’d guess. Probably a Sikh. They were the most fantastic warriors.” I would have guessed Mexican.

Unfortunately the sleeping alcove malfunctions and her new boyfriend’s vitals drop. The only way to save him is to get him back to the Enterprise. When Kirk breaks the glass and pulls the sleeper out, we see it’s...Ricardo Montalban! McGivers sees him lying there, close to death, and murmurs, “Magnificent.” She’s got it bad. Dr. McCoy has dibs though, and beams back to the ship with their new specimen.

Back on the Bridge, Kirk asks Scotty (still on the Botany Bay) for an update: “Twelve units have malfunctioned, leaving seventy-two still operating.” Since the engineer knows his captain well, he promptly adds, “Thirty of those are women.” Kirk knows he’s stumbled onto something significant, a relic from what Spock calls “a strange, violent period” in Earth’s history that they don’t know much about. There’s still the question of why the ship and its sleepers made the voyage, and Kirk ominously recalls that Botany Bay was the name of an Australian penal colony. But Spock discounts his theory that their discovery is a penal deportation vessel as completely illogical. Nonetheless, their lack of knowledge poses a danger, so Kirk decides to tow the Botany Bay to Starbase 12 and seek out some more facts.

Meanwhile, McCoy is fascinated by Ricardo Montalban’s remarkable physiology, and he hasn’t even seen his chest yet:

McCoy: There’s something inside this man that refuses to accept death. Look at that. Even as he is now, his heart valve action has twice the power of yours and mine. Lung efficiency is fifty percent better.
Kirk: An improved breed of human. That’s what the Eugenics War was all about.
McCoy: I’d estimate he could lift us both with one arm. It will be interesting to see if his brain matches his body.

This is Marla McGivers’ cue. She pops into sickbay and asks if the man will live. Kirk takes this opportunity to reprimand her in front of McCoy for her poor performance on the away mission:

Kirk: Lieutenant, at any one time, the safety of this entire vessel might depend upon the performance of a single crewman, and the fact that you find a man strangely compelling to you personally—
McGivers: Not personally, Captain. Professionally. My profession is historian, and when I find a specimen from the past alive, I’m in the sheer delight of examining his mind.
Kirk: And men were more adventuresome then. Bolder, more colorful.
McGivers: Yes, sir, I think they were.

After Kirk leaves, McCoy’s patient wakes up, does some calisthenics, then spots some surgical instruments on the wall. When the doctor comes to check on him, the man grabs him and holds the scalpel to his throat. McCoy doesn’t bat an eyelash as he’s questioned, maintaining his calm: “It would be most effective if you would cut the carotid artery, just under the left ear.” The man is impressed with his bravery and lets him go, demanding that the captain come to answer his “many questions.”

Kirk returns to sickbay and introduces himself, but the man won’t divulge his name until the captain tells him where they’re going and how many of his people are alive. He orders Kirk to revive them, but Kirk says not until they reach Starbase 12. Finally, the man tells him his name. It’s (wait for it...) Khan! Then he claims that he’s growing too “fatigued” to answer any more questions and innocently requests access to the Enterprise’s technical manuals. It seems like a terrible idea, but Kirk considers it a “common courtesy” to get the twentieth century man up to speed on advances in technology. Kirk and Spock trade some important exposition in private:

Kirk: Would you estimate him to be a product of selective breeding?
Spock: There is that possibility, Captain. His age would be correct. In 1993, a group of these young supermen did seize power simultaneously in over forty nations.
Kirk: Well, they were hardly supermen. They were aggressive, arrogant. They began to battle among themselves.
Spock: Because the scientists overlooked one fact. Superior ability breeds superior ambition.

Interestingly enough, at the end of the war eighty or ninety supermen went missing. While they puzzle out where they could have gone, McGivers goes to introduce herself to Khan in sickbay. He already knows all about her and flirts, in his own unique way:

Khan: I’ve been reading up on starships, but they have one luxury not mentioned in the manuals.
McGivers: I don’t understand.
Khan: A beautiful woman. My name is Khan. Please sit and entertain me.

She wants to question him about his time period, but he’d rather give her beauty tips, telling her to let her hair down to make herself more attractive. Flustered, she excuses herself and he tells her to come up and see him sometime.

A short while later, the senior crew prepares for a formal welcome dinner for Khan—apparently McGivers’ idea. Kirk expresses his concern over her attraction to Khan, but McCoy misunderstands: “Well, there aren’t any regulations against romance, Jim.” He points out that Khan has a magnetic personality that she might be susceptible to, given her “preoccupation with the past.” Truer words were never said, for at that very moment Khan is putting the moves on her in her own quarters, surrounded by her paintings of “bold men from the past” such as King Richard the Lion Heart, Leif Ericson, Napoleon, and...Khan! He tells her that “such men dare take what they want,” then shows her exactly what he means by kissing her.

Dinner doesn’t go as well for him. Kirk, Spock, and Khan spar verbally with each other over Khan’s mysterious past, until he accidentally reveals that he was one of the dictators who hoped to unify the world under the tyrannical rule of one man. Oops. Khan quickly grows “fatigued” again and excuses himself. McGivers follows him to his quarters, but when Khan tries to pick up where they left off, she feebly attempts to resist. He’s disgusted with her waffling and tells her to leave or stay if she wants, making her beg for it. He forces her to her knees and asks her to “open her heart.” Now that he’s dominated her he tells her, “I intend to take this ship. Do you agree?” She pleads with him not to ask for her help but finally agrees to do anything. Looks like she isn’t the only one who’s going to be screwed by Khan.

In the briefing room, Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and Scotty have finally identified their guest as none other than Khan Noonien Singh, who ruled more than a quarter of Earth from 1992 through 1996, the last tyrant to be defeated. Spock is horrified when they admire and romanticize the man’s ambition. Kirk’s impressed but not stupid; he puts a twenty-four hour guard on Khan’s quarters, then goes to question him about his intent. Khan tells him all he needs to know:

Captain, although your abilities intrigue me, you are quite honestly inferior. Mentally, physically. In fact, I am surprised how little improvement there has been in human evolution. Oh, there has been technical advancement, but, how little man himself has changed. Yes, it appears we will do well in your century, Captain.

After Kirk leaves, Khan puts his plan into action. He pries his door open barehanded and easily overpowers the redshirt outside it. McGivers takes over the transporter room at phaser-point and beams him over to the Botany Bay, where he revives the rest of his super people. Finally, having studied the Enterprise’s technical manuals, he knows how easy it is to commandeer the ship. He takes over Engineering and cuts off computer control and life support from the Bridge, locking Kirk and the crew in to slowly suffocate. Kirk refuses to surrender. With his last breaths, he records a log entry with commendations for Spock, Uhura, and the rest of his unconscious Bridge crew before passing out himself. “They have my ship,” he says. “I take full responsibility.”

Khan gathers the resuscitated Bridge crew in the briefing room and attempts to win them over to his side. All he wants is their help running the ship so he can find a colony to conquer. Uhura resists his orders to activate the viewscreen, even when one of Khan’s lackeys hits her, and Khan begins to realize he’s miscalculated: the crew is far too loyal to their captain. Fortunately he’s placed Kirk in a medical decompression chamber, and offers to spare his life if only Spock joins him. That fails too, so he promises to suffocate each of them one by one if they don’t cooperate. McGivers excuses herself from the evening’s entertainment, and Khan comments, “I hoped you would be stronger.” Us too, Khan.

Then again... McGivers may not be a complete loss after all. She knocks out Kirk’s guard out with a hypospray and frees the captain, begging him not to kill her boyfriend in exchange for the favor. Spock arrives under guard, next in line for a night of medical decompression. Kirk attacks the guard, giving Spock the opportunity to put him into a Vulcan nap. Though Khan has locked out their “intruder control circuit,” there happens to be a relay junction nearby. They flood all decks with neural gas, but Khan escapes and holes up in Engineering, where he blocks the gas.

Kirk heads down there to take him out in person, but Khan’s been listening in on the comm and knows he’s coming. He easily takes the captain’s phaser, crushing it like a cheap plastic prop. He’s placed the warp core into overload: “Your ship flares up like an exploding sun within minutes.” He tosses Kirk around like a ragdoll, gloating that he has five times Kirk’s strength, just before the resourceful captain scores a TKO by beating on Khan with a rod taken from one of the consoles.

Back in control of his ship, Kirk holds a hearing to determine the fates of Khan and his people. Considering it “waste to put them in a reorientation center,” he clears them of all charges and sentences them to live out their days on Ceti Alpha V, which Spock describes as “habitable, although a bit savage, somewhat inhospitable.” Kirk challenges Khan to “tame a world” for their own, and Khan replies, “Have you ever read Milton, Captain?” That sounds like a... yes?

Kirk offers McGivers a choice: face court martial or leave with Khan. She decides to accompany her he-man, and Khan accepts her as well: “A superior woman. I will take her. And I’ve gotten something else I wanted. A world to win, an empire to build.” A happy ending for all! Khan and McGivers depart for their new adventure.

SCOTT: It’s a shame for a good Scotsman to admit it, but I’m not up on Milton.
KIRK: The statement Lucifer made when he fell into the pit. “It is better to rule in hell than serve in heaven.”
SPOCK: It would be interesting, Captain, to return to that world in a hundred years and to learn what crop has sprung from the seed you planted today.
KIRK: Yes, Mr. Spock, it would indeed.

Hey, it might even be interesting to check things out in fifteen years or so, just to see what’s going on with Khan and make sure no nearby planets have exploded or anything.

It’s a little hard to view “Space Seed” on its own merits, as it is forever in the shadow of arguably the best Star Trek film of all time, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, which continues the story of Ricardo Montalban’s memorable character. In some ways, it’s hard to see why this episode was singled out as good fodder for a feature film, but in others it makes complete sense. Khan is a worthy match for Kirk, a man born to lead with strength, opposed to Kirk’s sometimes reluctant acceptance of responsibility and more compassionate style of command. They’re both charismatic men and brilliant tacticians. And when you get down to it, this is simply an excellent episode with a somewhat open ending.

Putting aside its many fine qualities for a moment, let’s talk about the elephant in the room: Khan’s macho, chauvinistic domination over Marla McGivers. It’s really uncomfortable to watch her immediate attraction to him and her easy acceptance of his abusive and controlling behavior. It’s well established that she has more than a professional fascination for strong leaders of the past, but it’s still disappointing to see a woman, especially a 23rd century woman, show such weak character—even her redemptive act of saving Kirk is really an attempt to save Khan. Perhaps it’s cruel irony that in STII, we learn she was killed by a Ceti eel, a parasite that wraps itself around its host’s cerebral cortex, making it susceptible to suggestion; it probably took Khan a while to realize she was infected.

Khan’s not off the hook either; sure, he’s a product of a different time, the barbaric 1990s (at least, that’s how I remember my high school years), and he’s obviously used to getting what he wants. But even if his rough treatment of her is used for effect, to show just how bad and different he is, it’s rather...awkward and unfortunate. Perhaps we’re meant to interpret his appraisal of her at the end as an interest in more than just her body, but whatever; she’s still a commodity to him. Notably, Uhura shows a bit more backbone, refusing to bend to his will even after one of Khan’s men backhands her in the face. In fact, everyone but McGivers holds out against Khan’s attempts to control them, to his complete astonishment. McCoy really shines when Khan threatens to cut his throat and he stays completely cool and even flippant.

Kirk talks of people from Khan’s time as more adventurous, bolder, and more colorful; yet, these are the qualities attributed to him in the 24th century by the captains following in his steps, including Janeway and Sisko. He himself admires Khan’s leadership abilities, while he abhors his methods—and as mistaken as Khan is, on some level, he seems to be doing what he thinks is right. From his perspective, the ends justify the means. Naturally, much of this episode concerns a fascination with the past, but whereas “Tomorrow is Yesterday” showed simpler times and the joy of rediscovering them, this shows the flip side of history: the darker bits that no one ever talks about, the wars that people want to forget. As with Khan’s strength and ambition, you have to acknowledge the bad along with the good.

I also appreciated some of the smaller moments in the episode and new observations I had missed on my earlier viewings. When Khan changes into a Starfleet uniform, he’s wearing a red shirt, since he “was once an engineer of sorts.” Kirk and Khan seem to be roughly the same height, something I never realized because we never see them face-to-face in STII. It was fun to hear McCoy’s first real gripe over the transporter: “I signed aboard this ship to practice medicine, not to have my atoms scattered back and forth across space by this gadget.” There’s also a lot of great dialogue between Kirk and Spock, though it has a bit more edge than usual. They revisit their discussion of irritation from “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” or maybe they just more or less repeat it because the writers didn’t realize it had been done before.

I found it curious that the Morse Code call signal “CQ” at the beginning of the episode was never explained to viewers. It’s hardly as recognizable as “SOS,” but maybe in the 1960s it was, as ham radios were becoming popular back then. In the absence of a historian as talented as McGivers, or a communications officer, I had to resort to Wikipedia for a translation.

Eugene’s Rating: Warp 5 (on a scale of 1-6)

Torie Atkinson: To piggyback on his discussion of McGivers, it’s interesting to note that Khan is not the only person who does a dress down of the ladies. The opening has Kirk snapping at Uhura for explaining the S.O.S., for apparently no reason—she didn’t do anything but do her job! Later, Kirk harshly lectures McGivers on her performance inside the Botany Bay. This of course is an absurd double standard considering he lets his own attractions get in the way all the time, and in the same mission Scotty was just as distracted by old school transistors. Why didn’t he get reprimanded? I don’t think those things would’ve stuck out at me so much if we didn’t see in Khan where the natural end to that kind of discrimination is—overt manipulation and abuse through violence and intimidation. Creepy.

Now, I had never seen this (though I’ve seen STII plenty of times), and even without the context of the phenomenal film, this is a truly stand-out episode. It’s perfect Star Trek: McCoy, Spock, and even Scotty have great character moments; Khan is actually a formidable villain, utterly ruthless, cruel, and despicable as much as he is worthy of admiration; it wrestles with big moral questions like eugenics, tyranny, and the way we romanticize those things; and it ends satisfyingly but openly, leaving room for different interpretations and ideas. Kirk doesn’t kill Khan and his men—it was men who created them, and I think Kirk feels a sense of responsibility on behalf of mankind for their existence. They didn’t ask to come into this world, and they didn’t ask to be the ambitious and brutal people that they are. But they are still human, and I think Kirk believes they have the right to live out their genetic destinies—far from other men, of course.

I have to admit I was surprised that Khan was supposed to be from so early as the 1990s. So either Khan was born at the time of the writing of this episode, or he was grown sometime in the next thirty years. Either way, that the writers postulated this kind of thing could happen in their lifetimes, rather than the distant future, is ominous indeed. I don’t know that it’s any one historical event in particular, but I can fully imagine that the shadow of the Holocaust or other “scientific” pursuits towards perfection informed this imagined future. It’s not new to Star Trek—we saw in “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” as well—but this is the first time I’ve walked away feeling that it was a legitimate and real threat, rather than a distant warning. Again we see a warning about the dangers of scientific progress, if left uncontrolled. The exchange between Spock and McCoy is telling:

MCCOY: The Eugenics Wars.
SPOCK: Of course. Your attempt to improve the race through selective breeding.
MCCOY: Now, wait a minute. Not our attempt, Mister Spock. A group of ambitious scientists. I’m sure you know the type. Devoted to logic, completely unemotional—

Again, there is the emphasis on the “human” element (emotion, compassion) as necessary for the proper restraint and control on scientific and cultural progress.

Ultimately, this is an argument against tyranny. We have Khan’s brutal dictator set up against Kirk, and while Kirk is still a captain and does get the last word, he generally leads via the input of trusted advisers and even consensus building. His strength is not in manipulation or coercion, but rather, as we saw in “The Enemy Within” and “The Naked Time,” in his compassion and loyalty to his crew. That strength is also his greatest weakness—and it’s the weakness Khan ultimately exploits and “wins” with (though he never realizes it) in STII.

Oh, and Ricardo Montalban is amazing. You can see the cruelty and manipulation in his eyes. And he keeps rocking that waxed chest 15 years later!

Torie’s Rating: Warp 6 (on a scale of 1-6)

Best Line: McCoy: “Well, either choke me or cut my throat. Make up your mind. “

Syndication Edits: Kirk, Spock, and Uhura discussing the vessel’s approach; Kirk ordering a full security alert; McGivers in her quarters painting before she gets called away; McCoy’s second report on Khan’s vitals; the Captain’s Log, supplemental; Kirk leaving sick bay and returning to the bridge, explaining that the technical manuals he provided were a courtesy; Khan entering McGiver’s quarters and complimenting her new hairdo; Khan referring to Kirk as an excellent tactician in the dinner scene; chunks of the scene with Khan manipulating McGivers into helping him sabotage the Enterprise; Khan’s statement to the crew that he made a serious error in suffocating them all together, creating a sense of heroic camaraderie.

Trivia: In writer Carey Wilber’s initial story treatment, the Khan character is a Nordic superman named Harold Erricsen, variations of which persist in early drafts of the script. In James Blish’s adaptation of “Space Seed” in Star Trek 2, he identifies Khan’s full name as “Sibahl Khan Noonien,” from an early draft of the script. Blish’s adaptation also has slightly different dialogue, included in the shooting script but cut from the final episode, which is most striking because it provides a nice setup for STII:

“Let us think ahead, then,” Spock said. “It would be interesting to come back to this system in a hundred years and see what crop had sprung up from the seed we have planted today.”

“It would indeed,” Kirk said. “But I’ll tell you something else, Mr. Spock. I only hope that in a hundred years, that crop won’t have sprung right out of the ground and come looking for us.”

And an oops: in TNG’s “Encounter at Farpoint,” it’s indicated that World War III happened in the mid-21st century. This is reinforced in First Contact, where we know that first contact took place in 2063, after the world war. So either the third World War was really a fourth World War, or uh, they forgot.


Other notes: The Eugenics Wars and the history of “augments” like Khan and his people are explored in the Star Trek: Enterprise episodes “Borderland,” “Cold Station 12,” and “The Augments,” set 100 years before “Space Seed” and starring Brent Spiner as criminal leader Arik Soong, great-grandfather of Data’s creator Dr. Noonien Soong.


Next episode: Season 1, Episode 23 - “A Taste of Armageddon.” US residents can watch it for free at the CBS website.
Check the Star Trek Re-Watch Index for a complete list of posts in this series.

1. DemetriosX
An awesome episode, truly. The timing problem jumped out at me for the first time while reading the recap here. I doubt the writers really thought about it; for them the 1990s were still a long way off and it probably simply didn't occur to them that Khan would have to be born right around their air date.

CQ would almost certainly have been not too obscure. Ham radio had been around for a long time and the CQ call goes back to the earliest days of wireless telegraphy. In fact it was older to the writers of this episode than Star Trek is to us (roughly 60 years to roughly 40). CQ ought to be reasonably familiar even to today's youngsters. After all, it gave the name to one of the first and most popular instant messenger services.
Kurt Lorey
2. Shimrod
Conceptually, this has to rank as one of the top five ideas of the original series.

Sure, there were plot holes in the filmed version, but the repartee between Kirk and Khan made them fade into obscurity (for me).

McGivers' behavior is not out of place today, for some women. Still, the woman was a historian. And for some (men or women), it a kind of romanticism that draws them to their field of study in the first place.

I think Eugenics was most popular from the 1890s through the end of WWII. For the US, the peak was in the period from just prior to WWI until the late 1920s. Still, the concept persists and as early efforts at biotechnology began to come to the fore in the 1960s, it likely would have been a subject worthy of contemporary discussion.
Dayle McClintock
3. trinityvixen
So either Khan was born at the time of the writing of this episode, or he was grown sometime in the next thirty years. Either way, that the writers postulated this kind of thing could happen in their lifetimes, rather than the distant future, is ominous indeed. I don’t know that it’s any one historical event in particular, but I can fully imagine that the shadow of the Holocaust or other “scientific” pursuits towards perfection informed this imagined future.

I think it was just part and parcel of the freakshow of the atomic bomb and the Communist conspiracy. About a decade before would have been when The Invasion of the Body Snatchers came out, and that movie was full of replicants, so the idea of duplicates and improved humans were definitely floating about the pop culture hivemind. The idea of tinkering with the atom = tinkering with the body is definitely a major theme in 1950s-1960s sci-fi. (All the giant bug movies and the like.) You also have the formal discovery of DNA in 1953, which would give a means for that atomic-age tinkering to produce super-men. So I can totally believe that people writing in the 1960s would assume that supermen could be bred/created in their contemporary age.

Then there's also the possibility that Khan was just sort of grown into adulthood rapidly. Meh.
Eugene Myers
4. ecmyers
@ 1
D'oh! I always thought ICQ was supposed to mean "I Seek You." Time to take some ham radio classes.
Torie Atkinson
5. Torie
@ 1 DemetriosX

I like this episode so much that I'm willing to go with the "grown in a tube" theory and let it slide, but yes, a bit odd.

And Eugene is right @4--ICQ was definitely named because of "I seek you." I was one of the first ICQ users back in the day (hmm wonder if I still have the account info somewhere...!) and they advertised that on their About Us page. I don't see it there anymore but it was there, I swear! Does the radio code also mean that?

@ 2 Shimrod

Agreed, very original.

On the McGiver's thing: her fascination with Khan is totally understandable--it's her devotion to him even when he physically attacks her that I am not okay with.

@ 3 trinityvixen

Don't forget the freaky government experiments in brainwashing. I think all those fears come together perfectly in this episode.
Richard Fife
6. R.Fife
I find Khan's contempt for technology interesting, even down to his speech about how "if you better the man, you increase 1000 fold!" And yet, it is the Great Equalizer that brings him to his knees. No, not the revolver, but the club.

It is kind of like a hidden anti-theme to Cogley's "gar, technology bad" luddite stuff.
7. Rafe
Hi. There is a Star Trek Novel called "The Rise and Fall of Khan..Eugenics War" ( that explains that the Eugenics War was a covert war that took place behind global events.

The book also helps to explain the divergence of Star Trek's time line from ours. Thus, Star Trek becomes an alternate universe story.
j p
8. sps49
A thorough and entertaining article. I don't have anything to add.

I do wonder where Botany Bay was headed and how far they had gone, but that is not likely to ever be answered.
Torie Atkinson
9. Torie
@ 8 sps49

That is interesting. My Compendium notes that in the original draft they were jettisoned from an overpopulated Earth because they were criminals, but I got the impression from the final version used for the episode that Khan and his followers CHOSE to go out in space, hoping to continue their legacy.

I doubt they had a destination--I like to imagine that the Enterprise stumbling upon them is exactly what they hoped would happen.
Eugene Myers
10. ecmyers
@ 9
I'd have to agree with you, considering the way the ship "woke up" when the Enterprise came in contact with it, and how Khan was only revived once they boarded. If they'd been going somewhere in particular, I think his alcove would have been set to reanimate him after a certain number of years had passed. Plus, they didn't know what was out there, so how could they have a destination in mind?
LT Tortora
11. Lucubratrix
Then claims that he’s growing too “fatigued” to answer any more questions and innocently requests access to the Enterprise’s technical manuals. It seems like a terrible idea, but Kirk considers it a “common courtesy” to get the twentieth century man up to speed on advances in technology.

I would have thought that sort of information would be classified. I guess 23rd century society has passed beyond our primitive suspicion and hands out tech manuals to anyone who's curious....

Despite Kirk's severe security violation, this is a great episode. I wonder if the writers thought about continuing Khan's story, whether in a movie or in future episodes.
j p
12. sps49
@ 9, 10-

I have thought about their reasons for leaving, and figured it was choosing to leave in advance of punishment. The 85 of them aboard probably had positions "in charge" for a time; the lower-ranking (note the apparent rank chevrons on their outfits) would not likely chose a new life as a minion.

If they hoped to be found (a nice supposition), then I hope they had a beacon operating. Space, I've heard, is big.

Some destination is probable, though. Aim for a star, at least, and try another if it isn't satisfactory. Or head back to Earth and hope for luck.
13. DemetriosX
CQ didn't start out meaning "seek you". It was started by Marconi and was used as the international distress signal for several years. But in the English speaking-world it came to mean "seek you" since it was basically an "anybody out there?" call. That then influenced the name choice for ICQ.
Richard Fife
14. R.Fife
well, according to wiki, CQ started off from a french meaning, since, pronounced in french (say-cue), it is the first two syllables of sécurité, meaning "pay attention". And, both wiki says and I can personally attest, sécurité is still used quite a bit over radio communication (I hear it quite a bit in the Coast Guard Watchrooms I visit from time to time).
Matthew Stevens
15. kent_allard
the barbaric 1990s (at least, that’s how I remember my high school years)

A wonderful line. :) Yes, MC Hammer sacked my neighborhood, too.

The Eugenics Wars really sticks out awkwardly in the Star Trek Chronology, possibly because most of the Star Trek backstory was filled in the 1980s and 1990s, when the prospect of genetically-engineered world dictators looked increasingly remote. It's funny how this future was predicted in the 1960s, when all kinds of elitism were under attack; it was clearly not the direction the world was moving at the time, and it's too bad this one questionable prophecy mars an otherwise great episode.
16. clovis
I've always been a touch mystified by Scotty's fretting over not knowing Milton. Why should a scot know Milton? Burns, Scott (Walter, that is), Stevenson yes. But why Milton in particular? It's not important, it just has always made me wonder.
Melissa Ann Singer
17. masinger
I don't think CQ would have needed explanation to the original audience; radio was an immensely popular form of entertainment and communication. In the late 1960s, a large number of people watching Trek would have been military vets who had experience with radio and CQ. The term was also used (without explanation) in 1938 in the Orson Welles broadcast, The War of the Worlds, so I think that generally, CQ would be understood by a significant part of the viewing audience. (And others might not even know they didn't know--my 13-yo didn't know that UHF and VHF stood for anything until the recent digital TV transition. To her, these were just letters that labeled something.)

(My grandfather was a ham and exchanged callsign postcards with people all over the world; when weather conditions were just right, he could talk with people in Russia from his home on Long Island. Radio was cool.)

As for Space Seed, this is one of my favorite episodes, almost entirely because of Ricardo Montalban.

Montalban was an amazing actor; people who know him only from Khan or (lordy) Fantasy Island have no idea what a talent he was. Montalban was the first Hispanic actor to appear on the cover of Life magazine and founded an organization for Hispanic actors that helped change the way Hispanics were portrayed in film and on tv. He did theater and radio in addition to film and television. He also did a fair amount of animation voiceover work, including Senor Senior Sr. in the wonderful Kim Possible action adventure series.

He could sing, ride horses, fence (see him in The Mark of Zorro as Captain Esteban against Frank Langella as Zorro; it's a near word-for-word remake of the Tyrone Power film, so it's possible to imagine Montalban's Esteban vs. Power's Zorro, yum!), fight, and act, and did most of this while in pain from a back injury that happened in 1951.

And he looked HOT!

Marcus W
18. toryx
I think WWII was still fresh enough at the time that this episode was written that the idea of a super race was pretty well seeded in the cultural conscience. After all, that was part of what Hitler was after too and in a sense Khan is a sort of future/ past version of him.

I remember the first time I saw this episode in the early 80's, and even then the 90's seemed to be a far off, threatening time when World War III could certainly happen. Hell, a lot of us thought WWIII could start any day and there were quite a few stories at the time about Super Men like Khan who might try to take over the world.

Coincidentally, my XM movie channel was playing the soundtrack to STII on the way into work this morning and I was enjoying it thoroughly. How serendipitous!
Torie Atkinson
19. Torie
@ 17 masinger

No arguments here. His performance is phenomenal and he looked just as astonishingly good at age 62 in STII as he does here at age 47. I'm sure he was a nice guy, but he sends shivers down my spine in this one.

Having recently rewatched both STII and STIII, I wonder if ST III would have been so disappointing if it hadn't come after II. Who could follow Montalban? Certainly not Christopher Lloyd.

@ 18 toryx

I think you're exactly right, and it's no surprise to me that already this is the second eugenics-centered episode (the other being "Conscience of the King").
Eugene Myers
20. ecmyers
@ 12 sps49
You mean a beacon other than the Morse Code distress signal the Enterprise picks up? I wonder if that kicked in only after they tried to hail the ship, or if it was just not a strong broadcast so they didn't receive it until they were close enough.

@ 17 masinger
I also loved Montalban's voice work on animated series like Freakazoid (where he often used lines from STII) and the excellent Kim Possible as Señor Senior, Sr.
Melissa Ann Singer
21. masinger
@19: For my money, Lloyd's best bit of villainy was in Roger Rabbit. DD and I just watched (first time for her, umpteenth time for me) Back to the Future, which holds up fairly well, though "the future" is nearly upon us and we certainly don't have home fusion generators . . . the kid turned to me soon after Lloyd's voice is heard and said, "Isn't that The Hacker?"--referring to the villain Lloyd plays in the PBS series Cyberchase.

@20: We loved early KP better than later--they made her more "girly" as the show went on and it was less fun as a result. But Senor Senior Sr and Senor Senior Jr. (Nestor Carbonell iirc) were some of our favorite villains.
Marc Houle
22. MightyMarc
Kirk and Khan aren't really the same height. Or rather, Shatner and Montalban aren't. In the picture above, you can tell by the arm lengths that Shatner is probably wearing high heels.

The interweb (which never lies) says Montalban is 6' while Shatner is 5'10" (on a good day).

I think this scene would have been more effective if they'd kept Montalban taller. Him looking down at Kirk (literally and figuratively) would have been more fitting, in my mind.
Church Tucker
23. Church
The interesting thing about this episode is that Khan's people are sort of the Trek ideal. The Federation is supposed to be a society where people's main motivation is to be the best they can be. So, there's a weird offset here.

The eugenics idea was still around in the sixties, although largely confined to the mentally ill or retarded. With the ability to diagnose medical conditions, sex, eye color, etc. in utero, it may actually be practiced more often now.

CQ, incidently, is also the name of a long-running radio magazine. So the term was likely known just from browsing newsstands.
Melissa Ann Singer
24. masinger
@23: I think the "difficulty" with Khan's people in the Trek future was the sense that they had been "engineered," or designed/bred, for perfection, as opposed to the "natural" people who work on starships. Not much has changed here, either; remember the backlash over the "genius" sperm bank? We're still not thrilled with the idea of engineering for intelligence or athletic ability.
Church Tucker
25. Church
@24 masinger

I agree with your distinction, it's just an oddly artificial (natural?) one. The implications either way are fascinating, and I think that's why this one was revisited semi-frequently.

Incidently, I don't remember there being much in the way of backlash to the 'genius' sperm bank, except in that the quality of the donors might not have lived up to expectations.
26. trekgeezer
I concur with everyone about how awesome Ricardo was in this and TWOK.

I always get a smile on my face when Scottie stops to punch one of the supermen on his way out the door when they're getting gassed.
Eugene Myers
27. ecmyers
@ 26 trekgeezer

I thought Scotty was great there too! And it seemed to me like he was trying to go after Khan, who managed to get away from him.

@ 23, 24
I think Trek definitely emphasizes becoming the best person/species you can through natural means, vs. genetic engineering. This is still an issue in the 24th century, given the reaction when a character on Deep Space Nine is outed as being genetically enhanced. (Trying to avoid spoilers for Torie and trinityvixen, in case they ever get that far in the series.)
j p
28. sps49
@20 ecmyers-

The beacon sending CQ that half of these comments refer to? um, yes, exactly like that.
29. Tom Nackid
Re: CQ

I think I once read somewhere that back in the 60s it was against FCC regulations to transmit an SOS call over the airwaves (remember this was before cable!) even if it was part of a fictional TV program. CQ was chosen as an acceptable--though a bit archaic even in the 60s--alternative that would be OK with the FCC.
Jason Ramboz
30. jramboz
I find it kind of interesting that everyone commenting on this episode notes with (rightful!) relief that the writers got it wrong about genetically-enhanced supermen and world wars in the 1990s, but no one seems to notice the sadness of the other part that they got wrong. They were predicting that we would have interstellar starships by the end of the 20th Century. Sure, they're slow sleeper ships, but I think that's still an amazing bit of optimism.

It also shows, I think, the perception of space travel in the public mind: this was what was coming in the future. We were well on our way to the moon, and the rest of the universe couldn't be far behind that. It's sad to think about how this has changed, too. I think most of us would be elated just to see a manned mission to Mars within our lifetimes, and travel to a neighboring star... well... ever.

As an aside, was there any mention in the episode of the Botany Bay having faster-than-light capability? According to (later) established Star Trek chronology, warp drive hadn't yet been invented on Earth, so I'm guessing the answer is no. This, of course, makes me wonder how far they could have reasonably gotten in 300 years or so, assuming realistic acceleration. Anyone feel like doing the math?
C.D. Thomas
31. cdthomas
I thought I was out....

Anyway TNG's WWIII != the Eugenics Wars.

V'GER had a Khan-like sleeper ship model on someone's shelf, during the Ed Begley/Let's do STIV: TVH Again arc, so the Eugenics Wars did happen -- they just didn't happen in the foreground. Remember that the wars affected Asia hardest, so if you have a controllable set of media outlets, a willingness to transmit propaganda to your own populations, or trivialize news generally so that foreign wars don't make as much impact as Madonna snogging... well, genocide happens everyday. And we go on, thinking it's someone else's problem. How easy would it have been to classify a group of supermen as a terrorist militia? The Eugenics Wars novels didn't make ST history an alternate one; they made our understanding of history as a disguise for an awesome conspiracy theory.

Also the hardass prohibitions against genetic enhancements in the time of DS9/TNG were specifically responses to the Eugenics Wars. It was implied that one could correct what the Federation considered genetic defects, but once out of the womb, no other changes were permitted.

That's why Dr. Bashir was such a prat (what would you be, if your parents took the hardest path to create a path for your class mobility?), and why those damaged genetically-manipulated companions became his friends. It was also the hook (like homosexuality, in our day) for Section 31 and other blackmailers to operate. Like any other prohibition of a service that many normal people don't see as bad, it created its own vice network. If anything that's why I didn't respect TNG as others did -- it displaced its sins, conflicts, drams, onto non-Federation cultures, and cloaked Federation citizens with hypocrisy, either active or passive.

In ENT, Arik Soong's craft died with him, and his descendants moved into artificial life design, probably not by choice. Please note that through the mid-period Trek shows, artificial organs and limbs are accepted, as is the continuous death/life cycle inherent in transporter technology. For decades, Picard had a toy heart; too bad his Earth rejected the knowledge that could have grown new ones.
Mitch Wagner
32. MitchWagner
No "rich Corinthian leather" jokes? Nothing about "de plen boss, de plen!" Guess those memes have passed their sell-by date.
Ursula L
33. Ursula
Am I the only one annoyed at how this ep portrays Sikhs/Sikh culture?

Khan is supposed to be Sikh - he's identified immediately as "probably Sikh", and the last name of Singh would seem to confirm it. It's important that he's Sikh, as his vices would seem to be natural perversions of some of the virtues of Sikhism - such as the militarism being a perversion of the duty to be willing to fight to protect the oppressed.

He's involved in hand-to-hand fighting in the episode - where is his kirpan? Particularly since they link his militarism to his Sikhism, the traditional Sikh dagger should be something he'd carry, and know how to use.

I can see where a secular leader might not follow the instruction to not cut hair, and therefore have short hair and shave, but where is the turban - it's a symbol of royalty/aristocracy, and I'd think he'd wear one to show his status, since his goal was to rule the world, anything that added to the aura of authority would be something he'd make use of.

If they wanted a generic despot, they could have made a generic despot. But they specifically chose to have a would-be world dictator who was Indian, and Sikh, and should have at least made that attribute plausable.
Torie Atkinson
34. Torie
@ 33 Ursula

You make excellent points. Mostly the whole thing confused me. It's clear that he's supposed to be a metaphorical heir to Genghis Khan (they explain that he conquers all of Asia and the Middle East). Why then they tried to make him Sikh is utterly baffling to me.

As for the lack of accoutrement, I don't think they were trying very hard to make him distinctly Sikh, which makes me wonder why they mentioned it at all. It's clear that he was a secular leader and not a religious one. McGivers says that they are "great warriors" and that's the only stereotype I can think of that fed the decision to make him Sikh--but then why not actually make him Mongolian, like Khan? I really have no clue why they chose to cast him as such. Any ideas, folks?
Ursula L
35. Ursula
My guess is that the problem is ignorence. They seem to conflait "Sikh" with "Northern Indian." Northern India was ruled, for a time, by the Mughals (Akhbar, Shah Jahan, etc.), which sounds a lot like "Mongol."


Northern Indian = Sikh
Northern Indian = Mughal

leads to:


Nevermind that the Mughals were Muslim...
36. DemetriosX
I agree that there was little real thought that went into identifying Khan as Sikh. However, the Mughals were Mongols, despite being Muslim. The Mongols did conquer as far south as Afghanistan and northern Persia, and for centuries thereafter any ruler in the area claimed legitimacy by tracing his ancestry back to Genghis Khan. The Mughals started out as a small kingdom in one of the 'Stans and conquered south and into northern India, but then lost most of their original territory to the Persians.

But this was just sloppy.
Mitch Wagner
37. MitchWagner
Am I the only one who expected MacGivers to save the day by, y'know, IMPROVISING something? Creating a weapon based on everyday materials found lying around the Enterprise?
Michael Ikeda
38. mikeda
Note that while Singh IS a traditional Sikh surname it is not a surname limited to Sikhs.
39. Jon Meltzer
The next time we see a historical specialist on the Enterprise is in "Who Mourns for Adonais", in which Lt. Palamas does exactly the same thing as Lt. McGivers. If Palamas wasn't McGivers' replacement those two must have had interesting discussions.
Torie Atkinson
40. Torie
@ 35 Ursula

I think right there you put way more thought into it than the writers did. As DemetriosX says at 36: sloppy.

@ 37 MitchWagner

Pfft, girls aren't creative! :) Nah I didn't think that for a second--her brain was like emotional putty. I was really disappointed that she only did it to save Khan--I was hoping for her to have a "What the hell was I thinking?!" moment rather than stick with him.

@ 39 Jon Meltzer

Shame they didn't have a holodeck to play around in, eh?
Mitch Wagner
41. MitchWagner
Reading the description of the episode here, I'm thinking it sounds like a BDSM romance, what with the heroine submitting to the hero on the first date, falling to her knees and worshiping him. And I'm also thinking that the bottom generally has as lot of power in a dom-sub relationship, so Marla doesn't necessarily have to be a mindless bimbo.

However, I'm probably imagining a very different story here than the one that was actually on-screen. And maybe a better and more interesting one. "Star Trek" as written by Ann Rice.
Jeff Soules
42. DeepThought
@lucubratrix #11:

I guess 23rd century society has passed beyond our primitive suspicion and hands out tech manuals to anyone who's curious....

Geez. Working in IT, I think the ep shows that the 23rd century has passed beyond our primitive society, because the tech manual actually contains accurate information about how to operate the current version of the ship!

@Ursula #35:

Yeah... I dunno why they went with making Khan a Sikh. Of course it's part of a traditional British stereotype that the population of the northwestern part of South Asia (i.e. Sikhs and Muslims) were the "warlike" races, while the Hindu South Asians were "weak and womanly," but that still doesn't explain the choice. Maybe a mix of anti-Latino racism and historical discomfort meant that the Eugenics Wars' leaders had better originate far from North America...

Also, in the context of 1966, the Sino-Indian War ( may also have been an influence? If you assume that that major conflict, pitting the two traditional Asian imperial powers against each other, indicated a longer-term conflict of interest that would result in future warfare... then it wouldn't be at all implausible that scientists of that period would start a project to breed super-men in order to win the war for good.
43. Smith Comma John
One more thing you can add to the trivia: If you have the original VHS release of this episode, go to the scene where the Enterprise pulls up next to the Botany Bay. You can plainly see the triangular stand used to film the Enterprise model.
Eugene Myers
44. ecmyers
@ 43 Smith Comma John

Wow, really? I gotta dig those tapes out...
45. ccradio
The episodes on the CBS website aren't remastered episodes, so I took a peek over there. I couldn't see the Enterprise's stand in the shot you describe, but if you look carefully at the last shot of the Botany Bay on the viewscreen before the Enterprise catches up, you'll see part of the pole holding that model in place.
46. Kebster
I know I'm coming to these really late, but I have to say I enjoy your commentary on the ST episodes.

One thing I wished one of you pointed out though (because it bothers me SO MUCH!): Kirk does not quote Milton correctly: "Better to reign in Hell", not Rule. Maybe I'm just a psychotic English major, but it seems they might have gotten that right...
Torie Atkinson
48. Torie
@ 46 Kebster

It's never too late! There's always more to add, and thank you for the kind words.

Re: Milton, perhaps the meaning was lost in translation from the original Klingon. :)
Robert Evans
49. bobsandiego
Torie: I agree that Star trek II is unfairly judged because is directly followed II. I was part of the unfairly juding crowd until I got III on Blu-ray as part of the set Ii-Iv (for the bonus materials) and rewatched it.
Funny moment in the Bonus material on II. Walter Koenig reports taht when he got the script for II everyone was asked to look for disscrepanies with cannon. He spotteed the chechov not there right away and according Koenig, he 'wrestled with it for 4 or 5 seconds' and kept his mouth shut. LOL
Torie Atkinson
50. Torie
@ 49 bobsandiego

It's really not bad! It's not particularly good, but it's also the middle section of a 3-movie arc (2-4 are, to me, one story), and in that it succeeds rather well.

Ha, I didn't know that! He was probably glad to get a more front-and-center role and didn't want to jeopardize it.
Robert Evans
51. bobsandiego
@ 50 Torie
It certainly works as one story. Grading the Star Trek films I'd go, II, IV, VI, III, I, and after that the suck grows at an expotential rate.
I have fond memories from 15 or so years ago when I knew a gal who had never seen any star trek. We showed her Space Speed, and then dashe to a fesitival at a theater and showed her The Wrath fo Khan. Very kool.
Jamison Dupree
52. JDspeeder1
Expanded Canon Notes: The Eugenics Wars are seperate from, but closely related to, WWIII. The destruction and hardships left over from the EW seem to have been a direct cause of WWIII, so much so that some historians combine the two.

Khan's ambiguous ethnicity is further complicated by his lab-grown origin. His "mother" was an Indian woman, head of the secret project that created the Augments, who implanted herself with a pre-made embryo. He has no father.
Michael Burke
53. Ludon
@ 29 Tom Nackid

I'm not sure if there was a hard regulation against including the S O S signal in a broadcast back then. The movies Mr. Roberts and Ensign Pulver both had scenes in which the S O S signal was used and those scenes were intact when they ran on the networks. I'm sure the same can be found in other WWII related movies that ran on TV at that time.

Also. C Q may have taken on various translations over the years as did S O S. Save Our Ship! Send Other Ships! Save Our Skins! Save Our Souls!

And, since others have discussed STII here, I'll share this. That one hit the theaters while I was in college and I went with some friends to see it opening day. To this day I can't watch that movie without hearing (in my head) the high-school age boy in the seat behind me swooning over Ricardo Montalban every time he appeared on the screen. I'm not putting the kid down, it's just one of those odd things that has stuck with me over the years.

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