The Great Star Trek Rewatch: Space Seed

KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANNNNN!!

Yes, this is it – the episode that set the stage for the second Star Trek feature film, The Wrath of Khan. It all begins when the Enterprise discovers a sleeper ship containing genetically engineered supermen from the Eugenics Wars of the late 1990s (you remember those, don’t you?). They revive the leader, unaware that he is actually Khan Noonien Singh, a dictator who once ruled a quarter of the nations on Earth. Khan begins plotting to re-establish his empire by taking over the Enterprise, and with the willing help of ship’s historian Marla McGivers – herself obsessed with strong men of past eras – he might just succeed.

This is another one of those episodes where everything would have been fine if I were in charge, although unfortunately also an episode where “those silly emotional women” make things much worse. Ricardo Montalban is very compelling as Khan, but McGivers is a somewhat annoying stereotypical female, letting her romanticism about strong, dominant men largely dwarf her professionalism and duty to the Enterprise. Nonetheless, if you put all that aside, it’s actually not a bad watch – you can see why Nicholas Meyer chose this story as the basis for The Wrath of Khan.

Character development

  • “ It would be most effective if you would cut the carotid artery, just under the left ear.”
    McCoy proves himself both a good old-fashioned doctor by fearing the transporter (I don’t blame him, given that at best it is destroying you and recreating your quantum state elsewhere), and also brave in the face of adversity when he refuses to back down even though Khan has a scalpel to his throat.
  • Uhura also proves that girls can be brave too, when even physical violence from one of Khan’s people isn’t enough to force her to cooperate with them.

How things would have gone down if I were in charge of the Enterprise

  • I wouldn’t have waited until partway through the episode to assign a security detail to Khan, or to keep him confined to quarters. Stop assuming you can trust everyone you bring aboard the Enterprise!
  • I wouldn’t have let Khan read the top secret technical manuals describing how the Enterprise works. Sure, he needed to adapt to the twenty-third century, but if I needed to adapt to the twenty-first century I probably wouldn’t be given nuclear reactor technical manuals as my first thing to read.
  • Why were the scalpels and other medical tools just left out in sickbay? Given that the Enterprise often experiences turbulence, it seems sensible to lock them away when they aren’t being used for that reason alone, let alone to stop random civilians from stealing them.
  • As always, phasers would be keyed to Enterprise crew members, to prevent others from being able to activate them.

Trivia

  • Apparently space travel was slow until 2018, although as we know humanity didn’t invent warp drive until 2063, so it’s unclear what developments were made at this time. Whatever they are, we have a little over two years to get on and make them.
  • The Enterprise sickbay has a decompression chamber.
  • For once, Kirk vented anaesthetic gas through life support to knock out Khan’s supermen. If they have this ability, why not use it more frequently? We’ve had a fair few undesirables roaming the Enterprise up until now, and will do in future.

Bonus game: for fun, tell your young children that the Eugenics Wars and Khan taking over a quarter of the Earth were things that really happened.

Summary – Space Seed: I’ll finish as I started – KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANNNNN!

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