Utterly Star Trek Review

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Star Trek 1.22 (Space Seed)

First Aired: February 16, 1967

John Winston (Lt. Kyle)
Ricardo Montalban (Khan Noonien Singh)
Madlyn Rhue (Marla McGivers)
Blaisdell Makee (Lt. Spinelli)
Mark Tobin (Joaquin)
Kathy Ahart (Crew Woman)
Writer: Marc Daniels
Of course, this episode has taken on a greater significance since the eighties when the second movie The Wrath of Khan revisited the character. In 1996 apparently World War III was all about eugenics, and the survivors escaped in a space vessel, the SS Botany Bay. Of course, I will ignore the fact that this little piece of history never came true – perhaps it was something that happened that certain people knew about. Perhaps certain terrorist outrages that happened before 1996 were actually down to the so called “super men”. I am rationalising it too much: in Star Trek history this actually happened.
So, what was bad about this episode. Well, for a start, Marla McGivers (the crew historian that boards the Botany Bay with Kirk and company) falls for Khan when he is asleep, before she has even spoken to him. I know if you are interested in history then the chance to interact with it would be very exciting, but to interact horizontally (which is clearly her intent from before he even awakes) is just not going to tell you much about the past.
In fact, this character is the weak link in the episode. She just falls into Khan’s spell far too easily, he almost has to do nothing. I cannot believe that anybody serving in StarFleet would be that easy to influence. Then, later, she has a change of heart and saves Kirk. Puh-lease!
Oh, and the two stuntment playing both Kirk and Khan are obviously neither actor. It is just rubbish.
The standoff between Kirk and Khan on the other hand is superb – both intellectual and physical, they both rise to the occasion and deliver some solidly and believable characters. Yes, even Shatner!
Montalban’s performance is utterly compelling – you can see why the producer of the second film chose to revisit this character. He plays the part wonderfully – he has a kind of delivery that apparently the actor developed for the character, and he also used the original episode to try and work the character out fifteen or so years later, and he did a wonderful job. The character is portrayed the same way in both episodes, and you can only congratulate Montalban for that.
At the end, they dump Khan, his followers and McGivers on the planet Ceti Alpha Five. And we all know what happens next!
McGivers doesn’t die in this episode, so I cannot include her as a crew death, even though she is dead by the time everyone meets again in the film.
Crew Deaths: 0
Total Crew Deaths So Far: 25
Score: 8/10

August 31, 2007 - Posted by | khan, people from the past |


  1. Although I liked parts of this episode I can’t rate it as highly as you did.

    “perhaps it was something that happened that certain people knew about. Perhaps certain terrorist outrages that happened before 1996 were actually down to the so called “super men”. I am rationalising it too much: in Star Trek history this actually happened.”

    This is the reasoning Greg Cox used in his two books about the young Khan. It wasn’t very convincing. It’s better to just accept that the Star Trek universe has a slightly different history. It might have been easier on them if they had set the show further in time than the 23rd century, or just stuck to using the stardate system and never mentioning what century according to the Christian calendar they were in. Then WW3 could have happened much later than the 1990s. Even so, even if you look at it the way Cox did, that means that there would have to be ships like the Botany Bay in existence, but secret, at that time. Ships that, although vastly inferior to the 23rd century Enterprise would be as vastly superior to what we have today. Including their ability to put humans into suspended animation for centuries with the ability to easily revive them.

    I find it strange that they used eugenics rather than genetic engineering. The difference is that eugenics is all about selective breeding, rather than the “DNA resequencing” of later Trek that produced Bashir. To selectively breed someone like Khan would either have taken a very long time (maybe Sir Francis Galton started the project, and it took almost a hundred years to produce someone like Khan; still, that doesn’t seem like anywhere near long enough) or they would have had to start with some primo genetic stock to start with.

    It’s funny that Khan looks nothing like any Sikh I’ve ever seen, and he certainly doesn’t talk like one. He doesn’t wear the turban, which is strange. It’s been a while since I’ve seen this episode, so maybe he gives an explanation I’ve forgotten. In the first of the two Greg Cox books about Khan, he says something about how Khan had abandoned the religion – gone beyond it or something. Some nonsense like that.

    I too found McGivers to be a pathetic character – spectacularly pathetic. Can you see a female character of this type – or like any of the female characters on Star Trek – being done today? You’d never get away with it. Even by the standards of the time she was bad, though. To fall in love with the guy when he’s unconscious… I guess Kirk’s not the only one letting his libido do his thinking for him.

    It is strange not only the McGivers would fall for Khan so easily but that Khan would be interested in such a weak, inferior being. There were other women he could have chosen, including genetically enhanced ones among his own Botany Bay superteam. Why pick such an inferior specimen as McGivers? Even if Khan was attracted to her, as unlikely as that seems, would he have had any time for someone who would so easily be turned against her Captain? Who would go against the oath she swore when she entered Starfleet? It was my initial impression that Khan was only using her to take the ship, but at the end it appears he does care for her, and of course much later in Star Trek II we find out that he cared a great deal for her. That doesn’t fit with his personality.

    The Kirk-Khan fight was better done than some of them (cf. Arena) but was still pretty cheesy and unconvincing. Khan should have been able to tear Kirk apart, if he really did have five times Kirk’s strength. Kirk is maybe 150 lbs. Even if a weightlifter (and he doesn’t look like one) he might be able to lift two or three times that – but then only in the Olympic lifts, where technique helps a lot. And three times is pushing it. We’re talking about a max bench press of at best 300 lbs. If Khan’s strength is five times that he should have been able to destroy Kirk in a fight the way Kirk would have been able to destroy a ten-year-old boy. Add to that Khan’s far greater heart and lung capacity, faster reflexes, and greater intellect. Kirk shouldn’t have had a chance. Even using that length of metal on Khan shouldn’t have been enough. He should never have been able to connect with it for one thing; Khan would have seen it coming.

    As for marooning Khan and crew on Ceti Alpha Five, I agree with what Khan says later in Star Trek II – that Kirk or someone in Starfleet could have checked on them. As unlikely as the disaster that happened was, they still should have checked on them.

    Comment by Joe Dick | January 17, 2009 | Reply

  2. No comments, huh?

    Comment by Johnnie Walker | January 18, 2009 | Reply

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