24 "Space Seed"

(airdate: February 16, 1967)

Story: Carey Wilber      Teleplay: Gene L. Coon and Carey Wilber
Director: Marc Daniels

Khan: Ricardo Montalban
Spinelli: Blaisdell Makee

Lt. Marla McGivers: Madlyn Rhue
Joaquin: Marc Tobin

Stardate: 3141.9

Captain's Log: The Enterprise encounters an antique spaceship from Earth, containing 72 people from the 1990s in suspended animation. Their leader, a man named Khan, is revived; he is brutal but charming and in superb condition, suggesting he's a product of the Eugenics Wars: a period when selective genetic breeding led to the creation of a race of "supermen" who attempted to take over the world. They were defeated, but some 80 of them were unaccounted for after the end of the war. Khan is cagey about his past, and he enchants a young lieutenant named Marla McGivers, an historian who's drawn to powerful men. Kirk learns that Khan is in fact Khan Noonien Singh, the most dangerous of the superman tyrants, and thus has him confined to quarters. Khan escapes and enlists McGivers' help to revive his compatriots and take over the Enterprise. Khan needs help from the crew to select a colony planet to conquer, and so he threatens to kill Kirk unless they comply. McGivers can't watch Kirk die, so she rescues him without Khan's knowledge. Kirk and Spock knock out Khan and his followers on the ship and regain control. Kirk then exiles them all to nearby Ceti Alpha V, to try and tame that savage and uninhabited world - a challenge which Khan accepts.

Whoops!: Why are only Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and Scott in dress uniforms for the dinner to formally welcome Khan? Is it because they're the only ranking officers? Marla McGivers is stated to be a lieutenant but wears an ensign's uniform (no stripes on the cuff). The long shots of the final fight show fairly clearly that it's not Shatner or Montalban fighting, while the close-up of the transporter controls shows Scotty [well, a red-shirted lieutenant commander, at least] operating it, when the only other person present appeared to be Lt. Kyle, in a blue Engineering jumpsuit. The pan across the bridge when the air is running out shows at least two more people than Kirk recommends commendations for. Noticeably, the diagram Khan is reading on his viewscreen seems far more readable when the display is off versus when it's on. [This last one is corrected in the remastered version.]
     As with "Tomorrow Is Yesterday", it's only retroactively a problem, but Kirk tells Khan he's been asleep for two centuries, which suggests the 22nd century, not the 23rd. [See "Where No Man Has Gone Before" for more on when Star Trek is set.]

Classic Lines: Kirk: "Care to join the landing party?" McCoy: "Well, if you're actually giving me a choice–" Kirk: "I'm not."
     McCoy, when Khan has a knife to his throat: "Well, either choke me or cut my throat. Make up your mind."
     "It has been said that social occasions are only warfare concealed."
     Kirk challenging Khan at the end: "Those men went on to tame a continent, Mr. Khan. Can you tame a world?"

Don't Wear a Red Shirt: Somewhat surprisingly, no one appears to die over the course of this episode.

Library Computer: In 1993, a group of specially bred "supermen" seized control of forty nations, intent on ruling the rest of humanity. These supermen were the result of special eugenics programs, where a group of scientists decided to breed superior abilities into a group of people in an effort to create stronger, smarter, healthier humans. (Khan is described as having a heart that's twice as powerful, lungs that are half again as efficient, and greatly increased strength and intelligence.) However, the scientists neglected to consider the possibility that "superior ability breeds superior ambition", and so these supermen (or "Augments", as the subsequent series Star Trek: Enterprise refers to them), upon seizing control, began fighting each other. This led to the Eugenics Wars of the 1990s. [Intriguingly, placing these events in the 1990s suggests that the creation of the Augments happened in the 1950s or '60s - in other words, contemporaneous with this episode's broadcast. In the real world, there was no evidence of such a program taking place (so this isn't an example of extrapolating from a genuine project): while eugenics had been popular in the early part of the 20th century in the United States, Nazi Germany's use of the idea put most people off it, and the eugenic policies that survived (such as anti-miscegenation laws (which weren't overturned until later in the year, in Loving v. Virginia) and forced sterilization of prisoners) were mainly of the negative type, concerned with preventing certain people from breeding, and not necessarily framed as eugenic; the program that led to Khan and his kin, on the other hand, appears to be an example of positive eugenics, combining desirable traits in offspring, which was less frequently discussed.]
     The Eugenics Wars were, according to Spock, "the era of your last so-called World War." [The implication is that this was World War III, but subsequent episodes and films throw that into doubt. Fortunately, Spock's statement is vague enough to accommodate both the Eugenics Wars and World War III as separate conflicts.] Lasting from roughly 1992 to 1996, the Wars were seen as an effort to overthrow the tyranny of the Augments. [Khan is said to have gained power in 1992, but the simultaneous seizure of power in forty countries came a year later. It seems probable that Khan seized power earlier, and that the other Augments decided to follow his example.] The Wars brought humanity to the brink of a dark age, with "whole populations being bombed out of existence". Eventually the tyrants were overthrown, but between 80 and 90 of the "supermen" were left unaccounted for. (This particular piece of information was left out of the history books, but could be reconstructed from associated records.) Due to the Wars, records of the time are fragmentary.
     Khan Noonien Singh, a tall handsome man with black hair and an imperious, somewhat cruel disposition, was one of these supermen. From 1992 to 1996, he ruled more than a quarter of the world, from Asia to the Middle East. He was the last of the tyrants to be overthrown, and some considered him to be the "best" of them. Under Khan's rule, there were no massacres and no wars (at least not until he was attacked), but there was little freedom either. McGivers guessed that Khan was from the northern India area, and was possibly a Sikh. [Using the name "Singh" fits, as Sikhs take that name as a middle or last name once they've been fully initiated into the Sikh religion. However, Khan doesn't display any of the other signs of being a baptized Sikh - his hair is cut, he's not wearing a Dastaar (the headwrap) or a Kara (iron bracelet) - so he probably doesn't actually follow Sikhism; it wouldn't be out of character for him to believe himself above such things.] He described himself as "an engineer, of sorts".
     When Khan was overthrown, he and 84 fellow superhumans - a mix of Western, mid-European, Latin, and Oriental descent [curiously, none of them appear to be of African descent; the Enterprise sort-of prequel episodes will show black Augments, however, so it doesn't seem to be the case that there weren't any] - fled into space on a then-cutting-edge spaceship: a DY-100 class ship named the S.S. Botany Bay. (This launch was also omitted from the history books.) The Botany Bay was a long, thin, grey ship, not entirely unlike a submarine, with a large sail or fin-like structure on the top front of the ship. The center of the ship contained a large central section hanging down from the main part, looking like an octagon cut more or less in half. The back of the ship was a bit wider, with four small rectangular protrusions (two on each side) held away from the ship by very small, thin struts. The ship was powered by nuclear engines via transistor units, and it could generate artificial gravity. [The landing party doesn't seem to have any problems walking around.] The interior of the ship was [surprisingly] spacious, with large corridors containing inset beds. The Botany Bay headed into space with the goal of building a new world; however, due to the length of the journey, all the passengers went into suspended animation, as the DY-100 class was designed for interplanetary travel, not interstellar travel. While on its trip, non-essential functions like heat and oxygen generation shut down, although it broadcast a general call in Morse Code for any passing ships/planets. [In case you don't know, "CQ" is the code for a general call, inviting a response.] When the ship detected a nearby vessel, it began bringing up life-support functions and then, after power was switched on in the ship, revived the leader, Khan. By the time the Enterprise encountered it, the hull of the Botany Bay was pitted with meteor scars [this is more apparent in the remastered version than in the original, which looks largely pristine] and twelve of the life support units had failed. This left 73 functioning units, 30 of which contained women. The travelers, while asleep, were dressed in gold underwear and gold-colored netting, but when they were revived there were red jumpsuits [at least for the males; Khan doesn't appear to hand any out to the women] for them to wear.
     Upon awakening, Khan decided that humanity had changed little since his time, relying on technological advances rather than genetic ones, and that therefore he and his people would be able to rule others without much problem. [Future episodes, beginning with DS9's "Doctor Bashir, I Presume", will establish that this lack of advancement is deliberate, genetic engineering having been outlawed in order to avoid creating more people like Khan.] With the help of historian Lt. Marla McGivers [rhymes with "divers"], he revived the rest of his compatriots and attempted to take over the Enterprise in order to travel to a colony that they could rule. However, they were defeated by Kirk and Spock, and Kirk exiled Khan, his people, and Lt. McGivers to the "somewhat inhospitable" planet Ceti Alpha V. [For what happened next, see Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.]
     Lt. Marla McGivers was an historian aboard the Enterprise who specialized in late 20th-century Earth history. She wore a red uniform and had long reddish hair that she kept up. Her cabin was decorated with art depicting great historical men, including Napoleon, Leif Erikson, and Richard the Lionheart, and she found herself drawn to such bold historical figures. She was also a fairly talented painter. She found herself extremely attracted to Khan and was willing to help him release his people, although not to the point of killing Kirk. She was exiled to Ceti Alpha V with Khan.
     Suspended animation was necessary in space travel until approximately 2018. [It's not quite clear what changed in 2018; it might be possible that the script's intention is for this to have been the warp drive, but that's not explicit and subsequent episodes rule that out. 2018 might be when inertial dampeners were invented, allowing people to travel at much faster sublight speeds safely.]
     The Enterprise has an intruder control system, which floods given areas with an anesthesia gas. There is also a decompression chamber in sickbay, and narrow cylindrical tools with a handle on the end for some unspecified use in Engineering. Atmospheric controls are located on the bridge, next to the viewscreen. (If the screen is 12 o'clock, the controls are at 11.)
     The Enterprise's library tapes are accessible to any patient in sickbay, including a number of technical manuals. [The display we see appears to be an exploded diagram of an aircraft's wing, rather than something designed specifically for the episode. A special diagram was prepared but ultimately went unused until next season's "The Trouble with Tribbles".]
     The DY-500 class is a class of spaceship similar to but more advanced than the DY-100.
     Starbase 12 is located on a planet in the Gamma 400 star system. It is the Federation's command base in that sector.
     While suffocating on the bridge, Kirk recommends commendations for Spock, Uhura, Technicians First Class Thule and Harrison, and Lt. Spinelli.
     Dr. McCoy dislikes using the transporter. [This is the first occurrence of this particular quirk.]

Final Analysis: "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." A fascinating combination of ideas (people from the past, genetic engineering) provides an excellent framework for "Space Seed", and the casting of Ricardo Montalban as Khan is inspired; he gives a genuinely magnetic performance as Khan, elevating the material to the next level - it's little wonder they brought him back. Both thoughtful and full of action, "Space Seed" is one of the best installments of all of Star Trek.

"Star Trek" and its related properties are ™ and © CBS. All rights reserved. No copyright infringement is intended by this fan site.

Guide Home

Page originally created: June 7, 2016
Page last updated: April 9, 2019

Contact us via Twitter or Facebook