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Star Trek: Space Seed

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."

It's almost impossible to watch this one for itself and not as the basis for the second (and terrific) Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. I kept wanting Kirk to stop admiring those monsters and take them to Starbase 12 immediately so that they could be incarcerated forever. Please don't break the rules, Kirk. Don't make a social science experiment out of these people. You'll be so very, very sorry if you do.

And yet, despite Kirk's seriously fatal error in letting them all go, this is still a classic episode. Mostly because of an excellent performance by Ricardo Montalban as Khan. He sees himself as utterly superior, believes in what he is, and believes any action he takes to strengthen his own position is justified. I almost like him for it, and can see why Kirk and company sort of admire him.

What bothers me most is the way he treats Lieutenant Marla McGivers. His first words to her are orders; he just takes her over. She is immediately smitten, to the extent that in practically no time, she's ready to betray her own people, give up her life and everyone she's ever known to go with him. Sure, he's charismatic and handsome and has a killer chest, but really – an obsession with history just isn't enough to explain it. And I've never understood why Khan wasn't more interested in one of the genetically enhanced women on the Botany Bay instead of McGivers, a weak, "normal" woman. It seems illogical that a man like Khan didn't take a consort or three into suspended animation along with him.

But anyway. The point of the episode, in my opinion, was that the crew of the Enterprise may not be super beings, but they showed that they were superior to the genetically enhanced crew of the Botany Bay. Yes, Khan was able to take over the ship, but when Kirk was tortured in the decompression chamber, his officers refused to give in. Uhura remained defiant when Khan's men battered her. Spock walked calmly to what might have been his death. Even the pathetic McGivers couldn't allow Khan to kill Kirk in the end.

Were they suggesting that natural selection beats artificial selection? That good old humanity was better left to develop on its own? Of course they were.

Ben says...


(Sorry. I always wanted to do that.)

Favorite Quote: "Captain, I thank you for your hospitality, particularly the rich Corinthian leather of our chairs and access to Dee Plane." (My little salute to the incomparable Ricardo Montalban which, if you are under 30, you probably take as evidence that I have lost my mind).

That said and despite what I am about to write, I really love this episode.

Another Nazi-influenced episode, when the Enterprise pulls over the S.S. Boys From Brazil for a broken taillight and discovers Bormann, Mengele and Himmler in suspended animation. And then decides to invite them to dinner. Yeah, yeah, they plunged the Earth into decades of fall-out laced chaos (also known as the 1990s) but c'mon, they are the Most Interesting Men in the Universe. Gosh, even after they seize control of the ship, no one can stay mad at them. They are the teacup pigs of eugenicists, just too cute to shoot. Let's drop them off on Planet Wobegone (y'know, because everybody there is above average).

There's no way this one will ever come back to bite us in the butt.

(Note: William Adama understood how to handle mutiny. You line up the leaders, shoot them, and dump them in space. Even when they are your buddies, no "Wrath of Gaeta," no sir.)

Back to Billie for bits and pieces:

— Stardate 3141.9. The sleeper ship was the S.S. Botany Bay. Khan and his people were to be stranded on Ceti Alpha Five. Not Six.

— Eugenics wars, 1990s. Warp drive invented, 2018. The writers certainly didn't consider the possibility that Star Trek would still be an active franchise in the 1990s and beyond, and why should they? How could anyone have known?

— Apparently, there's no way off the bridge except the turbolift. I would consider that to be a serious design flaw. Although there seem to be procedures in place to prevent an armed takeover of the Enterprise. Although they didn't work, did they?

— Kirk and Spock had a couple of long discussions on the bridge that came off much like romantic banter. I don't think that was the intention of the writers, though.

— Khan was a Sikh. He even wore a sort of Nehru jacket to dinner. And he had his very own version of a Spock pinch.

— How come the cast members who were in "The Menagerie" were the only ones with dress uniforms? :)

— Okay, explain to me why there would be an historian on the Enterprise? Well, I guess maybe she could analyze other developing cultures from the perspective of those on Earth... I guess I just answered my own question.

— In 2010, the stunt men are blindingly obvious. They got away with it in the sixties because televisions were a lot smaller back then.


Spock: "I can't understand why it always gives you pleasure to see me proven wrong."
Kirk: "An emotional Earth weakness of mine."

McCoy: "I signed aboard this ship to practice medicine, not to have my atoms scattered back and forth across space by this gadget."
I believe this is the first time McCoy complains about the transporter. Not the last. I'm with McCoy on this one; I find it creepy. Part of me is convinced that the transporter essentially kills you and reconstructs a replica, so what comes out the other side isn't you.

McCoy: "Well, either choke me or cut my throat. Make up your mind."
Khan: "English. I thought I dreamed hearing it. Where am I?"
McCoy: "You're in bed, holding a knife at your doctor's throat."
Khan: "Answer my question!"
McCoy: "It would be most effective if you would cut the carotid artery, just under the left ear."
This is my favorite exchange in the episode. McCoy showed a lot of guts. If only he weren't afraid of the transporter.

Khan: "We offered the world order!"
How inexplicable that we didn't take it, huh?

Khan: "You are an excellent tactician, captain. You let your second in command attack, while you sit and watch for weakness."

Four out of four antique scalpels,

Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.


  1. Ben's part of this review had me laughing my ass off. I especially loved the reference to the Dos Equis ads. Hilarious! Maybe the under 30 crowd will appreciate that one if they don't get the salute to Ricardo Montalban!

    I also really loved Billie's "Don't make a social science experiment out of these people. You'll be so very, very sorry if you do."

  2. Both love and hate this episode. Love the plot and the character of Khan. Love the way the crew stand up to Khan and his henchmen with such courage and valour. Hate the way the Historian, MacGivers, is a stupid bitch and hate the way Khan treats her like shit and she laps it up and commits mutiny on the flip of a coin. Love the literary reference to Milton; hate that Khan forgives her so easily for double-crossing him. Love the fact that Khan came back in Wrath of Khan; hate that Kirk makes the decision he makes, knowing what the future will hold for them all.

  3. I used to watch Fantasy Island as well, so know Ricardo Montalban going way back. This is a great episode with a few flaws (mostly how MacGivers is handled), and the movie that follows this is excellent, and so much better than the first Star Trek movie that was mostly crap, and that transporter scene is not something a kid should see (I was 9 at the time, that was not a great thing to experience that young).

    The main cast gets to prove why they are so well loved even to this day in this one. I feel McCoy and Uhura came off extremely well here. I love too that McCoy complained about the transporter later on in his appearance on TNG too!


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