12 January 2016

The Moderate Irritation of Khan (Review: 'Star Trek' 1.22, "Space Seed")

Yes, we're reached one of the most famous episodes of the entire show - the one that got a sequel in one of the best movies of the franchise (let's not mention the other one, shall we?) and inspired William Shatner's hammiest line ever.

The Enterprise locates a derelict vessel floating in space broadcasting Morse code... a spaceship launched in the 1990s. One with life on board...

I'm going to start by saying that I wouldn't be seen dead, let along spend over two centuries asleep, wearing that net thing that we discover the crew of SS Botany Bay wearing. William Theiss was definitely a man who liked his bare flesh, that was for sure.

The triumvirate (now there's a word that I don't get to us every day) are very firmly established at by what today would be near the end of the first season instead of three-quarters of the way through; 29 episodes in the first run would be unthinkable today. Kirk's emotion versus Spock's logic makes a good mix, with both him and Bones having fun bantering with a guy who doesn't do 'banter'. Or irritation for that matter.

 It's interesting to note that this year, 2016, is the 20th 'anniversary' of Khan's departure in the first major bit of back story added to the Trek universe; another 'World War' would later get added to the continuity by the time Star Trek: First Contact was made. With not that many lines of dialogue, the rich seeds (no pun intended) were laid for many licensed works covering the 'Eugenics Wars', the first point where the prime universe diverges from our own in a big way. Of course, the creators of the show at the time did not think there would still be Star Trek being produced in 1996... let alone 2016.

Khan Noonien Singh, escaped former tyrant is deeply compelling and played superbly by the late Ricardo Montalbán who in his long career was also a strong advocate for improved representation of Latino actors in television and actually spent much of his life working with a severe back injury that would eventually put him in a wheelchair - including this role. His chest is definitely very impressive (and the director insists that was his real one in the The Wrath of Khan) and he comes across as very manly despite long hair... not to mention eyeshadow! It's also clear that Khan is a ruthless ruler; he's perfectly willing to suffocate Kirk et al to get what he wants.

Also, I'm going to have to add my annoyance at the depiction of near-suffocation in any fiction; you don't just end up walking off after losing consciousness from lack of oxygen (notable recent exception - The Librarians, in an episode that starred John de Lancie aka Q and was directed by Jonathan Frakes aka Riker).
Then we get McGivers... who doesn't really do much for feminism at all. Uhura does more in one glance after being slapped than McGivers, who falls head over heels in love with Khan. Her scenes with him are reminiscent (at least to someone who has never read them) of a Mills & Boon novel. Sigh...

Since Khan hasn't actually killed anyone, Kirk decides to put him and his crew on a barely hospitable planet where they can survive with their ingenuity. He's going to come to regret that later.


While Khan is a highly memorable villain, there is a fair bit wrong with this episode, namely the entire McGivers plot for one thing. Perhaps I would have ranked this higher on a first watch, but I can only give it...


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