Recap: Star Trek S 1 E 22 Space Seed

Series:Star Trek: The Original Series
Episode: Season 1, Episode 22
Title:"Space Seed"
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Recapper: Insert Witty Name Here

The episode which was the basis for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

It all begins when the Enterprise comes across the S.S. Botany Bay, an apparent derelict from the 1990s, which the characters handily remind each other was when Earth was nearly destroyed in a world-wide war which was not World War III. This war was caused by scientists creating genetically-superior humans. These superhumans decided to Take Over the World, but ultimately ended up fighting amongst themselves.

Kirk, Bones, Scotty and Lt. McGivers (our Girl of the Week) beam onto the Botany Bay, finding it full of Human Popsicles. Ricardo Montalban, who we're told is a Sikh, wakes up and McGivers falls in Love at First Sight. In Sickbay, he's discovered to be superhuman, holds a knife to McCoy's throat and says his name is "Khan", but refuses to answer any other question. Kirk decides it's a good idea to let Khan look at all the technical information on the Enterprise. Meanwhile, McGivers gets to have a rather lame love scene with Khan in which we learn she wears her hair in a 1960s updo (which looks uncannily like a wig) because it's "comfortable."

Kirk and Spock question Khan some more and he as good as admits that he was one of the superhuman Evil Overlords from the '90s. Since Evil Is Sexy, McGivers takes Khan's side and apologizes to him for how rude everyone else was. He then manipulates her feeble female mind into agreeing to help him hijack the ship. With her help, he unfreezes his Evil Minions and takes over Engineering. It turns out he actually learned a bit from those tech manuals and cuts off life-support systems to the bridge. After everyone has passed out, he treats them to Kirk's torture in a decompression chamber, offering to let him live if someone joins him.

At this point, McGivers has had enough and sets Kirk free, begging him to let Khan live. This leads to Kirk and Khan's Stunt Doubles having a big Professional Wrestling-style fight which ends in Khan's defeat despite his superior strength due to Kirk breaking off a mechanical lever from the ship as an Improvised Weapon. Kirk and Khan agree that he and his followers will be dumped on the savage planet Ceti Alpha V, providing Khan the opportunity to build his own empire. McGivers decides to go with Khan rather than face court-martial. Kirk and Spock speculate about what will become of them:

Spock: It would be interesting, Captain, to return to that world in a hundred years and learn what crop had sprung from the seed you planted today.
Kirk: Yes, Mr. Spock. It would indeed.

The Fan Nickname for this episode is, of course, "The One With Khan".

This episode includes the following tropes:

  • Affably Evil: Khan. He's surprisingly charming and polite for being a former dictator. Or not, considering how many dictators have come to power through charm and charisma.
  • Ambition Is Evil: As Spock describes Khan and his fellow augments, "Superior ability breeds superior ambition."
  • Badass Bookworm: McCoy tells Khan to "make up [his] mind" how to kill him and even tells him the "most effective" way to do it. Even Khan is impressed.
  • Badass Normal: Kirk. He beats the tar out of a supposed "superman" with nothing but his bare fists and a PVC pipe.
  • Beware the Superman/No Transhumanism Allowed: Khan is the reason why, as far forward as Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Bio-Augmentation is forbidden.
  • Die Hard on an X: Kirk and his crew have to sneak through the Enterprise to undermine Khan and his followers.
  • Evil Counterpart: A reason Khan became so popular, he is a perfect match for Kirk in both fighting prowess and strategic capability.
  • Evil Overlord: Khan.
  • Fangirl: McGivers is one for, as Khan puts it, "bold men from the past", such as Leif Erikson, Richard The Lion Heart, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Khan himself. She even draws Fan-Art of them!
  • Forced to Watch: In one of Khan's nastier moments, he makes the crew watch Kirk suffocate in an effort to force them to follow him.
  • Foreshadowing: Probably unintended at the time, but Spock's musing on what they would find upon returning to the planet on a later occasion essentially serves as a Sequel Hook leading into Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
  • High Heel-Face Turn: McGivers, after a manner of speaking. She still loves Khan, but she is unwilling to watch him execute her captain and the other officers.
  • Human Popsicles: Khan and Company, before being woken up.
  • "I Can't Look" Gesture: Uhura turns off the viewing screen on which Khan is showing them Kirk suffocating.
  • Kick the Dog: One of Khan's men slaps Uhura after she shoots him a glare.
  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Come on, Kirk, his name is Khan. Why Don't Ya Just Shoot Him?
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Kirk takes in Khan and his men after he finds them floating in space and on the verge of dying when their ship systems fail. Khan returns the favor by attempting to kill Kirk and take over his ship.
  • Nostalgia Filter: Pointed out by Spock in-universe. The human command crew view Khan through distant centuries, remembering him from their history classes fondly as the least evil of the Eugenics Wars' genetic supermen and they have the impression he was 'firm but fair'. Spock has a different and, it turns out, more accurate perspective that Khan was still a ruthless tyrant. This is probably meant to reflect how people romanticize historical figures like Napoleon and, indeed, Genghis Khan, as well as the old saw that Mussolini 'made the trains run on time'. (In fact, McGivers lovingly lists Napoleon as one of the figures whom Khan reminds her of.)
  • Pride: Khan's Fatal Flaw.
  • Sacred Hospitality: Khan tramples all over it.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Khan Noonien Singh and his cryogenically frozen followers.
  • Smug Super: Khan, full stop. He has no problem telling Kirk and Co. to their faces that they are "honestly inferior."
  • The Social Darwinist: This is Khan full stop - and a large part of the reason he is so horrible.
  • Super Strength: Khan can crush a phaser in his hands and throw Kirk across the room.
  • Take Over the World: Seemingly Khan's objective.
  • The Right of a Superior Species
  • Twenty Minutes into the Future: The establishment of the Eugenics Wars in the 1990s naturally caused the franchise some problems when it was still going strong when the decade actually came around. One of the novels makes a truly heroic effort to fit it into real history, explaining how the wars could have happened with no one knowing about them.
    • In contrast, the Star Trek:Khan comic miniseries dispels all pretense of that and pushes it straight into Alternate History, depicting Khan and his followers nuking Washington DC and Moscow...IN 1992!!!
  • Übermensch: Khan and his followers are physically and mentally superior to ordinary humans.
  • Virtue Is Weakness: When Marla McGivers asks to be excused from seeing her captain and the other officers executed, Khan comments, "I had hoped you would be stronger."
  • Wrestler in All of Us: Kirk uses several wrestling moves against Khan.