Director: Marc Daniels
Writers: Gene L. Coon and Carey Wilber
Cast: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Ricardo Montalban, Madlyn Rhue, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Blaisdell Makee, Nichelle Nichols, Mark Tobin, Kathy Ahart, and John Winston
Composer: Alexander Courage
Air Date: 2/16/1967
Production #: 6149-24
After Captain Kirk and his crew encounter a derelict ship containing cryogenically frozen passengers from the 1990s, a genetically augmented warrior named Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalban) awakens from suspended animation. Kirk and Spock eventually uncover the disturbing truth concerning the company and crew of the SS Botany Bay, though not in time to prevent Khan from seducing the Enterprise’s historian, Lieutenant Marla McGivers (Madlyn Rhue), and commandeering the ship for his own nefarious purposes.
Thanks to the exceptional performances of William Shatner and Ricardo Montalban, “Space Seed” stands out as another remarkable entry in season one’s lineup of episodes. Science fiction fans will appreciate the many contrasts between modern-day humans and the futuristic space explorers inspired by Gene Roddenberry’s vision, while more casual viewers should enjoy the genesis (pun intended) for one of the greatest Star Trek movies ever made.
Unlike the bizarre rendition of Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness, Montalban’s portrayal gives the character a menacing presence while capturing the subtlety expected of a dignified leader. The fact that Khan’s personality drips with condescension and arrogance also adds a compelling edge to his interactions with Kirk, whose command style often clashes with the domineering qualities of his anachronistic guest. When tensions between Khan and the Enterprise crew reach boiling point, the audience is treated to a riveting finale where Lieutenant McGivers becomes the only wild card that can tip the scales in favor of either side. As explained above, the spot-on pacing, dialogue, and acting culminate in possibly the most captivating Star Trek narrative at this point in the series.
Though this episode’s commentary on the potentially devastating effects of eugenic guidance in regards to human evolution seems self-explanatory, another aspect worth exploring centers on the key differences between humanistic and nihilistic philosophies as embodied through Kirk and Khan respectively. A product of selective breeding, Khan possesses every trait typically associated with superiority: handsomeness, intelligence, and strength far beyond that of an average man. However, for all his striking elegance and physical prowess, Khan lacks the moral compass that would enable him to utilize his superior intellect for altruistic rather than selfish pursuits. Kirk, on the other hand, exemplifies the ethical foundation of a seasoned Starfleet officer, which ultimately proves advantageous against Khan’s archaic notions of superiority. Overall, teleplay writers Gene L. Coon and Carey Wilber brilliantly represented the logical advantages of Roddenberry’s philosophy over more radical alternatives (in contrast, Nicholas Meyer’s Star Trek II script deals with the consequences of Kirk’s idealistically motivated decision to pardon Khan’s crimes).
“Space Seed” is a thought-provoking piece that benefits from superior acting and realistic dialogue. Star Trek enthusiasts may hold this episode in high esteem for its analysis of humanistic values, whereas The Wrath of Khan fans are advised to view “Space Seed” as an introduction to the most fascinating character ever featured in this series.
Overall Quality: 10/10
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