Star Trek: The Original Series

"Space Seed"

3.5 stars

Air date: 2/16/1967
Teleplay by Gene L. Coon and Carey Wilber
Story by Carey Wilber
Directed by Marc Daniels

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

A good thriller requires a good villain, and "Space Seed" has Khan Noonian Singh (Ricardo Montalban), a 20th-century tyrannical leader from the era of the Eugenics War—a conflict fought over the dispute of genetically engineering human beings. Khan and his crew have been in suspended animation on the S.S. Botany Bay since 1996. Now awakened, Khan intends to reinitiate his old ways, beginning with taking over the Enterprise and (as they say) moving on to the rest of the universe.

Khan's quite a presence; his skill in manipulating historical officer Lt. Marla McGivers (Madlyn Rhue) demonstrates his great ability for balancing attractive charisma and frightening psychological terrorism—and Montalban is exceptional in the role. Khan's tactic in trying to force support from crew members (subjection to suffocation) is particularly treacherous.

The ending fight scene was a little typical in its way of "Kirk versus an adversary," but it was executed well. Oh, and there was great use of Bones' attitude in the early scenes ("Well, either choke me or cut my throat—make up your mind!"). But like much of classic Trek, the polemics linger: the argument and implications of "improving man"; the reflection upon a savage reign of tyranny; the savageness inherent in humanity. All interesting stuff.

Previous episode: The Return of the Archons
Next episode: A Taste of Armageddon

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39 comments on this review

Fri, Jun 1, 2012, 1:54am (UTC -6)
I loved that scene with Bones, too. And young Ricardo Montalban was HAWT. But I was pretty irritated with the whole McGiver-can't-resist-the-man-from-a-different-time plotline. I have no patience for fluctuating loyalties, and women often serve that function in TOS.
Sat, Sep 8, 2012, 2:06pm (UTC -6)
The best line of all Star Trek and one I have used in many scenarios, "Stay or go, but do it because it is what you wish to do."
Tue, Oct 9, 2012, 8:15am (UTC -6)
The fight scene was well executed? Not even by 60's standards. Mrs. Prickley's doubles got full-on face shots--very amateurish.
Fri, Apr 26, 2013, 7:15am (UTC -6)
The fight scene if pretty funny. As in other episodes they use stunt doubles who only look vaguely like the actors. In the fight scene in Mirror, Mirror Spock's double has curly hair.
And it stupid that Khan gets taken down by Kirk with a piece of plastic pipe.
Mon, Sep 16, 2013, 8:23am (UTC -6)
Oh my god how I hate that episode.

All that swooning over a "superior" man - and it's not just the females!

And then there is kind of woman that is characterized as "To Stupid To live" in fiction. "Swept off her feet" because deep down, women want a "real man" who is an arrogant domineering asshole. Yuck, yuck and YUCK on that whole concept.

Kirk made two really bad decisions in this episode. First, giving Khan access to all of the ship's library including the technical manuals (WTF?), then letting the bastard live.

And Khan hot?? Ok, we all have different ideas on what's hot.

Grr, why are women often portrayed so DUMB on Star Trek??

Zero stars.

Thu, Nov 7, 2013, 10:51am (UTC -6)
Having been a longtime fan of TWOK, it was interesting to see the TOS ep that preceded it, as well as to go back and look at the character of Khan again after seeing Into Darkness. After watching SS, it makes me wonder to what lengths Marcus went to in order to ensure that Khan didn't commandeer HIS ship and revive his crew after reviving him in the alternate timeline. He obviously was smart enough to ensure that Khan couldn't easily figure how to take control though, of course, Marcus eventually lost control of him thus leading into the plot of Into Darkness. I was dumbfounded by the seeming stupidity of Kirk giving Khan access to technical manuals of the ship. I would think that that sort of information would be considered highly classified but above and beyond that they knew almost nothing about him before giving him such unwarranted access to the information. As for their decision to allow him and his people to go into exile, I think that they probably had no real choice of what to do with him other than to exile him to a remote planet. Unlike the Jack Pack augments, Khan and his people were physically and mentally fit and would be a threat/menace to the Federation and couldn't simply be maintained in an institution. Short of killing him and the rest of his augments, there was almost nothing else they could do with a whole group of super-people stranded out of time. Of course, they probably should've kept tabs on what was going on in the Ceti Alpha system before accidentally stumbling them but then we wouldn't have gotten the excellent TWOK movie, would we?
Wed, Jan 1, 2014, 2:11pm (UTC -6)
"The Eugenics Wars of the 1990s were "your last World War"? Oops...
Thu, Mar 20, 2014, 1:08pm (UTC -6)
Just watched Space Seed for the first time. Thoughts:

-Ricardo Montalban definitely made this episode watchable. I think if someone else had played Khan, this episode would have been completely forgettable. This was a case where the actor was way better than the material he had to work with.

-Now that I've seen it, I'm surprised they decided to return to this topic for Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan. Don't get me long, I agree that TWOK was among the best of the ST movies. But, after watching Space Seed, I would not think this was a story that could be successfully returned to, because frankly it just wasn't that great of an episode to begin with. I guess they must have just decided that they needed a great villain, and Ricardo Montalban definitely delivers.

-That fight scene was laugh-out-loud funny. Multiple shots where you get full frontal shots of Shatner's stunt double's face. Maybe it was harder to tell them apart on the grainy 480i tiny tv screens of the 60's. But in glorious HD via Netflix, it is comical: The viewer is like: wait, who the hell is THAT, and why are we watching a fight between two completely different people?

What's more: why did they even use stunt double's for this in the first place? Interspersed in the fight are shots of Shatner doing seemingly equally strenuous things (holding onto a grid with his hands while trying to choke Khan with his legs). And in other episodes Shatner gets into the fighting a lot more than this one. *shrug*
Sat, Apr 12, 2014, 11:18pm (UTC -6)
Notice khan had "5 times" the strength of kirk yet couldnt take him.

Still one of the best. Imho TWOK saved the ST movie franchise.
John TY
Sat, Aug 30, 2014, 8:57am (UTC -6)
Entertaining in parts but some serious issues as others have mentioned.

Something else: As an Australian I find Kirk's comment about the British landing at Botany Bay - "Those men went on to tame a continent" - as dated at best. Such a western world mentality believing that a continent inhabited by a 40,000 year old culture needs taming. And then setting Kahn and his people on a world that hasn't asked for him tells us that colonialism is good; the locals are just savages that need to be taught how to live proper like.
Tue, Sep 2, 2014, 12:55pm (UTC -6)
I have an interesting experience in that I saw Into Darkness, The Wrath of Kahn, and read the tie-in Kahn comics before I saw Space Seed. So I basically got all the follow up Kahn stuff before I watched his first appearance.

Having seen it, I can totally see why he got so much attention in the series. Kahn is just a very interesting character and he's great in this episode. They gave a pretty deep history to Kahn in this episode for what was possibly one-shot character.

I kind of wish Montalban would have said his name more dramatically when he says his name is Kahn. He also seems oddly contented at the end with being stranded.

My preferred ending to this episode would have been Kahn defeating the enterprise crew and disappearing into space with his people. I'd like to see the guy with 5 times the strength of a man and vast intelligent outwit Kirk for a change.
Mon, Sep 8, 2014, 11:43pm (UTC -6)
Too bad Chris Pine's Kirk didn't have a PVC pipe handy or Into Darkness would have been over in thirty seconds ;)

Good episode, Montalban was definitely the one thing that elevated this episode into the classic range. Plus it set the stage for TWOK, my favorite Trek movie of all time, which in turn ultimately (albeit indirectly) made TNG possible. TNG, in turn set the stage for DS9, VOY and ENT to add their contributions to the Trek canvas.

Interesting idea to ponder - every future incarnation of Trek, to a certain degree, probably owes its existence to this one episode. Fascinating.
Wed, Oct 29, 2014, 10:14pm (UTC -6)
Strangely, i had never seen this episode of TOS before although I have seen TWOK many times including years ago with my father at the cinema with I'm sure TMP first. Did they really do things like that? Show one movie then another? Or is my mind playing tricks? Anyway I'd heard about the episode and read about it here.

Bizarrely it turns up on some tv channel here in the UK yesterday, pretty strange!. Fascinating to watch.

One bit that I had to pause and watch again is when the gas gets released and Scotty sort of runs out the room but quickly turns round and floors one of Khans 'men' before running out. Rather bizarre but I thought pretty funny. I guess it was the same bloke that dropped Scotty earlier. Interesting that there's no Chekov in the Episode which kinda messes up TWOK a little though I guess that's already been mentioned.

Fabulous stuff that's got me watching quite a bit of TOS (loved the epsiode when they go back to the 1960's with the air force pilot!) even though 'my trek ' has and will always be TNG.
Thu, Oct 30, 2014, 10:50am (UTC -6)
Unless it ever outright states that Chekov joins the Enterprise after this he could have encountered Khan off screen.

And you are thinking of a double feature. They don't do that much anymore.
Thu, Oct 30, 2014, 1:26pm (UTC -6)
I nver bought the "Chekov" complaint... Khan had access to the ship's database...
Thu, Nov 13, 2014, 6:45pm (UTC -6)
I just watched this for the first time today and it's very interesting to see where the story of TWOK came from. I've known about the plot for ages since reading the Chronology back in 1993 but it's a whole over thing to see it play out.

It's a really interesting story and Khan is a pretty great character and villain. Ricardo Montalban really sells the part for the most and I love the whole background with them finding out bits and pieces of the Eugenics Wars. It's easy to make fun of that stuff now having passed those dates and noting the technology divide of their imagined future and our past but as a kid I would have loved that, same way I loved the future's of Back to the Future or Terminator or Days of Future Past.

But there are a few parts that really stick out and stop it from making it a great episode in my mind. There's things that you can excuse as products of the time, like the stunt guys getting too much exposure in the fight scenes, I don't think they were meant to stand-up to much scrutiny because the maybe the viewers were less discerning and they also didn't have replay function to confirm things at the time. But things like Kirk makes some really stupid decisions, like giving Khan access to the ship's database despite clearly recognising that Khan is hiding something. It stands out to me but civilians seem to get away with a bunch of stuff on these starships, David Marcus just wanders onto the bridge in middle of a battle in TWOK and another 1990s guy blunders into the Romulan encounter in TNG's The Neutral Zone.
There's something disturbing about the Khan/McGivers relationship, like some kind of spousal abuse going on. He basically threatens to break her arm and uses her confused attraction to him to get her to betray the crew, like some messed up space stockholm syndrome. And then at the end no one realises any of this and Kirk gives her a choice of court martial or going with Khan. It's like the lesser of two evils, but we'resupposed to think it's actual love that's won out? This whole thing leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I mean, maybe she grew to love him, maybe she already did, but from TWOK I got the impression it was this real love coming from a real connection between the two and I guess it just disappoints me.
Thu, Dec 4, 2014, 1:32am (UTC -6)
Ahh, Space Seed, the episode that launched a movie plot that saved a franchise...and Ricardo Montalban and his hot charisma that I wish had been played as Mexican, which he was, rather than "Sikh" (because they're such great warriors - uhhh okaay?). And yes, I AM on Team Montalban, and Team Montalban's Chest. :p

I would swoon a-la-McGivers at this episode, but there's far too many laughable and dumb things about this episode that left me giggling, facepalming, and sometimes cringing.

Much of these dumb things have been mentioned already. Kirk must have had quite the brain-fart to just let Khan access all the ship's technical manuals. DURRR. And the way that McGivers just collapses into a submissive, controlled woman who "loves" Khan - that's a real cringer there. But thankfully, the giggles and facepalms far outweigh the cringes in this episode. From the laugh-out-loud obvious stunt doubles (in an otherwise ridiculous fight, that Kirk wins via "heavy" plastic thingamajig) to the very start of the episode where they just turn on the ship and try to revive Khan right then and there, instead of towing the ship to the Starbase first - but then we wouldn't have this episode. We'd have Khan trying to conquer a Starbase - AND THEN, THE UNIVERSE! And possibly succeeding in such an endeavour. And, of course, we wouldn't have the stage properly set for The Wrath of Khan, my favourite Star Trek film. :)

I'll give the episode credit for the terror and abuse that Uhura and the crew go through at the hands of the Ubermenschen (which was well played by all), plus the Death-By-Decompression that nearly killed Kirk. And of course, Montalban as Khan pretty well steals the show with his charm and calculated cruelty.

Oh, and the biggest cringer of all: How this whole episode is basically an unconscious love letter to Colonialism. The whole idea that the British criminals on the original Botany Bay "tamed a continent".... yeahhh, no. Plus all the side-praise for conquering figures of the past like Alexander and Napoleon. And why the admiration for Khan? Oh sure, the episode says that we can admire a person while also despising them. But conveniently for the episode, no one in the 24th Century remembers Stalin or Mao in such a light.
Wed, Aug 19, 2015, 3:19am (UTC -6)
So I'm wondering if there's any significance to the similarity between Khan's name (Khan Noonien Singh) and the name of Data's creator (Dr. Noonien Soong), or if that was just supposed to be a tribute to the episode/character. I get it: Eugenics and building super--or even perfect--humans; what I want to know is if they're actually related within the mythology of the show.

Otherwise, I'm not a fan of the episode. The rampant misogyny, stupidity, and bad acting turned me off almost completely. Bones's sanguine quips to Khan while having a knife pressed to his throat were about the only bright spots.
Wed, Aug 19, 2015, 9:52am (UTC -6)
@Pam re: Noonien

There may be no in-universe connection (although ENT's "The Augments" teases one), but the real-world explanation is that it was a shout-out by Roddenberry. As the story goes, Gene used the name as a signal to his wartime friend, Kim Noonien Singh, with whom he had lost contact.
Thu, Aug 20, 2015, 7:07am (UTC -6)
Thanks Grumpy. I never heard that before.
Frances Yozawitz
Fri, Sep 25, 2015, 2:15pm (UTC -6)
I Love Star Trek.
Wed, Feb 17, 2016, 2:34am (UTC -6)
Totally agree with Pam, the overacting is laughable and the gender stereotyping is beyond insulting for a "progressive" TV series. But then I'm probably totally spoiled now with Benedict Cumberbatch's take on the Khan Noonien Singh character in the latest movie. Madlyn Rue was such a feisty person in real life I'm amazed she didn't scream and kick in protest at how she was directed to play McGiver (spelling?). She asserts herself with Kirk but is lik mome overcooked playdough in Khan's hands, literally.
Tue, Mar 1, 2016, 4:14pm (UTC -6)
@ Beth "But conveniently for the episode, no one in the 24th Century remembers Stalin or Mao in such a light. "

I really don't understand what that has to do with anything? They specifically say that Khan was a benevolent dictator, better than such figures.
Fri, May 27, 2016, 5:23pm (UTC -6)

"So I'm wondering if there's any significance to the similarity between Khan's name (Khan Noonien Singh) and the name of Data's creator (Dr. Noonien Soong)"

A connection between the two men is canonically retconned by the character of Arik Soong on "Enterprise." He knew who Khan was and his world kinda sorta intersected with Khan's. Perhaps noting the similarity between "Singh" and "Soong" and as a tribute, he decided to name one of his children Noonien Soong and the name was passed down the family line. We don't know that Data's creator was the *first* Noonien Soong; he could have been Noonien Soong IV. (Nit: When did Arik Soong father children if he'd been sent up the river for life? Maybe he had the kids before he went to prison.)
Mon, Aug 1, 2016, 3:47pm (UTC -6)
Middle of the road TOS episode that gets inflated ratings b/c of the movie.
Baron Samedi
Sun, Aug 7, 2016, 2:02pm (UTC -6)
I've been rewatching a lot of TOS lately (instead of painful S5 Andromeda), I actually find this episode a lot better than I remembered. Khan is incredibly well-written to show how his effectiveness as a ruthless leader - I loved the quick cuts showing him picking up on Kirk's strategy of letting Spock ask him tough questions and looking for weakness during the dinner scene, as well as Khan's tactic of offering to spare Kirk (and then Spock) from suffocation for the loyalty of a bridge crew member. I get the complaints about Lt. McGivers, given the context of TOS often portraying female characters poorly, but in this particular story I actually found the seduction sequences very interesting. McGivers hadn't been exposed to the type of power exhibited by Khan in the tame, progressive Federation, and I don't think an individual case of a storyline like that needs to be inflated to a broad regressive statement about gender relations. Khan could tell that her claims of mere intellectual curiosity were a facade (a lie she was telling even herself) and dug under her skin, and she had no experience dealing with what Khan represented. Also, the final conversation where Spock discusses wanting to revisit the planet where they leave Khan and his crew is some bone-chilling foreshadowing unintended at the time. Spock's optimism that Khan's group wouldn't immediately die out (versus how we find out things actually went in TWOK and the bitterness against Kirk the planet's conditions fostered) is a great example of how the Federation has moved past the ideology of Khan to such an extent that they genuinely don't understand him or the danger he poses - which is why the Enterprise crew naively allowed Khan to access to the ship's database in the first place.

The fistfight at the end is still very silly - we see full images of the faces of the stunt doubles, causing me to laugh nearly as much as the lizard fight made me in "Arena" (another episode I liked more on repeat, for reasons that were less intended), but the episode is compelling enough that I honestly don't mind Kirk turning the tide with a flimsy piece of plastic.

This episode and The Wrath of Khan are good examples of how clunky execution (the fistfight in "Space Seed") and gaping plot holes (Khan recognizing Chekov in TWOK) really don't matter when the characters and story are compelling, whereas I find myself dwelling on those elements in "Into Darkness", which wasted a great cast on a horrible script and unimaginative directing.
Peter G.
Sun, Aug 7, 2016, 3:08pm (UTC -6)
"the Federation has moved past the ideology of Khan to such an extent that they genuinely don't understand him or the danger he poses - which is why the Enterprise crew naively allowed Khan to access to the ship's database in the first place. "

Great point. A kind of spoof version of this situation happens in Demolition Man, where a more peaceful and moderate society finds itself unable to grasp a man of pure ruthlessness. In Demolition Man the solution is to devolve back and regain the great chaos of the past, whereas Space Seed is great because the ship is saved due to the crew refusing to lower themselves to Khan's level.
Wed, Aug 24, 2016, 12:44am (UTC -6)
Christ how the hell did Mcgivers ever become a star fleet officer? I mean damn a giant Latino from a century ago shows up and a few hours later your literally willing to get on your knee's betray the ship and worship him!

Kirk beating Khan with that obvious plastic pipe was fucking hilarious. It's almost as funny as his fight with the Gorn.

2 Stars just for the funny fight scene choreography now enhanced with modern technology to let us see their stunt doubles.
Thu, Sep 15, 2016, 7:01pm (UTC -6)
I'm of two minds on this one. First, let's get the two obvious problems out of the way. The McGivers plot was very cringe-inducing, as showing a professional, competent woman falling in love with a man - to the point of betraying her entire society - who manhandles her like that is simply far too much to swallow. The sad thing is, they actually set it up fairly well, showing her obsession with powerful men from the past. They could have made it believable that she'd fall for one of her idols when actually coming face to face with one of them. But having Khan throw her around and practically beat her into submission and have her liking it? Uncomfortable...

And then Khan, who is supposedly a super genius far beyond the mental prowess of mere mortals, comes up with the worst plan ever to try to take over the ship. I mean, he incapacitates the crew quickly enough, but believing a professional crew will immediately betray their society after watching the captain get tortured? Did he really not expect everyone to stand firm? Were armies in the fictional 1990s really that weak in terms of discipline? Or did the ease of turning McGivers give him a false sense of confidence?

Meanwhile, well, full disclosure: I first saw Wrath of Khan before seeing this episode. And I mentioned I found Montalban's portrayal of Khan practically mesmerizing. And, to be honest, I just don't feel it as much in this episode. In the movie, he was larger than life. Here, in most scenes, he was simply another villain. A better acted villain than most of TOS' crew, but simply another character nonetheless. Perhaps it was the writing. Perhaps it was the necessarily smaller scale of the conflict. I don't know, but I wasn't overly impressed with his character. Perhaps it isn't fair to compare it to WOK, but like I said, I saw the latter one first. And it's hard to keep that out of my mind.

But with that said... there were still a few moments where he seemed like the Khan I knew. The arrogance still leaked out of him at every opportunity. The fact that he was so utterly sure that he would come out on top, regardless of what the actual situation was. His little speeches to Kirk about his superiority. Those parts I liked, those parts were worth watching. Unfortunately, they weren't coming as often as I had hoped.

And some of the themes coming through, about the charisma of these tyrants, worked. Again, this is especially true when Khan is showing some of that charisma. And I think that theme works here, at least at the end. Khan talks about how great of a ruler he is, and how all should bow to him. McGivers does, pretty easily. Kirk and Scotty talk about how one might fall for the charms of a dictator. And yet, in the end, the crew did follow a leader despite hardships involved; they followed Kirk. Khan lamented that mankind did not seem to improve in the centuries since he left Earth. And yet the loyalty Khan was hoping for, the loyalty that he had instilled in his men, was present in the Starfleet crew as well. It just wasn't loyalty to him.

And the ending, with Kirk deciding to maroon Khan rather than bring him to justice, was interesting enough. Is that decision because the statute of limitations had run out on Khan's original wars, and Kirk was far enough removed from that time period to not care about it? Was it because, as he said earlier, he had a certain fascination with such a tyrant? Was it, as Spock suggested, simply an experiment to see what would happen? Interesting that such an open-ended resolution was used; it helped to give the experience of Khan and his crew a bit more weight. And, of course, we're lucky it happened to leave itself open for a sequel.

In the end, I think it's a pretty good episode. But I'm not going to praise it as much as most do, as it strikes me as fairly weak compared to its more well known successor.
Thu, Sep 15, 2016, 10:20pm (UTC -6)
@ Skeptical

I think I understand exactly why everyone in our modern feminist culture is up in arms about the McGivers story. A tyrannical man overpowers a woman, she falls for it like a true victim, likes it, and the male oppression over the woman is glamorized as the loves story in the episode. Except that's not what's happening at all. This episode is far smarter than people are willing to accept. They want to look back on it as a dated artifact of a more sexist time, and so judge is with a sense of retrospective superiority. This may well be justifiable in some instances in TOS, such as how Yeoman Rand was used some of the time, but not in this episode. Space Seed knows exactly what it's doing and it already has feminism in mind when it shows an advanced woman who knows better still falling for a despot.

The whole point of that subplot, in fact, is precisely that no matter how advanced mankind gets culturally and intellectually, some core instincts will remain, one of which is the admiration of power. The reason McGivers is special isn't because she's too primitive to reject Khan; it's because she's too advanced to fool herself into thinking she wants to. She's an historian, and her specialty is essentially inspecting those darker parts of humanity that the utopian society would like to pretend have been washed away by 'progress.' She *knows* some part of her is called to powerful men, and I believe the case the episode is making is that she isn't the only one - that it may even be species-wide - and that one runs the danger of ceasing to know oneself if one pretends to be so superior that one is perfect. This is a far more nuanced view of the future of mankind than is presented in early TNG, at any rate, although we must grant the chronological difference between the series as well.

I love the story with McGivers, because it explicitly shows her comprehending how illogical it is to be attracted to Khan, and yet also being honest enough to admit it when Khan tells her how she feels. He also gives her a free choice, and it was no trick. He wouldn't have wanted to be with someone who he merely dominated. He wanted to be followed willingly, and indeed at the end of the episode when she chooses him over Starfleet he praises her; and this is quite the statement since she's an ordinary human. The fact that the willingness had to be in the form of basically worshipping him may seem 'unfair' or something, but that's what he had to offer and he only offered it to her because she wanted it. For another interesting story about how worship may be of more value than reason, see or read the play Equus.

That he wanted willing followers is also the explanation behind why his trying to turn the crew by torturing Kirk wasn't stupid at all. Granted, maybe torturing Kirk as such wasn't the best option compared to humiliating him in some other way, but basically Khan didn't merely want to win; he wanted those whom he defeated to recognize they lost *because* he was superior. Once they understood that, he assumed they might join him willingly, rather than under duress. He had no need for slaves; he wanted loyal followers who valued strength and greatness. He probably knew most of them wouldn't even be suitable for that life no matter what he did to them, but those few who might be susceptible would be worth his effort. This is very close, conceptually, to Dukat's speech to Weyoun in DS9 about crushing your enemies being the wrong way to go about victory. One must keep them alive, and force them to recognize the error of ever having opposed you in the first place. That's what's happening here, and with someone possibly on even footing with Dukat for having delusions of grandeur.
Fri, Oct 7, 2016, 7:36am (UTC -6)
Considering the mighty Khan's penchant for hairdressing, I suspect that LT McGivers will find life in her brave new world less than fulfilling. This episode is practically a catalogue of all that was wrong with 1960s American television, from the comically inept fight scenes, the cheesy dialogue and the woeful depiction of female characters, to the attitude that since Montalban had made a career of playing American Indians he would do to play an East Indian character. Entertaining in a so-bad-it's-good way. My three favourite moments: Uhura, who only has the one job on the bridge, isn't even allowed to proceed with translating the Morse code; the doctor's 'Either choke me or cut my throat - make up your mind'; and Kirk's snarky attitude towards McGivers when he observes that she finds another man more attractive than him.
Sat, Oct 15, 2016, 1:32pm (UTC -6)
I can see what you're saying Peter, but don't really agree with it. Well, I do partially agree. Yes, the episode does have as one of its themes the seduction of raw power, and that is the primary reason McGivers is drawn to Khan. But I still don't think it's a good representation of it.

Kirk and Bones and Scotty were drawn to Khan too, at first, but in a very distant manner. Kirk can see the potential there, but knows he is dangerous and knows that, without any ethics to tie him down, he is not someone who should be admired. Yes, they didn't have the added sexual attraction, but they were able to keep their distance from Khan quite easily. They were able to use their rational brains to reject the instinct to follow the strong man. Why wasn't McGivers?

So she doesn't reject Khan, but 5 minutes later (of screen time, at least), she does. You say she's too advanced to fool herself, but how did she not see what Khan taking over the ship meant? If she was smart enough to understand what she was getting into when admitting her love for Khan, why was she not smart enough to realize that would mean betraying the ship and possibly watching her coworkers die? Being advanced isn't just being honest with yourself, it's about making rational decisions and understanding the consequences of those decisions. McGivers should have realized that, despite her attraction to Khan, that she had a greater devotion to the rule of law, or fellow humanity, or her ethics, or whatever.

I think it's fine that she chose exile with Khan, since at that point her life was ruined anyway, and in exile there would be no one for Khan to suppress and lord over. So she didn't have to swallow her ethics and betray other people to be with him once she's down there. Perhaps, if she had refused to help Khan take over the ship, but then willingly joined him in exile, it might have shown what you are saying. But given that she did NOT realize what choosing to stay with Khan meant, even after he pushed her around, made it clear that she was being portrayed as someone ruled by emotions and incapable of thinking things through. At least that's what came through to me.
Peter G.
Sat, Oct 15, 2016, 5:44pm (UTC -6)
@ Skeptical,

I hear what you're saying about McGivers. The case I would make about her isn't that she was right, or even being rational, but that she knowingly gave herself over to passion rather than intellect. Being an historian of things *great* rather than things noble, I would expect her worldview may have been that humanity had lost something in all of its advances, and that she personally valued some of the old things more. As a theme for the episode this very point is made directly in exchanges between Kirk and Spock, where they recognize Khan's greatness, in a sense, even while they decline to admire it, as you mentioned. Great does not have to mean good, and the admiration of greatness does seem hard wired into human beings despite everything to the contrary we'd like to believe. We are impressed with impressive things, like it or not. It take an act of will to suppress that and have reason win over. Trek itself believes that is the correct course, but not everyone might agree with that sensibility. Indeed, by choosing to go into exile McGivers is all but admitting that she does not fundamentally agree with the Federation's chosen ethos, and that she values more highly things that are at that point considered to be obsolete and antiquated. Her career may have been ruined anyhow, true, but I don't think we're meant to take away that she went with them because she had nothing better to do. I think it's clear she went with them because she wanted to; because she believed in them. Kahn, we may note, doesn't say of her that she made the reasonable choice. Her allegiance to him had nothing to do with reason, and that's exactly why he called her a superior woman: because she was finally rejecting the ethos of the weak intellect of those who use their advanced minds merely to find ways to passively do what they're told.

All in all I see the episode as a pointed observation that while the Federation is factually superior to what came before, it became so at a cost to human greatness and passion. We may well compare the Romulan outlook to the Vulcan in considering this message; can we rightly say the Vulcan culture is 'superior' in every way to the Romulan? It avoids the pitfalls, but at what cost? The message seems to me that this cost must be acknowledged while still recognizing that things are better the way the Federation does it. Even if individual greatness has been lost, after all, might we not speak of the greatness of the species? That, I think, is the point lost on Khan, who can only see the worth of individuals, and not of societies.
Other Chris
Mon, Oct 17, 2016, 11:46am (UTC -6)
Important piece of canon, horrible episode.
Wed, Feb 8, 2017, 9:04pm (UTC -6)
Really enjoyed this episode - especially the 1st half hour. Very intriguing how the crew discovers the sleeper ship, tries to figure out what happened, sketchy details re. Khan (not Kahn, the German footballer)
Regarding McGivers - hard to imagine her behaving this way in real life toward a 200+ year old tyrant brought back from the past. A central part of the story is Montalban's charisma over her, though she's not portrayed in a good light.
The fight seen with the stunt doubles was poor - wish they could have done a better job there. Also a bit hard to believe Kirk overcomes Khan (maybe because of his arrogance) after being in a decompression chamber. Speedy recovery!
But the theme of the reaction to a tyrant - admiration, disgust etc. is well examined. Montalban's acting is great - Khan has become a truly iconic villain and WOK is clearly the best Star Trek film ever made.
Interesting decision by Kirk to ship Khan & Co. to a barren planet. McGivers has no choice but to go with Khan.
I'm sure there must be other Star Trek TOS episodes where a movie could serve as sequel.
For me, 3.5/4 stars - a very interesting premise, interesting themes of dictators/conquerors, not judging portrayal of McGivers. A classic.
Sat, Mar 11, 2017, 9:02pm (UTC -6)
This is an entertaining episode, but it does have a couple of problems.

As others have pointed out, it is troubling that a Starfleet officer would so quickly betray her captain and crewmates for a criminal from the past. Also, it is stated she is a historian. Why does a starship exploring the galaxy even need a historian? Kirk himself mentions this toward the beginning of the episode, saying "give her something to do for a change". (I'm not sure of Kirk's exact words, but it was something like that.) Granted, occasionally they may need to reference past events, but wouldn't the computer databases contain all the historical information they might need?

Also, at the end of the episode Kirk says it would be "a waste" for Khan and his men to go to a rehabilitation center, and instead banishes them. So, basically Kirk saying it's okay to attempt hijacking and murder, as long as you have enhanced abilities?
Mon, Aug 28, 2017, 1:40am (UTC -6)
I have a major problem with the ending. Kirk decides to banish Khan and his people to Ceti Alpha V instead of rehabilitation. Why is that Kirk's call? Shouldn't Starfleet Command have a say in what happens to these 'supermen' from Earth's past that almost conquered it in the 1990s?

The chilling part is that the writers in 1967 had no clue that TWOK was going to happen, and this ending was required for that. In fact the ending where Khan mentions 'building an empire' the musical cue turns ominous as if the director of that episode KNEW 'The Wrath of Khan' was happening...
Trek fan
Tue, Oct 3, 2017, 3:06pm (UTC -6)
Space Seed remains one of the tensest and most richly textured TOS episodes for me. The theme of the sins of the present -- in this case late 20th century fanscination with genetic engineering, fresh from the Nazi era in 1966 but still an ongoing debate today with "designer babies" -- coming back in the future to revisit us is a powerful one. This theme continues into Wrath of Khan, as Kirk's resolution to Khan's presence in the 23rd century proves overly simplistic and ineffective, leading the greates Trek movie of all time that sequels this episode. I give "Seed" 4 stars.

There's some good universe-building in this one, thoughtful reflections on war and humanity, and the first time I saw it -- before I saw Wrath of Khan -- I felt genuinely engaged when Kirk ends up in the medical decompression chamber (seen again in Season 3's Lights of Zetar) and no resolution seems present. It's a perfect no-win scenario that turns on Lt. McGivers' limits on what she will do for Khan. And who knows, perhaps she played along with him the whole time -- when he said he planned to take the ship -- in the hopes of finding the right time to stop him? Her motives and judgment are confused (and really everyone's good judgment is charmed away by Khan with the exception of Spock) by her attraction to Khan. And it's really understandable: Here is a woman so deeply immersed in history that she realizes how much men have changed in 300 years, becoming domesticated and tame in the 23rd century. And she's obsessed with the more dominating personalities of the empire building men of the past, making it a shock to her system when Khan appears and goes right for her. Indeed, there's a strong theme in this episode that the 23rd century men and women have no idea what to do with a 20th century dictator, as the experience is so foreign to them that they have lost a sense of how to deal with it. This is fascinating stuff and the clash of cultures thoughtfully debated is Star Trek at its best.

When I first saw this one as a kid, the stunt doubles were not obvious on a regular color television, but the HD remastering of TOS hurts the viewing experience today. So yes, watching the obvious stunt doubles takes me out of the climactic fight scene when I look at it too closely today, but it's a well-choreographed struggle and a classic Kirk resolution: As he did on the Kobayashi Maru test, Kirk "cheats," this time by grabbing a pipe and beating Khan down with it. For Kirk, there's no such thing as a fair fight when it comes to saving his ship, and Khan already has the advantage in strength. So I personally enjoyed this resolution to the conflict, and the climactic trial scene, because it really fits the characters. Indeed all of the characters here are very sharply drawn, including the undeniably awesome Mexican-American actor Ricardo Montalban as Khan, and the open ending leads into Star Trek II very nicely -- especially Khan's clever reference to Milton. And the way Kirk pardons the somewhat-redeemed McGivers, who chooses to continue her life with the living history that is Khan, also fits his character. We'll see a similar pardon for Kirk himself at the end of Voyage Home.

Altogether, one of the best and most iconic Trek episodes, and one I never tire of rewatching. Go Khan!
Andy G
Tue, Nov 14, 2017, 9:53pm (UTC -6)
I just watched Space Seed again as I haven’t seen it over 15 years. While it’s still a classic, I never realized some of the flaws. Khan is a well conceived character and for 1967, the sleeper ship is a novel idea. Quite frankly, anything that is followed
by TWOK can’t be bad. But...

The takeover is a little too easy and it takes them far too long to identify Khan. For a woman in the 23rd century and a starfleet officer, McGyvers is weak and her portrayal is a bit sexist. The final fight is just not convincing as Kirk should have been incapacitated or killed by someone 5 times stronger who knew he was coming. Finally, this episode was not meant to be viewed in HD as the final fight is unintentionally hilarious which undermines a deadly serious episode. Probably more a 3 Star than my 4 Star memory, but still up there

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