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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95 comments on this post

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Strider
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.
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Deke
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."
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duhknees
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.
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craig
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.
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Moonie
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.
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Duge
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?
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Jack
Wed, Jan 1, 2014, 2:11pm (UTC -6)
"The Eugenics Wars of the 1990s were "your last World War"? Oops...
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dgalvan
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*
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redshirt28
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.
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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.
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HolographicAndrew
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.
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NCC-1701-Z
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.
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todayshorse
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.
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Robert
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.
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Yanks
Thu, Oct 30, 2014, 1:26pm (UTC -6)
I nver bought the "Chekov" complaint... Khan had access to the ship's database...
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Matrix
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.
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Beth
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.
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Pam
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.
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Grumpy
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.
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Yanks
Thu, Aug 20, 2015, 7:07am (UTC -6)
Thanks Grumpy. I never heard that before.
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Frances Yozawitz
Fri, Sep 25, 2015, 2:15pm (UTC -6)
I Love Star Trek.
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icarus32soar
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.
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Strejda
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.
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navamske
Fri, May 27, 2016, 5:23pm (UTC -6)
@Pam

"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.)
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SouthofNorth
Mon, Aug 1, 2016, 3:47pm (UTC -6)
Middle of the road TOS episode that gets inflated ratings b/c of the movie.
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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.
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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.
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Ivanov
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.
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Skeptical
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.
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PeterG.
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.
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Polly
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.
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Skeptical
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.
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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.
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Other Chris
Mon, Oct 17, 2016, 11:46am (UTC -6)
Important piece of canon, horrible episode.
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Rahul
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.
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Richard
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?
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Alex
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...
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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!
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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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Jason R.
Tue, Jan 30, 2018, 11:47am (UTC -6)
Regarding McGivers, I don't think the flaw here was in the concept so much as the execution. The McGivers plot had her falling for Khan and apparently willing to commit treason within the space of about 90 seconds of screen time. This was woefully inadequate foundation for her betrayal, perhaps necessary due to the confines of the single episode format, but nevertheless inadequate.

That said I didn't find the McGivers character sexist in the slightest - the desire to submit to and be controlled by powerful men isn't some fantasy of the 1960s sexism. It is absolutely real, something that we saw with the Manson family in the late 60s and throughout history with charismatic cult leaders like David Koresh. That McGivers was an educated career woman didn't make her immune to this, just as it didn't for many of the followers of these charismatic monsters. Indeed, her refinement probably made her more vulnerable to his charisma, not less. Anyone from the outside is incredulous that a smart woman could be taken in so easily and say it could never happen to us - just as we do whenever it happens in real life!

So I'll agree that the execution was lacking, but to dismiss the concept offhand or to just blow it off as "sexist" is to make essentially the same mistake McGivers (and Kirk for that matter) made.

And for the record, even as a straight male, all I can say is DAMN - I think I might have fallen for Khan. Montalbalm is positively mesmerizing. The actor just hit it out of the park in this role.
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Peter G.
Tue, Jan 30, 2018, 12:59pm (UTC -6)
@ Jason,

The reason I think the beginning parts of the episode work is precisely because of how fast her allegiance to him sets in. At the start of the episode we're shown a woman with unusual tastes (by Federation standards), and who admires powerful men in history, even painting them. This is shown immediately to go beyond a mere intellectual fascination, and the reason why it was portrayed well is because it was written off by others as being a 'quirk' of hers. And that's what the whole episode is about isn't it, that evolved man would like to think of these impulses as 'quirks', as in, 'oh, how odd, that's a peculiar hobby you have there' without realizing that it's rooted deeply in the human genome and that they're forgotten to an extent what's still present in all people. The difference is that in McGivers the public education and Starfleet training was insufficient to pave over it completely. On the contrary, the safe, friendly environment probably served more to emphasize that something was lacking in her life.

It's true we don't get much exposition about it or development as she progresses towards being Khan's woman, but I think the purpose of the exposition at the start was to show that this is who she is, and that others don't realize what it means. When Khan shows up it's like all her [darkest] dreams come true, and she's too honest to try to pretend it isn't what she wants. It's exactly because she's attracted to power and strength that her allegiance to Khan would be almost immediate. These aren't intellectual properties that can be mulled over and deliberated about. "Is he *really* powerful, do I really find him attractive?" The point is that these properties are self-evident immediately and bypass the intellect completely. She *knew* what he was, knew it was what she wanted, and that's that. It doesn't take a plot arc for her to get there because there's nowhere to get: he is what he is and she knew it.

That fact that her decision-making - if we can call it that, because it was more of a realization than a decision - was quick is also part of the theme of the episode, rather than a pacing issue. That theme is that when dealing with raw, visceral, and intense feelings like "power" and "strength" and "domination" there is no need to one to find these things; they're already in our DNA to some extent, depending on the person. Just as her 'decision' was already made the moment she met him, so, too, we can observe that creating a superman like Khan has the danger of the same short-circuit right to the primitive domination zone of the brain: we don't need to wonder how long it takes such a man to finally decide, after deliberation, that he's superior and wants to rule others; he already knows it right away, deep down. It doesn't take a progression to get there; he's already there, being what he is. That's why eugenics is so dangerous, and by extention, that's why aiming our admiration at shows of power is dangerous, because the seed of admiring great men is always within us, and it takes a lot of education and civilizing for it to be paved over enough for someone to be a Federation citizen. For McGivers, we can see that the system never really convinced her of its enlightened merits, but she's just an edge case, as for many people if you take away their comforts they'll soon be just like her and flock to the first powerful leader to come along and promise them things. That's exactly why a society that everyone trusts is such an important thing to foster, because deep down we'll devolve to admiring tyrants in short order if we feel like we're not getting what we need.
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Joey Lock
Fri, Feb 16, 2018, 8:46pm (UTC -6)
One thing I always found odd in this episode was Kirks immediate attitude toward McGivers, she must have had a pretty shaky Starfleet career before this because Kirk immediately seems irritated by the mere requirement of her presence "Here's a chance for that historian to do something for a change. What's her name? McIvers?" and Spock almost rolling his eyes says "Lieutenant McGivers" after Kirk's already walked out the room, I would assume Kirks had trouble with her in the past, considering she was in her room painting maybe she's got a very "cushy" job where she doesn't have to do much but they require her just in case which Kirk doesn't like.

That may also explain why she seemed to be swept away by Khan so easily, she seems like a civilian who only got given a Starfleet uniform because she had a PhD in History or something just like Lieutenant Carolyn Palamas who was a "archaeology and anthropology officer" and got swept away by Apollo, it's like these extremely undisciplined civilians getting given Starfleet jobs because they have specialist knowledge. They seemed to have these specialist officers into the TNG era too like Whalen in "The Big Goodbye" who comes with them to the holodeck during the Dixon Hill novel, he was never given a rank so I wonder whether he really was a officer or just a civilian historian travelling onboard, so maybe McGivers and Palamas were given Starfleet uniforms and ranks as sort of "ceremonial" roles sort of like how initially Troi was given a high rank despite simply being a counselor instead of a command or specialist officer. (Sure you can say counselling is a specialist thing but how many times did you hear "Counselor quick, we need your counseling skill or the ship will blow up!"?)
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Peter G.
Fri, Feb 16, 2018, 11:17pm (UTC -6)
Very nice theory, Joey. I have to say it makes sense. I'd never given much thought before to why Kirk was irritated at the thought of her.
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Pon Farr
Fri, Feb 23, 2018, 9:01pm (UTC -6)
I hate to get political, but the fawning over Khan by so many of the principle characters (nevermind the problematic McGivers) reminds me of the authoritarian path that the United States is on now. The danger of the tyrant takes a back seat to his power and charisma, and as a result, the US is suffering many more casualties than Spock. Yes, WoK shows us the natural and tragic end of warlord worship, but this episode was not created with that end in mind. Attitudes have changed with time, but I'm afraid that too many of us still haven't learned better.
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Trent
Wed, May 2, 2018, 2:23pm (UTC -6)
Aside from its "action climax", this is a great episode about the seductiveness of domineering, powerful, charismatic psychopaths. McGivers, who keeps paintings of tyrants in her bedroom, is obviously attracted to a form of power which Kirk's "enlightened" era seems to have moved beyond.

Is Kirk's choice to "spare Khan" emblematic of his "enlightened" stance of criminality? Does he view Khan as a product of a different era and so give him a relatively lenient sentence?
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William B
Wed, May 2, 2018, 2:30pm (UTC -6)
I suspect it's because he sees how McGivers reacts to Khan, and how he himself feels some awe for him, that Kirk allows Khan to set up somewhere. It's less about Khan himself than about his followers: if they want to reject the enlightened philosophy and obey a tyrant, Kirk doesn't really feel he should force them to do otherwise. Either the whole lot would have to be locked up, or they can be left alone. It's not necessarily the best solution -- shouldn't one try to see if it's possible to "deprogram" members of a cult? -- but it makes sense, particularly since in the 23rd century there is room enough to allow experimentation with different models.

OTOH, what occurs to me is the question of the (unborn) children: is it fair to let people be born into a tyranny, even if it is "fair" to let people choose to live in one? But I don't mind this being beyond the scope of the episode.
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Peter G.
Wed, May 2, 2018, 2:34pm (UTC -6)
"Is Kirk's choice to "spare Khan" emblematic of his "enlightened" stance of criminality? Does he view Khan as a product of a different era and so give him a relatively lenient sentence? "

I suspect that it mas a matter of respect in the end, which perhaps is something to do with being enlightened. Nowadays "progress" very often means little more than just following the rules, keeping your head down, and doing what you're told. People are 'civiliized' by virtue of being domesticated. But Kirk is a diffferent sort; he has all of the rebellious energy we often lack but directed solely towards noble goals. My belief is that Kirk would rather give Khan his own stomping ground away from the Federation than have him waste away in a cage to be studied by scientists. It's sort of like letting a great cat into the wild in a nature preserve rather than having it in the zoo.

For better or for worse Khan truly is a great man - in the words of Olivander, "terrible, but great", and there's nothing good about squashing great things, even if they can't co-exist with us in our society. The ideal would be to take all of Khan's aspirations, drive, and capability, and use them to pursue the dream of the Federation. Khan can't be a part of that, but the worst case scenario is that along with Khan's despotic tendencies society as a whole loses his passion and vision along with it and degenerates into a cushy feeding trough.
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JYoder
Tue, May 15, 2018, 1:17pm (UTC -6)
Wow, you people are hard on the episode that launched a thousand more episodes. :p

Stunt doubles and fight scene -- the new HD simply makes that apparent, but would not have been so visible when first aired, especially when most TVs back then were in black and white. The plastic pipe is obviously meant to be metal, but again, more apparent now in HD. Sure, it all could have been done better, but no one back then would have believed we'd still be watching this 50 years later, so these critiques simply aren't valid.

As for McGivers fascination with Khan, sure, it can be seen as misogynistic. (I talked to my teen daughter after watching this episode with her about avoid such guys at all costs!) But there are women AND men, drawn to that type of person. Doesn't make it right, but I didn't find McGivers stereotypical, but fleshed out with a particular weakness. Do I cringe in those scenes? Oh, yeah. But not because of blanket stereotypes, but because I hurt for her, and I want to tell her, "Wise up and run away!"

As for the crew being enamored with Khan, I get it, and it's something Star Trek was brave enough to acknowledge. And yes, I do mean "brave." When someone like Hitler rises to power, it's extremely compelling and morbidly fascinating to try to understand the tactics, charisma, and deception they had to pull off to make it happen, even if you hate the person and their results. What's unique to Khan is he's handsome, unlike the troll-like figure of Hitler... making it all the more curious that Hitler pulled off what he did.

The only two critiques I'll agree with are that it was silly to let Khan have so much access, and also the colonialism aspect of dropping him off on an untamed planet. Certainly odd choices plot-wise, regardless of the crew being impressed with his past exploits. However...

I forgive those quibbles, because when Nicolas Meyers was given the option to write and direct the 2nd movie, he watched all the episodes. That ending -- asking what it would be like to visit Khan (this Space Seed) years later -- fired his synapses and gave us TWOK, and all subsequent spin-offs.

So yeah, I'm good with 3.5 stars here, if for nothing else than Khan being a very compelling, non-stereotypical villain that is fully fleshed out from the get-go. Truly, it seems to me that some of the critiques here are more because this episodes is so well-known, making many view it under a microscope and pick out flaws no one bothers to mention in other episodes, where such elements are more apparent.

And how can anyone not love that scene when they're trying to draw Khan out? Such great lines of sparring dialogue, which I'll now end with. Seriously, this is great stuff...

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

Kirk: You have a tendency to express ideas in military terms, Mr. Khan. This is a social occasion.

Khan: It has been said that, uh, "social occasions" are only warfare concealed. Many prefer it more honest, more... open.

Kirk: You fled. Why? Were you afraid?

Khan: I've never been afraid.

Kirk: But you left at the very time mankind needed courage.

Khan: We offered the world *order*!

Kirk: [pauses] We?

Khan: [smiles admiringly] Excellent. Excellent.
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Silly
Tue, Sep 4, 2018, 7:38pm (UTC -6)
Stunt doubles: lol, yes, they're obviously not the actors, but you would have had a 21" possibly snowy and black and white picture in 1967, not the 60" Crystal clear HD TV you're watching it with now.

To me this is sometimes visible even in TNG. For example, near the end of Conspiracy, the old grey haired Admiral starts fighting and tossing people around. In the wide shots, it's obviously a much younger guy.

The great thing with these HD releases is hot much more detail you get to see... with the downside being warts and all. I actually tend to find the random hairs out of place on actors' heads more bothersome, including shatners in this very episode.
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NoPoet
Sat, Sep 22, 2018, 3:45pm (UTC -6)
This episode is a masterpiece.

There are many things "wrong" in this episode that actually add to its genius. The main part being how easily (and weirdly) Khan seduces the ship's historian. She clearly has a wide-on for him and her interest would be considered sexual harassment today. But in the end, he takes advantage of her, and effectively binds her to him.

He's as ruthless with her as he is with Kirk - he is a conqueror, a master, he can get what he wants and he knows it. Their abusive relationship, based on weirdness, ends with her betraying her colleagues. And though that's hard for modern day Trekkies to accept, it works because of Khan's sheer magnificence. The writing, the performance, they're spot on. She tries to break away; he plays with her like a cat with a mouse, knowing she will stay. And yet, we see what may be a break in his armour: does he really think she might go? Does he second-guess himself and use his words to make it impossible for her to get away? Does he need her? Fascinating stuff, a broken relationship viewed in a mirror darkly.

I was spellbound throughout the episode. Some genuinely good writing, genuinely good acting. The only other villain who approached Khan was the underrated Gul Dukat. (Weyoun was pretty badass, but he wasn't a leader and was despised by all.) The stuff that made me wince in this episode also made me enjoy it more.

There was no way Kirk could have won a fight if Khan was smarter and five times stronger. Then again, strength and intelligence don't count for much if you've been whacked over the head with a steel pipe.
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JD
Wed, Oct 3, 2018, 8:19pm (UTC -6)
There's a lot of talk about portrayal by gender and how terrible it is. But, and this may not be popular: There *are* pathetic, silly, stupid, insecure, kowtowing *men* who are led around by their Johnsons, and, as such, there are *also* pathetic, silly, stupid, insecure, kowtowing women who are led around by their hoohahs. There, I said it.

Yeah, the woman is ridiculous. There are also ridiculous men on the show, as in real life. That's not to say the idea wasn't a byproduct of sexist attitudes or bad female stereotypes or doesn't come off very dated. But still. It shouldn't be that hard to accept as a storyline. I've met some utterly absurd, submissive puppy-dog-eyed humans in my life, who would turn on their parents if a lover manipulated them to, and did. Haven't you met people like this, folks? They're out there! Effing things up all over the world! Many are women! Sorry!
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JD
Wed, Oct 3, 2018, 8:23pm (UTC -6)
@JYoder:

"As for McGivers fascination with Khan, sure, it can be seen as misogynistic. (I talked to my teen daughter after watching this episode with her about avoid such guys at all costs!) But there are women AND men, drawn to that type of person. Doesn't make it right, but I didn't find McGivers stereotypical, but fleshed out with a particular weakness. Do I cringe in those scenes? Oh, yeah. But not because of blanket stereotypes, but because I hurt for her, and I want to tell her, "Wise up and run away!""

Oh, thank you. I thought I might be the only one after skimming and commenting.
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BRiAN
Wed, Mar 20, 2019, 3:36pm (UTC -6)
Great episode! I love how Kahn's true menace is his arrogance and inflated ego, plus his complete sociopathic ability to manipulate people (written in a realistic way). This is in contrast to the awful Into Darkness movie, where Kahn is portrayed as just a marvel super hero terrorist who jumps around... or something. And he's played by Cumberbatch for no other reason than Cumberbatch was popular at the time.
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Springy
Thu, Apr 4, 2019, 12:25pm (UTC -6)
A good episode. Ricardo is perfect in this and in TWOK. Cumberbatch was an unforgivably ridiculous choice for Khan and can't hold a candle to Montalban.

There do exist women like McGivers, even among professional women and even now in 2019. And she is fairly well fleshed out given the time available. Still, it is tinged by the sexism of the 60s in its presentation. I did appreciate the counterpoint with the decidedly uncharmed and defiant Uhura. Nichelle sure can talk with those smoldering eyes of hers.

I liked the exploration of heart vs head, of being honest with yourself vs denying your feelings, of having feelings vs acting on those feelings. It's only because McGivers is honest with herself, acknowledges her controversial but real feelings, that she's able to act clear headedly when the time comes to save Kirk. Ultimately, she's a sad case, though.

I don't mind Kirk's decision in the end. Isolating that bunch is not a bad idea. I sure hope the Federation knows enough to keep a close eye on them, check on them now and then . . . :)

The talk about admiring tyrants was interesting, but I would have liked to hear more real discussion, than listening to Spock just getting shut down, in the usually condescending way. Though Kirk is not wrong that there can be something to admire in the tyrant's story of his rise and rule, there are lines there. Would have liked a little more talk on that.

I can definitely think of tyrant types I don't admire at all. Zero. I find them wholly despicable.

There's quite a bit going on on this episode, and though there's some contrivance, and some hokey and cringy in the presentation, it's well done.
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raebia
Mon, Apr 8, 2019, 11:58am (UTC -6)
...I always thought Cpt Kirk let them go to their planet out of fear...or caution. I think he did not feel it to be safe to have them anywhere near earth or the federation..
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hifijohn
Fri, May 10, 2019, 10:18pm (UTC -6)
Good episode another great job of casting -Montalban is perfect as kahn.
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Chrome
Mon, Jun 3, 2019, 2:12pm (UTC -6)
I rewatched this for the first time in 15 years and it's still an absolute knockout. Montalban performs the perfect mixture of smart, charming, and dangerous. I loved the little references he threw out like "Milton" that Kirk got right away.

The only detracting thing is McGiver, who comes off as little too easily persuadable. It's interesting she's into 20th century (and pre-20th century) figures, but that she seemed to be working her whole life to get caught up by this stranger is little tough to swallow. But I can't be too hard on it; product of its time and all.

I also love how McCoy handled the encounter with Khan. It was a wonderful little moment where the doctor neither submitted to Kahn or tried to piss him off. I would label this the perfect handling of a hostage negotiation. Boy, you gotta respect the gall of Bones.
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Malia
Thu, Jul 11, 2019, 12:43am (UTC -6)
Ricardo Montalban was the perfect casting choice for this character—if they'd have made this character... hm, Mexican? They made him a Sikh; I guess there may be some Latino converts somewhere (I've seen a few blonde/white Sikhs.) Then say all this stuff about them being warriors, like their religious faith is genetic? I guess they meant to say PUNJABI (the cultural group in India most Sikhs come from) but in that case, shouldn't he sound Anglo/Indian—presuming he'd have been send to English language schools as an elite being?

That point is what irritated me so much with the ST reboot and Cumberbatch. This would have been a perfect opportunity to cast some macho, charismatic Bollywood action hero (my vote: Akshay Kumar - Google his name + the film "Singh Is Kingh" to see him in a Turban - very much like the handsome turban painted of Khan that McGivers had made.

Other than that, Montalban was absolutely on fire in this episode. He's the kind of compelling, handsome, powerful figure that makes everyone enthralled in some way or other. When pondering how McGivers could just throw away her whole career and life after "90 seconds" with him... who's to say that "animal magnetism" (or some eugenics-friendly ultra-pheramones) wasn't part of his "superior man" character?

A final Khan note: how interesting of an alternative could it have been if the Botany Bay would have been discovered by the Klingons, not the Federation? Hot-blooded, physically powerful, warrior Klingons!! Would he have killed them or joined them! Hmm...
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James04
Sun, Aug 25, 2019, 3:32am (UTC -6)
A worthy forerunner to a very good film.
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Kyle
Thu, Mar 19, 2020, 12:54pm (UTC -6)
Someone may have mentioned this already but you should check out the Khan prequel trilogy from pocket books called “The Eugenics Wars” by Greg Cox, written in 2001. It retcons late 20th century real life history to make the Eugenics Wars totally plausible, including the Bhopal disaster and assassination of Indira Ghandi in 1982, which figures into Khan’s early life, and nuclear testing by India and Pakistan in the late 90s. It even has a line that hints at Osama bin Laden as a fellow superhuman with Khan, although the books were written pre-9/11. Now that would have been interesting, 9/11 and the War on Terror as a part of the Eugenics Wars. Oh, and Gary Seven and Roberta are in the books too. Check them out.
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Jay Marks
Tue, Apr 28, 2020, 11:50am (UTC -6)
A super late contribution to this thread.

It's a minor thing but I don't think it was mentioned (and it definitely was not something I consciously remember when I first watched it as a kid). I love how in the teaser right after Kirk orders red alert, they slowly pan up to show all the activity on the bridge as Kirk looks around sternly from his command chair and the music begins playing. Who wouldn't want to be a crew member on that ship under the auspices of that captain?! Respect!
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Silly
Fri, Jun 5, 2020, 4:43pm (UTC -6)
Considering Kirk, Scotty and Bones were infatuated with Khan, it’s very plausible to see MacGivers seduced. She may have become a historian for the very reason she is very, uh, interested in men like this.

Also, Khan expertly put some strong mind screws on her. She’s a historian, not command or security. Likely there isn’t much training in how to handle a sexy genius from centuries before.
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Mal
Sun, Nov 22, 2020, 3:11am (UTC -6)
Wow! When was the last time Star Trek had anyone with anywhere close to the sheer charisma of Khan Noonien Singh? Maybe Shakaar. Maybe the John Doe in Transfigurations. No, not even them. Chakotay only gets half way there.

The dorky brit who played Khan in the latest reboot was a joke (I love him as Sherlock, but he is not exactly a manly man). @Malia, you are so right about a missed opportunity to cast a real man from Bollywood.

https://youtu.be/l_MyUGq7pgs

But they were casting Khan across from Chris Pine, not William Shatner. They had to pick someone suitably subpar, or he would way, way outshine the regular crew.

@Jammer has lately been on a Mad Men streak, and there is a line at the beginning of season 5, where Megan is planning a surprise 40th birthday for Don: "Everyone's gonna go home from this [party] and they're gonna have sex.”

https://youtu.be/g0AvMWIGdKM

Well I’m sure lots of people went to bed after “Space Seed” first aired, and had sex. It was just that kind of hour.

@Chrome, so true. “Space Seed” aired in an era where at least educated people might have been expected to have a basic familiarity with the great poets of history.

Red-SKIRT of the week McGyvers is great for the role. Gene must have had a hard on for Ubermensch; the Neitchziens were included in Andromeda as well.

https://youtu.be/l_MyUGq7pgs?t=85

I think I need a cold shower.
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Booming
Sun, Nov 22, 2020, 3:51am (UTC -6)
It is fascinating that in India guys dancing around in garish costumes is considered masculine or as you say something a "real man" does. It is oddly sexual. I guess it is time to buy a bottle of white wine and do a little search on amazon prime.

Look at the masculine Khan
https://alchetron.com/cdn/khan-noonien-singh-acf3e2f4-3209-486d-9870-821975ed111-resize-750.jpeg

Ready to conquer the galaxy or play a game of canasta with the golden girls. And still he is also oddly sexual.

Phew, now I need a cold shower.
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Dave in MN
Sun, Nov 22, 2020, 5:18am (UTC -6)
I'm not a fan of pointing out "oddities" in other cultures. All cultures have oddities.

Don't you get tired of this constant baiting, Booming? I know you have intelligent things to say.

Not everything has to be a prickly barb designed to provoke others.
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Booming
Sun, Nov 22, 2020, 5:42am (UTC -6)
@ Dave in MN
Sorry, but is your problem with the word odd or that I pointed out different standards for masculinity in different cultures ? Should I have written titillating?
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Mal
Sun, Nov 22, 2020, 6:05am (UTC -6)
Dancing is pretty much one of the sexiest things anyone can do - man or a woman - in any culture.

https://youtu.be/-MN9Khh_K2s

Man is an animal. Khan had animal magnetism par excellence.

@Booming, baby, dance with me. For science ;)

https://youtu.be/n67-oxj-QdI?t=20
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Booming
Sun, Nov 22, 2020, 6:45am (UTC -6)
@Mal
"Khan had animal magnetism par excellence."
Totally!

"@Booming, baby, dance with me. For science ;)"
Wohoo! For Science!
*dancing* :D
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Sen-Sors
Wed, Feb 17, 2021, 12:38am (UTC -6)
I started seeing someone in the last couple months and I've been threatening to make her watch an episode of Trek. She's a Star Wars girl and said she never had any interest in Trek, but a few weeks ago I managed to sit her down for Space Seed. It's got the quaint, goofy charm that makes TOS one of my favorite series, and it's also got the incredible villain performance from Montelban.

To my surprise, she told me she really liked it. She watched a number of episodes on her own after that. I showed her TNG's "Measure of a Man" because I wanted her to see a non-goofy "serious" ethics problem episode and she liked it, but said "This is just Blade Runner" which I could not deny. She likes TOS better because it makes her laugh more. I think she's a keeper.
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Tidd
Sat, Mar 20, 2021, 4:12am (UTC -6)
Ah, the 1990s Eugenics Wars! I remember that time, when the followers of Microsoft and Apple fought out a bitter battle, to see which was fitter to rule the world. (In 2021, I think we can call it a truce...)

Space Seed is a very uneven episode. The first half contains great promise: the dinner party scene (what’s with the red, orange, and green cubes that appear at EVERY meal?), the dialogue between Kirk, Spock and Bones (the first mention of McCoy’s hatred of the transporter), Khan’s character, the whole premise of the eugenics wars.

But it fell away. Many others have mentioned discomfort with the McGuyvers weak infatuation thing leading to misogynistic portrayal, and I agree — poor even by 60s TV standards. The fight scene was laughable yes, Kirk beating a genetic superman with a plastic pipe. But also, did you notice how easily Khan’s henchmen— also genetically enhanced— were overcome during the rescue scenes?

Someone said it would have been better if Khan had subdued the Enterprise crew and escaped to start a new life, with or without McGuyvers, and I tend to agree. The Enterprise would have given chase as far as the planet, but faced with the opportunity to fire on Khan’s ship and destroy it, would have demonstrated mankind’s 23rd Century superiority and let them go free, with a request to Starfleet to quarantine the planet.

Some great ideas wasted here. 2 stars.
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Tony
Mon, Sep 27, 2021, 6:11am (UTC -6)
I'm surprised with all these lengthy responses I haven't seen anyone state the obvious (maybe some folks are beating around the bush with the "people like this exist" comments):

Marla McGivers has a fetish!

She's a submissive whom the 23rd century has no place for and she knows it (I don't think this is actually realistic, I imagine Federation society would have found some healthy outlet for these people, but it's an interesting concept).

She falls in love with Khan so quickly because she's *already* been in love with him: he's what she's been waiting for her whole life. Khan is not just the man of her dreams: he's the only man for her in the entire galaxy, a mythical unicorn that by some miracle she's managed to stumble upon.

She's never actually been in this kind of relationship before and doesn't know how to do it in a healthy way, she has to learn it as she goes, and that includes how far exactly she's willing to go, and how far she isn't. It's pretty cool that Star Trek was exploring BDSM themes way back in the 60s.
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Trish
Mon, Sep 27, 2021, 10:26am (UTC -6)
@Tony

While the BDSM angle is an interesting and actually rather logical take on this episode, I think it overestimates how accepted the idea of sadomasochism was at the time of the writer or indeed remains today. There is no BDSM in LGTBQ, and the refrain for tolerance and inclusion which begins with "between consenting adults" for many (perhaps most?) people still ends with "as long as nobody gets hurt." I suppose the BDSM crowd is as mystified by the second half of that refrain as the NAMBLA crowd is by the first.

I really don't think the writers THOUGHT they were portraying a BDSM relationship, even though, as you point out, they were.
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Peter G.
Mon, Sep 27, 2021, 10:46am (UTC -6)
@ Trish and Tony,

To be fair, BDSM is a physical acting out of what is otherwise a present factor in all human relationships - the power dynamic and animal dominance element. So in terms of how people inhabit or even prefer particular power dynamics, BDSM would be a subset of the ways in which to live that reality. While it may be interesting to imagine that a person who admires or even craves a strong person to dominate them might also prefer a sub role sexually, this does not necessarily follow. Not that it's wrong, but just that I'm not sure the one implies the other. As far as I understand it a person could be quite dominant in everyday life but nevertheless have sub fantasies for the bedroom (and vice versa).

For my part I think what the writers were after (or at least thought they were after) is that in a completely egalitarian society there is the risk of stigmatization in actually admiring or even being attracted to someone like a Julius Caesar. Within the confines of that society, there definitely still are totally badass dominant personalities, like Kirk himself for instance, but the form that dominance takes is extremely civilized and polite compared to the trope of the caveman walking with woman slung over his shoulder and taking her back to his cave. So to the extent that someone might be craving a dominant leadership figure in the 23rd century, they definitely have those already. But what they don't have is the version (i.e. what a Kirk might have been like 700 years prior) where there is no lip service to politeness and holding back the darker side. So I see the appeal for McGivers as being not so much finding someone who's dominant, but rather finding someone who is savage and merciless, yet highly intelligent (I think she needed the latter above all). And I'm not quite sure that this particular craving maps so well onto the BDSM community, since in theory that community is actually supposed to be governed by careful control elements and a feeling of safety and mutual giving. In theory, at least. But Khan offers none of those things, especially not safety. I suppose perhaps one could make a case that someone with BDSM predilections but, as Tony points out, didn't know how to live them in a healthy way, might *think* that Khan was a prize, whereas in fact he's a monster. But I believe Space Seed makes a case that he actually is a prize for her, not just seems like one because she's ignorant at first.
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Trish
Mon, Sep 27, 2021, 11:11am (UTC -6)
@Peter G.
@Tony

The feminist critique would be that at the time it was written, the relationship between Khan and McGivers would not have come across as an example of any minority community founded in a specific sexual preference, but as a fairly "mainstream" male/female dynamic. Basically, it was seen as typical, even normative, for any woman to be the "submissive" in a relationship with a man. I think viewers are supposed to see Khan's dominance, even to the point of physical violence, and Marla's submission to it (asking to stay in his cabin after he has literally thrown her across a room, and wanting to go with him into exile after she rescued her captain from being tortured to death by him) as romantic, like Rhett Butler carrying Scarlett up the staircase and awaking the next morning with a smile on her face.

It is this presumption of a sadomasochistic element in typical relationships that makes this episode incredibly distasteful to me. (And let's face it, a 1960s TV show would not have portrayed it as some kind of love story with the shoe on the other foot, that is, with a man as the submissive under a physically dominant woman.)
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Peter G.
Mon, Sep 27, 2021, 11:48am (UTC -6)
@ Trish,

I can see that feminist critique, but even by the 1950's America had entered an age of become self-aware of it's own inherited tendencies, and was able to poke fun at them while recognizing that things were changing whether people liked it or not. I know that feminism still had some ways to go in the 60's, but you can take a show like The Honeymooners from the 50's as a good example of the realization that many men still wanted to act out the "I'm king of the castle" role while knowing on another level that the wife in the family was in fact not subservient to him. "Right in the kisser" and "You're going to the moon" were both jokes on the faux-nostalgia of when the husband was utterly dominant in every way. By the early 70's you have All in the Family continuing the portrayal of the dominant domestic man as being a spent force, utterly defeated by the new age of both female and youth empowerment. The man in this case who still acts like a savage ends up looking more like a fool than like a threat.

Now this is TV, and surely in real domestic life things were often still an unfortunate throwback to earlier times. But insofar as the public-facing social causes are often portrayed through popular media, I don't think by 1966 there was still a public perception that was accepted that the typical man-woman relationship is that the man is utterly dominant and the woman is his footstool. Sure, there were cultural tropes of playing at the man being dominant, but that's different from being actually dominant. To this day there are quasi-theatrical playings out of the man being the king of the house, but it's just playacting, not an actual adversarial situation (not most of the time, anyhow).

So I guess I disagree that people would have seen the Khan/McGivers relationship as essentially similar to typical American relationships of the mid-60's. I think the Khan image (the mighty conqueror) was a significant throwback even at that time, completely inverting the emerging mentality of the progressive movements in the 60's. Sure, you could no doubt find regressive communities and relationships out there (especially in rural areas, which are typically decades behind metropolitan cities), but I think the idea of a woman idealizing a dictator would have been nearly as alien to a 1966 American woman as it is to people today.

I know you were citing a possible objection, rather perhaps than making one yourself, but personally I don't see it. The thrall of serving a great man like a Julius Caesar seems to me to me a cultural divide of centuries, not decades.
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Sophie
Wed, Feb 9, 2022, 10:02pm (UTC -6)
Okay, so let’s say, hypothetically, that in the 1960s, audiences would not have viewed the relationship between McGivers and Khan as abusive (or at least not as abusive as we do now). Let’s even say that the writers wrote the scene with the viewpoint that Khan’s behavior is romantic. Those things can be true, and the episode can still age into being a powerful representation of how many people can be easily seduced by a masculine ideal of power.

The nice thing about TOS episodes is that a lot of these judgements aren’t spelled out for us. The episodes do offer morals, but the individual actions of the characters, especially in terms of frailties/failings, are often just presented in a straightforward manner. These frailties are also quite often weaknesses that are universally observable through time/cultures, ones that humans have struggled to understand for a long time. Because of this, our judgements of the lessons learned conveyed by a piece change based on our 21sy century perspective. So, an audience of the 60s might see McGivers actions as proving that women just want a strong man. We now can see her actions as being a universal human failing. Or even a specific psychological vulnerability that many women do fall prey to, no matter how enlightened a society they may grow up in.

My mom was born in the 1960s and grew up on a commune. She was (and is) intelligent, well-traveled, well-read, etc. But she grew up in an environment that made her naive/idealistic and vulnerable to abuse. Her first marriage when she left the commune at 18 was to a charming, narcissistic abuser. And she is just one of many women who has experienced this. So to portray this happening to a woman does not mean that a judgement is necessarily being passed on women as a whole - things happen to vulnerable people, and our society often treats women in a way that makes them vulnerable (the commune she grew up on may have been run by hippies, but she and the girls there were often abused, ignored and powerless). The writers of the 60s may not have understood these explanations the way we do, but they certainly were intelligent enough to create an accurate portrayal of the actions certain people take when confronted with a strong personality.

I definitely watch TOS with a critical eye and there are definitely episodes in which the dialogue points towards a reductive view of women. Some episodes do this and don’t even have anything interesting, and I will freely judge those episodes as being outdated and uncomfortable. This episode is not one of them. And even if it is, we can still learn something about the perspective of people who think that way. I think TOS’s greatest strength is its understanding that no matter how far we advance, no matter how rational we think we are, we are still flesh and blood piloted by emotions, impulses, and desires. And our biggest struggle will always be balancing those urges with our ever-broadening understanding of the universe and our place in it.
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Sophie
Wed, Feb 9, 2022, 10:25pm (UTC -6)
I will also add that the idea that progress is linear and equal is flawed. I completely buy that a society could be advanced in terms of racial equality, disability rights, etc, and still hold prejudices against women. Prejudice can be justified with pure logic if you try hard enough, and societal advances can actually cause regressions in thinking if those advances lead to circumstances that make those regressions logically justifiable (in whatever sense “logic” is defined to a community). I think Turnabout Intruder is horribly written and the idea that a woman starship captain is unthinkable just isn’t really a reality I enjoy watching on screen. I would like to think that that isn’t the future. But I can also understand that in the face of a new age of exploration with unseen dangers, it could become societally accepted that women aren’t suited for the captain’s chair. For all we claim to be enlightened now, there are still plenty of people that think a woman couldn’t be President because she might be on her period and accidentally launch a nuke. So, while I definitely don’t enjoy many of the moments TOS goes easy on misogynists (e.g. Spock making fun of Rand’s almost-rape by EvilKirk in The Enemy Within), and I have no illusions that the male writers were actually on the same wavelength I am in terms of gender relations… the things they portray did happen to women, and still do, and even if we move past them in 50 years, there will be a time when they happen again to women (or other oppressed groups) somewhere. So in many ways, it is useful to actually engage with the issues on screen and really try to learn something from them, rather than just dismiss them as outdated.
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Booming
Thu, Feb 10, 2022, 4:45am (UTC -6)
@Sophie
I think Star Trek in general is judged a little more harshly because it isn't just a show about everyday issues but a show that wanted to portray a better, more enlightened future. That makes certain scenes that are misogynistic or in other ways backwards stand out even more.

I hope your mom found a nicer guy eventually. :)
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Peter G.
Thu, Feb 10, 2022, 8:14am (UTC -6)
I like your write-up, Sophie, and I agree that TOS wasn't just offering pat moralistic statements, in the form of "people are like X" or "you should be like Y". Things were much more shades, murkier, and often based in character rather than generalizations. When Spock says something cold and abrasive, the show isn't saying that logic is cold and abrasive, it is merely portraying a character doing so. We are learning about Spock, not about logic. And likewise for other facets of the show. So that's why I wanted to comment on this section specifically:

Sophie wrote:
"So, an audience of the 60s might see McGivers actions as proving that women just want a strong man. We now can see her actions as being a universal human failing. Or even a specific psychological vulnerability that many women do fall prey to, no matter how enlightened a society they may grow up in."

I don't think Space Seed is saying anything at all about women, and I'm not sure it's safe ground to make assumptions about how a '60's audience would take the universal message here about women, versus us, because I personally don't think there is a universal message. Or at least if there is one, it doesn't have the form of "all women are like this." When we see McGivers go for Khan, I really think we need to be careful about generalizing away from the story's specifics. We know that SHE is attracted by great men, and that she is drawn to Khan. That doesn't mean Uhura would have been if she was being honest with herself. So if we wanted to generalize this out it might be something like "no matter how advanced we get some people, or maybe some part of ourselves, will always admire primitive greatness and power." Not everyone to the same degree, and not in such a way as to want to be dominated by it.

An interesting contrast with McGivers in this episode is Kirk and Spock. They, too, appear to admire Khan, but in their case the admiration is to an extent distanced; they recogize his virtues (such as they are), but more from the vantage point of identifying them and noting how archaic they are. But it's still admiration, sort of like how we might say "wow!" at the biggest bear ever, even though if the bear came to town you'd shoot it. And I do think Kirk's admiration for him in particular is why he spares Khan judgement by a society that has no place for him, and gives him his own world to conquer. It's not even a punishment, more a recognition that this guy simply cannot exist in the modern world, but he deserves to exist and to have the room to exercise his powers. It's though to generalize out this conclusion: can it mean that there is still a place for our primitive drive to power, but it needs a confined arena in which to play? Maybe, but it's not so easy to just assume that what it's saying is simple. That's why narrative can be more complex than an essay - it can be saying many things, some of which are very difficult to articulate.
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Sophie
Thu, Feb 10, 2022, 12:58pm (UTC -6)
@Booming

Yes, my dad, who is pretty much the complete opposite of her first husband. :)

@PeterG

To clarify, I definitely agree that there is not a universal message, and that we just cannot know how audiences originally saw these events. I was using that as a hypothetical to say… even if many audience members originally saw these events as justifying a sexist world view (and even if this was explicitly the intention of the writers) we can take away a different message and learn something more enlightened from it.

So, I completely agree, and I love your point that narrative can be so much more powerful than essays. This is definitely why I prefer TOS to TNG. :)
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Saburac
Mon, Feb 21, 2022, 3:21pm (UTC -6)
Lt. McGiver's almost ruined this episode for me. She got on my nerves from the moment they beamed over; how did such a vapid twit ever get into Starfleet let alone onto the Enterprise? Khan can't really be blamed for her behavior either since she was already drooling over him and spacing out before he even woke up.
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Silly
Thu, Apr 21, 2022, 3:35pm (UTC -6)
@Tony is right that Marla is ALREADY in love with Khan before she knew he (still) existed. She has a massive fetish for strong masculine historical men. (Though, surprisingly, she doesn't seem to have known who Khan was, even though Kirk and company did recall studying him after they figured out who he was.)

Also, Montalban has quite a body for an actor in 1967. This was intentional -- the idea was he was a built stud with an extremely high IQ, essentially a god, with social skills to match.

Khan starts working Marla the moment they meet. He figures her out quick (though it's not THAT hard considering her paintings). I'm not sure I see BSDM, I assume that was a bit of a joke, but there's definitely an abusive angle here.

I also agree that we shouldn't make generalizations about women or men in the 23rd century from this specific situation.

I don't see Uhura or Chapel putting up with Khan's crap for one minute-- though it's possible he would have found a way to work them to.
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Proud Capitalist Pig
Tue, May 10, 2022, 11:26am (UTC -6)
Here is our first encounter with the great Khan (Ricardo Montalban). He's got a commanding presence that gets him begrudging respect from our heroes, superhuman strength that can bend phasers, a gift for psychological manipulation, the ruthless intelligence of an efficient dictator, a rugged manly body and huge penis that has Lt. Marla McGivers all hot and bothered, and---so what? The plot here is perfunctory, bog-standard and underwhelming. All this for a few fisticuffs with Kirk? A whole mass of intelligent super-humans are simply brought down by laughing gas? "Space Seed" is just a dull hostage drama at its core, except that we get lucky with the sheer magnetism and charisma of Montalban. He slays this role completely, but the story ultimately amounts to nothing and that's too bad.

"Space Seed" is not without its merits. I like how it taps into our fascination with ruthless, evil dictators--how many times have we seen gushing Woke professors at universities singing the praises of mass murderers like Chairman Mao, or the deference that many on the conservative wing show to Mr. Putin? Spock is utterly perplexed when faced with Kirk's and Scott's grudging admiration for Khan. Kirk, to his credit, agrees that isn't logical. Nevertheless, it's also completely believable.

As for Marla McGivers, she strikes me as a woman dislodged in time. She's bored with her job because there's hardly any call for it on the Enterprise--she rolls her eyes at being called for an exciting mission of discovery outside of the ship as she'd rather stick to her painting. She's so useless that Kirk can barely remember her, mispronouncing her name to boot. So of course she's going to be drawn into Khan's magnetic field. "Women want a real wild man" is oversimplifying things, even for these 1960's creators. What McGivers really wants is validation, appreciation and to immerse herself in the past--it's been all figurative up to this point, until The Past is staring her in the face and speaking sweet manipulative nothings into her willing ear. There's also the abuse angle here, and I was actually impressed that "Space Seed" started to go there. It's a complicated psychological quandary, unfortunately. Sadly there are many women who still love and admire the other side of their toxic relationships. At many points I could see McGivers being one of those unhinged women who writes love letters to condemned serial killers in prison. She's ultimately treated with respect at the end, allowed the choice to join Khan's people or face a court-martial. In a strange way the episode is saying, "She can't help it, and some women today wouldn't be any different."

"Space Seed" has some things to say, but I didn't really any major standout attributes among Khan or his crew that scream, "These are superior people." We've seen unhinged villains, manipulative assholes, and intelligent strategists in Star Trek before, and it just seems that the writers here presented Khan and his people as any typical group of villains. Maybe it's lack of imagination, maybe it's the box of everything having to be wrapped up in one 50-minute episode, but other than Montalban's magnificent performance, nothing elevates the episode above a standard hijacking show.

That being said, I can't wait to watch Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan when it comes up in my list. I saw about half of that movie as a child growing up, and remember liking Khan as an entertaining villain. I see it near the top of nearly every single list of great science fiction offerings. "Space Seed" has definitely resurrected my interest in that movie. (Full disclosure: I saw Star Trek Into Darkness in the theater years ago. I won't comment on that one either until it comes up, but long story short--I loved it).


Best Line:

Khan -- "The battle begins again, only this time, it's not a world we'll win. It's a universe." (All that's missing is the evil laugh)


My Grade: C
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Sigh2000
Tue, May 10, 2022, 11:54am (UTC -6)
@Proud Capitalist Pig
A perceptive review which was enjoyable to read. You're on point. All I can say is that Space Seed, even if a "C" in certain ways, still holds a place among my favorite TOS offerings. For its day it was original.

My favorite line: "Yes, we shall do well in your century."
(so sayeth Khan).
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Proud Capitalist Pig
Mon, May 16, 2022, 12:06am (UTC -6)
@Sigh2000

Good point, I think I might be jaded by having already seen so many other hostage and hijack dramas to appreciate what they tried to do here!

Yes, your favorite line was a great one too. It spells out that while Khan and his superhuman crew might be relics of a bygone era, the Enterprise crew are so far removed from their world that they'll be much easier to bend.
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Sigh2000
Mon, May 16, 2022, 4:38am (UTC -6)
@Proud Capitalist Pig
"Space Seed" is not without its merits. I like how it taps into our fascination with ruthless, evil dictators...."

I think that the notion you identify here is worth a larger study. It is at one and the same time a fascination with the idea, that somewhere there may be an all-wise ruler. This is what I think raises the episode above other simple hostage dramas.

We all remember the scene.

Spock: "From 1992 through 1996, absolute ruler of more than a quarter of your world, from Asia through the Middle East."

Dr. McCoy : "The last of the tyrants to be overthrown."

Mr. Scott : "I must confess, gentlemen. I've always held a sneaking admiration for this one."

Kirk : "He was the best of the tyrants and the most dangerous. They were supermen in a sense. Stronger, braver, certainly more ambitious, more daring."

Kirk saying "He was the best of the tyrants." is key because it expresses that Khan was in the process of doing some good before he was overthrown.

Khan says "We gave the world order!" Also key.

How many of us wish the world was better? That some powerful force would just fix every problem?

Lord Acton famously said "Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely."

What if it didn't? Would we allow it to do the fixing?
Personally, I am fascinated by the fact that the world is far too complicated for any one power to fix everything to everyone's satisfaction, ...
even the all-wise.
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Lannion
Tue, Jul 26, 2022, 4:10pm (UTC -6)
Concerning the briefing room scene and the “sneaking admiration” everyone seems to have for Khan, I think Spock’s reaction is quite illuminating. He sounds shocked, almost disgusted when he says: “Gentlemen, this romanticism about a ruthless dictator is –”, and it’s precisely his use of the word “romanticism” which for me explains it best, together with the comparison to Napoleon which is made earlier in the episode. Napoleon – whether this may historically be true or not – is often seen as the archetype of the great, powerful man who is able to change the world, just as Sigh2000 has described above. What upsets Spock is that humans generally tend to admire power, determination, ambition and daring visions without a critical look at where they may lead, and that, like in Khan’s case, they are even willing to ignore obvious negative consequences such as war, tyranny and oppression.

In this thread, there has been some discussion about Khan’s superiority, and I tend to agree with those saying that he may not be as superior as he thinks he is. For him, superiority means being optimized through genetic engineering: “Captain, although your abilities intrigue me, you are quite honestly inferior. Mentally, physically. In fact, I am surprised how little improvement there has been in human evolution. Oh, there has been technical advancement, but, how little man himself has changed.” While it’s obvious that he is physically stronger, I’d say that mentally he’s not invincible. Look at the dinner scene: after having been needled by Spock for a while, he sees through Kirk’s tactics (“You let your second in command attack while you sit and watch for weakness.”), but nevertheless, he’s already fallen for it. Kirk, however, immediately turns the tables and starts attacking himself until Khan finally withdraws, unable to cope with the pressure Kirk is putting on him, much less to get the upper hand again (“I grow fatigued again. With your permission, Captain, I will return to my quarters.”).

What’s more, I think Khan’s overestimation of his own abilities (and, as the other side of the coin, his underestimation of ‘normal’ humans) is one of the reasons why he finally fails. In his confrontation with Kirk’s crew after having taken over the ship, his strategy is mostly one of dominance and brute strength to force them to join him. It has already been discussed above if this is a possible way to achieve his goal and if he should have known that they would resist, but apart from that I have the feeling that his argumentation leads to a trap he has set himself at the beginning of the scene. He knows that he and his followers cannot operate the Enterprise alone, so just killing the crew and taking over the ship is not an option. Now it's good to be aware of that and to keep it in mind, but it’s less wise to tell them “I need your training to operate a vessel this complex” right from the start, because it makes all his later threats („Each of you in turn will go in there. Die while the others watch!“) far less effective.

This is another “serious error” besides the one he recognizes himself: “I should have realised that suffocating together on the Bridge would create heroic camaraderie among you.” He has underestimated their loyalty, solidarity and resistance; he believed that he could make them join him by either making glorious announcements and promises (which is what he tries first) or breaking their will by force and violence. But to his surprise, they still resist to the pressure he puts on them by making them watch their captain die in the decompression chamber – I think they all know that this is what Kirk would have wanted: to give his life to prevent his ship from being taken over by Khan and his people, and this knowledge gives them the strength to resist.

There is also a beautiful climactic rise in this scene: at the beginning, Khan addresses himself to the crew as a whole; when no one budges, he turns to individual crewmembers (i.e. Spock) who still refuse to give in; and finally, he’s almost pleading: “If any one of you joins me, anyone, I'll let him live!” He knows he can’t kill Kirk and the others because he needs their cooperation, and he knows that they know that too, and their tenacious defiance exasperates him even more because he simply cannot understand why his strategy doesn’t work with those pesky inferior beings. People like Khan, who are used to achieve their goals by manipulating others, often are particularly unable to handle situations in which this doesn’t work, and I think that’s the case here.
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Peter G.
Tue, Jul 26, 2022, 6:28pm (UTC -6)
@ Lannion,

I'm not so sure I agree about Spock being definitely right that it's ridiculous for humans to have sneaking admiration for a Napolean. Most of TOS portrays Spock as being utterly logical but missing something crucial in his analysis. I think he is missing something here, which is the very thing motivating people like Kirk to be in space in the first place: adventure, challenge, and even 'conquering' in a loose-meaning way. It's not canonical yet in S1 so we can't refer to future eps on Vulcans, but at least in this one I think our final thoughts are left to rest on Kirk's humane choice to leave the supermen on their own planet. It's an 'illogical' choice, but somehow leaves a better taste than putting them all in confinement on some penal colony for 're-education.' I think what Spock is missing is that there are elements to Khan that, in distilled form, would indeed be admirable. It's really just his morality that's the issue.

Regarding Khan overestimating himself, I think this is shown as you say. And yet it seems inescapable that he's superior in all technical ways. I imagine if he had Kirk's training and level-headedness, he would have prevailed in their hand-to-hand combat. And I imagine that had he used finesse instead of brute force he could have, in time, become more of a threat. So his problem seems to be that he misunderstands what it takes to be successful in a strategic arena. Khan thinks that the best individual will prevail against a lesser individual, except this doesn't seem to be accurate when groups are involved. It's not Kirk who defeats Khan at the dinner table, but Kirk AND Spock. Khan sees this as a mere maneuver on Kirk's part, but he's totally wrong. His opponent isn't Kirk, but Kirk + Spock. If you want to think of it this way, because Kirk and Spock form a cooperative unit, they comprise a "being" that has more complexity than Khan alone does. And when you figure a loyal *and cooperative* crew into the mix, it's a very advanced being indeed you're against. It seems that Khan views himself as the core of his team's strength, with his people there to do whatever he says, and that is a weak structure.

For a good example of what I mean you can look at Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card, where the greatest battle commander isn't merely the best individual shooter or combatant, but the one who can turn separate individuals into a large and flexible organism that operates automatically, with good autonomous subdivisions that don't require micromanagement. That kind of "person" is infinitely more advanced than Khan as an individual could ever be. So his mistake is that he isn't the best person around, because he's in deep error about what constitutes a person (if you see my meaning).
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Lannion
Wed, Jul 27, 2022, 3:59pm (UTC -6)
@Peter G.

I think I understand what you're saying about the different "team spirits" of Khan's people and the Enterprise crew, and I wonder if that might indeed be one of Kirk's greatest strengths as a commander and leader: to draw forth the best every crewmember can give and to combine their many different personalities and abilities into a coherent whole.

Another subject: I don't really want to go into the Khan-McGivers relationship because it has already been discussed a lot and I don't think I can contribute anything new, but there's one thing about the final scene that bothers me. I'm quite sure that by then, at some point, he must have found out that she'd been the one who had freed Kirk, which means that she had turned against him, fooled him and, in a way, contributed to his downfall. If that's the case, I find his attitude towards her quite surprising... one would expect that he's angry or disappointed, but he doesn't seem to hold any grudge at all?
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Marlboro
Wed, Jul 27, 2022, 4:49pm (UTC -6)
"How many of us wish the world was better? That some powerful force would just fix every problem?"

That's the basic gist of The Day the Earth Stood Still which was just copy and pasted into the first episode of SNW. To me, it's terrifying how many people are on the side of the aliens in that movie. They are willing to give up their freedom just so that an outside force can dictate to the entire world how they think things should be done. Which explains about 90% of politics in general, I suppose.


What if instead of a sci-fi movie it was a war movie? The United States or Russia arrives in the capital of another country. A small country that has lots of internal problems but poses no threat to the superpower and has never done them any harm at all. The spokesperson says "You aren't a threat now, but someday you might be. Surrender all your weapons and we will leave you in peace. Don't and we will annihilate you."

Two quotes from that movie:

"The test of any such higher authority is, of course, the police force that supports it. For our policemen, we created a race of robots. Their function is to patrol the planets in spaceships like this one and preserve the peace. In matters of aggression, we have given them absolute power over us. This power cannot be revoked. At the first sign of violence, they act automatically against the aggressor. The penalty for provoking their action is too terrible to risk. The result is, we live in peace, without arms or armies, secure in the knowledge that we are free from aggression and war. "


They are so afraid that, given the choice between right and wrong, their neighbors might make the "wrong" choice that they have turned their own fates over to robot enforcers just so they can feel safe from outsiders. Basically, "I fear country/race/religion X so I'm willing to surrender my very right to exist to a Master who answers to no authority but it's own."


The second quote from the same scene:

"Now, this does not mean giving up any freedom, except the freedom to act irresponsibly."

Holy shit - this is what SNW wants to emulate? Completely antithetical to the spirit of TOS. Kirk is more than willing to admit that humanity is flawed. But it can choose to be better. Having the choice is what's important. Doing the right thing with a gun to your head is meaningless. The Apple is a terrible episode but Kirk's line about choosing to walk out of Eden is great. Being a slave to Vaal is no different than being a slave to Gort or any other higher power you've sold your soul to to avoid the fear and responsibility of free will.

Some people would rather have no choice than take the chance of making the wrong choice. And a whole lot of people are more than willing to give up their own ability to choose if it means that other people will lose theirs too.




The closing narration of the cheesy old sci-fi B movie It Conquered the World (1956) would have been a much better movie to kick off a TOS prequel with:

"He learned too late for himself that men have to find their own way, to make their own mistakes. There can't be any gift of perfection from outside ourselves. And when men seek such perfection... they find only death... fire... loss... disillusionment... the end of everything that's gone forward. Men have always sought an end to the toil and misery, but it can't be given, it has to be achieved. There is hope, but it has to come from inside, from Man himself."
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Peter G.
Wed, Jul 27, 2022, 10:32pm (UTC -6)
@ Lannion,

"I think I understand what you're saying about the different "team spirits" of Khan's people and the Enterprise crew, and I wonder if that might indeed be one of Kirk's greatest strengths as a commander and leader: to draw forth the best every crewmember can give and to combine their many different personalities and abilities into a coherent whole."

I think I would frame it less as Kirk is a good commander, and more as the culture of the Federation is superior to Khan's culture. It instills in every person the cohesion of being part of something greater than them, like a part of an organism, but without it overwhelming their individuality and freedom like a cult or totalitarian state. Khan thinks the greatest freedom comes from self-sufficiency and freedom from control by others, but I would argue a utopia like the Federation shows that an ever greater freedom comes from interdependence on those you can trust, which in turn accentuates your individual humanity rather than destroying it like a fascist state would. Khan exalts himself over others, whereas a Starfleet officer exalts everyone at once, together.

That's a bit more what I mean about Khan being up against a superior "person".
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dave
Sun, Jul 31, 2022, 2:04am (UTC -6)
Well, I watched this for the first time in YEARS. I most certainly can agree with some that we really over rate this episode due to how great TWOK was.

Two super glaring things for me that really really hurt the episode

1 - giving a stranger who is clearly physically enhanced, access to all your ships technical manuals seems like a massive breach of security at the best of times, and out right stupid when the person you are giving them too is a complete unknown. Give him some history books FFS to do some catching up!

2 - Kirk going toe to toe with Khan in a fight was utterly ridiculous. It made Khan look pretty normal and his only advantage was he was a bit bigger than Kirk on body size . It certainly did not project 5 times the strength. I can see all the terrible stuff like the stunt man and the fake pipe, but the writing itself of this fight makes no sense. He should have either mopped the floor with Kirk, or Kirk surpises him with a serious pipe shot from behind as soon as he walks in.

THe way Mcgiver was written is a reflection of the times and certainly poses some problems with a modern lens. But, honestly, I think it was not as bad as some people as she as given a choice to stay or leave when with him, and to stay or go when he was exiled. Some people are enamored with power, intelligence ,and strength and that will always be with us. I think that is what they were trying to project moreso than he was just "taking" this weak useless woman as property. However, I can certainly see that view point.

If TWOK never happens this is kind of a 2 star episode bumped to 2 1/2 because Ricardo was super cool. It's 3 plus stars when having seen TWOK and going back and watching it.
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Sigh2000
Sun, Jul 31, 2022, 6:38am (UTC -6)
@dave

"Some people are enamored with power, intelligence, and strength and that will always be with us."

Good thoughts and well expressed. I will offer, in addition that MacGivers was bored. Khan was never boring.

His main problem I think, was that he knew the word "power" and knew it well, and printed that word on a flag and ran it up a mast in order to declare to the universe that he was its ultimate expression.

If only he had replaced that word with "efficacy."
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Marlboro
Tue, Aug 2, 2022, 11:14am (UTC -6)
Classic episode. Note that in the scene where Khan's men are gassed Scotty takes the time to sucker punch a dude before making a break for it.
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MidshipmanNorris
Wed, Nov 2, 2022, 12:12am (UTC -6)
First of all it is a bottle show. It was written to be cheap to shoot, and there aren't a lot of effects shots either. No ships firing phasers, few uses of the transporters.

It focuses on character, but as a kid I always thought the plot was ***really stupid***. In a way, it is based off of a character that it is difficult to feel sorry for. Marla MacGivers is too spineless to have passed her Starfleet Academy Entrance exam, and the way people talk to her (particularly Kirk) is really unprofessional. Whoever wrote this had some real funky ideas about women.

I'd illustrate this best, I think, by enlightening you all with my favorite heckle of this episode:

[KHAN]
"These starships are most impressive, but they do have one luxury not mentioned in the technical manuals."

[LT. MACGIVERS]
"And what is that?"

[KHAN]
"...Beautiful women."

[LT. MACGIVERS]
(SSSLAP) 🙆‍♂️💥🙋‍♀️

...Because any self-respecting officer in a naval fleet should tolerate such treatment by some derelict caveman on their ship who thinks it's okay to act like it's 1996 again by giving them a facefull of hands and a look at their dorsal view while they gtfo.

You talk that way to women if you want a drink thrown in your face real fast, is all I'm saying.

The success in the episode is more in Montalban's commitment to what was surely just a one-off role for a first-season TV series. He went straight to the hilt, and is probably one of the better actors to take on a Star Trek role, really. I believe he's Khan. There have been a lot of guest villains on Trek who merely come off as whiny bureaucrats whose lines carry little weight and time on screen is annoying rather than fun to watch.

Khan isn't like that. His presence is just phenomenal, he completely dominates every shot he's in.

The knock-down-drag-out brawl at the end at least is over quick enough. Yeah it's stupid, but at least it's blocked well. I kinda wish they'd come up with some way for Kirk to outsmart Khan rather than just pound him into goo with a pipe. It's kind of a clunker way to solve the issue.

The ending brings it back from the brink in its thoughtful discussion of the ideas in the episode, but also, I wanted to finish up by saying that

Without it having been sequelized into Wrath of Khan, Space Seed might have been forgotten. It's a bit dumb, taken by itself. Wrath of Khan makes it a better episode, by having been so well made by Mr's Bennet and Meyer.

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