“Superior ability breeds superior ambition”- Space Seed Original TOS Episode Thoughts on Khan

Damn, Khan is awesome. I really enjoyed Star Trek Into Darkness, but it’d been a while since I saw “Space Seed,” the original episode that featured Khan. Ricardo Montalban is incredible playing the super human. He has that mix of panache, violence, and charm which even Dr. McCoy acknowledges (btw, his humor is much more subtle here than in Into Darkness). When Khan first awakens and holds Bones with a knife to his throat, Bones actually holds his own, advising Khan where to slash to most efficiently kill him. Khan admires his boldness and lets go, and yet there’s this grace about him that attracts you to him. Later on in the dinner sequence, when Spock starts interrogating Khan, Khan applauds Kirk and says, “Excellent,” as though amused that a normal ‘human’ could do something to impress him and is gracious enough to admit as much. When he is stretching and doing his breathing exercises, his motions are very unique and alien, adding to his personality and giving him that special something to distinguish him. Khan is arguably the best villain in The Original Series and it’s easy to see why. There’s a mystery about him when he is first discovered. Kirk doesn’t trust him at all and his usual charm is almost gone in this episode as he is constantly on guard against Khan. They don’t know who he is and unraveling that mystery is as much a part of the episode as is thwarting his plot. That is one element Into Darkness didn’t have very much of. When John Harrison reveals himself, for those not familiar with the TOS series, the question would have been, who? Which is what the TOS crew ask initially as well.


Another thing I noticed is while he does care for his family of superhumans, he’s not as intensely devoted to them as he is in Into Darkness. They are his comrade in arms and they are extremely powerful. And yet if there is any real closeness between them, it is not apparent. In fact, when the crew floods the decks with gas, Khan immediately bolts. (you can, however, argue by saving the ship, he would save his crew as well)

It was interesting that he refers to himself as a sort of engineer from the past and that he does learn awful quick how to master the ship. In that sense, his contribution to Section 31 and the Excelsior from Into Darkness is more plausible.

Another piece of trivia: Khan changes costumes five times during the episode, the most of any Star Trek character in the original series.


No McGuyvers in the new film? ha ha. He does have some great lines with her, like when he orders her, go, or stay. Much of the conflict between Khan and Kirk is a mental battle, and what’s interesting is that Kirk and Scotty admit to admiring Khan from the old days. He was actually the best of the Augments, treating his ‘subjects’ well. When Spock is befuddled, reminding them how illogical their admiration is, they don’t even try to deny it. Khan is ahead of them, knowing he must take action, particularly after they hold him captive. Even later, when he is urging the crew members to join him, he tells them he will treat them well, and you believe him. During the episode, I also loved his accent, a reminder that he is from a different world and time.

One thing I really wished the movie would have shown was the Botany Bay. I realize by that point, it would have been redundant, but for me, the crew boarding the old ship was one of the most iconic Star Trek moments in memory.


If there’s one weakness in the original episode, it’s the way the climax gets resolved. That is, with Kirk using the engineering ‘club’ to beat Khan. I guess it didn’t help that it looked like a piece of plastic, and I just couldn’t believe someone so strong would get defeated that easily, especially after they built him up so much. Of course, this Khan is nowhere near as strong as Into Darkness John Harrison who is just a fighting bad ass. Space Seed Khan is more grounded, strong, but not invincible. Both Uhura with a phaser and Spock together barely stopped John Harrison.

The conclusion was perfect and quoting Milton was a brilliant, philosophical ending. Space Seed is arguably my favorite TOS episode and I’m glad I got to rewatch it. Below are some favorite quotes from the episode:

Your attempt to improve the race through selective breeding.
Oh, now wait a minute. Not ‘our’ attempt, Mr. Spock. A group of ambitious scientists’. I’m sure you know the type. Devoted to logic, completely unemotional…

I signed aboard this ship to practice medicine, not to have my atoms scattered back and forth across space by this gadget.

You have a tendency to express ideas in military terms, Mister Khan. This is a social occasion.
It has been said that social occasions are only warfare concealed.

Nothing ever changes, except man. Your technical accomplishments? Improve a mechanical device and you may double productivity but improve man and you gain a thousand fold. I am such a man.

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