The episode begins with an ominous score. The kind of music that alerts the viewer that “something’s wrong” without knowing anything else. The Enterprise found an old Earth vessel (E-Y100 Class), which they determine launched sometime in the 1990s. McCoy reported that there were heartbeats detected from the ship, and equipment operating.
Spock said meteors pitted the ship’s hull, but the name of the vessel was the S.S. Botany Bay, but there were no records of a ship of this name. This ship was launched during the final World War — the Eugenics Wars. Spock said this war concerned humanity’s attempt to improve the race by genetic breeding.
Kirk gathered a boarding party composed of himself, the doctor, the ship’s historian (Lt. Marla McGivers), and a security officer. When they arrived, McGivers told Kirk that it was a “sleeper ship,” which was necessary until the year 2018 due to the great lengths of time that space travel required.
“Khan? Nothing else?” Kirk said. “Khan,” said the visitor.”
The crew walked around the ship, which was full of sleeping humans, all behind glass.
Scotty turned on the ship’s lights, which slowly revived the leader. By her comments, and the lights and soft-focus used by the director of photography, Jerry Finnerman, the viewer figures out that McGivers is smitten with this man before he even wakes up.
“From the Northern India area, I’d guess,” said McGivers. “Probably a Sikh. They’re the most fantastic warriors!”
Soon, the chamber where the leader slept stirred, and McCoy detected breathing and increasing heart rhythm. They broke the glass free him from the chamber. After some time, he came to and asked how long he had been asleep. Kirk told him that he’d been asleep for two centuries. They beamed him back to sickbay.
Scotty could find no records on the Botany Bay but reported that 72 of the travelers had survived, though they had not been resuscitated. Kirk ordered the Botany Bay be towed to Starbase 12.
In sickbay, as McCoy examined his patient, he was awed at the man’s superior respiration and heart power. As McGivers observed, Kirk said he was an improved breed of human. Later, Kirk lectured McGivers on taking a liking to their visitor.
Later, when McCoy looked in on his patient’s progress, the man grabbed the doctor and demanded to know where he was. McCoy told him that he was in sickbay, holding a knife to his doctor’s throat. The man released McCoy and demanded to meet the captain.
Kirk arrived later to answer the man’s questions. He asked first where the Enterprise was headed. Kirk said their destination was Starbase 12 in the Gamma 400 star system. The guest then asked about his people, and Kirk said there were 72 survivors.
The visitor finally revealed his name.
“Khan? Nothing else?” Kirk said.
“Khan,” said the visitor. Kirk pressed for more answers, but Khan said that he was tired, and McCoy told the captain that it would be better to wait. Khan asked if could see the schematics on the ship, Kirk showed him the screen next to the bedside, and McCoy would later show Khan how to access the ship’s records.
When Kirk joined Spock on the bridge, they spoke about the possibility that Khan could be a product of genetic selection. Spock said that he very well could be one of the “supermen” who attempted to take over the Earth in 1993. He said there were 80 or so supermen escaped, of which there were no historical records.
In sickbay, Khan got a visit by McGivers, who tried to ask him serious scientific questions. Khan turned it into a way to woo her.
That evening, Kirk welcomed Khan to a “state dinner” with the ship’s leadership team. Khan visited McGivers before the dinner and found a portrait of himself that she painted. He said he was honored. He then kissed her.
At dinner, Spock asked the tough questions while Kirk sat by and watched. Khan recognized this. Kirk then asked if Khan fled out of fear. Khan said he was never afraid. As if backed into a corner, Khan slammed his hand on the table and said that he and those like him “offered the world order!”
“We?” asked Kirk. Khan just revealed that he was one of the genetically engineered supermen who tried to enslave the Earth in the 1990s. He then went back to his quarters.
After dinner, McGivers visited Khan, who told her that he intended to take over the Enterprise. He forced her to agree to help.
Soon the crew learned that they were dealing with Khan Noonien Singh — a former absolute ruler of the Earth, who ruled over one-quarter of the planet. Kirk put a 24-hour security team on Khan’s quarters.
Kirk came to Khan, and revealed to the superman, that the crew knew who he was. Khan said to the captain that he was placed on the Botany Bay to start a new life on a new planet.
Khan told him that he was surprised how little humans had changed in the past 200 years. He was impressed by the technological advances, but he was superior to Kirk in every way. He said that he and his crew would fare well in the 23rd Century. Kirk abruptly left.
After Kirk left, Khan forced the door open and attacked the guards. At the same time, McGivers took over the transporter room, allowing Khan to beam over to the Botany Bay and wake his crew.
On the bridge, the navigator informed Kirk that they were on course, at Warp 2. Can a ship tow another while at warp speed? I guess if they make the “warp bubble” expand around the Botany Bay. But those details were never discussed.
Soon, Kirk learned that Khan escaped. The bridge was cut off, and Khan cut off the oxygen supply. Kirk, Spock, Uhura, and the others eventually succumbed. Khan took over the ship from engineering.
Later, Khan lectured the command crew, telling him that they had no choice but to join him. When they resisted, Khan showed them that Kirk was trapped in the ship’s compression chamber. Khan slowly was lowering the pressure in the chamber, which was killing the captain.
Khan told Spock that he needed him and the others to find a new planet to live on. Spock pushed back, and Khan lashed out at them, saying they would all die unless they cooperated with him. McGivers asked to leave the room.
Shortly after McGivers left, the screen with Kirk in agony turned off. Khan decided that Kirk must be dead by now, and decided to send Spock to die next. McGivers let Kirk out of the chamber, just as Khan’s men arrived with Spock. They overpowered Khan’s guard together and decided to flood the decks with gas.
The gas knocked out everyone in the meeting room, except for Khan. Kirk met Khan in engineering, which was the only location not affected by the gas. Khan surprised Kirk, and a tremendous fight between them ensued. Khan threw Kirk around like a doll, but eventually, Kirk won.
In the end, Kirk, Spock, and the rest of the command crew decided to drop Khan, McGivers, and the other survivors to be dropped off on the nearby planet, Ceti Alpha V.
Khan asked Kirk if he remembered a specific line from the author John Milton, who wrote “Paradise Lost.” Without asking any further questions, Kirk said that he had. McGivers avoided court-martial by agreeing to go to Khan.
Afterward, Kirk explained that the Milton that Khan referenced was a quote from Lucifer — “It is better to rule in Hell than to serve in Heaven.” Spock wondered what would happen to the “space seed” that Kirk planted on Ceti Alpha V.
TREK REPORT SUPPLEMENTAL:
WOW! What a great installment of Trek! This episode was soooo good, that it would inspire two feature films (The Wrath of Khan and Into Darkness), and a ton of references in later series.
The only thing that was not fantastic about this one was how Kirk beat Khan, by beating him down with a metal tool from engineering. I bet Khan could have taken a more significant beating than that (like he did in ST:ID).
But… that’s just a quibble. This episode is a keeper, and it set the bar high for the rest of the first season, and for all series, which followed. And quite frankly, Khan became the blueprint for all Trek bad guys. Unlike the Klingons, Romulans, Ferengi, or whoever else, Trek movies have been trying to recapture Khan and his evilness ever since.
RATING: 5 out of 5