Captain's Blog pt. 94: Space Seed

I fear today's entry - the last of the Friday Treks in this stretch of the Captain's Blog - will be more of the "What more is this to say?" variety. Probably heavier on the screencaps than anything. The episode's a classic, the theme is pretty self-evident, and everything about it is pretty airtight.

February 16, 1967
Couldn't resist.
Internal Logistics (2.25) The only one really worth mentioning is that Khan is given a lot of sensitive information without the consideration one would expect in such a scenario. Then again, this is the same crew that let its only suspect in an intergalactic invasion investigation wander freely about the ship, resulting in the theft of vital dilithium, so at least there's a precedent.

Guest (5) Joan Collins comes close, arguably, but no Trek guest star casts a longer shadow than Ricardo Montalban as Khan Noonien Singh. Probably would've worked out that way even had The Wrath of Khan never been made.

As mentioned elsewhere, Khan's middle name is a shout-out to one of Gene Roddenberry's old Pan Am buddies, who returned to China during the events of the Cultural Revolution and was never heard from again.
Montalban is fantastic. Really, 'nuff said, but he somehow conveys both a man of the past and future (as the 90s were, obviously, to the 60s) seamlessly. His sense of physical and intellectual superiority is in every glance and line. Creepily, at times:

George Lucas said that because of his friendship with Francis Ford Coppola, he knows what the great men of history must have been like in person, their deadly charisma, personal magnetism, grandiose ambition, paranoia, etc. The same can be said of "Space Seed."

Sadly, Ms. Rhue was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in the 1970s and was unable to return from Wrath of Khan, though she was originally planned to appear alongside Khan and the surviving crew of the Botany Bay.
Despite her diagnosis, she appeared regularly on television during the 70s and 80s.
Kirk and the Gang (25) I've struggled to come up with a unique and entertaining way of saying "Everyone does their job and then some." But why reinvent the wheel? Everyone does their job and then some.

"Youfledwhy?wereyouafraid?" is a textbook example of a particular kind of Shatnerian delivery. See also "Tooclosemaybeatrapletsmove" from "Operation: Annihilate." Or "There was a Federation colony here itwasdestroyed!" from "Day of the Dove."
Visual Design (2.25) McGivers' quarters get a bit of overkill on the "I only like ancient, male history" vibe, but it works well enough.

It's amusing to consider this the sex fantasy projection of a middle-aged medieval professor or something. (Which in some ways Carey Wilber, the episode's co-author, certainly was.)
Setting a Starfleet table

Story and Theme (10 / 10) From the AV Club's review: "Things go much as you'd expect--and I don't intend that as a slight. One of "Seed"'s strengths is that it's full of strong characters bouncing off each other, and the slow build from Khan's arrival, to his chats with Kirk, to his eventual attempts to take the Enterprise as his own, have an enjoyable inevitability to them. As soon as Khan is discovered for who he is, the boldest and brightest result of Earth's dabbling in selective breeding, there's no question he's going to pit his will against the captain's. How could he not?"

Mysterious vessel.
Sleeping ubermensch.
(And uberdamen.)
"Ahh! Snake surprise..."
"There were no massacres under his rule."
"And as little freedom."
This bit around the table here, with Spock's discomfort, is especially good.

From Tor: "Kirk talks of people from Khan’s time as more adventurous, bolder, and more colorful; yet, these are the qualities attributed to him in the 24th century by the captains following in his steps, including Janeway and Sisko. He himself admires Khan’s leadership abilities, while he abhors his methods—and as mistaken as Khan is, on some level, he seems to be doing what he thinks is right. From his perspective, the ends justify the means. Naturally, much of this episode concerns a fascination with the past, but whereas “Tomorrow is Yesterday” showed simpler times and the joy of rediscovering them, this shows the flip side of history: the darker bits that no one ever talks about, the wars that people want to forget. As with Khan’s strength and ambition, you have to acknowledge the bad along with the good."

Khan's fight with Kirk is stunt-double-tastic, but it left a big impression on me as a kid. One of my favorite fisticuffs in TOS.

As did the subsequent trial. What Picard said to Kevin in "The Survivors" about having no law by which to judge the alien superbeing doesn't hold true to Khan, of course; one wonders if Starfleet (or the non-Starfleet side of humanity, perhaps) might be a little pissed about Kirk's capturing one of history's greatest tyrants/ missing-persons-cases and then dropping him on a planet unsupervised.

Actually, maybe this should be an Interior Logistics issue. Does it make sense for no one to have followed up with him? No Talos IV type restrictions? The historical parallel, insufficient as it is, would be Napoleon and St. Helena. Seems inconceivable that they'd drop Napoleon off with a dedicated cadre of followers and then leave him alone.

Still, years before I had to read it in high school, the "Have you ever read Milton, Captain?" line got me to read Paradise Lost, so that's something.

Memorability: (20)
Image from here.
Title (1.75) Not that it isn't a cool title. It makes sense for Kirk's decision at the end of the episode, and that seed will of course turn into Star Trek II, but it's the wrong frame to put around everything we see. Can the episode be reduced to the question "What will happen as a result of Kirk's decisions?" I don't think so. That question turned out to be a very intriguing - and lucrative - one, sure, but as a title for this story, it's not the best fit. (And it doesn't work along the "Khan is what grew from the seed of old Earth" angle, as he is not the space seed; he'd be the space weed or serpent or something, the result not the progenitor, in other words.) Meh. It's not very important, just explaining my score.

Total Points Awarded: 76.25


  1. I had no idea that the reason Khan's ladyfriend didn't return for the movie was because the actress was unable. I always figured they just didn't want to stick that close to the continuity! That's sad; she would have made the movie even better, I'd wager. I wonder if it was a case of the production not being able to get an insurance bond for the length of her proposed screen time? Seems possible.

    That "Come at me, bro" screencap is genius.

    I can answer the question of whether it makes sense for nobody to have checked on Khan or not: it doesn't. In fact, it makes a huge amount of non-sense. In a real-world scenario, it seems likely that Starfleet would have swooped in about a week later and relocated everyone to nice, cozy rehabilitation centers. The only logical conclusion to draw is that Kirk -- and his entire crew -- never bothered to inform Starfleet of the incident. Which is silly, of course; but really, it's the only way to rationalize it other than "enormous plot hole." But that's alright; I can roll with it. And anyways, that's a plot hole for the movie; "Space Seed" itself doesn't have to answer for the movie's actions.

    Easily one of my favorite episodes, by the way.

    1. Looking back on it, I can't believe I didn't make more of this in either the Wrath of Khan blog or The Voyage Home one. Or TSFS for that matter - shouldn't Starfleet have had a hearing of some sort on Kirk's decisionmaking and not reporting what happened with Khan back here in "Space Seed?" If indeed he did not, which I agree is the only logical conclusion to draw.

      Spock must have gone round to each crew member personally and did his "The bullets are not real / Khan was never here" trick on each of them to ensure absolute compliance.

      That's certainly a possibility re: Madelyn Rhue's non-involvement with TWOK. Depending on the breadth of her role, I can see shooting schedules being an issue, with the unpredictability of MS. You figure she could have done at least a few days, as her work in TV in the 70s and 80s shows. Or maybe she was just removed in the various revisions of the script while they were trying to figure it out, and her agent just shrugged and told her "Hey, that's show biz."

      Hope she fired him.