|Khan Noonien Singh in 1996|
|Description:||Khan in 2267.|
|Born:||mid 20th century|
|Played by:||Ricardo Montalban|
|Khan Noonien Singh in 2285|
|Description:||Khan in 2285.|
Khan Noonien Singh (or simply, Khan), was a genetically-engineered Human and the most prominent tyrant of the late-20th century Eugenics Wars on Earth. Khan reappeared with a cadre of Augment followers in the 23rd century and became a notorious enemy of James T. Kirk.
20th Century origins
Records of the period, including Khan's origins, are vague. He was the product of a secret selective-breeding and genetic engineering program, based on the eugenic philosophy that held improving the capabilities of a man improved the entire Human race. Augments produced by the program possessed physical strength and analytical capabilities superior to ordinary Humans, and were created from a variety of Earth's ethnic groups. Khan's background was suspected to be Sikh, from the northern region of India.
Khan would live up to the axiom coined by one of his creators, "superior ability breeds superior ambition". By 1993, a wave of the genetic "supermen" including Khan, had simultaneously assumed control of more than 40 of Earth's nations. From 1992 to 1996, Khan was absolute ruler of more than one-quarter of Earth's population, including regions of Asia and the Middle East. Considered "the best of tyrants", he severely curtailed the freedoms of his subjects, but his reign was an exception to similar circumstances in Earth history – lacking massacres or internal war.
In the mid 1990s, the Augment tyrants began warring amongst themselves. Other nations joined-in to force them from power in a series of struggles that became known as the Eugenics Wars. Eventually, most of the tyrants were defeated and their territory re-captured, but up to 90 "supermen" were never accounted for.
Khan escaped the wars and their consequences along with 84 followers who swore to live and die at his command. He saw his best option in a risky, self-imposed exile. In 1996, he took control of a DY-100-class interplanetary sleeper ship he christened SS Botany Bay, named for the site of the Australian penal colony. Set on a course outbound from the solar system, but with no apparent destination in mind, Khan and his people remained in suspended animation for Botany Bay's (nearly) 300-year sublight journey. (TOS: "Space Seed")
23rd Century return
The USS Enterprise (NCC-1701) discovered the Botany Bay in the Mutara sector in 2267. The boarding party's arrival triggered Khan's stasis unit to revive him, but the ancient mechanism faltered. The decision of Captain James T. Kirk to remove him from the stasis chamber, and Dr. Leonard McCoy's subsequent ministrations, saved Khan's life.
Twelve of the stasis units failed during the voyage. Kirk, taking the Botany Bay in tow, left the remaining 72 sleepers for disposition at Starbase 12 following their leader's successful recovery. The Botany Bay's undocumented departure, and the fragmented records of the period, initially obscured the identity of the sleepers from the Enterprise crew; but the man with incredible recuperative powers in sickbay led Kirk to suspect their genetically-manipulated nature.
Khan took advantage of Kirk's hospitality, catching up with his lost history by absorbing the ship's technical manuals and finding a weakness in the attraction he engendered from the pliant and submissive ship's historian, Lieutenant Marla McGivers. At a dinner given in his honor, Khan regaled the Captain's table with a romantic interpretation of the Eugenics Wars, until he was finally prodded into declaring, "We offered the world order!"
While Kirk and his officers contemplated the history of their guest, Khan began his takeover of the Enterprise, starting with his takeover of McGivers. With her help, Khan escaped to the Botany Bay, and revived his followers. Re-boarding Enterprise, he took control from engineering and cut life support to the bridge. With the crew subdued and Kirk held hostage, Khan asked the officers to spare Kirk's life by joining in his quest to take the Enterprise to a colony "willing to be led" by himself. The officers' recalcitrance led McGivers, unwilling to go so far as participate in murder, to betray Khan and release Kirk. Once the Augments were disabled with anesthetic gas, Kirk engaged Khan in physical combat. Khan's superior strength nearly won him the day, but Kirk used to a broken piece of equipment piping to defeat him.
Kirk retained some admiration for the determined, capable man of history. The prospect of imprisoning and rehabilitating the Augments seemed a waste. Instead, Kirk granted an opportunity for Khan and his followers: to colonize the dangerous but habitable world of Ceti Alpha V. McGivers was given the choice of facing court martial or joining the new colony. Khan accepted McGivers' company, and took up Kirk's challenge to "tame a world", citing Milton's Lucifer ("It is better to Rule in Hell, than Serve in Heaven"). (TOS: "Space Seed")
Along with cargo containers from the Botany Bay, Khan and his people settled in to life on their new world. Only six months after their landing, a cataclysm on Ceti Alpha VI shifted the system's orbits, causing massive environmental devastation on Ceti Alpha V. Khan's ingenuity and the meager shelter of the cargo containers kept his people alive while the most of the indigenous life perished. The rugged Ceti eels survived, however, and as the only hosts available to feed their young, Khan's people were beset by the creatures. Over time, Khan lost twenty of his people to the slow, maddening death caused by the brain-eating eels, including his "beloved wife."
Neither Kirk nor Starfleet followed up on the colony's progress. The starship USS Reliant, detached to Project Genesis to find a suitable proving ground, finally arrived at the apparently lifeless world in 2285. Captain Clark Terrell and Commander Pavel Chekov beamed down to survey the planet they assumed to be Ceti Alpha VI, where they were captured by Khan. After inflicting inchoate, mind-altering eels on his captives, Khan demanded to know, "why are you here? And tell me where I may find James Kirk."
Wrath of Khan
Using his captives' vulnerability to suggestion, Khan and his followers hijacked the Reliant, and marooned the crew on Ceti Alpha V. With knowledge of the awesome potential of the Genesis project, he used Chekov to notify spacelab Regula I of Reliant's pending arrival and their intention to retrieve all Genesis information, 'as ordered by Admiral Kirk.' Khan's lure proved successful. The Enterprise, engaged in a training cruise at the time, altered course to investigate the odd reports from Regula I.
Khan's lieutenant, Joachim, called out his superior on the beginnings of his obsessive behavior, insisting that he had already beaten Kirk by foiling his plans. Khan's reply gave the first indication of the price that exile on Ceti Alpha V exacted on his ability to reason:
- "He tasks me. He tasks me, and I shall have him! I'll chase him 'round the moons of Nibia, and 'round the Antares maelstrom, and 'round Perdition's flames, before I give him up!" - Khan, paraphrasing Ahab from Moby Dick
Khan intercepted the Enterprise before it could reach Regula I. Concealing their intent, Reliant approached, feigning communications trouble, and getting the jump on Kirk with a devastating phaser attack that crippled Enterprise. Khan hailed to gloat over his triumph and discuss terms of surrender. His only reward proved to be Kirk's initial open-mouthed stare of surprise. The parley allowed the more experienced starship commander to override Reliant's tactical systems. With a few weak phaser shots from Enterprise, Reliant lost photon control and warp power, forcing Khan to retreat to Regula I.
Khan raged through the Regula I lab, seeking the now-missing Genesis data. Khan tortured those station crew members unable to escape the suspicious return of Reliant. When they proved uncooperative, he slaughtered them. As Enterprise crept toward the station, he returned to Reliant and took to hiding, but he left Terrell and Chekov behind, dying but a still useful means to monitor Kirk's communications and follow his lead to Genesis.
Once Kirk discovered the Genesis device in the bowels of the Regula planetoid, Terrell reported in to "His Excellency", who beamed the device to Reliant. Terrell's refusal to kill Kirk, and subsequent suicide, left Khan with some small satisfaction.
- "I've done far worse than kill you admiral, I've hurt you. And I wish to go on hurting you. I shall leave you as you left me – as you left her – marooned for all eternity at the center of a dead planet. Buried alive. Buried alive." - Khan, to Kirk
Spock's sophisticated code language led Khan to believe Enterprise would need two days to effect basic repairs. After discovering his prey underway at full impulse power and bound for the obscuring clouds of the Mutara Nebula, Khan's pursuit faltered. A surprise hail from Kirk, alive and taunting from the bridge of the Enterprise, threw Khan into a fury. Ignoring the consequences of engaging his enemy on the level playing field of the nebula, Khan spurred the Reliant after Kirk.
The Battle of the Mutara Nebula was the last action of Khan's life. The two starships, barely able to discern one another, exchanged a series of near misses and solid blows, until Kirk's experience finally trumped Khan's will; unused to fighting in a starship, Khan failed to realize until it was too late that he could have thought in three dimensions rather than two. Reliant was lamed and adrift, and Khan's followers were dying or dead. Rather than surrender, Khan activated the Genesis device, hoping to take Kirk and the Enterprise along with him to oblivion. Unfortunately for him, the Enterprise managed to repair the damage and escape before the Genesis Device detonated. (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan)
- "From Hell's heart, I stab at thee... For hate's sake, I spit my last breath at thee..." - Khan's last words
The geneticist Arik Soong believed Augments like Khan could be created without exhibiting his more vicious instincts. Soong's "children", created from augment embryos stolen in 2134, failed to live up to the hopes of their "father". After his imprisonment in 2154, Soong redirected his efforts to the perfection of artificial humanity. His descendent, Noonien Soong, continued the effort, creating B-4, Lore and ultimately, Data. (ENT: "Borderland", "The Augments", TNG: "Datalore", Star Trek: Nemesis)
Khan's theft and premature detonation of the Genesis Device alarmed the Klingon Empire to the Federation's development of an "ultimate weapon", increasing tensions between the two powers until the détente of 2293. (Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country)
Ironically, Khan's actions in 2285 saved countless lives on Earth. In the wake of his reprieve from Ceti Alpha V, Admiral James T. Kirk and his crew were in transit to Earth from Vulcan in 2286. Unaffected by the Whale Probe that crippled local Starfleet vessels and besieged Earth, they were able to resolve the crisis, and saved the planet from environmental devastation. If it had not been for Khan's actions, Kirk and the crew would have been in no position to do anything, and Earth would have been lost. (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home)
In 2368, Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the USS Enterprise-D agreed with faux historian Berlinghoff Rasmussen that saving an endangered planet could allow the "next Adolf Hitler" or Khan Noonien Singh to come into being. According to the Captain, first year philosophy students had been asked the question ever since the first wormholes had been discovered. (TNG: "A Matter of Time")
Khan and his augment brethren were considered so dangerous that even four centuries later, genetic engineering was banned throughout the United Federation of Planets in order to avoid creating another tyrant like Khan. A black market in the genetic manipulation of children with limited abilities continued, however, resulting in the enhancement of humans like Dr. Julian Bashir. (DS9: "Doctor Bashir, I Presume?")
- Khan was named for Kim Noonien Singh, a friend of Gene Roddenberry during the Second World War. Roddenberry had lost touch with him and hoped that his friend would see his name on television and contact him. This was also the origin of the name of Noonien Soong.
- Khan's periodic quotations in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan were paraphrases, or direct lifts, from Herman Melville's Moby Dick.
- The character of Chekov was first seen in the second season of TOS, and so he was not involved in Space Seed at all. Since Khan recognized him in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan Chekov must have been on the Enterprise at the time - permanently assigned or on temporary duty - but not yet a bridge officer. The long-standing joke, as told by Walter Koenig, was that Chekov left Khan waiting too long to use the bathroom, and Khan vowed never to forget his face.
- Besides Capt. John Christopher in Tomorrow is Yesterday, Khan in "Space Seed" is the only other Enterprise guest to be given a Starfleet uniform to wear. In accordance with his assertion that he was once "an engineer, of sorts," his uniform shirt is red.
A trilogy by author Greg Cox describes the events of Khan's life we never got to see. The Eugenics Wars: The Rise and Fall of Khan Noonien Singh, Volume One chronicles the genetic enhancement project that led to his birth, and shows some of his early childhood from the point of view of agents Gary Seven and Roberta Lincoln in the late 1960s. The sequel, The Eugenics Wars: The Rise and Fall of Khan Noonien Singh, Volume Two shows his rise to power and capturing Seven's technology, as well as how he was able to secretly control so much of the world without the average citizen ever knowing. The final part of the trilogy is To Reign In Hell: The Exile of Khan Noonien Singh, which explains his life on Ceti Alpha V after being left there to fend for himself, his followers, and his wife, to the point where Chekov and Captain Terrell encounter him years later.