Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 1 Episode 22 – Space Seed

I have previously reviewed this episode as part of ShatnerKahn I.  But I think it is desirable to provide a standard treatment for all the Star Trek episodes so I will follow the usual procedure here.

The Enterprise encounters a derelict space ship drifting slowly through space and identifies it as an old Earth vessel from the 1990s.  Upon scanning it they find signs of life and board it.  They discover the crew to be in suspended animation.  Upon rescuing the leader from his sleep they discover that the crew are eugenically produced supermen who were forced to flee Earth after their dictatorships were overthrown.

Their Leader Khan Noonien Singh, played by the inimitable Ricardo Montalban, dissembles his intentions and seduces crewmember Lt. Marla Mcgivers into assisting him in capturing the Enterprise in order to aid his people in finding and conquering an Earth colony for their new home.  The supermen quickly overwhelm the crew and Khan puts Kirk in a vacuum chamber and threatens to suffocate him if one of the crew does not assist him in his plan.  We get a view of Kirk gasping like an out of water goldfish which will earn this episode a very healthy Shatner mockery score.  But McGivers repents of her mutiny and saves Kirk from the death trap.  With the assistance of Mr. Spock Kirk is able to use knockout gas to subdue the mutineers.  But Khan escapes to the engine room and is causing an engine overload that would destroy the whole ship when Kirk arrives for their showdown.  Khan starts by prying Kirk’s phaser out of his hand and then bending it into a curve with his bare hands.  And here Khan makes his famous taunt.  He says, “Captain, I have five times your strength!” in his unique Ricardo Montalban enunciation.  Khan proceeds to toss Kirk around the engine room like a rag doll while Kirk attempts some pretty rudimentary martial arts moves.  I’m not 100% sure but I believe there was a stunt double for Shatner in some of the acrobatics.  But naturally Kirk fights dirty.  He grabs a metal rod and starts hammering Khan in the head and back until he passes out.

In the final scene Kirk convenes a court and dismisses all charges against the supermen if they will agree to exile on a deserted and inhospitable planet.  When asked if he accepts the offer Khan asks Kirk if he knows his Milton.  Kirk nods in understanding.  Then Kirk gives Mcgivers a choice; go into exile with Khan or stand trial for mutiny.  She eagerly accepts exile.

Scotty pleads shameful ignorance as a Scot for not knowing the Milton reference and Kirk explains that in Paradise Lost, Lucifer declares that he would rather reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.  The show ends up with Spock and Kirk wondering what they would find if they were able to come back in a hundred years and see what fruit had grown “from the seed” they were now sowing.

This is one of the quintessential Star Trek episodes.  Kirk is out macho-ed by Khan.  Spock gets to act appalled by the humans’ clear admiration for Khan’s obviously authoritarian methods, to which charge Kirk admits and explains humans have a primitive streak that allows them to admire an enemy for his strength.  In these days of #metoo Khan would never be allowed to rough up McGivers as he does to dominate her into helping him.  Of course, he also plays with her hair quite a bit so he is a romantic too.  One of the ludicrous things about the episode is Kirk giving Khan access to the ship technical manuals.  These allow Khan to capture the ship.  I mean come on!  What part of superman is hard to understand?  Couldn’t he have just given him a game of free-cell to keep him from getting bored?

Kirk’s fight with Khan is also classic.  His shirt manages not to get shredded but he has several awkward and lame looking judo holds that helps qualify this episode for a decent Shatner mockery score.  And above all there is Montalban.  He struts and brags and mocks Kirk for being inferior in all ways.  It’s quite entertaining.

Let’s give this a 9 for the episode and a 7 for Shatner mockery.  9  //  7.  Well done Ricardo.

ShatnerKhan 1 – Part 3

ShatnerKhan 1 – Part 2

 

As stated at the end of the last post we settled on Star Trek episode “Space Seed” as our next course.  And there it all was!  Ricardo Montalban and William Shatner battling to settle the question of who could chew up the scenery faster.  Khan proves to be an even more persuasive lady’s man than Kirk.  He convinces a lady scientist to turn traitor to the Enterprise and assist Khan in taking over the ship.  Of course, the most absurd part of the story is that Kirk provides Khan with the ship’s technical manuals that allow him to figure out how to selectively flood most of the Enterprise with knock out gas.  Could there be any logical reason to provide a known megalomaniac with the details of these most sensitive technical secrets of the ship?  Of course not.  While he was at it, he might as well have given Khan his social security number and his bank account PIN.

There is a great scene near the end where Kirk and Khan are fighting mano a mano.  Khan starts out by snatching away Kirk’s phaser and twists it in half with his bare hands.  Kirk gets tossed around like a rag doll but at the critical juncture he grabs hold of a solid metal bar and clonks Khan over the head a few times with it and shows that even a super-strong super-genius should go for the quick kill instead of ending up having the tables turned on him like some kind of super villain in a James Bond movie.

Watching the final scene where Khan and his colony agree to be exiled on a world of their own is of course ironic.  We know that in the future the Wrath of Khan is awaiting Kirk and the rest of the crew.  This was discussed heatedly.  What should have been done.  Should Khan have been handed over to a re-education camp.  Should Kirk have checked to see if Ceti Alpha was a stable star that would permanently support a colony?  Should such dangerous genetically superior individuals have been liquidated, for the safety of all humanity?  What, precisely, was rich Corinthian leather?  The answers to all of these were debated endlessly and then abandoned because we got hungry again.

But certain things were agreed on.  Kirk and Khan are both hounds and neither Shatner nor Montalban believed in understated performances.  And these two things were linked with the fact that this is one of the most popular episodes of the series.  Shatner and Montalban are over the top ham actors.  The characters they are playing are out of a comic book.  But they are fun.  They are motivated by the things that men are interested in; women, adventure, honor.  This makes them about a trillion times more fun and interesting than Spock or Picard or any of the other “futuristic” characters.  Shatner taking shoulder rolls and bouncing around under pretend Khan pummeling is laughable and sophomoric but it’s still the best thing Star Trek had in this episode.

So this is the revelation.  Kirk is the best part of the show because he provides the only example of a normal man doing normal manly things.  He doesn’t do them well or convincingly but he’s all there is.  So we gave one cheer for James Tiberius Kirk and took some time out to eat some more food.

You may think that there was an inordinate amount of time taken away from the proceedings of ShatnerKhan to eat junk food.  You would be correct.  The plain truth is that all the delegates there were taking the opportunity to eat types and amounts of food that their wives would normally prevent.  In many ways it was almost as if ShatnerKhan was an excuse to pig out.  Once again, you would be correct.  But we justified this by pointing out that Shatner himself always looked like he could lose about thirty pounds and we perceived something heroic in men of a certain age throwing caution and wifely warnings to the wind and seizing the day and the Dorito (as it were).

In the final post we will look at the concluding viewing content and then our final thoughts on ShatnerKhan 1 and the prospects for later editions.

 

ShatnerKhan 1 – Part 4 – Conclusion