Star Trek: The Original Series episode 22 review

How does Space Seed fare in our retrospective look at Star Trek's original series, now in high definition?

ST: TOS episode 22

Episode: 22Title: Space SeedStar Date: 3141.9Writer: Gene L. CoonFirst Shown: 16th February 1967

In the original series, some episodes are so good that they entirely changed the Star Trek mythology and Space Seed is certainly in that group. It’s a relatively simple story, but presented in a very tight way that elevates the characters and their ambitions. Written by Gene L. Coon, prolific writer and producer for the show, it extrapolates what might happen if a historical character and dictator was deposited through time onto the Enterprise, and how the crew might react to him.

In deep space the Enterprise encounters a derelict ship, the US Botany Bay, originally launched in the 20th century. The ship’s name is something of a subtle warning, but no one on the Enterprise seems to get the hint. On the Botany Bay are passengers frozen in cryogenic suspension, one of those being Khan Noonien Singh. He’s a genetically engineered super-human, who was an infamous tyrant from Earth history. Evidently, during the late twentieth century in Trek lore, a Eugenics war is raging, and Khan and his allies are remnants of this period.

Being smart, devious and very strong Khan soon realises that if he can defrost the other super-soldiers on the Botany Bay then he’ll be able to take control of the Enterprise and rule the universe, quadrant, whatever. But he starts by entrancing the lovely Lt. McGivers, who soon falls for his direct approach and lethal charm.

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Soon he’s controlling life support to kill all those on the bridge, and throws Kirk into a decompression chamber in an attempt to get him to instruct the crew to follow his orders.

Where this goes from just being Kirk trying to stop a madman to something more spectacular is in the portrayal of Kahn by the expressive Ricardo Montalb├ín. He gives Kahn plenty of passion and energy, and not a little degree of swagger. In many respects he’s a dark version of Kirk, and they share the overconfidence that will ultimately be his undoing.

Kirk stops Khan taking the Enterprise, and decides to maroon him and his crew on the then lush world of Ceti Alpha V. This turns out to be a really bad plan, as 15 years later Khan escapes that now desert world and comes looking for Kirk and more than a little revenge. Spock even says prophetically in this episode, “It would be interesting, Captain, to return to that world in a hundred years, and learn what crop had sprung from the seed you planted today.”

The strengths of this episode stand out on reviewing, and it seems now an entirely obvious choice for great source material for the second and best original cast film outing in Wrath Of Khan. The only bizarre thing I noticed was that in that film Chekov is recognised by Khan, which is odd because he’s not a TOS season one character and as such they’re never seen to meet. That minor plot hole aside, Space Seed created some wonderful unfinished business that the original series never addressed, but Wrath Of Khan immortalised.

The remastering work done on this work isn’t major, although they’ve made the Botany Bay a more believable vessel.

The next review is another favourite of mine, the frighteningly logical A Taste Of Armageddon.

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