|||[Boldly Going]||| Star Trek: The Original Series—Season One: Ep. 1.22 “Space Seed” – (Original air date: Thursday, February 16, 1967)


Welcome to my rewatching of the original 79 episodes of the series that launched the franchise. Below are the bulletpointed notes I jotted down while watching “Space Seed.”

  • On this date in history, The Monkees were finally knocked out of the #1 spot on the Billboard list. “I’m a Believer” was replaced by “Kind of a Drag” by The Buckinghams, and I’ve never heard that song. Hold on, I’ll be right back.
  • Okay, I have heard it before. Not better than “I’m a Believer.”
  • It’s difficult to find anything else of interest that happened exactly on this date. But, music-wise, on Tuesday of this same week, Aretha Franklin released “Respect,” which went on to become the Billboard Song of the Year in 1967. I must give proper respect to Ms. Franklin, who recently left us all. What a voice!
  • The day after this episode aired, The Beatles released “Penny Lane” and “Strawberry Fields” as a double A-side single. These two amazing songs, which could easily have debuted on Sgt. Pepper never appeared on a Beatles album until the later greatest hits compilations.
  • On Saturday, February 18, 1967, New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison held a press conference and said that he believed the JFK assassination was a conspiracy. This would later result in an Oliver Stone movie starring Kevin Costner.
  • Space Seed,” the 22nd episode of classic Star Trek to air, debuted during a week that just screams late-’60s to me. Monkees, Beatles, Aretha, JFK conspiracy theories.
  • This episode is proof that we’re living in the future they always talked about. More on this in a minute.
  • During the teaser, the USS Enterprise comes across a derelict Earth vessel, the SS Botany Bay, a DY-100 spacecraft built way back in the 1990s.
  • There, do you feel old now?
  • You see, during the 1990s, what Spock calls the “strange and violent period” of Earth history known as the Eugenics Wars occurred. Records from that era are fragmentary, so it’s not so odd that they can find no registry of the Botany Bay.
  • I knew something funny was going on during the 1990s. The Monica Lewinsky scandal was just a smokescreen for the Eugenics Wars.
  • In 1967, the 1990s were still 23 years away. Who could have guessed that we’d still be talking about this television show so many years later? 23 years from now is, what?, 2041? That does seem like a long time from now, doesn’t it?
  • Faint life signs are detected on the old vessel. We go to red alert and the teaser ends.
  • I’m skipping the opening credits sequence today. No wailing sopranos. This is a good episode, and I’m ready to dig into it.
  • As we jump into the first act, Kirk forms a landing party comprised of himself, Dr. McCoy, Scotty, and that historian we can’t get enough of, Lt. McGivers. This is, of course, the first time we’ve ever met, or even heard of, McGivers, another pretty female guest-star.
  • We get a brief glimpse of Lt. McGivers’s quarters, which are decorated with all sorts of historical artifacts.
  • In the transporter room, McCoy grumbles about having his atoms scattered back and forth space by this gadget. You know, the Bones McCoy schtick.
  • On board the old ship, we see several men and women lying in clear-sided compartments, like an Automat that dispenses people instead of cheese sandwiches.
  • Lt. Marla McGivers, our resident 20th century historian, announces that the SS Botany Bay is a sleeper ship. The people in the storage units are in suspended animation. She also thinks they are a handsome group of people.
  • They go to a compartment holding a swarthy, dark-haired man. McGivers says that the leader was often set to revive first. They’ve obviously triggered something that has caused the system to wake him.
  • McGivers guesses that the man is from the northern Indian area. Probably a Sikh, who were known to be fantastic warriors.
  • None of the other sleepers are waking up. Scotty says they’re mixed types. Western, mid-European, Latin, Oriental.
  • He said “Oriental.” Even here in 2018 I know that “orientals” are rugs, and the accepted term is “Asian.”
  • The man who is waking up is Khan, of course. You knew that. But, something goes wrong, a short-circuit or something, and he’s dying, until Kirk breaks the glass and frees him from his glass coffin.
  • How long?” Khan asks.
  • Kirk tells him he’s been asleep for an estimated two centuries. At the same time, Lt. McGivers pronounces Khan “Magnificent!”
  • I think I can predict where part of this story is going. But, it’s time for an act break.
  • Use Vanquish to get rid of that pesky headache, and Listerine to get rid of your rancid breath. Now . . . back to the show.
  • After the break, and at the beginning of Act Two, it’s ten hours later. Scotty informs everyone that 12 of the cryo units malfunctioned, leaving 72 still in operation. Incidentally, 30 of the 72 are women.
  • Kirk remarks that Botany Bay was the name of a penal colony in Australia, but Spock says that thinking that this ship was a penal deportation vessel is illogical. Criminals could have been dealt with far more efficiently than wasting one of their most advanced spaceships at the time.
  • Spock is thinking of firing squads or group hangings, I’ll bet.
  • In sickbay, we find out that McCoy is impressed with Khan, physically. His heart valve action is twice as powerful as that of the average man. His lung efficiency is fifty percent better. McCoy wonders if his brain matches his body.
  • Lt. McGivers enters sickbay, and Kirk proceeds to give her a public dressing down about her performance as a member of the landing party. If you ask me—and I’m just going to assume that you did—this is mighty unprofessional behavior on Kirk’s part. This sort of feedback should be delivered in private. Or at least in the presence of McGivers’s union rep. It makes Kirk seem a little jealous, even.
  • An aside: When Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan came out, some people made a big deal about Ricardo Montalban’s chest, suggesting that his well-muscled physique was a special effect of some kind. On this rewatching, it’s obvious that Montalban had the chest back in ’67 as well.
  • Khan comes to while McCoy is on the comm with the lab. Khan has waitress-black hair like Gene Simmons. I have to agree with Lt. McGivers: Khan is a very striking man. He exudes the aura of self-confidence and a certain regalness without saying a word. Like a lion, or a great panther. This was a good casting choice.
  • Khan spies a conveniently placed display of surgical instruments mounted on the sickbay wall and helps himself to a scalpel. He lies back down and when McCoy comes in to check on him, Khan grabs him by the throat and holds the blade to his neck.
  • McCoy, perhaps the coolest character on board the Enterprise, says, “Well, either choke me or cut my throat. Make up your mind.”
  • Khan wants to know where he is. McCoy says, “You’re in bed, holding a knife at your doctor’s throat,” and then proceeds to tell him that the most effective way to kill him would be to cut the carotid artery, just under the left ear. Just ask O.J. Simpson.
  • Khan releases McCoy, saying that he likes a brave man. McCoy is certainly that. Or certifiably insane.
  • Khan, sounding like someone used to command, demands to see the captain.
  • Kirk comes to sickbay to talk to Khan, of course. He tells Khan that they are headed for Starbase 12. He also tells him that 72 of the cryo chambers are still functioning, and Khan seems relieved to hear this. Kirk says they plan to revive the rest of Khan’s crew after they arrive at Starbase 12.
  • Kirk shares a lot of information, but only manages to get the man’s name as “Khan” before he claims fatigue.
  • Of course, he’s not too fatigued to do a little light reading. He was once an engineer “of sorts.” He’d like to study the technical manuals on their vessel. Kirk agrees to this. I mean, what harm could it do, right?
  • Back on the bridge, Mr. Spock, as chief exposition officer, fills us all in on more 20th century history (something that Lt. McGivers probably should have been tasked with). He says that in 1993, a group of selective-breeding supermen (not genetically engineered—selective breeding) simultaneously seized power in over forty nations.
  • Kirk adds that they were hardly supermen. They were aggressive, arrogant, and began to fight each other. These were the Eugenics Wars, I gather. Spock comments that “superior ability breeds superior ambition.”
  • I’d like to add that “with great power comes great responsibility.”
  • By Spock’s estimates, which we know you can bank on, there were eighty or ninety of these “young supermen” unaccounted for when they were finally defeated. This fact wasn’t in the history texts.
  • Marla McGivers comes to visit Khan in sickbay and allows herself to be ordered around. She’s definitely a submissive.
  • Khan suddenly begins rearranging McGivers’s hair in front of a mirror. Part of his selective breeding obviously included Beverly Hills hairdresser-to-the-stars Jose Eber. He insists that her current hairstyle is uncomplimentary and she needs to wear it softer, more natural.
  • Later, in the officer’s mess, the senior staff are in dress uniform, awaiting Khan’s arrival. Kirk wonders aloud just how strongly Lt. McGivers is attracted to Khan. Again, sounding a bit jealous. McCoy remarks that the man has a magnetism that is almost electric, and since McGivers is preoccupied with the past—you know, as a historian—this could overpower her.
  • I notice that Sulu is conspicuously absent in this episode, and that Scotty is not wearing his ceremonial kilt.
  • Khan visits McGivers in her quarters before going to the dinner being held in his honor. He’s wearing a high-collared yellow jacket. He says he hoped she might guide him to their dinner engagement.
  • The very attentive and manipulative Khan notes that she changed her hair for him.
  • Then he admires her artwork, including her own paintings. He asks if bold men from history were a hobby of hers. Leif Ericson, Napoleon, Flavius the gladiator. He uncovers a painting-in-progress of a man in a turban and tells her than he’s flattered.
  • Then, Khan tells her that such men take what they want and kisses her. Yeah, he owns her now.
  • Spock grills Khan during the dinner. Khan compliments Kirk as an excellent tactician, allowing his second-in-command to attack while he sits and watches for weakness.
  • Kirk comments on Khan’s tendency to express ideas in military terms. When Kirk says that Khan left Earth at the very time mankind needed courage, Khan says, “We offered the world order!”
  • He has tipped his hand. “We?” says Kirk.
  • Khan claims fatigue again and asks if he can return to his quarters.
  • McGivers comes to Khan’s quarters to apologize for the crew’s behavior towards him. Khan reveals that he plans to take over the Enterprise and bullies her into helping him. Being the sub that she is, and not such a good Starfleet officer, McGivers agrees to help him. End of Act Two.
  • As we get into Act Three, our Enterprise heroes discover that their guest is none other than Khan Noonien Singh, the last of the genetically superior tyrants of the Eugenics Wars to be overthrown. In his time, he ruled one quarter of the Earth, from Asia to the Middle East.
  • Kirk, McCoy and Scotty talk like they admired Khan, which perplexes Spock. Kirk says they can be against him and admire him at the same time, which Spock says is “Illogical.”
  • Kirk visits Khan in his quarters. This time, Khan is wearing a Starfleet uniform. In fact, he’s wearing a red tunic. Khan tells Kirk that he and his followers left Earth in search of a new life, to build a new world. He doesn’t think that Kirk could possibly understand their plans, since Kirk is mentally and physically inferior.
  • After Kirk leaves, Khan breaks out of his quarters, taking out the guard at his door and stealing his phaser. Lt. McGivers holds the transporter room attendant at phaser point while Khan beams over to the Botany Bay to revive his crew.
  • Khan quickly and expertly takes over the ship. Communications are jammed, the turbolifts disabled, and life support to the bridge is cut off. Khan is in control of engineering with his revived followers. He demands that Kirk surrender the ship to him or he will suffocate to death. End of Act Three.
  • Everyone on the bridge passes out. Kirk and Spock are the last. Kirk makes a log entry before losing consciousness, accepting full responsibility for allowing Khan to take over his ship.
  • When the crew awakens, they are being held in the briefing room. Khan holds Kirk captive in McCoy’s decompression chamber.
  • Even though Khan is threatening Kirk’s life, none of the bridge crew will join him. McGivers leaves the room, citing one of Khan’s follower’s mistreatment of Uhura as part of the reason. Of course, she’s going to save Captain Kirk. She’s weak, but she’s not evil.
  • When Spock is brought down to replace the now “dead” Kirk in the decompression chamber, Kirk and Spock overpower Khan’s man and carry out a plan to gas all the decks except the one they are on.
  • Khan escapes from the briefing room before he can be overpowered by the gas. Scotty chases him.
  • Kirk hurries to engineering to confront Khan directly. Khan has set the ship to overload and explode. The two men fight. Kirk is physically outmatched, but he cheats and beats Khan into unconsciousness with a weapon, something that looks like a huge metal pipe.
  • At a formal hearing, Kirk drops all charges against Khan and his crew. Instead, with Khan’s approval, Kirk decides to strand this group of supermen and women on Ceti Alpha V, a harsh, formidable planet. Lt. McGivers opts to join them.
  • I’m going to predict that Kirk’s mercy will come back to bite him in . . . say, about 18 years.

I’ve always enjoyed “Space Seed.” Since this episode also spawned Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, a movie I also enjoyed, my fondness for this episode may be biased.

No matter. It’s on the All-Time Best Trek list. Today, I’m giving it 4 out of 5 stars. This is must-see Trek.

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