Star Trek: TOS The Best Episodes

“Space, The final Frontier.  These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise.  It’s five-year mission: To explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no man has gone before!”


Space Seed

Season 1, Episode 22

Original air date:  February 16, 1967

Stardate:  3141.9

Plot Summary:

The Enterprise is tracking an unknown ship and goes to Red Alert.  As they approach, they see the ship looks like an Earth vessel from the late 20th century. McCoy picks up life readings but with very low heart rates.  Spock speculates it may be an old earth ship being used by aliens.  Kirk decides to beam over with a team including Doctor McCoy, Scotty and Lt. Marla McGivers the ship’s historian.  Once on board they discover over 80 people in suspended animation, the ship automatically begins to revive one of the men, who they speculate must be the leader.  McGivers is temporarily struck dumb by seeing the man, Kirk suspects out of amorous feelings, she claims out of curiosity for what he might teach them of the past.  The man begins to die in the pod, he’s taken out and asks “how long”, Kirk tells him 200 years before he loses consciousness and it taken to sick bay on the Enterprise.

Back on the Enterprise, Scotty informs Kirk that 72 of the passengers are still alive.  Spock tells Kirk the ship was named the Botany Bay, the same name as an English penal colony in Australia causing Kirk to speculate it was a prison ship of some kind.  Spock has his doubts as during that time period in Earth’s history there would have been “more efficient” ways to get rid of criminals.  But Spock can’t explain how it got so far out and Kirk enjoys Spock’s lack of certainty.  In sick bay, McCoy points out how strong the man must be based on his medical readings and recovery.  McGivers arrives in sick bay and she and Kirk discuss her performance on the away mission already discussed.  After Kirk leaves, with McCoy in his office the man awakes and doing some vaguely yoga inspired stretches gets up and takes a scalpel off the wall, then pretends to fall back asleep.  When McCoy gets close, he grabs him by the throat and puts the scalpel to his neck.  McCoy shows bravery, pointing out the best way to kill him with the scalpel, which the man compliments allowing him to take away the scalpel.  The man demands to speak to the captain.

When Kirk arrives, the man asks him about the ship’s heading and mission but dodges Kirk’s questions of him.  Only admitting his name is Khan.  Asking if he can study the ship’s technical manuals being “a kind of engineer” himself, Kirk stupidly agrees.  McGivers comes by to visit Khan and he compliments her looks but not her hairstyle which he begins to fix, she is obviously taken with his charms.  At McGivers’ request Kirk and the senior staff prepare a formal dinner for Khan to welcome him to the 22nd century.  On the way to the dinner, Khan stops at McGivers’ quarters where he sees her love of the conquerors of old, having painted pictures of Leif Eriksson and Napoleon, she has even begun a painting of Khan which he calls a great compliment – they kiss.  At the banquet, Khan claims their ship was simply in search of adventure, but Spock drills him on the era from which he came.  Khan tries to defend the dictatorial world in which he lived.  When Kirk asks him if he left earth because he was afraid, he gets Khan to lose his temper before claiming fatigue and retiring for the evening.  When McGivers follows Khan to his quarters to apologize, Khan uses her fascination with him and a very strong grip to convince her to help him take over the Enterprise.

In the meeting room Spock tells Kirk, McCoy and Scotty that the man is Khan Noonien Singh who was at one time absolute ruler of a quarter of the earth from Asia to the Middle East (roughly Genghis Khan’s empire, IRL.)  Kirk, Bones and Scotty talk almost admiringly of Khan, which Spock finds highly illogical. Turns out they were doing so mostly to rib the first officer.  Kirk orders Khan be locked in his quarters and put under guard.  Kirk goes to speak to Khan in his quarters and when asked about the guard, Kirk reveals knowing who Khan actually was while Khan tries to explain why they were on the Botany Bay, but claims that Kirk was too inferior to understand and despite the technical advances men were still the same.  When Kirk leaves, Khan breaks out of his room and heads to the transporter where McGivers has the chief at phaser point.  They beam over to the Botany Bay and revive the rest of Khan’s people.

Kirk is alerted of Khan’s escape, but he and the bridge crew also learn that Khan has sealed them on the bridge and cut off communications. Having turned off life support to the bridge the senior officers begin to suffocate as Khan demands Kirk turn over the ship.  As Kirk passes out, he makes a log entry recommending commendations for the bridge crew and taking full responsibility for the loss of the Enterprise.  When the crew, minus Kirk, awaken they are being held in a conference room by Khan and his people.  Khan asks them to join him, knowing he needs their expertise to operate the Enterprise.  They all refuse, so he shows them Kirk in a decompression chamber (after Uhura gets slapped around) and offers to spare him if they join Khan.  Once again, they refuse, to which he threatens them all with the same fate in turn – but they still refuse.  McGivers, having left the conference room claiming she couldn’t watch Kirk’s death, somehow turns off the video feed, knocks out Kirk’s guard with a hypospray and frees the captain.  At the same time Spock is being led to the decompression chamber for his turn; he and Kirk incapacitate the guard and head to technobabble room where they can turn on the intruder defenses.

Khan tries to contact his men, but they don’t answer.  Gas suddenly fills the room and his men begin to pass out, along with Uhura, Scotty, and McCoy.  Khan manages to escape and head to Engineering where he begins to overload the engines to destroy the ship.  Kirk meets him there, but is easily overpowered by Khan.  Kirk tries over and over again to physically stop the superman but continues to get tossed around like a rag doll.  Finally, Kirk finds a metal rod as part of the equipment, pulls it out and beats Khan with it, knocking him out just in time to stop the overload.

Later at a hearing, Kirk drops all charges against Khan and offers to bring him and his people to the uninhabited Ceti Alpha V.  McGivers decides to go with him rather than face a court martial and Khan says Kirk must know his Milton.  As Khan leaves Scotty asks Kirk what the Milton reference meant and Kirk quotes, “It is better to rule in hell than serve in heaven.”

Known to Fans As: 


Notable Guest Stars: 


Richardo Montalban as Khan.  Montalban was born in Mexico City to Spainish born parents.  He played the stereotypical latin lover in the 40’s and 50’s, even starring in a movie actually titled Latin Lovers with Lana Turner. But Montalban’s success in these roles also left him typecast in them and when those movies fell out of favor his career suffered. In the 60’s he made his way to TV where he often ended up playing Native American characters or using his smooth voice in television commercials.  But in the 70’s his career once again took off, playing his most iconic role as Mr. Roarke on Fantasy Island for seven seasons.  He of course reprised his role of Khan and wore a great big fake plastic chest in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.  My favorite role, since I’m a twelve-year old boy at heart, was as the villain Victor Ludwig in The Naked Gun.  While he never did get to kill the Queen he did die of heart failure in 2007 at the age of 88.


Madlyn Rhue as Lt. Marla McGivers.  Rhue actually played Montalban’s wife in the movie Day of Reckoning in 1960 and appeared on an episode of Fantasy Island with him as well.  For the most part, she was a reliable guest star on TV and in movies from the 50’s through the 90’s.  If you’re old enough you may remember her in a recurring role as Judge Wyatt on L.A. Law or if you’re even older her five-year run on Ironside.  Rhue died in 2003 at age 68 of complications from Multiple Sclerosis.


Continuity Issues:

This is the first time in these reviews that Bones has complained about being transported.

The Enterprise has a decompression chamber?  Does Kirk go scuba diving on the weekends?

Unknown guests are just allowed to read anything they want about the ship, including how to take it over?

In Wrath of Khan, Khan claims he knows Chekov from the Enterprise, yet Chekov wasn’t serving on the Enterprise during this season.  (Sulu wasn’t in this episode either for that matter.)

This is the first mention of the Eugenics wars, referenced many more times over the years in Trek but with the dates pushed back.

Kirk and Spock wonder what Ceti Alpha V will be like in 100 years – they don’t have to wait that long.

Why is leather named after a Greek city state better than regular leather?


Vulcan Nerve Pinches: One, on one of Khan’s men


Damn it Jim: “I signed aboard this ship to practice medicine, not to have my atoms scattered back and forth across space by this gadget.”


Kirk’s Shirt Off:  No, but Khan’s chest is flaunted and unlike in Wrath of Khan it’s really his chest.


Aged the Best:

This episode set the stage for the best Star Trek movie, come on you know it’s the best.

“Yes, you have technological advances, but how little man himself has changed” How true is that!


Aged the Worst:

We did not have WWIII in the 1990’s lead by Eugenically produced humans, thankfully.

We did not achieve interstellar travel by 2018, unfortunately.

During the climactic fight scene, it’s very obviously stunt-doubles in all the wide shots. I’m sure this is another place where the remastering in HD didn’t help – but I noticed this before on regular old TV.

The phaser Khan destroys with his bare hands is also an obvious clay mock-up, looks worse in HD but didn’t look that great originally either, I guess they were worried making it out of brittle plastic would cut Montalban’s hands.

Montalban had make-up on to darken his skin playing a character of Indian decent, but when he’s getting out of the hospital bed you can see that they decided not to bother with the make-up on his very pale legs.

I’m not going to say McGivers and how fast she falls for Khan has aged badly; I mean there are intelligent, professional women who marry serial killers in prison so you know, not that far-fetched.


Overall Grade:

A+, what’s not to like?


Monday’s Episode:  A Taste of Armageddon