Is Khan a Villain?

The morality of the film Star Trek: Into Darkness has provoked some conversation recently. I would like to add to that conversation by analyzing one character in that film: Khan, as played by Benedict Cumberbatch.


As with other Hollywood films that seek to construct an intriguing antagonist, but then lack the courage to follow through, there is no need to construe Khan’s motives as evil. He is an unpleasant person, but being nice or accommodating is not the same as being moral. Whilst Khan’s actions are violent and ill-judged, and the character may be poorly and inconsistently written, the audience can identify a moral logic to everything he does… if they want to.

Anthony Marchetta, my esteemed colleague, recently wrote the following about Khan.

The movie is smart in portraying the similarities between Kirk and Khan. The difference, however, is obvious. Khan is attempting to use subterfuge to start an intergalactic war, and has been responsible for terrorist acts in several U.S. cities. Kirk is… much, much better than that.

I do not believe this is a fair comparison. The duality of protagonist and antagonist has its limits, and does not apply well to this film because there are three competing forces in this story: Kirk (and his crew), Khan (and the people he protects), and the Head of Starfleet, Admiral Alexander Marcus (and those in Starfleet who follow his orders).


Kirk reacts to events instead of having any objectives of his own. In that sense, Kirk is innocent; he has no machinations. But this does not lead to an easy comparison between Kirk and Khan, who vigorously pursues his objectives. We might as well contrast Khan to a baby in their crib. Clearly Khan is not as innocent as a newborn child, but few of us have that luxury, if we try to deal with real circumstances. Kirk reacts to Khan, but Khan is also responding to his own antagonist, Marcus. Marcus has coerced Khan. It was Marcus that revived Khan, then gave him a false identity and work to do. Khan knows Marcus is intending to start a war, and for a time he believes that Marcus has killed Khan’s people. We should assess Khan’s choices in this context.

Who is trying to start an intergalactic war? Marcus, not Khan. Khan was woken from stasis by Marcus, in secret, and forced to design weapons that Marcus intends to use after provoking conflict with the Klingons. In contrast, Khan’s primary goal is to save the remainder of his colleagues, who remain in stasis, and will be killed by Marcus if he does not comply. It is also possible that Khan wishes to stop Marcus’ war.

It was Marcus that instructed Kirk to violate the law and fire torpedoes upon the Klingon homeworld, supposedly to kill Khan. In reality, Marcus is also taking the opportunity to provoke the Klingons, having already sabotaged the Enterprise so Kirk will be unable to flee. If Khan is the super-intelligent person he is supposed to be, in what sense can he be in favor of this plan? He is not the type to commit suicide for the sake of Marcus’ war.

During the course of the film, Khan sometimes tries to kill Marcus, and Marcus tries to kill Khan. So the goals of Marcus and Khan should not be conflated. If Khan and Marcus had the same goals, Khan would have no need to fear reprisals against his people.

Khan seemingly believed his comrades had already been killed, until Kirk tries to apprehend him. Khan learns they are still alive when Kirk reveals the exact number of torpedoes in his arsenal (which, bizarrely, is the exact number of torpedoes needed to hide every one of Khan’s comrades). Having already saved his persecutors from a troop of ferocious Klingon soldiers, Khan surrenders to Kirk. He does not even strike back when subjected to a punishment beating.

I would question whether Khan is guilty of terrorist acts. Terror implies frightening people in order to force a change of policy. Khan is not trying to frighten anyone. There is no suggestion that he is trying to communicate a political goal or manifesto of any sort. He blows up a Starfleet facility in London, killing 42 in total, because it is a secret military base masquerading as a public library. Was this act motivated by revenge against Starfleet as a whole, is it part of a plan to gain revenge against his specific persecutor by creating the opportunity to kill Marcus, or is it a way of derailing Marcus’ plan to start war? We do not know. All three motives are believable. The character of Khan is not so well explored that we can rule out the possibility that he also wants to stop a war that would kill many more than 42.

Following this bombing, Starfleet’s leaders convene a meeting. Khan uses this opportunity to try to kill Marcus and his colleagues. Again, this violent act lacks the clear and public purpose that would allow us to categorize it as terrorism. Again, perhaps Khan is motivated by revenge, but he may also be preempting war, by striking against the leaders of a military organization intent on starting war. We cannot say for certain what Khan knows of the disposition of Marcus’ colleagues. Maybe they are naive and innocent, unaware of Marcus’ plans. Maybe Khan makes a false assumption, or is willing to treat them as collateral damage. But probably some, or most, were Marcus’ willing accomplices. After all, the Head of Starfleet cannot construct new weapons and warships single-handedly. Some of his peers must have known and supported the ‘top secret’ plans of Marcus. Khan might be called a terrorist by his Starfleet enemies, but he does not fit the normal understanding of a terrorist. He is better described as a guerrilla, a rebel, or an insurrectionist.

Engaging in violence against a military force intent on war cannot be automatically equated with terrorism. There are nuances which allow such actions to be interpreted as justified war, as contrasted with terrorism, even when the violence is preemptive. In that sense, Khan engages in war, but it is not clear if his purpose is sinful or virtuous. Perhaps Khan likes killing people; he is a very angry character. But given how little we know of Khan’s motives, his actions might also reflect a genuine desire for peace, though it comes from a man who is prepared to use violent means to get the best overall outcome. In that sense, Khan’s violence is consistent with Spock’s maxim: “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few”.

Khan’s character is nicely balanced during the first half of the film, but becomes increasingly simplistic towards the end. Even so, we can question the depiction of Khan as an essentially malevolent character. They key is to distinguish what we know, as the audience, with what Khan knows.

After Kirk has captured Khan, Marcus arrives and states he will destroy the Enterprise and its entire crew. The Enterprise is fired upon and disabled by Marcus’ warship, killing many. Kirk’s only hope is to engage Khan’s help and conduct a daring raid upon the ship of their common enemy. To gain Khan’s allegiance, Kirk also ‘guarantees’ Khan’s safety. Khan ably assists Kirk, even saving Kirk during the perilous transit between the ships. Does Khan need to save Kirk? Of course not. Khan killed a legion of Klingons single-handedly. He does not need Kirk’s help. An intelligent man would have calculated that Kirk is more likely to be an untrustworthy liability. So it proves when Kirk orders Scott to stun Khan, after they have taken control of Marcus’ ship.

Waking from the premeditated and unnecessary violence committed against him, Khan is furious. He overpowers the people who hurt him, and kills Marcus with his bare hands. A better man may have restrained his anger, but that does not make Khan evil. He has been repeatedly provoked and lied to by Starfleet officers. Kirk and his colleagues do not trust Khan, but what opportunity have they given him to show he is trustworthy? Now Khan does not trust Kirk, and that is understandable. He beams Kirk and his friends back to the Enterprise, with the intention of killing everybody on that ship. Khan is no moral luminary, and this violence is clearly excessive. But it is also conducted in the heat of the moment, against the soldiers of a military organization that lied and lied again. This shows Khan’s character is flawed, but not simplistically evil. After all, we are repeatedly told that Khan and his peers have been condemned to death. And yet, they are not dead. They could run away, without destroying the Enterprise. But Khan knows the law, and pride, will require Starfleet to hunt them down. If Khan destroys the Enterprise and its crew now, there is good reason to believe that nobody else knows that Khan and his augment friends are still alive. They will finally have a chance to escape their persecutors.

Spock, a man who supposedly cannot lie, deceives Khan about returning his augment peers in the torpedoes where they have been stored. These torpedoes are then detonated, wrecking Khan’s ship and causing it crash to Earth. Khan responds by furiously instructing the ship to crash into Starfleet headquarters. Again, given the context, can this be considered the response of an evil man, or just of an angry man who has been repeatedly wronged? As far as Khan knows, the people he has done so much to save have just been callously executed by yet another Starfleet officer. Khan’s response is excessive, but intelligible, without the need to posit evil intent.

I have tried to construe Khan as a character who has his own moral logic, even though it is not one I share. This moral logic is different to Kirk’s, or mine, but not straightforwardly opposed to either. It is circumstances, not character, that lead Kirk and Khan to be enemies. Is this moral absolutism, or moral relativism? I would argue it is both, at the same time, thanks to the miracles that can only be performed from the god-like position of the storyteller. Kirk is always right – even when he is wrong. Kirk was wrong to obey Marcus’ orders. He was wrong to hit an unarmed man who had surrendered. And it can be argued Kirk was wrong to use violence against Khan a second time, after Khan had saved Kirk and they had subdued their common enemy, Marcus. Hence, a kind of moral absolutism surrounds Kirk. He is right, even when he is wrong, because we are supposed to forgive his emotions and ignorance. However, this absolutism is invested in a specific, mistake-prone and lucky individual, not a moral system. Because Kirk is a moral absolute, his enemies must be moral absolutes too. However, no leeway is granted for their anger, or for the gaps in their knowledge.


This kind of absolutism, centered on an imperfect individual, is the worst kind of relativism in disguise. Anybody can make a mistake. Unlike Spock, a real person knows that no amount of logic can substitute for a lack of pertinent knowledge. We might think we are doing the morally right thing, and then learn more information that leads us to conclude we should behave differently. But in this Star Trek film, no matter how ignorant Kirk is, he is always luckily moral. This suggests Kirk has little moral compass, and is nothing more than a puppet for a godlike figure who works through him – which may be an actual god, or just a contemptuous storyteller. The ‘facts’ always fortuitously realign to suit Kirk’s intuitive perceptions. That seems to me equivalent to the worst kind of moral relativism, where each individual can insist they have always made consistent moral decisions because they can choose to believe whatever happens to justify their actions.

Khan is a moral force. He is destructive, and willful, but he acts with a purpose in mind. Khan did far more to stop war than Kirk did. If Khan had not rebelled against Marcus, then Kirk and others may have loyally followed Marcus into war. In contrast to Khan, Kirk rarely understands what will be the consequences of his actions. I submit that this makes Kirk a poor hero, and Khan far less than a villain.

  • Anthony M

    When you call me an esteemed colleague, I have to admit I smiled while reading this.

    I’m on my lunch hour at work right now, so will try to respond better later (maybe with an article). But for now, one thing that jumped out at me is how we’re using “evil”. Khan’s actions of course have moral logic, but just because Khan was not acting with evil intent and attempts to justify his actions (that you indeed admitted were “over the top” several times), does not make those actions good. It just makes Khan a complex villain, or even antihero potentially.

    To put it another way – the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. Who cares whether or not Khan thought he was correct when he’s about to crash a ship into a building (if I remember correctly)? Everybody is the hero in their own story.

    Will try to get to more later.

    • Anthony M

      (That said, I’m prepared to concede the well-made point that Khan is at least not significantly worse than Kirk.)

    • I’ve given Khan as favorable an interpretation as possible, so of course there are other valid interpretations where he might have more straightforwardly evil drives. That’s part of the problem of constructing a fictional character – we must be conscious of the extent to which the character is not fully determined in the way a real person would be. But I’m glad you’ve agreed to the key point I was hoping to make. Kirk’s character is not much more morally settled than Khan’s character, even though Kirk is the ‘hero’ of two films, not one (ignoring what we know of him from the other timeline, or more pertinently what we know of him from other creative sources than J.J. Abrams and the people who worked on his films).

      I admit I preferred Khan as a character to Kirk, and I suspect many in the audience felt likewise. It’s not just that Khan does villainous things, and people empathize with villains. Khan has a clarity of purpose, whilst Kirk is reliant on taking and receiving muddled advice from everyone around him (Pike, Scott, Bones, Spock, the other Spock…). It’s a shame we never see Kirk’s mother in the films, because he should probably call her and ask her for advice too. Khan also appears to be a more natural leader. When Khan gets the chance, he just tells people what to do, expecting them to do it. Kirk’s authority is questionable because he invites others to question it. And who wants to see a version of Kirk that natters with Uhuru about her relationship problems with Spock? The original Kirk would have told them both to man up and act like professionals.

      • Anthony M

        This is another point I think people are a bit unfair about with the Abrams films (also, remember that my original point wasn’t actually about good or poor writing, but about whether or not the movies are nihilistic – but I’ll get back to that).

        Of COURSE this Kirk is different than the regular series Kirk: This Kirk is 1) Younger, and 2) Has grown up with no father figure. So Kirk is less mature.

        (For the record, I’m pretty sure, though may be wrong, that Kirk does try to shut up Uhura and Spock at one point, then just gives in because Abrams’ Uhura is thoroughly unpleasant and insubordinate (forcing Spock to move her to the Enterprise?). I’ve got no excuses with Uhura.)

        Anyway, I think the key is not looking at Kirk’s maturity, but trying to see if there are signs that he’s developing to be more like the Kirk from TOS, and I believe there are.

        In a better written movie, Kirk would not have become Captain after the first film, but would have been promoted to Lieutenant, perhaps – but Kirk can hardly be blamed for that. “Into Darkness” unfortunately punishes Kirk when he actually DOES do the right thing, and deems the Prime Directive secondary to rescuing Spock – as he should.

        (The Prime Directive opens up yet ANOTHER can of worms that I won’t go into, or not yet.)

        But anyway, we see after that that when Kirk takes over the Enterprise again he gets into an argument with Scotty about taking the torpedoes aboard the ship. Later, given the chance to fire, Kirk ddecides they’re better used as a bluffing tool, and is proven correct. This shows 1) A willingness to take the opinions of subordinates into account 2) Good tactics, and 3) The ability to see the repercussions of his actions if he actually followed Starfleet’s orders.

        So, Scotty quit earlier. This young Kirk is upset, and previously had gotten in trouble for disobeying Starfleet orders (the Prime Directive). Yeah, he doesn’t got with Scotty’s advice, but we see later that he’s mature enough to eventually look past his emotions, and even admit to Scotty his original mistake.

        Kirk is stuck with the unfortunate dual job of stopping Marcus from starting a war and making sure Khan doesn’t engage in hostile actions with Starfleet. One ended up needing to be balanced against the other, but Kirk is moral enough to make sure not to destroy Scotty’s crew and, like Spock, wins the “No win situation” (probably my favorite Star Trek line) by sacrificing his life for the crew.

        As for Spock, we need to once again remember that he is young. The death of Kirk shattered the Vulcan logic and lack of emotion he struggles throughout his life to maintain, but this is not a Spock with years of experience cultivating that side of him. This is a young man struggling to hold back his emotions and who has just suffered the cruel loss of a friend. An older Spock may not have snapped, but I don’t think it’s fair to say that a younger Spock wouldn’t either.

        I like the films. They’re not Shakespeare, but they’re fun, and that’s why I went to see them. I admit to not being a huge Star Trek fan, but I also don’t think the movies are nihilistic either.

        • Anthony M

          (Scotty’s crew should be Khan’s crew.)

        • You hit the nail on the head when discussing Kirk’s maturity. It’s the key reason why I prefer the original Kirk to this one.

          There are lots of ironies when contrasting Into Darkness with Wrath of Khan. The former could not exist without the latter, but the themes in Wrath of Khan surround an established hero who must come to terms with growing old. In Wrath of Khan, Kirk celebrates a birthday, bemoans the need for reading glasses, learns he has a son, and faces mortality. On the last point, we get both the no-win scenario and the death of Spock (seemingly with no reprieve… until they cooked one up for the sequel.)

          The contrast with the new ‘young’ Kirk is very sharp. After Wrath of Khan, part of the problem with the series was that Kirk continues to get older and older, and needs more and more excuses to come out of retirement and play the eternal hero. With Into Darkness, the pacing of the franchise has gone askew again, but this time the problem is that Kirk has done too much too soon – begging the question of how Kirk’s character is supposed to develop. It makes sense for the new Kirk to be impetuous. It makes less sense that people respect him anyway. Pike has lots of faith in Kirk – but why? Because Kirk has a reckless streak to him. That sounds like a good idea, but add recklessness to a lack of experience and then note the absence of any track record, and Pike’s faith in Kirk is nothing more than a gamble. Once again, we’re supposed to believe that the right person’s ‘gut instincts’ are more important than everything else – but why would the rest of Starfleet trust the gut instincts of Pike or Kirk, when their own gut instincts tell them that Pike or Kirk might be wrong?

          Kirk can get away with his immaturity because, with the possible exception of Scotty and Bones, his senior crew are all kids. They’re not people with significant life experience. They are sometimes treated as sons or daughters, but none of them are parents. Bones had a wife, but now he’s just a comical stream of metaphors. Scotty is an even greater comic relief, meaning only real youngsters like Sulu and Chekov ever behave in the way you might expect from hardened professionals – by getting on with their job whilst causing minimal fuss. Hence the film suffers from an unrealistic generation divide (and hence why the immature relationship between Spock and Uhuru is treated as normal when it should be ridiculous).

          Of course, all I’m really complaining about is that the target market for Into Darkness is young people – the kinds of people who don’t have kids and mortgages and life experience, but would quite fancy being the heroic boss of a starship. I can’t blame a movie studio for wanting to make films that kids want to see. But unfortunately for me, I’m not young any more, and I saw the earlier films when I was a kid. So I’ve undergone a strange kid of inversion, where themes about morality and mortality have come in the wrong order for me. The Kirk of Star Trek 6 can even empathize with the Klingons. I can empathize with Khan. The Kirk of Into Darkness is not inclined to empathize with either. And that’s one reason to find him less morally interesting.

          • natewinchester

            Ray, this was almost the exact same complaint I made as well about the first movie.

            Chekov was horrible. Pretty much the textbook definition of Never Live it Down. Scotty was even worse. First and foremost Scotty was always a consumate professional (he was famous for reading technical manuals for FUN) who really was the best. He is not the buffon that Peg portrayed him as. In the same line, I grew quite tired of the ENTIRE crew pretty much getting their ranks improperly. Save for Spock and Checkov, every other crew member got their spot by trickery or death of a superior. While once or twice isn’t bad, by the time it was happening to McCoy and Scotty I was sick of the trope. Especially with those two who were always shown to be the best that there is. McCoy and Scotty should NOT have needed a superior to die to get their ranks, they should have had them (on the Federation flagship no less) from the start. That the crew of the enterprise were the best was always acceptable in the show because it was the federation flagship, you’d expect for the best to be on board.

            Though a movie about them in the academy or just getting started in the fleet could have worked, that movie tried to do too much, too fast.

            The sequel should not have had Khan.

            P.S. SF Debris’ examination of Kirk. Make of it what you will.

          • Hi Nate, thanks for sharing your review, and for pointing me towards the SF Debris study of Kirk’s character.

            It takes time for stories and characters to develop. If done well, they become much richer for it. Though audiences can be impatient, they often feel rewarded by an ongoing investment in a story. The reason why Hollywood makes sequels and reboots is because audiences would rather see a story built on familiar foundations than risk being introduced to new characters and new scenarios. It’s not that different to offering people the choice of attending a party where they will be surrounded by old friends, or one where they know nobody, and will meet new people. Most of us prefer the familiar, and relish the depth that comes with a prolonged investment of time.

            This is all true for Star Trek too. The new films include no-win scenarios, Khan, and even Chekov struggling to pronounce the letter ‘v’. They’re building upon – or exploiting – the past investment in the story and these characters. But Star Trek was not an instant classic. Season three of the original series was better than the first season. The no-win scenario originates in the second feature film, not the first. In his rush to please audiences, I’m not sure J.J. Abrams is the kind of storyteller who leaves a rich enough terrain that much can be gained by returning to it. Instead, he tends to strip the land, leaving it desolate – hence the unpopular redesign of how Klingons appear, and the race to promote every character to the rank they’ll have to occupy for the next 40 years! 😉

            Would it have killed Abrams to have some totally new characters in the Enterprise crew, who would be significant for the immediate story but did not end up in the ‘classic’ crew? To be fair, he has a lot of classic characters to re-introduce to a younger audience, but I’d rather he showed imagination by adding one or two completely different people, instead of redesigning Klingons and having weird-looking aliens on the bridge, blurting out one trivial line before disappearing from view again. Another way to have told Kirk’s story might have involved an older – but not too much older – antagonist and rival within Starfleet. This would have given some relief from all the father-son dynamics between Pike and Kirk, and then between Admiral Marcus and Kirk. Having somebody on the same side as Kirk who is neither a friend, nor enemy, nor superior, but who does things very differently to Kirk, would have created a more believable dynamic for Kirk’s development as an adult and a leader. But Abrams is not that kind of storyteller. In my view, he always goes for the quick pay-offs instead of finding ways to entice the audience into investing themselves for longer. And that makes me worry for the new Star Wars films too.

          • Anthony M

            I don’t actually really disagree with any of this.

            The movies are flawed. Ideally, I would have liked to see new characters. But a reboot isn’t an awful idea. But, like you’ve pointed out, if they really did want to do that the best plan would probably have been to move things at least a LITTLE more slowly.

            My position isn’t a strong one, mind you, or not all of it. I DON’T think the films are nihilistic. I did like them. But I liked them because I liked a lot of the actors and I thought the stories were fun. I’m not going to pretend the writing was anything brilliant, especially compared to “Wrath of Khan”-level heights.

          • I liked the films too… just not as much as I hoped, or as much as other people say they did. But now you’ve mentioned both Khan and the quality of writing, I realize that they really dumbed down Khan’s dialogue. The original Khan was cultured – “To the last, I will grapple with thee… from Hell’s heart, I stab at thee! For hate’s sake, I spit my last breath at thee!” Cumberbatch does the best he can, but he’s got much less to work with.

          • Anthony M

            I’m a big Cumberbatch fan (as I suppose many are), but it’s true that the original Khan got the better lines. His speech at the end of WoK is outstanding, and Cumber-Khan never got that moment.

            I might make an article on how I would have done a proper re-boot. It would involve Kirk and Spock’s rise in Starfleet, and Kirk would probably re-gain command by movie three.

            You’re right that Kirk’s immaturity isn’t inexcusable, but would make more sense if he was still an up-and-coming hotshot.

            Also, bring back old Uhura! I like Zoe Seldana as much as the next guy but her Uhura is horrible.

          • I know you’re probably too busy to write them, but it would be a lot of fun to read your alternative screenplays.

            And don’t get me started on Uhura. Putting character flaws to one side, just compare how they look. The original Uhura: big hair, big tits, big hips, big ass, dark skin. New Uhura: straight hair, slim body, milky coffee skin. Zoe Saldana is a beautiful woman, but how did American liberals fail to notice this step backwards? Why aren’t they protesting as a result? It’s like they have a few standard checkboxes, and so long as they’re ticked, they fail to see the bigger picture with how Hollywood pushes narrow conformity across all races and genders, exploring only the most superficial kinds of diversity. I suppose this is also the reason why they dropped the vaguely Indian appearance of Khan and rushed for the safety of a white Khan with a British accent.

          • Anthony M

            It WOULD be fun, but it’s a matter of time management: Were I the type of guy who had the resources of the people who make those Star Trek fan-run shows, I’d probably do it because I know it could actually turn into something. but it’s just not worth it for me, even if it is for a lot of guys, to make something that I know will ultimately pan out to little more than my own amusement. Ah well.

            They cast a white Khan because they were afraid of having a racial villain. The producers flatly admitted this – see Wright’s original thread for the link where I found the quote.

          • Anthony M

            (And if I were to do it I would need to watch, at minimum, the entire original series and movies from beginning to end. It wouldn’t be fair otherwise.

          • What hilarious irony. Eugenics creates people with super brains and super bodies, but only if their skins are super white!

    • Anthony M

      As for Kirk, the reason we’re supposed to forgive Kirk more is partially because, like you said, Kirk is the protagonist (which, again to defend the makers of the movie, is hardly unusual) and unlike Khan has not actually killed or attempted to kill that many people.

      Khan may have a certain moral logic to his actions, but Kirk’s moral logic makes more sense: Kirk is a defender, whereas Khan is an aggressor. That he is a sympathetic aggressor just, again, makes him a complex and sympathetic villain.

      A similar argument could be made for Loki in the first “Thor” movie, actually, but nobody seriously believe Loki is the good guy even if he has a halfway-decent rationale for the things he does.

      In some ways, Khan in “Into Darkness” is the mirror image of Kirk: What a Kirk who goes completely off the rails of regulation, as Kirk has threatened to do, could potentially become.

  • rainforestgiant

    Well leaving beside the horrible lense-flare (what am I watching ‘Kung Fu’?), the movie was a disappointment on several levels. Yes, Kirk is entirely too young to be commanding a capital ship much less the flag-ship of the fleet. Yes, Scotty showed no imagination in his ability to run Ops. And yes Cumberbatch is the most trout-shouldered, weak chinned, white-skinned wonder and a Sikh? At least Ricardo could pull that off. And Bollywood is huge. They couldn’t find an Indian actor?

    He did not say, “Eugenic Superman” to me. Cumberbatch said, Angry librarian or upper-crust remittance man. However, the analysis of the movie itself is spot on. khan was no villain he was the antagonist. Admiral Marcus was clearly the bad guy. The problems arose because the script was weak. The conflict did not arise naturally and they were trying to force the story to fit into a slot it was never intended for.

    What should have happened several years ago was reboot the original series on one of the premium channels or scifi. Get some years under it’s belt to reestablish the bond then start telling their stories. If you are really going for a reboot why go to the second half of one of the fan favorite stories? Why not create new villains and new challenges?

    Star Trek really is an old radio play. TOS could be preformed for radio without visuals most of the time and you could still follow the action. Now it is action set pieces without any of the characters’ interactions and reactions built from years of getting to know each other and their own characters.

    I say ditch further movies. Do a TV series sure bring in some of the old stories like the Eugenics wars, heck even bring in Khan but do it with a twist. Don’t simply make it a shot for shot remake with roles reversed. Don’t misuse one of science fictions best villains as stunt casting. It would have worked just as well with any one in the ‘Khan’ role. It didn’t need to be a superman. It could have been an advanced alien, a genius, a group of scientists, etc. The Wrath of Khan doesn’t work unless Space Seed has been established.

    Just my two cents.

    • Hi Rainforestgiant, and thanks for your comment. I’m sorry it’s taken a while for me to respond because I think you make lots of good points.

      The original series wasn’t all that visual, because they had neither the technology nor the budget. It was questionable to give these film projects to a director like Abrams, whose strength lies with the visuals (to the point where he should be faulted for gimmicks like lens flare). This latest film should really have gone to a director who cares more about characters.

      Star Trek 2: Wrath of Khan was a relatively expensive movie for its time, because of the special effects. But for all that, its strength lay in the characters.

      There have been other TV series that took well-known film characters and explored their lives before the events in the films. Kirk would be an excellent choice for such a character. I suppose the film-makers recognized there would be tremendous audience demand to rush Kirk to the point where he is in space, in command, having adventures and sex with aliens, whilst surrounded by his familiar crew. However, by rushing to appease the audience, they’ve skipped an opportunity. They are also stuck with the perennial problem of how you take a static scenario where everybody knows who are the goodies, who will win, who will live etc, whilst looking for ways to breathe new life into it.

      It might have been more entertaining to watch a young Kirk wearing a red shirt for a while, beaming down to hostile planets whilst being tasked to provide ‘security’. Imagine the fun as a young, raw but talented Kirk struggles to survive away missions as the most expendable member of the crew!

    • Sarah Goodwich

      “Yes, Scotty showed no imagination in his ability to run Ops. ”
      What do you expect, his engineering-section was a brewery.

      “They couldn’t find an Indian actor?”
      THIS I can accept, since Khan would been given gotten plastic surgery by Admiral Marcus, to hide him from being identified like he was in “Space Seed.” However THIS IS NEVER MENTIONED.
      So, WHY WASN’T IT MENTIONED, with Kirk looking up Khan’s record and showing the PICTURE from “Space Seed” of Khan in Earth history, and McCoy simply saying “Dammit Jim, that’s some pretty good cosmetic surgery!”
      Also, it doesn’t explain his accent, once he stops FAKING a British one; clearly, Cumbersome simply didn’t want to LEARN to re-create Ricardo Montalban’s accent (which was Spanish, not Indian); but rather he just wanted to use his regular voice. (In contrast, Peter Sellers used FOUR different accents in the film “Dr. Strangelove” alone.)

      But I won’t heap it all on “Into Darkness,” since it simply continued what “Wrath of Khan” began with the stupid “exploding planet” gimmick right out of Superman, and the “evil super-villian escaped from hellish exile” plot right out of Superman II.
      Rather, it would have been great to show Khan as he could have been; i.e. simply show him as he was in Space Seed, . a benevolent dictator bent on uniting and perfecting humanity. So in this way, Admiral Marcus could take advantage of this to help him build an empire, and then Kirk could learn from Old Spock what happened in the alternative timeline, in order to create a complex plot with more depth than “beat the bad guys.”
      But rather, the JJ Abrams plot was just cheap sci-fi trash from square 1; the glory of Star Trek was gone with the first film..

  • Sarah Goodwich

    In “Space Seed,” Khan was never intended to be a villain; on the contrary, he was extremely heroic by contemporary earth-standards of pre-21st century leaders; and even 23rd-century Earthlings like Kirk, McCoy and Scotty admired him since there were no massacres under his rule, while only Spock with his advanced Vulcan ethics found him objectionable. Likewise Khan proves to be highly optimistic and charismatic, wanting to unite and improve humanity; however his methods soon prove coercive, showing that despotism is obsolete in the 23rd century; and so Khan CHOOSES to exile himself on a planet (much like Napoleon, with whom Khan was also compared); and Kirk agrees, despite DROPPING ALL CHARGES (which McCoy observes that Kirk has the authority to do).

    Simply put: Khan harms nobody in the episode– unlike “villains” such as the Romulan Commander in “Balance of Terror,” the mother Horta, and the Gorn, all of whom proved to be “misunderstandings.” But Khan gets the “villain” treatment, while the others are “teaching moments–” WTF?
    Khan didn’t even try to kill Kirk, since Khan ordered him removed from the decompression-chamber before he was even unconscious; as Kirk said, “THERE WERE NO MASSACRES UNDER KHAN’S RULE. Rather, the purpose of the demonstration was to show the misplaced romanticism over history, by showing that it was brutal, and that the solution was passive resistance against it– i.e. refusing to follow despots under any circumstances, and thus embrace a populist world.
    And that’s exactly what the Enterprise crew does: i.e. nobody will follow Khan, and he learns he cannot “rule in heaven” like he desired, and therefore he would prefer to tame a world of his own, even if he had to forage, rather than “serve in Heaven” by joining the 23rd century as a museum-relic.
    And this was in keeping with Star Trek’s advanced message: i.e. shunning egocentric labels of “good and evil,” toward deeper understanding. In “Arena,” Kirk stays his hand from killing the Gorn, realizing they were defending themselves; in “The Devil in the Dark,” Kirk stays his hand from killing the Horta, and realizes she was just defending her children; and in “Balance of Terror,” Kirk learns that the Romulan commander was just like him, but reluctantly following orders, and wished he could have been Kirk’s friend.
    Similarly, in “Space Seed,” Kirk and Khan deeply ADMIRE one another– as Khan says to McCoy, “I like a brave man.”
    And while Khan first believed that Kirk was inferior, he eventually learned that mankind had simply gone its own way, even if he disapproved; and Kirk dropped charges because he realized it would be a terrible WASTE to put Khan and his crew in a penal colony.

    However this is a little too deep for the average movie-audience (or writers), and so they just made Star Trek II into SUPERMAN II, and suddenly Khan became General Zod escaped form the Neutral Zone to take revenge.
    And all depth was lost; the only thing deep was the manure of the plot. Forget real science, now it’s techno-magic.