Star Trek TOS: Khan, the Hispanic-Sounding and Napoleon-like Indian Man from Hibernation

Image Courtesy of Eidelbus on YouTube:

Star Trek: The Original Series

Season 1, Episode 23

Space Seed

Enterprise picked up the trail of an old human ship from the 1990s, a dash of mystery to kick off Space Seed. At the beginning of the episode, the viewer learned a “Eugenics War” occurred in the 1990s, eerily familiar to the Holocaust, at least in terms of Spock’s spoken recollection. This implied Star Trek writers didn’t hold a very peachy forecast for the future in the 1960s.

The gang transported to the cryptic ship, immediately encountering what appeared to be a morgue on board. But the unconscious inhabitants of the ship, SS Botany Bay, had heartbeats. They were evidently hibernating — probably survivors of the aforementioned eugenics war. Interestingly, one of the first people woken up resembles a person of Indian (the country) heritage — an apropos choice if, indeed, victims of a eugenics war were present. India has a dark history with sterilization. 

Spock also put his logical thumbprint on the episode, insisting his species is incapable of irritation. No matter how many ways different crew members asked or insinuated, Spock was simply unique from the rest. 

Image Courtesy of Eidelbus on YouTube:

The hibernating man rose from his long rest hellbent on violence, placing a knife to Dr. McCoy’s throat. Although, he was not crazed or demonic — McCoy was able to reason with him, Khan. Kirk and Spock reminisced on men from this time and place and history, theorizing Khan might be a “superman” possessing supreme combat skills. 

Khan, while recovering swiftly, was also a womanizer. He charmed one of Kirk’s female crewmembers into a mini-spell of seduction. 

It was also clear that Star Trek wanted to make specific reference to Napoleon Bonaparte as the French general’s name was mentioned more than a few times. Ergo, get familiar with this Khan character channeling his inner Napoleon. Nevertheless, Kirk was skeptical of Khan, especially as Khan’s charisma and arrogance increased by the moment. 

A bit of levity: Khan portrayed a man of Indian descent — but his Hispanic dialect was wildly obvious. Hell, he looked Hispanic, too — a curious casting choice. 

Khan turned hostile — he was getting there already — and sabotaged Enterprise. Unfortunately, he was also an intelligent son of a gun. One of his minions even slapped a woman, a Black one at that, while Khan shut off airflow to the ship. Khan bragged about this strength as Kirk attempted to slay the man with his fists (well, he used a club to finish the job). 

Referencing Milton, the episode ends with, “It’s better to rule in hell than serve in heaven.” And using that logic, Kirk set Khan and his female companion free on a mission to an inhibited planet — another instance of Kirk’s unflappable forgiveness technique. Of course, in most Westerns — or any film of the era — Khan would surely be incarcerated or killed for his mayhem aboard Enterprise

Themes: Eugenics

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. His odyssey with Star Trek starts from beginning to finish, watching ‘The Original Series,’ all the way to the present day. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).