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Star Trekkin' Across the Universe: Discussing The Porgs


It’s been an age since I watched Space Seed, but my understanding is that Botany Bay was a pre-warp ship, 200 years old, and as such they’d first have to try and get it back into space, and then go into cryo and head somewhere at a percentage of C. And a large number of Khan’s people died quite quickly to the Ceti Eels.

This is something I forgot to talk about. Leaving aside everything else, did nobody in the Federation’s science community notice Ceti Alpha IV exploding? When Reliant arrived in-system, nobody went “hey, the star charts show there should be another planet here”?


A supposed genius would likely be able to retrofit a sleeper ship. Khan learned incredibly quickly in “Space Seed.” He would’ve learned the general engineering principles necessary to mock up what he’d need to get off the planet. Or at least, lure someone there far sooner and get what he needed that way. Even if he fumed over Kirk instantly, Kirk would still have been small potatoes at that point in his life. He lost a planet before he ever met Kirk.

And he really should’ve been able to figure out how to handle indigenous life forms far sooner and/or easier.

Other people are driven crazy by “Martha.” Me, it’s Khan. The whole conception of him in his namesake movie. Can’t help it.


But if you’re on a planet with no industry, how do you do it? You can learn how to operate a warp core, but that does mean you can build a Warp Drive from first principles on a world where the only civilisation is you, an old spaceship and a population that started at 200 and is dropping?


With no Dilithium Crystals either.


But that’s where you get someone else to come earlier. It used to be that Kirk responded to every emergency. But even in this movie, the Reliant got there first. Besides, Ceti Alpha V was lacking for life, not natural resources. That was kind of the whole point.


But again, how do you access those resources? You have no mining equipment, no steel mills, no agriculture base. And you’re trying to deal with a predatory life form. And then the next planet over explodes, turning your verdant world into a hellhole.

The idea was that in generations to come, the prison colony on Ceti Alpha V would prosper, but long after Khan was dead.


Was it?

In this alternate version of Khan’s fate, according to my logic, he has the necessary tools to survive and thrive, but he instead uses them as he’s always used his resources, to do more than that. He creates a radio and lures another ship there. The whole point of Kirk was that he could one way or another get out of situations that would baffle others. Basically Khan’s opposite number. Khan used brute logic as his main tool, because he tended to dominate every situation (until invariably being sent into exile; there’s a fascinating story waiting to be told of his first defeat, too), where Kirk outsmarted every problem.

Where Khan gets it right in its internal logic is in Reliant’s easy capture. The whole movie then logically becomes a battle of wits between Kirk and Khan. Because this time he has experience with Khan, Kirk isn’t in nearly the disadvantage he was last time.

But the no-win scenario that’s supposed to be another key point of the movie is another thing that’s cheated as depicted. Kirk doesn’t cheat; it’s entirely Spock’s solution that saves the day. At the last minute it changes from a Kirk story to a Spock story, and we’re told Kirk learns something about himself because of it. That he doesn’t have to cheat? That if someone else pays the price for his recklessness it’s…okay? Is that what we’re supposed to take from it?

Admittedly that would be pretty interesting.

But the battle should never have played out that way. Just imagine a version of the story where Khan gets off the planet far earlier. It’s Kirk who leads the survey mission, trying to discover what happened to Khan. Khan tricks him and the Genesis team into being marooned on the planet. Or, as in the movie only so he thinks, because Kirk has anticipated this. Then they have their duel and Kirk, I don’t know, having definitively learned from the past, outwits Khan by giving him the Genesis device, on Ceti Alpha V, where Khan and the device detonate. Kirk’s sacrifice becomes knowingly killing his enemy this time. (Although he kills Kruge anyway next movie, so this is hardly a Superman dilemma.)

Much of the reason Khan as it does plays out is because they were scrambling to find a workable story. If they’d had just a little more time, they’d have gotten there. That’s likely one of the reasons why so many of the later movies mirror its basic plot. Even Spock’s death, as perfect as it is in the emotional goodbye, only happens at all because Leonard Nimoy was convinced he was ready to walk away from the character.

As I’ve said, I have no emotional attachment to this movie. It allows me to look at it from a different perspective. Star Wars fans hate Return of the Jedi and/or the Ewoks, but I wonder if it’s mostly the fans who watched these things in the theaters and/or heard from those fans. Me, I see it as a logical conclusion to that trilogy. That’s what it’s always been. Khan has always been that Star Trek movie other fans irrationally cling to. For me, anyway.


Just as a random observation: thousands of convicts were sent to Australia to build a new life from the wilderness and abundant natural resources, and 100 years later they still can’t get the rules of football right.


Also: Robinson Crusoe spent 26 years on an island with an infinite supply of wood and still couldn’t build a canoe he trusted to get him across 20 miles of ocean. Ok, he wasn’t a genetic superman, but neither did he need to find impossibly rare dilithium crystals to power his new boat.


Not to mention, Roy Hinkle could build a radio out of a coconut, but couldn’t build a damn boat.


In as much as any penal colony is.

Which is all well and good, but that’s a totally different story. The opening of Wrath of Khan is all about accidentally opening a sealed-off evil. Which is convenient, but internally consistent at least.

It’s more that the price Kirk pays for his recklesness isn’t okay. Which is the point Star Trek III hammers home. Kirk’s recklesness costs him his best friend. And his attempts to make amends cost him his ship and his son.


Perhaps Kirk had ‘Kobayashi Marued’ Starfleet’s star charts to ensure Khan’s doom. Mwahaha!


Yeah, as much as I love Wrath of Khan, it does have some story problems.

Some, like Khan and Chekov recognizing each other, aren’t really problematic because there’s no reason to assume Chekov wasn’t one of the 400+ crew members on the Enterprise at the time of “Space Seed.”

On the other hand, the Reliant crew not noticing a missing planet in a know system, or knowing that that’s where Kirk marooned Khan and his ubermenschen, is questionable. Doesn’t Starfleet have a database like wikipedia?

I’m also not sure that the Botany Bay was left with Khan. The shelters they were living in were constructed from Federation cargo crates. And even if Kurk did leave the Botany Bay with Khan, he probably would have had it stripped of any kind of ability to return to space. It would have been a husk.

My biggest issue with Wrath of Khan is Genesis. That’s some horribly dodgy science right there. Speeding up milions of years of evolution into days or weeks or even a handful of years stretches credibility beyond reason. Never mind that Genesis somehow forms a planet from scratch and fills it with complex life in a matter of hours is flat-out ridiculous. Some of the worst science-as-magic that I’ve ever seen.

Otherwise, it’s a fabulous film.


But “I feel young” and Search for Spock effectively reboots Kirk to the carefree fellow he always was. He feels released from the heavy burden taking real responsibility placed on him. He cheated the no-win scenario all over again, this time by getting someone else to rig the simulation. He loses and loses but still wins. He beats Khan. He gets Spock back. He exists in a world devoid of personal consequences. He loses his son, but again, he gets his best friend back, who let’s face it, means more to him. And he gets another ship.

Decker challenges him in The Motion Picture to imagine a world where someone else saves the day. And actually, the movie does ends with Decker saving the day. Spock saves the day in Khan, but unlike the last time we’re conditioned to believe that it really is all about Kirk, that Spock’s sacrifice is Kirk’s victory. That’s the whole point of the story.

But it makes as much sense as Khan’s two-dimensional thinking. He comes on strong, sure, but he’s still hard to defeat even when he’s met his match.

But that being said, regardless of how it’s done, obviously the dude will have to be defeated. The real cheat here is using the Genesis Device against him.


Based on this topic:

Other than the TOS Enterprise, if you could own one single prop from all of Star Trek history, what would that piece be?


Could no one on Reliant count planets in a system?


Colm Meany


Shatner’s girdle.


I saw him in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof the other day; he’s one of the Star Trek alumni I really wanted to see on stage sometime so was very happy to do so.


He was friends with the dad of a guy I went to school with, but this never ended up with me meeting him. I do know the actress who played his wife in The Snapper though.