Ah, Kirk, my old friend, do you know the Klingon proverb that tells us revenge is a dish best served cold? Well...it is very cold in space!
~ Khan revealing his return to James Kirk in Star Trek II.
I've done far worse than kill you. I've hurt you. And I wish to go on hurting you. I shall leave you as you left me, as you left her; marooned for all eternity in the center of a dead planet... buried alive! Buried alive! Buried alive!
~ Khan's most famous line to Kirk after trapping him on Regular 1 underground.

Khan Noonien Singh is a major antagonist in the Star Trek franchise, serving as the main antagonist in The Original Series episode "Space Seed" and as the eponymous main antagonist of the 1982 classic feature film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. He is the archenemy of James T. Kirk.

He was portrayed by the late Ricardo Montalbán, who also portrayed Vincent Ludwig in The Naked Gun: From The Files Of Police Squad!, and Señor Senior, Senior in Kim Possible. He also played Khan in "Space Seed," reprising his role in the movie.

Biography

Early History

Hailing from Northern India, Khan was genetically engineered to be the perfect human (or "Augment") in the late 20th century Earth. Khan and several other Augments fought to take over the world in what became known as the Eugenics Wars. Khan himself became absolute ruler of one-fourth of the world from 1992 to 1996. When his bid for power failed, he and may of his followers put themselves into cryogenic sleep on the SS Botany Bay and fled into space.

Awakened in the 23rd Century and Exile

Khan with Kirk.

I have five times your strength. You are no match for me!
~ Khan to James T Kirk during their fight

In the 23rd century, the Botany Bay was discovered drifting in space by the USS Enterprise. Khan was revived by the ship's historian, Marla McGivers, who wished to learn from him. She became increasingly attracted to Khan, and fell in love with him.

Khan then attempted to commandeer the Enterprise and use it to create a colony for himself and whoever would follow. He was eventually beaten by the ship's crew and its captain, James T. Kirk, and agreed to go into exile on the paradisical and uninhabited planet Ceti Alpha V.

Six months his exile, the nearby Ceti Alpha VI exploded, which resulted in Ceti Alpha V's orbit being shifted, which turned the planet into a desert wasteland which in tyrn also resulted in the deaths of twenty of his followers, including (presumably) McGivers. This enraged Khan, who blamed Kirk for her death.

Loss of his people, Vengeance against Kirk, and Death

Khan in Star Trek II.

No, no...you can't get away. 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....
~ Khan's final words, paraphrasing Ahab's final words in Moby Dick.

Fourteen years and six months after the desertification, the starship USS Reliant arrived at Ceti Alpha V looking for a lifeless planet on which to test the Genesis Device, which created life from nothing. Khan managed to take control of Reliant's commanding officer Captain Clark Terrell and his first officer Commander Pavel Chekov, and learned of a side effect of Genesis: if used on a planet containing life, all of that life would be destroyed.

He decided to use the Genesis Device in his plan of vengeance against Kirk, who had since been promoted to Rear Admiral. He attacked the space station Regula I and seized the Genesis Device. He then confronted Kirk, who was aboard the Enterprise for a training mission, and attacked. Kirk managed to hack into the Reliant's computer and shut down its shields, then fired upon the ship and dealt heavy damage.

In their next encounter, Khan attempted to trap Kirk underground on the moon that Regula I was orbiting; this prompted Kirk to shout "KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANNNNNNNN!!!" into his transmitter. Kirk was later safely beamed back aboard the Enterprise.

Khan and Kirk's next encounter occurred within the Mutara Nebula, and Kirk laid massive damage on the Reliant. Khan survived the initial hit but everyone else was killed on the bridge. He cradled Joachim as he died and swore revenge but the Enterprise landed a devastating torpedo hit to the bridge. Now fatally wounded, in a last-ditch attempt to kill Kirk, Khan activated the Genesis Device before collapsing flat on his back and dying. The Genesis effect then destroyed his body, killed any last members of his crew, and destroyed the Reliant.

Legacy

Directly

Despite Khan's last ditch attempt, Kirk and the Enterprise got away safely although Captain Spock had sacrifice his life to save his crew-mates by sorting out the power cells and getting a massive dose of radiation. The activation of the Genesis Device led to the creation of the Genesis Planet where Spock's torpedo landed and led to the events of Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.

New Policy on Genetic Engineering

Khan's actions left a lasting impression on how genetic engineering in the Federation is conducted. On Earth (and later in the United Federation of Planets, as whole), genetic engineering for any reason other than correcting serious birth defect was illegal. Any genetically enhanced person was barred from serving in Starfleet or practicing medicine.

This was enforced around a century later when Julian Bashir, Chief Medical Officer of Deep Space 9, was discovered to be an Augment like Khan. However, his career was saved, when father Richard confessed to having the enhancements done in exchange for his son being able to stay in Starfleet. Richard was sentenced to two years a Federation penal colony in New Zealand. Julian suggested to Rear Admiral Bennett the sentence was harsh, but the admiral disagreed, elaborating in the following quote:

200 years ago, we tried to improve the species through DNA re-sequencing. And what did we get for our troubles? The Eugenics Wars. For every Julian Bashir that can be created, there's a Khan Singh waiting in the wings, a superhuman whose ambition and thirst for power have been enhanced along with his intellect. The law against genetic engineering provided a firewall against such men, and it's my job to keep that firewall intact.

Personality

He asks me, he tasks me and I shall have him. I'll chase him around the moons of Nibia and around the Antares Maelstrom and 'round Perdition's Flames before I give him up!
~ Khan's famous "he tasks me" speech which truly exemplifies his obsessive and frankly insane nature, The speech itself is a paraphrased version of one from Ahab in the thirty sixth chapter of Mobey Dick (but referencing space and not sea locations).

Khan is a psychopathic and violent war criminal who will even risk his life to get revenge on his enemies. He is a pure sadist, taking great joy in trapping and stripping Kirk of all that he holds dear and having no qualms about murdering the entire crew of the Enterprise (about four hundred people) if it meant he also killed Kirk. Unlike most other typical revenge based criminals though, Khan is almost completely calm although his temper often flares up whenever he is losing or someone speaks against him. He is traitorous and merciless but shows loyalty to his crew as they do to him since they were stuck alone on Centi Alpha 5 for fifteen years. He will tolerate even helmsman Joachim questioning him as long as it isn't open defiance and is more playful questioning. This is best shown when he swore revenge for Joachim (killed by a direct phaser hit to the Reliant's bridge) despite earlier questioning him twice

He is, however, not above disciplinary action since, when Joachim refused to take them into the Montara Nebula, Khan threw him across the room and made them enter himself. His biggest fault, however, is his ruthless and single minded way of doing things, being completely overwhelmed since he was used to fighting one on one instead of from any given angle and refusing to abandon Kirk even though he had every chance of leaving and settling down.

Transcending Realities

In an alternate reality, Kirk and the Enterprise crew encountered a version of Khan indigenous to that universe. During a battle with that Khan, Spock contacted Spock Prime about the original Khan:

Spock: I will be brief. In your travels, did you ever encounter a man named Khan?
Spock Prime: As you know, I have made a vow never to give you information that could potentially alter your destiny. Your path is yours to walk and yours alone. That being said, Khan Noonien Singh is the most dangerous adversary the Enterprise ever faced. He is brilliant, ruthless and he will not hesitate to kill every single one of you.
Spock: Did you defeat him?
Spock Prime: At great cost, yes.
Spock: How?

Powers and abilities

Khan possesses incredible physical and mental attributes, making him physically, mentally and intellectually superior to even the most exceptional of humans:

  • Enhanced Strength: Like all Augments, Khan has superhuman strength and was able to lift Checkov right off his grown man off the ground with one hand and hold him there as well as lug around a giant piece of debris with little effort.
  • Enhanced durability: Like all Augments, Khan could withstand immense amounts of damage with complete ease, not getting a scratch on him when the Reliant's bridge took a direct hit from the Enterprise's lasers. It took a direct hit from a proton torpedo to kill him.
  • Enhanced Regeneration: Like all Augments, Khan was engineered with enhanced blood platelets which carried a superior healing factor than humans.
  • Genius-level intellect: Khan's intelligence is incredibly high, making him the perfect strategist. He possesses a very precise memory - he never forgets a face - and is capable of quickly deducing completely correct conclusions based on little-to-no information.
    • Master Strategist: Khan is learned in space combat and strategy, shown throughout The Wrath of Khan.
    • Expert Combatant: Khan's augmentations, intelligence and strategic abilities make him an awesome fighter - he uses his brute strength and durability to overwhelm an opponent, but also relies on the overconfidence of his opponents. He only lost his fight with Kirk because of his own arrogance and overconfidence.

Trivia

  • Khan quotes Mobey Dick throughout Star Trek II because he was stranded with just three books there for entertainment, one of which being Mobey Dick and him identifying with Ahab's quest for revenge to the point Khan's final words are a paraphrasing of Ahab's.
    • It is also not a coincidence that the other two books he had were Paradise Lost and King Leer which are stories about the villain seeking revenge.
      • This is also why he quotes the book in the movie but not in "Space Seed."
  • The speech "he tasks me" paraphrases was originally "I'll chase him round Good Hope, and round the Horn, and round the Norway Maelstrom, and round perdition's flames before I give him up!"
  • "Singh" is a male Sikh surname meaning "lion" which is fitting given Khan's extremely aggressive but loyal (to his men) nature.
    • It also that it is not a coincidence that Sikh was a monotheistic religion originates in the Punjab section of India and Khan was "born" in India.
  • Khan is considered the most popular villain of the franchise, as he went from the generic "villain of the week" to the one of most highly regarded villains of the franchise.
  • Khan was selected to be the second Star Trek film's villain as the director, Nicholas Meyer, felt the original film lacked a decent villain (given the "main villain" of Star Trek: The Motion Picture was V'Ger, a sentient satellite.
  • Kirk and Khan never share a physical interaction in The Wrath of Khan, only talking to each other through the teleprompter and communicators, as William Shatner and Ricardo Montalban never interacted on the set due to Montalban's schedule with filming Fantasy Island.
  • Khan is often considered to be the chief villain of Star Trek. However, the Klingons are the true villains due to appearing in more episodes and films, especially the final movie with the original cast, The Undiscovered Country.
    • Despite this, Khan is the most prominent individual antagonist and, unlike the Klingons, never redeems himself.

Navigation

           Star Trek Logo.png Villains

Movies
Star Trek: The Motion Picture: V'Ger
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan: Augments (Khan & Joachim)
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock: Klingons (Kruge, Torg, Maltz) | Valkris
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home: Whale Probe | Kamarag
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier: The One | Klingons (Klaa & Vixis) | Sybok
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country: Khitomer Conspiracy (General Chang, Nanclus, Valeris, Admiral Cartwright, Patrick West, Harlan Burke, Thomas Samno)
Star Trek Generations: Tolian Soran | Klingons (Lursa & B'Etor)
Star Trek: First Contact: The Borg (Borg Queen)
Star Trek: Insurrection: Son'a (Ahdar Ru'afo & Gallatin) | Matthew Dougherty
Star Trek: Nemesis: Remans (Shinzon, Viceroy, Tal'aura, Suran & Donatra)
Star Trek (2009): Romulans (Nero & Ayel)
Star Trek Into Darkness: Khan | Alexander Marcus
Star Trek Beyond: Krall | Manas | Kalara

Television
Apollo | Arctus Baran | Ardra | Arik Soong | Armus | Arthur Coleman | Khan | Ba'ul | Balok | Basso Tromac | Ben Finney | Benjamin Maxwell | Beta XII-A entity | Bok | The Borg | Broca | Brunt | Cardassian Union (Dukat, Damar & Cardassians) | Charlie Evans | Chu'lak | Clown | Colonel Phillip Green | Crell Moset | Crystalline Entity | Culluh | Cyrus Redblock | D'Ghor | D'Nesh | Danby Connor (MU) | Doctor Chaotica | Dolim | Dr. Janice Lester | Dular Garos | Duras | Ekosian SS (Melakon) | Elim Garak (Mirror Universe) | Ellen Landry | Equinox EMH | Erik Pressman | Evil Kirk | Gabriel Lorca (MU) | Garth of Izar | Gary Mitchell | Gorgan | Gorn | Female Changeling | Gowron | Hagath | Harry Mudd | Henoch | Hikaru Sulu (MU) | Hoshi Sato (Mirror Universe) | Ibudan | Ilon Tandro | Imperial Starfleet | J'Dan | Jabin | James Leyton | James T. Kirk | Jaro Essa | Jem'Hadar | Jev | John Frederick Paxton | John Gill | Jonathan Archer (Mirror Universe) | Joran Dax | Julian Bashir (Changeling) | Karnas | Kathryn Janeway (Kyrian Recreation) | Kazon | Kennelly | Kieran MacDuff | Kila Marr | Kira Nerys (Mirror Universe) | Kivas Fajo | Kodos the Executioner | Kol | Kol-Sha | Koloth | Konmel | Kor | Korris | Kras | Krax | Kunivas | L'Rell | Landru | Lazarus | Leland | Lenore Karidian | Letek | Locutus | Locutus | Lon Suder | Lore | Lutan | Luther Sloan | M-113 Creature | Maab | Madred | Malcolm Reed (MU) | Malon | Maras | Marla McGivers | Martok (Changeling) | Matthew Harris | Matthew Ryan | Maxwell Burke | Michael Eddington | Michael Jonas | Miles O'Brien (Changeling) | Morag (Klingon) | Na'kuhl | Nagilum | Navaar | Neela | Neural Parasites | Nomad | Norah Satie | Nyota Uhura | Oracle of the People | Patar | Paul Stamets (MU) | Pavel Chekov (Mirror) | Pe'Nar Makull | Philippa Georgiou (MU) | Q | Rao Vantika | Redjac | Regent of Palamar | Dr. Roger Korby | Romulan Commander (Balance of Terror) | Ron Tracey | Rota Sevrin | Rudolph Ransom | Sabin Genestra | Sela | Seska | Seven of Nine (KR) | Shran | Silaran Prin | Silik | Sobi | Spawnmother (2364) | Spawnmother (2376) | Sphere-Builders | Spock (Mirror Universe) | Surata IV Vine | Sylvia Tilly | T'Kuvma | T'Paal | Tahna Los | Talosian Keeper | Talosians | Tarah | Tedran | Terra Prime | The Albino | The Doctor (Kyrian Recreation) | Thot Gor | Thot Pran | Tomalak | Toral | Trabe | Travis Mayweather (MU) | Trekal Darhe'el | Trelane | Tret | Tristan Adams | Ux-Mal Entity | V'Las | V'latak | Valdore | Verad Kalon | Ves Alkar | Voq | Wesley Crusher | Weyoun | William Ross | Winn Adami | Worf (Mirror Universe) | Zorn

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.