|“||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 regarding Khan.|
|“||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 titular main antagonist of the 1982 classic feature film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. He was the leader of the Augments and the archenemy of James T. Kirk.
|“||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.|
Khan was a psychopathic and violent war criminal who would even risk his life to get revenge on his enemies. Khan always tried to maintain an absolute calm demeanor but would snap and yell whenever his ideology was challenged. He was 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. Though Khan was arrogant and hotheaded, he was respectful to those who showed genuine bravery and resourcefulness when confronted by danger as shown with McCoy. Khan was also not stupid and knew that giving away his full name would get him thrown in the brig for war crimes given the vast records of the Eugenics Wars that wouldn't be that hard for the Enterprise crew to discover. Even so, when he was discovered, he revealed himself to be a fascist believing that he gave the world peace and order when he actually brought chaos and destruction. Even in spite of his true nature, Khan was always well spoken and extremely polite even after being arrested. Khan was at his core a pompous bigot who often treated those he considered inferior to him like impotent children to be talked down to as demonstrated when he was confronted by Kirk in his quarters.
By the time of Star Trek II, Khan had gone mad with grief and lost much of his calm demeanor and polite attitude in favour of barely concealed contempt and passive aggressiveness. Although he was somewhat bipolar before being exiled, it was dialed up to 11 when he went mad. In his introductory scene in the movie for example, Khan starts off as dismissive and almost bored before screaming in anger when Chekov pointed out that he was supposed to be on Centi Alpha 5. Unlike most other typical revenge based criminals though, Khan was almost completely calm although his temper often flared up whenever he was losing or someone spoke against him. He was traitorous and merciless but showed intense loyalty to his crew (nearly being brought visibly to tears even after hearing that all but twelve made it) as they did to him since they were stuck alone on Centi Alpha 5 for fifteen years. Khan tolerated even helmsman Joachim questioning him as long as it wasn't open defiance and was more playful questioning.
Khan's biggest fault, however, was 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.
Hailing from Northern India, Khan was genetically engineered to be the perfect human (or "Augment") in the late 20th century Earth. However, to the scientists that created the Augments failed to realize that this would breed arrogance and hubris since they would believe that their superior powers makes them superior to all of humanity and that it was their right to subjugate them. Khan himself became absolute ruler of a quarter of the world from Asia to Iraq between 1992 to 1996 and went to war with the United Nations in what became known as the Eugenics Wars. Though his bid for world domination failed, most of the Augements were dead but Khan and 94 of his followers managed to escape to space in the Botany Bay spaceship and put themselves into cryogenic sleep where they remained for two hundred years.
In the year 2267, the Botany Bay was discovered drifting in space by the USS Enterprise. Initially believed to be a dormant threat, Captain Kirk put the ship on lockdown until they found the cryosleep pods. Khan was revived by the ship's historian, Marla McGivers, who wished to learn from him about the distant past. Initially confused, Khan asks where he is and Kirk tells him that he has slept for 200 years before having a medical team to the Enterprise's medical bay. Once there, even Doctor McCoy was amazed at his physical health since most people who slept for that long were anorexic wrecks by this point. As it turns out, 72 of his 84 followers survived the two centuries with 12 pods failing with Kirk still being amazed that Khan and his followers are still alive two hundred and eighty one years later. Shortly after Khan properly wakes up, which follows shortly after Kirk confronts McGiver for her lying about her feelings for Khan, he heard McCoy working in a backroom. He takes a medical knife from a wall mount and confronts McCoy after pretending to be asleep as McCoy checks on him. Khan pulls out his concealed knife and holds him at knife-point at which point he fully realizes that he is in the future (apparently thinking Kirk telling him that he was in the future occurred in his cryodream).
When McCoy decides to be coy and point out that he is in bed threatening to cut his doctor's throat, Khan is enraged but McCoy calls his bluff and points out the most effective way to kill him would be to cut the carotid artery behind his left ear. Apparently realizing that McCoy really isn't an enemy, Khan relents and admits that he is impressed with McCoy's bravery and finally learns where he is. Learning this, Khan asks for Kirk since he is the ship's superior officer and McCoy obliges with Kirk soon arriving and introducing himself though Khan dodges questions about his identity for obvious reasons. Khan asks for their destination (Starbase-12 in the Omega star system) and the status of his entourage (most still alive) although this still visibly upsets Khan due to being very close with them. He tells Kirk to revive them to which he is told when they reach Starbase 12 which Khan is visibly displeased by but finally introduces himself (albeit just as Khan). Once Kirk questions when he left off, only knowing it was in the 1990's, Khan feigns weariness and calls off the meeting for medical reasons. Though Kirk insists due to there not needing to be much explanation, Doctor McCoy cuts him off when he asks about why he went out on an expedition and tells him to wait until later. Before he is left alone however, he requests some reading material about the Enterprise to stave off his boredom. As it turns out, said reading material is a video about it although Khan's suspiciously snakeish thank you raises some suspicions.
Even without Khan's help, Spock deduces that Khan might be an Augment from the Eugenics Wars. Meanwhile, Marla McGivers meets Khan although he already knows of her thanks to McCoy. Immediately smitten, he starts flirting with her before inviting her to sit down even as he questions her on her hairstyle and remodels it to be more "flattering." Even as she tries to remain professional, having come to document the history of his crew for archiving, she becomes increasingly attracted to Khan and eventually falls in love with him. Later that night?, Khan (now in a yellow jumpsuit) finds Marla in her quarters and admires her artwork especially his admiration of Genghis Khan and Napoleon. He does get a shock though when he finds a painting of him much younger and cryptically warns her of the danger he poses before they kiss. Shortly after that, Khan sits down with the command crew of the Enterprise where he is once again confronted for his evading of questions and lack of mention in the history books. Spock confronts Khan for the actions of the Augments and Khan reveals how delusional he really is; stating he was trying to bring people together to prevent wars. After exchanging a look with Kirk, he tries to backtrack and say it was just other aspirations until Spock basically said to his face that he was a tyrant. Kirk confronts Khan for his militaristic terminology but decides to drop the matter since it would be improper in a get together to talk about topics so dark. Unfortunately for Khan, once he drops an off-hand comment about about social occasions being passive aggressive "wars" and that Kirk shouldn't be mincing his words, Kirk confronts him and says that it's very convenient that he left around the same time ninety Augments disappeared from the face of the Earth. Unfortunately for Khan, his follow-up statement about offering the world order gives away his real nature although this just impresses him more.
After departing the dinner for reasons of fatigue, he stands around outside only to be found by McGyvers who apologizes to him for the confrontation but he shrugs it off since he is an enigma to them. After a bit more flirting, Khan tells her to stick around or go away but she decides to stay although he demands a firmer response than "can I stay?" which he gets. Taking her hand in his, Khan then reveals his real objective which is to commandeer the Enterprise. Although McGyner worries about people being hurt, Khan tells her to go away then so she accepts which pleases Khan greatly. Unfortunately for Khan, shortly afterwards, the Enterprise command crew discover Khan's true identity and have him arrested for crimes against humanity where Kirk quickly confronts him in his quarters. Khan initially feigns ignorance until Kirk reveals that he knows who he is which impresses Khan who then reveals his truly pompous and bigoted nature by insulting humans for being inferior and not "evolving" in 200 years. Kirk leaves but first angers Khan by saying he didn't answer his questions well. Unfortunately, once Kirk leaves, Khan uses his brute strength to pull the LOCKED door open and send the Red Shirt guarding the door flying. Khan wants to take the Enterprise and use it to create a colony for himself and whoever would follow him. The request for reading material was so that he can learn how to operate the Enterprise's controls. As he does so, McGyver takes control of the transporter room from the engineer guarding it with Khan then snapping his neck and taking his phaser. Presently, Khan wakes up the entirety of his crew and they take control of security command just as Kirk discovers his escape. Cutting off all doors and life support, Khan offers to negotiate with Kirk even as Spock fails to pump knockout gas into the air vents due to the computers being disabled. Even as Ohura fails to reach Starbase-12 and the air supply runs thin, Kirk refuses to surrender so Khan just sits and waits for them all to pass out before delivering a speech about obsolescence to the hostage McCoy, Ohura, Scotty and a Gold Shirt. He soon thinks McCoy is the communications officer and threatens Ohura when McCoy of course doesn't know how to work a viewing screen.
When that fails, Khan realizes his mistake of killing the bridge crew as all he has done is create martyrs though he decides to blackmail them by saying "join me or the bridge crew die." Khan reveals his master plan which is to take control of the Enterprise and establish a colony for him and his followers. Unfortunately for Khan, he loses the connection to the bridge and decides to send Spock to his death in the decontamination chamber next only to lose contact with the guard. What Khan doesn't realize is that McGyver has turned turncoat on him now and has freed Kirk with the two of them knocking out Spock's escort. When knockout gas floods into the room he is hauled up in, Khan flees as his crew are knocked out and makes his way to engineering. Upon hearing over comms that Kirk is coming, he ambushes and takes Kirk's phaser and bends it into a horseshoe. Khan reveals via a blinking light that he plans on overloading the ship and killing everyone and himself on board. When Khan tries to stop it, they begin a slugfest which Khan easily wins due to his brute strength but Kirk uses a baton inside a console to beat Khan unconscious and they stop the overload. Later, with Khan's men in jail, the command crew of the Enterprise hold a makeshift trial in a courtroom to determine his fate. It is eventually decided that Khan and his followers just wanted peace so everyone agrees that Khan and his followers should go into exile on the paradisaical and uninhabited planet Ceti Alpha V.
Following 15 Years
As it turns out, Khan seemed to reciprocate McGivers' feelings as he went on to marry her within half a year of "Space Seed." Six months after Khan's exile however, the nearby Ceti Alpha VI exploded, resulting in Ceti Alpha V's orbit being shifted drastically which turned the planet into a desert wasteland. The Augments were forced to haul up in the Botnay Bay but were exposed to the native Centi Eels who secrete a substance that cause madness and eventually a very painful death. This was the fate which befell twenty of his followers, including (presumably) McGivers. This enraged Khan, who blamed Kirk for her death and swore one day to get revenge.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Fourteen years and six months after the desertification, making the year 2272, the starship USS Reliant arrived at Ceti Alpha V looking for a lifeless planet on which to test the Genesis Device. Said device was a bomb that one could drop on a planet to create life from nothing but dropping it on an already inhabited planet would result on the new life erasing the pre-existing life. The Reliant's commander, Captain Terrell, warped down with First Officer Pavel Checkov and ended up finding the sandlocked Boptany Bay. They didn't initially realize it until Checkov pulled away a curtain to reveal a shelf with "BOTANY BAY" carved into it it so rushed out to be warped out only to be ambushed and captured by Khan and his men who were off searching for good. Restrained in the Botany Bay, Khan (having worn a helmet up to this point to shield himself from the sandstorm outside) unmasks and Checkov recognizes him as Khan as well as Khan in return recognizing him.
It is at this point Terrell, after Khan mentions his grudge with Kirk, reveals that Captain Kirk has since become Admiral Kirk due to his intergalactic escapades in the intervening years much to Khan's chagrin. Khan expounds upon his past with Admiral Kirk whilst being surprised that Chekov never revealed his past only to scream at him when he commented that he was left on a paradise. Shortly after however, he realizes that they stumbled upon him by accident so he takes advantage of this by brainwashing them with native slugs. Using them, although it was done off-screen, Khan presumably has them all warped onto the USS Reliant at which point he takes control of it and sends all of the Reliant's crew bar Chekov and Terrell down to Centi Alpha V. Hearing of the Genesis Device from his brainwashed duo, he decides to take it for himself so has Chekov inform the space station Regula 1 that they've found the planet empty and are coming which Khan oversees. What Khan doesn't foresee is that Carol Markus, creator of Genesis, also informs Kirk of how strange this all is and he arrives to investigate.
On his way to Regula 1, one of Khan's followers named Joachim (who is his helmsman and right-hand man) stands up to Khan to question He decides to use the Genesis Device in his plan of vengeance against Kirk, who had since been promoted to Rear Admiral. He attacks egula I, kills everyone that he finds, but is unable to find the Genesis Device or Karol Markus as both have beamed down under the surface of the moon below Regula 1. He then confronts Kirk, having recognized his ship from their last encounter, plays it cool as he approaches Enterprise before delivering one of his most famous lines about being "one big happy fleet." Though suspicious of their lack of communications, a bridge member sends a message about engine issues though Spock registers that their fuel emissions are normal.
Unfortunately, by this point, the Reliant is so close that missing is impossible and Khan annihilates the Enterprise and kills much of it's crew with one salvo. Deciding to make himself known, Khan confronts Kirk via view-screen and reveals his mission of vengeance at which point Kirk asks to spare the crew managed to hack into the Reliant's computer and shut down its shields using codes designed to prevent a starship from being used against the Federation. Unable to raise their ships, the Reliant is then devastated by the Enterprise's phasers at which point Khan demands revenge. Joachim has to grab a hold of him and remind him that the Enterprise is crippled so isn't going anywhere but another attack is suicidal without their shields. Listening to his right hand man, Khan withdraws behind the moon.
Khan is not seen again for another fifteen minutes when Kirk tells Spock (acting captain of the Enterprise) to flee signal jamming range to alert Star Fleet should they be unable to return. Chekov and Terrell turn on Kirk shortly thereafter and Khan hacks their communicator to reveal his control over them and orders the two to kill Kirk but Terrell kills himself and Chekov's mind bug is obliterated. Grabbing his communicator, Kirk rips into Khan (to the latter's disgust) and calls him a c***sucker and that he is always trying and failing to kill Kirk. However, a very smug Khan reveals his goal to trap Kirk underground forever on the moon that Regula I was orbiting. This prompts Kirk to scream "KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANNNNNNNN!!!" at the top of his lungs into his transmitter but Khan just signs off and prepares to leave with Genssis. Unfortunately for Khan, Kirk was bluffing in his call to Spock and is later safely beamed back aboard the Enterprise after a heart to heart with his son and away team.
Upon reentering the Enterprise, Kirk decides to take away Khan's superior maneuverability by entering the Mutara Nebula which renders all tracking materials useless. Khan is initially hesitant but Kirk contacts him directly and mocks his self proclaimed "superior intellect." Annoyed, Khan orders full throttle but Joachim speaks up against him this time since this would take away their advantage and points out that he has Genesis and can blackmail the Federation for whatever he wishes.
In response, Khan grabs Joachim by the chin, screams in his face, damns him to Hell, throws him across the Reliant's bridge, and initiates full impulse power himself. Unfortunately for Khan, Joachim proves to be right in his prediction when Kirk's experience fighting blind allows him to sneak up behind the Reliant undetected and devastate it. Khan survives the initial hit but everyone else on the ship is killed, including Joachim. Even after his right hand man spoke up against him, Khan still cradles Joachim as he died and swears revenge but the Enterprise lands a devastating torpedo hit to the bridge shortly thereafter. Though fatally wounded, and with his face half melted off, Khan activates the Genesis Device in a last-ditch attempt to kill Kirk 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.
Despite Khan's last ditch attempt, Kirk and the Enterprise got away safely although Spock had to 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.
In the years following Khan's 2284 attack on the Enterprise Starfleet adapted the attack into a simulated mission given to command school students. That mission involved the escape of a former Starfleet officer named Jacob McNeil from prison who hijacked a Miranda-class ship and used it to attack the students who had been sent to investigate a loss of communication between Starfleet and the ship.
By the twenty-fourth century, Khan's actions had 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 where he states that, whilst he emerged as a good person, there's always a very bad egg like Khan
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 (the Spock encountered by this iteration of Khan) about the original Khan and was told of Spock's death whilst escaping the Genesis Device. This allowed Kelvin Timeline Spock to eventually save Kirk (who died from irradiation like Spock Prime) and even Khan who was imprisoned in stasis pods indefinitely.
Powers and Abilities
- Genius Level intellect: Khan's intelligence was incredibly high, making him the perfect strategist. He possessed a very precise memory - he never forgets a face - and was capable of quickly deducing completely correct conclusions based on little-to-no information.
- Master Strategist: Khan was learned in space combat and strategy, shown throughout The Wrath of Khan.
- Acting: Khan was able to convince the Enterprise crew that he was a good person until he tried to overthrow them.
- Enhanced Physiology: Khan possessed 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 had superhuman strength far superior to that of any human or even Augment. Khan was able to rip open his locked quarters door with some effort, snap an engineer's neck by lightly pushing his palms against the guy's neck, bend a phaser into a horseshoe shape with ease, lift Checkov right off the ground with one hand and hold him there, and 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, shrugging off jumps kicks and punches from Kirk and 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. As noted by Doctor McCoy in "Space Seed," his regeneration was incredible in allowing him to recover from the two hundred years of cryosleep.
- Hair Styling: In one of his stranger abilities, Khan was a talented hair stylist as he quickly and easily remodeled McGiver's hair in less than thirty seconds.
- Expert Combatant: Khan's augmentations, intelligence and strategic abilities made him an awesome fighter, as he used his brute strength and durability to overwhelm an opponent, but also relies on the overconfidence of his opponents.
- Fists: Although typically unarmed, Khan was an extremely skilled hand to hand combatant able to overwhelm Khan with his bare hands.
- Knife: Khan used a knife to threaten Doctor McCoy.
- Inflections: Khan was a virtually flawless actor but his evil inflections had a habit of making people very suspicious of him. Likely due to being a former dictator and not having to ask for things rather than just demanding them, he couldn't even say "thank you" convincingly.
- Arrogance and Hubris: Khan's greatest flaw was his overly arrogant and pompous attitude which assumed his superiority in all situation and his rivalry with Kirk was ultimately his undoing since he pursued him into an area he would be unable to exploit just to end their battle.
- One Track Mind: Khan's signature battle technique was a full on frontal attack using overwhelming force to decimate his enemies. However, fighting in the Mutara Nebula removed this advantage due to rendering all tracking technology useless and allowed Kirk to defeat him.
- Khan is considered the most popular villain of the Star Trek franchise as he went from the generic threat of the week to one of the most highly regarded villains of science fiction as a whole. Montalban's performance has been universally praised for being intense and menacing but also fun to watch and highly quotable.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
- 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 never redeems himself whereas the Klingons would go on to become allies to the Federation after the events of Star Trek VI.
- 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 who was not actually evil).
- In the original ending of the Mutara Nebula fight, Khan would have seen the Enterprise warp away as he finally realizes his last act is in vain. For whatever reason, presumably to shift the focus more heavily onto Spock's death, this was mostly excised.
- However, this change can still be seen in the final movie as khan, whilst he dies, looks very surprised as he collapses dead despite not having anything to be surprised ahout.
- Khan recognizing Chekov, even saying "I never forget a face." is regarded as a plot hole in the movie since Khan was only seen before this in "Space Seed" (Season 1 Episode 22) but Chekov did not even debut until the first episode of Season 2 "Catspawn".
- In fact, Walter Koenig (who played Chekov) has often joked that his character had made Khan wait overly long to use a bathroom on Khan's visit to the Enterprise and that was why Khan remembered his face so well.
- According to Montalban, much of Khan's personality was created by him on the fly. Khan is initially shown as a calm and collected if evil leader of his followers but, given McGivers death between the episode and movie, decided to go off the rails and make him a obsessed psychopath with thinly veiled anger issues.
- This seems to have been very intentional given that he fought in the Eugenics Wars. Eugenics was a special form of selective breeding, the concept itself originating with Plato, and while historically present in the UK, Europe, and the progressives in the USA (e.g. Buck v. Bell), positive (i.e. organized and often non-voluntary), eugenics is today most associated with the Nazi regime, whose numerous crimes against humanity shortly resulted in the decline and fall of eugenics as a morally acceptable means of improving the human condition. Ironically, in-universe, the UN International Bioethics Committee in 2015 distinguished between genetic engineering for human improvement from the eugenics of the late nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries.
- Khan is supposed to be Indian, whereas Ricardo Montalban was of Mexican descent.
- Khan quotes Captain Ahab from 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.
- "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 Northern India.
- Kirk and Khan never share a physical interaction in The Wrath of Khan, only talking to each other through the teleprompter and communicators. This was because William Shatner and Ricardo Montalban never interacted on the set due to Montalban filming Fantasy Island.
- In fact, it would not be until Star Trek III's Kruge that Khan and the main antagonist would have a proper fight (since V'ger was a sentient satellite).