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No ship should go down without her Captain!
~ Khan Noonien Singh after taking over the Vengeance ship.
You should have let me sleep!
~ Khan, before killing Alexander Marcus.
So, shall we begin?
~ Khan's most famous quote.

Khan Noonien Singh, also known as John Harrison or also simply as Khan, is the main antagonist of the 2013 sci-fi action-adventure film Star Trek Into Darkness.

He is an extremely intelligent and ruthless terrorist, and was the most prominent of the genetically engineered Human Augments of the late-20th century Eugenics Wars period on Earth. Considered genocidal tyrants who conquered and killed in the name of order, Khan and his kind were frozen in cryogenic-sleep. In the 23rd century, Khan was revived by Admiral Alexander Marcus to design weapons and ships to prepare for war against the Klingon Empire. He was given a new identity, that of John Harrison, an English Starfleet commander. Khan, however, rebelled, and after believing his crew had been killed, he began a one-man campaign against Starfleet. After gaining his revenge on Admiral Marcus, he was later stopped by the crew of the USS Enterprise and returned to cryogenic sleep.

He was portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch, who also played Smaug and Sauron in the Hobbit film trilogy, Dormammu in the 2016 Marvel Cinematic Universe film Doctor Strange (in which he portrayed the titular protagonist as well), The Grinch in the 2018 film of the same name, and Shere Khan in Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle.

Biography

Background and Brainwashed by Marcus

Khan's reconstructive surgery

Khan during his facial reconstruction before his memory blocked.

This version of Khan's backstory was the same as his prime reality counterpart's, until the destruction of Vulcan in 2258 changed the latter's future that led to the events of the movie from that point on.

Vulcan's destruction led Admiral Alexander Marcus of Section 31 to begin a plan in militarizing Starfleet, and he searched the galaxy for weapons to be used in a potential war with the Klingons. Discovering the SS Botany Bay, Marcus brought Khan out of stasis, believing his savage intellect would give him an advantage. Khan was then recruited into Starfleet under the new identity of Commander John Harrison, and tasked with designing weapons and ships for Starfleet, including the Dreadnought-class USS Vengeance.

The prequel comic Star Trek: Khan gave more insight about Khan's physical change and betrayal. Shortly after being discovered, Marcus had his appearance surgically changed to a male Caucasian and blocked his memories with the intent of convincing him that he was John Harrison, the amnesiac Starfleet researcher in London's Kelvin Memorial Archive who lost his memories in an accident during a failed mission to Qo'nos, the Klingon homeworld. As Harrison, he was given the task of helping advise Section 31 on possible enhancements to Starfleet weapon, shield, and propulsion technology (which is to be incorporated aboard the USS Vengeance) as well as taking on a mission to destroy Praxis with the help of a portable transporter he designed and built. The mission is a success (explaining the destroyed moon seen in orbit of the Klingon homeworld in the film) but, in the process, Khan regains his memories.

Betrayal and Stealing Transwarp Beaming Equation

Benedict Khan

Khan as John Harrison.

Disgruntled by everything that has happened to him, Harrison tried to smuggle his crew away in experimental photon torpedoes he himself had designed, but was discovered and forced to flee alone. Believing Marcus had killed his crew, he coerced Section 31 agent Thomas Harewood into betraying Starfleet by offering a blood transfusion for Harewood's terminally-ill daughter. Harewood agreed, and Harrison replaced Harewood's Starfleet ring with a bomb. After his daughter was cured with a vial of Harrison's blood, Harewood went to work at his office in the Kelvin Memorial Archive, where he dropped the false Starfleet ring into a glass of water, igniting a bomb and destroying the facility. In the midst of the chaos, Harrison used the opportunity to inspect a salvaged terminal to gain Lieutenant Commander Montgomery Scott's transwarp beaming equation.

Attempted Murder at Daystorm Institute

Before he set off the explosion at the archive, Harewood sent Marcus a message, explaining he had been threatened by Harrison. Marcus called a summit at the Daystrom Institute, ordering a manhunt for Harrison. During the meeting, James T. Kirk deduced that Harrison had not left Earth because he was aware that protocol would dictate that a meeting like this one would be held at that location. Harrison suddenly appeared in a jumpship and attacked the conference, injuring many and killing Admiral Christopher Pike. Kirk disabled the jumpship, but Harrison beamed himself away before it crashed. Later, Scott contacted Kirk and Commander Spock to inform them that Harrison had beamed himself to the one place Starfleet couldn't follow: Qo'noS. Undeterred, Kirk was granted permission by Marcus to travel to Qo'noS and fire 72 experimental photon torpedoes on Harrison's location. However, at the behest of Spock, Kirk decided to arrest Harrison and bring him back to Earth to stand trial for his crimes.

Revealing Marcus' True Nature

Khan 1

Khan on the Klingon homeworld.

While Kirk led an away team with Spock, Lieutenant Nyota Uhura, and Hendorff, Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu, in temporary command of the USS Enterprise, transmitted a message to Harrison on Qo'noS, warning him to surrender or be destroyed by the torpedoes. Moments later, Harrison found Kirk, Spock, and Uhura being attacked by a Klingon patrol and single-handedly killed the patrol. Confronting the Starfleet officers, Harrison asked how many torpedoes the Enterprise had aboard. After Spock informed him of the count, which corresponded exactly to the number of his Botany Bay crewmembers still in stasis, Harrison surrendered to the landing party. Kirk, angry that his mentor's murderer had saved them, punched Harrison repeatedly, but was unable to render him unconscious.

Khan (Star Trek Into Darkness)

Khan on the Enterprise.

Once aboard the Enterprise, Harrison was placed in the ship's brig. Dr. Leonard McCoy took a blood sample to uncover the secret behind Harrison's superhuman strength and abilities. Harrison refused to answer Kirk's questions, instead giving him coordinates to a spacedock near Jupiter where the Vengeance was constructed, and suggested that Kirk open one of the torpedoes. Kirk contacted an absent Scott and gave him the coordinates to investigate, while Dr. McCoy and Dr. Carol Marcus opened up a torpedo and discovered a cryogenically-frozen man within.

When Kirk and Spock confronted him with what they discovered, Khan finally explained who he was to Kirk, revealing that the torpedoes contained his fellow surviving Augments as part of a cover-up. Not long afterward, Marcus arrived aboard the Vengeance and demanded that Kirk hand over Khan. Kirk refused and ordered the Enterprise to warp back to Earth so Khan could be brought to trial. The Vengeance caught up with the Enterprise and fired on it as it arrived in Earth's solar system. Marcus then beamed up Carol and prepared to destroy the Enterprise; fortunately for the Enterprise, Scott, who had sneaked aboard the Vengeance, deactivated its weapons.

Truce With Kirk and Betraying Enterprise Crew

Kirk and Khan then performed a space-jump to the Vengeance. Meanwhile, Spock consulted Spock Prime, his older counterpart from the prime reality, regarding whether he ever encountered Khan in the past; Spock Prime responded that he had, that Khan was dangerous, and that it had required a great sacrifice to stop him.

Aboard the Vengeance, Kirk, suspicious of Khan, told Scott to stun him once they had taken over the Vengeance's bridge. When the three of them arrived on the bridge, Scott shot Khan while Kirk admonished Marcus for compromising the Federation. However, Khan was not easily subdued, and he attacked Scott and Kirk and broke Carol's leg before crushing her father's skull with his bare hands before her very eyes. Khan then contacted the Enterprise and ordered Spock to hand over the torpedoes or he would resume bombarding the Enterprise. Spock agreed, and Khan beamed Kirk, Scott, and Carol back aboard the Enterprise, but reneged on his deal with Spock. However, Spock, having predicted Khan's betrayal following his talk with Spock Prime, detonated the torpedoes, crippling the Vengeance. Khan cried out in anguish at the apparent loss of his crew (in actuality, Spock had earlier ordered McCoy to remove the stasis pods from the torpedoes much to Kirk's disgust due to Khan now angrier than ever).

The damage sustained caused both ships to be drawn in by Earth's gravitational pull. To prevent the Enterprise from crashing into San Francisco, Kirk sacrificed himself while re-activating the ship's warp core. Khan, on the other hand, directed the Vengeance on a crash course for Starfleet Headquarters, though the ship's computer informed him the ship would not hit its target. When the Vengeance crashed into San Francisco, Khan leaped down from the wreckage and posed as a shocked survivor.

Defeat

Moments later, Spock beamed down to execute Khan and avenge Kirk's death. An exciting chase ensues, with Spock pursuing the superhuman onto automated flying barges. A climactic fight erupts between the two, which Khan gradually wins. Uhura beamed down, firing several stun shots to weaken Khan and revealed to Spock that they needed Khan alive to save Kirk (McCoy had just discovered that Khan's blood possessed regenerative properties). Spock finally knocked Khan out.

After his blood was used to revive Kirk, Khan was placed back in suspended animation with his crew and was last seen in a room frozen, where he presumably remains their for the rest of his life.

Personality

That being said; Khan Noonien Singh is the most dangerous adversary that the Enterprise ever faced. He's brilliant ,ruthless and he would not hesitate to kill every single one of you.
~ Spock Prime describes Khan.

Khan is an extremely powerful, unpredictable, ruthless and brutal person who mostly enjoys terrorizing and killing people and destroying everything in his path. Also, as he is confronting and negotiating with Spock in exchange for Kirk and Marcus' daughter, he seems to have a very massive sense of manipulation. Besides being ruthless and powerful, Khan is also an extremely intelligent and brilliant individual who has vast sophistication and wisdom. Despite this Khan deeply cares for his fellow Augments and manipulated many people just to get them to safety.

Equipment and Abilities

  • Augment Physiology: Augments are genetically enhanced human beings, who were designed to have physical and mental abilities which were greater than even the strongest and smartest human beings. So far he has shown;
    • Superhuman Strength: Having been engineered to be an upgraded human life form, Khan, like any Augment possesses the physical strength of a five human beings combined. He could overpower multiple Klingons and even fight Spock in hand-to-hand combat. Khan was even able to crush people's skulls by applying pressure to their heads with both of his hands.
    • Superhuman Resilience: He is also extremely durable and greater stamina than even the most rigorously trained human being. He survive being shot by lasers with minimal damage.
    • Superhuman Speed: Khan showed incredible speed and mobility when he took down the Klingon forces single handed and when he outran Spock.
    • Regenerative Blood: An Augment's blood platelets have regenerative properties, allowing him to regenerate from any injury or toxicity at a superhumanly fast and far more efficient rate compared to human being's recovery rate. His healing factor even provides him with a greatly extended lifespan. An Augment's regenerative blood can also be used as a medical tool to heal, cure or revive medical subjects via a transfusion.
    • Superhuman Intelligence: Khan has a genius-level intellect, which is superior to many human intellectuals. Despite being frozen for 300 years, when he was awoken, he was abel to immediately study, understand and assimilate all the knowledge of the 23rd century in a very short time. His advanced intellect was the key in the Federation Admiral Marcus created advanced war machines, which were designed for a war with the Klingon Empire.
  • Master Combatant: Khan is a ferocious warrior with years of honed combat prowess, which combined with his superhuman abilities, makes him an extremely deadly foe in battle. He is extremely resourceful in battle and was able to secure weapons to go up against a battalion of Klingon soldiers to save Kirk and his crew. He was also close to defeating Spock in battle, had backup not arrived.

Reception

Cumberbatch received universal acclaim for his performance as Khan in Star Trek: Into Darkness. Peter Travers of the Rolling Stone called it a "tour de force to reckon with" and his character "a villain for the ages". Joe Neumaier of the New York Daily News wrote that Cumberbatch delivered "one of the best blockbuster villains in recent memory". Jonathan Romney of The Independent noted Cumberbatch's voice, saying it was "so sepulchrally resonant that it could have been synthesised from the combined timbres of Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, and Alan Rickman holding an elocution contest down a well". The New York Times praised his screen presence: "He fuses Byronic charisma with an impatient, imperious intelligence that seems to raise the ambient I.Q. whenever he's on screen".

Despite his acclaimed performance, however, Cumberbatch’s casting as the character was criticized by both critics and fans alike, considering that the character had been "whitewashed into oblivion". Reason of this was due to the fact that in previous films, Khan was actually in Indian ancestry, not European. There have been similar accusations of whitewashing by fans and American Sikhs, with Star Trek: Voyager actor Garrett Wang tweeting "The casting of Cumberbatch was a mistake on the part of the producers. I am not being critical of the actor or his talent, just the casting". George Takei, the original Hikaru Sulu, was also disappointed with the casting, as he thought it would have been better to cast Cumberbatch not as an established villain like Khan but as a new character. On Trekmovie.com, co-producer and co-screenwriter Bob Orci addressed Khan's casting: "Basically, as we went through the casting process and we began honing in on the themes of the movie, it became uncomfortable for me to support demonizing anyone of color, particularly any one of Middle Eastern descent or anyone evoking that. One of the points of the movie is that we must be careful about the villain within US, not some other race". The problem was later rectified through prequel comic Star Trek: Khan which reveals details of his drastic change throughout the film which stemmed from Nero's omnicidal campaign starting from destruction of Vulcan's homeworld.

Entertainment Weekly saw parallels between the new Khan and figures such as Osama Bin Laden or Saddam Hussein, as both men were allied with the US before turning on them. Simon Pegg commented "Iraq had nothing proven to do with 9/11, and yet Bush used that as an excuse to start a war with those people. You can always see the Klingons as like Iraq and John Harrison the proxy for Osama bin Laden."

Lindelof further acknowledged the terrorism parallels in an interview with StarTrek.com, as Khan's 72 torpedoes reminded them of the notion of 72 virgins in paradise. Lindelof responded "Of course it is a coincidence, because that is a number taken from canon. It was pointed out to us at the scripting phase – the 72 virgins – and that actually gave us pause, because we didn't want people drawing that comparison... but there it is."

The New Yorker also saw parallels between the debate to execute or arrest Khan with that of the issue of targeted killing.

Victims

  • Christopher Pike
  • Frank Abbott
  • Alexander Marcus
  • Several unnamed Starfleet officers
  • Numerous unnamed San Francisco citizens
  • Numerous unnamed Klingons
  • Numerous unnamed people

Indirectly

  • Thomas Harewood
  • James T. Kirk
  • Numerous unnamed Starfleet officers

Trivia

  • This incarnation of Khan is the third main villain in a Star Trek film not to be killed, first being V'Ger and Whale Probe. Of these, he is the first who is not a probe.
  • He is the main villain of the second film in the reboot series. His Prime Reality Counterpart was the main villain of the second film and in the original series episode "Space Seed" as well.

Navigation

           Star Trek Logo 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 | The Punk on the Bus
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, Tal'aura, Suran & Donatra)
Star Trek (2009): Romulans (Nero & Ayel)
Star Trek Into Darkness: Khan | Alexander Marcus
Star Trek Beyond: Krall | Manas | Kalara

Television
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