Sunday, May 24, 2009

Star Trek--"Space Seed"

I am going to make what will probably amount to the biggest blasphemy in all of trek; “Space Seed” is not all that great an episode. Yes, Kan is the most interesting , fleshed out villain of the series, but much of his appeal comes from his appearance in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. I think that it is the best movie with the original crew, if not the nurseries, so I imagine its quality somehow elevates “Space Seed” to an undeserved height.

Do not get me wrong. It is still an enjoyable episode. The characterizations are perfect. You just do not get enough about the eugenics program to dig into the nuts and bolts of it. For example, just how are Khan and his men enhanced? They have increased strength, endurance, and intelligence allegedly enough to conquer the planet, but are defeated by a woman’s betrayal and a fistfight with kirk, albeit he did use a pipe there to finish him off. Khan does not offer up any decent arguments why eugenics is a god thing, either. He just spouts off a number of slogans.

I suppose you can rationalize that away with Khan’s arrogance. He does quickly adapt to the 23rdcentury. He takes itasa given he ought to be in a leadership position. Perhaps his betrayal comes because he is so arrogant, he cannot comprehend that Marla McGiver might ever turn on him. It is nice touch, by the way, for a woman to fall in love with an exotic man rather than the usual Kirk falling for some half naked alien.

The flaws I just mentioned have been recognized by subsequent Trek writers, save for the TNG episode “Unnatural Selection” in which the Enterprise visit’s a facility working with genetic engineering. The episode gets swept under the rug considering the issues surrounding Julian Basher’s genetic enhancement in DS9, the fugitive status of Arik Soong in ENT, and several novels, including a hint in one that escaped enhanced humans hid out in remote areas like the Alaskan wilderness. An accusation Will Riker might be descended from them is a stigma that gives him a sense of self-loathing, much less trouble in the rest of the novel. The latter is not canon, of course, but seeks to elaborate on the bitter feelings towards eugenics that still linger in the 24th century.

I find it implausible kirkwould simply maroon Khan after his defeat. He and his men are clearly every bit the threat to peace they once were, should they not be imprisoned or executed? It was just a handful of episodes ago theFederation was willing to execute Spock for violating the general order against contacting the Talosians, so they are not above it. Kirk had ordered Scotty to destroy the surface of Eminiar in the previous episode in order to save the ship. Surely executing Khan could be rationalized eve more easily.

An opportunity was wasted here, probably because the writer could not decide what the episode was to be about. Was it a allegory on the Nazis trying to build a master race? Not really. Was it a warning about science without morality? Aybe that was the purpose, but insufficient effort went into it if so. I am going to cut “Space Seed’ some slack, however. I am looking at it now as one who finds abortion, embryonic stem cell research, social Darwinism, and euthanasia as banes of our existence. Those practices are true science without morality and something I suspect Trek did not imagine were going to become, not increasingly accepted, but considered merciful today. reality has become more horrible than the fictional near future of Trek.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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