As has been reported across the internet for the last couple of days, Nicholas Meyer appears to be working on a new Star Trek project for CBS. That series is now rumored to be a return to the character that made Meyer a Trekkie household name, KHAN. I wasn’t even going to lend any credence to this show until Meyer responded to a request for comment with, “I Khannot possibly comment.” This decision has, understandably, divided the fandom. I am here to talk about why this show could be amazing.
Khan was “the best of the Tyrants”
Personally, a series chronicling Khan’s years in exile on Ceti Alpha 5 sounds incredibly boring, so my thinking is that this would be more in line with Khan’s time as ruler of a quarter of the Earth. For those who only know Khan from The Wrath of Khan and Star Trek into Darkness, Khan was one of the supermen, cooked up in a lab via selective breeding and genetic engineering in the 1950s by scientist during the Cold War. They believed that by creating the perfect humans that it would lead to prefect leaders. These people had seen the ravages of world war, and lived under the looming doom of nuclear armageddon. All of this, of course, has a real basis in history. Eugenics was a “science” practiced by tons of people in the early and mid twentieth century, most notably by the Nazis, who paired husbands and wives in an effort to breed better humans. This same reasoning also led to the Holocaust.
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So, thematically, its a great idea to explore, scientists using science to try and make humanity better. It almost sounds like Star Trek doesn’t it? It’s even more fascinating when you have the humanism of Star Trek play with the idea, and the morality of it. Combine this optimistic approach to eugenics to Khan, who Kirk described as “the best of the Tyrants.” This means that Khan, one of Star Trek’s greatest villains, was a good guy by contrast to his other superhuman foes. This sounds like the perfect setup for the modern anti-hero protagonist of the golden age of TV. Think of Khan like you would Tony Soprano. Yeah, he’s a bad guy, but he has certain principals and lines he won’t cross.
It’s Relevant to Our Times
We live in a world where people are breeding livestock in plastic bags, where crops are being genetically manipulated, we have tools to edit our own DNA, and strongmen are rising to the most prominent positions of power across the world. Star Trek is at it’s best when it’s relevant social commentary. Star Trek predicted many of these events decades ago, how much better would it be in the midst of all these developments to show the possible downsides of scientific advancement, and to speak on basic human nature tending toward destruction in the first place. A prestige drama at the highest levels discussing science, faith, cynicalism, and optimism in a world that looks quite similar to our own; to me that sounds fantastic and the apex of prestige drama.
Let’s Not Forget the Nostalgia Factor
This might sound tacky to some, but after some very thorough research, the Eugenics Wars (the period in which Khan ruled and was overthrown) took place in the early to mid-1990s. So, unless they want to totally upend 50 years of canon, then the show has to be set during this period. Currently, we are no stranger to nostalgia callbacks on modern TV (looking at you Stranger Things). You could include coy Buffy the Vampire Slayer references, of a shot of a Sony Walkman, or a old brick cell phone.
On the other hand, they could take the Watchman approach, by showing in the opening title how the world changed with Eugenics not being a discredited science in the Post-World War 2 years. I highly recommend rewatching that intro and imagine it being Star Trek instead. One thing that Star Trek has always lacked is full context. We understand through dialogue that humanity went through a very dark period of history where they barely survived, and then by discovering warp drive and that they were not alone in the universe, managed to pull together and create a Utopian one world government and society that embraced the Vulcan philosophy of “infinite diversity in infinite combinations.” We’ve never really seen what this apocalyptic hellscape that created the United Earth Government seen in Enterprise. We’ve glimpsed some of this darkness in First Contact, The Next Generation episode “Encounter at Farpoint” (it’s the court room scene), but haven’t really witness the human toll. The Eugenics Wars were the precursor to the cataclysmic World War 3, and by seeing how science-run-amok (really science-sans-morality) created this world, adds valuable context to the very pro-science Federation, and allows us to more fully understand why they are so beholden to Federation virtues. And, if done properly, would give us a very well fleshed out character by the time we see Khan revived on the S.S. Botany Bay in the original Star Trek episode, “Space Seed.”
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