|Episode no.||Season 1
|Directed by||Marc Daniels|
|Story by||Carey Wilber|
|Featured music||Alexander Courage|
|Cinematography by||Jerry Finnerman|
|Production code||023/024[n 1]|
|Original air date||February 16, 1967|
"Space Seed" is an episode of the American science fiction television series Star Trek. It is the 22nd episode of the first season and was first broadcast by NBC on February 16, 1967. "Space Seed" was written by Gene L. Coon and Carey Wilber and directed by Marc Daniels. Set in the 23rd century, the series follows the adventures of Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) and his crew aboard the Starfleet starship USS Enterprise. In this episode, the Enterprise crew encounter a sleeper ship holding genetically-engineered superpeople from Earth's past. Their leader, Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalbán), attempts to take control of Enterprise to begin a new conquest. The episode also guest stars Madlyn Rhue as Lt. Marla McGivers, who becomes romantically involved with Khan.
Wilbur conceived the general plot for a different series, Captain Video and His Video Rangers, which featured humans from Ancient Greece who were preserved in cryogenic suspension and revived. During the writing of the episode numerous changes were made as producer Bob Justman felt that it would be too expensive to film. Eventually Gene L. Coon and series creator Gene Roddenberry also made changes. These revisions include the marooning of the criminals at the end of the episode, and the change of the primary villain from a Nordic character to a Sikh. Roddenberry attempted to claim the primary writing credit for "Space Seed", a request that was turned down by the Writers Guild of America.
Montalbán was the first choice for Khan and described the role as "wonderful". Despite being planned as a bottle episode, the special sets and shots using starship miniatures caused the episode to go over budget. It was broadcast on NBC on February 16, 1967, and held second place in the ratings for the first half hour with 13.12 million viewers. During the second half hour it was pushed into third place after the Thursday Night Movie began on CBS. "Space Seed" is commonly considered one of the best episodes of the series, having been included in several top ten lists. The 1982 film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan serves as a sequel to this episode. Plot elements of the episode and The Wrath of Khan were also used in the 2013 film Star Trek Into Darkness, and references to it appear in episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise.
On stardate 3141.9, the Federation starship USS Enterprise finds a derelict ship floating in space. Its hull identifies it as the SS Botany Bay, a ship launched from Earth in the 1990s, during Earth's last great world conflict—the Eugenics Wars. A landing party comprising Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner), Doctor Leonard McCoy (DeForest Kelley), Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott (James Doohan), and historian Lieutenant Marla McGivers (Madlyn Rhue) beams over to the freighter. Kirk selects McGivers because she specializes in late 20th-century history and culture. The landing party finds a cargo of 84 humans, 72 of whom are alive in suspended animation after nearly 200 years. McGivers identifies the stasis tube containing the body of the group's leader. The male occupant begins to revive, but his life is threatened by his stasis cell beginning to fail. Kirk frees him from the cell, and he is taken back to Enterprise for a medical examination.
Kirk has the Botany Bay taken in tow by a tractor beam, and the Enterprise sets course for Starbase 12. In sickbay, the group's leader awakens and attacks McCoy, holding a scalpel to his throat and demanding to know where he is. McCoy responds by suggesting the optimal way to kill him if he wishes to do so. Impressed by McCoy's bravery, the man puts the scalpel down and introduces himself as "Khan" (Ricardo Montalbán). Lt. McGivers marvels over Khan, a living relic from an era she has studied all her life. First Officer Spock (Leonard Nimoy) discovers that their guest is Khan Noonien Singh who, along with his people, are products of 20th-century genetic engineering designed to create perfect humans. The genetic superhumans instead became warlords and conquered more than a third of the Earth, sparking the Eugenics Wars. At the end of this global war, between eighty and ninety of the superhumans warriors were unaccounted for; Khan is said to be the most dangerous of these.
Khan is given quarters, although his door is locked and an armed guard is posted outside. McGivers is sent to brief him on current events. Taking advantage of McGivers' attraction towards him, Khan tells her he means to rule mankind again and needs her help to take over the Enterprise. Reluctantly, she agrees and beams Khan to Botany Bay, where he revives the rest of his supermen. They return to Enterprise and assume control of the ship. Khan throws Kirk into a decompression tank, and threatens to slowly suffocate him unless Kirk's command crew agree to follow Khan. Having a change of heart, McGivers frees Kirk from the chamber. Kirk and Spock vent anesthetic gas throughout the entire ship to disable Khan and his cohorts. Khan escapes the gas and heads to Engineering, where he attempts to destroy Enterprise, but Kirk confronts him and a brawl ensues. Though outmatched by Khan's superior strength, Kirk uses a tool as a club to knock the superman unconscious.
Kirk holds a hearing to decide the fate of Khan and his followers. The captain decides that they should be exiled to Ceti Alpha V, a harsh world that Kirk believes would be a perfect place for Khan to start his kingdom over. Khan claims he is up to the challenge of taming the world and accepts Kirk's offer. Instead of a court-martial for Lt. McGivers, Kirk allows her to go into exile with Khan. Spock notes that it would be interesting to see what Khan makes of Ceti Alpha V in 100 years.
Carey Wilber was hired to write a script for an episode of Star Trek. His idea was based on an episode he wrote for the television series Captain Video and His Video Rangers (1949–1955). His work on that show had included the concept of transporting people in suspended animation through space, the episode featuring Greek-era humans being resurrected and the people of the future finding that they have mythological powers. For "Space Seed", Wilbur replaced these mythological powers with abilities that were enhanced due to genetic engineering. Wilber had briefly worked with Gene Roddenberry on the television series Harbormaster and was also involved in writing scripts for Lost in Space and The Time Tunnel around the same time as his work on Star Trek.
Wilber's first proposal for the story that became "Space Seed" was dated August 29, 1966, shortly before the first episode of the television series was aired. In the proposal, the villain was Harold Erickson, an ordinary criminal exiled into space. He sought to free his gang from Botany Bay, seize Enterprise, and become a pirate. Parts of the story were inspired by the use of penal colonies in the 18th century, and the characterization was based on the descriptions from the writer's bible. As a result, several elements of the draft proposal differed from how the characters behaved in the actual series—for example, the draft includes a scene where Spock defeats Kirk at chess by cheating. Producer Gene L. Coon wrote to Wilber that his work was the best outline he had seen during the time he had worked on Star Trek. Fellow producer Bob Justman was less enthusiastic and compared it to Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers in a negative manner. Justman felt that Wilber's concept would be too expensive to film for Star Trek. There were also concerns that an unsolicited script submitted by science fiction author Philip José Farmer bore resemblance to the proposed plot, and this might lead to litigation as Roddenberry had been corresponding with Farmer.
NBC executives supported the plot for "Space Seed" and Justman made a reassessment, saying that the outline needed to be heavily revised. In September, Wilber was given a list of suggested changes asking him to remove any mention of the setting, as the producers did not want to say how far in the future Star Trek was set, and to remove the chess scene. Wilber submitted a second draft, but Roddenberry still had problems with the logic behind the basic elements of the script. He did not believe common criminals would be fired into space as a solution and strongly disliked the notion of space pirates. One element introduced in the second draft that remained in the final version was Kirk marooning Khan and his crew on a new planet. Wilber was not asked to produce a third draft; Coon was tasked with a re-write. Coon amended the second draft submitted by Wilber and submitted his re-write on December 7, updating it twice more over the following five days. Wilber did not object to Coon's re-writes, and left the staff following the submission of the second draft as his contractual obligations were completed.
Coon proposed that Erickson should be a true rival to Kirk, a genetic superman who had once ruled part of Earth. Roddenberry and Justman still were not happy with the script, and Roddenberry revised it once more only a week before filming was due to begin, after Montalbán had been cast. It was in this version that the blond Nordic character of Erickson became closer to the character seen on screen. In the Roddenberry/Coon script, the character was renamed to Sibahl Khan Noonien. The name Govin Bahadur Singh was suggested by the DeForest Research company, who checked scripts for potential errors on behalf of the production company; the Singh name was suggested in part because it was closer to actual Sikh names. Together Coon and Roddenberry settled on Khan Noonien Singh; Roddenberry had an old Chinese friend named Noonien Wang that he had lost touch with. Roddenberry hoped that perhaps Wang would see the episode and contact him. In the final draft, Roddenberry listed himself as the primary writer with Coon getting a co-writer credit with Wilber absent. However, the Writers Guild of America turned down the request by Roddenberry to be credited as the writer and instead Coon was credited as the main writer, with Wilber given co-writer and "story-by" credits. Wilber did not often watch his own work, and has never seen "Space Seed". Coon was later credited as Lee Cronin for his part in writing the script.
Ricardo Montalbán was cast as the genetic superman Khan Noonian Singh, having been the first choice for the role. He had been suggested by casting director Joseph D’Agosta, who was not looking to cast an actor of a particular ethnic background due to Roddenberry's vision for the series.[n 2] Montalbán had previously appeared in a television movie created by Gene Roddenberry called The Secret Weapon of 117 (also referred to as The Secret Defense of 117). It was Roddenberry's first attempt at creating science fiction on television, and aired more than ten years before Star Trek. Montalbán called his role as Khan "wonderful", saying that "it was well-written, it had an interesting concept and I was delighted it was offered to me". The main cast were enthusiastic about working with Montalbán, DeForest Kelley later saying "I enjoyed working with Ricardo the best. I was privileged. He is a marvelous actor."
Madlyn Rhue, who portrayed Lt. Marla McGivers, had previously worked with Montalbán in an episode of Bonanza in 1960 as his on-screen wife; she would later appear with him in a 1982 episode of Fantasy Island. Montalbán and Rhue had also appeared in separate episodes of Roddenberry's previous NBC television series, The Lieutenant (1963–1964). Main cast member George Takei did not appear in "Space Seed"; the character of Hikaru Sulu was replaced by Blaisdell Makee as Lt. Spinelli. It was the first of two appearances in Star Trek for Makee, who would return in the episode "The Changeling" as Lt. Singh. John Winston appeared for the second time as Lt. Kyle, and would go on to make nine further episodic appearances in that role. Following positive feedback from the producers and the network regarding James Doohan, "Space Seed" was the first episode to feature a more prominent role for his character, Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott.
Filming, costumes and post production
Filming of Space Seed began Thursday, December 15, 1966, and concluded on December 22 after six shooting days. Roddenberry, Coon and Wilber's efforts resulted in nearly 60 pages of script across 120 scenes. Marc Daniels was hired to direct the episode; he had previously worked on The Lieutenant. The first day's filming coincided with the airing of the episode "Balance of Terror", and Daniels allowed the cast and crew to go home early so that they could watch it. The other five days ran to schedule, to the extent that there was an early finish on the final day of filming, allowing cast and crew time to return home to watch a repeat of the episode "What Are Little Girls Made Of?" which had replaced "Arena" on that evening's schedule. A scene filmed but later cut from the episode depicted a discussion between McGivers and Angela Martine (Barbara Baldavin), intended to show that McGivers was looking for a forceful man. Further scenes were trimmed down after filming due to input from NBC executives. For example, scenes shot on board the Botany Bay were cut as it was felt that the costumes worn by the newly awakened crew were too revealing.
The character of Khan required more costume changes than that of any other guest star in the entire series, with five costumes worn by Montalbán in the episode. This in turn meant that the staff working on costumes had less time to devote to any one costume. Montalbán's athletic physique was such that when his measurements were passed to the staff to create the new costumes, they thought there had been a mistake. Costume designer William Ware Theiss found it challenging to produce the outfits in the time allotted, as well as to make the materials seem suitably futuristic and fitting his own preferences in design. Two of Khan's outfits are re-uses of previously created costumes, while three were specifically created for Montalbán. The production built two new sets for the episode: the decompression chamber in sickbay, as well as the set on board Botany Bay.
Post production on "Space Seed" began on December 23, 1966, and ran through February 5 the following year. The Westheimer Company produced the majority of effects in the episode; however the scenes of Enterprise and Botany Bay in space were produced by Film Effects of Hollywood who were not credited on screen for their work. Botany Bay utilized a design Matt Jefferies created prior to the USS Enterprise. It had been previously labeled "antique space freighter", and was built by Film Effects of Hollywood. The creation of the ship miniature caused the episode to go over budget by more than $12,000; "Space Seed" actually cost a total of $197,262 against a budget of $180,000. By this point, the series was nearly $80,000 over budget in total.
The sound effects team borrowed effects and manipulated them in order to achieve the "painted sound" effect sought by Roddenberry. Although a number of sources were used, they attempted to avoid most science fiction television series as they wanted an authentic sound. Instead, the sound archive of the United States Air Force was used, although the photon torpedo sound was created from the 1953 film The War of the Worlds. "Space Seed" was awarded the Golden Reel for sound editing on television by the Motion Picture Sound Editors society.
"Space Seed" was first broadcast in the United States on February 16, 1967, on NBC. A 12-city overnight Trendex report compiled by Nielsen ratings showed that during the first half hour, it held second place in the ratings behind Bewitched on ABC with 13.12 million viewers compared to Bewitched 's 14.44 million. The episode beat My Three Sons on CBS. During the second half hour it was pushed into third place in the ratings by the start of the Thursday Night Movie on CBS, the Western film One-Eyed Jacks starring Marlon Brando, which received 35.5 percent of the audience share compared to 28 percent for "Space Seed".
Zack Handlen of The A.V. Club gave the episode an 'A' rating, noting its strong characters and the interplay between Kirk and Spock that emphasizes their friendship. Michelle Erica Green called the episode "legendary" in her review for Trek Nation. She thought that Khan made the "perfect foil" for the trio of Kirk, Spock and McCoy and said that the episode was not dulled by later episodes and films based on "Space Seed". In Mark Pickavance's review at Den of Geek, he said that it remained an "obvious choice of great source material" to be followed up in a film.
The review by Eugene Myers and Torrie Atkinson on Tor.com criticized the attraction between McGivers and Khan, saying that it was "really uncomfortable to watch her immediate attraction to him and her easy acceptance of his abusive and controlling behaviour". However, both praised the episode, Myers giving it a five out of six, and Atkinson a six out of six rating. Also at Tor.com, in Ryan Britt and Emily Asher-Perrin's list of the ten most under-appreciated elements of Star Trek, they placed "Space Seed" at number three saying that "As an introductory story to what old school Star Trek was all about, 'Space Seed' is perfect. It presents an original science fiction concept, grapples with notions of human technology and ingenuity creating a monster, and features Captain Kirk beating the crap out of someone with a piece of Styrofoam. What more could you want?"
Entertainment Weekly named the episode the second best of the series, while IGN ranked "Space Seed" as the fourth best, praising the fist fight between Kirk and Khan. It appeared in the top ten episodes listed by Cinefantastique and was also included in a list of ten "must see" episodes on The A.V. Club. Reviewer Zack Handlen said that it "features a terrific performance from guest star Montalban, gives the franchise one of its greatest villains, and sets the stage for one of best science-fiction adventure movies ever made." Sociology professors John and Maria Jose Tenuto from the College of Lake County described "Space Seed" as the most important episode of the original series, because it resulted in a film which ultimately saved the franchise.
Home media release
"Space Seed" was released on VHS cassette in 1982 by Paramount Home Video. It was one of the episodes of The Original Series published on Capacitance Electronic Disc, alongside "The Changeling", released on November 1, 1982. A LaserDisc of the episode alongside "Return of the Archons" was released in 1985. Further releases of all episodes of the series were made on VHS and Betamax.
The episode was released on DVD paired with "A Taste of Armageddon" as part of the general release of the series in 2000. It was subsequently released within a DVD box set of the first season in 2004. The episode was included in the remastered season 1 release on DVD and Blu-Ray in 2009. This release featured CGI remodels of Enterprise and other space scenes such as Botany Bay.
The events of "Space Seed" are followed up in the 1982 film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Concerned about resuming the role of Khan, Montalbán worried that fans would see him only as Mr. Roarke from Fantasy Island. However, he felt that he managed to recapture the character by re-watching "Space Seed". The film set a new record for the opening weekend gross with $14.3 million taken. The film went on to take $78.9 million domestically within the United States, which was the sixth best selling film of the year. A non-canon novelization was later released in 2005 to fill in the timeframe between "Space Seed" and the film, entitled To Reign in Hell: The Exile of Khan Noonien Singh.
Events of both "Space Seed" and The Wrath of Khan were also directly referenced in 2013's Star Trek Into Darkness with Benedict Cumberbatch recast as Khan. It took $70.1 million on the opening weekend, and $467.3 million internationally throughout the cinematic release. A retro-style film poster for "Space Seed" was created by Juan Ortiz in 2013, released around the same as Star Trek Into Darkness.
The television series Star Trek: Enterprise makes several further references to the events first described in "Space Seed". In "Twilight", the survivors of the Xindi attack on Earth eventually resettle on Ceti Alpha V. The season four episodes "Borderland", "Cold Station 12" and "The Augments" showed a further group of genetic supermen produced from embryos produced in the same era as Khan and his crew.
- Listed as Production Code 024 on StarTrek.com; Cushman & Osborn (p. 443) gives this number as 023, noting 'incorrectly listed in all other sources' as 024.
- Gene Roddenberry wanted to show his perceived 23rd century values by not requiring any specific ethnicities when casting actors in guest roles.
- Cushman & Osborn (2013): p. 443
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- "Space Seed" Second revised final draft December 13, 1966; report & analysis by Dave Eversole