Why Let Khan Live?

Discussion in 'Star Trek - The Original & Animated Series' started by Praetor Baldric, Jun 5, 2013.

  1. Ronald Held

    Ronald Held Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 21, 2005
    On the USS Sovereign
    Where there warning buoys placed in the Ceti Alpha system? If so would it be generic enough so that the message did not indicate what would be found on the planet?
  2. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Aug 26, 2003
    That might be even worse than saying "Supermen - keep clear!". Most people would not risk getting Tri-Bubonic Space Plague or whatnot, but there'd always exist the kind of person who thinks that anything worth locking up is worth stealing...

    Timo Saloniemi
  3. mos6507

    mos6507 Commodore Commodore

    Dec 22, 2010
    The whole idea of Space Seed is to create a little ambiguity/mystery about who Khan is. If they just automatically assumed he was a menace, it never would have provided him with the opportunity to seize the ship. That does not mean the writers wanted the audience to sympathize with Khan. By the time he shows his true colors, he's as bad as bad can be, period. (This is also true in the plot of Into Darkness, BTW. Where Into Darkness deviates is by pumping up a home-grown problem with Admiral Marcus, which was not the case in Space Seed.)

    I think it's really misguided to go on a moral-relativistic tangent about Eisenhower and Churchill. It's simply not the same. Khan shares a lot of similarities with Hitler, or maybe more accurately a Hitler youth who bought the kool-aid about genetic perfection. There is no question that the audience is meant to side against everything Khan stands for.

    There are always going to be some people who side with dictators. Certainly Hitler, Pol Pot, etc... had followers who were not forced into servitude. It doesn't mean that figures like these were on equal moral footing with Churchill or Eisenhower just because, well, the allied powers committed the sin of killing lots of people to win WWII. If that had not happened, most people posting on this board would be writing in German, or more appropriately, Trek probably never would have been produced in the first place.

    As a WWII vet, I'm certain Gene Roddenberry, despite his pacifism and utopianism, realized that sometimes war is necessary, and war is hell.
  4. DonIago

    DonIago Vice Admiral Admiral

    Mar 22, 2001
    Burlington, VT, USA
    As we don't know what destroyed Ceti Alpha VI, it's possible warning buoys were destroyed at the same time.
  5. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Aug 26, 2003
    It's pretty disgusting to defend bloody dictatorships by appealing to the fact that these dictatorships were democratically governed. Eisenhower Jugend had no more choice on the issue of dying for the flag than Hitler Jugend did...

    If type of government really matters, let it not be forgotten that Khan was never established as a dictator (only that he fought those). All we learned of his form of government was that he was a tyrant; whatever the correlation between the terms in the 23rd century, we don't know.

    Why should we care about what the writers wanted? Trek was written when the zeitgeist was sexist, racist and authoritarian, and it shows. Luckily, it doesn't show so strongly that we couldn't ignore it and enjoy the cool bits.

    In any case, in the final act, our heroes and Khan part ways in amicable terms. Were the writers somehow being coerced to writing Khan in explicitly sympathetic terms there or what?

    Timo Saloniemi
  6. Gary7

    Gary7 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Let's keep things in the proper perspective here. Nobody gets their education 100% correct and sometimes a "bad guy" gets haphazardly romanticized without really good grounds. Like the outlaws of the wild west in the USA. They've taken on a kind of admired folklore status, yet many were still murderers.

    Khan *was* established as a dictator.

    KIRK: Name, Khan, as we know him today. (Spock changes the picture) Name, Khan Noonien Singh.
    SPOCK: From 1992 through 1996, absolute ruler of more than a quarter of your world. From Asia through the Middle East.
    MCCOY: The last of the tyrants to be overthrown.

    And then there's the matter of what Khan confesses. "One man would have ruled eventually." "We offered the world order."

    KIRK: Forgive my curiosity, Mister Khan, but my officers are anxious to know more about your extraordinary journey.
    SPOCK: And how you managed to keep it out of the history books.
    KHAN: Adventure, Captain. Adventure. There was little else left on Earth.
    SPOCK: There was the war to end tyranny. Many considered that a noble effort.
    KHAN: Tyranny, sir? Or an attempt to unify humanity?
    SPOCK: Unify, sir? Like a team of animals under one whip?
    KHAN: I know something of those years. Remember, it was a time of great dreams, of great aspiration.
    SPOCK: Under dozens of petty dictatorships.
    KHAN: One man would have ruled eventually. As Rome under Caesar. Think of its accomplishments.
    SPOCK: Then your sympathies were with
    KHAN: You are an excellent tactician, Captain. You let your second in command attack while you sit and watch for weakness.
    KIRK: You have a tendency to express ideas in military terms, Mister Khan. This is a social occasion.
    KHAN: It has been said that social occasions are only warfare concealed. Many prefer it more honest, more open.
    KIRK: You fled. Why? Were you afraid?
    KHAN: I've never been afraid.
    KIRK: But you left at the very time mankind needed courage.
    KHAN: We offered the world order!
    KIRK: We?

    A dictator is someone who has absolute power that is enforced by a loyal military and supportive politicians. An emperor also has supreme command, but it's not absolute--it is tempered by the powers of the Senate, ruling elite, and high ranking military commanders. Was Khan a dictator or a emperor? "Absolute ruler" as Spock had said definitely suggests a dictator. "The last of the tyrants"... and dictators basically rule by the threat of tyranny. And then at Kirk's posit of "We?", Khan feigns growing tired again and avoids the question completely.

    It's one thing to take a quote out of context, and an entirely different matter to enact the language as a matter of political course. Churchill and US presidents were not dictators nor emperors. So I see no merit to making such an unsuitable comparison, other than to push your own agenda.

    Khan and company did not part Kirk and company in so called "amicable" terms. Khan was banished to a planet with minimal supplies. Khan did his best to try being optimistic, but that does little to assuage the dire stresses they'd face ahead. This was no exploratory outing--this was a matter of a real test for survival. Would his "superior intellect" enable them to make it? Well... apparently so.
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2013
  7. Admiral Buzzkill

    Admiral Buzzkill Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Mar 8, 2001

    I'm sorry that you're not satisfied by a more interesting conclusion than a simpleminded Old West Shootout, but that's not to the detriment of Star Trek.
  8. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Aug 26, 2003
    And there is no danger in that, because any villain that fails to get properly vilified due to this is long dead anyway, and his evil deeds get the pass because they are forgotten. Mankind does not start thinking of the evil deeds as good ones, it merely forgets that Jesse James killed people dead.

    The greater danger lies in seeing evil in the actions of good guys, because that means condemning the actions themselves. What was a good deed is wrongly remembered as a bad one, and there's no relief from the fact that the good guy died already. There's no forgetting there, there's deliberate misremembering.

    This doesn't work quite that way in practice, as any dictator will still necessarily have his rule tempered by high-ranking military commanders at the very least; their loyalty is a service they provide to the dictator, at a price. But anyway...

    In the end, it doesn't really matter whether atrocities are committed by true sovereigns or by collective or representative forms of government. What matters is that they are committed. And Khan didn't commit them, that much our heroes agree on.

    They almost shook hands at parting! Only McCoy objected to Kirk's complete dropping of charges, and our heroes basically wished Khan all the best after he had left the room!

    Khan, the civilized adversary, waltzed out with his future wife, quoting poetry and smiling. Our heroes arranged that for him, were satisfied with the outcome, and capped it with a smile of their own. And the audience was supposed to feel bad about that? If so, it was an epic fail for the writers...

    Timo Saloniemi
  9. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

    Apr 12, 2006
    Your Mom
    But yes.

    The plan for Gary Mitchell was to MAROON him on Delta Vega, not to kill him. The only reason Kirk went after Gary in the first place was because he'd absconded with Dr. Dehnar and Kirk didn't realize she was transforming too (otherwise he would have happily stranded BOTH of them there and been done with it). That, plus Gary murdering Kelso for no good reason, lead Kirk to believe that Gary would never allow the Enterprise to leave orbit anyway and so he went and hunted him down.

    The Gary Mitchell solution played out with Khan too, just over a much longer period of time and on a much larger scale. The moral of the story -- BOTH times -- is that mercy is wasted on a megalomaniac.

    Old West Shootouts are many things, but they are not simpleminded. Especially on Star Trek.
  10. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Aug 26, 2003
    Since the camera keeps away from Khan for so many years, though, we are left wondering how much of Khan's "wrath" is due to his born nature and how much due to the very act of marooning and its consequences. Khan in the movie is different from Khan in the episode, having lost subtlety - as is the fate of TV-to-movie characters everywhere, but this works in-universe as well. Surely isolation is a surefire way to "simplify" a fellow and to heighten his obsessions and paranoias!

    Gary Mitchell showed all his cards within an act and a half, so we got none of the ambiguity.

    Timo Saloniemi
  11. Unicron

    Unicron Continuity Spackle Moderator

    May 8, 2003
    The Red Church of Niah
    Quite true, but Khan in TWOK was a much different individual than he was in "Space Seed." He didn't care who had to die for his revenge on Kirk, whereas before he first tried to recruit members of the Enterprise to join him.
  12. Praetor Baldric

    Praetor Baldric Lieutenant Commander

    May 22, 2013
    Well-put, much better than I ever could have! Thank-you! :techman:
  13. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

    Apr 12, 2006
    Your Mom

    You mean like pretending to be a unconscious before pulling a knife on Doctor McCoy?

    You mean requesting -- within minutes of regaining consciousness -- detailed technical information on the ship with the intention of eventually taking it over?

    You mean seducing and eventually pimping Lieutenant McGivers thirty seconds after seeing her for the first time?

    Khan in Space Seed was as subtle as a heart attack and twice as deadly.

    Begging your pardon, but Khan showed all of his cards pretty much the moment he woke up. The only difference between Khan and Gary Mitchel is that Khan was a charming son of a bitch.
  14. Praetor Baldric

    Praetor Baldric Lieutenant Commander

    May 22, 2013
    Very true! Look at the language he uses when he first meets Kirk properly while in Sick Bay:

    KHAN: Captain, I wonder if I could have something to read during my convalescence. I was once an engineer of sorts. I would be most interested in studying the technical manuals on your vessel.
    KIRK: Yes, I understand. You have two hundred years of catching up to do.
    KHAN: Precisely.
    KIRK: They're available to any patient on the viewing screen. Doctor McCoy will show you how to tie into the library tapes.
    KHAN: Thank you, Captain. You are very co-operative.

    See, Khan isn't really trying very hard to pretend that he is just some gear-head who is curious about finding out what the latest hot-rod looks like. He congratulates Kirk on being "co-operative." Chilling moment there. Khan is openly communicating to Kirk that Khan is in charge and that Kirk is there to co-operate with him. Co-operative is not a word one usually uses in a guest-host type of setting.
  15. Gary7

    Gary7 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Of course ANY person of power will have some tempering of it based on relationships, but with a dictator it is all founded on rules laid down by the dictator, not from a council of decision makers who reach a consensus. Does that mean a dictator cannot be a tyrant or wield supreme power without accountability? Why not just admit Khan was a dictator rather than attempting to blur the lines?

    Hitler, Stalin, and Mao Tse Tung didn't directly murder millions of people, but they were responsible for giving the orders that resulted in that end. So the chain of command on orders DOES matter. It's generally agreed upon that Hitler was responsible for legendary atrocities against humanity, including his executors, and in kind so is Khan for all of the murders that may have been inflicted for him to wield power as he saw fit.

    Civilized adversary? You've got to be kidding me. He put Kirk in a pressure chamber and nearly killed him. He hijacked a Federation starship and almost got away with it, if it weren't for McGivers having a change of heart. Waltzed out? He was under armed guard and escorted to the transporter chamber, with hardly any supplies. You go visit an alien world with only a few weeks worth of supplies and see if you survive. This was no gracious exit. It was a banishment.
  16. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Aug 26, 2003
    "Blur the lines"? That's what the so-called democratic leaders try to do (and apparently frighteningly successfully) when they label their deaths-of-millions as somehow less evil than those inflicted by non-democratic leaders...

    Khan was explicitly established as better than his 20th century peers; explicitly said not to have launched wars of aggression (really trumping most democracies there and then!); explicitly said not to have launched massacres. Vilifying him is just an attempt to whitewash the real villains of the 20th century - not to mention contrary to the intent of the writers.

    Ditto for any number of democratic or parliamentary-monarchy leaders. It's not the telltale of a dictator by any means.

    More importantly, though, it's the one thing that Khan did not do, according to our heroes. Sure, he gave the world order, which sounds about as ominous as making the trains run in time. But that doesn't mean there'd be something inherently good about a train system that doesn't work; jumping to conclusions that run contrary to episode pseudo-facts is not justifiable.

    If we speculate on such far-fetched lines, we could just as well remember the atrocities inflicted for Mahatma Gandhi...

    Kirk did that to his adversaries, too ("Lights of Zetar").

    And he did it the civilized way, without killing anybody.

    And with zero charges on him, for all he did.

    The only thing the writers could have done to more clearly establish that Khan was to be sympathized with was having Kirk say "I want to bear your children" instead of McGivers!

    Timo Saloniemi
  17. starburst

    starburst Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Mar 8, 2007
    Couldn't this be due errors in the history books, there are numerous rulers throughout our history who are revered as legend today (and who's tales may not be true anyway), heroes like Arthur and Robin Hood who's myths are probably nothing like the acts of the men who inspired them.

    Still doesn't mean he didn't do it, or have other tyrants to do it for him, history is easily skewed both in universe and out of universe… look at the man who was Zefram Cochrane in reality to who he became to be remembered in the history books (and meeting the Enterprise crew didn't change him completely, Archer knew he was still a drunk)… Time changes everything and sometimes cultures bury the truth, Hitler was voted into power and when he was there kept hold of it and tried to exterminate entire cultures, acts some in Germany and round the world try to deny happened or believe was the right thing or don't talk about due to shame.

    Hardly, as you already dismissed he thought he had killed Kirk and threatened to send the crew one by one for execution until he found someone who would help him, hardly civilised, he was showing he was ruthless and wanted the ship which by his own admission he would use to find a new planet and people he could rule.

    A quote from the episode which shows how Khan ticks...

    McGivers: "I don't know if you'll like living in our time."
    Khan: "Then I'll have to remold it to my liking."

    Kirk was all about second chances, if he ran into most other dictators or tyrants from our past he may have done the same thing, it doesn't make Khans or Kirks actions right, it just makes them men of principle who make a decision and stand by it (and by the time of WOK you can bet Kirk wishes he hadn't done it)
  18. Praetor Baldric

    Praetor Baldric Lieutenant Commander

    May 22, 2013
    I always find it interesting that those who are quick to draw parallels between unelected dictators and democratically-elected leaders of the West (to the point of seeing no difference between the two) usually have had the privilege of having grown up in those democratic countries and have had little or no real experience living under an authoritarian regime.

    Consequently, those who have had the displeasure of living under dictatorships but who have managed to escape to democratic countries, usually are quite happy with their decision.
  19. Gary7

    Gary7 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Again, you're missing the point. But if you feel a dictator is no different than a president, just dressed and voiced differently, then there's no point in debating with you.

    No, he was established as a "super human", genetically engineered--that being his advantage.

    But let's step back a bit and recall the episode as it was:

    Khan and his followers are awakened from sleep. And what do they do? Attempt to hijack the Enterprise, attempt murder of the captain (Khan DID think he had killed him) and threaten to execute officers one by one until someone gave him control of the ship. Yeah... real civilized. Really commendable. Why did he do this? He and his crew weren't under arrest nor charged with crimes from the past. Khan saw an opportunity (aboard a powerful starship with super combat capabilities) to gain power quickly and ambitiously set about to do so. And you think someone like this would have been a fair and just leader of the free world? Actions speak louder than words. And we have Khan's actions front and center. Your so called "civilized man" was a criminally minded tyrant.

    If the intent of the writers was to show a powerful fair minded super human from the late 20th century, Khan would've been far more civilized and diplomatic, making plans/arrangements for how he and his followers would find a way to live somewhere in the galaxy where they might start anew. But then it wouldn't have made for a very dynamic episode...
  20. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Aug 26, 2003
    Certainly. Everything we think we know could be a lie. But what possible reason would we have to insist that "Space Seed" was a lie?

    The episode said Khan was a good guy as far as bad guys go. The events of the episode did not change our heroes' beliefs on that. Why be contrarian? "I want Khan to be Hitler with a ponytail, so everything on screen must be wrong"...?

    ...And he was civilized about it. Or at least as civilized as heroes get, which is pretty good going for a villain. "Ruthless" is Kirk's middle name (just go check "Where No Man Has Gone Before"), and that doesn't make him uncivilized.

    Well said. This makes both characters prone to carrying grudges, though (see e.g. "Conscience of the King"), which gives a weird sort of legitimacy to the themes of the villain's titular movie...

    And these groups are entitled to belittle the atrocities committed by either type of government... why exactly?

    If you really try to argue that democratic leaders cannot do evil, then you are more evil than any dictator ever born. Oh, well. At least you can't plead innocence when your leader commits atrocities, whereas the subjects of a dictator automatically can. :devil:

    Your so-called point is irrelevant. Mine is that it's not nice to find excuses for genocide, such as "I was elected to push this button".

    Timo Saloniemi