Ask a Star Trek fan what their favourite film from the franchise is, and you can probably predict the answer. Star Trek: First Contact is certainly the most beloved of the TNG-era films. Many newer fans hold Star Trek: Beyond close to their heart as the pinnacle of Star Trek action. Yet, of course, The Wrath of Khan and Khan Noonien Singh comes up. However, maybe Star Trek Should Take A Gamble And Leave Khan In The Past?
Now, most would acknowledge that (whatever your own personal preferences) it’s Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan that stands as the franchise’s most formidable cinematic achievement. The film is the perfect blend of action, tension, and inner conflict. It has high stakes but is always grounded in relatable emotional struggles. It also had the strength of vision required to kill off Leonard Nimoy’s Spock – though admittedly only temporarily.
Khan Noonien Singh
Perhaps most of all, the film has one of the best onscreen villains in science-fiction history. The second Star Trek film didn’t create Khan, that honour goes to the TOS episode “Space Seed”. But the film was the moment when the character became ingrained in the cultural consciousness. This was helped, in no small part, by Kirk’s iconic howl: “Khan!”. However, the character stands on his own two feet, too.
Intelligent and dangerous in equal measure, Khan was an augment and a leader. He was the result of a genetic engineering programme and involved in the Eugenics Wars of the late 20th century. His superhuman strength made him a direct threat to any opponent who got too close to him, however, it was the power of his mind which was his greatest weapon. He was able to manipulate and manoeuvre the Enterprise and its crew across the span of The Wrath of Khan, almost defeating them and leaving many casualties in his wake.
A protagonist is only as good as their adversary – The Wrath of Khan proved that Khan Noonien Singh was the perfect antagonist to James T Kirk. However, maybe Star Trek Should Take A Gamble And Leave Khan In The Past.
Project Khan And La’an
With Star Trek: Into Darkness a distant memory, many Star Trek fans assumed that Khan would be left alone, at least for another few decades. But, now, Star Trek looks set to bring back Khan once again. Anyone who keeps a close eye on the developments of Star Trek might have been able to piece together the first parts of a new Khan puzzle.
Firstly, keen eyed viewers will have noticed the reference to Khan at the end of Star Trek: Picard’s second season. The geneticist Adam Soong (Brent Spiner) was revealed to be involved with the not-so-mysteriously titled ‘Project Khan’, though the details of the project were never explored. Yet!
Then, of course, there’s the newest chief of security aboard the USS Enterprise: La’an Noonien Singh (Christina Chong). Ring any bells? The character’s name isn’t just there for fans to speculate on. La’an has specifically spoken about her relationship with her heritage in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, and her connection to the infamous Khan.
Ceti Alpha V
Of course, there is the chance that these are just harmless references. But, look deeper, and it’s clear that there’s a pattern. Rumours have circulated that a Khan limited series is currently in development, and Ceti Alpha V was recently trademarked by Paramount. Meanwhile, Nicholas Meyer has been exceptionally vocal about his desire to revisit the character.
So, with all the recent hints and rumours, it seems very likely that Star Trek is gearing up to bring back Khan once again. And it’s true that it’s easy to get swept up in the prospect of a Khan prequel series. Through his eyes, Star Trek could explore the Eugenics Wars in more detail than ever. It could show the challenges of leading a renegade group of augments. And, it could flesh out the motives of the character, showing the moments that shaped him.
Leaving Khan In The Past
But, here’s why Star Trek Should Take A Gamble And Leave Khan In The Past, instead.
Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan was the perfect story for Khan Noonien Singh. Anyone who knows Star Trek knows what the character becomes, his goals, and how he dies. Of course, there is space to explore the character’s background and earlier years. But why, in a time when Star Trek has more options than ever, choose to go back to Khan?
Contrary to popular opinion, Star Trek fans don’t just want to see the same faces over and over again. Cameos and callbacks are fun, but Star Trek is always at its best when it’s doing something new. Just look at Lower Decks. The series has always been good, but as it’s moved away from unending references it has truly begun to excel.
The Space For Something New
It’s always fun to see faces we know, and add context to the lives of different characters. But Khan is already so iconic, and such an established character, that revisiting him would just feel like going backwards. This would risk damaging Star Trek’s future progression over its next phase because, when franchises go backwards, they start to look like they’re running out of steam. But, as it stands Star Trek is in a great run of form, and a sense of momentum is only increasing.
Thanks to that momentum, Star Trek shouldn’t feel like it has to rely on Khan for a new series. It should have more confidence, and look at creating characters, villains, and alien species who are new. That’s because memorable villains, like Khan, aren’t created by looking backwards.
They get created with the exploration of new ideas. With an entirely new crew, and an entirely new host of characters, Star Trek could explore the aftermath of the Dominion war. Or, it could navigate its way through the huge span of time between TOS and TNG. There are so many alternatives to another prequel, and a Khan prequel series would put the brakes on the momentum that Star Trek has been building.
In the end, Star Trek looks set to revisit Khan Noonien Singh. That comes with a whole world (literally, in the case of Ceti Alpha V) of possibilities. And let’s be absolutely clear. If well-executed, the series could be great. It could add to the character in ways that are unpredictable, and worthwhile.
But, even if it’s better than anyone could ever expect, Star Trek should still be spending its time looking forward rather than backwards. Star Trek has endless space for new series, and the focus should be there, instead. Enough prequels. It’s time to explore some ideas that are truly new!
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