Khan, Failed Savior: A Better Alternate History

khanMust be all these hours in front of my computer is frying some of my brain cells… but it occurred to me the other day that Khan Noonian Singh must have been railroaded. (And so were we.)


Star Trek’s Federation history includes, among many other things, the fact that Earth had a World War III, and later, a Eugenics War, the combination of which tore Terran countries and societies apart.  It was from this series of disasters that Earth’s leaders finally started working together on a platform of mutual trust and cooperation, rebuilding the first truly global society.  This society eventually came to provide a universal living wage, food and housing for all, worldwide access to medicine, education and opportunities to do what they wanted beyond basic subsistence.

We also know, from the Star Trek Original Series episode “Space Seed,” that Khan and his followers were part of a group of genetically-engineered superior humans who tried, in Khan’s own words, to “give the world order.”  He and his people were soundly defeated in the Eugenics Wars and forced to flee Earth to escape prosecution.

But I now believe there’s more to the story than that… and a hint as to how Star Trek Into Daftness could have actually become a great movie.


Following World War III, there was indeed an effort made to bring the globe together and share resources evenly and fairlyI contend that this effort was spearheaded by Khan and his followers.  They applied their “superior intellect” to achieving world leadership and negotiating with local governments, unions, organizations and the public, to begin their Universal Resources Initiative.  The concept behind URI was essentially preventive maintenance: The idea that it would cost society less to provide a basic living staple to all citizens up-front, than it would cost to deal with the costs of poverty, which included crime, health issues, diverted resources and crisis management, later.

It was a well-researched and workable plan, and though Khan and his followers knew it would not be initially popular, they set about making it happen, for the good of Earth’s people.  As they predicted, the world, still smarting from the ravages of WWIII, was not interested in universal sharing, which included those in countries they had just fought with.  There was resistance to the URI plan of the Eugenics.

The Eugenics might have been able to bring Earth’s people around to their point of view, given time and care.  Unfortunately, some of the Eugenics, being highly egotistical people, responded in a particularly ham-fisted way to some pockets of resistance.  This caused a severe backlash against the Eugenics, resistance mounted, and the Eugenics found they could not erase the bad blood spilled by one of their own.

Hostilities escalated, and spread worldwide.  The Eugenics, dedicated to saving the Earth from itself, finally responded with force.  But their numbers were simply too few to dominate an entire planet.  The Eugenics War was bloody and painful, and the Eugenics, certain that they would not be given fair trials once they began to lose power, opted instead to commandeer a freighter, load it with stasis pods, and flee.

History, it is said, is written by the winners—and the winners of the Eugenics War destroyed Khan.  He and his followers were painted as evil dictators, cruel, heartless and interested in nothing but their own gain.

And ironically, it was the Eugenics’ URI plan that later leaders discovered, and realized it was eminently workable.  “We can do it, the right way” became the slogan of these new leaders… and the people, much more willing to listen to non-genetically-altered people just like them, and at this point desperate for a way of life that would work, decided that at that point they had no choice but to give it a try.  It was certainly hard at first, but with more careful and compassionate leaders and more open government, they eventually created paradise on Earth.  But Khan was vilified for his part in the eventual betterment of Mankind.


The Enterprise (from the Original Series) encounters Khan and his men and, believing the biased history tapes of the time, accept that they were ruthless dictators. Kirk makes it clear to Khan that they are planning to take the ship and crew to the authorities; and Khan, just woken up from (in his perspective) having just escaped a coup and an assured death sentence, would naturally have resisted being handed over.

I propose that Star Trek Into Daftness should have begun with this premise, which would appear to be identical to the events of “Space Seed” up to Khan’s dinner with the senior staff on the Enterprise. But from there, we’d get a very different story.


Hey, he’s been in suspended animation… not dead.

Spock, having considered some of the comments made by Khan, begins a more systematic exploration of old Earth records. The history of that era is spotty, but he finds some evidence that Khan and his followers might not be the monsters everyone made them out to be.

But Khan, naturally expecting to be imprisoned with his followers, would find a kindred spirit in the historical expert assigned to him (Lt. Marla “Softie” McGivers), and would convince her to return him to his ship… whereupon he would free his followers, force his way onto the Enterprise and try to take over the ship.

Khan and his people take over Engineering and have hostages, including the Chief Engineer. And they demand to be taken to a safe haven, free from persecution by Earth (and not realizing how widespread the Federation is now, so there is basically no place they can hide). McCoy wants to just gas the lot of them and have them locked up, but McSoftie wants him—er, wants to preserve him and his font of historical knowledge, yeah, that’s the ticket—and Spock convinces Kirk not to overreact, or they can do serious damage to the ship before they can be contained.


So Kirk goes down to talk to Khan. Which naturally, given Abrams’ Kirk, goes tits-up quickly… they get into an argument over control of the Enterprise, which becomes a shouting match, which becomes a fight. But as they go mano-a-mano with each other, Khan manages to give Kirk details that reveal the URI was originally the Eugenics’ plan… and that it was the natural distrust of the population, coupled with the bad decisions of some of his lieutenants, that led to the conflicts and the collapse of the plan.

Spock, listening in from the bridge, quickly confirms that Khan is possibly right, and his people were only guilty (initially) of being bad leaders, not nearly the superior intellectuals they thought they were. And Khan, reaching a point in the fight at which he could kill Kirk at will, releases him and says he agrees with Spock’s assessment. Kirk grudgingly admits that the URI was the greatest thing that ever happened to Earth, and it is at least partially due to Khan that Earth is the paradise it is. Khan surrenders to Kirk, admitting his inadequacy to control his followers, and offers himself to the authorities peacefully on condition that his followers are released.

There are factions in the Federation that still consider Khan’s people to be criminals, and so Star Fleet orders Khan and his people to be brought in for trial. Kirk, unable to convince Star Fleet otherwise, decides to make a detour. He leaves the Eugenics on a planet recently set aside for Vulcan refugees, which will provide a significant addition to the number of people working to rebuild a piece of Vulcan society. The Enterprise returns to Earth, but with only Khan, who is willing to answer for his crimes. McSoftie, armed with Spock’s reassembled historical tapes, plans to act as Khan’s defense.

What’s that you say… not exciting enough for you? Okay, fine, here’s something for you adrenaline junkies:


Star Fleet sends a ship (maybe theReliant, okay?) to pick up Khan’s people and bring them to Earth.  But when the Reliant team arrives, they turn out to be serious anti-Eugenics assholes (much like security officer “Cupcake”).  Harsh words on both sides start a battle on-board theReliant after they beam over, Eugenics against asshole security meatheads, and Kirk and a team beam over to the Reliant to try to stem the battles.  This time, Kirk and Khan fight together, eventually subduing the Reliant meatheads.  Kirk returns to Earth with Khan, while the rest of the Eugenics are given the Reliantand fly off to find a home of their own.

Epilogue: Back on Earth, security personnel come to bring Khan to the next day of his trial on charges of being a war criminal.  But he has escaped his cell, Lt. McSoftie is also missing, and amazingly, a warp-capable shuttlecraft is gone. How dey do dat?!?  And Kirk (and the audience) gets to wonder if they’ll ever see Khan and the Eugenics again.

(“Khan and the Eugenics.”  Sounds like a geek boy band.  Heh.)

It’s a shame Abrams never got this idea; it would have made a story GALAXIES better than what we got instead… no people hidden inside torpedoes… no super-starship and evil Admirals… no Enterprise being destroyed (a-frikkin-gain)… no “KHAAAAAAN!” moment… no superblood that suddenly means no one ever has to die in the Star Trek universe…

In short: No moronic crap.  Just a great alternate history Star Trek movie, with a truly interesting twist that legitimizes an old character and gives Trek a chance to live up to its promise of an optimistic, desirable future.

So, okay, at this point I am going to promise that this is the last time I will write a post about Khan or the Khan episode and movies, because I’ve clearly reached the event horizon of this black hole.  Which leaves us with just one last thing to do:


Article written by Steven Lyle Jordan.

Steven is the author of the successful “The Kestral Voyages” series, “Verdant Skies“, and many other popular works of fiction. This article was originally published on Steven’s blog and is re-published here with permission.

  • Peter Hanely

    What a bunch of left wing claptrap. Without fruit of labors attached to work (such as a free market gives you) people will work as little as they can get away with. If you can live comfortably without working, a great many people will choose to not work, and the economy providing the “basic standard of living” collapses. And then the brutality and killing starts as the communist overlords try to hang on with a crippled economy.

    • Robert A. Heinlein would have had a hard time and be called names, judging the climate and tendencies here. The framing fathers of the US constitution called “Anti socialists”
      And the very idea of freedom and individual liberty is completely alien.
      Why not a world with “intellectual” super humans deciding whats good for you? (we are almost there anyway)
      All this is of course rooted in the sentiment of the entitlement society of today. A society who hasn’t really faced any real challenges for several generations.

      • michael pulleine

        oh god, another reference to the age of entitlement, let me guess, solar power is for latte sippers and champaigne drinkers and wind turbines are ugly, unlike our beautiful coal fire plants that actively pump carbon dioxide into the atmosphere creating acidic oceans?

    • michael pulleine

      i think the idea is that two parties give each other only what they need in exchange for what the other party needs, this means that work is still required for survival but in the end, only what is required is harvested, are you familiar with the book “The Long War” by Terry Pratchett? in the book, there exists a society of people that travel from universe to universe, backward and forward building “Disposable Cities” trading vital resources, anyway, after WWIII, the economy is already trashed, it would probably be better just to get rid of monetary systems altogether in the end anyway.

    • DocAwful

      Because hope and the belief that people can do better has no place in society or star trek or scifi in general.

  • Leonardo Faria

    In a world where we have warp drive I suppose we can well have URI. If we can admit of technobabble why not econobabble?
    Still, whilst we are often demanding as to scientific accuracy, even within the boundaries of the disbelief suspension typical of the science fiction conventions, we tend to be more cavalier with the social and economic aspects of SF worldbuilding.
    In today real world we have high frequency trading, stagflation, deflation, hedge funds, intellectual property, venture capitalism, the mess of the European single currency, quantitative easing by the central banks, the Nasdaq, the Northern Sea Brent pricing, you name it, all of which being the wet dream of chaos theory mandarins. But, hey, after WWIII there will be a caring bunch of eugenic “superior intellects” that will present us with the URI package, that is the life on dole perfectly working and cost effective.
    Come on. Chances are future worlds will be more complex than ours, not less.
    I’m not bashing the alternate history here featured, but a basic Star Trek concept.

    • DocAwful

      This is under the assumption that said systems are inherently self sustaining and essentially full proof against violent change in the societies they exist in. It’s assuming that no war, no matter how great, could possibly collapse them. In a state of flux in a post-war period, you would have to assume that either these systems are so self-perpetuating that nothing could disrupt them, or that if they were disrupted, naturally the technological advancements of the society would have to magically vanish in their entirety, both the working examples and the knowledge to create them.
      Assuming that the world can’t shift while moving forward is a very narrow sense of sight and thought. The same way that assuming it would be impossible to establish cheap universal communication because of the rock solid foundation that the rail systems and courier networks have.

  • This is so much better than the actual movie.

    On the plus side, I’m young enough that I’ll probably see another reboot before I die…