the Little Red Reviewer

In Star Trek, It all comes back to Khan.

Posted on: August 4, 2013

Two little Star Trek gems entered my life recently:


The comic book, circa 1986, is a quick and funny little story, about how Kirk and crew outsmart a group of aliens who invade the Enterprise. In command of the Excelsior, Kirk teaches Saavik a little something about humor and hunches, and we get to meet Lt. Naraht the Horta. Comics is the perfect medium for this kind of story, as it’s too light and fluffy  to survive being a filmed tv episode.  Not exactly canon, DC did this series of comics in the mid 80’s, to follow the crew of the Enterprise after Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.  But I coulda told you that just by looking at the cover art and flipping through the comic book.

One of the many things I enjoy about the lifespan of Star Trek is what I like to call art-direction-dating. Similar to  carbon dating, the use of Star Trek art-direction-dating allows a fan to date an image, screen shot, film credits intro and uniform by the style of title font, and by Kirk’s hairstyle.

But mostly by Kirk’s hairstyle.

See how his hairstyle goes from late 60’s blonde-ish straight-ish hair with a side part, to 80’s more brown than blonde and curly on top, and then to a 90’s whatever moptop/toupee thing.

See what I mean? can totally date everything by the hair.

See what I mean? can totally date everything by the hair.

Piece of pie to date the comic to mid 80s.

moving on . . . to the second Star Trek goodie.


Some Trekkie* I am, I didn’t know until I was doing research for this blog post that James Blish adapted nearly every TOS episode into a short story. Working from drafted scripts that often differed from the final filmed episodes, volumes of the short stories were published between 1968 and 1975 (exactly which were written by Blish, and which were ghostwritten by his wife is another story), with each “episode” ending up as a 10-18 page short story. Perfect for quick consumption!

A few months before Abrams’ Into Darkness comes out, I found a copy of Star Trek 2 (not to be confused with the movie, Star Trek II), by James Blish. Double win: it’s got a bunch of sweet adaptations from the first season of the show, AND the famous adaptation of Space Seed, in which we first meet Khan Noonien Signh.  Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is one of my all-time favorite movies, but who knows if I ever saw the famous episode as a child, watching out of order Star Trek reruns in syndication?

Even though Space Seed is the last entry in this Blish Volume, it’s what I’m going to talk about first, since we all really do love a villain, and Khan is pretty much the ultimate villain.

Khan_Noonien_Singh,_2267Space Seed  begins with the Enterprise getting an SOS in Morse Code from a derelict ship, the Botany Bay. An away mission beams to the derelict, to find life support units onboard, and ship historian McGivers identifies it as a sleeper ship. They take the still unconscious leader  back to sickbay, Kirk begins to research this ship from the 1990s. And finds nothing.  Kirk and McCoy question the man who’s been asleep for over 200 years, and he quickly outsmarts them, but finally does give up at least his name, as Sibahl Khan Noonien (I typed it exactly as seen in the book. Changed before filming?).  Over dinner, the command staff gently grills Khan about where he came from and how he came to be on a sleeper ship that has veered wildly off course, and Spock uses sarcasm and expectations of logic to his advantage, successfully confusing and irritating Khan. We learn that Khan is a relic of Eugenics Wars of the 1990s, that he was a warlord who escaped in exile, taking his most trusted men and women with him. Khan earns Kirk’s trust, and then betrays it by attempting to take over the Enterprise. It’s against everything Kirk believes in to take a life, but what can be done with Khan? He can’t be put back to sleep, he can’t be re-educated, he can’t be killed. Nothing to do, but put him back in exile, albeit a different exile than the sleeper ship. Milton is referenced, and the rest is franchise history.

Also included in Star Trek 2:

Arena – While chasing an enemy ship, the Enterprise finds itself surrounded by an advanced alien species, the Metrons, who transport Kirk and the enemy leader to a planetoid to fight to the death, using only what they can find on the planetoid. The winner will be allowed to escape, and the loser will be destroyed along with their crew. As Kirk and the Gorn stalk each other,  Kirk uses the few resources at hand to outsmart and outfight the larger, faster, and stronger Gorn.  Kirk does win (or the series would be over, right?), and convinces the Metron to be more merciful. Kirk is transported back to the Enterprise, where has a hard time explaining exactly what just happened.

 Look around, can you form some sort of rudimentary lathe?

Look around, can you form some sort of rudimentary lathe?

A Taste for Armageddon – The Enterprise is escorting Ambassador Fox to conduct peace talks on Eminiar VII. The people of Eminiar have been at war with a neighboring planet, Vendikar, for hundreds of years. But no signs of war are present, cities aren’t bombed, there is no war industry, the planet appears to be perfectly at peace. When it’s discovered how this war is actually waged, Kirk and his crew are disgusted, and decide to give the Eminarians a taste of their own medicine, a taste of armageddon.

Tomorrow is Yesterday – The Enterprise comes too close to a Black Star (a black hole?) and is thrown through time, ending up orbiting Earth during 1970. The military assumes the Enterprise is a UFO, and fighter pilot  Captain John Christopher begins shooting at her.  He’s beamed aboard in an attempt to save his life. To put the man at his ease, Kirk shows him around the ship, and tells the truth, that they are visitors from the future, in need of a way home.  But how to get Captain Christopher to keep their secret? They’ve no choice but to swear him to secrecy and send him back to Earth, as Christopher’s yet unborn child will be responsible for the space program that evolves into Starfleet’s past.  Now, how to get The Enterprise back to her time? The same way it was done at the end of Star Trek IV, of course!

Errand of Mercy – The Federation and the Klingon empire are fighting over the planet Organia. The planet has no useful resources or precious metals, but its prime location makes it a perfect base, for whoever can hold it. Kirk and Spock find themselves in the center of a Klingon invasion, and while Kirk is able to blend in with the human looking population, Spock poses as a Vulcan trader. The population of Organia doesn’t resist the Klingons in any way, and in fact doesn’t seem to be the bit bothered by an invasion force that demands complete submission. We get some interesting insights into the Klingon mindset, and some descriptions of that race which I think were retconned later to be more politically correct. The story features some excellent banter between Kirk and Spock, and ends with a nice surprise.

Court Martial – the only story I didn’t much care for, Kirk is court martialed for the death of  Officer Finney, who was killed onboard the Enterprise during an ion storm. A heavily character centered detective piece, this one felt like filler, after all the “exploring new worlds and new civilizations” that I’ve come to enjoy and expect.

Operation Annihilate – a plague of insanity is spreading through the galaxy, and The Enterprise finds themselves orbiting Deneva, a planet recently taken over by the plague. It’s discovered that the insanity is caused by a tentacle shaped parasite that attaches itself to the humanoids. Spock is infected, but through his powerful logic he is mostly able to defend himself against the parasite. Through trial and error and nearly putting Spock’s life at risk, they learn how the parasite works and how to destroy it.

The City on the Edge of Forever –  This script was originally written by Harlan Ellison, and then changed for the filming, and Blish states that he tried to find balance between the two scripts. This episode would later win a Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation. After an accidental medication overdose induces intense paranoia, McCoy beams himself to the planet below.  Kirk mounts a rescue mission, and along with the command crew, they beam down to a cold planet covered in ruins. Spoken to by a voice who identifies itself as The Guardian of Forever, they are shown a time portal. If they can go through time and find McCoy, they can save his life.  Kirk and Spock go through the portal, and find themselves in New York City during the great depression.  McCoy, being a doctor, is set to save a specific person’s life. But if she lives, history will be changed forever, having a detrimental effect on the future of the United States.

The Time Portal

The Time Portal

Like my experience with original Doctor Who episode novelizations, I find I like these short story novelizations better than the filmed episodes. Sure, the episodes are longer and have much more characterization, but with these stories my imagination can take over – I’m not limited to the cheap special effects that were available in the 1960s.

* I never considered myself a Trekkie until JJ Abrams started making his new movies. My trekkieness is more for nostalgia rather than shiny.  Abrams owes a LOT to Carey Wilber and Gene Coon, the guys who wrote the original script for Space Seed. Without that script. . . Wrath of Khan wouldn’t have existed, Into Darkness would have had a completely different story line.

15 Responses to "In Star Trek, It all comes back to Khan."

Actually, I confess that I love the original (60s) star trek series – I blame my dad of course! And, I think the cheap special effects are part of the charm. I love the pictures of Kirk – OMG his hair in the third picture – he looks like an Ewok.
Lynn 😀


hahaha!! looks like an Ewok! lol, I’m laughing my head off!


You seriously are a trekkie That is awesome the carbon dating by hair! Dude he may have been cute 70s but the progression of time and hair trends did not do our friend Shatner any favors.

Drug over doses plus time portals rule.


super hot in the 60s, looks like a waddling penguin now. time isn’t kind, that is for sure. I’m waiting for the Priceline people to have a sense of humor, and in that one commercial where Shatner and the girl are changing costumes really fast, one of them needs to have a Starfleet uniform.


Oooh neat! I’ve never read any of the books, and almost all of the Star Trek I’ve seen has been TNG, which I adore. (I may also have a huge crush on Geordie.) I’m curious about the new movies, just haven’t gotten around to watching them yet.


I’m hoping the used bookstore I found this one at has more of them! Did you ever watch Reading Rainbow with Levar Burton? It was the late 80s, Burton was beyond adorable, and now he’s just quite handsome.


That show was pretty much my childhood. I was obsessed. 🙂


The Blish novelizations sustained many of us for years in the days before VHS and DVDs. 🙂


they’re pretty cool, it’s too bad these Blish books aren’t more widely available. Were there just not that many printed? or have they simply fallen apart over the years?


My favorite Star Trek series was TNG. The comic books, though, sound pretty good. I would read those over trying to watch any of the original Star Trek episodes again. Seems like I always saw the same ones. What were those fur thingies called?


lol, tribbles! This comic is only like 16 pages long. I’ll lend it to you, along with the short stories, if you want. The Blish volume is barely 150 pages long, I read the whole thing in a few hours.


and someone just facebooked me with if Star Trek TOS (animated) was voiced by the characters from Archer!


This makes me randomly imagine that your feed is full of amazing things, when in fact is is probably full of cats, politics, someone else’s children, and maybe food.


99% of the time i really, really hate facebook.


Haha, fascinating trivia about Kirk’s hair!

I really should watch more of TOS some time – only saw a few eps once on a rented DVD…


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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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