Wednesday, June 29, 2011

To All the Women that Went Before, and After: Star Trek "Space Seed" and The Eugenics Wars (Part 1)

Though I was not surprised with the outcome of Greg Cox's second installment of the Eugenics Wars, I was emotionally unequipped for the end of the novel. The Rise and Fall of Khan Noonien Singh vol 2, also known as Star Trek: The Eugenics Wars, foreshadows, very well in fact, all of the events of "Space Seed", and to a certain extent, The Wrath of Khan. Several arguments can be made in terms of both stories that reflect both the times of the novel and the episode when they were written and the times they were meant to portray. What I want to know, and hopefully will attempt to answer is: why the hell do we keep giving Khan "second chances", and why is it that the women of Cox's novels could have kicked Lieutenant McGiver's ass at any given time despite all of her Star Fleet training? The answer to those questions lay, as always, in the writing. We'll cover the women that came before now, and move on to Marla McGivers in "Space Seed" and To Reign in Hell in part two.

Khan: His Second and Third Chance

The character of Khan leaves very little to like. At the end of The Eugenics Wars second installment, Khan is a megalomanic bent on revenge. Unable even to attain the superior world he desperately sought, and in the face of sheer annihilation, Khan fires up his coup de grace, Morning Star, a satellite capable of wiping out Earth's slowly receding o-zone layer. However, thanks to Gary Seven's timely intervention, Khan takes a different route, choosing instead to take the cream of his genetic equals aboard the sleeper ship, DY-100 class, the SS Botany Bay (ah ah, don't say it yet). Khan's second chance at a different life on another planet is not exactly dashed, but definitely derailed once the ship was lost in space and drifted into "Federation Territory" two hundred years later. Of course, Khan does not take being rescued easily, nor does he humbly acknowledge the course set before him two hundred years previous. After trying to kill Kirk and take the Enterprise, he is eventually defeated, and instead of jettisoning him from the air lock, Kirk sticks him back on his original punishment, placing him under "house arrest", so to speak, on Ceti Alpha V. Khan goes along with it. He's off the hook (again) and Kirk gives him a woman to boot. We'll discuss Khan's fourth chance at a new life at a later date.

Why does Khan keep getting let off with a slap on the wrist? Why, after all the things he's been able to do, does he walk on every count? Khan escapes annihilation with his mother at the Chrysalis Project as a little boy. Gary Seven lets him walk again after his defeat in the Eugenics Wars, for which Khan was the primary instigator. Instead of sending him back to Earth with the traitorous McGivers and the rest of his crew, Kirk lets him off almost scott-free on a class M planet devoid of anything he might be able to use against anyone, including sharp objects. No jail time. No torture. Just him, his cronies, his girlfriend and a planet all to themselves.

It could be argued that no one is really willing to punish Khan because, ultimately, Khan is a product of something we have not yet been able to fully grasp, much less constitute a crime. Khan falls under Eddie Izzard's classification as a "Pol Pot". He killed so many of his own people that we actually had to reward him, "Well done, very well done. We've been trying to kill your people for years." Essentially we stick people like Napoleon, Pol Pot and Khan behind glass and watch them until they die, trying to figure out what makes them tick. Thanks to Greg Cox, we don't have to do that with Khan. Khan is cut and dry by "Space Seed". We may have been sorry for him when his mother died, and even when he started taking over the countries he conquered we might have hoped for the best. By "Space Seed" Khan is deplorable wreck of a despot whose desperation leads him to even more deplorable acts, like pitting the woman who loves him against her own captain and fellow crew members. Even as he is committing what could possibly termed acts of terrorism on the Enterprise, Kirk is still willing to let him go, provided he go far away, where no one could actually be affected by his influence. There is also the problem of containment. Short of plasma beams and lasers, no prison could have held him. Better to put him in a position where he can't hurt anyone than try and imprison or kill him.

The Women of Khan's Life

I suppose we should start with the woman who started it all: Dr.Sarina Kaur, head doctor and director of scientific research at the Chrysalis Project. In secret laboratories beneath the Great Thar Dessert in Northern India, Kaur first began her genetic experiments by splicing chromosomes in order to weed out genetic defects. She did not stop there, though. By combining these new gnomes with DNA constructed to be stronger, healthier and more intelligent human beings, she created the first race of super-humans. They were test tube babies to be sure, birthed by women within the project who volunteered their bodies for science. Kaur also participated. Khan Noonien Singh was the issue of Kaur's experiments. Unlike Sephiroth, whose only mother was Jenova and Shinra, Khan actually had a mother who could influence his early conscious development, as well as a slew of governesses and instructors filling his mind with "superior" ideology. In addition to the genetic experiments giving birth to a new race of improved man, Kaur had a lethal ace in the hole: a stockpile of warheads designed to spread a deadly strain of streptococcus fractiis--a flesh eating virus--to entire populations of the world. Fortunately, she also made the children of Chrysalis immune to the virus. The strength of Kaur's convictions and the height of her vengeance carried her to destruction, pregnant with Khan's genetic brother or sister. She was killed in a nuclear explosion.

Roberta Lincoln was another of the women in Khan's life who was neither weak nor inferior by any means. Roberta and Gary Seven were responsible for the nuclear explosion that killed Khan's mother. As Supervisor #368, it was Roberta's job to assist Gary Seven in the growth of human development that did not involve world war three, which would ultimately mean the deployment of nuclear bombs. No matter where Khan turned, Roberta was always there to stop him, especially as Gary Seven grew older, leaving most of the work of saving the world to his second in command. Khan's respect for Roberta lessened as she became more tiresome.

Ament, albeit an agent of Gary Seven's (the light-footed under cover cat, Isis) was another powerful woman with great influence over Khan. Once one of his most trusted advisers, Ament's conscience and her interpretation of events often led Khan down a more noble path...until that noble path no longer served his needs. For obvious reasons, Gary Seven never revealed Ament's real identity even though it cost him one of his best agents. Khan killed Isis in one of his many acts of vengeance. Her betrayal was unforgivable even if she was never allied with him to begin with.

In part two of this discussion, we'll review and compare the character of Marla McGivers to her twentieth century counterparts.

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