Khan Noonien Singh

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Khan Noonien Singh is a fictional villain in the Star Trek universe. He first appeared in the original Star Trek series episode "Space Seed", and then in the film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. In both cases he was played by Ricardo Montalban. He is generally referred to simply as Khan.

Khan was one of the Augments, a group of genetically engineered "supermen", born in the late 1960s or early 1970s as the result of an ambitious project to improve the human race. Scientists used a selective breeding program to achieve their aims, and in many ways they succeeded; the "supermen" were mentally and physically superior to ordinary men and women. They were roughly five times stronger than the average person, their lung efficiency was 50 percent greater than normal, and they had an increased capacity for absorbing new information. What the scientists failed to anticipate was that creating a superior race meant creating a superior ambition; the "supermen" felt that their advanced abilities gave them the right to rule the rest of humanity.

In 1992 a group of "supermen" seized power simultaneously in more than 40 nations. Khan was considered the most dangerous of the ambitious cadre. At his most powerful, he ruled all of Asia and half of the Middle East — more than a quarter of the entire planet — but even this was not enough for him. He envisaged ruling the entire world, but so did the other genetically engineered leaders, and they ended up fighting among themselves.

This led to the Eugenics Wars, during which whole populations were bombed out of existence and the entire planet was threatened with a new dark age. Fortunately, by 1996 the tyrants were brought under control by a rebellious population. Most of the "supermen" died or were sentenced to death, but 84 of them, including Khan, escaped aboard the sleeper ship S.S. Botany Bay. On board the ship, the crew were cryogenically frozen to allow them to remain in suspended animation. Khan was considered so dangerous that even four centuries later, genetic engineering was banned throughout the United Federation of Planets for fear of creating another tyrant like Khan.

Khan's ship was not discovered for almost 300 years, when it was found by the starship U.S.S. Enterprise. An away team led by Captain Kirk found Khan and several dozen others in cryogenic freeze chambers. The ship's historian, Lieutenant Marla McGivers, seemed particularly fascinated by Khan. Khan nearly died during the reanimation sequence when his chamber malfunctioned. Khan was beamed straight to sickbay, where he amazed Dr. Leonard McCoy with his recuperative powers. Upon awakening, Khan grabbed McCoy and put a knife to his throat. Khan did not divulge anything about himself beyond his name, claiming fatigue. Meanwhile, he began plotting how to take over the Enterprise. Kirk readily granted Khan's request to study the ship's technical manuals, which gave him knowledge of how to take over and operate the Enterprise. Later, he used Lt. McGivers' attraction to him, getting her to help him beam back to the Botany Bay and revive the other supermen.

With the help of Marla and his revived crew, Khan took control of engineering and used what he had gleaned from the technical manuals to shut off life support to the bridge. Kirk found that Khan had anticipated every contingency for retaking control of the ship, and the bridge crew faced imminent suffocation. After passing out, they found themselves alive, but Khan's captives. Khan declared that humans have advanced technologically, but there was so little improvement in human evolution in the last 300 years. He still considered himself superior, that it gave him the right to rule other men -- only this time his target was not merely Earth, but the Galaxy.

But Khan still needed help in selecting a planet with a population that would be willing to be led by him. He decided that the best way to convince the Enterprise crew to cooperate would be to put Kirk in the ship's compression chamber and slowly reduce the pressure, forcing the crew to watch until they agreed to join Khan. Fortunately, Marla could not stand by and let her captain be killed, and she rescued him. Spock had just been escorted, and with his help, Kirk flooded the ship with neural gas. It neutralized Khan's men, but Khan escaped to engineering. Kirk then engaged Khan in a hand-to-hand fight, losing badly until he used a metal tool to knock Khan out.

Captain Kirk faced a dilemma. He felt it would be a waste to confine Khan and his followers to a rehabilitation colony, but they could not be allowed to go free. He therefore dropped all charges and specifications against them, including against Lt. McGivers. Instead, he chose to deposit them on Ceti Alpha V, a rough but habitable planet where they could start a new life.

Kirk had offered Khan a world to conquer, knowing that this would be a challenge great enough to keep him busy for the rest of his life. Spock, however, wondered at the "seed" Kirk had planted in their Galaxy, and what it would be like in 100 years time. In fact, it turned out to be far sooner than that before Khan once again crossed Kirk's path.

For approximately six months, life on Ceti Alpha V was harsh but fruitful for Khan and his people, as they worked to tame the wild planet. But then Ceti Alpha VI, the system's sixth planet, exploded. This shifted Ceti Alpha V's orbit to one similar to the now-missing sixth planet. The stresses of the gravimetric shockwave resulted in major climactic changes and earthquakes.

Once the planet had stabilized, huge amounts of dust in the atmosphere caused surface heating, turning the planet into a desert wilderness. High-velocity winds made the air choking and barely breathable, leaving only a limited atmosphere dominated by craylon gas. Some of the colonists managed to survive, but the greatest hazard to their existence proved to be not the unrelenting hostility of the environment but the one other surviving species: the Ceti eel. Over the following 17 years, 20 of Khan's people, including his wife, Marla McGivers, were killed by these creatures.

In 2285, almost two decades after Khan and his people had arrived on Ceti Alpha V, the crew of the U.S.S. Reliant conducted a close-range sensor scan of the planet as part of the top-secret Project Genesis, and they mistakenly believed it to be Ceti Alpha VI. Khan, angry and vengeful that Kirk never checked up on their settlement, abducted the Reliant's captain Clark Terrell and her first officer Pavel Chekov when they went down to the surface, and he then implanted Ceti eels into Chekov and Terrell's ears, rendering them helpless to his suggestions. Khan then took control of the Reliant, hell-bent on revenge. His second-in-command Joachim argued that there was no need to take on Kirk as they had a ship and could go where they pleased, but Khan was obsessed with proving his superiority.

Once Khan had learned about the Genesis device, he had Chekov contact its creators to instruct them to hand over the device on Kirk's orders. Khan knew that they would contact Kirk to try and prevent this and that this would bring his enemy to him to find out what was going on.

When the Enterprise reached Regula I, Khan was able to launch a surprise attack, as Kirk disregarded regulations ordering a defensive posture when the Reliant refused to respond to hails. The Enterprise was crippled, and Khan contacted them so that Kirk would know who his adversary was before he destroyed them. Fortunately, Kirk was able to buy time by promising to beam himself over to Khan's ship with all the information regarding Project Genesis. This gave Kirk the chance to tap into the Reliant's command prefix code and lower its shields before he gave the order to fire on the ship.

With both ships badly damaged, they were forced to withdraw to carry out repairs. By the time partial power had been restored on the Enterprise, Khan had managed to get his hands on the Genesis Device. While Kirk and Spock tricked Khan into thinking that the Enterprise still required days of work of repair and was helpless, Khan's ship was still in far better condition than Kirk's. In order to even the odds, Mr. Spock recommended that they enter the nearby Mutara Nebula where static discharges would interfere with both ships' shields and sensors.

On board the Reliant, Joachim was reluctant to follow the Enterprise into the nebula as he knew it would negate their advantage. However Kirk contacted them and taunted Khan. The genetically enhanced madman, frustrated at Kirk's ability to thwart his best efforts to defeat him, could not resist the opportunity to prove his superiority and ordered his ship to follow the Enterprise.

Both ships scored direct hits on one another as they blindly maneuvered around each other, until Spock noted that Khan's tactics indicated only two-dimensional thinking, as for all his intelligence the great dictator lacked any real experience in space combat. Kirk ordered the Enterprise to move downward before coming up behind the Reliant and firing multiple torpedoes. The Reliant was completely disabled and all the crew were killed, except Khan, who refused to accept defeat. He was determined to take Kirk with him, and in a last desperate effort he activated the Genesis device.

Eloquent and powerful to the very end, Khan revelled in the idea that the Genesis Project would ultimately kill Kirk. He died believing he had achieved his final victory. However, Spock sacrificed his life to repair the Enterprises engines, and Kirk and the rest of his crew were able to escape the detonation of the Genesis device.

Khan Noonien Singh is not to be confused with Noonien Soong, the scientist who created the android Data in Star Trek: The Next Generation. The characters' names have the same origin (they were both named by Gene Roddenberry), and a recent episode of Star Trek: Enterprise has hinted at some link between the characters beyond a coincidental name similarity.

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