How STRANGE NEW WORLDS Just Rewrote Important STAR TREK History

Spoiler Alert

In the history of Star Trek, one villain still always rises to the top as the galaxy’s GOAT: Khan Noonien Singh. Ricardo Montalban first portrayed the genetically enhanced tyrant in the 1967 Original Series episode “Space Seed.” He then returned with a vengeance in the seminal 1982 classic Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. One of the main characters in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is Khan’s descendant, La’an Noonien Singh (Christina Chong). It was only a matter of time before Khan himself appeared in the series. However, Strange New Worlds brought in Khan in a different way. And it might have officially changed Star Trek canon as we know it.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds’ Khan Is Just a Little Kid

La'an Noonien Singh (Christina Chong) and Jim Kirk (Paul Wesley) arrive in 2024 in the Strange New Worlds episode Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow.

The second season episode “Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow” has La’an and an alternate timeline version of James T. Kirk (Paul Wesley) travel to the 21st century, specifically 2024 Toronto. Eventually, the pair learn that an undercover Romulan time traveler (Adelaide Kane) has been in the past for decades, all in an effort to change human history, by slowing down scientific progress. Her plan was to destroy a cold fusion reactor, which would destroy the city of Toronto. This Romulan first strike would have officially started the human/Romulan war well over a century early, erasing the existence of the Federation in the 23rd century. Much like the Borg in First Contact, the Federation’s enemies tried to erase the Federation’s existence by meddling with humanity’s past.

La'an and Kirk (Christina Chong and Paul Wesley) in the Strange New Worlds episode Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow.

When Kirk and La’an put a dent into that plan, the Romulan agent goes to Plan B. She goes to the Noonien Singh Institute for Cultural Advancement. There, she plans to kill a young Khan (Desmond Sivan) who is around 10 years old. Her temporal computations predict that Khan would grow up and usher in a “dark age” on Earth, which allows the utopian world we know in Star Trek to emerge. So if Khan dies, Earth might never climb out of the darkness he causes. La’an kills the Romulan agent, saving young Khan, her own ancestor, and thus restoring her timeline. So how does this all change Star Trek canon? For the answer to that, we have to go back to 1967.

Star Trek’s 1960s History of the 1990s

Ricardo Montalban as Khan.
Paramount Pictures

In the canon of Trek, the history of the 20th century played out differently than in the real world. In the episode “Space Seed,” Star Trek revealed that great progress in genetic engineering in the late 20th century occurred. Eventually, a group of genetically engineered people, led by Khan, took over the governments of the world in 1992. By the year 1993, Khan and the augments had control of 40 nations. That’s a large chunk of the known world. They were eventually toppled, and Khan and several of his augments were exiled into space in suspended animation in the year 1996 on a sub-warp speed sleeper ship.

The opening title card for 1967's episode of Star Trek Space Seed.
Paramount Television

Captain Kirk then awakened Khan in the 23rd century, and he tried to take over the starship Enterprise. Spock described the crew of Khan’s ship, the S.S. Botany Bay, as relics of “…the mid-1990s. The era of Earth’s last so-called World War.” Dr. McCoy also gave the Third World War another name—the Eugenics Wars. Kirk finds a way to defeat Khan, and exiles him and his crew to the planet Ceti Alpha V. Some 15 years later, Khan escapes his planetary prison and attempts his revenge on Kirk. These events are familiar to anyone who has seen The Wrath of Khan. Spoiler alert, Khan fails, although Spock does briefly die.

Star Trek and Its Contradicting 20th and 21st Centuries

Kirk and Spock in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home's 20th century San Francisco, and Star Trek: Voyager's visit to 1990s Los Angeles in Future's End.
Paramount Television

Star Trek canon has tried to ignore the events of Khan’s timeline, which has a given date for the events of his early life, ever since the 1990s came and went. In later chapters of Trek where various crews travel to the late 20th century Earth, there’s no mention of a dictator like Khan. Mind you, it’s never implied that Khan ruled over America. All these stories— Star Trek IV, the Voyager episode “Future’s End”— only visited the United States. One might infer that Khan was just being an evil tyrant off-screen on some other continent.

The Project Khan report from Star Trek: Picard season two.

However, in Star Trek: First Contact, they imply heavily that World War III took place in the 2050s, not the 1990s. But the Picard season two finale, which took place in the year 2024, showed one of Data’s ancestors pulling out a file with the name “Project Khan, June 7, 1996” on it, suggesting Khan’s life took place in the ‘90s. So what gives? Maybe when it to modern Trek, the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. But Strange New Worlds might have produced a retcon that explains away these inconsistencies with one big gesture.

The Time Travel Solution

It seems now that Star Trek canon is pivoting towards merging the Eugenics Wars and World War III as one event as originally suggested. With that event firmly in the 2050s, it makes sense that Khan would still be a child in 2024—although the writers of Strange New Worlds could have hand-waved the whole thing away. But the Romulan time traveler messing with Earth’s history mentions, “This was all supposed to happen in 1992!” She says they have fought entire temporal wars, changing the past. However, certain elements, presumably like the Eugenics Wars and Khan, keep reinserting themselves into the timeline.

This exposition dump in the episode may seem like just a big Star Trek in-joke at first, but it could actually explain every Khan-related continuity inconsistency away. Some time traveler’s meddling in the past changed things so that the emergence of Khan and his fellow genetic augments now occurs later than originally intended. So, maybe everything we knew about Khan we learned in “Space Seed” was true, at least at the time. At least until some Romulan meddling changed things into the way we know them now. Now, if only Strange New Worlds can explain why the swanky lounge on the Enterprise went away by the original series time.

Top Stories
More by Eric Diaz
Trending Topics