Why That Rumored ‘Khan’ Prequel Series Could Be A Very Bad Idea

If I told you there was a new Star Trek series in development, and that it wasn’t the incoming Star Trek: Discovery, what would your reaction be?

You wouldn’t be blamed if you were hesitant, especially if you already have reservations about what Discovery is going to be like. It’s true that Discovery has a lot to prove. It may be shiny and sleek, but we have yet to see if its spirit and soul follows the Star Trek we know and love. Such is the challenge for any Star Trek incarnation after The Original Series.

If a new rumor is to be believed, there is indeed another Star Trek series in development. Apparently, Nicholas Meyer (of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan directorial fame) is developing a miniseries of sorts, focused around that movie’s titular villain.

With all due respect, Mr. Meyer, this is a bad idea. Well, mostly.

Meyer with Montalbán on the set of "Wrath of Khan"
Meyer with Montalbán on the set of “Wrath of Khan”

I love Star Trek as much as the next guy, and I am eager to see how Discovery pans out. From all indications, it looks like a faithful entry in the ever-growing Star Trek universe. But to be fair, Discovery is walking on thin ice, and it’s way too early to start thinking of another Star Trek on TV just yet.

When asked about it by Inverse via email, Meyer merely said, “I Khannot possibly comment.”

Cheeky joke aside, there are some notable and potentially disastrous roadblocks in the way of such a Khan-centric series. But it’s also important to recognize the pros that could come of it. Let’s dive in.

The Wrath of Khan is famous for its villain. We first see Khan in the TOS episode “Space Seed,” and immediately it’s clear the character introduced then was a worthy, intimating adversary for Kirk. Then, in 1982, Khan comes back in a big way, and his lust for revenge was the main driving force of the hugely successful movie. One of the tensest scenes was when Khan monologued about the horrors he and his crew witnessed while trying to survive on Ceti Alpha V. At the time, the audience was left to merely imagine Khan and company’s trials on the desert planet. The rumored series could potentially lend much more weight to this scene.

Ricardo Montalbán as Khan Noonien Singh in Star Trek II
Ricardo Montalbán as Khan Noonien Singh in Star Trek II (Paramount Pictures)

Imagine watching the pain and sorrow that would come from Khan losing his “beloved wife” on Ceti Alpha V to the Ceti eels. While Ricardo Montalban sells the moment’s anger in the movie, the audience would have a more intense and heartfelt reaction if they knew his wife (who is widely accepted but never explicitly confirmed to be Marla McGivers from “Space Speed”) and her backstory. This emotional connection could extend to not only Khan’s wife but the rest of the crew, whom Khan loves as his children. Seeing Khan’s loss would provide better context for the manic and ultimately misguided attempt to strike back at Kirk.
This brings us to another way the series could make Star Trek II better. Except for Joachim (Judson Scott), none of Khan’s crew are noteworthy. Could you name three of them? Mostly, they serve to fill out the Reliant’s bridge as Khan and Kirk conduct their Herman Melville-esque affairs. A new series could give these people backstories, and make them characters the audience care about.

That kind of character development is something we’ve seen before in prequel TV shows, such as Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith is arguably a better movie after you watch The Clone Wars because you know the secondary and tertiary characters much better, and their actions and deaths are more meaningful. Of course, The Clone Wars has the advantage of being an animated show, capable of hiding the original actors behind convincing voice stand-ins. Which brings us to the most notable Khan. (I’m sorry).

Benedict Cumberbatch as Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness
Benedict Cumberbatch as Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness (Paramount Pictures)

Why is Khan such a great character? The same reason why any Star Trek character is memorable: the actor who plays him or her. Ricardo Montalban brought a fiery dementor and imposing presence to the character, something Benedict Cumberbatch tried to bring in Into Darkness, with varying levels of success. While it’s certainly not impossible for a talented actor to breathe new life to Khan, is a new life what we want from one of Star Trek’s most memorable villains? What’s more, a Khan show would have to recast his entire crew, completing throwing off continuity. While we saw a wholly new set of faces for established characters in the most recent movies, J.J. Abrams, and his team were smart enough to attempt an explanation for this – in that case, an alternate timeline. And even this presents its own dilemma: yes, J.J. Abrams did it with his films but keep in mind that Chris Pine and his costars seem to have almost exhausted their time on the bridge of the Enterprise, considering Star Trek Beyond’s somewhat lackluster box office performance. (While a fourth Star Trek movie has not been dismissed, Paramount seems to be taking their sweet time with it, and the actors haven’t even received confirmation of a fourth movie). Which brings me to my last point.

The sheer amount of Star Trek on TV in the 1990s is mainly the reason for the franchise’s hiatus after Enterprise. From 1987 to 2005, there was always at least one Star Trek show on the air, and there was always a new movie in the works. Eventually, the quality of Star Trek’s productions decreased, and the franchise was put on ice after Enterprise was canceled. While I believe the time is right for Star Trek to return to television, especially on the streaming service format, let’s try to learn from history. People eventually got tired of Star Trek. Now, Star Trek’s future in theaters is threatened, and as noted before, Discovery’s success isn’t guaranteed. It would be wise to make fans want more Star Trek first before offering more. Let Discovery play for a couple years and establish itself as a great TV show. Then, when fans ask for it, give them Khan, if that’s the show Meyer wants to make. If there comes a time when Star Trek is oversaturated once again, that will likely be the end of Star Trek for a long, long time. Let’s not get to that point.

Montalbán as Khan in the Original Series episode "Space Seed"
Montalbán as Khan in the Original Series episode “Space Seed” (CBS)

Now, keep in mind, this rumored Khan series is just that, a rumor. It could very well just be an idea Meyer is playing with, and not something in pre-production. If that’s the case, that’s fine. The best thing to do now is let Discovery have its moment. Let Sonequa Martin-Green, Jason Isaacs, Michelle Yeoh and the rest of them have the spotlight. Let the Discovery become a ship worthy of a place among the Enterprises. Finally, if the temperature is right, bringing back Khan might not be the worst thing in the world – as long as it’s done with care, respect, and appreciation for what Ricardo Montalban gave to Star Trek: a character worthy of the ages.

Do you agree that the time isn’t right for a Khan series? Do you think everything I said is wrong and I should have Ceti eels crammed into my ear? Who do you think could play a Khan worthy to succeed Montalban? Let us know in the comments!

Kyle Hadyniak has been a lifelong Star Trek fan. A graduate student at the University of Maine, Kyle spends his time either doing school work, playing music, reading history, or immersing himself in a good video game.

You can follow Kyle on Twitter @khady93.

17 Comments Join the Conversation →


  • Marc Henson

    While it wouldn’t be my first choice for a spinoff, I am gonna have to say I’m fine with it…it’s only rumored to be a mini series anyway so what would it hurt in the long run?

    Recasting? Nah…that’s not too big of a deal. Honestly this doesn’t seem like a bad idea at all to me. I think what hurt Trek back in the good old days was that most Trek shows were basically the same…set on a ship or space station. I loved that but there needs to be a variety of shows.

    I would rather have had a more urban show, set on an off world colony, but this is close to that idea. Nope, I’m not opposed to a Khan tv show…at all. I don’t think you can ever over saturate.

  • bonesmccoy

    Go to it Nick Meyers!
    I’d love to see a show set between TOS and TWOK. GO TO IT1

  • Thanks for this article. I hope it’s just a bad rumor. Because it could become even worse after Discovery.

    The very last thing that Star Trek needs is yet another Khan.

    The producers and writers of Trek series and films of the last 15 years, including those that were only pitched or proposed, have a total fixation on prequels and reboots which, in their words, are the best way to invigorate the spirit of Star Trek. But in reality, revisiting existing eras and characters only reduces the infinite possibilities of Star Trek to a simple formula, it makes the Star Trek Universe look like a village, it is in contradiction to the motto “where no one has gone before”. And ultimately those people who are keen on doing prequels and reboots only try to better their childhood experiences, which in my view is a quite immature urge that I personally lost well before I was 20. Some TV and movie moments are just classics and should remain untouched. Star Trek needs to move on. And not fill the gaps.

    Above all, the fixation on Khan as the SAVIOUR OF STAR TREK and my impression that every time it comes up everyone seems to jump on the bandwagon is absurd. Every time Star Trek is in trouble, people almost religiously call for Khan to appear and lead the franchise into a bright future. We know how utterly it failed in STID (where Khan was brought in only a for reference that breaks the fourth wall), and it would fail yet again in a Khan series. I can forgive Nick Meyer of all people that he makes such an idiotic proposal (if it is true), but everyone else who seriously considers a Khan series is a crackpot.

    • General Trelane’s dad

      Bernd – I can’t agree more. Star Trek is essentially about two things: pushing the boundaries of science fiction (particularly the state of the human race in the future) and exploring moral values. Unfortunately, there seems to be a current trend of rehashing (badly) everything that was once popular when I was a child. Is this laziness and a lack of creative talent, or more cynically, is it a way of trying to guarantee an audience and income? It seems that larger studios and corporations are unwilling to take risks despite giants like Trek and Star Wars all those years ago arising from, in investment terms, a gamble.

      Additionally (although perhaps this thought is better suited to a different thread), I’ll reserve judgement on ST Discovery once I’ve seen it, but I must admit to being disappointed from the clips that we may not be ‘bedazzled’ with thought provoking new alien civilizations and spaceship designs. As it’s being shown in the UK on Netflix, I might have to console myself with The Expanse season 2 (when it finally appears)!

      • Marc Henson

        I fail to see how a mini-series about Khan (the star of the show) stranded on Ceti-Alpha-V is a “rehashing” of other shows.

        This is completely different then any show or film in the Trek franchise. If you ask me – It’s about time. We need more a variety in Star Trek (or should I say, the Star Trek universe).

        And no, Star Trek should be about far more than just two things. That is seriously limiting the franchise. Sure we want to see that stuff, but there’s so much more to bring to the table.

        A series about Klingons perhaps? Or the Temporal Agency? Assignment Earth? Anything…some of these series would make good shows, and they really wouldn’t have to have Star Trek in the title at all, and why should it, if it’s only set in the Star Trek universe. It’s a shared reality…why not share it with something that’s a little different. Torchwood for example is in the Doctor Who universe.

        Clearly those too are two very different shows. Star Trek needs to have more spin-offs like that. Take the universe in a direction we haven’t seen before. Besides…it’s only a freaking mini-series for Surak’s sake!!

        • General Trelane’s dad

          Thanks for your thoughts Marc. Perhaps I just want something different from my interpretation of Trek – what do you think makes Trek what it is and unique from other sci-fi shows? From a selfish point of view, I guess I’m not looking for soap opera (DS9 is my least favourite series) or Fast and the Furious in spaceships (although of course there should be some good old-fashioned action sequences – who can resist an original series bar brawl?). I like my science-fiction to be challenging with new and original ideas that make you think ‘wow’. I don’t see anything wrong in a series that starts afresh in each or every few episodes, like the earlier incarnations. You can still build in character development, just as TNG did very well when it used to focus on individual characters. I don’t want Trek to be a ‘franchise’, I want it to be groundbreaking.

          I have to disagree that a Khan series wouldn’t be a rehash. We’ve already met Khan; let’s discover new characters. (The NuTrek depiction of one of my favourite characters was terrible!). I’m also wary of spin offs – it’s much better to be left wanting more. Historically, so many series start well and then the quality tails off because studios try to supply what they view as the demand. The consumer is greedy and wants more but when the perceived quality declines, the viewer turns off and the TV/Film studio pull their resources in case there is a risk to revenues. We’ve seen this before over a decade ago, when it is well noted that too much Trek, killed off Trek!

          However, these are my opinions and I realise that it is an impossible job to cater for everybody’s preferences. As I said with Discovery, the proof is in the pudding and I’m open-minded enough to be persuaded otherwise.

          • Marc Henson

            I really didn’t consider the politics involved with the show. (yeah, I meant to say that) but sure, I have to admit I was concerned about the whole CBS All Access thing at first, although that is beginning to diminish. Yeah, such a thing may occur, it could be too much Trek, but I seriously doubt it will end up being another twelve year wait. There was a lot of problems from what I’ve understood that kept a new Trek series from being developed back when Enterprise was canceled…from what I understood at least.

            Believe it or not I agree with what you say makes Trek great. I just think that there can be more shows than just Discovery, that could deviate from the traditional Trek formula. I think Doctor Who is great, but Torchwood is great too! Just think, if they actually did make a spin-off of Assignment Earth (as they originally intended) than it wouldn’t have been Trek…it would be a part of that universe, but not Trek. Yeah, I think it should be ground breaking as well, but I don’t see why we can’t have plenty to do on that ball field. It’s a big universe!! I really wish they could get John De Lancie back to do a trilogy of Q movies…I picture a hilarious sci-fi comedy like the stuff they had back in the eighties. I called them “Nerd comedies,” stuff like Back to the Future, Bill and Ted and stuff like that.

            But anyway, that’s just spin-offs, sure in the realm of real Trek, not just a spin-off set in that universe, I would want to see something along the lines of what you’re saying.

            Also, I really enjoyed Khan in Into Darkness. It seems that most people had a problem with the fact that we had a white British man playing an Indian. But the thing is, Khan was originally an Indian played by a white Mexican. So other than the accent, which Star Trek has altered on numerous occasions for certain characters, such as T’Pau for example, I saw nothing wrong with the character. In fact he made it a far more physical role.

            The thing about the Original Series was that it was always the more action oriented of the TV shows, Kirk was always getting his shirt ripped, people were getting vaporised by Phasers, and ships we blowing up on most episodes. Kirk was the cowboy and soldier while Picard was a diplomat. Things changed with TNG and the action declined. (actually Roddenberry tried to change it as far back as The Motion Picture but the sequel wasn’t having any of that!)

            I have no problem with the new films being more action oriented as they are based upon the original series, the thing is, they were great for the sixties, but some of those stunts looked really silly by today’s standards. Arena’s Gorn fight…I loved that episode, don’t take this the wrong way…but it was really fake!

            The stunts that Cumberbatch did were far more impressive and seemed more superhuman then anything Montleban did. The thing is, he’s supposed to be superhuman so I see it for what it is. Now obviously Montleban’s lines and dialogue beat out most of what Cumberbatch did, but as far as the physical part of the role, Cumberbatch nailed it.

            I see what you mean about TNG. It definitely developed characters without turning into the soap opera that DS9 was…but in my opinion, it didn’t do it as well. I always thought that main characters like La Forge and Beverly Crusher were less developed then Nog and Rom, who were only guest stars on Deep Space Nine. Yes, TNG developed the other main characters rather well, but one would think they could have done better. But yeah, it was a different show. Honestly as it was my second exposure to Star Trek (I saw the original series and some of the movies first) I didn’t like it at first, but it grew on me. And I like it just like I like all the rest, and we can only hope that Discovery does well before we worry too much about a Khan series. Plus it’s only a mini-series, I think it would be cool.

            It would be a once a year kind of treat, like the DC/CW crossovers between, Supergirl, Arrow, Flash and Legends of Tomorrow. I hope that was a good example and that you don’t just absolutely hate those shows…lol…no seriously they are starting to get worse…Legends is still good though…but anyway, there may be something to what you’re saying, people might get tired of it, but then again it may be a bigger promotion for the Star Trek universe which could be good…just think, maybe after the 2018-2019 season of Discovery…say…during the summer break, they’d have the Khan mini-series…then the summer after that it could be a story about a young Captain Picard played by Tom Hardy on the USS Stargazer. Or even better, we could move forward to the 25th century.

            Who knows, by then they may have a new series in the works, not just a mini-series. It’s hard to say what the future may bring for Star Trek, but I only hope it is a positive one. If something like this could hurt the franchise, then I wouldn’t want it either.

  • bigorangemichael

    I know the novels aren’t considered canon…..

    BUT….

    Greg Cox gave fans a great set of books about Khan before and after Space Seed. My first thought when I hear this news was — the books already did that.

    Now, I know that a majority of fans may not have read these books. But those of who have will probably end up comparing the two.

    • Marc Henson

      Ah, I hadn’t thought of that, I had read the Eugenics Wars books but not the Ceti-Alpha-V books…darn…yeah that might be a problem…

  • iamawild

    While Cumberbatch is an excellent actor, I just could not see him as Khan. Having said that, if Meyer is working on a Khan series, then I hope he does not make the same mistake of casting the wrong guy in the lead role.

    • Talos4

      Co-writer and co-producer Roberto Orci said he did not want a person of color to play Khan because he didn’t want to demonize non-whites, especially Middle-Easterners. (He seems unaware that few Sikhs come from the Middle East.) I suspect he was engaging in nothing more than virtue-signaling deception: Cumberbatch was probably cast because he was a talented star on the rise who could help put asses in the seats at your local Cineplex. But the broader point is that there’s nothing enlightened about whites being racist against whites, which is what Orci’s views amount to.

  • Keith Tyler

    I read about dozen reasons why it would be a good idea, followed by the only reason not to do it being 1. they might not find a good enough actor and 2. two star treks can’t possibly coexist successfully. So… Yeah, sure, I agree with 12 out of 14 of your points.

  • Talos4

    On a related point, the fact that Chris Pine is back on the “A” list after having been the male lead in the hugely successful Wonder Woman movie makes a fourth Trek film more likely.

  • bgoo2

    Oooooo! More “avid gamers” who don’t write, create or produce anything getting ready to criticize and bash TV productions in the works! Please… Star Trek fan websites…. please continue… let’s hear more!!!

    What if a Khan prequel series is true? GREAT!!! WHAT IF they do an awesome job? GREAT!!! What if they do produce it and it sucked? GREAT!!!

    Why not just watch it and think about being ***constructive***. NO…. I didn’t say “just wait and watch and shut up”…. (even though that is a normal person’s gut instinct to say) Go ahead and keep spewing out your opinions, but why not be forward thinking and progressive?

    Don’t you WANT more Star Trek? And maybe if it’s something not the best… the producers can keep learning and evolving what the paying new generation of viewers would like to see in the Trek universe.

    Instead of immediately killing the idea… why not use these forums to say “hey… maybe that would be cool… and if they did that, I’d like to see the do (such-and-such)”

    THAT is called constructive attitude… and then maybe Nick Meyer and the writing team reads these forums and takes some cool direction under consideration.

    And if it is a great production… then professionals did the logical thing… they created NEW STORIES using PROVEN FAN-LOVED CHARACTERS. Doesn’t that make sense?

    Either way… it really didn’t cost you anything. It didn’t cost you anything other than the time you took to type more vitriol on the internet….

  • ButtonShoes

    No, we need to end the Kelvin Timeline-inspired abomination that is Discovery as soon as possible. I give it no leeway other than to fail. Let Nicholas Meyer do what he wants – he has more Star Trek knowledge in his pinkie fingernail than everyone involved in Discovery has in their entire bodies.

  • RomZA

    I am a gigantic Star Trek fan, and focusing on a ‘bad guy’ like Khan as the premise of the series is not Star Trek.
    I hope there is a 2nd series on its way, and I think they have to do it to keep those Star Trek subs with the CBS All Access all year long, and I am sure Netflix would be happy to make another deal, but it has to have Starfleet or the Federation as the central core. Personally I would like to expand on the beginning of the Federation and the Romulan War, as well as progress past Voyager. I’d love a starship to visit DS9 and have an older Kira at the helm.

  • Marc Henson

    Why was my post deleted?