Ever since Nicholas Meyer hinted that he was working on a new, secret Star Trek project, fans have been wondering what he could mean. Meyer was responsible for saving the franchise in 1982 when he directed Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. He was the driving force behind the equally successful The Voyage Home and The Undiscovered Country films and most recently has served on the writing staff for the upcoming Discovery series. Now, rumours are swirling that Meyer’s secret project is another TV show focusing on the franchise’s most iconic villain: Khan Noonien Singh.
What We Know So Far
Admittedly, not much. A report from Geek Exchange claims that Meyer is working on a show about Khan, but there has been no official confirmation. Yet. When Inverse contacted the director about the rumours, he responded with the cryptic message “I Khannot possibly comment.”
If the report is correct, however, we have a few details to go on. The show is being described as a “limited series”. So, unlike previous Trek TV programming, it is intended to tell a short, self-contained story, likely in a single season. The report also says that the story will focus on the prime timeline of Khan’s exile on Ceti Alpha V, in between his original series appearance and his re-emergence in The Wrath of Khan. The show, if happening at all, appears to be in the early development stage, with no information about casting or a premiere date.
Obviously, without confirmation, this could all be untrue. But it feels realistic, for a few reasons. One is that CBS, who hold the TV rights to Star Trek, seem more comfortable mining the franchise’s past than venturing into uncharted territory. This is evidenced by the fact that Discovery is set ten years before the original series and will feature classic characters like Sarek and Harry Mudd. An event series that serves as a prequel to the franchise’s greatest cinematic outing would be consistent with this. Additionally, Meyer is familiar with the character. He can be trusted to deliver a compelling and innovative story, as he did with The Wrath of Khan 35 years ago.
Is a Khan Series Necessary?
The story of Khan’s exile seems like an odd choice for a TV production. We know, from The Wrath of Khan, how it ends. The planet becomes a wasteland due to the destruction of a neighbouring world. A Ceti eel kills Khan’s wife and his hatred for the man who marooned him, James T. Kirk, drives the genetically-engineered tyrant mad. Obviously there is the potential for a more complex story that adheres to that basic outline, which could be entertaining.
But then again, we’ve seen that before too. Twice, in fact. Greg Cox’s non-canon novel To Reign in Hell: The Exile of Khan Noonien Singh does a fine job of filling in the gaps between Khan’s two appearances. It even carries over characters and plot threads from Cox’s Eugenics Wars duology, which serves as an origin story for Khan. Years later, IDW published a four-part series called Khan: Ruling in Hell, which tells a similar story of survival and focuses on Khan’s sense of betrayal by Kirk. Of all the stories a new show could tell, Meyer seems to be telling one of the few that seems unnecessary.
What Are the Possibilities?
And yet, there are exciting opportunities here. Non-canon works are fine, but it can’t hurt to see old ideas tried in a big-budget production that are canonical. Meyer’s talents as a writer would certainly generate gripping drama. He could provide a compelling character study not just of Khan, but his extended family of augments.
Star Trek has never devoted itself exclusively to telling the story of a villain. If Meyer wants to include flashbacks to the Eugenics Wars that created Khan, he can explore a part of the franchise’s mythology that is often referenced but never seen. If done well, it can do for The Wrath of Khan what Rogue One did for Star Wars: reframe a classic work in a new context for a new generation.
Then, of course, there is the Cumberbatch problem. Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance as the Kelvin-timeline Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness was simultaneously the best and worst thing about that movie. It was the best because Cumberbatch stole the show, delivering a complex and intimidating performance and elevating a weak script. It was the worst, however, because we were told to accept that Khan, an Indian Sikh, was a white man from London. The whitewashing of the franchise’s most iconic villain was upsetting and turned many fans off.
Meyer would be under no obligation to address any of this in the rumoured series. It is possible that, given the dividing lines between Star Trek films and TV, he would not be able to even if he wished. But if he so chose, he would have an opportunity to reconcile the two different characterisations. In any case, the new version of the character is part of the franchise now and could use a second look.
The Not-So-Final Frontier
The mere idea of a Khan series would be revolutionary for the way Star Trek approaches storytelling. It would be the first Star Trek production that didn’t focus on a Starfleet crew or on a cast of heroic protagonists. If successful, it could pave the way for stories that explore all the diverse corners of one of the richest universes in pop culture. Want to see a show about the rise of the Dominion? Or about Gary Seven‘s adventures on 20th century Earth? Or about what the galaxy looked like before humans achieved spaceflight? If CBS sees that outside-the-box programming works for Star Trek, the sky can be the limit.
Of course, these rumours could be completely unsubstantiated. Maybe Meyer isn’t working on a Khan show at all or any new project. But this fan hopes it’s true, and that the new show lives up to its potential.