Wednesday, February 20, 2013

John Harrison is not Khan: Stardates are dumb

Is Benedict Cumberbatch’s John Harrison a version of Ricardo Montalbán’s Khan Noonien Singh?  Given the amount of internet speculation related to this question I thought someone would take the time to clearly answer it.  Unfortunately, no one has done so, and I'm bored enough to take on the job.  So, let's dig in.  First, who is Khan?

Introduced in the episode “Space Seed”, Khan is a product of human eugenics who ruled over a quarter of Earth during the Eugenics Wars of the 1990s.  Placed in suspended animation sometime during / after those wars, he is awakened by the crew of the Enterprise two centuries later.  After an unsuccessful takeover attempt of the Enterprise, Khan is marooned on Ceti Alpha V.  He again appears in Star Trek II:  The Wrath of Khan, set 15 years after his exile.

Given that information, is it possible, within Star Trek canon, for John Harrison to be Khan Noonien Singh?  The possibility seems to rely on the alternate universe aspect of Abrams’ films, and the degree to which the Narada’s trip through time impacted the life of Khan.  Unfortunately, given the completely shitty non-organizational non-structure of temporal events within the Star Trek universe, it is difficult to discern an exact answer to this question.

For starters, the original series seems to have no clear articulation of when it takes place.  These discrepancies are laid out on the Star Trek timeline wikipedia page.  In the episode "Space Seed" Kahn is said to have been in suspended animation for two centuries since the 1990s.  This would mean the episode occurs sometime around 2190.  However, in the episode "Miri" we learned that 1960 was 300 years ago, so the events of that episode occur in roughly 2260.  While "Space Seed" and "Miri" occur at different times, it seems strange to think that the episodes occur 100 years apart, with the same crew.  So, to begin, we don't know exactly when the original series takes place, and most of the provided dates contradict other dates.

If we ignore the non-Khan events from the series, there are still temporal problems.  The script for "Space Seed" indicates that prior to boarding Khan's ship Kirk states, "Captain's log, stardate 3141.9".  The wikipedia page for Khan indicates that this stardate corresponds to the year 2267.  However, Star Trek II:  The Wrath of Khan, happens 15 after "Space Seed", with a provided date of 2222.  2222 is not 15 years after 2267.  Also, the script for Wrath of Khan indicates that the opening lines from the film place it on "stardate eighty-one-thirty point three."  I'm not sure how 8130.3 could be 15 years after 3141.9.

Tossing temporal information from Star Trek 2009 into the mix just fucks things up even more.  When Captain Robau is taken aboard the Narada, he informs Nero that the current stardate is " twenty-two thirty-three zero four".  For the new films, the format for stardates was revised:  "According to Roberto Orci, stardates were revised again for the 2009 film so that the first four digits correspond to the year, while the remainder was intended to stand for the day of the year".  So, the temporal disruption at the beginning of Star Trek 2009 takes place in 2233.  This is 34 years before the given date for "Space Seed" and eleven years after the events of Wrath of Khan!

To put all of that into a handy-dandy list:

Space Seed
Stardate:  3141.9
Year:  2267

Wrath of Khan  (15 years after Space Seed)
Stardate:  8130.3
Year:  2222

Star Trek 2009 opening sequence, pre-Kirk birth
Stardate:  2233.04
Year:  2233

Aside:  Someone needs to explain to me how Star Trek can be extolled as a paragon of sci-fi quality given it's complete inability to clearly, and consistently, articulate what the fuck day it is.  But I digress.

Let's pretend that the stardate issue is not a problem, and somehow all those numbers play nicely together.  Even then, we have to deal with the semi-fact that Khan was placed in suspended animation in the late 1990s.  That act would not have been influenced by the time-travel events of the Narada, given that temporal disruptions impact linear forward progressions of time, and have no regressive impact.  [citation needed]  So, even if Abrams wants to portray John Harrison as an alternate-universe Khan Noonien Singh, we would have to ask how the eugenically engineered Indian Khan Noonien Singh put into suspended animation in 1990 was alternate-timelined into John Harrison by the events of the Narada.

It seems strange to suggest that Ricardo Montalbán was floating around in suspended animation, some Romulans went back in time, and that transformed him into Benedict Cumberbatch.

While I really want to end on that joke, there's another bit of information I am obligated to include.

In the original plot treatment for "Space Seed", the character of Khan was named Harold Erricsen.  The name was changed in the first script to John Ericssen.  That name has a striking resemblance to John Harrison, with respect to both the first name and the ____son surname.  I worry this resemblance is not accidental.  It seems likely that the similarity of name is meant to indicate some alternate-timeline relationship, and we're in for a very strange homage wherein our beloved "KHAAAAAAAN!!!!" is romulan-time-travel-morphed into "JOOOOOOOOOHN!!"

The question is, again, how Abrams can turn Ricardo Montalbán into Benedict Cumberbatch by means of some Romulans going back in time to a date 34 years before "Space Seed" and eleven years after the events of Wrath of Khan.  I'll grant that "Time travel" and "Wizard did it" can answer a lot of questions.  But I don't think it's enough to do this:


Andrew said...

Given Star Trek is more Space Fantasy and Science Fiction, anything is possible.

Caleb said...

This is just like that time you were picking on the bible for having contradictory genealogical lists. Don't you see that it's the spirit of the thing that gives it life?