Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek Into Darkness, Star Trek: Discovery, and for other iterations of the franchise.
If you don’t follow the ins and outs of the Star Trek rumour mill, maybe you missed talk of a potential Khan-focused project. I know I had until relatively recently! But apparently the proposed miniseries – codenamed Star Trek: Ceti Alpha V – has been written, and is floating somewhere in that nebulous “maybe” zone – better known as “development hell.”
This story, penned by The Wrath of Khan and The Undiscovered Country director Nicholas Meyer, would fill in a gap in the story of iconic villain Khan, focusing on his life in between his exile by Kirk in Space Seed and his re-discovery by the crew of the Reliant in The Wrath of Khan. Along with being the director of both of those films, which are generally considered among the best of cinematic Star Trek, Meyer also co-wrote their stories, so I don’t want to dismiss out of hand his work or ideas on this project.
That said… I’m not entirely sure this is something worth doing.
The fact that Ceti Alpha V is said to be a miniseries, perhaps consisting of a mere three episodes, would condense its story and avoid dragging it out too much – and that’s certainly a good thing. However, the reason why that might be necessary and the one saving grace this project has is because Ceti Alpha V would be looking at what is arguably the least-interesting part of Khan’s life and story.
Space Seed saw Khan awaken in a new century, still feeling superior to unaltered humans and intent on recapturing his long-lost empire. The Wrath of Khan saw him seek revenge on Kirk, the man who he feels wronged him by marooning him and his crew on the doomed world. Aside from the destruction of Ceti Alpha VI, which could be an interesting thing to see, I suppose, seeing Khan’s descent into madness and a revenge obsession just doesn’t feel necessary or interesting.
The concept reminds me in some ways of the Star Wars prequels. Though that trilogy of films was beset by all kinds of issues, the fundamental problem was that it was telling the less-interesting part of an already-complete story – and that’s the trap Ceti Alpha V feels like it’s on the precipice of falling into. We didn’t need a three-film saga showing the awkward childhood and the rise and fall of Anakin Skywalker to understand that he was an evil villain who could be redeemed by the residual love he had for his son. All the elements of Darth Vader’s redemption story were already present in the first three Star Wars films, and the prequels ended up not just being unnecessary fluff, but they actively detracted from Vader as an imposing, intimidating villain.
What would Khan do in a potential Ceti Alpha V miniseries that we don’t already understand from both Space Seed and The Wrath of Khan? At best what we’ll see is a padded out version of what we already know happened: the explosion of Ceti Alpha VI, the ecological ruin of Ceti Alpha V, the deaths of his wife and members of his crew. And at worst we’ll see Khan engage in some awfully tacked-on story akin to the worst parts of the Star Wars Clone Wars cartoon.
Sorry to keep hitting you with Star Wars comparisons, but the way I feel about this Ceti Alpha V project is similar in many ways to how I feel about the upcoming show Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi. That series will follow Kenobi in between the prequels and the first Star Wars film… but the problem is that we already know what he did in those years: sat in exile in his desert hut.
Ceti Alpha V would also almost certainly recast the character of Khan for what will be the second time. Benedict Cumberbatch did a decent job in Star Trek Into Darkness a few years ago, but I seriously doubt he’d reprise the role here. While Star Trek has seen success with the recasting of classic characters – Captain Pike and Spock, most notably – doing so again here would just seem to add a further complication to the franchise.
Unlike Star Wars, Star Trek has managed to successfully move beyond its original incarnation. The Original Series remains an important part of the franchise and its legacy, but as we look ahead to the 2020s – and hopefully beyond – we see projects like Prodigy, Lower Decks, the Section 31 series, and shows set in both the 25th Century with Picard and the 32nd Century with Discovery. I’m not sure that we need to revisit Khan right now – he’s a character whose story is arguably complete, and Star Trek as a whole is not in a place where this kind of backwards look is needed to bring in audiences.
As a Trekkie I would of course be interested to see a Khan miniseries. And also I’d be very interested to see any project with strong involvement from Nicholas Meyer. I just don’t see it being a necessary addition to the franchise based on where we are right now, and that’s before we get into the fact that, as mentioned, this would seem to be offering to tell the least-interesting part of a story that has already concluded.
There is plenty of scope for Star Trek to see the return of classic characters from The Original Series era – and we have seen a number of such characters in Discovery already. With Picard Season 2 in the offing and the return of Captain Janeway in Prodigy, we’re also welcoming back some characters from the 24th Century too. Maybe we just don’t need Khan right now?
Despite my feelings overall, I don’t think we should entirely dismiss the idea of Ceti Alpha V. I truly dislike the expression “nobody asked for this,” and I would point to Enterprise as a series that I likewise felt would have little to offer that ended up being a great Star Trek show that really embodied the spirit of exploration. So I don’t want to just say that Ceti Alpha V wouldn’t have merit; it may even succeed at bringing in fans of The Wrath of Khan – which is arguably the biggest point in its favour.
Will it get made? I don’t know. Meyer has suggested that the script itself is either almost complete or fully ready, so perhaps it’s only one step away from being greenlit. If I were in charge I think I’d look at other projects first before deciding whether or not to go ahead with something like this, though.
That’s just my opinion – and as I always say, the Star Trek franchise is a big tent, able to welcome all kinds of different stories. Just because this wouldn’t be top of my list doesn’t mean it lacks merit or would be unenjoyable – and I daresay if it does enter production I will tune in! One thing I definitely like the sound of are short-format stories like made-for-streaming films or miniseries. Just like Short Treks, miniseries like this proposal could be used to tell all kinds of stories in the Star Trek galaxy – and more Star Trek on our screens is always a good thing.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and all other Star Trek titles mentioned above are the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.