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How Spock Defeated Khan

How Spock Defeated Khan

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Khan was a product of the eugenics wars in the late 1990s and escaped in a sleeper ship. Kirk and the Enterprise crew found them and rescued him, much to the crew’s future disdain. Later, he created trouble for the crew when he stole a ship and killed many of the Genesis scientists.

Spock and Kirk were instrumental in defeating Khan originally, and when he resurfaced 15 years later, by working with Captain Kirk in the art of deception. Khan’s superior intellect assists his knowledge of spaceships, but it does not help him understand the starship codes that led to his defeat. 

Spock defeated Khan with Kirk, and together they took down the last of the “superior” superhumans of the late 20th century. Keep going to find out how they did it.

Who Was Khan Noonien Singh?

Khan Noonien Singh was a product of the Chrysalis project—a project started in the late 20th century. Its mission was to create a genetically engineered superhuman race that would ultimately take over the Earth through their superior abilities. 

But with super abilities comes grandiose egos and psychological imbalances, and the children of the project, the “Chrysalis Children,” began proving this point. 

As a child, Khan was known as “Noon” and began showing marked superiority over the other children at the age of four. His mother had a secret plan for her child to make him the supreme ruler of Earth. She would release a flesh-eating biological weapon that would clear out the “inferior” race of humans.

When the children were placed in different homes throughout the world, they began to develop their superpowers and worked to take over their part of the world. Khan was no exception, and in fact, he was more superior to the other super children. At 15, he officially took on the title of Khan and marched towards world domination.

What Were the Eugenics Wars About?

Because of the project to create genetically superior human beings, their lust for domination and power led to what would later be known as the Eugenics Wars. The attempt at selective breeding and human engineering backfired, as up to thirty million people or more were killed in the conflicts. 

Khan was ruler over about a quarter of a planet, which stretched from Asia to the Middle East. Other superhumans soon followed suit and began ruling most of the nations on Earth. While most of these superhumans allowed slavery in their nations, Khan was the only ruler who treated others with dignity. There were also no massacres or wars of aggression under his rule until his nations were attacked.

The conflicts started because people began to rise and fight against these superhumans. Eventually, the non-altered humans overthrew the super tyrants and killed or exiled all by 80 genetically altered humans. These 80 people were listed as missing in the history books and were never found and also listed as missing was a DY-100 sleeper ship that would appear 200 years later in front of the Enterprise.

Captain Kirk Picks Up the Survivors

Khan’s continuing drama picks up again 200 years in the future when the Enterprise under Captain Kirk meets the sleeper ship that held the missing 80 superhumans. In the episode, “Space Seed,” Kirk and crew rescue Khan and his cohorts from the sleeper ship, Botany Bay. 

They first hear a morse code distress call that Captain Kirk mistook for a DY-500 ship. Spock points out that it is a much older ship from the 1990s–a DY-100 ship. 

Captain Kirk decided to investigate after finding out that there were 80 life forms onboard. The away team consisted of Captain Kirk, Dr. McCoy, Scotty, and Lieutenant Marla McGivers, a 20th-century historian. McGivers became fascinated with Khan and a bit attracted to him. 

When they beamed over to the ship, Khan’s sleeping cell began the waking up process, but something went wrong, as Khan started gasping and struggling. Dr. McCoy and Kirk broke the glass and pulled him out just in time before he died. As Khan regained consciousness, he asked how long he was asleep. When he found out it had been 200 years, he passed out.

Khan woke up in sickbay to Dr. McCoy talking to the lab. He looked around and saw weapons on the wall, got up, and took a surgical scalpel. When McCoy looked in on Khan, he suddenly grabbed the doctor’s throat and asked the doctor where he was. Instead of backing down, McCoy told him how to kill him. Since Khan was impressed with how brave the doctor was, he let go and gave the scalpel back to Dr. McCoy.

He asked for the captain. When Captain Kirk came to sickbay to talk with Khan, Khan refused to answer any further questions. Giving up, Kirk gave him some technical manual tapes so Khan could learn how starships worked.

But Khan was not satisfied being a passenger—he wanted more, and he wanted Lieutenant McGivers by his side.

Khan and McGivers Try Taking the Enterprise

Khan was consumed with power. He wanted nothing more but to find a colony that he could overcome and dominate in the same way he overcame and dominated Asia and the Middle East on Earth. Marla McGivers was taken with Khan and kept coming to see him. She respected men of power and became attached to Khan.

He wanted to take over the ship, but Marla was hesitant to help him at first. Due to Khan’s need for power, he manipulated and dominated her into helping him, and they accessed engineering together. They planned to cut life support to the bridge, then get rid of Captain Kirk. 

Khan Shuts Off Life Support to the Bridge

As the bridge crew continues to their next destination, life support and other key systems are shut off on the bridge. Kirk and Spock were the last to pass out. When they woke up, they found themselves in the briefing room, minus Kirk. Khan tells the crew that he needs them to run the ship, but he doesn’t need the captain.

He brings up the viewing screen, and the crew sees Kirk in the medical decompression chamber. McCoy becomes very nervous, as he knows what happens when it finishes its cycle. Khan threatens to kill Kirk if the bridge crew does not join him in seizing the ship.

Kirk Almost Dies in a Medical Decompression Chamber

Marla decides that she doesn’t want to see Kirk be killed in the chamber, so she asks Khan to be excused. While he is disappointed that she wasn’t stronger, he allowed her to go. She immediately goes to the chamber at the same time the viewing screen goes black. She then reverses the decompression and lets Kirk out so that he can save his crew.

Spock Is Next to Go in the Chamber

At the same time that Marla saves Captain Kirk, Khan sends Spock with one of his men to the chamber, as he decided Spock was to be next. When they arrive, Kirk hides around the corner, waits until Spock clears the corner, then hits Khan’s man. He wasn’t knocked out, but then Spock performed the Vulcan neck pinch. They then send gas through the vents in the briefing room to knock out everyone.

Scotty escapes and works together to stop Khan.

Spock and Kirk Work Together to Stop Khan

Spock, Kirk, and Scotty race to find Khan and his people. While Spock and Scotty find his people and capture them, Khan is nowhere to be found. Kirk finally finds him in Engineering, only to discover that Khan set the ship to explode. Kirk and Khan fight until Khan is knocked out. Kirk corrects the problem with the ship.

The Enterprise Takes Khan and His People to Ceti Alpha 5

At the hearing, only Khan and Marla McGivers are present, in addition to the Enterprise bridge officers. Khan refers to Milton’s phrase, where “It is better to rule in Hell than to serve in Heaven” after Kirk asked him if he could settle an uninhabited planet. Kirk got the reference and decided that he and his people would be dropped off on Ceti Alpha 5.

As for Lieutenant McGivers, she either faced a court-martial for treason or went with Khan to the planet. She chose to follow Khan to the planet and live out her days with him.

Spock then commented, “It would be interesting to come back in 100 years to find out what civilization these seeds have planted.”

Khan Returns Because of the Genesis Project

With no more mention of Khan and his crew, the Enterprise continues on its five-year mission. Once that mission was completed, Kirk was promoted to admiral.

Years later, after the V’ger incident, Admiral Kirk oversees new cadets and captains-in-training completing the Kobayashi Maru test, which has no winning scenario. He is not personally on the bridge of the Enterprise, and it is difficult for him to accept. 

Meanwhile, across the galaxy, Dr. Carol Marcus and her son, David, work on a device that will terraform planets within a day. The device is aptly named Genesis

Reliant’s Crew Search for a Suitable Planet for Genesis

The Reliant starship crew works with Dr. Marcus on finding a suitable planet on which to test Genesis. The planet they find must have absolutely no life on it, or it cannot be used. Genesis kills everything in its path in favor of its new matrix. In a sense, it is life from lifelessness. 

Captain Terrell and Commander Chekov Discover Botany Bay

The Reliant is in the Ceti Alpha system and is looking at what they think is Ceti Alpha 6—the neighboring planet to Ceti Alpha 5, where Khan and his crew were marooned 15 years prior. Captain Terrell and Commander Chekov go down to the planet and discover a shelter. They go inside, remove their helmets, and look around.

Chekov sees the words “Botany Bay” on one of the walls and remembers who is there. He frantically tries to get Captain Terrell to leave before discovering it, but it is too late. As soon as they open the doors, they are met by several figures. 

Once inside, they realize it is Khan and his followers. 

Khan Steals the Reliant and Heads to Genesis Headquarters

When Khan realizes that they didn’t expect to find him there, Chekov claims that Admiral Kirk left him on a habitable planet, and wonders why they are on Ceti Alpha 6. Khan yells, “This is Ceti Alpha 5!” It so happened that, six months after they were left on the planet, Ceti Alpha 6 blew up and laid waste to the planet they were on.

Khan manages to steal the Reliant, and they went to where Dr. Marcus and colleagues were developing the Genesis device. While he didn’t care about Genesis, he knew it would bring Admiral Kirk to him.

Dr. Carol Marcus Contacts Admiral Kirk

Dr. Marcus is frustrated and confused about why Reliant was on their way to get Genesis and all the materials. Khan had Chekov tell her that it was Admiral Kirk who gave the order. 

She contacts the admiral and wonders why he gave the order. But because the Reliant was already jamming transmissions, Admiral Kirk changed the course of their “training cruise” to head to Dr. Marcus. 

Khan and His Crew Disable the Enterprise

The Enterprise encounters the Reliant and thinks that they are friendly, so they didn’t put up shields. Khan takes advantage of that and fires on the Enterprise. They are badly damaged quickly, and Khan appears on the viewscreen to show Kirk who it was that beat him. He begs Khan for a minute to prepare his crew. Khan grants him two minutes.

Kirk and Spock hatch a quick plan and tell Saavik to get the Reliant’s code. She is confused but gets the code. When they have it, they punch in the code to order Reliant to drop shields. With the shields down, the Enterprise fires on the Reliant and disables them as well.

Khan Kills Most of Marcus’ Colleagues and Steals Genesis

When the Enterprise away team beam down to the starbase, they discover many people were killed, while the others escaped to the tunnel under the base. The Enterprise away team goes down to the tunnel where Admiral Kirk discovered his son, David. 

While there, Captain Terrell tries to kill Kirk but fails and kills himself. Then Chekov tries and fails as well. 

When Khan realized his plan failed, he stole Genesis and the materials and left the away team marooned on the asteroid station “for all eternity.” 

Khan Activates the Genesis Device to Kill Captain Kirk

Once Spock alerts Kirk that they are ready to beam back to the ship, they leave the asteroid’s orbit. Khan realizes this and orders his crew to pursue the Enterprise. The Enterprise fires on the Reliant more and kills everyone on the ship except Khan. Khan is badly injured, but he manages to activate the Genesis device. The Enterprise, of course, cannot get out of the way before it explodes, taking the ship with it.

Spock’s Plan Kills Him, but the Enterprise Is Saved

Khan is dead, but his plan to kill Kirk almost worked had it not been for Spock. Spock realized that the only way to save the Enterprise was to get the mains back on. But the mains were under heavy radiation, and no one could get in there to fix the problem. 

Spock transfers his Katra to Dr. McCoy, then goes into the room. He fixes the problem, but the radiation is so heavy that it kills him. However, the Enterprise gets away at the last second and is saved. 

Spock and Kirk Work Together to Defeat Khan

Without Spock, Kirk could never have defeated Khan on his own. Spock, however, could not have defeated Khan on his own either. Spock and Kirk worked together and put logic and deception to work to defeat this foe from the late 20th century. Neither one accomplished this by himself, and had it not been for the other, Khan certainly would have won.

Khan was a cunning and deceptive individual who, if left unchecked, would have created a problem that the Federation may not have been able to match.


While Khan had superior intellect and strength from being genetically engineered, he didn’t completely understand 23rd-century technology, as evidenced by not knowing how to counteract the shields ordered down. He didn’t understand that ships had unique codes to prevent another ship from doing what Kirk exactly did to Khan.

Vulcan logic was another thing that Khan didn’t quite grasp. Since Khan was militaristic and saw everything through the warrior lens, he didn’t count on Spock’s logic. Spock’s logic included the axiom that “the good of the many is greater than the good of the few, or the one.” Spock sacrificed himself for the good of the Enterprise crew, which in turn, defeated Khan. 


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