Khan Noonien-Singh is widely considered to be Star Trek‘s best villain. Introduced in The Original Series episode “Space Seed,” Khan (as played by Ricardo Montalbán) would go on to be the eponymous villain in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, effectively killing fan favorite character Spock in the feature film’s climax. (It’s OK… he got better.) Subsequently, the character made appearances in other corners of the franchise, including on Enterprise, Deep Space Nine, and in the (worst) reboot film Star Trek Into Darkness, where he was played by Benedict Cumberbatch. Now, a different Noonien-Singh is poised to play a main character on Strange New Worlds, the series set during Captain Pike’s tenure as the Enterprise captain. English actress Christina Chong has been announced as La’an Noonien-Singh in the upcoming Trek show. Color us intrigued…
First, some backstory: Khan Noonien Singh was a genetically engineered superhuman who, during the Eugenics Wars of the 1990s (you remember those, right?), controlled more than a quarter of the Earth. When deposed, Khan and 84 of his super-friends escaped from Earth on a freighter ship, placing themselves in a cryogenic sleep. Khan wakes up more than two centuries later, when the Enterprise finds his ship. Once a power-hungry ruler, always a power-hungry ruler, so Khan quickly moves to take over the ship, with the help of the apparently impressionable Enterprise historian Marla McGivers . Kirk eventually manages to stop Khan, and sentences him and his friends (including future wife Marla) to life on an uncolonized planet known as Ceti Alpha V. Let’s just say the sentencing backfires, with Khan coming back with a vengeance in The Wrath of Khan 15 years after the events of “Space Seed.”
Given that Khan is still in cryogenic sleep during the years Strange New Worlds is set (and has been for more than 200 years), it’s unclear how this new Khan character could be related to the iconic villain… but you don’t just slap the surname “Noonien-Singh” on someone without a solid plan. (Right, J.J. Abrams?) The most obvious explanation would be that La’an is a descendant of Khan’s family, but in the world of Star Trek, the possibilities are endless. Time travel is a recurring plot mechanic in the franchise, which means La’an could be an even closer relative than the broad timeline implies. Could Khan and Marla have had a child who somehow survived everything going south on Ceti Alpha V… who then travels back in time? Yes, it’s a bit contrived but there an almost-canonical precedent for a Khan kid. At some point in the Wrath of Khan production process, Khan had a child, but the subplot/character was cut from the story.
My favorite theory? La’an is Khan’s sister, daughter, or other close relative from before Khan went into cryogenic sleep. Augments like Khan had many, for want of a better term, “superpowers”: They are five times as strong as the average human, and much more durable with stronger heart muscled and greater lung efficiency. Additionally, they are very smart. But perhaps their most useful trait is their expanded lifespan; Augments live twice the average lifespan of a human. If La’an is an Augment (and has an excellent skin care routine), then she could be Khan’s contemporary from the 90s or shortly thereafter. Khan was no doubt forced to leave people behind when he fled Earth. Was La’an one of those people?
Whatever Strange New Worlds‘ reason for naming a character Noonien-Singh, I hope it’s a good one. There’s so much potential when it comes to the space Khan holds in Star Trek canon, and the recent Trek invocation of that legacy was a muddled mess. Strange New Worlds, don’t f this up.
How do you think La’an will be related to Khan? Let us know your theories in the comments below.