I'm enjoying my new blu-ray of Star Trek II, and a question which has always puzzled me came up again. Khan says something to the effect that only his superior will and intellect allowed them to survive after the planet was laid waste.

So - water, you can recycle, and maybe drill from a well beneath the ship. But what about food? There's only one lifeform left on the planet, and he didn't seem to be keeping many of those (the Ceti eels). What were Khan and his people eating? IIRC, this period of time doesn't have straight-up food replicators.

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    Soylent Green. Supplemented by eels. – Xantec Feb 7 '12 at 14:52
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    Soylent Marla McGivers... – Chris B. Behrens Feb 7 '12 at 14:55
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    Did they have a calendar on board? If so they ate the Dates and had Sundays for dessert. – Kalamane Feb 7 '12 at 21:03
  • The mummy weevil looked like she had quite a bit of meat on her IIRC. – A E Jun 14 '16 at 14:12
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    Federation MREs - twenty years of those and twenty years of concomitant constipation would drive any man mad. – RoboKaren Mar 4 '18 at 2:15

Presumably some simple plants that they could grow. They wouldn't get much meat to eat, but you don't need meat to live. They would know as much about genetic engineering as anyone and could possibly improve whatever plants survived to live in the harsh conditions on the surface. They could possibly have caves underground with significant crops.

  • This answer also provides a plausible reason why they were out in the storm - they were gathering food from a nearby cavern. Combined with Khan's knowledge of genetics, I think that works. – Chris B. Behrens Feb 8 '12 at 3:29
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    Especially when you consider that the one little room seen on-screen couldn't possibly hold all those people for years. There HAD to be other areas of the ship accessible or some other place of shelter not seen on-screen. – Omegacron Mar 17 '15 at 17:56
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    @ChrisB.Behrens - "knowledge of genetics" is hardly a magic wand. Without sophisticated equipment, genetic engineering/modification is impossible above the traditional selection of useful variations. – WhatRoughBeast May 29 '15 at 18:59
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    @whatroughbeast "sophisticated equipment" by 201x standards. In the 23rd century it's probably an app. – Graham Lee Mar 4 '18 at 7:42

In the book To Reign In Hell (third and final part of The Rise and Fall of Khan Noonien Singh series by Greg Cox), they survived by eating what they could grow in caves beneath the surface.

A year after the destruction of their crops, the colony was barely getting by. The cyclonic winds and UV radiation made farming on the surface impossible, even if all the arable soil hadn’t already dried up and blown away. Furthermore, in a fiendish irony, the most successful survivors of the disaster—the Ceti eels—were too indigestible to eat. The castaways’ only hope for sustenance came from growing limited quantities of hand-pollinated Terran crops underground, using Starfleet-provided “plasma lights” in lieu of sunlight. A battered portable generator provided just enough electricity to keep the subterranean gardens viable, while the colony’s few surviving protein resequencers allowed them to satisfy their most basic nutritional requirements.

Thank the Fates, he thought, that we managed to find enough seeds beneath the burned-out fields to keep going. He and many others had dug beneath the charred crops and volcanic ash with their bare hands in search of scorched kernels of corn and seedlings of rice, while every available man and woman had carted armloads of dead wildlife and flora back to the caves for composting. It is a miracle that we have managed to cultivate any fresh food at all, Khan reflected. He doubted that mere ordinary humans could have done the same.


We can assume that Kirk gave Khan's people those food processors, that replicate food much like in the later Star Trek. Also the Botany Bay must have had stored food supplies aboard the ship. Also, I think the Ceti Eel wasn't the only lifeform, but the thing left.

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    Do you have reference from Star Trek material to support that assumption about food processors ? Same comment regarding the food supplies on the Botany Bay. – Stan Jul 23 '13 at 23:42
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    I don't recall anything in the episode to support it. The Botany Bay was intended to form a colony; it's not unreasonable to assume that it had a stock of seeds and other equipment useful for starting a colony. – LAK May 29 '15 at 16:05

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