Recently, I read that Gene Roddenberry purposefully placed the name Noonien into his Star Trek works as he was trying to contact an old friend of his, Kim Noonien Singh. Khan Noonien Singh and Doctor Noonien Soong were named so because of this. Did Singh ever contact Roddenberry because of Star Trek. I am aware that this may seem off-topic, so feel free to mark it as such, administrators.

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    You might get better answers on Skeptics.SE. Also it would help if you showed that you did at least a little bit of research in your question.
    – J Doe
    Jul 18, 2017 at 0:53
  • the source in which you read it would be helpful too
    – NKCampbell
    Jul 18, 2017 at 3:14
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    @JDoe: This question would be off-topic on Skeptics as there's no claim that Roddenberry did or did not find Noonien.
    – jwodder
    Jul 18, 2017 at 12:59

2 Answers 2


According to this story - no, his attempts (both with Khan and Soong) did not attract the intended attention:

Back in the day, when Roddenberry was flying his combat missions with the 394th Bomber Squadron, 5th Bomber Group, 13th Air Force in a B-17 Flying Fortress, he met a Chinese pilot who became his friend. After the war, he lost contact with the man, named Kim Noonien Singh.

It is worth noting that according to Marc Cushman's "These Are the Voyages: Season One" - it was indeed Roddenberry who changed the name of the character to Khan Noonien Singh from the original name(s) written by Gene Coon. There is, however, no detail in Cushman's work as to the source of the name.

Roddenberry is reported to have named the character of Khan Noonien Singh after his old war buddy hoping that the original would notice and try to contact him again.

Sadly, the character of Khan failed to gain the attention of Roddenberry’s former comrade.

Roddenberry tried again to hail down the Chinese pilot he once knew in the much later series Star Trek: The Next Generation, which began in 1987...this time, Roddenberry had the “father” of Data (the ship’s android crew member) named Dr. Noonien Soong. Once again, Roddenberry’s noble pre-Facebook and Google attempts to find his long-lost friend failed.

Additionally, there is another Singh in TOS - that of Lt. Singh in "The Changeling"

Looks like, at least one of the original sources for this story is this book

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    He might've had better luck picking up the phone and trying to contact someone in the Chinese military (with the assistance of a translator, of course) who might know where to find his war buddy.
    – Steve-O
    Jul 18, 2017 at 13:16
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    maybe in the late 80s, but certainly not the 60's. Remember, China was effectively shut off from the West from 1949 until the early 70's when Nixon visited (I think Spock had something to say about that...;) - it's unlikely that a moderate celebrity (at the time of the writing of Space Seed) would have had any luck at all in contacting the Chinese government or getting any information out them. It would also be a good way to get yourself under FBI investigation for communication with a Communist country.
    – NKCampbell
    Jul 18, 2017 at 14:42
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    How did a Chinese have a Sikh surname? Oct 9, 2019 at 21:47
  • @AntonSherwood - Interesting question. While the name Singh isn't unique to Sikhs, none of the common ethnicities in China use it traditionally. It also doesn't appear on any of the lists of common Chinese surnames, which means there are less than 8,000 people with that name in China. I wonder if perhaps it was an adopted name, perhaps intended for foreigers to be able to pronounce more easily than his birth name?
    – occipita
    Mar 5, 2021 at 8:40

I think most people here have a misunderstanding of Chinese names in English before standardized pinyin made the spellings more standard. Kim is often used to denote the Chinese name of Jin and as you can guess from just reading it it does sound a lot like Singh. A lot of Chinese names before pinyin simply used whatever English words that existed for an approximation, hence a very common name like Li can also be spelt like Lee (eg. Bruce). So most likely his name is Jin (Kim, Singh) Noonien and because Chinese names are surname first given name second, something to make it easy for others they says they are Noonien Kim/Singh to avoid the confusion. I think Gene isn’t that dumb to mistake a Chinese pilot with an Indian one. Further more Chinese pilots of RoC are more likely to fly with USAF while Indians would serve in RAF. So it’s very likely this pilot is an officer of the Republic of China airforce on loan flying with the Americans, hence there’s scant records of him.


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