In the episode Space Seed in the original series, Khan is awakened from suspended animation, where he's been since the early 1990s. He is said/implied a product of eugenics, and his crew escapees from the eugenist side of the Eugenics War. He looks like he's got to be at least mid 30s, but possibly older since you'd assume a superman would age more slowly than most humans.

By my reckoning, this means Khan can't have been born any later than the 1960s. Which would mean the eugenists were already at work producing a super race at the time this episode was written. Did Roddenberry ever indicate he already thought organized eugenics were going on?

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    Impressive, Google. Googling for "Roddenberry Eugenics" returns this question as the top result, 8 minutes after posting...
    – Izkata
    Oct 27, 2012 at 2:57
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    I would guess that the eugenics designed him to skip over the useless "puberty" years. i.e. He probably grew at a faster rate than normal until he reached what they would consider his "prime", and then slowed down.
    – NominSim
    Oct 27, 2012 at 3:07
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    I don't think simple eugenics can achieve faster growth rate. From my understanding, it can be used to weed out negative aspects of DNA, but not add positives. With selective breeding, you are still limited to the genes of both parents. Altering growth rate would almost definitely require more advanced genetic manipulation, to an extreme complexity. Oct 27, 2012 at 3:49
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    "Did Roddenberry ever indicate he already thought organized eugenics were going on?" Did anyone in the US doubt there were organized eugenics programming going on in the 1960s?
    – user1030
    Oct 27, 2012 at 11:45
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    From my agriculture classes: modern livestock definitely matures faster and grows faster than it did even 50 years ago. Some of this is related to better nutrition, but some of it is definitely genetics.
    – John O
    Oct 27, 2012 at 18:09

2 Answers 2


Organized eugenics was alive and well in the United States and elsewhere long before the 1960's, and the writers of "Space Seed" (Gene L. Coon and Carey Wilber) were probably reacting to that reality. Forced sterilization of criminals and retarded persons was the law of the land in many U.S. states, and was still going on at the time Star Trek was first broadcast. Immigration quotas and anti-miscegenation laws were another example of the nation trying to keep "breeding stocks" pure. Taking the next step and tweaking gene expression to produce supermen isn't much of a stretch given the across-the-board strivings of 20th Century western cultures toward perfectibility through selective breeding, even leaving aside the glaring example of the Nazis.

Also, gene expression can be altered anytime during the life of an organism; cells are being replaced constantly. So Khan could have been born a normal human who was altered in adulthood as part of a genetics program.

  • Just weeding out genes considered "inferior" isn't going to produce someone of Khan's superior strength and intelligence. As for altering Khan's DNA in adulthood, I hardly think that was possible given the technology of the 1960s (or even today). Oct 27, 2012 at 19:59
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    @Keith: Eugenics isn't limited to only sterilizing the poor/unhealthy. Positive and negative eugenics are both considered eugenics. Positive eugenics focuses on promoting desirable traits, such as by interbreeding Olympic medalists, having lots of women inseminated with the sperm of male Fields medalists, or encouraging women with high IQs to have lots of children. And Khan wouldn't have been an adult until the 90s while cloning and genetic engineering began in the late 70s. Oct 27, 2013 at 1:57

Most likely the story was written well before the casting, and a younger man may have been intended. Also, this was a more optimistic era in terms of scientific advancement (the episode also posits cryogenic suspension and interplanetary vessels by the 1990s).

  • Doesn't answer the question.
    – Stan
    Oct 26, 2013 at 12:16

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