One of the problems with science fiction is that every vision of the future runs the risk of eventually looking silly if the future doesn’t shape out the way you thought it might. If you’re imagining the world hundreds of years in the future, that’s one thing; at least you won’t live to find out how off the mark you were. While most of Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek universe concerns goings-on a few centuries in the future, there is one bit of Trek history that’s stood out like a sore thumb for decades: the so-called “Eugenics Wars,” during which Khan Noonien Singh and his fellow augmented humans kicked off a series of conflicts that “nearly [plunged] the planet into a new Dark Age.” You probably remember them, they happened between 1992 – 1996. No? Nothing? Don’t worry, there’s a new comic miniseries in the works to get you up to speed.
If Clinton’s first term did indeed involve a global conflict against genetically enhanced supermen, then either I was seriously inattentive during my high school years, or else the media has failed us on an unprecedented level even the most cynical of us would never suspect. As we approached, and then passed by, the years when Khan was supposed to have a good portion of the world under his boot heel, the Eugenics Wars became an awkward bit of Trek mythology in the same vein as The Original Series’ non-bumpy Klingons. The wars have been addressed in various ways over the years, including in a trilogy of novels by Greg Cox beginning in 2001, and now the subject is entering the spotlight again in the aptly titled Star Trek: Khan, due out this October from IDW Publishing.
Obviously, the Eugenics Wars became an important footnote in the rebooted Abrams Trek timeline this past spring, when a new version of Khan — memorably played by Benedict Cumberbatch — took center stage in Star Trek Into Darkness. That movie tiptoed around Khan’s backstory, staying fairly vague and leaving it unclear if they were trying to retrofit the genetically enhanced despot’s history to somehow fit in with actual events. It’ll be interesting to see if the comic does an outright reboot on Khan and the Eugenics Wars, shifting them forward a few decades into our own “future,” or if they just embrace the Trek timeline as fundamentally different from our own. (It always has been, obviously, but the aspirational notion that our future might look like Gene Roddenberry’s vision has always been part of the franchise’s appeal.)
Star Trek: Khan writer Mike Johnson explains:
‘We’re traveling back in time to show Khan’s rise to power and give fans their first look at the legendary Eugenics Wars,’ says Johnson. ‘As the series unfolds we will see the events that led to Khan leaving Earth aboard the Botany Bay, and then jump forward to witness his awakening in the future by Admiral Marcus.’
I’m betting they’ll sidestep the time-space anomaly that whitewashed Ricardo Montalban into Benedict Cumberbatch…
Star Trek: Khan is a six-issue miniseries from Mike Johnson and artist Claudia Balboni, with the project overseen by Into Darkness co-screenwriter Roberto Orci. You can check out Into Darkness’ short version of Khan’s origins below.