This is the third installment of my blogs about STAR TREK. If you have not read the others, please read August 2012 and September 2012 first by clicking the dates on my website.
My son was a junior in high school when I had one of my several encounters with STAR TREK trivia.
Andrew had a habit of turning up the radio to full volume as soon as I left for work.
One day, he thought I was already gone, so he turned the radio up and stepped into the shower. As I was leaving, I heard the radio announcer say that the station was running a contest to give away dinner for four at Olive Garden and four tickets to a rock concert. All the listener had to do was name the episode of STAR TREK that was the basis for the new WRATH OF KHAN movie. The year was 1982, and neither Google nor Wikipedia had been created yet, so we could not look it up on the Internet.
I knew the answer, and I pounced on the opportunity, so I put down my purse and briefcase and picked up the phone.
The announcer said the phone number of the station so fast that I was not sure what it was. It sounded like “777-KZET.” I tried that number, but no one answered. I didn’t want to yell to my son through the bathroom door. I knew, however, that the last three letters ended in the “ee” sound, so I started dialing several combinations. Since nine letters end in that sound, I tried many variations.
No luck. Eventually, I assumed someone else had won the prizes, so I stopped trying. I again grabbed my purse and briefcase.
At that moment the song ended and the announcer came back on, saying, “We’ve had lots of calls, but no one has gotten it right. Please dial 777-KZEP.” He sounded disappointed, if not desperate.
After several busy signals, I finally got through. A voice full of resignation said, “Yeah, what is it?”
“Space Seed,” I said.
“Hey, guys!” he shouted. “Someone finally got it!”
The other callers had probably all said BOTANY BAY, which was the name of the derelict spaceship in that episode. Dictator Khan, played by Ricardo Montalban, and his genetically modified fellow tyrants were in sleep mode on the prison ship when the ENTERPRISE crew discovered it adrift in space. Khan was looking for a new world with inhabitants he could rule.
Khan eventually attempted to take over the ENTERPRISE but was subdued by Kirk using a club from engineering since Khan had almost supernatural strength.
When Kirk finally banishes Khan and his followers to Ceti Alpha V, a planet “inhabitable, although savage, somewhat inhospitable,” Kirk states that the original members of Botany Bay went on to conquer all of Australia. Kirk asks Khan, “Can you tame a world?”
Khan asks Kirk, “Have you read Milton?”
Kirk smiles. “Yes, I understand.”
After Khan and his followers have left the ship, Scotty says, “It’s a shame for a good Scotsman to admit it, but I’m not up on Milton.”
Kirk nods and says, “It is a statement Lucifer made when he fell into the pit. It is better to rule in hell than serve in heaven.”
Montalban reprised the role in STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN. One of his memorable lines was also from PARADISE LOST: “Revenge is a dish best served cold.”
Khan paraphrases a quotation from MOBY-DICK. (Yes, Melville used the hyphen.) He tasks me! He tasks me, and I shall have him! I’ll chase him ’round the moons of Nibia and ’round the Antares maelstrom and ’round Perdition’s FLAMES before I give him up.” Khan substitutes places in outer space for the worldly places Melville used.
Later, as Khan is dying, he says, “From hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee,” a line said by Captain Ahab near the end of MOBY-DICK.
STAR TREK is and always shall be one of the most literary of television shows and movies.
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