Deleted ‘Space Seed’ Scene Wows ‘Trek’ Fans

Khan in 'Space Seed'

Paramount Ricardo Montalban as Khan in a scene from "Space Seed."

Great moments from great television episodes sometimes hit the cutting room floor during the editing process and go decades and decades before they’re rediscovered, adding context to a scene — albeit unofficially since the scene officially did not exist. Case in point: a rarely seen 30-second sequence from “Space Seed,” a first-season episode of “Star Trek: The Original Series.” The episode later served as the inspiration for the film “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.”

The deleted scene, which popped up on YouTube in 2020, takes place in the briefing room aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise. Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalban) and a group of his followers have seized control of the ship, with at least four of them brandishing phasers. Spock (Leonard Nimoy), Lt. Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) and Scotty (James Doohan) are seated in chairs, as Khan stands in front of them, addressing the group. Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley) is standing to Khan’s right. The camera then pushes in tight on McCoy as he approaches Khan and the doctor testily says, “I never thought I’d say this to a patient, but you owe me something. In case you’ve forgotten, I saved your life!” McCoy grabs at Khan’s arm and is immediately hit with phaser fire by one of Khan’s group. The doctor falls to the ground, as Uhura reaches out to help him. As the scene went unused in “Space Seed,” it was never completed. Thus, there are no special effects (for the phaser fire), nor is there any music to complement and enhance the action.

The scene continues with a quick cut to Spock, who is now standing, and Khan, who explains to the Vulcan that McCoy is only stunned and that he will avoid bloodshed…if possible. Khan then says, “I’m sure you approve.” Spock replies, “I approve only of the logic with which you took control of our vessel.” Spock pauses and raises his right eyebrow, and then says, “Brilliant.”

It’s Dr. McCoy’s Passion Versus Spock’s Logic in Confrontation With Khan in Deleted ‘Space Seed’ Scene

Viewers may never know for sure why the scene was cut, whether it was for time or the possibility that it contradicted an earlier scene in which Kirk (William Shatner) and Scotty expressed admiration for Khan, while Spock did not, or for some other reason. That said, Spock could have been taking a different, quite logical, approach to Khan’s actions, calmly praising Khan versus McCoy’s passionate anger.

More than 100,000 people have viewed the scene on YouTube since it was first posted there on March 6, 2020. The more than 200 comments are almost unanimously positive. One commenter wrote, “Never seen this before. Wish they had recovered all deleted scenes and put them back in when they released the series on Blu-ray so you could have 3 versions to watch (original; original with updated CGI; updated with CGI and deleted scenes).” Another noted, “Bones was always my favorite ‘TOS’ character. Here he is, with the balls to manhandle Khan! What a legend. RIP, DeForest Kelley!”

Montalban Returned as Khan 15 Years Later in ‘The Wrath of Khan’ 

Ricardo Montalbán at Khan

ParamountRicardo Montalbán as Khan.

Several fans addressed the issue of Spock’s comment and whether he was playing Khan or was truly impressed by the genetically enhanced human’s actions. “Wow, what a gem,” wrote one fan. “Earlier in the episode Spock couldn’t understand how his fellow officers could admire Khan and still be against him. This shows Spock is also capable of the same admiration.”

Another fan replied, saying, “I’m not so certain that Spock calling Khan’s takeover of the ship as ‘brilliant’ is a sign of Spock showing admiration; he is just pointing out as a fact that Khan is a smart guy.” Another fan in the same thread then argued, “Spock admires logic but learns that logic for the wrong reasons is still wrong. There are several points in the series where this realization is vocalize(d).”

Another fan jokingly wrote, “I was hoping this was the scene where Khan asked Spock where Mr. Chekov was hiding.” That was a reference to the fact that Chekov (Walter Koenig) and Khan recognized each other — in a pivotal dramatic scene — in “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.” However, their dramatic reunion made no sense. That’s because Chekov was not on the Enterprise during the events of “Space Seed,” which, as noted, aired in season 1, and because, according to Memory Alpha and the book “Star Trek: The Original Series — A Celebration,” Koenig did not join the cast of “Star Trek: The Original Series” until the second season.