Star Trek 2: The Eels Have Eyes

There are two moderate plot holes early in Wrath of Khan. Interpreted properly, they shed a whole new light on the real puppetmasters of Star Trek II.

[A little break in Oscar week for a guest post by John Perich about Star Trek II. Leave your Kahn-ments below. –Ed.]

Khan Noonien SinghStar Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is widely considered the best of the Trek movies, and certainly better than the original. The original Star Trek series was adolescent fantasy – man travels to exotic locales, makes out with hot aliens, and solves complex problems by punching or shooting the right people. Wrath of Khan is the first Trek story to deal with death and change. Kirk pays for the mistakes of his past and must, for the first time, cope with loss.

So we already know that Wrath of Khan is a deeper movie than we anticipated. But is there a chance it’s deeper still?

There are two moderate plot holes early in Wrath of Khan, both on the planet Ceti Alpha V. Left as is they make for a few hiccups in the story. Interpreted properly, they shed a whole new light on the real puppetmasters of Star Trek II.


Chekov and Terrell land on what they think is Ceti Alpha VI, hoping to find a good spot to plant the Genesis device. They poke around inside some crashed cargo carriers. Eventually Chekov spots a souvenir of Botany Bay, the hibernation vessel that escorted Khan from Earth, and spazzes out. He tries to run, but not before Khan and his goons ambush him and Terrell.

(Note that Khan recognizes Chekov, despite Chekov not being present in the original episode where Khan was encountered. That’s not the plot hole I’m talking about. Continuity’s a mug’s game.)

Khan revisits the past and explains what’s going on:

KHAN: He never told you how Admiral Kirk sent seventy of us into exile on this barren sand heap with only the contents of these cargo bays to sustain us?

CHEKOV: You lie! On Ceti Alpha Five there was life, a fair chance –

KHAN: THIS is Ceti Alpha Five. Ceti Alpha Six exploded six months after we were left here. The shock shifted the orbit of this planet and everything was laid waste.

Two problems here:

  1. A planet exploded 15 years ago and no one noticed? What sort of Federation of Planets is this? Even presuming Ceti Alpha is some galactic backwater that nobody ever visits, wouldn’t the crew of the Reliant, upon arriving in the system, think to count the number of planets? It’s not like the planet has a sign on it saying “Ceti Alpha V.” The Reliant mistakes it for Ceti Alpha VI because Ceti Alpha VI’s explosion shifted V’s orbit. So they must have some sense of the number of planets in the Ceti Alpha system and what their orbits should be. But that fails them here.
  2. The Reliant is searching for suitable planets for the Genesis Device. This means they’re poring over a list generated by the Starfleet database. When the Ceti Alpha system came up, wouldn’t Khan’s name appear as a footnote? “Oh, by the way, the genetic superman who briefly ruled a quarter of Earth a few hundred years ago is stranded on one of these planets. Keep an eye out.” That sort of warning would have to exist, if only to avoid other Starfleet ships landing on Ceti Alpha Five and getting hijacked.

Taken in isolation, either of those errors would be odd. Taken in conjunction, they’re unforgivable. And I have a hard time believing those sort of databasing errors happen in what is essentially a space navy full of nerds.


The EelOnce Khan realizes that Kirk is still out there, and that these men have access to a Starship, he puts eels in their helmets and locks the helmets on their heads.

KHAN: [T]heir young enter through the ears and wrap themselves around the cerebral cortex. This has the effect of rendering the victim extremely susceptible to suggestion. Later, as they grow, follows madness–and death.

There’s a problem here: susceptible to suggestion how? Do the eels make you susceptible to ANY suggestion?

If yes, then why don’t Chekov and Terrell remain suspiciously gullible once they beam back aboard the Reliant? “Go fuck yourself, Terrell… hey, wait, what are you doing?”

If no, then that means the hypnosis turns off after a few minutes. If that’s the case, then why would Chekov and Terrell continue following Khan’s commands?

Read on to find out.

15 Comments on “Star Trek 2: The Eels Have Eyes”

  1. lee OTI Staff #

    No discussion of Star Trek II is complete with a “dish best served cold” joke, right? How’s this:

    Ceti eel is a dish best served cold. Unfortunately, it is very hot on Ceti Alpha V.

    Argh. I’m sure someone can do better.

    By the way, you have me totally convinced on the eel theory. I’m sure there were other “hive mind” organism in Star Trek; this is just one of many in our vast universe.


  2. Carlos #

    “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is widely considered the best of the Trek movies”

    Whoa whoa whoa. Whoa.

    Maybe somewhat considered, but it definitely didn’t make the highest- or second-highest box office. And on the Rotten Tomatoes different Treks get different ratings depending on which pool you dredge.

    Don’t bring kung-fu like that in here without some serious linkage to back you up, my old friend. Srsly, where do you guys find these clowns?

    Now then: good post.


  3. Matthew Belinkie OTI Staff #

    This is some mighty fine Overthinkin’, John!

    Or should I say… Jaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahn!!!!


  4. M. Witty #

    Regarding plot hole #1, I think this is why by ST:TNG, each ship had a stellar cartography officer attached.


  5. John P. #


    (A) If you check Wikipedia – Wikipedia! – you’ll find, “The Wrath of Khan is generally considered one of the best films of the Star Trek series and is credited with creating renewed interest in the franchise.”

    (Of course, they don’t source that statement)

    (B) I have never heard a straight-faced argument for why any of the other films are better.


  6. Pianodan #

    I think the fact that Khan is the best of the Star Trek movie is such a wide consensus that there’s no need to source it. It would be like sourcing the statement, “You know, I think it quite likely that the sun will rise tomorrow.”

    Of course, being the best of this particular pool is like saying you’ve got the most seniority of ANYONE at your Chuck E. Cheese.


  7. stokes OTI Staff #

    Alas, there’s probably some dudes at the Chuck E. Cheese who have been working there for a looooooong time.


  8. Dave M #

    People actually enjoyed watching the one with the whales in it. So that one’s clearly better in the “more people have told Dave they liked that one” sense. Wrath of Khan barely even makes sense without being overthought (What with the alleged superman acting like a three year old all the time). Also, killing off a major character to make a movie seem like a big deal is kind of cheating if you just bring him back to life in the next movie.


  9. Lauren #

    I was converted to a Trekkie through slow, methodical indoctrination (my babysitter was a Trekkie), and I don’t really know a lot of fans, except my brother, who was also converted. We kind of are an isolated sect, I suppose. I love Wrath of Khan, but what about Undiscovered Country? Am I totally off base? I thought that one was pretty good (bracing for tongue-lashing here, but have to ask…), the acting was decent, the story was fair, the characters seemed to act rationally according to his/her motives…


  10. carl #

    Has anyone stopped to think about all the things that could go wrong with the way this universes Star Trek is? Sarek will die in Journey to Babel because it was Spock’s mom that convinced Spock to go thru with the surgery to save his fathers life and if that happens when David (if he even exist) when builds the Genesis Device and its explodes Spock will die. But no one will go to Kirk to ask him to retrieve Spock’s body so the Kingons will kill David, Spock, and Savak. McCoy will most likely die in some mental hospital so sick from Spock,s Katra that no one knows how to treat him. When the Enterprise /A doesn’t work properly Kirk will go on vacation he will fall to his death because Spock will not be there to catch him. But I guess that that will all work out in the end because that mean that Spock cant make a promise to save Romulus and he and Nero cant go back in time and Screw every thing up.


  11. Matthew Belinkie OTI Staff #

    @ Carl – I like your thinking. However, in this Star Trek movie, the universe seems to be trying really hard NOT to let anything change. I mean, what were the odds that Scotty was working on that ice planet, that Kirk just happens to be marooned on? You can dismiss this as a lame coincidence. But I think it’s supposed to be Fate. The universe WANTS Scotty to be the Enterprise’s engineer. Even through the past is altered in a bunch of huge ways, somehow Scotty gets that job. It’s Destiny. Hell, on a more basic level, you’d expect the tragic death of Kirk’s father to change his entire life, resulting in a different personality and different career. But he still ends up on the bridge of the Enterprise, despite a radically different upbringing.

    What I’m saying, Scott, is that the laws of cause and effect seem a little malleable, and we don’t know exactly how that will play out. Maybe none of the adventures in the original series happen at all. Maybe they all happen exactly the same way. But hey, whatever happens, remember it’s a parallel universe. This isn’t a question of “canon” or “non-canon.” This is just a second way Star Trek could have unfolded.


  12. Matthew Belinkie OTI Staff #

    @ Carl – Sorry I called you “Scott” in that second paragraph.


  13. carl #

    I’ve been reading some of the letters and just to comment I’ve herd about the paradoxes and continuity problems in STAR TREK for years I’m sorry I just don’t see them I feel that any thing that’s been said in STAR TREK T.N.G or any other show from that time frame that doesn’t sound quite right would be like you or I talking about the Civil War we know what we know from what we piece together within our own mind by what we’ve read and herd if we get something wrong it not antennal we just didn’t interpret things quite right But if someone makes a movie about that war and shows Abe Lincoln dying as a result of someone firing a canon at the White House that’s not interpretation THATS GETTING IT WRONG and J.J. GOT IT WRONG I know some will say that its just a show and some movies but its also a dream of one man named RODDENBERRY and I fell if he or his wife were alive right now this movie would never have reached theaters and would have faded it to the same abyss the first Fantastic Four movie fell into and I’m not talking about the one with Jessica Alba in it
    By the way I’ve been called worse things then Scott in my life so no problem


  14. Carl #

    Well as I have been reading some of the letters and blogs, and as any of you that have seen my letters on so many web sights know I did not like this film. As I’ve been called I have to admit there is some proof to the fact that I’m an old die hard STICK IN THE MUD fan of Star Trek. The biggest problem I’ve got with the film is that it completely goes against Star Trek canon. As some people agree with me, some do not. So I think we both can come up with a solution that will appease both new fans of this film and us die hard STICK IN THE MUDS. We die hards cant do it alone so we need you new fans help and the best part about it is any of you that don’t know anything about Star Trek shouldn’t notice a thing anyway.
    I purpose introducing characters that are not considered canon but are still known to us old STICK IN THE MUDS. As well as some we didn’t get to know real well and for those of you that don’t know what I mean here some names to help you out.

    ROBERT APRIL he was suppose to be the Enterprises first Captain before Pike and was the only character ever played by Gene Rodenberry himself

    AREX he was a navigator in the animated Star Trek and had six limbs. With new C.G.I. he could be created vary easily

    WILL DECKER he was killed in the first movie but was suppose to be in the second T.V. show witch never happened.

    ILIA also killed in the first movie

    M’RESS also from the animated Star Trek she was of a cat like race easy to create now

    I feel a letter writing campaign would help with this and then maybe you new fan and us old STICK IN THE MUDS can both enjoy the ride the next film takes us on


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