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.




As we know, fifteen years earlier, in the episode “Space Seed,” Kirk dropped Khan and the survivors of Botany Bay on the fertile but dangerous planet Ceti Alpha V. The explosion of Ceti Alpha VI six months later knocks the planet out of orbit, causing dust storms that wipe out nearly all organic life.

However, just as the Enterprise awoke a long-dormant conqueror when they found the Botany Bay, so too does this explosion awaken the hibernating masters of Ceti Alpha V: the Ceti eels.

A superintelligent hivemind, the Ceti eels comprise a single brain, of which each individual eel is the equivalent of a cell. The Eel-mind went into a torpor when some catastrophe scattered them, turning them from a single supergenius mass into a bunch of mindless worms. However, the eels do have one evolved advantage: an eel that can merge with the cortex of an intelligent creature can boost its “transmission range.” This enables the Eel-mind to slowly begin rebuilding itself through parasitism and subterfuge.

The eels don’t make their victims vulnerable to suggestion. They plant suggestions themselves.

By luck, an eel sneaks into the ear of Marla McGivers, the Starfleet lieutenant who fell in love with Khan and followed him into exile. She’s no slouch, but she doesn’t have the eugenic hypersenses of the rest of the Botany Bay crew, so the eel’s able to creep up on her while she sleeps. Now she’s acting as a transmitter, waking up any nearby eels into a semblance of the original Eel-mind. The Eel-mind’s not up to full strength yet, so it tells her to sneak eels into more crewmembers.

The enhanced cortical capacity of these genetic superhumans restores the Eel-mind to awareness much faster than normal. Sadly, it takes some delicate balancing to keep an eel from consuming its host. Lt. McGivers, as well as some other crew members, are victims of this early experimentation. However, once they gain control of Khan the battle is won.

The eels cannot run a man like a puppet, but they can plant suggestions he will find reasonable. Khan sincerely believes that the eels make people more suggestible–because that’s what the eels want Khan, a man who seeks power over others, to think. In truth, this is simply the easiest suggestion that will get Khan to put eels in as many ears as possible.

Fifteen years later, the Eel-mind senses the Reliant in orbit over Ceti Alpha V. It suggests that Khan hack the Starfleet database uplink using Botany Bay’s communications gear, erasing all reference to his presence in the system. Chekov and Terrell are lured down, get a lecture from Khan, and end up with some eels in the brain.

Now, for the first time in its life, the Eel-mind is larger than the planet on which it was born. Khan, free of his prison and with the resources of a starship at his disposal, considers flight to a distant planet and a slow re-arming process. But the Eel-mind suggests that revenge on Kirk would be much sweeter. Even though Kirk was nothing but kind to him fifteen years ago – he didn’t have to let Khan live, after all – Khan follow’s his master’s suggestion.

Khan might want to be free, but the Eel-mind wants more starships.

Unfortunately for the aliens, and fortunately for the Federation, the only two eels that get anywhere near the crew of the Enterprise get killed or blown out of their rider’s heads. Kirk and Khan never actually get into the same room at the same time. The Reliant is blown out of the Mutara Nebula, and with it every eel “wired” to a transmitting cortex. In one terrible second, the Eel-mind’s consciousness is again wiped out.

But nobody knows exactly what the Ceti eels are capable of. McCoy doesn’t recognize the eel when he blasts it out of Chekov’s ear. Even if Chekov remembers what Khan told him, that’s pure misinformation.

So for now, and for milennia to come, the Eel-mind sleeps. And waits.

Email John at perich at gmail dot com.

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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