It boggles the thoughts that it’s taken this lengthy to see such an iconic Star Trek character accurately represented by an actor of comparable background. In any case, Khan was recognized as “a Sikh from the northern area of India” in his very first look in The Unique Sequence episode “Area Seed” in 1967.
There’s no query that it was the good Montalbán who immortalized Khan as an all-timer of a villain each on the large and small display, however it’s additionally true that he was born in Mexico from white European mother and father. When seen from a contemporary lens, this casting is problematic, however it’s essential to notice that Montalbán was in his personal time a revolutionary actor, breaking into Hollywood at a time when there have been only a few Hispanic performers dominating American screens. His casting in Star Trek as a personality of colour on a preferred TV collection would have nonetheless felt progressive on the time.
However then Star Trek Into Darkness doubled down on casting a European actor to play the character when Cumberbatch’s terrorist John Harrison reveals that he’s really Khan. To be honest, the Khan twist within the divisive film, which takes place in an alternate Trek timeline, has extra to do with winking on the viewers than something that made sense inside the movie’s actuality. It’s additionally true that director J.J. Abrams initially solid Puerto Rican actor Benicio Del Toro, however given its alternative to herald a performer that would higher mirror the character’s background, why didn’t Into Darkness contemplate a South Asian actor for the function from the beginning? Maybe Abrams needed to wink at an earlier model of the character that didn’t make it into “Area Seed.”
Behind the scenes, Khan wasn’t all the time Khan. In earlier variations of the “Area Seed” script, author Carey Wilber imagined the character as a Nordic man known as “Harald Ericsson.” Later variations had the character working beneath the pseudonym “John Erickson” earlier than revealing himself to be the tyrant Ragnar Thorwald, a conceit that ultimately returned in Star Trek Into Darkness. In some unspecified time in the future, the character was renamed Khan Noonien Singh, maybe through the rewrite by the episode’s different credited author Gene L. Coon, however extra seemingly on the behest of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry. Roddenberry served in World Battle II alongside a person named Kim Noonien Singh, and hoped that the episode would get his consideration, resulting in a reunion between the previous associates.
Apparently, the Khan we meet in Unusual New Worlds exists in an alternate timeline too, one the place he’s nonetheless a baby through the 2020s, not a conqueror through the Nineties. It’s unclear how a lot the present will use Khan going ahead past this cameo, regardless of the season’s clear curiosity within the Eugenics Wars. However even when that is all simply meant to be one other wink at followers, the character’s return on this approach is Star Trek setting a brand new, higher course, stepping away from Into Darkness‘ mistake and getting that a lot nearer to creating the long run it has all the time imagined.