The Genesis Project

written by Jack B. Sowards and Harve Bennett
April 10, 1981
report & analysis by David Eversole

The S.S. Reliant (described as a sister ship of the Enterprise), under the command of Captain John Beach, approaches Ceti Alpha Five. Over this, a recording of Captain Kirk fills us in on the “Space Seed” backstory. We cut to a viewscreen on the Reliant which shows photographs and footage of Khan, his followers and Ensign Marla McGiver (their rank and spelling error, not mine), and details their attempt to hijack the Enterprise fourteen years ago.

Finally, after two pages of this history lesson, the story begins. There have been no signs of life from Khan’s group for “several years.” Doctor Carol Baxter wants to use the planet to test “Genesis,” therefore Commander Clark Terrell and Lieutenant Pavel Chekov beam down to check its suitability. Despite the several years comment, Terrell and Chekov mention that there was still a settlement here two years ago.

Carol’s son David and his lover Neela and other members of the Genesis team (Jedda, Madison and March), located on the planet Gamma Regula Four, distrust Star Fleet’s sudden interest in their project. David fears its life-giving force will be perverted into a “devastating weapon” to use against the Klingons or the Romulons (again, their spelling).

Terrell and Chekov beam down to the coordinates of the settlement, but it is gone. Nothing but desert—high winds and shifting sands. A hooded figure appears out of the sandstorm. Chekov draws his phaser. The hooded man’s eyes GLOW. Chekov recoils in fear as he sees his phaser change into a snarling rat. He hurls it away.

The figure leads them to a lava cave and removes his hood. It is Khan. Marla McGiver (looking very much like Khan’s “Lady Macbeth”) is there, as are twelve survivors (ten men, two women) of Khan’s group. Home-made scientific apparatus (including two six feet tall glass tubes) are scattered about the place. Chekov asks how they survived. McGiver proudly looks at Khan and says, “Only through the power of that magnificent mind.”

Khan demands to know why they are there. When Terrell tells him it is for a routine survey, Khan asks what Project Genesis is. Seems in his exile he has developed great mental powers. When they do not comply, Khan has them placed in each of the glass tubes and drops Ceti Eels onto them.

Moments later, Captain Beach receives a message from Terrell. All is fine and they will be beaming up soon with several guests. Beach is baffled. Guests? (Didn’t you listen to the two-page info dump at the beginning of the movie, dummy?)

On Earth, at Star Fleet Headquarters, young Mister Savik, male, Vulcan/Human, undergoes the Kobayashi Maru simulation. It plays out much as in the final film, though only Doctor McCoy and Mister Sulu are here from the original cast. Joining Savik in the test are two female officers--Communications Officer Lieutenant Diana O’Rourke and Navigator Gunner Officer Lieutenant Jana Insalla.

Savik attempts to retreat from the attacking Romulons (their spelling... you know the drill). He fails and Admiral Kirk, head of Star Fleet’s Training Command, enters, revealing to the audience that it was only a test.

Captain Spock shows up and explains that he personally chose Savik as his new first officer, though he finds the young Vulcan “too rigid.” McCoy has a good laugh at this. After mentioning that only three cadets ever successfully completed the Kobayashi Maru test, Spock asks Kirk if he was one of them?! (Some BFF he is!) Kirk admits he was. Not knowing what to do with the character in this dull scene, Sowards and Bennett send Spock off to the Enterprise, and McCoy tells Kirk he has signed up for another tour onboard the Enterprise. They talk of Kirk’s fears of growing old for a couple pages.

(Okay, of the main cast, so far, only McCoy is really in character. He sounds somewhat like the Bones of old. Kirk is close, but the diction--the dialog--for him isn’t really Shatner-ish. Spock only shows up on page 18, then ducks back to the Enterprise. It is all so stiff and “on the nose.”)

The S.S. Reliant approaches Gamma Regula Four. Khan has seized control and stranded its crew, save Terrell and Chekov, on Ceti Alpha Five. Khan is in the captain’s chair, Marla at the helm. The rest of his people have traded their rag-tag clothing for Star Fleet uniforms. Khan controls Terrell and Chekov by speaking into a hand-held wand when he addresses them. They hear his voice in their heads via the Ceti Eels. It will make sense very late in the script when McCoy and O’Rourke have another info-dump scene, but meanwhile...

Khan orders Terrell and Chekov to beam down and seize all material relating to Project Genesis.

McCoy stops by to visit Kirk at his office, has a couple good lines with Uhura (her only scene in the film), Kirk’s personal assistant/secretary. When she shows him into Kirk’s office, they are interrupted by an urgent message from Carol Baxter. “You should have married her when you had the chance,” McCoy tells Kirk (who quickly removes and hides a pair of half-glasses he was wearing). Carol asks Kirk if he can come to Gamma Regula Four. She needs help and he is the only one she can trust concerning Genesis. Her transmission is cut off. Kirk wonders what Genesis is...

David, Carol and her staff hope help will arrive, though David doubts it. Already Terrell has imposed a curfew and he, Chekov and all of the Star Fleet personnel stationed there as security for the project carry sidearms at all times. Terrell holds a briefing in an amphitheater, explains that there is a Klingon threat and all Genesis material will be beamed aboard the Reliant within twenty-four hours.

Kirk goes to Spock, asks him if he remembers Dr. Carol Baxter. Spock says, “You should have married her when you had the chance,” before admitting that he has not heard of the Genesis Project, officially, but has heard rumors. Two years ago, Dr. Baxter recruited the finest young scientists in the galaxy to work on a project concerning “molecular reformation and antimatter.” It could be destructive or constructive, either the best or the worst thing to happen to mankind. So, the rumor goes.

Kirk asks Spock if Gamma Regula Four is too far out of the way for him to take the Enterprise there before it embarks on its new mission. Spock replies, “A couple of hundred million miles. A hop and a skip.”

Kirk has Uhura dummy up bogus training orders for the Enterprise at Gamma Regula Three and he will tag along as an advisor. Mr. Savik takes the ship out and they’re on their way.

On Gamma Regular Four, David leads Neela, Jedda, March and Madison in an attempt to stop Terrell and his men from seizing the Genesis material from the Science Compound. Neela is killed in a phaser fight and the rest barricade themselves inside. Terrell pulls out his communicator, calls Khan. Khan orders him to storm the building. Terrell finds only a large transporter room, empty, the machine humming monotonously.

On the Reliant, Marla informs Khan that Terrell’s communicator was broadcasting on Star Fleet channels. It is possible that other Star Fleet personnel heard it.

On the Enterprise, Diana O’Rourke corners Kirk and complains that the Kobayashi Maru scenario was unwinnable. Kirk tells her a no-win situation is a possibility all Star Fleet officers may face.

Spock interrupts to call Kirk to the bridge. Star Fleet was monitoring Terrell’s side of the communications with Khan. Star Fleet Commander Nehandi believes that the “rebels,” perhaps including Carol Baxter, plan to steal the Genesis Project materials. The Enterprise is to abandon its “training mission” and rendezvous with the Reliant to help quell the rebellion.

Kirk and Spock take time out to debate the morality of the Kobayashi Maru scenario. If the Star Fleet vessel abandons the Kobayashi Maru, one hundred and twelve people on it will die. If they stay and fight the attacking Romulons the Star Fleet vessel will be destroyed, costing the lives of its two hundred and seventy crewmembers. Kirk counters that the Star Fleet personnel knew they might be called on to sacrifice their lives for a greater good. “They are there by choice, not chance.”

Mister Savik interrupts to inform them that the Reliant is approaching. Spock agrees that they must continue this logic vs ethics debate at a later date.

The Reliant attacks the Enterprise and the warp engines are damaged. Kirk offers to go to Engineering to assist Scotty, but Spock says that since the Enterprise is his ship he will do it. “Take the Con, Admiral,” he orders as he leaves.

In the Engine Room, Scotty informs Spock that an engine is running wild and will blow. The only way to stop it is to shut the engine down via Manual Override which is located in the Control Room. But the Control Room is filled with radiation. Scotty goes off to look for an “A-Nine Junction Box” and Spock walks to the Control Room, “coolly steps inside, and closes the door behind him and locks it.”

On the darkened bridge, Kirk watches as Reliant comes back for another pass. The Enterprise is fast losing all power, and they can only hope the runaway warp engine will be back under control soon...

The bridge lighting returns to normal. Full power has been restored. The Enterprise surges forward, firing phasers, severely damaging the Reliant which retreats. Kirk goes to Engineering to congratulate Scotty and Spock on their fine work, only to discover Spock near death, standing inside the Control Room. Spock recalls their previous debate over the Kobayashi Maru scenario.

From the screenplay:


... A Captain’s primary consideration is the safety of his ship and crew. In which
case, retreat is the answer...but the primary duty of the ship and crew is
to protect and serve the citizens of the Federation. And in that case... In that case...

Spock sways and Kirk starts to reach out for him, but his hands encounter the plastic door. Spock sinks to his knees.



Spock takes a beat to collect himself and continues in his cool manner.


Some lives must be sacrificed in order to save others... It is a matter of
logically ordering one’s priorities...

(stressing the word)

Logic... Jim. Logic... Without logic the Universe is a sprawling, chaotic,
inexplicable mess... and life, as we live it, moment to moment, seems to be
random, and yet...

Spock pauses... shakes his head to clear it, and leans against the door to support himself.



Looking back... it is amazingly ordered. Almost as if it was ordained.
Predestined. All neatly organized... with a beginning... a middle... and an end...

Spock puts his hand against the door to support himself... and Kirk puts his hand on the outer side of the door.



All... very logical...

CAMERA HAS MOVED IN ON SPOCK’S HAND, and as Spock loses consciousness, his hand slides down the door, and Kirk’s hand slides down with it. There is a long moment. Spock doesn’t move... and Kirk realizes he is gone, as CAMERA MOVES IN on his stricken look.

In the Forward Torpedo Room, Spock’s body, inside a torpedo casing, is launched into space with only these words from Kirk: “Unto Almighty God we commend the soul of our brother departed, and we commit his body to the deep...” A kilted Scotty plays “Amazing Grace” on his bagpipes and Kirk moves to Savik, and tells him that by regulation, he (Savik) is the new Captain of the Enterprise, “but I will be giving the orders.” Savik agrees.

Kirk goes to his cabin, sits alone and we see a montage of scenes of he and Spock to be selected from original series footage. McCoy enters, listens as Kirk blames himself for Spock’s death. “No,” McCoy says firmly. They drink a toast to Spock’s memory.

The Enterprise arrives at Gamma Regula Four. Kirk is sure that someone has hijacked the Reliant. Why would it attack them otherwise? He is also sure the Reliant is hiding nearby, perhaps behind one of Gamma Regula Four’s moons. He beams down with Mr. Savik and Lieutenant O’Rourke to find answers.

Kirk finds Chekov, who tells him Terrell is leading a detachment against the rebels, one of whom is Carol Baxter. He also tells Kirk that rebels took over the Reliant. Kirk believes him, and orders him to recall Terrell from the front and give him a chance to talk to the rebels. Chekov shows him a map, indicates where he believes there is an underground complex where the rebels may be hiding the project.

Kirk and Savik take a surface vehicle and search the mountainous terrain. Soon they are stopped by David Baxter, blindfolded and led to an underground complex where Kirk is reunited with Carol. As they kiss Kirk says, “Why didn’t I marry you when I had the chance?”

“Because you were a Star Fleet Officer and I was a micro-biologist... You wanted to look at the Stars... And I wanted to look at the dust under my feet.”

Carol explains that the Genesis Project is an experiment in Terraforming and leads him to the lush beautiful “Eden Cave” which the device created underground in the solid rock. Kirk asks how it works and Carol and David give him an explanation that runs to three full pages of technical dialog. After this they debate the moral implications of the device destroying current life in favor of a new matrix, then... David will be damned if he turns the project over to Star Fleet or any other branch of the military!

Kirk leads Carol into another room. He has noted that David calls Carol, “Mother.” Yes, she says, I am his mother. When was he born, Kirk wants to know. Carol figures Kirk can work that out for himself. Kirk does and asks why she never told him...

Terrell, Chekov and other Starfleet personnel attack the cave, and Khan beams the Genesis materials aboard the Reliant. Kirk questions why Terrel is there. He told them to await word from him. Terrell pulls a phaser, levels it at Kirk. Savik stuns Terrell with a blast from his phaser, then swings it toward Mr. Chekov, who has gone into a rigid, trancelike state.

Savik kneels over Terrell and a Ceti Eel crawls out of his ear. Chekov raises his phaser as we hear the voice of Khan tell him to kill Kirk. Chekov resists, turns the phaser on himself, aims it at his own head and... Kirk grabs it from him, changes it to a stun setting and fires. Chekov crumples unconscious and an eel emerges from his ear as well.

Kirk has the two unconscious men beamed up to the Enterprise. When they have dematerialized, David and his followers take Kirk and Savik prisoner, and tell them that unless they return the Genesis materials they will both be put on trial and executed. Kirk tries to explain that the Genesis material wasn’t beamed up to the Enterprise. Ask your mother if I would do that, he tells the young man. But David is having none of it. He gives Kirk fifteen minutes to return the material or he and Savik will die.

Onboard the Reliant, Khan and Marla are exultant. At last Khan has the power he has always dreamed of. He can destroy and create as he wishes. But, says a flunky, the Power Encoder is missing. Khan says he’ll think about it...

In the cave courtroom, David picks up his phaser, walks toward Kirk and Savik. Carol arrives, confronts him, and reveals that Kirk is his father. He thinks she is lying. She walks away, leaving him holding the phaser.

On the Enterprise, Dr. McCoy and Lieutenant O’Rourke discover that the Ceti Eels are basically biological radio transmitters/receivers. McCoy is amazed, but O’Rourke assures him it is true. They consult a reference book which shows that research discovering this was conducted on the penal colony Ceti Alpha Five by Doctor Khan Noonian Singh in the year--McCoy cuts her off. “Khan! My God, it’s Khan!” McCoy dashes off to call Kirk.

David goes to Kirk, phaser in hand, and basically asks why he shouldn’t kill him. He and Kirk engage in a three-page debate over this and that and MY GOD, THIS IS ONE TALKY DAMN SCRIPT, and then David is proud that Kirk is his old man and now he believes him and won’t kill him, and Kirk never knew he had a son until today but he is glad that it is David. Before they can embrace, Carol rushes in with a paper printout of a message from McCoy. It’s Khan! Kirk asks if the Reliant was ever at Ceti Alpha Five. Well, duh, yes, just before we started getting all these weird orders from the Star Fleet Commander on Reliant. Nope, not Star Fleet’s orders, Kirk says, it was Khan’s orders.

David tells them Khan can’t use Genesis without the Molecular Encoder, which he has hidden and guarded in the Eden Cave. They go to retrieve it but find the guards unconscious. David goes to a wall safe hidden behind a rock slab, opens it and breathes a sigh of relief as he sees an eight-inch metal tube there.

Off screen we hear Khan say, “Thank you very much.” When David will not give him the encoder, Khan’s eyes glow and flash and David sees the encoder turn into a wicked snake. He hurls it away. Khan forces David to his knees with his mental power. “Resist him, David” Kirk urges. Khan turns his attention to Kirk, hurls a large piece of fruit at him. Kirk catches the fruit which he sees as the spiked ball of a mace with attached chain. He faces Khan, also armed with an “Andorian Fire Mace.” Both balls burst into flames and Kirk and Khan swing them at each other, holding only the unburning chains in both of their hands.

Khan smashes Kirk’s left arm, leaving it useless. But since he is a fair fighter he changes the weapons to ones requiring only the use of one hand--cat o-nine-tails with writhing snakes for tails. The “Romulon Medusa Whip,” Khan kindly explains, used only in affairs of honor, and only to the death.

Khan casually flicks the whip at David, shredding his chest. The young man collapses, bleeding. Kirk and Khan fight with these weapons until Kirk gets the upper hand, then Khan, fatigued, perhaps, changes the weapons to Icthyan Swords, which resemble swordfish, tapered with serrated teeth edges.

Again, they battle furiously until Khan has his blade tip at Kirk’s throat. Kirk grows oddly relaxed, smiles. Khan lowers the blade, plunges it into Kirk’s chest. David tries to rise and help but cannot. A moment, then David is amazed at what he sees. Kirk is still alive, still smiling. “It’s just an illusion,” Kirk says. It cannot harm him. And the sword in his chest vanishes, his arm is undamaged. David’s wounds are gone as well.

Defeated, Khan rushes to grab the encoder, throws a barrier of flames up to block anyone from getting at him, and calls Marla and is beamed back to the Reliant.

Kirk, Savik, David and Carol beam back to the Enterprise. Sulu locates the Reliant and they close for battle. Khan fires a Genesis-loaded torpedo. Sulu maneuvers out of the way and the torpedo destroys one of Gamma Regula Four’s moons. Each time Khan fires a torpedo he lowers his shields for a second. Kirk brings the Enterprise in close, waits for him to lower shields, then opens up with phaser and torpedo fire. Reliant is severely damaged, drifts listlessly...

Khan elects to blow the Reliant up using a Genesis torpedo. “Did I ever tell you I loved you?” he asks Marla. “Never once,” she tells him. He kisses her forehead. “And I probably never will,” he says.


Kirk asks David to join the Enterprise’s crew as a Science Officer. He declines, and elects to stay on Gamma Regula Four to continue work on the Genesis Project with his mother. “Live long and prosper, my son,” Kirk says. Chekov recovers, but Terrell will need more care.

Carol tells David that he is passing up a great opportunity. He could explore space, see many wonderful sights, mysteries...

The Enterprise prepares to leave to pick up Captain Beach and the Reliant’s crew on Ceti Alpha Five. O’Rourke informs Kirk there is one more person beaming up from Gamma Regula Four.

David Baxter bursts onto the bridge. He’s changed his mind. Kirk has Savik take him below to get a uniform and a haircut.

The Enterprise heads off for Ceti Alpha Five. Over the departing shot of the majestic ship, we hear Kirk’s famous “These are the voyages” speech…

The Math of Khan

So, there have been “no signs of life” from Khan and his followers for “several years?”

Yet, the settlement was here two years ago (okay the settlement was there, abandoned, and they moved into a cave).

Did Doctor Khan send his research to Star Fleet, or did they get it from another of his sources? When? Before “several years,” one supposes.

The plot, the major beats, the themes are here, but they’re unfocused, scattershot, with missed opportunities. Clutter abounds, info-dumps overwhelm. Meyer rearranged, pruned, combined characters (Savik and O’Rourke), tightened, and polished the hell out of this script, which reads more like a promising rough first draft than a final.


Harve Bennett (1930-2015): Born Harve Bennett Fischman, he was most famous as a producer, writer and co-writer of the second through fifth Star Trek movies. He began his show business career as a child contestant on the radio program Quiz Kids, then went to film school and worked in television. He produced The Mod Squad, The Six Million Dollar Man, The Bionic Woman and Time Trax, among others. Telefilms and mini-series he produced include, Rich Man, Poor Man, The Jesse Owens Story and A Woman Called Golda. He always hoped his "Starfleet Academy" film script would be produced.

Jack B. Sowards (1929-2007): The sole credited writer on Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, though Harve Bennett contributed to the script and Nicholas Meyer rewrote both of them. Soward wrote mostly for television, including episodes of Daniel Boone, The High Chaparral, Bonanza and The Streets of San Francisco. Star Trek fans also remember his second season episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, "Where Silence Has Lease."

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