'Star Trek 2': Casting Khan...why couldn't it be a woman?

Oh, how the internets loves its casting rumors. Today, the nugget that caught my eye came from comingsoon.net, who not only floated the idea of Khan Noonien Singh being the villain in the next Star Trek flick, but that — “if they started filming today” — Lost‘s Nestor Carbonell would be the deep-sleeping warlord who harries Kirk and Co.

Of course, they aren’t filming today, and comingsoon.net admitted as much, but it got me thinking: If they are gonna do Khan — and I’m not convinced they should — who should play the part?

My answer: a woman.

Star Trek, while always on the forefront of social equality — interracial kisses, minorities and women in leadership roles; heck, The Next Generation even did a transgender episode — there have not been an abundance of female villains. The second wave of Trek (NextGen, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise) had a handful, but only a few worth remembering. The Borg Queen was cool, but more like a sequel to a villain (the Borg themselves) than an actual villain.

And if we’re talking about young Kirk, full of vim and vigor, I think the perfect foil for him is a woman; confident, ruthless, brilliant — one who shares the same appetites as the captain of the Enterprise, with none of the moral restraint.

So, yeah, I want a female Khan. And I want Sarah Shahi (pictured) to play her. She was terrific on NBC’s canceled Life, and she can totally bring the necessary steel to the role.

What do you think? Am I crazy, or just crazy like a dude who likes foxes?

Regardless, this is the last time you’ll have to put up with my particular brand of craziness, as this is my last post for EW.com. It’s been an honor, boys and girls, to explore the nooks and crannies of the geekosphere with you, lo these past few years. The wonders of Battlestar Galactica, the pain of Heroes, the nigh-obsession with Nathan Fillion: I’m glad we got to do all of this together, and I’ll miss each and every one of you — even the ones who hated my guts. We geeks are a passionate lot, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

You can find me on Twitter, if you like: I’ll be the idiot holding it down at twitter.com/marcbernardin. So long…and thanks for all the fish.

Comments (135 total) Add your comment
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  • David

    If you’re talking about a female Khan, there’s no way you can overlook Anna Torv. She’d be amazing!

  • Samuel

    Two things:
    1) Could you have picked a less flattering picture of Shahi? There’s a whole internet full of photos of her looking smoking hot and you pick the one where she looks like day three of six day coke-and-booze bender.
    2)They should absolutely NOT use Khan for the sequel. THey’d have to nail it perfectly to outdo the original, and they’ll piss off a million Trekkies just by trying.

    • Q

      Perhaps the only way they COULD do Khan without pissing people off would be to recast the role as a woman. I mean, you can’t replicate Ricardo Mantablan, why not go as far from that as possible? I’m not saying I’m convinced but I am intrigued. More intrigued than, say, casting Carbonell, even though I adore him.

  • Nathan

    Khan’s a man, so casting a man would be a good idea.

    • Marc Bernardin

      but in their alternate universe, he doesn’t HAVE to be.

      • V2Blast

        Their version of an alternate universe doesn’t allow for random changes in gender. The characters may change from then onwards, but gender is sort of set in stone…

      • john

        geek point

        its only an alternate universe after the point where the Romulan vessel killed Kirk’s dad.
        so far.

      • Quirky

        I have to agree with John, at the time of Kirk’s birth when the alternate universe started, Khan would already be in statis aboard the Bounty Bay waiting to be revived.

        However, I would like to see a female villain, just not Khan.

      • Mikey

        Maybe she could be named Khana. Would that be okay with the fanboys?

      • veggiedude

        The alternate universe did not begin until the few hours after the birth of James T Kirk. Khan was from the late 20th Century, so would have been unaffected by the future changes that split it into an alternate universe.

  • Big D

    Marc – You were my favorite poster @ EW.com. Our brains seemed to be wired in a similar way. I have been an avid Twitter avoider, but now will have to give in and check on Twitter to see what your are up to. Good luck, remember your towel and that the answer is 42.

  • Heather

    I would totally agree with that casting, although I’m not sure if the greater public would accept a female khan.
    I’ve really enjoyed your articles, good luck on everything in the future!

  • Brooke

    I think a female Khan would rock, but Star Trek purists would cry foul.

    • Marc Bernardin

      more than they cried foul over an Enterprise that looks like an Apple Store? (You’re probably right. But I think think it’d be fascinating.)

      • Brooke

        I think it’d be highly amusing to read/watch personally.

  • Matt

    I’ve really enjoyed your work, Marc. Good luck with whatever is next for you!

    With that said, I think casting a female Khan is a bad idea! I’m also all for more juicy roles for women, but I think switching genders of an already established character is a mistake. Part of what made Khan so great was his pissing contest with Kirk – the machismo vs. machismo dynamic of the whole thing – not to mention the fake pecs! It would be a shame to lose that alpha male vs. alpha male element that made Trek 2 so much fun. Let’s flip it around – if someone proposed that Ed Norton should play Ripley in the newest Alien movie you’d say FAGHEDABOUDIT. Certain characters work because of the gender that plays them. You know I’m right!

    • Brooke

      You know what, though. When it comes to BSG, and they genderflipped Starbuck, there was a huge fan backlash, but it ended up being a really great casting decision.

      • Lauren

        Yeah, but BSG’s gender flips worked because the rebooted BSG was not part of the timeline of the original BSG. The new Star Trek is actually trying to get old Trek fans to watch (cause, there’s like TONS of them and I’m not talking weightage, either) as well as new people. Kahn being a woman would involve either a literal sex change operation or some sort of brain swapping thing. And I wish to see neither.

      • veggiedude

        Khan was from the 1990’s. Please explain how he could become a she if Kirk is not yet born for another 200 years?

  • Monty

    I’m torn. I hate the idea of a female Khan (why would the timeline change effect the gender?) but i love the fact that you used a “Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy”/Douglas Adams quote.

  • mark in nyc

    disagree about a female Kaaaaahhhhhhnnnnnnn!!!!!
    But would love to see the Kirk-Carol Marcus love story that gave us David.

    • orville

      Which probably wouldn’t happen in the new timeline.

  • Fatima

    Not Marc!

    I say female villain too, but for my own sanity, I can’t handle all the grumblings there would be if she were Khan. Just give us a new bad-ass one!

    • LM

      Yeah, that seems like the best idea – new female villain. Also, please have more than one major female character. 3 “cameo” female characters does not count.

  • Rahul

    They shouldn’t try to recast an already iconic character. They’re being lazy. They should think of something new.

    • ks


  • MrFord

    I actually wouldn’t mind seeing Nestor Carbonell play Khan. He’s a good actor and it would be an interesting choice for the role.

    • Steven

      I like it too, but my first thought was Naveen Andrews. He has shown that he can play both charismatic as well as bad-@$$.

  • SLB

    That’s the dumbest idea i’ve ever heard! Khan a woman? Idiotic. That’s why i refused to watch the new Battlestar Galactica, when i found out they made Starbuck a woman and Cylons human looking. Just plain stupid.

    • Amy

      Oh Marc, I will miss the awesome geekness of your posts here. You were very much one of my favorite writers at Entertainment Weekly. All the best for you and your future, definitely keeping up on the Twitter. On that note, Khan a girl I could totally live with if it’s done right.

    • Gabby

      @SLB: You’re refusal to be open-minded to change made you miss out on a great series. Oh well, your loss.
      As for me, I just want ANY kickass female character on Trek, whether she be a villain or a heroine. I agree with Mia’s comment below that all the female characters were “tossed into the sexual-object ghetto.” Uhura isn’t well-rounded and engaging enough as a character to represent us ladies – aka 50% of the population who deserve better representation in ALL action movies aside from the standard love interest/damsel in distress/eye candy/generally secondary helper roles we get. I can’t believe it’s 2009 and we still have to fight for this. Television has caught up for the most part; why can’t Hollywood? Oh right, because it’s still overwhelmingly run by old white guys.

      • hisdroogness

        Um HOLLYWOOD is run by homosexual men who dont care for women!!!! thats why female roles are for the most part 2 dimentional or very under written. look at the new bond (I do like it) bit the women are less than worth talking about. And Daniel is pure eye candy for the “boys”. I actually thought the new bond was going to be a woman. But Daniel is doing the best job yet. (yes i do include Sean) but only cause so many of the “gadgets” back then were so cheesy.

      • mallah

        The Enterprise Incident? The Romulan Commander? Please no female Khan!

  • susan

    Good-bye Marc! You will be missed. Best of luck in the future.

    • JACKjack

      wait, for realz marc, WHERE ARE YOU GOING? BSG ends and now you’re time at EW ends too? WHERE WILL I GET MY SCI-FI FIX (once LOST is over???) WHERE ARE YOU GOING AND WHYYYYY?

  • Mia

    While I think the idea of a female Khan would be awesome to see… I would be very reluctant.

    This new Trek film completely tossed all its female characters into the sexual-object ghetto. Uhura was reduced to a mere shadow of who she is. So a female Khan would be nothing but tits and ass on the screen clad in a leather push up bra. There would be no depth to her.

    Abrams knows how to create strong women (Alias and Fringe as examples) he just doesn’t know how to make strong supporting characters that are women (star trek and Lost). So he has to decide is Khan going to be a lead or supportive. And for goodness sake make her something women will want to watch.

    And cast someone with some meat on her. Like Christina Hendricks from Mad Men. Now that is a sexy lady. A woman who, during battle, we can believe is equal in strength. I’m sorry but a model-thin whisp of a woman is not that. Someone who would play a Cardassian.

    However, they should not touch Khan to begin with. Wrath of Khan is a perfect film – please don’t touch it.

    • Fatima

      Christina Hendricks would be an amazing Starfleet member. I can her in uniform right now.

    • bro

      I second (third?) the idea of casting Christina Hendricks as a bad@ss Star Fleeter.

      I don’t know about making Kahn female, though. I don’t think there’s any way they could justify that narratively.

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