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Yes Star Trek Strange New Worlds just broke canon. No, I don’t care

The new episode of Star Trek Strange New Worlds season 2 made a major change to the Star Trek timeline in how it relates to the infamous Khan Noonien Singh.

Khan Noonien Singh in The Wrath of Khan

Canon is a funny thing. Especially in a franchise as expansive as Star Trek, and in a time when there are more prequels than sequels, the occasional bump or contradiction might seem inevitable.

One solution is to stop making so many Star Trek prequels and to bury the current obsession with reliving the past. But that isn’t going to happen anytime soon. And, even when the Star Trek timeline does progress forward rather than back, canon can still get in the way. Scotty’s TNG episode Relics is a famous example.

The latest episode of Star Trek Strange New Worlds season 2 just took a look at canon relating to one of the most iconic movie villains of all time, Khan, and decided to completely ignore it. Here’s the thing: I don’t care.

In Star Trek Strange New Worlds season 2 episode 3, Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow, La’an and Jim Kirk are sent back into the 21st century to prevent a rupture in the timeline, which changes the course of history for the worse. That rupture is the premature death of Khan Noonien Singh while still a young child, killed by a Romulan assassin from the future in what is presumably 2023.

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“Hold on a second,” cried out a million Star Trek fans at once. Khan was born in the late ’50s, before becoming a key player in the Eugenics Wars in the mid-90s. In 1996, he departed Earth on the SS Botany Bay with his 84 followers on a course for a new home among the stars. This established canon directly contradicts what we see in the new episode.

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow depicts a new order of events, where Khan and the Eugenics Wars are delayed within the prime timeline prior to the fracture point, which would go on to change the course of history. Showrunner Akiva Goldsman confirmed this change was intentional, and permanent. “This is a correction [of the timeline],” he said.

The depiction of Khan as a child in the present day, 2023, in Star Trek’s prime timeline, doesn’t just bend established canon but shatters it entirely, replacing it with something new.

So what?

La'an in Star trek Strange New Worlds

There are only two methods in which you can break established canon: in a way that matters and in a way that doesn’t. Deciding to swap one arbitrary date for another arbitrary date falls into the latter category. It doesn’t change who Khan is, it doesn’t impact the outcome of the Eugenics Wars, and it doesn’t alter the voyage of the Botany Bay. All it does is shift some dates around in a way that contradicts a few lines of dialogue scattered across the past six decades.

Could Strange New Worlds have prevented this whole discussion and preserved canon by sending La’an and Kirk back to the ’60s? Yes. Why didn’t they? Because they shot on-location in Toronto, and digitally removing all signs of modernity, or building a whole ’60s set, would have cost a lot of money.

Khan in The Wrath of Khan

Lest we forget, TOS would often see its characters sent to the wild west or planets that looked suspiciously like Nazi Germany because they could utilize nearby sets and costumes to save money. So let’s not pretend like thriftiness is something new to the franchise.

Of course, some changes to canon do matter. A new Star Trek comic series explores Picard’s time at Starfleet Academy, but unlike the young Picard we see shown in TNG (arrogant, proud, and bullish), this one is bookish and uptight. It ignores canon in favor of transplanting Picard’s personality from his time as a captain onto his past.

In doing so, it completely ignores the story arc from one of the best TNG episodes of all time, Tapestry. It makes the character more boring and undermines what may be his most significant character arc and point of growth.

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The comic might not be enshrined in canon, but the principle still bothers me. Changing an already plucked-at-random date and supplanting it with another just doesn’t.

Maybe that makes me less of a Star Trek fan, or maybe not. I genuinely don’t know. What I do know is that seeing Khan as a child in the present day won’t cause me any loss of sleep.

For more on Star Trek, take a look at our ranking of the Star Trek movies and Star Trek series. Or, read our Star Trek Strange New Worlds season 2 review, before seeing which Star Trek Captain would win in a zombie apocalypse, and how we celebrated Captain Picard Day.

Or, look to the future timeline with our guide to the Star Trek 4 release date, the Lower Decks season 4 release date, and the Star Trek Section 31 release date.