ENFJ: Khan Noonien Singh, “Star Trek: The Original Series”

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ENFJ, the Giver, the Mentor, the Believer

portrayed by Ricardo Montalban

Season 1, Episode 24, “Space Seed,” and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Khan remains one of the greatest movie villains of all time to this day, so it’s only right that I should add him to the pantheon here at Heroes and Villains. I must confess, I’d somehow never seen the episode “Space Seed” until a few days ago, despite how many times I’ve watched Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. If your only exposure to this character is the 2013 reboot version, you owe it to yourself to take an evening and watch the whole Khan saga, beginning with his appearance in the original TV series and ending with his tragic finale in Wrath.

Dominant Function: Extraverted Feeling (Fe), “Relate to the Experience”

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Khan leads with dramatic charisma, an expressive man of great passion. Even when they don’t like him, his enemies are forced to admit they admire him (Spock finds this confession from Kirk and the others horrifying and illogical). In the past, he was a prince who led millions—over a quarter of the Earth’s population—and by his accounts, he was beloved.

Khan plays the crew of the Enterprise cunningly when he first awakens, earning enough of their trust to gain access to technical information and to remain free of suspicion. He easily manipulates Lieutenant McGivers, tapping into her awe of him to control her and win her to his side. He plays emotional games with the crew by threatening Kirk’s life, trying to bully them into following him. Years later, he similarly controls Captain Terrell and Chekov, though with the use of some brain slugs. Still, he treats his two captives in a warm, condescending manner, praising Chekov for following his orders like a pet.

Khan earnestly believes that he can do the most good for the most people by being the man in charge. He believes in his superiority and that his rule will benefit everyone. “We offered the world order!” he declares when Spock questions his motives.

Khan feeds off the respect, admiration, and love of his followers and enemies. He needs to be appreciated, and his ego is hurt when he is not. He’s bitter over being rejected by the world he once led, and he can’t understand that the people of the new era he wakes up in would not want him to lead them, either. And of course, he hates that Kirk bested him and disrespected him.

“I wish to go on hurting you,” he tells Kirk when he leaves the captain trapped underground. Khan takes the bait when Kirk taunts him, and grows even more melodramatic and florid, and intent on inflicting harm. His unhealthy Fe rage against Kirk eventually sends Khan into an Fe-Se loop that leads to his destruction.

Auxiliary Function: Introverted Intuition (Ni), “Anticipate the Experience”

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Khan envisions a new world order, led by himself. He sees himself and his kind as humanity’s future. When he wakes up in the 23rd century, he’s unimpressed with humanity’s technological advances, believing that they could have done better by improving themselves rather than their equipment. “Improve a technical device, and you may double productivity, but improve man and you gain a thousandfold. I am such a man.”

Khan is laser-focused on his goals, and won’t let a little something like 300 years of hyper sleep stop him from regaining his position as ruler of everything. After he’s abandoned on Ceti Alpha V, he comes back intent on the single goal of destroying Kirk. He invents elaborate, complicated plans to take Kirk out, but ultimately they’re indirect and ineffective (notice that in Wrath of Khan, William Shatner and Ricardo Montalban share not one moment on the same set together; Khan plots and rages from the bridge of his stolen ship, and never directly lays a hand on Kirk).

Khan begins quoting from Moby Dick during Wrath, evidence that he sees himself and Kirk in symbolic terms. He is the great hunter and Kirk is the whale. He mythologizes their relationship and views his mission as a grand, epic quest rather than the simple, bitter obsession that it is.

Khan’s focus on revenge begins to work against him, as he loses sight of other possibilities. His second-in-command keeps reminding him that they have the Genesis Device and all the power that comes with it, that they should leave off their maniacal pursuit and start a new life elsewhere. Khan rebuffs him and plows ahead.

Eventually, Khan starts skipping his Ni altogether. His hurt ego (Fe) and his impulsive rashness (Se) create a vicious cycle that denies him his internal insight. He loses sight of the bigger picture and gets lost in a self-destructive loop.

Tertiary Function: Extraverted Sensing (Se), “Experience the Experience”

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Khan knows that he’s literally the strongest man in the room, and confidently uses that strength, but only when he needs to. He starts with his charisma and his vision before he resorts to physical force. He’s still excellent at responding to opportunities when they come his way, making him adaptable, durable, and hard to put down.

Eventually, Khan begins acting impulsively and rashly, not waiting for better options to surface through his Ni. He even physically bullies his own crew when the revenge plan starts going south. He fights aggressively and pushes through damage, injuries, and multiple setbacks, and hunts the Enterprise into the Mutara Nebula, recklessly ignoring the risks.

Inferior Function: Introverted Thinking (Ti), “Analyze the Experience”

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Khan reads through the Enterprise’s technical specs and quickly assimilates the information he needs. In Wrath, he deduces that Chekov and Terrell were looking for the wrong planet, delighting in their fortuitous error. During the space battle in the Mutara Nebula, he analyzes the Enterprise for weak spots, and his curiosity about the Genesis Device leads him to seize the powerful weapon for his own.

However, Khan fails to think three-dimensionally, as Spock points out. First of all, he completely misses the code language that Spock and Kirk communicate with, taking it at face value without further analysis. He then literally forgets that space has three dimensions. This allows Kirk to swoop up behind him and deliver a fatal blow to his ship.


(Just a note: I’ll be focusing on the original “Prime Universe” version of all the characters in these Star Trek the Original Series posts. Nothing against the reboot, but it’s a whole other ball of chest wax, especially in the case of Khan. It’s simpler to stick to the classics.)

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