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For the series of novels, please see Star Trek: The Eugenics Wars.
"Superior ability breeds superior ambition."
– Spock, 2267 ("Space Seed")

The Eugenics Wars (or the Great Wars) were a series of conflicts originally fought on Earth between 1992 and 1996 (TOS: "Space Seed"), which later shifted to the 21st century due to efforts by various temporal factions to stop the rise of Khan and the events that followed; Romulan temporal agent Sera suggested that "it's almost as if time itself is pushing back and events reinsert themselves." (SNW: "Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow") It has also been known as the Eugenic War, Second Civil War and World War III at different points. (SNW: "Strange New Worlds") The result of a scientific attempt to improve the Human race through selective breeding and genetic engineering, the wars devastated parts of Earth, by some estimates officially causing some thirty million to tens of millions of deaths, and nearly plunging the planet into a new Dark Age. (TOS: "Space Seed"; ENT: "Borderland"; SNW: "Ad Astra per Aspera")

The Eugenics Wars resulted in a ban on genetic engineering and centuries of prejudice against Augments, who were forbidden from enlisting in Starfleet, as were those erroneously perceived to be Augments due to their ancestry. It also resulted in discrimination against Illyrians, who were known to adapt themselves to colonies rather than terraform worlds. (SNW: "Ghosts of Illyria", "A Quality of Mercy"; DS9: "Doctor Bashir, I Presume"; PRO: "Mindwalk", "Supernova, Part 1", "Supernova, Part 2")

The script of "Borderland" stated forthrightly, "The Eugenics Wars are a dark subject."


Records from this period are fragmented, and the exact circumstances have changed due to temporal interference. Regardless, the wars' roots lie in a group of Human scientists' ambitious attempt to improve the race through selective breeding and genetic engineering. They created a race of "supermen," popularly known as the Augments, who were mentally and physically superior to ordinary Humans. They were five times stronger than the average person, their lung efficiency was fifty percent better than normal, and their intelligence was double that of normal Humans. They also had enhanced senses, including an ability to hear beyond that of Human capabilities. (TOS: "Space Seed"; ENT: "Borderland", "Cold Station 12")

The Augments were originally created by the scientists in the 1950s Cold War era in the hopes that they would lead Humanity into an era of peace in a world that had only known war. (Star Trek Into Darkness) One aspect these scientists overlooked was the personality of the Augments. Along with their superior abilities, the Augments were aggressive and arrogant, flaws which the scientists were unable to correct at the time due to the infancy of the science. One of the Augments' creators realized the error, writing that "superior ability breeds superior ambition." That same scientist was ultimately killed by one of his own creations. (TOS: "Space Seed"; ENT: "Cold Station 12", "The Augments")

Rise to power[]

Khan Noonien Singh, 1996

Khan Noonien Singh in the 1990s

The Augments originally rose to power and held dominance over a large portion of Humanity, beginning in the early 1990s. Among the most notorious of these superhuman conquerors was Khan Noonien Singh, who in 1992 became the "absolute ruler" of more than a quarter of the planet, from Asia through the Middle East. (TOS: "Space Seed")

The following year, a group of fellow "supermen" followed in Khan's footsteps, and simultaneously seized power in over forty nations. The people of these conquered nations, in most cases, were treated as little more than slaves by the Augments. Khan considered himself "a prince, with power over millions". It was unknown how he viewed or treated those under his rule, although they had very little freedom. Unlike the other Augment despots, however, Khan's reign had enjoyed peace. The people were not massacred, and Khan avoided war until his region was attacked. Khan considered himself a benign dictator or one who led by a form of "gentle authoritarianism"; as such he was thus among the most admired of the so-called "tyrants" into the 23rd century, being called the "best of the tyrants" by James T. Kirk. (TOS: "Space Seed"; Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan; ENT: "Borderland")

A Romulan time agent named Sera tried to assassinate Khan in 1992, but could not do so until much later due to temporal interference that stalled Human technological advancement by several decades. Despite these changes, many of the aforementioned events still occurred, but were now moved forward in time. In this revised version of the Prime timeline, Khan was still a child in 2022 Toronto, being monitored at the Noonien-Singh Institute for Cultural Advancement, where the assassination attempt occurred. Unbeknownst to him, he was saved by a time-travelling descendant of his, Starfleet Lieutenant La'an Noonien-Singh. (SNW: "Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow")


Reports as to exactly how the wars began vary; some claim that Humanity rose up against Khan and his fellow "supermen," while others believe the Augments began to fight among themselves. Still others suggest that the Eugenics Wars were part of a larger conflict over the nature of freedom, alongside the Second American Civil War (SNW: "Strange New Worlds") Regardless of their origin, two factors were certain: the Eugenics Wars had a devastating impact on Earth, as entire populations were bombed out of existence, and that Humanity ultimately deposed the Augments. (ENT: "Cold Station 12"; TOS: "Space Seed")

Among the areas affected by the wars was North Africa. One conflict that occurred there involved a battalion of soldiers that included the future great-grandfather of Starfleet Captain Jonathan Archer. In this encounter, Archer's great-grandfather was able to convince the Augment commander of his enemy's forces to hold their fire long enough to evacuate a school that was directly between them. Some or all parts of that account may be non-factual as Archer was evidently in an altered state of mind around the time he disclosed it. (ENT: "Hatchery")

The Augments were eventually defeated by Humans who were not genetically enhanced. Khan was the last of the tyrants to be overthrown, originally in 1996. Khan and over eighty of the "supermen" were condemned to die as war criminals. They however went unaccounted for, a fact the governments of the time did not disclose to the public in order to prevent panic. Rumors were later confirmed in the 23rd century that Khan and 84 of his followers had managed to flee the planet aboard an early sleeper ship, the SS Botany Bay. (TOS: "Space Seed"; Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan; Star Trek Into Darkness)

The official number of casualties from the wars was placed at 30 million, although some historians believed it to be closer to 35 million, with another figure established as being 37 million. Although the wars may have ended, Humanity's fear of genetically-engineered beings remained well into the 24th century. (ENT: "Cold Station 12"; TOS: "Bread and Circuses"; DS9: "Doctor Bashir, I Presume")

While the Eugenics Wars were a set of global conflicts, some cities appeared to have survived the war seemingly unaffected, such as Los Angeles that was seen in VOY: "Future's End" during the same year the wars had ended, 1996. This may also suggest that some of the timeline changes described in SNW: "Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow" had already occurred by then.


"This is Earth in our 21st century. Before everything went wrong. Our conflict... started with a fight for freedoms. We called it the Second Civil War, then the Eugenics War, and finally just World War III. This was our last day. The day the world we knew ceased to exist. What began as an eruption in one nation, ended in eradication of 600,000 species of animals and plants, and 30% of Earth’s population. Global suicide…."
– Christopher Pike, 2259 ("Strange New Worlds")

Following the wars, controversial debates ensued between Earth's governments regarding the fate of thousands of Augment embryos. Uncertain of how to handle the issue, the governments opted to have the embryos placed into cold storage, unbeknownst to the general public. (ENT: "Borderland", "Cold Station 12", "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II" historical archive). The issue of genetic manipulation and Human genome enhancement continued to plague Earth well into the 21st century. In 2024, Doctor Adam Soong began examining an old file from 1996, which was called "Project Khan". (PIC: "Farewell") It is unknown whether Soong went forward with a new genetic engineering project sometime after 2024 based on the original Augment project, or joined the one in Toronto, where Khan lived after the timeline had been changed (SNW: "Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow").

Given that SNW: "Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow" sought to explain the various retcons of the Eugenics Wars and World War III as being due to temporal manipulation, it's unclear to what extent the two wars were separate before, or if they ever were. Indeed, it's also unclear if Adam Soong's Khan file is from the original timeline or the Romulan-altered one.

Stavos Keniclius

Doctor Keniclius

Augment embryos

Soong and the Augment embryos

Genetic engineering of Humans was ultimately banned on Earth, as the concept was considered anti-Humanistic by Earth leaders. As a result of this, Doctor Stavos Keniclius was exiled from his community, which eventually led him to depart Earth permanently. The ban was placed primarily as an attempt to prevent another event like the Eugenics Wars, and to ensure that Humanity did not endure the wrath of another Khan Noonien Singh-type tyrant. (TAS: "The Infinite Vulcan"; DS9: "Doctor Bashir, I Presume", "Statistical Probabilities")

The ban on genetic engineering was challenged by the geneticist Arik Soong in the 2130s, when he stole some of the Augment embryos left over from the wars which were being kept at Cold Station 12. Soong believed that genetic engineering was the key to improving Humankind and preventing illness, and that it should be given another chance. By raising the Augments himself, Soong believed he could prevent them from behaving like their brethren from the Eugenics Wars. His plan failed as the aggressive nature of the Augments dominated, and they threatened to incite war and cause mass murder. Starfleet's mission to hunt down and capture the renegade "supermen" ultimately led to the destruction of the Augments, as well as most of the embryos. (ENT: "Borderland", "Cold Station 12", "The Augments")

Not all of the embryos were destroyed, though. Some found their way into the hands of Klingons who, believing Humans were improving themselves in order to conquer the Klingon Empire, attempted to use the DNA from the embryos to enhance themselves. The end result was a mutation of a highly-contagious virus that caused massive changes in physical appearance, biological structure, and even basic personality traits of large portions of the Klingon race. (ENT: "Affliction", "Divergence")

The continued banning of genetic engineering ultimately became a point of contention between the Federation and the Illyrian race. Since the Illyrians were known for using genetic modification within its members, Illyrians were usually barred from entering service into Starfleet and even use of their medical technology became banned within the Federation. The mixing of Human and Illyrian blood was similarly banned. (SNW: "Ghosts of Illyria")

In 2259, La'an Noonien-Singh, Khan's descendant, traveled back in time to stop his assassination by Romulan temporal agent Sera. Sera told La'an that "Khan becomes a brutal tyrant. I mean, maybe Humanity needs the dark age that he brings in to usher in their age of enlightenment. Or maybe it's just random. Doesn't really matter though, 'cause if I kill him, the Federation never forms, and the Romulans lose their greatest adversary." (SNW: "Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow")

In the 2260s, after the USS Enterprise encountered a spaceship from the 1990s, Spock described the mid-1990s as the era of the Human crew's "last so-called world war", which was affirmed by Doctor Leonard McCoy to be the Eugenics Wars. (TOS: "Space Seed")


Related topics[]

Background information[]

In "Space Seed" the "supermen" of the Eugenics Wars were said to be the products of selective breeding; this was later retconned into genetic engineering.

Both "Space Seed" and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan give the dating of the Eugenics Wars as the 1990s. At one point during that decade in reality, Ronald D. Moore and René Echevarria had a discussion in which they observed it as odd that the Eugenics Wars seemed to basically be the only evidence of genetic engineering in Star Trek. "It's virtually never discussed, aside from the fact that there was this thing called the Eugenics Wars at some point, and Khan came out of it," stated Moore. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 431) Consequently, while writing DS9 Season 5 installment "Doctor Bashir, I Presume", Moore focused on the idea that the Eugenics Wars had motivated the Federation into deciding not to meddle with genetic engineering. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 29, Nos. 6/7, p. 49)

In contrast to the Eugenics Wars having previously been established as taking place in the 1990s, "Doctor Bashir, I Presume", set in 2373, references the Eugenics Wars as having occurred two centuries prior to the episode, placing the Wars in the late 22nd century. As Ronald D. Moore later admitted, this statement was a production error, a line he had taken from The Wrath of Khan, but he had accidentally forgotten to account for the episode being set a century later than the film. (AOL chat, 1997) Confessed Moore, "It was simply a mistake. The date of the Eugenics Wars is something that we have been studiously trying not to pin ourselves down about, because obviously they aren't happening around as we speak [....] What looked like the distant future in 1967 is not so distant any more. I don't blame them for not having the foresight to see that in 30 years this would become important in the series." A production staffer from Star Trek: Voyager suggested the date had deliberately been changed on DS9 to account for the Eugenics Wars having not been mentioned in the "Future's End" two-parter. Moore flatly rejected that theory and responded, "We never talked to Voyager about it." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 29, Nos. 6/7, p. 50)

The original dating of the Eugenics Wars was reaffirmed by Phlox stating in "Borderland" that Arik Soong's Augments were pretty sophisticated for 20th century genetics. Phlox later mentions to the Klingons that genetic engineering on Earth was "banned decades ago," suggesting that the ban was not necessarily adopted by Humans immediately after the Eugenics Wars.

Manny Coto was a fan of this series of conflicts. "I was always fascinated by this idea of this Eugenics Wars," he commented. "I love the backstory of that story. I just found that just compelling, the idea that it was instigated by these genetically superior individuals." ("Inside the Roddenberry Vault, Part I", Star Trek: The Original Series - The Roddenberry Vault special features)

In "Space Seed", Spock describes the mid-1990s as "the era of your last so-called world war," with Leonard McCoy directly referencing the Eugenics Wars in response, suggesting this conflict could be World War III. In TOS: "Bread and Circuses", Spock states that thirty-seven million people died in World War III – consistent with Phlox's assertion that over thirty million died in the Eugenics Wars (again connecting World War III and the Eugenics Wars) – but not Riker's claim that six hundred million died in the nuclear conflict in Star Trek: First Contact, and again repeated by Burnham in "New Eden". As Spock was speaking in the context of despotism, and what constitutes despotic "responsibility" is open to interpretation, his statement may not give the total death count.

In TNG: "Up The Long Ladder", Data states that Humans were still recovering from the effects of World War III in the early 22nd century. This statement makes more sense within the context of a mid 21st century war than that of a late 20th century war, suggesting that World War III and the Eugenics Wars are not the same conflict, as confirmed in Star Trek: First Contact.

According to show runners, Spock was wrong and that Eugenics Wars happened much later during 21st century. Terry Matalas: "We discussed endlessly. We came to the conclusion that in WW3 there were several EMP bursts that kicked everyone back decades. Records of that 75 year period, the 90s on were sketchy. Maybe Spock was wrong?" In response Khan's own references to the 1996 date, that they simply have be ignored to make the series more relatable to the present; "No easy way to do it if you want the past to look and feel like today. Maybe because in 1967 they didn't anticipate the show still going for another 6 decades." Aaron J. Waltke added: "There's also the ripples of the Temporal Cold War shifting the Prime Timeline in Enterprise — at least until the Temporal Accords put an end to that wibbly wobbliness." [1]

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds attempted to explain the various mistakes and retcons by creating a literal in-series retcon in "Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow": the fact that Humans were not capable of genetic engineering on the scale of Khan Noonien Singh was actually due to interference by one or more temporally warring factions, including the Romulans. This allows for both the original statements regarding the Eugenics Wars from Star Trek: The Original Series and ones from newer productions to stand somewhat alongside each other.


The Star Trek: The Eugenics Wars books portray a different view on the Eugenics Wars as being a more covert hidden battle between the genetically engineered "supermen" rather than an overt one in an attempt to marry the original dates of the Eugenics Wars with the events of the present day. This explains why the United States of America is seen as relatively unaffected in the episode "Future's End" and also raises the quite logical hypothesis that Gary Seven, who was present on Earth at the time of Khan's birth and would have known of the eugenics movement, was involved in the overthrow of Khan and the other tyrants. Numerous 20th century Trek characters appear in the story, including Rain Robinson (who at the end of the second book becomes Roberta Lincoln's assistant), Ralph Offenhouse (an early financial backer of the genetic engineering program), Clare Raymond (her death is not an embolism but collateral damage from a nerve gas attack, Khan's assassination of Vasily Hunyadi, the fellow Augment secretly behind the Balkan conflicts of the early 1990s), Gillian Taylor, Flint (as "Wilson Evergreen"), and Jeff, who designed the Botany Bay – with Shannon O'Donnel and Walter Nichols involved in the project – primarily with technology reverse-engineered from Quark's Treasure.

In the Star Trek: Khan comic book series associated with the alternate reality, the creative team went with a portrayal of the wars as being an open conflict that outright affected the whole planet. The depiction of the wars however was filtered through the lens of Khan telling his own version of the events to a Federation court. As such, the series frequently cast doubt on how much of the events he depicted were actually true to his memory and how much of it was perhaps Khan simply spinning a fanciful version that would garner him sympathy with those present to hear his words.

In "The Rules of War", a short story from the anthology Strange New Worlds 9, the enemy commander whom Archer's great-grandfather Nathan Archer negotiated with in North Africa is Stavos Keniclius.

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