(covers information from several alternate timelines)
The Eugenics Wars (or the Great Wars) were a series of conflicts fought on Earth between 1992 and 1996. 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 deaths, and nearly plunging the planet into a new Dark Age. (TOS: "Space Seed"; ENT: "Borderland")
Records from this period are fragmented, but what is known is that 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 men and women. 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 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. Another scientist also realized that in their own ambition and attention to science they have ignored a facet of the Christian religion, "that the human heart is inclined towards evil", and no scientific method could correct that. (TOS: "Space Seed"; ENT: "Cold Station 12", "The Augments")
Rise to power
The Augments 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")
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. 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 had 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, 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 believe 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")
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. This fact was also kept from public knowledge. The issue of genetic manipulation and Human genome enhancement continued to plague Earth well into the 21st century, proving to be one of the causes of World War III in 2026. (ENT: "Borderland", "Cold Station 12", "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II" historical archive; TOS: "Space Seed")
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 stored 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")
By the 2260s, after the Enterprise encountered a spaceship from the era of the Eugenics Wars, Spock described the wars as the "last so-called world war," likely due to the fact that it was a global conflict. (TOS: "Space Seed") Historically however, the Eugenics Wars were not considered the third world war, as that was a completely separate conflict that did not begin until the year 2026. Although there was a noteworthy connection or coincidence that both conflicts had something to do with genetic engineering. (ENT: "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II")
|Earth wars prior to the Federation|
|Crusades • American Revolution • American Civil War • World War I • World War II • Brush Wars • Earth Cold War • Eugenics Wars • World War III • Earth-Kzin Wars • Xindi incident • Earth-Romulan War|
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 Eugenics Wars as "the era of your last so-called world war," 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.
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 Carlson, 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.