Troubleshooting Techniques: Wrath of Khan Anecdote
As the film starts, Khan - a genetically engineered evil genius portrayed by Ricardo Mantalban - escapes his exile on a dead planet blaming our hero, James T. Kirk (William Shatner, of course), for the passing of his wife while they were marooned. Seeking revenge, Khan commandeers the starship Reliant, a member of the Federation fleet that Kirk serves. He then sets a trap by sending a distress signal, knowing Kirk and the Enterprise will respond. Thinking the Reliant to be a friendly ship, Kirk is completely surprised when he is attacked and only when the Enterprise is seemingly disabled does Khan reveal himself. He then demands that Kirk hand over the plans for the Genesis Device, a terraforming apparatus that can be utilized as a weapon of mass destruction. With the lives of his crew in his hands and facing a brilliant madman, what does Kirk do? He applies classic troubleshooting techniques.
At this critical point, Kirk realizes the three elements that are critical to any troubleshooting situation. The first is knowledge. He possesses an understanding of how starships work that Khan does not, which he can use to his advantage. Next is access. Based on his credentials as an Admiral, Kirk has security clearance that others do not that gives him a wider array of choices with which to remedy his predicament. The final element is creativity. Taking into account the first two elements, Kirk comes up with a solution that is out of the norm.
If you are a Star Trek fan, you are aware of what happened next. Kirk knows that each ship in the star fleet contains a security access prefix code that controls who can issue instructions to each ships computer system. He uses his heightened status within the star fleet military to obtain this code for Reliant. Finally, after obtaining the code, he uses it to send Reliant instructions to lower its shields, enabling Kirk and the Enterprise to launch a successful surprise counterattack. This forces Reliant to retreat and allows Kirk to escape for the second half of the movie. In the Director’s Edition of The Wrath of Khan, Kirk later says, “We’re alive only because I knew something about these ships that he didn’t.” Knowledge, access, and creativity are all fundamental pieces of troubleshooting demonstrated nicely in this example.
- Wrath of Khan Anecdote
- Knowledge, Access, and Creativity
- Step 1 - Were all the instructions followed correctly?
- Step 2 - Is this happening here or is it happening everywhere?
- Step 3 - Something changed recently, what is it?
- Step 4 - What isn’t broken versus what is?
- Step 5 - It’s fixed, now what?
- Final Thoughts