Star Trek Into Darkness

Today I finally got to see Star Trek Into Darkness this afternoon. I had not tried to scrupulously avoid spoilers, and so I had some sense of some details that would be coming. I had even heard some complaints from longtime fans. My feelings about the movie were on the whole positive, indeed I really enjoyed it over all. But there are a few quibbles to be voiced as relate to the way that J. J. Abrams has gone about his reboot. Spoilers ahead!

The movie starts on the planet Nibiru, and the name was not simply a random made up one. Nibiru is an astronomical term in Babylonian literature. But the pseudoscientific writings of Zecharia Stichin use the name for a supposed twelfth planet in our solar system. Whether we are to envisage some symbolic significance in that, or merely that future humans thought it would be fun to put the name onto an actual planet, is hard to say.

Kirk has decided to try to prevent a primitive civilization from being destroyed by a volcano, and he tries to avoid breaking the prime directive, but decides that saving Spock's life is more important. We soon see the primitive people sketching the outline of the Enterprise in the dirt, and the overall context indicates that they attribute religious significance to what they saw. Later, as Admiral Pike addresses the issue with Kirk of his disregard for rules and his total lack of humility, there is reference to “playing God” – and the more direct reference of this to the risks he took with his crewmembers reconates also with the impact on the inhabitants of Nibiru.

The remainder of the story focuses on the actions of one John Harrison – which, we later learn, is simply a pseudonym for Khan Noonian Singh. It was cool to see Noel Clarke (Mickey Smith) in the movie, and I wonder whether the musical score in the scene in which he appears, with its rhythm of four beats, was an intentional allusion to Doctor Who. If so, it was a nice touch.

It is at this point, however, that things get sketchy. I liked the exploration of militarism and terrorism in the movie. It was the attempts at hommage or perhaps fidelity to the original Star Trek timeline that were annoying, precisely because this is supposedly the same universe, only with some changes having been made to history. But how did those changes result in the Botany Bay (Khan's ship) being discovered sooner, presumably closer to Earth? How did it lead to Praxis, a moon of the Klingon homeworld Kronos, blowing up earlier? How did they get tribbles earlier? If this were simply a parallel universe, or a reenvisaging along the lines of the rebooted Battlestar Galactica, then I would simply take them as tributes to the original. But if this is supposed to be the original but with some time travel having rewritten some events, and this is before the five-year mission, then these things become puzzling.

But that is nit-picking. I liked the movie overall, including what was done by bringing Khan into contact with Starfleet Admiral Marcus and the issues it allowed the film to explore. And so, even if this Kirk's recitation of the words of the classic opening monologue lacked something, I appreciated the speech that immediately preceded them, in which he talks about not pursuing revenge, that not being “our way” for Starfleet. There is something in that which is true to the spirit of the original series, in which the question of Starfleet's exploratory and military roles are often to the fore.

What did you think of the movie?


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  • Jeff Carter

    If you don’t mind the shameless self-promotion, I’ve shared some of my thoughts about the movie over at my blog:

    to sum up – I was disappointed by the meaninglessness of death…

    • James F. McGrath

      I read your post and thought about interacting in my own. My own feeling was that there was something poignant about the reversal of the two characters’ roles. And I think that fans would have felt troubled by leaving Kirk dead at the end of the movie. So yes, it is much less powerful than the original sacrifice by Spock at the end of The Wrath of Khan. But I think that any future way that J. J. Abrams would have found to bring Kirk back in a later movie would have been far worse than what he actually did. :-)

      • Jeff Carter

        I say, “let the fans be troubled”
        stir up some controversy.

        and nothing that future JJ Abrams could do could be worse than the whales… or the quest to find God… or…

        • James F. McGrath

          What does God need with a starship? What do whales need with a starship? What does…

    • Thom Stark

      I thought the switch gave the death more pathos than in the original WOK. One of the major themes throughout this version was Spock’s struggle to bury his humanity. So to give him the classic line there in that moment brought that whole undercurrent to a powerful tipping point. But I suppose you’re right. Bringing the great leader back from the dead shortly after his demise does sort of render death utterly meaningless. But then again, if I’m not mistaken, they stole that material from another classic story.

      • James F. McGrath

        Did they keep Kirk in a cryochamber for 3 days? I lost track…

      • Jeff Carter

        Yeah. I was really prepared to like that – but I felt like they neutered it. I liked the movie – though it was good. But that it fell short of being great…

  • Alessiana

    My thought regarding why things happen earlier in JJ’s version is that the confrontation with Nero changes The Federation, forcing them outward more quickly, and advancing science as they reverse engineered what they learned from their encounter with the Narada. Regarding Kronos, my first reaction was, wtf, then I remembered that they too encountered Nero, so all bets are off regarding what they’ve done.

    Those are just my thoughts after a week.

    • GakuseiDon

      Yes, early in the movie they explain that the destruction of Vulcan made the Federation search out for other potential threats, which is why they came across the Botany Bay, and presumably the tribbles. I didn’t particularly like it, it was pretty average I thought. Spock shedding a tear? That was overdone.

      • James F. McGrath

        I think I need to go watch Space Seed again and remind myself how far away from Earth it was when they found it.

        I didn’t react to Spock’s emotions the same way you did. In the original timeline he struggled with this. I think that a Spock who lost his entire homeworld and his mother might well make different choices.

  • John

    James. Regarding the review on this being the same universe, this is an alternate reality that was established in the 2009 movie. Just because things that happened in our universe at a certain time & place do not necessarily happen here. Example, Kirk being born in space & not knowing his father.

    • James F. McGrath

      Right, I know that. My point is that this is not a parallel universe where you would expect lots of differences because things unfolded differently all along, as on Fringe. This is the same universe, but with some details of history rewritten. That seemed to me to less plausibly account for why some things that happen much later in the original timeline have now already happened. Does that make sense?

      • John

        No it’s not the same universe that’s the whole point of the reimaging/rebooting of the 2009 movie. The stakes have all changed in this reality, people can meet at different times yet still have similar interactions (Kirk never met Pike in T.O.S until The The Menagerie) This is an alternate not parallel universe, alternate again being key.

        • James F. McGrath

          I think you are misunderstanding me. This is an alternate version of the same universe, rather than a different parallel universe. And because of the changes to the timeline, some differences make sense – Kirk meeting Pike, for instance. But others a not readily explicable by this – such as the explosion of the moon of the Klingon homeworld so much earlier.

          Do you understand my point now?

          • John

            Yet we have no Vulcan home world in this universe (Yes we have the one Spock prime has set up). Did that happen in our original series universe, no. Nero & Spock prime created an alternate universe (not time line). That’s the point of this universe. At the end of this movie Kirk & Spock have had more adventures together before they start the 5 year voyage than they did in the original. We all know this is not a parallel universe or the same universe as T.O.S. It is alternate.

          • Thom Stark

            Yes. It is alternate. But I think James’s point is that it only splinters from TOS at a certain point in the timeline. So it’s a new alternate universe with the same history as TOS up to Nero’s arrival.

  • Guest

    It’s either a hike or blog about it on my blog. For my mental health I choose hike.

    Comments: Overall it was good and far better than Iron Man III. Puh-lease! 1/3 of the movie in a malfunctioning “advanced” suit?

    I like what J.J. is doing with Kirk and Spock. Overall he’s creating more depth which freshens them up. I also like how he folded in a moral dilemma into the action. Again, more depth. Lastly, I like how Kirk is always on the edge of screwing up, and how they are trying to mature him in each movie.

    I think that Operation Mature Kirk led to the role reversal. Also, Spock is the only member of the crew who could have remotely stood a chance trying to take Khan on physically. Spock does have martial arts training and heightened strength.


    – We needed more McCoy!

    – The blood transfusion was a little cliche’

    – Lets leave Leonard Nimoy already — enough with the nods (and I like Leonard)

    – Will the Federation use Khan’s super blood serum to extend human life?

    – Did (or will) Khan’s blood alter Kirk’s personality? Or did McCoy have to use gene therapy after the fact? If it’s the latter then have the decency to say so!

    – Marcus secretly building the Star Trek equivalent of a Death Star? Staffing it with private security? Dubious at best.

    My advice: See this in the theater. Save Iron Man III for Red Box.

    • Thom Stark

      I’m not sure that Marcus’s dreadnought-class ship was just his secret. My understanding was that it was a part of the whole Section 31 operation. Staffing it with a group of mercenaries makes sense to me. Section 31 goes on to do some pretty horrendous stuff in ST canon. Brainwashing, torture, assassinations, and genocide by means of a virus designed to eliminate an entire species. The mentality of Section 31 is always at odds with Starfleet, and thus hiring mercenaries to do the dirty work of taking out a Starfleet ship seems pretty plausible to me.

      • Guest

        Thom –

        Thanks for the clarification. I’ve missed some of the ST canon and had not heard about Section 31 until this movie. We can scratch that nitpick from the list!

  • Guest

    I LOVED this This movie is a pleasure from start to finish. I do not mean it is the best of Star Trek, only that it is the best of the Star Trek films. It touches on allegory, holding up a mirror for us to see ourselves in the choices we have made, acting out of fear and ignorance in response to attack. It is visually breathtaking. The opening scene is so audacious, that even as you are asking why the Enterprise is under water, you are struck by the awesome beauty of her rising from the sea.

  • Greg Smith

    Discussing this with my son, I told him this was the best movie I have ever been disappointed with. I think the casting is superb. They have hit the characters on the head. The action is good. Generally, the storyline is good. My gripe is that they spent the whole first movie resetting the timeline and breaking free of the original series. Then, in the second movie, they go right back to that “universe.” Why not come up with something fresh?

    • Thom Stark

      A Star Trek universe without Khan is like a Batman universe without the Joker. And their take on Khan was pretty fresh at that.

  • fred

    What do you think to my EPIC SPOILER KAAAHHHNNN video!!

    • James F. McGrath

      Posting it twice was uncalled for. Share, don’t spam.

      • Thom Stark

        I think Fred posted it the second time because the first time there was no spoiler alert.

    • Thom Stark

      Hmmm…. How did you get a hold of that wonderful spoilerific footage from Into Darkness? I wonder!