Harry dives into STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS' spoilers to reveal the truth behind the blockbuster we're seeing!
For me, STAR TREK has always been a forward view of The United States’ ideal of Democracy in the future. That what we are all a part of right now, that it continues, that it perseveres. I’m not the first to say something along these lines. Romulans could be read as being the Russians of the old Soviet Union – and on Classic Trek – the big 3… STARFLEET, ROMULAN & KLINGON EMPIRES were all fairly evenly matched. Although, those Romulans and Klingons had developed stealth technologies which could give them first strike potential always. They conquered planets and made use of their resources… whereas we invited alien cultures, when mature enough, to join our happy growing collective of cultures, where we would share our advancements and begin to learn from these beings. The Enterprise’s 5 year mission that we saw 3 seasons of was entrenched in the idealism of the 1960s. …well things are different in JJ’s verse.
The first film saw a 9/11 shock and awe attack upon Vulcan that resulted in it’s complete annihilation. The attack also targeted Earth… In addition, that very first attack – it took Kirk’s father – a father that in our beloved Trekverse, lived and served as a constant inspiration for Kirk. In JJ’s, ol Tiberius has the swagger and the libido of Shatner’s Kirk, but he isn’t prone to preach the ideals of Starfleet. Instead, he’s raised with at least one step-father that he has zero respect for – and is prone to reckless adrenaline rushes. Shatner’s Kirk was an adventurer at heart, marveling at the infinite variety of civilizations out there around the stars. We can see some of that with Pine’s Kirk – he’s anxious to get way out there, but he hasn’t believed in Starfleet for most of his life.
Now – is this Starfleet still based on the idealism of the 1960’s America? No. With STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS, the Darkness of the film isn’t Khan. It isn’t the Klingons or the Romulans, it’s the Darkness that has infected policy in STARFLEET. In other words, this is a metaphor for a Post-9/11 America. In JJ’s Verse, he has a Kirk that doesn’t yet value the core beliefs of STARFLEET… Meanwhile, the rest of his crew… good souls like Spock and Scotty… They raise these issues with Kirk, but Kirk doesn’t want to hear it. He’s us. Kirk has always been us. But just like Kirk, we’ve changed.
Vengeance has become something our Country seeks. Since 9/11 – we have adjusted our core beliefs and laws to make things more convenient for a government that has been given a license to seek vengeance and protect us at all costs.
These first two STAR TREK movies of JJ Abrams – have been about teaching us a lesson through the use of our heroes. For me, that is absolutely the right thing to do, especially when the sitting President of the United States purports to be a Star Trek geek. Watching Scotty resign from the Enterprise filled me with pride. Hearing Spock trying to talk Kirk out of the assassination mission that he has been sent upon… again, outstanding. Then – when Kirk is faced with telling the crew what their mission is… he can’t bring himself to state what he was assigned to do, instead – what comes out of his mouth is the CORRECT ACTION.
STARFLEET DOES NOT EXECUTE WITHOUT A TRIAL.
The United States shouldn’t either.
This STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS is about the very basis of what a democracy should be built upon. To serve as a reminder of what STAR TREK really meant, what we’re supposed to be not on our BEST day but on our WORST.
How far STARFLEET has gone is so far, that for a bit… Khan and Kirk are united in a fight against a monster of a ship called VENGEANCE helmed by Peter Weller’s Admiral Marcus – the man in charge of Starfleet – whose personal fear has hijacked this great institution. The invention of stealth, long-range photon torpedoes that can be fired from a great distance… sounds like DRONE technology. And when Spock and Scotty speak out against the use of that tech, that’s a conversation that we as a people are currently having.
We as a people are better than who we are right now, if we stop and think about the toll our post-9/11 policies have taken upon the character of our great nation. Remember, Shatner’s Kirk… at the end of SPACE SEED, set Khan and his people to live upon a planet where they would have a chance to live their dream.
In this post-Vulcan Starfleet, Khan was found. The rest of his crew were kept on ICE and he was evaluated and used to nefarious ends by a perversion of our Government. You could go so far as to say Khan is Bin Laden, an enemy that we once used for our own purposes against a common enemy, the Russians/Klingons here. When that partnership ended, and suddenly Starfleet comes under attack, he’s quickly assigned blame and eventually a mission is drawn up to assassinate him so he won’t talk. What KHAN has to say is something that Peter Weller’s Admiral can not allow to happen, because that story is a story that the people can’t be allowed to hear.
This is a very political film. Moreso than I ever anticipated going in. To take the KHAN story – and to use it in this mindset… I kinda love. Why? Because using science fiction to remind us of our own values… it’s a positive in my mind. It’s what I loved about DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL by Robert Wise – and using the characters of STAR TREK… the characters which have come to symbolize the ego projection of our country into a space faring future… and to watch how Kirk and his crew would react to the very same orders and ordinance that we as a country are using in our own Reactionary Foreign & Domestic policies… well, good on them.
I can see why this version of STAR TREK appeals to JJ Abrams. He’s long said he wasn’t a fan of the Classic STAR TREK, until he became a director on this series – and I believe him. I’m sure one of the things that had to frustrate him is how dated to the sixties the series was. They’re fantastic stories, but they come from that era. JJ wanted the ability to base his STAR TREK from imagining the future from what we know of technology and science today, not just that, but to then use STAR TREK as a mirror to what we’ve become as a country today. To have us ask these questions and see Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty and even KHAN deal with them. I love it.
At the same time to comment on the concept of time travel and how it can try to change an entire timeline – there is an inevitability to destiny. Kirk, Spock, Carole Marcus and Khan… they’re meant to play out a scenario – that I think still preemptively takes Kirk’s son’s life. Think about what Carole’s injury might have affected. Khan punted her lower abdomen and the way she was holding herself really did seem to indicate internal damage. It is possible that she might not be able to have children after that… thus she becomes a part of the larger story of Kirk’s life, because a child will not be raised in his. Perhaps I’ve gone utterly insane, but I do believe that’s there.
Kirk’s speech at the end is Kirk asking us about our own core beliefs that we’ve sacrificed for fear. The big message is over. Now it’s time to Boldly Go.
I hope that JJ and his team get to do a third film. I think the rather constant questions about Khan – made them have to go here for this story, and I like that they played with the character instead of the Icon. Pine isn’t doing Shatner and Cumberbatch is certainly not doing Ricardo Montalban – something that no actor can do. Instead, he is playing a genetic superhuman with a superior intellect. Khan is helping to remind Kirk that to question unjust orders and to put the question in his mind… I LOVE IT! Because folks… KHAN isn’t the bad guy here – and Khan never was! That’s what is great about KHAN!
KHAN had righteous indignation. He was a leader of a group of people that wanted to seize their own destiny. He has been defrosted for some time before the events of this film. I mean, he’s designed weapons, improved warp capabilities… I love this alternate time line for Khan. The notion that he has been working with Starfleet in the guise of a John Harrison… for years, he would have studied Starfleet inside and out. That’s how he appeals to Kirk in this film. He recognizes an idealist when he sees one – and if Khan had studied Starfleet, he would have admired their ideals – even if his experience under the thumb of Admiral Marcus would’ve revealed what it did.
Khan’s endgame of designing a military vessel that he would ultimately take over, and fit with his people… I can’t even imagine what Khan with that sort of firepower – and realize – we never really did see what that big thing opening up was about to do.
Realize, Kirk could have all those Khan-sicles on the Enterprise as they set out on their 5 year mission – and who knows – perhaps they’ll check out Seti Alpha V and defrost Khan and his people in the pre-opening credits of STAR TREK WAY OUT THERE, before beginning the real mission on whatever other planet they go adventuring upon.
That way when Cumberbatch is like in his 50’s and this crew has gotten toupees and facelifts, we can see what the future of these characters that met this way would end things. But, that should be at least 25 years from now.
As for seeing all the tech that’s introduced here as a bad thing. I do not. Right now – NASA and other Science Folks are talking about sending 3D Printers to places to set about Building bases. In advance of ships. As advancements in programmable matter and molecular builders… we’re beginning to see and understand some of the tech needed to BEAM stuff places, we can also imagine beaming us places, and the limitations of being in orbit – is kind of silly. I think forward projecting transwarp beaming of supplies and personnel is actually wonderful, because we should be thinking about how Spaceships aren’t the only way theoretically possible to get places. Just as beaming from a ship didn’t completely replace having shuttles on the Original Enterprise – the reason you still need ships for exploring is… Well, the Enterprise’s mission at the end is to go places they’ve never gone before. Which means uncharted space – and you don’t go beaming off to places ain’t nobody ever seen before. You go with a ship, filled with the sorts of explorers that will tell people back home if there’s anything to see here. What this means is the expansion of STARFLEET will accelerate in the wake a Starship’s exploration. As they discover planets of interest, you could visit the planet on impulse – something absolutely wonderful in my mind. The science is definitely fiction at this point, but what a helluva dream to shoot for. It absolutely changes things, but I’m interested in stories that are pushing the possibilities of far reaching theoretical science. Something that STAR TREK did all those years ago – and is bringing up for discussion today. Same with the magical Khan blood. As we begin to explore what genetic engineering could possibly mean – super healing is something that in 400 years – unless outlawed and deemed unethical – would be a very likely scenario. Like those girls with tails – they could be alien, or earth girls gone crazy.
This STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS feels like an impassioned plea for sanity, all while seeming to most to be a mindless visual spectacle, but it is anything but. For me, the one scene that I would question is the Khan & Spock fight. Not how Spock could go toe to toe with a Superhuman, in case you didn’t know, Spock isn’t entirely human and has been seen bending steel and breaking stone with his enhanced strength. No, I accept that Khan & Spock is a good fight – No, my problem is that Spock didn’t use the fact that Khan’s people were safe and alive upon his ship to stop Khan. I get that SPOCK was in the throes of irresistible impulse driven by the emotion that he allowed to flood his actions… But when he mind melded briefly with Khan, I would have LOVED for Khan to suddenly realize his psychopathic insanity and turn himself in. If only because it would show off Spock’s abilities, but also Khan’s superior intellect.
As I’ve said, I’ve seen it twice – and I absolutely love it. I’ve seen people that look at this film and seem to think it is a more dire future, than the hopeful vision of Roddenberry, but for me… Roddenberry’s characters are resilient – and when faced with issues that are plaguing our own time, they do the right thing. Just as we should.
If you think I’m coming out of left field with this 9/11 stuff, read who the film is dedicated to in the end credits. This is a thoroughly modern riff on Trek. For me, I’m on board as long as they keep them coming. As Kirk said to McCoy, “Enough with the metaphors already!” Let’s Boldly Go Where Star Trek has never gone before – and blow us the hell away. We’ve never had a Classic Trek away mission scenario for a feature yet – and with the world building visual effects we have today – we could do one that is so much more majestic and involving. No need to mine the past, create a future for STAR TREK – that makes us dare to dream of the possibilities out there and how wondrous they can be. That’s not a complaint about this film or the previous, just a hope I have on where to go from here.
STAR TREK doesn’t have to have space battles. It can and should be so much more. To use that action as a reflection upon our own society, well that should be applauded – and let’s hope that when Obama watches, that he actually sees the message in this film – and isn’t blinded by the whiz bang of it all. If it works, it could be the most important summer blockbuster we’ve had. After all, the policies this film is attacking are policies that both political parties have put into place and have been working with. Could STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS make a difference, I hope so. But then, I’m a geek that perhaps dreams too much.
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