So. I saw Star Trek Into Darkness. It was exactly what I thought it would be. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. I know there are a lot of people bitching about the movie – most of them are doing so on the Internet (big surprise). I also knew that critics would compare the movie, unfairly, to another movie, and that’s wrong. The two are not the same. I want to talk about this, but I am going to warn the three of you who aren’t already aware, that there are going to be some spoilers in this post, and give you the chance to walk away now and come back after you’ve seen it. Okay? Sound Good? With that in mind, let’s have a countdown, shall we?
He’s Khan. Okay. But this is not a remake of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. As predicted, this is a re-interpretation of the events from the classic Original Series episode, Space Seed. It makes sense for the writers playing in the Trek universe to re-imagine classic stories/episodes and characters. In Space Seed, the crew of the Enterprise come across an ancient ship filled with a crew frozen in suspended animation. When they wake them, they learn that Khan and his crew are refugees from the Eugenics War, a time on Earth when genetically engineered humans took over part of the planet. They left the planet soon after and drifted through space until found by the Enterprise.
Khan and his crew try to take over the Enterprise but Kirk and crew stop them and strand them on a harsh planet called Ceti Alpha V that should prove a challenge to Khan and his people.
In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Chekov returns to the Ceti Alpha V system, believing that planet was destroyed and learns that it wasn’t and that Khan and his crew still live. Consumed with the idea of gaining vengeance on Kirk for stranding them on the planet and never returning to check on their progress, Khan sets out on a vendetta that claims the lives of Starfleet personnel and nearly gets the Enterprise destroyed. When the Enterprise is unable to escape due to a warp core issue, Spock sacrifices himself to save the ship, an act that, to this day, brings Trek fans to tears.
Star Trek Into Darkness plays with these characters and the original episode and movie themes and does it well enough. But Into Darkness is NOT Wrath of Khan, and the people who are claiming it’s some sort of remake are flat wrong. Do I think Abrams and crew used that movie or alluded to it with Darkness? Absolutely. But the two movies are not the same.
New Spock said something about an alternate timeline being created in the first movie, and he’s right. This movie illustrates that point. It isn’t the Enterprise crew who discovers Khan this time around (they haven’t even begun their 5 year mission yet), it’s Admiral Marcus. And he doesn’t revive any more of the crew – he just uses Khan as an ends to a means. He sees a war coming with the Klingons and doesn’t believe The Federation is prepared for it. Khan is his only recourse.
The warp core/reactor scene was stolen from Khan – no way around that. And we can certainly debate the decision to include such a scene and whether or not it was lazy writing on the part of Abrams and crew.
But the point remains – this isn’t Wrath of Khan. And honestly, it isn’t even Space Seed. It’s something different. Some people love it, some hate it. I thought it was a good movie, full of fun moments despite some weird logic issues. Such as: the only reason to head to the Klingon homeworld was to introduce us to this timelines version of the Klingons (which was cut from the first movie). There really is no other reason for Harrison/Khan to go there. I mean, it didn’t help him get his revenge. Didn’t move his plan forward (if he had a plan beyond killing Marcus). So, little things like that distract, but not so far that I couldn’t enjoy the flick.
I have had one thought, though. Will this new Star Trek inspire the way the old Star Trek did? From Astronauts to Engineers, people who grew up with Star Trek have gone on to be the driving force behind our own efforts to explore space. Will a new generation of scientists and explorers feel that same inspiration and drive those people felt watching JJ Trek lens flare its way across the silver screen? I’m not sure. The Federation of these movies doesn’t yet feel as idealistic as the one from the past. The science certainly isn’t there. Nor is the sense of wonder through exploration. So what is left to inspire the next generation?
An excellent question isn’t it?