Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013)

Star Trek:

Into Darkness





I must say, I do harbour a fondness for obsessives.  You know what I mean:  men and women who take their passion for a particular subject to extreme levels.  As Cthulhu is my judge, how could I not relate to them, since I have my own grand obsessions?

But Star Trek enthusiasts?  Man, we are onto a whole different pinnacle there!  It must take a really dedicated fan (atic) perseverance beyond that of your run-of-the-mill nutcase to keep the continuity of five separate TV series and twelve feature films, over the course of near enough half a century, straight in their Data-like brains.  So kudos in that regard.

But do you folks have to be so damned mean to each other?  You see, I left off looking at anyone else’s reviews of Star Trek:  Into Darkness until I had my own written, below.  And now that I’m looking at them I would have to say that I’m…uh, surprised.  Look, I’ve always enjoyed the Trek universe and most of the movies (although I’ll probably lose all credibility with the die-hards by saying that I’ve seen Insurrection several times AND want to go to that hippy planet when I die), but it has not been in a slavish way.

That’s why I was, well, taken aback at the vehemence on the web concerning director J.J.  Abrams and his latest outing.  You are all admirers of that fictional universe—I mean, you do know it’s all made up, don’t you? —so why do you have to curse at each other?  Even using the C-word, for heaven’s sake, just because you disagree on a definition of what the Prime Directive is?

The Vietnam War was still limping towards its undignified close when I was a young fella; and the Cold War was at its height.  So it was great for us to have a TV show that had– on the deck of a wonderful starship– a mixture of Russians, Americans, Brits, Chinese and Americans.  They also had a mixture of black, white and yellow.  Come to that,  they had guys with pointy ears who looked like Satan; and they had green, blue, red individuals, you name it…and everybody was trying to get along for the common good.  It was an episode of the sixties series that showed the first inter-racial kiss.  It was between Kirk and Uhura and led to that episode being banned in some states for many years.  So in its own way it was a great show for preaching tolerance.  Yet fast-forward five decades and you have people who profess to be in love with all things Trekkey  going at each other’s throats because they can’t agree on what the Prime Directive is.  Dear oh dear, get a grip.

Anyway, since it will no doubt prove to be my Prime Directive to upset the more anally retentive and pedantic amongst you Trekkers, here is my take on what I thought was a very enjoyable voyage to where we’ve boldly gone before.


Believe it or not—and this is not to belittle the rest of the movie– my favourite part was the film’s prologue.

We open on a pre-warp drive planet which the crew of the Enterprise have been asked to do a survey of; and in keeping with that famous Prime Directive they have been warned not to show themselves or to interfere in the planet’s natural destiny.  Unfortunately that means that they will have to sit back and watch whilst a bloody great chain-reaction tears the place apart.  And since they are naturally not keen on doing this, Spock is sent on a perilous mission to try to avert catastrophe, whilst the starship hides itself at the bottom of the sea.  And as if that wasn’t interfering with ‘destiny’ enough the natives see the Enterprise (in a spectacular piece of footage) as it emerges from beneath the waves and blasts off into the sky.

Now when I say that the inhabitants are primitive, think of Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto; and actually the comparison is quite apt, because just as the lives of  those people were changed, at the conclusion to that great movie, by the arrival of the Spanish ships of the Old World, so are the lives of this indigenous population bound to be altered by the awesome sight that they have just witnessed.  In fact this sequence closes with them beginning to sketch an outline of the starship—and to begin to worship it.

I found this fascinating because I could imagine their descendents, in centuries to come, laughing at the beliefs of their ancestors; or perhaps even formulating a von Daniken-type ‘Chariots of the Gods’ scenario around them.

I’m not sure that I understand this Prime Directive stuff, anyway.  What’s wrong with giving a planet of humanoids a bit of a hand-up on the evolutionary ladder?  What would have happened if Stanley Kubrick’s mysterious monoliths hadn’t poked their flat celestial noses into our business in 2001:  A Space Odyssey?  We would never have discovered how important weapons were in order for us to kill each other and…Oh, wait a minute.  Now I get it.

In any case, when they get back to Earth Starfleet is rightly pissed off at the PD being blithely ignored by the arrogant Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and he finds himself demoted.

However, Starfleet is about to receive a severe wake-up call in the form of a renegade member called John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), who has been let loose on a mission of mischief by the warlike Admiral Marcus, played by the great Peter Weller.

Just as an aside, I found the film’s take on terrorism, not to mention the dubious morality of pre-emptive attacks to be interesting.  I wonder how Americans viewed this, all things considered.  But here is not the place—or is it?—to be looking at American foreign policy.

I don’t wish to give too much of the film’s plot away.  Suffice to say the script by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof keeps things moving along at a pretty ferocious pace, yet still allows most of the characters to continue to grow into their roles.  Kirk definitely ends this film a man more suitable to being a captain than previously and Zachary Quinto as Spock and Zoe Saldana as Uhura also impress.  I confess that I groaned when I heard that Scotty (Simon Pegg) had been given a bigger role, but as he takes it seriously this time around and manages to keep the ‘humour’ to a minimum that’s not bad.  And talking of really witty one-liners Karl Urban as the grumpy Dr. McCoy continues to be one of my favourite characters.

Alice Eve joins the cast as the soon-to-be (if it follows previous continuity) important character of Dr.  Carol Marcus.  And may I just say here that the shot of her in bra and panties is totally gratuitous, sexist, panders to the lowest common denominator, has no relevance to the plot whatsoever and that I completely approved of its inclusion.  In fact I trust that the inevitable director’s cut will have a much longer shot.

Given that this isn’t really a reboot as such but is an alternative timeline to that of the original ten films I find the cameos of Leonard Nimoy to be important in keeping us reminded of the two realities.  Although several people (seems that you weren’t the only one, Darren!) thought that his appearance here was just to give unnecessary exposition and basically let his other self save the day.

One thing that I absolutely did not get, however, was remaking one of the best scenes from one of the best films of the series.  That’s as much as I’ll say, but it was the first time that I felt that there was a little disrespect shown.  And they made a balls of the scene into the bargain.

Leaving that aside, the story is gripping and some of the set-pieces are jaw-dropping.  I can’t resist mentioning (and there are clips in the trailers anyway) the fall to Earth of the giant military starship.  It crashes down in San Francisco Bay where its momentum causes it to plough well into the city itself.  It’s one of those scenes that you’re glad you saw on a big screen.

And as for the design of the city itself:  one of the best things about getting this on DVD when it is released will be freeze-framing some sections just to admire the incredible detail.  And of course, I shall also be freeze-framing Dr. Carol Marcus in her underwear.  Just in the interests of research, of course.

Here is a classic interview with the original cast (and author Harlan Ellison) on Tom Snyder’s Tomorrow show from ‘way back in 1976.  In other words before any of the movies.  Watch how deForest Kelley can smoke!  And him a doctor! (McCoy).








Author: Charley Brady

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  1. I have finally seen Star Trek into Darkness and loved it. The new cast lives up to what we who feel that the original cast from the TV shows (Shatner, Nimoy should be. I just wish Scotty was a bit more like the original. One thing I found a bit disconcerting was the very fast pace of some of the battle scenes, but I may be getting old. Another thing I found a bit disconcerting was the strange light streaks that appear for no reason every so often, I wanted to shout at times “put a uv filter on the camera lense”.
    As for “remaking one of the best scenes” from a previous movie, it did not bother me but it did so for my friend who saw the movie with me, he is a REAL Treakie and could not believe they would do such a bastardazation.

    I like the San Francisco of the future, the city is already beautiful and the future one looks to have improved on it, I was also glad to see that the cable cars will still be running.

    American foreign policy and this movie, well, we have been playing around with the idea of pre-emptive attacks starting with “Doctor Strangelove”. Also the idea of a rouge commander deciding to use nuclear weapons (for any number of reasons from madness to ultra-patriotism) is another theme that appears time again. And so, nightmares are made.

    I give the movie 5 out of 5 stars.

  2. What a great mail! Thank you so much.

    Glad you enjoyed it, first off; but then unless you are a die hard ‘Shatner- once- did- Shakespeare’ enthusiast I think that anyone with a brain would love these new actors’ interpretations. I think that what they do is a wonderful job–and unlike the first film (nothing wrong with that either by the way)–they have stopped simply impersonating and actually grown into the roles.

    Of course I still fancy the original Uhura much more than than the present one; but what can I say say? You fall in love (lust?) with someone when you’re twelve and it’s a bit different when you’re decades older.

    I’m going to disagree with you on Begg as Scotty. I hated the way he played it in the first; this time around, no problem. At least he wasn’t the comic relief. He actually had something to do.

    As to what your friend thought of the bastardisation of the scene from “Wrath of Khan” then I’m in complete agreement with him.

    It’s not the fault of the actors, it is the fault of whoever thought it would be a good idea.

    In “Khan” we have have grown to actually care about these characters over many years. We’ve got a lot of emotion invested in them.

    Here we have known Spock and Kirk for all of two minutes and yet we’re supposed to be moved by the death of one who, let’s be honest, we know is not dead at all.

    As to the light streaks, that’s just something that Abrams and his cinematographer agreed to do from the beginning. Personally, I loved them. That kind of thing just makes it much more real to me. It looks a little bit raw, a little bit unprofessional and as a confirmed fan of low budget movies I loved seeing them in a movie that is the exact opposite.

    As to the pre-emptive strikes bit—-oh I wish I had left that to be discussed elsewhere. In the context of the movie though–and with such a great actor as Peter Weller– I think that it opened up an interesting view. OK, I’m prepared now to be torn apart by genuine Trekkers who know their stuff more than I do: does it give you the idea that in this alternative reality it is WE who went to war with them rather than the other way around?

    “And so, nightmares are made”.

    Great line!

  3. “does it give you the idea that in this alternative reality it is WE who went to war with them rather than the other way around?” No, I disagree, the Klingon Empire is like our present time North Korea, super secretive, paranoid, willing to take on anyone but only if they think they will get away with it, super nationalistic and all around nuters with really scary weapons. The Klingons are willing to push and prod, use any sort of terrorist action that they think might just work until they go too far and find that the Federation will stand their ground and fight back. Then they sue for peace and all the time are planning the next attack. Just like North Korea today. The only question is, when will they miscalculate and go too far and start a real war?

  4. Ha ha! I love that answer, even though I wasn’t really serious.

    While I think of it, maybe I haven’t seen enough episodes but am I right in thinking that even though they seem to have every race in the galaxy in the shows there aren’t any Muslims? Not that I’m complaining or anything.

    Another question I heard during the week (and you know who you are, John!) was: with the Klingon society being so warlike who did they have that baked bread, delivered the milk etc?

    And while I’m at it does anyone remember that Next Generation episode where Jonathon Frakes (?) is welcomed aboard one of their ships and is hit on by this scary-looking female who looks as if she would have torn him apart in the heat of passion? Does the fact that I found her weirdly fanciable make me odd? Best not to answer that, perhaps.

  5. Out of the original 11-12 films only 50% are any good! So the fact that the two rebooted films have been excellent I can’t wait for a third!

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