Monday, 27 May 2013

CAPTAIN'S BLOG: Star Trek Into Darkness

It's time. We've all seen it now. A Captain's Blog entry for Star Trek Into Darkness.

Star Trek Into Darkness
Trek Movies: The Greatest Hits Collection

The Mission: Observation of planet Nibiru; manhunt for wanted terrorist John Harrison following attack on London; five-year mission of exploration.

Period: 2259-60 (alternative reality)

Planets visited:
Earth: Much as we’ve seen in the previous movie, only this time we don’t only see the American future, we see London. There are recognisable landmarks still present as well as plenty of the futuristic skyscrapers that appear so popular in San Francisco in the 23rd century. New landmarks include the Kelvin Memorial Library, named, presumably, in honour of the lost USS Kelvin, and in reality a secret Starfleet Intelligence HQ. References to a Royal Hospital and sightings of the Union flag indicate the United Kingdom must still exist, in some form.

Kronos: The Klingon Homeworld is a complete no-go area for humans. Khan decides to use it as his hideout. He takes refuge in a dingy industrial area in an underpopulated province. Orbiting Kronos is a fragmenting moon, so mining work on Praxis is going ahead just as destructively in this reality as in the Prime timeline. The spelling ‘Kronos’ is used throughout.

Nibiru: A Class-M planet with a native species of preindustrial humanoids. The oceans are as blue as Earth’s, but the vegetation is red, and there are various large, nasty beasts roaming the rouge jungles. A supervolcano is on the verge of erupting, threatening the entire planet with destruction. Kirk and Spock step in.

Jupiter: Admiral Marcus is hiding his pet warship at a spacedock in orbit of the gas giant.

Unnamed planetoid: McCoy and Dr. Marcus beam down to a remote planetoid to try to open one of Marcus’s mystery torpedoes. It has a breathable atmosphere, but the surface is barren, composed of black, volcanic rock.

Captain James T: Breaks the Prime Directive massively on Nibiru, although he does save the entire planet so that seems pretty reasonable. He almost gets busted back to cadet for this, but Pike intervenes to have him made first officer instead. Nonetheless, he stops Khan from killing quite the entire senior staff of Starfleet and gets his wish to go after Harrison/Khan. It’s totally a vengeance thing for him since Pike is killed, and he tries pummelling Khan when he catches him (this doesn’t work). He calms down enough not to execute him on the spot. He’s canny enough to suss out Marcus’s plans and ballsy enough to face him down.
                He’s got a reputation with the women of Starfleet. He sacrifices himself to save the Enterprise which cements his bromance with Spock. Luckily, there’s a well-signposted cure for death available. Claims to have not lost anyone during his command of the Enterprise (guess that means the comics aren’t canon after all). He’s reinstated as full captain of the Enterprise and assigned a five-year mission of exploration.

Green-blooded Hobgoblin: Still playing by the rules, more or less. Follows Kirk’s orders when they breach regulations, beaming down to Nibiru to use his ‘cold fusion’ device but insisting he be left to die when it appears he’s trapped in the volcano. Files a report on himself and Kirk after the rescue. Gives Pike lip in a terribly logical way. He’s been risking himself unnecessarily (following developments in the comic series) since the destruction of Vulcan, something which is putting strain on his relationship with Uhura. Doesn’t seem too perturbed at the prospect of being shifted to the USS Bradbury away from Kirk, but later goes mental when Kirk is killed. He’s the voice of reason during the manhunt, but goes into a blood-rage for Khan after Kirk’s death. It takes a lot to piss of a Vulcan, but when you do, you’ll regret it.

Spock Prime: Living on New Vulcan. Handily, young Spock has his phone number in case he ever needs to quiz him about terrible threats from previous movies.

Hailing Frequencies Open: Uhura is still being sent on missions with Spock, in spite of the obvious problems this may pose regarding emotional conflicts. She speaks Klingon, so is sent on the Kronos mission, and stands up to the big lead Klingon. Helps Spock take down Khan (phaser rather fists on her part).

The Real McCoy: Is as awesome as ever. Has the steadiest hands in Starfleet, flirts with Dr Marcus way more smoothly than Kirk ever could, and manages to foul it up by getting his hand trapped in a detonating torpedo. Once delivered Gorn octuplets (they bite).

Great Scott: Still not Scotty as I remember him, but pretty amazing in this movie, refusing to betray his principles and allow Marcus’s torpedoes aboard without seeing what’s inside and expressing the doubts about the manhunt that many of the crew share. Threatens to quit and Kirk calls him on it. He goes on a binge with Keenser, until Kirk phones him and gets him to go on a side mission to locate Marcus’s secret project – the Vengeance. Infiltrates the warship like it’s the sort of thing he does every day (he was very good at starship sabotage in the original timeline though).

Punch it: Sulu gets to try out the captain’s chair. He’s nervous at first but he takes to it well. He’ll be running the Excelsior in no time.

Boy Wonder: Poor wee panicky Chekov gets bumped up to chief engineer in Scotty’s absence. He’s not really up to it, bless him, and is nervous about changing to a red shirt, but he comes through and saves Kirk and Scotty from falling to their deaths when the gravity goes awry. He’s back where he belongs by the time the ship flies again.

Captain Christopher Pike: They killed Pike! How dare they?! Before this heinous act, Pike is ranked as Vice Admiral but is returned to the captaincy of the Enterprise with Kirk as his first officer, something which took some negotiation. He’s still wheelchair bound, but can walk with a cane. Spock melds with him during his last moments.

Posh Totty: Dr Carol Marcus arrives on the Enterprise unannounced and under an assumed name. Her father is Admiral Marcus. Evidently in this reality she was raised in England and decided to specialise in weapons technology rather than biophysics. She’s highly intelligent, extremely composed and knows all about Kirk’s reputation. She joins the crew permanently for the five-year mission, as science officer.

Khaaaaaaaaaan! Shock! John Harrison is Khan Noonien Singh! Who’da thunk it? Yes, he’s played by an Englishman this time, which has offended a lot of people, because Khan is supposed to be Indian. Well, yes, it’s a bit stupid, and the name doesn’t make much sense (who knows, maybe he was raised by a Sikh family/scientist). However, I think it’s important to remember that Ricardo Montalban, who played the original Khan, was also white.
                Anyway, Khan is a vaguely defined superhuman bad dude this time round. There’s some mention of his being a genocidal warlord back in the day, but mainly he’s on a vengeance trip against Marcus for his betrayal and because he believes him to have killed his kin. He was found in a sleeper ship drifting in space (the Botany Bay, natch). He has superhuman strength and speed, enhanced intelligence, and supreme regenerative abilities. His blood can cure terminal illnesses and even death by radiation poisoning when injected into another human. He takes down a bunch of Klingons with little effort. He’s cunning, manipulative, but prone to violent anger and utterly untrustworthy.

Bad Admiral: Admiral Alexander Marcus is the current commander-in-chief of Starfleet. He’s gone bad, convinced that war with the Klingons is coming (he’s probably not wrong) and determined to be prepared. Basically he’s willing to do whatever it takes to get Starfleet onto a more military footing and ready to take the war to the Empire. The attacks on Earth and Vulcan by Nero have galvanised him and those who support him. He’s part of Section 31, the secret “dirty tricks” department of Starfleet Intelligence. In the film’s most violent moment, he gets his head crushed to pulp by Khan (mercifully, we don’t see it).
                According to the Countdown to Darkness prequel comic, he was Robert April’s XO on the previous Enterprise (the mysterious one between NX-01 and NCC-1701 in this reality). He may even have been captain of the ship between April and Pike. He also implies that he was the one who persuaded Pike to join Starfleet.

Alien Life Forms:
Klingons: Proper big, mean bastards, although they still have a thing for honour. The Klingons we see are mostly wearing the ridged hoods that kept their features a secret in the cut scenes from Star Trek, but their leader takes his off to reveal a face with a broad, ridged nose and pronounced skull ridges. Which are pierced. It’s kind of a super-Klingon look. Cool as they look, the Klingons are mostly there to get beaten up and show how hard Khan is.

Nibirans: Humanoids with deepset black eyes and stark white skin (probably painted white, by the looks of it). They have a primitive tribal culture, worshipping the volcano that dominates their world along with a sacred scroll (which Kirk nicks to get them out from under said volcano). They’re fast runners. After seeing the Enterprise, their belief system shifts somewhat.

Vulcans: The survivors of the Vulcan genocide are building a new home on the New Vulcan colony. This is the setting for much of the new Star Trek video game.

Tribbles: Bones has one in his sickbay, just in case he needs to inject something with some superhuman blood samples for fun. (This is actually left over from the IDW comics, but is still stupid.)

Starfleet aliens: Among the Enterprise crew are a Monchezke native (like K’Bentayr from the Kelvin crew in Star Trek), the reptilian female generally known as ‘Madeline,’ a Lobot-like cyborg science officer nicknamed GATT-5000, and of course Keenser, the crusty wee alien who we now know, thanks to the comics, is a Roylan. Starfleet still includes Orions, and we see various other cool looking new aliens in and around the Academy. Some say Kirk’s ladyfriends in San Francisco are Caitians; they look way too human-like to be Caitian to me.

Future History: Kirk states that Khan is three hundred years out of his native time; I thnk we can assume he’s rounding up a fair bit there, unless Khan went to sleep in 1959. Still, the film is sticking with the twentieth century background for Khan and his rise to power. Which is odd, considering this is a film made in 2013 about a future in which Nokia exists.
                It’s implied that the Klingons have only recently been contacted, which flies in the face of the events of Enterprise pretty heavily. Perhaps they’re just getting rowdy recently.

Future Treknology:
Transwarp beaming: No need for starships anymore! Not now that Starfleet has Scott’s equation for transwarp beaming. It’s classified of course. Still, Khan has acquired a personal transwarp beamer.
Cold fusion: Someone on scriptwriting duties seems to have taken the phrase ‘cold fusion’ rather literally, and thinks it’s something that can actually be used to make things colder, rather than fusion under reasonable temperatures and conditions. Spock’s cold fusion device is capable of freezing a volcano and rendering it inert, although it has no remote control.
Explosives: Khan gives Mickey from Doctor Who a ring which dissolves in water to form an explosive substance, powerful enough to level the Kelvin Archive and kill a large number of people. This is just to get the heads of Starfleet in one room to address the threat, of course, so he can attack them in a jumpship.
Cryo-torpedos: Not only are they supremely powerful new photon torpedoes, they also contain a 20th century cryogenic capsule with a frozen superman inside. How this works, I do not know, but like Bones says, “I’m a doctor, not a torpedo technician.” (Sadly, I’m not a doctor either.)

USS Enterprise: We see a bit more of her this time. The warp core’s been tidied up, although engineering still looks like a brewery. For no reason whatsoever, Kirk hides her under the sea of Nibiru, in spite of the obvious danger posed by saltwater to delicate components and the fact that she’s not designed to travel through an atmosphere at all. More plausibly, the shuttles are damaged by volcanic ash, which clogs and corrodes their systems. She gets her ass handed to her by the Vengeance, but gets a nice refit at the end of the film, all spruced up with new thrusters and sleek new warp nacelles.

USS Vengeance: A dreadnought-class warship, twice the size of the Enterprise and three times the speed (given the size of the Enterprise in this reality, that’s pretty enormous). It is darker than the Enterprise with a skeletal structure, but retains the standard relationship of saucer to engineering hull, with two warp nacelles. Despite its size, it has been designed to be operated by a reduced crew. Its warp drive is advanced enough to allow it to catch up with another vessel fleeing at warp, penetrate its warp field and attack it. Marcus has had it constructed in secret and commands it as his personal flagship.

USS Bradbury: Starship commanded by Captain Abbott, to which Spock is due to be transferred as first officer prior to the attack on Starfleet HQ. It is clearly named for the late author Ray Bradbury, although it may also be a reference to a USS Bradbury mentioned a couple of times in TNG.

Khan’s jumpship: A one-man sublight ship capable of flight within in atmosphere and in space, well-armed for its size and seemingly a standard Federation design. Vulnerable to a hose in the engine turbine.

D-4 class: Small Klingon vessels, similar to the classic Bird-of-Prey, which operate in a planetary atmosphere. Heavily armed and highly manoeuvrable, and wicked cool.

K’Normian Trader ship: This is actually Mudd’s ship from the prequel comic, which they refused to give back to her.

Future Fashion: There’s an array of new uniform variants on display, from the militaristic grey Starfleet Command uniforms (with spiffy hats) to the shiny blue and red wetsuits. Plus there are puffy flight suits, white medical uniforms with a hint of Motion Picture about them, environmental suits and the classic red/gold/blue starship uniforms. Presumably crewmen spend a great deal of time getting changed for different missions.

Gratuitous? Really?
Sexy Trek: Naughtiness that the original series could only dream of. Kirk bangs two hot alien twins (with tails) while on leave in San Francisco. Alice Eve gets down to her underwear in an entirely gratuitous sequence in which Dr Marcus gets changed. There’s a junior bridge officer with white-blonde hair who is absolutely gorgeous.
                On the other hand, if you like men, there’s plenty of eye candy here for you too. Personally, I’m a Karl Urban man, although I also have a soft spot for Bruce Greenwood. A scene with Khan in the shower was cut from the theatrical release.

Shirtless Kirk Alert: During the aforementioned hot alien twin action.

Funny Bits: Most of Scotty’s scenes, and any time McCoy says anything.

Space Bilge: Here goes… Why the hell did Kirk decide to hide the Enterprise beneath the sea on Nibiru, instead of leaving her in orbit? How was this in any way an aid to the mission, and how did he get the ship under there without a single native seeing her in the first place?  Why does Khan choose Kronos as a hiding place? He must realise Marcus will send someone after him, and unless he wants war with the Klingons as well, it’s a bit of a stupid place for him to hide. Why did he put his brethren in the torpedoes? Surely a less explosive option would have been sensible.
                Starship travel is now so rapid that the Enterprise can get from Earth to Kronos in what seems like hours (although this might just be sloppy editing and a lack of clarity in the storytelling). Along with the super-fast trip between Earth and Vulcan in Star Trek, you have to wonder why anyone is bothered with transwarp beaming.
                Khan’s blood can bring people back to life, as can a synthesised substitute, even after major radiation exposure. Somehow I don’t think we’ll hear about this again, regardless of its capacity to alter the life of every human being in the Galaxy. Khan is also introduced with little in the way of explanation of his origins, so anyone who doesn’t know him from the original series and films is going to be confused as to why everyone’s making such a big deal of the guy. Also, why does the blood have to be Khan's, and not any of the other superhumans they have in handy cryogenic storage?
                McCoy keeps a tribble on hand in case he needs to experiment on anything. The heads of Starfleet convene to discuss a terrorist attack against Starfleet in one big room that is a well-known location. Apparently, in Starfleet you can go from cadet to captain to cadet to first officer to captain again in days.

Links and references: Admiral Marcus has models of earlier air and space vehicles on his desk, both real-life craft and Star Trek  ships including the Phoenix, the NX-Alpha, the Enterprise XCV-330 and NX-01 and the USS Kelvin. Section 31 originally featured in Deep Space 9 and later was retroactively set up in Enterprise. Christine Chapel is mentioned, having transferred “to the frontier”, seemingly to get away from Kirk (has she moved to Exo-III?) Dr Boyce (from ‘The Cage’) is listed as Kirk’s Doctor on his recovery bed at the end of the film. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is pillaged for material, particularly in the climactic scenes.

Title Tattle: There’s been a surprising amount of discussion about the lack of a colon in Star Trek Into Darkness, even though it’s not the first Trek movie to do without. Star Trek Generations and Star Trek Nemesis don’t have colons either. Not that it matters, really.

The Verdict: Great fun and easy on the eye, but frequently nonsensical and highly derivative, and lacking in emotional punch. See the main review for more.

No comments:

Post a Comment