Thoughts on Star Trek Into Darkness

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I've now seen Star Trek Into Darkness, and I've had some time to collect my thoughts together. This collection of aneurysms is likely to contain mucho spoilers. If you haven't seen Star Trek Into Darkness yet, and you don't want to know what it's all about, stop reading. Click the jump for the spoily spoilers.

I'm just going to bullet-point my thoughts and observations. You wanted an essay? Write your own.

  • I find the new character of James Kirk to be a bit hard to take. Chris Pine does a spectacular job of the acting, and the character is certainly real and likeable as far as the films go, but I have some issues with the way the character has been written. Captain Kirk was always the captain. He was always large and in charge. He was the shit. Now, he seems to be the kid who's constantly in the right place at the wrong time to somehow accidentally assume command of the Enterprise. If the third Abrams Trek film -- and there'll inevitably be one -- pulls the same trick, I'll be of half a mind to write a cranky letter.
  • I liked the planet full of red plants and weird flaky white people with four nostrils and peculiar eyelids. I can see a potential sequel based on their worship of the bizarre thing that came out of the water, but that's probably unlikely.
  • Spock inside the volcano -- I understand it was symbolic shorthand, but I don't believe Spock's resignation to death would have him on his knees with his hands in the air.
  • Admiral Marcus's collection of starships seems to have codified the NX-01 from Star Trek: Enterprise as part of the Abramsverse. Joy.
  • While the idea of a starship functioning underwater seems ludicrous at first consideration, they're designed to take quite a beating. Whether the engines and what-have-you would benefit from being drenched in brine is another story, though. Scotty did start to say something about the salt water causing problems. It looked pretty cool, though.
  • I rather liked the Earth-based Starfleet uniforms, with their little cap. They're an unfortunate blend of the Star Wars Imperial Navy and Nazi SS uniforms, but you can't win them all.
  • Admiral Robocop.
  • Harrison's drop-ship thing apparently eats the firehose/rifle combination Kirk throws at it, then shits it out of its rear end. I do not know if this was intentionally slapstick, but it was both awesome and awkward simultaneously.
  • Absolutely gratuitous underwear shot for Alice Eve as Carol Marcus, with Kirk glancing at her, despite the fact he didn't even remain on the mission as McCoy took his place!
  • Why the heck was Carol Marcus in this film, anyway? She served no purpose apart from the very brief scene in which she pleads with her father not to destroy the Enterprise and its crew -- something that anyone could have done, considering he didn't listen to her anyway. Then she gets her leg broken and just hangs around for the rest of the film for no useful reason. The fellow in the blue shirt with an iPhone in the back of his head served more of a purpose to the story. I find this particularly curious and frustrating, as her character was established in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan to be Kirk's former love intererest (and indeed, mother of his son), and there was zero chemistry between her and Kirk in Star Trek Into Darkness, given that Kirk will hump anything that's not bolted down. She was also written to be a mysterious character of questionable intent from the moment she appeared, and nothing whatsoever came of this. I don't mind something being set up to seem predictable, then the writers turning it on its ear to startle the fans, but taking something so established in canon and leaving it utterly lifeless is a bit disappointing. Maybe something will happen in a sequel. If it does, that's great, but it doesn't help Carol's limp character arc for Into Darkness.
  • There's really no reason that Spock (Quinto) needed to punch in the cheat code and phone home to Spock (Nimoy) to ask for a hint on the final level. This scene was very obviously shoehorned in to get Nimoy into the film, presumably while he's still alive and willing to appear in Trek -- both fair points, I'll add -- but it added no real substance to the film. It's great to see Leonard, of course, but there was no secret given away in his message that Spock (Quinto) couldn't have figured out for himself.
  • Kirk's communicator apparently works aaaalll the way from Klingon space to a pub on Earth. That's some good communicatoring.
  • The Klingons were pretty cool. I appreciate the fact that they didn't stray too far from the established design for their makeup. The contact lenses were a bit more exotic, and I think the jewellery and masks were appropriate. The uniforms were pretty cool, too. I'm also pleased that no changes seemed to have been made to Marc Okrand's Klingon language.
  • John Harrison was an interesting character. I avoided reading any hype about the film prior to watching it, and managed to largely avoid spoilers. I think it's a testament to the film's design and writing that I did actually question Harrison's identity right up to the point that he introduced himself as Khan. Various other possibilities crossed my mind, ranging from him being a Soong-type android to even possibly being a Founder. Obviously none of these things were true, but I'm glad the film made me consider them.
  • Having said that, Ricardo Montalban's scenery-chewing, bare-chested, Melville-quoting, ear-slug-inserting psychopathic nutjob is a hard act to follow. I really had no hope that Benedict Cumberbatch would outdo (or even match) Montalban, so I kinda dismissed it entirely and took Cumberbatch's performance for what it was. It worked. I'm happy.
  • As an addendum to that, however, I found the "bonding" scenes with Khan and Kirk sharing one-liners while completing their mission to board the Vengeance to be a bit out of character for both of them. I fail to believe even young Jim Kirk is dumb enough not to recognise that Khan is up to something diabolical.
  • I've read some unfair criticism of the design of the U.S.S. Vengeance, along the lines of "it looks like a fanboy designed it out of Lego". Y'know what? It's awesome. Because it looks like a fanboy designed it out of Lego. IT NARROWS ITS EYE AT THE ENTERPRISE. The ship has freakin' emotion. And it's angry. I approve.
  • Speaking of the Vengeance, that noise it makes as it overtakes the Enterprise at warp is all kinds of awesome.
  • Scotty strapping himself to a console in the cargo bay and blowing the hatch is reminiscent of the Next Generation episode Disaster, in which Geordi and Beverly do much the same thing to clear the cargo bay of cannisters that are leaking radiation.
  • The Kirk/Spock role reversal as Spock captains the ship into battle, unaware that Kirk is killing himself while saving the ship inside the Death Star's main reactor -- sorry, engineering room -- is a cool idea. Unfortunately, it suffers because it doesn't have the big selling point that the original scene in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan had up its sleeve: in the original, no one knew that Spock was coming back to life in the next movie. It wasn't written yet. Nimoy had essentially quit the franchise. Spock was over. In Star Trek Into Darkness, though, there's really no doubt that Kirk would be brought back from the grave, and rather obviously by the Khan/tribble science experiment McCoy was fooling about with a few scenes before.
  • Was that a 2-1B medical droid in sickbay, or a nurse in a really crazy looking costume?
  • KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN
  • So the Enterprise is falling towards Earth. That's okay. They fall. They manage to get the thrusters to work again. They stop falling. They then rise, but without the thrusters firing any more. While I'm sure there's some kind of anti-gravity-gundulator helping to lift the ship, it seems strange that the thrusters wouldn't be firing to help raise the ship through the atmosphere.
  • They fly starships through the atmosphere a lot in these movies. Hey, I guess they can do that, now. After all, the Abramsverse Enterprise was born on Earth, after all.
  • Spock leaps from one floating garbage truck to another, identical floating garbage truck. This shot is clearly intended to show Action Spock, but smacks of not being able to afford or being unable to care to make another, different CG vehicle for him to leap onto.
  • Starfleet Headquarters people: If you look up into the sky and see that a genetically enhanced madman has stolen a starship and is going Osama Bin Laden on you with it, you should probably run away from the impending catastrophe, not towards it.
  • Until Kirk's resurrection using synthesised Khan blood, I expected the little girl from the opening of the film to reappear, probably in the context of "but wait, there's still an augment!". I guess Khan's blood just heals people, though. He's not a vampire. He doesn't make people into Khans. (Although, Kirk was healed with chemicals that were synthesised. He wasn't injected with Khan's blood directly as the girl was. Maybe there's still hope.)
  • The mission statement of the Enterprise is really awkwardly worded for a mission statement. Cool for the introduction to a television episode. Bad for a mission statement. Just sayin'.

In conclusion, I thought the film was a bunch of fun. It had some quirks, as all movies do, but I'm happy with it. I'd watch it again, and I'll no doubt splurge for the Blu-ray when it comes out. Probably not in 3D, though. I despise 3D. More on that later.

Thanks for your time.

Follow up, August 2013: Comments on some common search queries that lead people to this article:

star trek into darkness nazi uniforms, star trek into darkness uniform nazi, star trek into darkness imperial navy Yes, I may have mentioned that the uniforms the Trek characters wear on Earth look a bit like Nazi uniforms. Who'da thunk anyone would have agreed with me?

Ancient aliens, minus "That Dude With the Hair"

Here's some old artwork -- some aliens doing what they do best: terrorising a caravan and a small country town. These were painted with cheap acrylics on some vinyl tiles, and were meant to be part of a larger series, which would go on to include an adorable representation of cattle mutilation, a cute attempt at alien probing, and a cartoonish bunch of crop circles. Like most (if not all) of my projects, it remains - to this day - entirely unfinished.

Many years ago, I named this guy "Jeff".

I'm fairly pleased with how adequately I managed to achieve the look of a town, at night, from the air. As far as my relationship with paint stretches, this is fairly decent.

Feel free to comment, perhaps you'll encourage me to create some more. (Although the odds are against you, these guys fell on to their canvases circa 1999.

Heroes of Science

In November, I created an image called "Heroes of Science Action Figures", in which I digitally altered some Star Trek action figures to resemble famous scientists. It went a little bit viral, and has (to date, Jan 2013) some 230,000 views on DeviantART.

I've since created a "sequel" to this image, featuring all of the original scientists (with Neil deGrasse Tyson now sporting his famous Celestial Vest), plus an additional 26 new heroes. I managed to fulfil a few requests, included a few more female scientists to offset the alarmingly testosterone-laden original image, and squeeze in another couple of my own personal heroes of science.

I also created a FAQ page for the project, answering in tedious detail a bunch of questions and criticisms the graphic has received.

As an added bonus, here's the 27th new figure. I created the image of a Yuri Gagarin action figure before I made the decision not to include anyone who was involved in the space race/space age/space program. The reasoning behind this was entirely practical: it opened a gigantic can of worms, and I would have no choice but to include another fifty figures to do the space era justice! Maybe one day I'll make another graphic specifically for that task. :D

Yuri Gagarin, the first human being to enter outer space. You can read about him here!
Yuri Gagarin, the first human being to enter outer space. You can read about him here!

Thank you everyone who's supported this crazy infographic.

Science rocks.

Click on the image (or here) to view the full-size image on DeviantART.
Click on the image (or here) to view the full-size image on DeviantART.
Click on the image (or here) to view the full-size image on DeviantART. It's massive.
Click on the image (or here) to view the full-size image on DeviantART. It's massive.

Remembering the Space Age

I very much regret having been born 20 years too late to truly appreciate the space program(s), and their effect on society. I grew up in the era where Star Wars was so much cooler than our actual astronauts. I grew up in the era where the space program was waning into ubiquity, no longer a frontier to be challenged as much as a scientific chore to be begrudgingly satisfied. In the '80s, we did develop the Space Shuttle, the first re-usable spacecraft. But we'd already been there, just not in such a nice plane. Obviously, now we were able to come back in the same plane, not a glorified bucket with a parachute on, but still. It was nothing new.

Regardless, I love the space age, the space race, the moon missions, all that jazz. I love that people have dedicated their lives to it, in many cases quite literally.

I've been doing a bit of research recently, and I've discovered that the world (and another one, we'll get there in a moment) is full of little (and not so little) memorials to people who've died while pursuing mankind's greatest adventure. I've compiled a little list. Please bear in mind that this is not a "top ten", and these aren't ranked. Because they're freakin' memorials. That's just rude. Having said that, though, the last one is really cool.

The Space Mirror

The Astronaut Memorial, at the John F. Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is a gigantic polished granite block bearing the names of 24 astronauts who have died. The astronauts names are arranged in a logical scattering, and are cut entirely through the block, so light can shine in from behind and illuminate them.

Originally, the entire thing was on a giant rotating mechanism with a tracker to keep it facing the right direction for the sun to make the names glow, but the mechanism failed in 1997, and a decision was made not to repair it, as the phenomenal amount  of money needed to repair it was deemed better used for education. Which I heartily agree with.

Laika

Laika was the first dog in space. In 1957, she became the first living creature to orbit the earth. No provision was made in her crude spacecraft, Sputnik II, for her to return safely to Earth -- rather, she was intended to be euthanised by poisoned food after completing a few successful orbits. During the launch sequence, a malfunction caused part of the heat control system to fail, which unfortunately lead to Laika only surviving a few hours into the first orbit.

Laika, fittingly, has two memorials. One with her fellow cosmonauts, at the Monument to Conqueror's of Space, and one on her own, standing atop a rocketship near the Moscow Military Medicine Institute. You can see a picture here.

Speaking of memorials to Laika the space dog, if you're into crying volumes of tears, here's Rockleetist's English-language cover of the Hatsune Miku song "Laika". If you like dogs, it's pretty torturous.

Monument to the Conquerors of Space

This 110m-tall stylised titanium spire lives in Moscow, behind the Memorial Museum of Astronautics. The thing is actually a curved obelisk, shaped like the exhaust plume of a rocket, with a rocketship sat atop. The whole thing is plated in titanium. At its base, a statue of Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, one of the pioneers of astronautics.

Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Launch Complex 34

The Apollo 1 launch platform (also used for Apollo 7) remains in living memory of the three astronauts who were lost in the Apollo 1 fire in 1967 -- Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee.

You probably remember the concrete structure from its appearance in the film Armageddon.

Apollo 1 Launch Platform

The Fallen Astronaut

By far the coolest, and possibly most emotional memorial to lost astronauts is the three-inch-tall aluminium spacefarer left on the surface of the moon by Apollo 15 in 1971. Here's the Wikipedia page about it.

The statue was created by a guy called Paul Van Hoeydonck, and it now resides in Hadley Rille on the lunar surface.

The Fallen Astronaut