Thursday, 8 May 2014

Reanimating the Tribble - Star Trek Into Darkness One Year On

One year ago today not only did I receive the Revell USS Enterprise in the post but also went to the midnight showing of Star Trek Into Darkness.

Yes, seriously - 12 months have passed since the film that fans rate as the worst Star Trek movie ever was released on the unsuspecting public. Premiered on May 2nd, the UK became the first country in the world to receive Abrams' sequel into cinemas. 

As with Bond's Quantum of Solace there is the hope that this is just a faltering step in what could be the triumphant rebirth of Star Trek. Indeed, as with that 007 movie, the film to follow Into Darkness will be marking the 50th anniversary. While we know how Skyfall faired, we can only pray to the Prophets that Star Tr3k will manage to reverse the opinions of many in 2016.

Looking back, we'd got an inkling that this was going to be about Khan, there were going to be blatant homages to Classic Star Trek and that JJ Abrams would be heading further into action-adventure territory rather than a "more cerebral" take on the franchise.

We covered the buildup to the movie in fairly extensive detail - all the trailers, the virals, the rumours, the posters - just about everything and even in the final week, a daily digest of what was being gradually revealed to us. It was a masterful promotional campaign and for that we have to praise the team behind it. Each month we got more, the Enterprise rising from the sea, Harrison standing in a rubble strewn London, character shots, magazine features - I lapped up the lot and this might have been my downfall. Expectation on my part was in overdrive and far too high. It could, in no uncertain terms, absolutely fail to deliver. For fandom as a whole though, frenzy would be an understatement and there was more than a keen level of interest in the sequel. After all, the 2009 film had revitalised the brand, polarised fans and guaranteed the rejuvenation of Roddenberry's creation at least for a few years more.

Sadly at about 3am all I could muster to the other half as I dropped into bed was "It was OK..." and nothing more. I had been significantly underwhelmed in under three hours. Star Trek Into Darkness was enjoyable but there was something missing. Ironically three little viral trailers bore the answer - there was no soul, mind or heart to the movie; it was all out action with a rather impressive long range transporter to quickly fill in some irksome plotholes. It seemed to just exist and I have to say that I've only watched it three times since it's cinematic release. Once in 3D on the big screen and twice on DVD. 

I'd still rather watch Nemesis or The Final Frontier than Into Darkness even if only for the fact that it's not "Classic Canon" nor the Roddenberry Vision. I know that there will be those who are of the strict opinion that it's Total Garbage and won't hear anything to the contrary however, what were the successes here? What do we think that Abrams multi-million dollar sequel do right or do well? Surely there's something redeeming about last year's Star Trek offering?

Time for us to hit the DVD version and see what we can find that would keep our interest in the future...


It took a bit of time for the full reveal here. We'd been teased with them in the deleted scenes from the 2009 movie but in Into Darkness we saw them face to face in full battlegear replete with armour, piercings, crinkly foreheads, batleths, d'k'targs and some mightly fine looking Birds-of-Prey. The fight sequence on Quo'noS is spectacular especially with Cumberbatch's arrival carrying some serious firepower. They did put up some resisitance but Khan turned out to be a one-man war machine.  These were brutal, pre-The Next Generation Klingons through and through where only honour and ass-kickings mattered. Well done to the writers for placing the action in the Ketha Province where one General Martok would be born in the Prime Universe. More of the same please.

USS Vengeance

We spotted her in the background of the trailers during the Kirk/Khan space-diving sequence as well as realising that it was this starship and not the Enterprise that was taking a dip in San Francisco Bay when fans started comparing nacelle configurations. The Vengeance was a totally different design, unmarked with a registry and bearing all the hallmarks of a stealthy hunter cloaked in black. The tell-tale Starfleet traits of a saucer/sec hull/nacelles were still there but this was the deadliest starship we'd seen in the fleet ever - it even had a menacing warp sound. Dwarfing the Enterprise emphasised it's venom before we even saw a single shot fired. Her decent and obliteration of a good portion of San Francisco is total overkill and rarely has Star Trek managed to fit so much death and destruction into one movie especially at the hands of one of Starfleet's own ships. Certainly if there's one thing we remember about this movie it's the Vengeance. We all wanted a model and luckily some were quick to market.

Admiral Marcus

Peter Weller made everyone else look amateur and, for me, stole the movie. Hardcore, a believer in the preservation of humanity and in taking the first strike, Marcus was the epitome of the slightly unhinged Starfleet admiral that popped up on more than one occasion over the years. Not exactly evil, more driven in his beliefs, Weller's experience shows through in droves every time he's on screen. His reaction of "Oh s**t you talked to him." when he realises Kirk has met with Khan and found out all the dirty facts was great and almost seemed off the cuff. True facepalm moment superbly executed. Weller is also one of the few to have featured in both aspects of the franchise, having guest-starred in the final Enterprise two-parter in it's final season from 2005. 

The Five Year Mission

After two movies they finally got to the point. We've not boldly gone at all so far and one of the big criticisms of the revamp was the fact everything was very, very Earth-focused. Embarking on the fabled mission does lend us to believe that the next movie will take place Out There but the hints of Klingon aggression in Into Darkness might indicate that will be the major plot line. It felt that we'd come to the end of a formation period in the life of the ship and crew - major foes had been faced down, Pike was dead and the slate was clean - we could even forgive Kirk being returned to the rank of captain after his rapid rise and demotion through the ranks. Maybe. 

The Descent of the Enterprise

Not necessarily something that was done right more of a "Wow" moment. The fall of the Enterprise into Earth's orbit was stunning both internally and externally. Whether you agreed with it happening in the first place is beside the point as we watched the ship literally start disintegrating before our eyes. Seatbelts were deployed on the bridge and Kirk and Scotty start running up walls to make it to Engineering. Watching all the background action here - the crew falling about the set, the shuttles crashing about in the hangar or seeing the great starship rise from the clouds all made this a well crafted visual experience. 

The detailing was immense on the crumbling ship and it just looked incredible to see her in such a state. The less said about the Star Trek II homage at the reactor room door, the better. The Enterprise probably took more of a pounding here than ever before and the signs are there when the mains comes back on line. Add in the nifty mini-refit at the end and you've got a whole new merchandise line for 2016.


Thanks to +Aaron Gallo for this one: "The one thing that I really liked about the movie was the inclusion of Section 31. The opening scenes with Harrison (Khan) and Harewood brought a very relatable, human, moment to the film. Having Section 31 operating in a secret location under a library was a great idea and presented a link between Star Trek from Enterprise to Deep Space Nine."

I do agree with Aaron - and from this point of view it did hit the mark on exactly what Roddenberry envisaged for Star Trek - linking modern day events into the future just as he did with the Vietnam War, racism, the US vs USSR; telling real issues through the forum of the future and science-fiction. Here Abrams did get it right, presenting a real danger in a capital city as has been the case in many terrorist attacks. The conclusion that it turned out to be an inside job so to speak did lessen the impact that might have been had it been revealed that the Klingons or Romulans had been responsible.

The Tribble with Darkness

It's easy to point the finger at Into Darkness for not being Classic Star Trek and being the summer action movie but here we've tried to show that there are a few things at the least which made it a success and showed the potential of this new timeline where anything is possible. Yes, there were some ropey homages and fans can lambaste that Abrams mined The Wrath of Khan far more than he should ever have done. At least there were a few nods to past glories (and the computer game linked to the production) with references to the Kelvin, Section 31, the Gorn, the NX-01 and other classic ships in the Marcus Office scene, a tribble...but not enough that was new. Bringing a tribble back to life with superblood (eh?!) was hardly the epic ending we were hoping for - there was a fist-fight a la Where No Man Has Gone Before (networks love 'em) but not involving, surprisingly, Kirk.

Star Trek II, the Meyer one, is THE Star Trek movie and should never be touched. Some bits were twisted but still, this should have been fresh and new not recycled. OK, new fans would have no idea what we long-termers were screaming about but stealing from the greats (while total flattery) doesn't bode well to keeping your loyal audience. 

Not only did JJ and Co touch it, they left mucky finger-marks all over. Let's hope that the changes in personnel for the next adventure help to reassure fans that this new extension of Star Trek has a bright future and we can be won back. Happy first anniversary Star Trek Into Darkness - let's hope to some degree that we can look back and know that this was the turning point to producing some new Star Trek of first class quality. Abrams is likely to just produce following his defection to the Dark Side and with all the rumblings around Kurtzman and Orci's involvement or lack of/writing partnership split, the intrigue is just beginning. Heck, Orci might even direct. Maybe some of that Khan superblood should be injected into the script for the third movie? Might just do the trick, no tribble required.

Was there anything else that made Star Trek Into Darkness redeemable? Have we missed something out or chosen something that you would never have considered? Let us know below right now!

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