18 May 2013 @ 09:48 pm
Star Trek Into Darkness: An Epic Lesson in Inevitability  
I just came home from watching the latest installment of the Star Trek franchise, and I have to give the writers, producers, and director some serious credit for an amazing job well done. I will admit that I was not expecting to be as pleased as I was upon the closing credits; I had read several very critical reviews and opinions on certain aspects of the film. From the casting of Benedict Cumberbatch as Khan to a tendency to rely too much on reference, I was pretty well set up for an epic disappointment. I'm quite delighted to say that I enjoyed just about every minute of it.

I will admit that there were points that were not as high as others. There were some spots that were quite slow and tedious. And, obviously, there were parts with which I was thrilled beyond measure. But I'm not going to spend a lot of time hashing out the moments I liked and the ones I didn't. I want to spend a little bit of time addressing a few items with which some of the Trekkie following had taken particular issue.

The first is the casting of Benedict Cumberbatch as Khan, who in the original series was supposedly an Oriental man played by a "hispanic" actor. And really, I don't want to address the authenticity of Ricardo Montalban's identification as latino (seriously, people, he was born to a couple of Spaniards, making him as white as me, but that's another criticism for another time). The exact problem certain people had with Cumberbatch was simply that he was a white man playing someone who had been the product of eugenics experiments. Well, what else was he supposed to be, if not white?

The early history of eugenics as a scientific and philosophical experiment was not simply about creating a perfect human being. It was about creating the perfect white person. Let's be honest with ourselves about that simple fact. Eugenics for humans was originally patterned after methods of breeding dogs; don't mix the blood lines, don't allow dogs with imperfections to breed, etc. So, if anyone was miscast as Khan, it was Montalban.

Sure, Roddenberry might have been trying to advocate that the perfect person wouldn't necessarily be white, but all it did was muddy the issue. Humans by their very nature are flawed, regardless of their ethnicity, and if anyone tries to tell you differently then they're either lying or deeply misguided. You can't simply breed out those flaws, no matter how much you try. Give an imperfect person power and you end up with Congress as a best-case scenario and Khan as a worst-case.

Trying to advocate on any level that eugenics might be acceptable is repugnant. At its core, the idea that one can breed the perfect human by manipulating evolution and genetics is one that sickens me. It stands in direct opposition to the ideals of human rights. You can't manipulate a population to perfection while simultaneously preaching the value of freedom and individual liberty. The two are fundamentally incompatible.

Casting a Cumberbatch as Khan was the historically accurate move. I don't know if that was why he was chosen for the role. It may simply have been that he was the only person they auditioned who had the chops to play the role, which requires a certain gravitas. That's probably why Montalban was chosen as the original Khan. That kind of personality is not easy to find. But a white Khan can demonstrate just exactly why eugenics is so dangerous and so hateful.


I've also seen a fair amount of criticism that this move relied too heavily on references to the original films and episodes of the franchise. It is true that there is a fair amount of reference, as there should be considering that this movie was designed with Trek fans in mind. I didn't see any particular references that I thought were out-of-place. In fact, I didn't see anything that should offend any Trek fan, unless they were upset about Kirk going into the warp reactor to realign it.

Let me offer this interpretation: it wasn't a reference. It was, in fact, a statement about inevitability. Even though we're dealing with a universe that is technically an alternate reality, there isn't that much that's going to be radically different for people outside the scope of the changes made in the first movie. Kirk himself will be radically changed by the deprivation of his father. Spock and all Vulcans are radically changed by the destruction of their homeworld. But outside of those changes, the corrections to the universe aren't going to be that dramatic.

Think of it as dropping a pebble in a pond. The surface of the water is changed most radically at the point at which the pebble makes contact. Those ripples continue out from that point, but the farther you go from the epicenter, the less powerful the ripples. Certain things change, but others stay the same.

We know that the warp core was initially sabotaged before the Enterprise left on its mission to retrieve Khan. That's why it was parked on the other side of the neutral zone when the dreadnaught ship found them. If that initial damage had not occurred, then it's likely that the core would not have fallen out of alignment from the damage sustained in the attack. It might have still happened, but it might not have. I think it would have, which would make this particular event an inevitability, not a reference. I believe that nothing could have been done to prevent it, therefore someone had to go in and manually realign the core.

If my memory serves me, then I remember that Spock and McCoy were in engineering in The Wrath of Khan. In Into Darkness, it's Kirk and Scotty. Of those two characters, Kirk is more likely to sacrifice himself for the safety of his ship and his crew. He's the captain. He sees it as his duty. Scotty was the one trying to keep him from opening the door, just as it was McCoy who tried to prevent Spock from doing the same in the original timeline.

As for the dialogue after Spock arrives on the scene, that was reference and it didn't bother me a bit. It was exactly in-character for both Spock and Kirk. What else were they supposed to say?

At the end of the day, I'm glad that Spock didn't die as he did in Wrath of Khan. I really would have hated to reproduce The Search for Spock and The Voyage Home. Those were my two least favorite films of the entire franchise. Khan was such a memorable and notable part of the original franchise that he had to make an appearance at some point, and this was a decent treatment of his character. His appearance set the warp core realignment scenario into motion, which was ultimately inevitable.

Teal dear: Some things aren't meant to be significant and others just can't be avoided.