Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
The latest Star Trek Into Darkness trailer crams a lot of action into 1 minute, 17 seconds, and in amid that action we saw a bunch of shiny effects, a few plot clues and several things that are new to the Trek universe. Let’s break it down:
Bones and Kirk run through a planet full of red vegetation
While the planets explored on the original series and on Star Trek: The Next Generation tended to look like Southern California, I think that we can all agree this was in large part due to budget restrictions, not because all Class M planets took lessons from Pasadena. So while the effects are new, the idea is old. Our heroes are going to explore some planets, and McCoy is going to hate every minute of it. Excellent.
Kirk gets shot out of an airlock and navigates around wreckage in a spacesuit
This isn’t new, of course. In J.J. Abrams’ 2009 reboot, Kirk, Sulu and a redshirt jump from a shuttle to perform a dangerous mission. But, in the more than four decades of Star Trek, officers rarely perform any extravehicular activity. Actual NASA astronauts have been out of their ships more times than Star Trek characters. Picard, Worf and Lt. Hawk crawled around on the hull in First Contact, and B’Elanna Torres and Tom Paris got all snuggly in space in an episode of Voyager, but most of the time everyone’s arms and legs stay INSIDE the Enterprise. That is one of my least-favorite Abrams additions to the Trek universe. The line is “our continuing mission to explore strange new worlds,” not “one dude’s crazy rocket ride out of an airlock.” The essence of a Star Trek mission is that it’s a shared experience forces characters to work together. Let’s hope Abrams hasn’t forgotten that.
Benedict Cumberbatch blows up London
Wow, Sherlock looks pissed. Terrorism has been a theme in many Star Trek episodes. Deep Space Nine frequently dealt with terrorist plots aboard the station, including one masterful plan that Sisko himself was complicit in enacting (just go watch “In the Pale Moonlight” right now, I’ll wait). In an episode of TNG, Beverly Crusher was captured by a terrorist cell and forced to question the line between “terrorist” and “freedom fighter.” Plotlines involving the Maquis and the Bajorans have asked similar questions. Who is a terrorist? When is violence justified? However, all of these stories came out before Sept. 11, 2001. It’s not in vogue right now to ask questions about the motivations behind terrorism; terrorists are the baddies, plain and simple. As Kirk says in the trailer, “He’s a fugitive and I want to take him out.” Since when did Star Trek captains sound so much like Law & Order detectives? One of my favorite things about Star Trek is that the villains usually have redeemable qualities — or at least a certain amount of moral complexity. Let’s hope that some of that subtlety sticks around in the new film.
If Cumberbatch is indeed playing Khan, as many suspect, terrorism seems like a weird way to introduce him. As he was originally conceived, Khan is a charismatic leader, a manipulator. As part of a group of genetically engineered “supermen,” he is a man looking to be a the top of a new order. His villainy is supposed to be more in line with Hitler than Bin Laden. Why would he then terrorize London? It’s possible that the Khan of this alternative timeline is a different man altogether.
Kirk and Spock ride the Millennium Falcon through a narrow passage
Forget President Obama’s slip up last week, it seems Abrams has decided he can pluck space ships out of the Star Wars universe and plop them right into Star Trek. The only thing in Star Trek that kinda-sorta looks like this shuttle is the Defiant (from Deep Space Nine), but that technology is a few generations away. This scene looks like it’s ripping off The Empire Strikes Back almost shot-for-shot. I’m waiting for Scotty to say, “This is no cave.”
The Enterprise rises out of the ocean and also crash-lands on a planet
Sticking space-faring vessels into the ocean usually doesn’t end well (see: Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home). The Enterprise looks really cool rising out of the water, but the scene is also likely a scientific impossibility. Before you jump up and down saying, “Anna, this is science fiction,” let’s remember that many Star Trek technologies are either based in, or have influenced, real science. Anyone reading this on an iPad knows what I mean. Even if there is some technobabble explanation for this scene, it seems stylistically out of place in the Trek universe.
As for that crash: Who let Troi drive again? The last time we saw the Enterprise crash-land, it was in Star Trek: Generations, leaving the NCC-1701 D damaged beyond repair. It’s super cool-looking to crash the ship, we know, but how many times are they going to let Kirk destroy the Starfleet flagship before someone takes away the keys?
All in all, though, a very exciting-looking film is on the horizon. Whether that film has anything to do with the Star Trek universe we know and love is as yet unclear.