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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Some Star Trek Fun and Other Stuff

Hey there Chaos fanatics. It's my busy time of year, so I'm not getting that much 40K done... Soon though. Soon I will get back into high gear and really start humming along. Just another week or 2... At any rate, I've been thinking about Star Trek Into Darkness and Trek in general. Although STID was far from perfect, it was a good movie and a solid entry in the franchise. Indeed, I think STID may be a turning point, as I suspect new creative people will get on board the new Trek train, and I hope that this alternate universe begins to break away from TOS and explore new ground, both in plot elements and in defining what a Trek movie can be.

In the spirit of that, I would like to get into some neat ways that STID reflects TOS without outright stealing from it (that I will discuss later on). So, I will caution you now that there be spoilers ahead, so proceed at your own risk....

Still there? OK good. My first bit is a count down of things that STID did right in terms of being faithful to the TOS ideas. Now, I don't mean the camaraderie amongst the crew or Simon Pegg's accent... No. I'm looking at some things that you might have missed at first glance, and even 1 or 2 controversial elements:

1)  Blinkered Commodores, Admirals, and Other High Ranking Psychopaths, Lunatics and Otherwise Bad Guys Totally At Odds With Starfleet Ideals:

Many have made issue with the JJ-verse, saying that it forgets too much about the higher ideals of humanity and Starfleet. Nonsense I say! JJ has it about right on that score. Humanity is far from perfect, and must struggle to live up to those ideals. In STID, Admiral Marcus is the REAL bad guy. On the surface, he wants to protect Earth from future threats, but at his core he is a power hungry and war mongering menace. Some have said this is in violation of Roddenberry's spirit for humanity and Starfleet. Oh really? Check this out (cue The Gonk Music here)...

Lord Garth- The New Master of the Universe indeed- absolutely batshit crazy
Commodore Decker- I can excuse his madness, due to the Planet Killer
Commodore Ron Tracy- willing to break the Prime Directive and slaughter thousands for personal gain
John Gill- humanitarian, historian, and creator of Space Nazis- who kill thousands in his name
Admiral Cartright- engages in a conspiracy to prevent peace with the Klingons, which could spark a war that could kill millions
Kodos- a planetary governor who seizes total power and kills thousands (seeing a pattern here?)
Dr. Adams- conducting mad experiments on prisoners... for a better Federation ;-)
Dr. Daystrom- the guy who invented the new computers on starships is willing to let hundreds die in order to protect his precious M-5
I could go on (as there are more in future incarnations of Trek, but I'm sticking to TOS), but the fact of the matter is JJ and co were drawing on a long history of bad Starfleet/Federation people, and Marcus is quite rational by comparison.

2) Star Trek could be called Sexy Trek:

Some have complained about the scene in STID in which Dr. Marcus takes off her clothes:

Now, why any red-blooded male would complain is besides the point. Even one of the writers disavowed the scene as "gratuitous". Now, that may be, but I am sure you are aware that Roddenberry was a bit of a horndog himself, and that Trek was made in the swinging 60s baby! Shall we begin?

One of my favorite futuristic styles, courtesy of Droxine
Yes, Trek has never been tawdry or sexy. No sir.
Next, on Galactic Gladiators!
Yes, robots have side-boobs too...
Look at that see-through dress... I would stay in the Mirror, Mirror Universe for her!
If you don't see it, there may be something wrong with you

Now, there are a TON more from TOS- but I think you get my point. Trek always had scantily clad ladies, and JJ keeps that tradition alive and well.

3) Old Gen or Next Gen technology? Forget that! I "Khan" do you one better!

This is a bit of a nerdy one, I admit. I love the USS Vengeance. Not only is it a bad ass ship and a dark reflection of the Marcus agenda for Starfleet, it's background is positively nerd-tastic. Number one, it is built by Khan. I love the idea of taking his genetically engineered intellect and applying it to the 23rd century. And even better? Khan is capable of making a ship that is, quite possibly, even tougher than Picard's Enterprise D from Next Gen. That is incredible and cool! Let's see: the Vengeance be run by one man? Picard can't do that. It can travel with what I can only assume is Trasnwarp Drive (from ST III, no less). Picard can only go safely at like Warp 9. Has a huge railgun that looks so devastating that it would have cut the Enterprise in twain if it wasn't for Scotty's sabotage. Picard has the same armaments as the old Enterprise, oh and a Tachyon emitter, whatever that is (sounds lame).
In other words, Khan is a bad ass genius, who could take over the galaxy, and I love how JJ showed that possibility while using Next Gen sensibilities.

4) Never Violate The Prime Directive... NOT!

In STID, a big issue is the fact that Kirk breaks the Prime Directive. Spock reports Kirk to Starfleet about it, and Kirk gets reamed by Pike. According to TOS ("The Omgea Glory"), a ship Captain's most solemn oath is that he would give his life, and even his crew's, rather than violate the Prime Directive. JJ is really good about showing how Starfleet SHOULD respond to such an egregious breaking of the rules. Kirk's attitude about breaking the Prime Directive is pretty consistent with TOS Kirk, considering how many times that Kirk violates the Directive. Hmmm....
Kirk violates the PD by giving a whole lesson on the US Constitution

Who are the primitive ones again?
Kirk violates the PD to blow up the evil computer Landru

They are going to fix a problem that resulted from violating the PD... by violating it again!

Kirk violates the PD... again... to destroy an evil computer... again.
Another sad result of Kirk violating the Prime Directive
I think JJ Trek is actually better about the Prime Directive than TOS was, as a matter of fact. Kirk faces punishment for it in STID, but in the show it is pretty much a joke that Kirk breaks the PD in every other episode.

Well, that's the list of things that JJ and company did well on in terms of tying their Trek to TOS. I think overall JJ is indeed quite faithful to the spirit of Trek overall.

Now, I want to get into the issue that bugged me. Khan himself. Or rather, the actor that is portraying this version of Khan, Bennedict Cumberbach, Now, he was really good in the role (and though I did not enjoy The Hobbit, I already KNOW that he will be the best part in the next one, due to his work here), combining a haughty tone, a vicious streak, and a bit of empathy all into one. He did a fine job, don't get me wrong, but... yet it wasn't the right part from him.

See, Khan is a genetically engineered man from the late 20th century. According to Space Seed, he is from Northern India- a Sikh as a matter of fact. Now, in the 1960s, they got Ricardo Montalban to play the part. True, he is NOT Indian or even Middle Eastern, but in those days, they did not cast many Indians in TV roles. Thus, the part went to Montalban, who was always given all kinds of ethnic roles (Latin lover, Spaniard, Native American, and now Sikh). Montalban had an exotic look to begin with, and with his accent, penetrating eyes, and forceful manner, he WAS Khan, no question. Further, he really made the role his own in Star Trek II- he goes for broke there, making Khan a warped madman, a genius whose abilities have been wasted on Ceti Alpha 5. No one could forget that performance.

Some have likened Khan to The Joker. This is both true and misleading. While Khan is the most famous of Kirk's foils, he has only EVER been portrayed by Montalban. The Joker has been portrayed by several actors, and has seen many interpretations in comics, cartoons, movies, etc. Thus, Heath Ledger was just one more interpretation as The Joker. Whoever was going to be playing a role that was solely Montalban's, their task would have been difficult. 

So, who did JJ get? A pasty British guy. While he has a sinister voice and all... it just doesn't make sense. He looks and sounds so radically different from Khan... that's like saying the Joker won't have white skin and green hair and not wear purple... Huh? Cumberbach is just wrong for the part- I like him, he gives it his all, but it at no time makes me say "Ah. A modern take on Khan". That is a shame, and it hurts the movie.

Even worse, I feel JJ had already worked with a guy who could have pulled it off: Naveen Andrews. Look at him as Sayed from Lost. Holy Cow! He could have shaved the beard, pulled his hair back and presto- a more realistic and ethnically more correct Khan. Plus. the actor has the chops to do it. On Lost, Sayed was intelligent, cold and tough but had a soul. He could be menacing and sympathetic all at the same time. Why didn't JJ pick him I'll never know!! Just look!

Which looks like a more realistic take for a modern Khan?

Seriously!! Look again! Same dark coat look!

Well, that's just my two cents regarding Star Trek Into Darkness. Hope you've enjoyed this humorous read. Until next time...

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