The Basics: In creating a revision to one of the seminal characters of Star Trek, Star Trek Into Darkness seriously undermines itself and/or the Star Trek franchise.
In recent memory, there has been no film I have been more tempted to re-rate than Star Trek Into Darkness (reviewed here!). Star Trek Into Darkness is in an odd place for me because the movie itself might actually be fine, but because it is part of a much, much, larger series, it is hard to watch (as a fan) without putting it in context. Just as I had a serious issue with Star Trek First Contact (reviewed here!) because of how the character of Picard takes several serious steps backward from where he had ended Star Trek The Next Generation, Star Trek Into Darkness might work better for those who have no attachment to what came before than those who actually love the franchise.
My issue with Star Trek Into Darkness is not in the minutae (though, why the hell was Praxis destroyed already in the new movie?!), it is in the biggest of the broad strokes. It is impossible to discuss the issue with Star Trek Into Darkness without discussing a spoiler for those who have not yet seen the film, so consider yourself warned if you continue reading.
The fundamental problem with Star Trek Into Darkness is in the reworking of the character of Khan. Star Trek Into Darkness adopts a new conceit, which is that Khan, the genetically-enhanced human from the 20th Century has, essentially, magic blood that can be synthesized into a life-saving serum that can save lives, heal all wounds and even raise the recently dead. This created a serious issue for me as a viewer as it immediately made me ask, “How the hell did anyone die on Ceti Alpha V?!”
Star Trek II The Wrath Of Khan (reviewed here!) hinged on the idea that Khan was furious over the death of his wife and many of his people when Ceti Alpha VI exploded. So, Khan having magic blood either it creates a rift that either undermines Star Trek history or makes Admiral Marcus the dumbest (not the most corrupt, but the most overtly stupid) Admiral in Star Trek history. The question I pose to you is simple: How did anyone die on Ceti Alpha V?
If we are to believe that Khan always had magic blood, then how did anyone on Ceti Alpha V ever die? Did he let his followers die? Is Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan's Khan just posturing?! Because in Star Trek Into Darkness, Khan's blood is potent enough to bring back the recently dead at the very least and it seems like that makes him pretty much invincible (or at least able to keep his army invincible). If Khan and his followers have magic blood, and knew about it, how the hell did they ever lose the Eugenics Wars?! Smarter, faster, stronger, and can be resurrected . . . seems unstoppable to me.
That leaves the possibility that maybe Khan didn't know until Universe 2 that he had magic blood. I'll buy that, fine. But in order to sell the idea that it was Admiral Marcus and Section 31 that discovered the incredible regenerative properties of Khan's blood, we are forced to accept the conceits that: 1. Admiral Marcus is so incredibly stupid that after resurrecting Khan and discovering he had magical blood . . . he TOLD KHAN about it! Khan is wandering around a free man before he hires his suicide bomber to destroy the record's depot, so if Khan found out on his own by doing a computer search, Admiral Marcus did not shut him down, which suggests that Khan either knew or Marcus told him about the healing properties of his blood. Which makes Admiral Marcus the stupidest Admiral of all time and a pretty poor military mind. Why? Here is a guy absolutely paranoid about a Klingon invasion and desperate to save humanity when he discovers the ultimate force to saving Earth and instead he creates two enemies. Admiral Marcus, the moment he discovered the magic blood, only needed the blood, not the people. The tactically sound approach would have been to keep the Augments in suspended animation and exsanguinate them in order to use their blood for battlefield trauma supplies.
If Khan knew about his blood's properties in the Prime universe, that theory only undermines Khan; he is supposed to have superior intellect and skills. If he knew his blood's properties, then one of the first things he should have done when arriving on Ceti Alpha 5 would have been to make an emergency kit just in case. It shows forethought and love and makes Khan a good leader because he's looking out for the weakest link on his team. Under primitive circumstances, blood transfusions have been done with bamboo. There were enough supplies visible in Wrath Of Khan in the wreckage of the Botany Bay to perform a blood transfusion.
So, Khan not knowing about his blood’s properties in Universe Prime makes Star Trek Into Darkness plausible only if Admiral Marcus is an idiot, shortsighted or criminally incompetent.
But, never one to complain, it is worth noting that Star Trek Into Darkness could have been a truly great film both in and out of context, but that it was assembled to be an action-adventure movie instead of a smart, cerebral Star Trek film. The fix would have been simple: Star Trek Into Darkness could have easily begun with outright war with the Klingons already in full swing. Taking advantage of the destruction of Vulcan, the Klingons attack the Federation. But, when Admiral Marcus discovered the healing properties of Khan and the genetically modified humans from the past, he began harvesting their blood as a battlefield trauma medical supply. A vastly better Star Trek film would have been for Kirk, Spock and McCoy, at a crucial time in the war with the Klingons, discover the source of the magical healing agent that has been keeping the brave Federation soldiers alive in their otherwise losing war with the Klingons and have to decide what to do about it. A debate on who the Federation becomes when they are willing to use Khan’s blood knowingly would be the true ethical issue that was lacking from Star Trek Into Darkness.
For other Star Trek articles, please visit:
The Top Ten Episodes Of Star Trek
The Top Ten Episodes Of Star Trek The Next Generation
The Top Ten Episodes Of Star Trek Deep Space Nine
The Top Ten Episodes Of Star Trek Voyager
For other Star Trek reviews, please visit my Star Trek Review Index Page!
© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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