Critical pro and Khan


Star Trek: Into Darkness

Starring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Benedict Cumberbatch, Peter Weller, Zoe Saldana, Alice Eve; Directed by J.J. Abrams

Critic’s log, stardate 02.16.1967. I find myself, amazingly, entranced by the flickering images produced from a box-shaped device that seems to project a whole other world that includes things called phasers, transporters, tricorders, warp-speed, and people with blue skin and pointy-ears. A god-like voice from above informs me that I am watching something called Star Trek, specifically an episode named “Space Seed.” This is all happening while I’m lying on the orange shag carpeting of my home planet in front of this magical box that’s about 13 inches in diameter, which can only be controlled by turning knobs on the device itself.

Zachary Quinto and Zoe Saldana in Star Trek Into Darkness.
Photo by Zade Rosenthal, Paramount Pictures

Having endured many threats and indignities, such as being injected with mysterious compounds from sharp needles and an irritating rash from my plastic undergarments, I have now nevertheless successfully made it past my five-year mission of existence on planet Earth but am still not seasoned enough to understand all of the messages and meanings surrounding this Star Trek. Nevertheless, I’m hooked on the sci-fi look and feel of the images that transfix and appear before me.

I’m becoming familiar with the characters beaming from this otherworldly technology, and I also recognize one particular character who seems to only appear on this “Space Seed” episode. He seems vaguely familiar (and will, I later learn, appear on this viewscreen in much shorter episodes whereby he promotes something called “soft Corinthian leather”.)

After further investigation I’ve determined that “Space Seed” is about some sort of human eugenics program to enhance the physical, mental, and, well, every aspect of the human species. Although there is some bit of action and special effects to be seen, most of the depiction is about the dilemma of waking up these eugenic specimens who have been in some cozy deep sleep, why they were engineered in the first place, and the moral implications of what to do with them — especially as we humans invented them.

As I assess the strange clothing and behavior of the main characters — one of whom seems to deliver his lines in a halting, staccato fashion — I absentmindedly fiddle with the tiny knobs and buttons on a toy communicator device from this Star Trek universe that was presented to me on one of my annual mission anniversaries. Suddenly I hear a high-pitched whistle and then a wincingly blinding white light. After a brief nanosecond of weightlessness and a tingling sensation, I pass out...

Critic’s log, stardate 05.16.2013. I awaken to find myself in a large dark space with rows of plush seats occupied by other strange beings. It is again the 16th starday. As my eyes adjust and the effects wear off, I can see that there is a much larger version of the mysterious box-projector whereby beams of photonic energy emanate from a wall-sized rectangular screen in front of us.

The other beings surrounding me are oddly dressed, and many possess small devices that illuminate their faces, which they peer into with a trance-like expression even while the photonic images reflect off the large screen.

As I gaze up at the imagizer, it appears that the holographic projections are related to Star Trek, and yet it isn’t Star Trek. Upon further observation, and even more incredibly, what I’m seeing is related to the very “Space Seed” episode I was previously watching, and yet it isn’t really that either.

I surmise that my toy communicator (which obviously wasn’t a toy after all!) has interrupted the space-time continuum to transport me to some future alternative universe, which is showing a rebooted version of Star Trek’s “Space Seed”!

In order to disrupt as little of space-time as possible, I decide to stay quiet and not divulge what I know about the story unfolding to the surrounding beings. As we all examine the images, alien beings have taken over the characters. There’s still someone named Captain Kirk, but he’s been replaced by a younger-looking version who no longer possesses staccato vocalizations and instead struts around with fratboy swagger and smarminess. And the pointy-eared being who argues with Kirk morphs into some kind of superhero.

The time-displacement has warped the very fabric of reality. Everything projected from subspace onto the screen is louder, more frenzied and all focused on the action. Gone are the deep questions about genetic engineering, human perfection, the awe and wonder of scientific discovery of new life and new worlds, pop-philosophizing, and the exploration of the universe and humanskind’s place within it.

Every dilemma and challenge is met with bombastic set-pieces programmed to outperform the previous attempts to resolve crises, confrontations and conundrums resulting in the alien characters rushing around to blast things to nanoparticles. No attention is paid to the principles of Starfleet and to the protection of Earth (whole space vessels are allowed to plunge into San Francisco without so much as a tractor-beam to avert mass casualties and havoc). The genetically engineered “Corinthian leather” character is more menacing and all of his humanness has been drained from his system.

I want to say something; to alert my neighboring beings that Star Trek used to be much more than a compendium of computer-generated, hyper-kinetic, superhero holograms, and was about real people confronting real energy clouds and beings masquerading as other beings in rubber suits. But then I remember my prime directive: Damn it, I’m a critic, not a miracle-worker!

Anxious to extricate myself from this dystopian alternative future, I adjust the toy communicator’s Hysenberg compensator to create a warp plasma inversion that aligns with the N-cells using vertiron particles and gravitons. Aiming the annular confinement beam at myself, I again face a high-pitch whistle and a blinding flas...
 
Critic’s log, supplemental. I awaken to find that I’m back to stardate 02.16.1967. I’m again on the orange shag carpeting in the exact spot and position before I left on my astounding journey across spacetime. The mysterious imaging device that was projecting Star Trek’s “Space Seed” is now dark. The room seems the same, yet different; however, I’m not sure if it’s I­ that has changed or my surroundings. Now that I know the future of this phenomenon called Star Trek, I’m in a position to warn others of the impending clunky retooling humanity may face in some future timeline. But, as others of my species likely will be skeptical — and because the changes will come about so gradually — it will be hard to get them to notice and heed the warnings.

Nevertheless, even though I had other plans and missions before I was teleported to a future time, I resolve to become a film columnist to safeguard others of my kind.

Alarmingly, my instruments are now indicating that dangerous amounts of gases have built up in my alimentary canal. As the venting systems seem to be malfunctioning, I have no choice but to issue a red alert. As the pressure increases, I’m hoisted over the shoulder of a larger entity, which begins to gently thump the back of my hull, whereupon the gases are vented producing a loud burping sound. The danger now averted, I cancel red alert and a giddy stream of viscous fluid is ejected from the mouth of my ship.
 
End log.
 
Doug Young is an award-winning film critic on the planet Earth, where he also works as the senior policy director in the office of Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper.