Star Trek Into Darkness has been a very polarizing film, more so than probably any other movie in the franchise. While critics and general audiences tend to enjoy it, fans are split down the middle. I have a close friend that is one such fan, who had a whole list of plot holes and things that kept her from enjoying the movie. I was surprised by this, because while I thought the film certainly had issues, a lot of the things she mentioned were things that didn’t bother me in the slightest and I found to be easily explainable. Then io9 did a spoiler F.A.Q. on Monday where, in a snarky attempt to be funny, he addressed many of the same issues. Well, I thought it would be fun to do a counter-F.A.Q. and give my perspective on them. I’m not saying I’m right and they’re wrong, because honestly a lot of the “issues” being talked about are things that are never fully explained in the movie. I assume for pacing reasons. However, they are things that I found to be fairly easy to explain in a reasonable way. It won’t change the mind of the people who already hate the movie, but I’m not trying to. So, needless to say, spoilers ahead! So if you haven’t seen the movie yet, avoid thine eyes!
Okay, explain to me why we’re doing this in this format again?
Because this is how the guy at io9 did it, and I thought it’d be fun.
You spelled “schizophrenic” wrong.
Just get on with it!
Okay, so at the beginning Kirk and Bones steal a scroll to lead the aliens away from the volcano. Why? Wouldn’t the volcano wipe everyone out if it erupts anyway?
They weren’t leading them away for their safety. They were leading them away so they wouldn’t see the shuttle carrying Spock to the volcano.
That makes sense, but why were they using a shuttle again? Why not just beam the bomb down?
It’s explained in the movie that the volcano was screwing up sensors and the only way they could use a transporter is if they had direct line of sight. The shuttles don’t have transporters so they were lowering Spock into the volcano to set the bomb manually.
Why not just use the ship…and why the hell was it underwater?
Starfleet has certain rules that officers are required to follow. the most important is the Prime Directive. Basically they’re forbidden from interfering with pre-warp civilizations. Technically, the Enterprise crew was breaking the PD by saving the aliens, but they felt that they were exploiting a loophole in the directive- as long as they weren’t seen and the aliens thought the volcano just naturally stopped erupting (or their gods did it, or whatever) then it’d be fine. If they had used the Enterprise for line of sight transporter use, they’d be seen.
The Enterprise was underwater, as opposed to in orbit, because at night its possible that the ship would be seen. Just because the aliens were a “primitive” culture by our standards doesn’t mean they didn’t study/worship the heavens. The ancient Mayans and Egyptians did, and had a very detailed idea of exactly what was in the sky. A new bright satellite suddenly appearing in the sky, then disappearing hours or days later, would definitely be noticed. That’s assuming they don’t have some form of telescope. First Contact demonstrated that the Enterprise could be pretty clearly seen in orbit with one. Plus, lets be honest, it’s a popcorn movie, and if they’d just been able to stay in orbit and beam the bomb down it’d be pretty boring.
Can the Enterprise even work under water?
I’m not one of those fans with intimate knowledge of ship design, etc. but I’m willing to suspend my disbelief. As far as I’m concerned, if the ship can survive the vacuum of space and the pressures of flying at warp speed it could probably handle being under water to the depth that they were. Yes, there are physics issues with how it would work, blah, blah, but it’s a sci-fi movie, not a documentary. If you can handle Borg Queens, telepathic rape scenes, red matter, and any number of other Trek plot devices and holes, then you can handle the Enterprise being underwater just deep enough where the crew can freaking swim there.
Okay, so lets get to the big stuff- Admiral Marcus, his daughter, and Khan.
So in this version of history Khan and his crew is found by someone else, not the Enterprise crew, right? Are they still from the 90’s?
Yes, they were discovered by someone else in this version of history. The movie doesn’t ever say (smartly), but I would assume no, they aren’t from the 90’s- that is probably something different in this timeline and the Eugenics Wars happened at a different point in our future.
So what, exactly, is the Admiral’s deal, anyway? Why thaw out Khan and go all militant?
You have to remember that not more than a year or so has gone by since Nero wiped out most of the fleet, killed Vulcan, and almost killed Earth. With one ship. Tensions with the Klingons are getting dangerous and it’s believed that war is only one incident away from breaking out. Marcus feels that Starfleet needs to have a more militaristic focus if they’re to survive; and while the movie doesn’t specifically state how many others in Starfleet are working for him, I find it hard to believe that there isn’t at least a core group in the leadership that feels as he does. Khan was known as being a tactical genius, had an unparalleled military mind, etc. So Marcus de-thawed him to get him to help design new weapons tech for Starfleet, using the lives of his 72 crew members as incentive to cooperate.
How Could Marcus pull this off without anyone noticing?
He already has a secret development department, Section 31. He’s also the head of Starfleet, a Starfleet that’s working hard to rebuild their fleet. I don’t think it would be too hard for him to get the “hidden shipyard by Jupiter” stocked with his people and develop the Vengence. Materials for it could be diverted there when it’s believed that it’s for, say, two ships being built elsewhere. Sensors only work if you’re actively scanning for something, assuming he doesn’t have some sort of tech in the shipyard or something to do with where the shipyard is to block or scramble sensors. Once war is started secrecy wouldn’t be needed. He’d be hailed as a hero with the forethought to save them all with the new tech, at least that’s what he believes.
So what’s Khan’s deal?
Khan wants to escape with his people so they can pick up where they left off before being made into jerkcicles. The cryotubes are kind of hard to hide, so he hid his crew in the proton torpedo prototypes with the intention of smuggling them out, but he was caught. Khan escaped but he believed his crew was killed by Marcus, so in retaliation he attempts to take out all of the remaining high ranking officers in Starfleet. Then he uses Scotties magical transporter formula from the first movie and beams himself to the Klingon homeworld where Starfleet can’t get him.
What’s the deal with Kirk, Marcus, his daughter, and the mission? Aren’t they explorers, not assassins?
That’s the core of the movie and is intended to be a metaphor for the U.S. mindset after 9/11. Kirk is a hot head and wants vengeance for the death of Pike. Marcus sees an opportunity to use Kirk to get what he wants- take out Khan and his crew to get rid of the evidence they were connected to him, and kick off the war with the Klingons so he wouldn’t have to hide his military-focused build up anymore and they could get things cranked out in earnest. Carol Marcus knows about section 31 and knows something is up with the new torpedoes, so she gets herself assigned to the Enterprise to check it out. Scotty resigns in protest to the whole thing because he didn’t sign on to be a soldier, he’s an explorer. Spock is being Spock, disagrees with the mission and killing a man without trial, but ultimately follows orders. Kirk screws up Marcus’ plan by being swayed by Scotty and Spock’s argument and decides to take Khan alive.
Why does Khan save Kirk and Co. from the Klingons?
Sulu already sent the message to Khan that he was to surrender or he’d be bombed from space. Khan suspects that said torpedoes may be the ones that have his crew in them, because that’d be something Marcus would do. His suspicions are confirmed by Kirk when he’s told that there are 72, and he surrenders.
How is Scotty able to get on the Vengeance without being seen? Wouldn’t a secret military deal have better security?
A valid point, but there are a few things to consider: Taking the Vengeance out after the Enterprise was not a planned operation. The Enterprise was supposed to bomb Kronos, have a warp drive failure and be stuck in Klingon space, and then get decimated by the Klingons. When Kirk sent a message to Marcus that he’d captured Khan, Marcus had to quickly get out there and wipe them all out before they could fix their warp core. Scotty joins the flotilla of shuttles going to prep the ship. It’s a massive ship and they’re working with a skeleton crew made up of hired security/merc types, not Starfleet personnel. It’s Scotty. It wouldn’t be hard for him to hack his way in and stay hidden while everyone ran around like chickens with their heads cut off. Does it take some suspension of disbelief? Absolutely. But so did Kirk just happening to find the same cave old-Spock was haunting in the first one.
Let’s address the mirror to Wrath of Khan ending and the magic blood.
Here, for me, is the biggest problem with the movie. Not that the blood could heal Kirk. They established from the very beginning that Khan’s blood could do that kind of stuff. It’s a huge convenient plot device, but it was needed for the movie because there’s no way they could get away with killing Kirk and leaving him dead until the next one like they did Spock in WoK. Which is exactly why they shouldn’t have done this storyline in the second movie. The biggest problem with Into Darkness wasn’t the plot, though the plot could have used tightening, obviously, it was the lack of emotional connection and impact that the story had. The ending, with Spock going all pissed off Batman on Khan, just came off as silly because they’ve been friends for what? Two years? Barely? Had they saved this kind of story for the third movie and used this movie to further establish the bond between the crew it would have been much more effective. Wrath of Khan had three seasons of a TV show and another movie to establish those relationships. This had one movie where Kirk and Spock spent 90% of the time at each other’s throats. I understand the appeal of using Khan, and Cumberbatch was freaking awesome in the role, regardless of what else you may have thought about the movie, but it just wasn’t the right time for this story.
Why are fans upset that they lied about Harrison being Khan?
Because in this modern internet world where spoilers leak immediately and movies are completely ruined months before they’re released, fans have developed a false sense of entitlement that they are owed answers about movies in development. The crew lied about Khan, even though everyone knew it was probably Khan, because they didn’t want to completely spoil the movie they’d been working two years on before it was even finished being developed. If fans are pissed about that I think they need a reality check.
So there you go. That’s my take on things with the movie. Again, I’m not trying to change anyone’s mind here, I’m just explaining things in the way that I saw them as I watched the movie. STID isn’t a perfect movie, it has issues. Some fans are just not going to be happy with it regardless of what they did. Others do have legit complaints and just can’t turn off their brain or suspend disbelief enough to enjoy it for what it is. The fact of the matter is this isn’t the old Star Trek and it will never be. Yes, it has less of a scientific, intellectual focus, and is more focused on action and being fun. You can either just accept it for what it is and enjoy it, or not. Either way, it doesn’t change or take away the ten other movies and 5 TV series that came before it. You can always go back and revisit them whenever you want.
J.R. Broadwater is the author of the non-fiction book Down with the Thickness: Viewing the World From a Fat Guy’s Perspective, the sci-fi detective novel You Only Die Twice, the fantasy novel The Chosen: Rebirthing Part 1-, and the superhero tale Just Super, all available now in digital and paperback formats. Sample chapters and more information about these books can be found here. Check back each Sunday for a new chapter in the ongoing serial Moving On!