The Long Khan

Star Trek: Into Darkness – This review contains some pretty major spoilers for the film, although it does seem like I was one of the last people to see it anyway. So if you haven’t seen it and want to, you probably shouldn’t read any further.

As a sequel to the 2009 film simply called Star Trek, Into Darkness continues the story of an alternate universe where the crew from the original series encounters somewhat altered versions of what they did before. This film even features the same villain as the original Star Trek II, although the circumstances are different, and they make sure not to reveal his true identity until a considerably way through the movie. As with the first one, I really do have to wonder what the point of the alternate universe is, when they could just do a prequel. Reboots are sometimes done to introduce a new audience to the franchise and to simplify convoluted continuity, but I don’t think J.J. Abrams is really doing either of these things. Indeed, these movies seem to assume prior knowledge of the Star Trek universe, like what Klingons and Tribbles are. Of course, the franchise has become part of popular culture to the point that people who have never seen a single episode or movie could probably identify a Klingon as an alien with forehead ridges and a warlike personality, but still.

Having Kirk suffer from radiation poisoning while Spock yells Khan’s name was obviously intended to resonate with audiences who were familiar with The Wrath of Khan, in which the situation happened the other way ’round. And of course there’s always Leonard Nimoy as Spock from the future, there to explain how things happened in his own past. So, as with the first alternate universe Trek film, I don’t really see the point, but I enjoyed it anyway. The plot elements about the Enterprise crew not knowing whom they could trust were developed well. Also notable was that there was a lot of action, and some thinly veiled references to modern terrorism, especially the September 11th attacks.

The use of the character of Khan Noonien Singh was interesting insofar as his back story, which is rather out of date now. According to references in the original series, Khan was one of a group of genetically engineered supermen who ruled much of the Earth in…the 1990s. They were defeated in the Eugenics Wars, and Khan and some of his compatriots were cryogenically frozen and blasted off into space. Remember all this during the Clinton administration? I’ve noted before that this is a standard problem with any fiction taking place in the future. Even when you set it far enough ahead that the creators and original audience won’t be alive to see if things really work out that way, there are going to be historical events (from the future characters’ own standpoint, that is) set in the much more recent future. The new movie was purposely vague on Khan’s past (which presumably should have been the same as it ever was, as the timelines didn’t diverge until 2233), but did mention that he was frozen 300 years ago (i.e., the twentieth century).

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7 Responses to The Long Khan

  1. Will says:

    I’ve been watching Trek for a long time, mostly movies and TV not so much the books and will be the first to tell anyone that not all of them were classics, some were were really great, a lot of “meh” and plenty of clunkers. I was looking forward to the 2009 film and then I saw it. It was cut n past other Trek, the scenes with Spock as a a child was from DC Fonata Journey to Babel and the from the animated series Yesteryear which in the movie sets up a more emotional Spock (don’t knock his momma). Cut n paste Star Wars and the (hack) writers’ friend the Hero’s Journey and the usual summer action movie stuff. So the 2009 movies gave me both nerd rage and film snob rage.
    STID was a step up towards “meh” IMHO, Cumberbatch was good, great voice and amazing posture, just didn’t need to be Khan.. That’s another problem, too many “call-backs” Tribbles, Gorns, (Harry) Mudd etc.

    The Klingons, I actually have no problems with, as a Hispanic kid watching the TOS Klingon on TV really bothered me why the dark, Frito Bandito looking people had to be the bad guys.

    • Nathan says:

      Yeah, the new movies do have kind of a cut-and-paste quality, don’t they? As for the Klingons, I’ve always heard they were largely supposed to represent the Russians, although of course they were influenced by other cultures as well. The expression “today is a good day to die,” for instance, was inspired by a Sioux battle cry (or more accurately a bad English translation of a Sioux battle cry).

  2. Will says:

    The Klingons are/were a analog for the Soviet Union.
    At that time “dark” represented “bad” or “evil”, especially dark complexion for the bad guys.
    To Roddenberry’s credit the Klingons were seen in a better light i.e. Day of The Dove

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