Star Trek into Spoilers

I enjoyed watching the new Star Trek movie, finding myself neither in the camp who hated it because it violated established canon, nor in the crowd who proclaimed it "the best ST ever!". There was a lot to like, but also some things that just didn't work for me.

The Good:
• Kirk/Spock/McCoy dialog and interactions - so much of the Big 3's exchanges just felt right, like I was watching a TOS episode from 45 years ago. Quinto and Urban just nail their characters, while Pine is a fairly good Kirk (I find it hard to believe I'm concerned that someone isn't a perfect imitation of Shatner, but … there's some...thing … missing).
• The merging of elements of Space Seed and The Wrath of Khan - while the speculation was that the second new Trek movie would be a re-make of the second TOS movie, that would never have worked - you need the set-up and preferably 15+ years of space between the two. This film cleverly condensed the key elements of both - the original finding/thawing of Khan and his interactions with Kirk and co, then the wrath of Khan leading to the death of a major Enterprise character and the Kirk/Spock death/window scene. Some people hate the Kirk/Spock death swap, but to me that's part of why the JJ Abrams alternative timeline works - we know the parameters but the details can change.
• Enterprise uniforms - a great updating of the original gold/blue/red pyjamas that look like they're made of a real, practical fabric.
• The Audi reunion - just for a minute, it's great to see Nimoy and Quinto together. It also led to the best bit of criticism of the JJ-verse I've seen - a poster called Bryce on Hijinks Ensue who points out that in this universe Spock is cooler than he was in the original version, and gets Uhura, so "This entire universe is PrimeSpock writing fanfiction about himself."1
• The Enterprise rising out of the water - a cool shot that was cleverly intercut with the crashing vessel in the trailer to make it look like another Enterprise destruction.
• Sherlock - sure, he's neither Indian nor Mexican, but Benedict Cumberpatch is a great actor to play Khan.
• Into Darkness - the overall theme of the movie seems to be a battle of ideas about what Starfleet should be - a science-based NASA-like organisation or more of a battlefleet. In nearly 50 years of Trek, it's drifted back and forth between these goals so it was nice to have someone actually articulate the tradeoffs, in a post 9/11, post-UAV, post-Gitmo way.
• The Tribble - because, even though it was purely the set up for a stupid plot device, who doesn't like a Tribble or two?

The Bad:
Did either Khan's plot or Marcus's actually make any sense? Even as I watched, I was thinking something was off, but the more I thought about it afterwards, the less I could buy. This may be a valid criticism of many movies, and many earlier Treks, but still I'm sure there could have been a way to service both basic ideas with more realism.
• The deus ex machina (or deus ex haemoglobin?) - "oh, so Khan's blood can cure sick people? Wonder if that will come in useful if someone, I don't know, dies or something?" Clumsy, obvious, and leads to questions about why not use the other 70-odd frozen superhumans and doesn't this also mean we've created immortality (or certainly a long life) in the ST universe?
• The Khan Misdirection2 - speculation for this movie has ranged from "Khan's in it", "Cumberpatch is playing Khan", "Cumberpatch is playing Harrison - who is Harrison?", "no, he's playing Khan - 'Harrison' is a code name" to, finally, "ok, so he's playing Harrison, but Harrison is really Khan". The writers claim that this was important so that the audience wasn't one step ahead of the characters, knowing that Khan was a powerful enemy and waiting for the crew to catch up, i.e. we needed to approach Khan with an early-Space Seed level of unawareness rather than a post-TWOK knowledge. I buy this to a point, but it doesn’t wash in a world of internet speculation, early reviews and second watchings. Then, it just looks like a long, slow misdirection when it could have been better to skip the terrorist angles and just have Khan be Khan.

The Ugly:
• The Earth-based Starfleet uniforms. A huge contrast to the Enterprise ones, these were dull, drab, gray and had ugly hats. It's traditional for fans to hate every uniform change but I spent the first ten minutes watching the costumes thinking I hope we don't see this for the next two hours. This may have been the film-makers' intention - to contrast the dull Earth-based world with the excitement and color of space exploration - but it was just distracting and annoying.3

  • 1. Although IO9's is good too.
  • 2. Which sounds like a good name for a Robert Ludlum book.
  • 3. And without red shirts, how the hell did they know who was going to die? :-)