‘Star Trek Into Darkness’ reflects the times

It’s been 242 years since two Muslim terrorists hacked a British soldier to death with a machete and a meat cleaver in busy London streets, but in the year 2255, terrorism still prevails. This time, a terrorist blew up a building in London, killing 42 men and women and waging war against the United Federation of Planets.

The culprit is John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), a former top Starfleet agent who went rogue. After Harrison infiltrated an emergency Federation meeting and killed Enterprise’s Captain Jim Kirk’s (Chris Pines) mentor, Captain Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood), Kirk resolved to chase after Harrison to bring him to justice. Under Admiral Alexander Marcus’s (Peter Weller) orders, Kirk, Spock (Zachary Quinto) and the rest of the Enterprise crew are armed with 72 nuclear torpedoes and sent on a secret mission (unaffiliated with the Federation) to kill Harrison.

Aligned to his Vulcan moral code, Kirk’s first officer, Spock, believes in habeas corpus, or at least a futuristic version of it. He thinks Harrison should be transported to Earth, where he could be properly tried for his crimes, whereas Kirk and the admiral’s plan would employ torpedoes, which could have unfortunate consequences (perhaps like President Obama’s drone strikes, which killed 4 Americans).

In their sequel to their 2009 film reboot of Gene Roddenberry’s “Star Trek” television series, “Star Trek Into Darkness’s” writers Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof and director J.J. Abrams neither planned the real-life terrorist attack in London nor the U.S. drone strikes, but with today’s arsenal of current events, “Star Trek Into Darkness” resonates on another level.

The photos from the aftermath of the fictional London bombing look eerily familiar. We’ve seen them on television sets or laptop screens, or in person, at the Boston marathon, World Trade Center, or Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. With the media’s coverage of scandal — from the IRS targeting conservative groups; the U.S. justice department taking phone records from the Associated Press; and the government’s handling of Benghazi, where a U.S. ambassador was killed last September — it’s easy to see the corruption and conspiracies.

“Star Trek Into Darkness” is a trek after answers, asking the whys — the question that is often unfathomable after events of terror.

Let me put it this way: the why isn’t, “They hate our freedoms: our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other,” — President George W. Bush’s words after the 9/11 attacks. The “why” explained in the film is much more sinister, suggesting that the Federation or government betrayed humanity and encouraged perpetual warfare between civilizations.

That’s a frightening thought — as alarming as George Orwell’s ideas of Big Brother surveillance and room 101 torture chambers. But even more frightening is how closely art resembles real-life. If our protectors are corrupt, who can we trust?

Thankfully,”Star Trek Into Darkness” isn’t all dark. It reminds us of the humanity throughout tragedy. We learn to trust in Kirk and our heroes, who selflessly throw themselves into danger again and again — the brave firefighters running back into burning buildings, the civilians volunteering their homes and food to strangers. We learn to believe that there is good out there, despite all this evil.

We see this good in the interactions between Kirk and Spock. As Spock preaches his code of utilitarianism (“The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one”), Kirk counters, “We can’t let you die!”

“Star Trek Into Darkness” is about love and friendship, showing us that if this is the future, perhaps we, too, can “live long and prosper.”

“Star Trek Into Darkness” was directed by J.J. Abrams, and written by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lidelof, based off of the television series by Gene Roddenberry.


4 thoughts on “‘Star Trek Into Darkness’ reflects the times

  1. Excellent review Qina, very thought provoking and evoked those key elements of Star Trek in general namely it’s exploration of the human condition and the issues and concerns of the times.

  2. Pingback: ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ echos Big Brother themes | Pass the Popcorn

  3. Pingback: ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ plays a familiar tune | Pass the Popcorn

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