Chit Chat: Star Trek Into Darkness

Chit chat is a dialogue between two or more of our contributors. It’s done online 99% of the time but you can imagine us discussing it over coffee. Or vodka, depending on the subject material.

Sara: Hey peeps! Today we’re talking Star Trek Into Darkness. This conversation contains MANY SPOILERS for the film and franchise.

Jessica: Hello!

Caroline: Hi~

Sara: We ready for this super galactic jelly?

Jessica: Indeed

Caroline: Sure??

Sara: Sweet!

Caroline: Is that like Romulan ale?

Sara: Oh heavens no, I wouldn’t touch that stuff if my life depended on it!

Caroline: <3

Sara: So, to start us off, what is your background with Star Trek? Have you seen TOS? The old movies?

Caroline: I’m primarily a TOS girl. I watched the reruns as a kid, and I read books about the making of the show as well as old ‘zines. I’ve seen all the original cast movies except for 5, and I could talk about ‘Wrath of Khan’ all day. I actually read the ‘Wrath of Khan’ novelization by Vonda McIntyre years before I saw the film and that made a huge impression on my sixth grade mind.

Sara: THERE’S A NOVELIZATION?

Sara: My bad, sorry Jessica!

Jessica: Haha, it’s fine! I grew up watching TNG with my parents, and started watching TOS when I was a little bit older, so I was really excited for the 2009 movie when it came out. I went pretty Trek-crazy afterwards and went back and watched all of the old movies I could get my hands on.

Sara: Well I hadn’t even seen the first movie when I went to see the premiere of Into Darkness. Needless to say, Tumblr and pop culture left me pretty adequately prepared to understand the references, but I quickly ran home to watch the 2009 movie and spent most of the weekend devouring what I could of TOS and the movies. I recently watched Wrath of Khan and then saw STID again, so I have ~feelings~

Caroline: Wow, you really are a newbie! Welcome!

Jessica: It’s a great place to be :)

Sara: Thanks! I’m so happy I took the plunge. This series is awesome!

Sara: (I’m such a late bloomer with sci-fi. I didn’t watch Doctor Who until a year and a half ago!)

Caroline: So, Sara, I need to hear more of these ‘Star Trek’ first impressions!

Sara: I really, really adore team stories. Whenever I latch onto a TV/movie/book series, I immediately want to read all the team-bonding fics I can. Star Trek obviously satisfies those feelings for me. I got chills as I saw the crew working so flawlessly (ok maybe not flawlessly) together. When I watched the first movie, I was tearing up so bad as these people found each other. Love love love.

Jessica: Yeah. I really couldn’t take it when the team was split up, even for a minute, with Kirk and Spock on different ships. I died inside. It was so gratifying when they were back together again.

Sara: :)

Caroline: So I guess we’re all in it for the relationships? That was definitely what stood out to me about the new film — Spock and Uhura and Kirk especially. That scene when they are all together on the shuttle was just amazing. It just nailed what it’s like to try and have a conversation with an emotionally closed off person (Spock!) and then suddenly he is telling you way more than you maybe really wanted to know and some people (Kirk) don’t deal with that very well.

Sara: I LOVE THAT SCENE.

Jessica: Me too!

Sara: Visually, it was so perfect. Them in an equilateral triangle? Uhura stepping up to take on the Klingons? Spock pawning all of them with emotions? SO many layers to these relationships and that was one of the few scenes where we got that!

Caroline: It played off the earlier scene with Kirk and Uhura in the elevator where he realizes they’re fighting. “What’s that LIKE?”

Jessica: Yeah, One thing I like about the new movies is the update on social interactions, especially between young people.

Sara: THAT WAS SO FUNNY. Like, Kirk had a moment to go, “Oh that sucks” or “I’m here for you.” But, in a beautifully Kirk fashion, he goes, “What the hell do Vulcans do with relationship struggles?”

Caroline: He wants to know for science!

Sara: Oh, I’m SURE.

Sara: Alright, to my next question! How did we feel about Benedict Cumberbatch being Khan reveal? Expected? Not? Did other people in the audience gasp?

Caroline: A couple people in my audience gasped but it was a few days old by the time I saw it. My friend who saw it at a midnight show said a lot of people gasped. Which…was weird to me because I couldn’t have avoided the spoiler if I wanted to? I’m neutral on Khan being the villain. I’m genuinely annoyed, if that’s a strong enough word, that they cast a white dude, but I wasn’t surprised because I’d already seen references to it all over Tumblr.

Jessica: I wasn’t surprised, and I don’t think anyone else in my theater was either. I think all the secrecy before the film was a bit much, and the moment might have even been better without it, because it wasn’t a surprise anyway. Also because there would be no reason for people who weren’t ST fans but were seeing the movie to be impressed at his revelation. That said, I thought it was excellently delivered. I have mixed feelings over the fact that they cast a white guy as Khan.

Sara: Being a total noob, I had NO IDEA who the heck Khan was. I guess I finally understand my friend who has no idea who Ras Al-Ghul was during Batman Begins. However, a lot of people did gasp. Some people even started cheering. I figured Khan was a fan favorite and I understand after watching Wrath of Khan. Yeah, was not so happy after I realized the whitewashing that occurred with JJ Abrams. Not. Cool. Although, up until then, I was pleased with BC because he face got SO snake-like during some of Khan’s emotional monologues. Dude has the face of Voldemort, not gonna lie.

Caroline: One thing that occurs to me is that a Star Trek movie has a really wide audience. There are people like Jessica following all the chatter and casting spoilers, and then there are probably people who don’t have a thing to do with the Internet but might know a lot of classic Trek. Or else they just know that Wrath of Khan was a thing. Anyway, I think the ‘twist’ is in there for those people, not for the online superfans.

Jessica: I am a big fan of BC, but his casting is indicative of a bigger overall problem in Hollywood (and, you know, the world). BC has a lot of geek cred and is an excellent actor, but it’s not that there weren’t great Indian actors who could have done the role, it’s that it’s harder for them to get to that same level of fame in our culture. I am irritated that Star Trek is participating in that pattern when part of its original mission was to be progressive. I did see one Internet commenter that pointed out that it would have been playing into stereotypes of another kind to cast the terrorist as a person of color, especially in recent times. There is also the fact that the original actor who played Khan wasn’t Indian either…Basically society sucks any way you look at it, haha.

Sara: I just thought that the modern movies did an excellent job of preserving the casting of the Original series and was bummed that a person of color lost an opportunity to have some visibility.

Jessica: Definitely true. I did appreciate the fact that the movie seemed to try really hard to put diversity in the background Star Fleet members on the Enterprise, in gender, race, and even home planet, but it’s not the same as having a big main character.

Sara: Also, it’s becoming a trend with IM3 that we have these supposedly “updated” storylines that overlook racist ideals found in sci-fi and comic books from before, but, where I thought it worked for IM3, I think Star Trek could have pulled it off.

Jessica: Yeah, I think so too.

Caroline: I do think that making this exact same movie with an actor of color playing Khan would also be problematic. Because he’s a terrorist, because of his whole speech about ‘savagery.’ I have no idea if this was in whoever’s mind made the casting decision (I’m intensely curious how many different iterations this script went through, and how many of them did or didn’t involve Khan.) But at some point we start drowning in counterfactuals.

I do have to point out, it’s not as though the only characters of color in the film were in the background. Uhura has a major role.

Jessica: Right. I think they would have gotten flack for whichever way they had done it.

Sara: That brings me to my next inquiry: How were women treated in this movie? Were you satisfied? Or were you disappointed (like I was)?

Caroline: Well, first, Uhura was great. I have no complaints there. Her part in the first movie was good, but they really beefed it up here. The one thing that really bugged me was the lack of women in command roles — that Starfleet senior officers’ room was very male. I’ve seen some criticism of Carol Marcus, though, and I have to admit I loved her character to pieces.

Jessica: Anika pointed out to me the other day that the modern Kirk-Spock-McCoy is Kirk-Spock-Uhura, and she’s totally right. I’m sad that McCoy is more in the background, especially since Karl Urban is so great at playing him, but I do appreciate that they are giving Uhura a more empowering role. I agree with Caroline. I think she’s great. I think that Carol Marcus is a pretty good character, but we didn’t need to see her undress. Definitely I want more women in power, and less Kirk making out with anonymous scantily clad ladies. It’s not the best, but it could have been worse considering it’s an update of a show from the 60s.

Sara: I was disappointed because I felt that Uhura had more of a role in the first movie. 90% of the time I was watching exclusively male actors on screen, most of them white. I just got seriously tired of seeing the same thing over and over. I loved the movie, but I cannot take the lack of representation in mainstream media anymore. Uhura took a backseat role on the ass-kicking in this movie. She played the concerned girlfriend in the first scene and even her Klingon confrontation was undermined by the fact that Khan had to shoot them to help her survive. Carol Marcus was there as a way of emotional manipulating Admiral Marcus in an event anyone could have seen coming. I feel like she was there mostly so that we could get some female screamin’ up in that joint. The women were pawns in this movie, I needed them to be more.

Caroline: I’m not even sure how to respond to that except that I felt totally differently. Uhura is an integral part of the AWAY team, she uses her linguistic skills to negotiate with the Klingons, and she’s the one who actually saves the day and beats Khan at the end. I would have been fine with her having more time but that didn’t come across to me.

Jessica: I mean, I’m always up for Uhura to be doing more things, but I do think this was a primarily Kirk/Spock movie, playing on the relationship between those two characters for the fans. There’s also the fact that many of the most loved characters from the original show are dudes. It’s complicated because it’s sexist that the show was built that way to begin with, but it is what fans have come to know and love. I do think it was good that they introduced Carol as a new female force, since it seems like she’ll be sticking around for the next film. Also, since they’ve gotten the whole Khan story line off of their incarnation bucket list, I think they have way more flexibility to choose the story line for the next (and maybe final?) film. I do hope both ladies feature prominently in that plot (and not just as sex objects/girl friends/etc).

Sara: I agree about Carol coming back for the next film, but the looks between her and Kirk (as well as her backstory from Wrath of Khan) seem to indicate a more romantic relationship coming forth, which I’m down for, but I wish they could focus on platonic relationships, especially with newly introduced female characters. It would put a whole lot more weight on women being there for them, rather than for sex objects.

Sara: I think I would have been more fine with Carol if it weren’t for the naked scene. Gratuitous naked scene was gratuitous and so not okay for the supposedly modern re-telling of a show that had problems with women portrayals in general.

Caroline: OK, but, underwear scene aside—which I rolled my eyes at, but I’m confused at all the people who are talking as though that was the most cheesecake-y, gratuitous thing ever; they must not read Marvel/DC comics or watch HBO?—that aside, Carol was there in a non-love-interest capacity.

Maybe I’m reacting so positively because I was annoyed when she first showed up that she was introduced as a weapons specialist. “Wrath of Khan Carol was all about anti-militarism and responsible science,” I muttered. But then I realized she had snuck onto the ship on her own initiative to spy on her father. That’s a cowboy move worthy of Kirk, right there. Kirk should approve! Her belief that she could negotiate with her father was sincere, if misguided. And yes, she got beat up by Khan and screamed when he killed her father, why wouldn’t she?

People complaining she doesn’t get to kick ass in the end get my back up a little. Uhura gets to kick ass. Carol’s role is more complicated and I like that.

Jessica: I think I can agree with that.

Sara: I agree with the above, though. She reacted like I would have about 90% of the time. I thought it was awesome that she snuck on to the Enterprise and the scene with her and Bones and the missile showed a lot of her backbone as a character. I guess I wanted to see more of that Carol and less of the one we saw around Kirk. I love Kirk, but those interactions were slightly nauseating.

Caroline: I have to admit I didn’t even notice those. I think my key to enjoying this movie is pretty clear: selective noticing.

Sara: LOL, I need to develop that for most of my shows. Although even that wouldn’t help Glee… le’sigh

Alright-y then, how about this? What was your favorite part of the movie?

Caroline: I already said the three-way argument in the shuttle, so I guess I have to be a jerk and pick Kirk and Spock and the glass. I mean, yes, it’s extremely derivative of that scene in Wrath of Khan, but that’s really just window dressing in my opinion. Wrath of Khan is a movie about a hero dealing with aging and with unwinnable scenarios.

This is a completely different dynamic, Kirk and Spock still at the beginning of their friendship, but it’s totally earned by what we’ve seen in the movie. Kirk brings up what Spock said — in that earlier scene where you don’t think he’s listening — about turning off feelings. He admits he’s scared, Spock admits he doesn’t know how to turn off his feelings right now, they realize they’re friends, Kirk dies! Amazing.

Sara: I really loved that scene!

Jessica: Hmmm….I really liked when Uhura and Kirk talked in the elevator…and murderous rage Spock was thrilling. The glass moment is really designed to be the killer scene in this film, and it definitely worked for me.

Totes emotional manipulation but I’m fine with it, haha.

Sara: I have to say, I loved all the scenes that you guys mentioned, but my all time favorite part of the movie goes to Mr. Sulu and the “warning” to John Harrison, followed by Bones aptly summing up ALL of our collective feelings, “Mr. Sulu, remind me to never piss you off.” WIN!

Jessica: Haha, yeah, that was awesome

Caroline: Oh, God, yes. Sulu was great! Bones was great! Scotty was great! Tiny Chekov was great!

Sara: YESSSSSSSS

Jessica: I loved Scotty in the bar

Sara: We didn’t get to touch on them much, but for the record, I think I speak for all of us when I say that everyone on the Enterprise is the best.

Caroline: Sara, I have to ask. Not having seen Wrath of Khan, how did you react to the glass scene? Was it totally new to you?

Sara: YES! It TOTALLY was! When I watched Wrath of Khan, I was like, “Holy hell! This is the part where my soul was ejected out of my chest!”

My friend who dragged me to the movie in the first place was angry about the scene being obviously emotionally manipulative, but I was tearing up. I understood after watching WoK, but I still think the STID scene held its own!

Jessica: They had to put it in, and I think they did it well. It would have been a gaping hole if they’d left it out.

Sara: Agreed.

Caroline: I’m not sure if I agree it was necessary? But I thought it worked. I guess I can see why people were pissed off, though. There are people in fandom who are *very attached* to that scene. Not that they’re wrong but there are other things I dig in Wrath of Khan. The Kobayashi Maru is my favorite part, and they already did that in 2009. Then there’s the dinner where Bones buys Kirk a pair of glasses and a Dickens novel, bug in his ear Chekov, everything involving Saavik. Can we please have a moment of silence for how the timeline and the destruction of Vulcan pretty much guarantee we won’t have a reboot Saavik?

Sara: :(

But, I actually understood all those references. Thank Jeebus for Netflix!

Caroline: Wrath of Khan is not all about Spock and Kirk and the glass, is what I’m saying. They didn’t ruin it, they didn’t even remake. Also, notice that I didn’t mention the moment in the new movie where Spock yells, “KHAAAAAAAN!”? Selective noticing? (PS, Kirk yelling that in the old movie is stupid, too.)

Sara: Zachary Quinto looked exactly like Benedict Cumberbatch as he yelled that and I was momentarily confused, by the by.

Jessica: I just think that they are trying to hit the high points for fans with this remake, and it means so much to so many people that it would have been missed if they had left it out. Or at least had some kind of homage to it. They could have done it differently, but I didn’t mind it

Caroline: KHAAAAAAN!

Jessica: Ditto with that, but it worked less well and came off ridiculous. If it had come across it would have been awesome, but alas, silly!

Caroline: Somebody pointed out that when Kirk yells ‘KHaaan!” in WoK, it doesn’t really make sense for him to be that angry because at that point he’s bluffing. So basically Kirk’s Khan yell was acting, which really makes me want the fanfic where bored, deskbound Admiral Kirk goes out for community theater. Or maybe a Funny or Die sketch where Chris Pine takes acting lessons from Shatner.

Jessica: Hahaha, that would be great.

Sara: LOL, YES PLEASE!

Caroline: So do we want to say anything about, like, the plot of this movie? Or the themes? Did it have themes?

Jessica: I’ve read and agreed with some plot holes pointed out on the internet, but it didn’t bother me one bit while I was watching.

Sara: Can I put forth a theory that this movie is a kind of microcosm of the “What if” scenario of “What if we didn’t invade Afghanistan post 9/11?”

Caroline: Wow, that got heavy really fast! But yes, I think they were definitely going for parallels there. Which is appropriate enough? There were definitely 60s episodes where the Romulans were the Russians…

Sara: I think the fact that the movie was dedicated to 9/11 veterans also helped form the parallels in my mind.

Jessica: I think that was a definite aim of the film.

Sara: It’s just triggering to see those kinds of terrorist attacks, but I liked how it made me think for days after the movie. That’s usually a good marker for a great movie for me.

Caroline: I do feel like people who say the movie is betraying “Star Trek’s idealism” by delving into those themes are missing the point a bit. Starfleet values win out in the end, and the movie seems to want us to recapture a bit of that idealistic spirit. I can see how it didn’t work for everyone, but there’s definitely stuff to chew over if you’re looking for it.

Sara: They’re missing the idea of sci-fi in general. It’s meant to delve into these concepts. Sci-fi is the most rooted in reality substance you can find on television. And I’m including the news in this generalization.

Caroline: One thing I’ve noticed is that everybody seems to bring their own ‘Star Trek’ to the table. How people react to this movie has a lot to do with what they’re looking for. And, really, that’s cool. Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations is an old school principle.

Sara: I like that a show has the capability to do that. It really is prolific.

Sara: Now, I do have an idea for a sign off question!

Jessica: Sounds good!

Sara: If you met an alternate universe, older version of yourself, how would they tell you goodbye?

Caroline: I say, “See you on the flip side” a lot. So that seems appropriate.

Jessica: I’d probably just be super-awkward about it. “Bye, I guess. Don’t be too anxious.” -awkward back pat-

Sara: I’d probably say, “Kick ass and always carry that lock picking kit of yours, it’ll come in handy.”

Caroline: That’s great! See you on the flip side (and prosper).

And remember: