Star Trek: Into Darkness vs. Wrath of Khan

by sketchyfeminist

Here there be SPOILERS.

A while back, the Boyfriend and I went to see Star Trek: Into Darkness because we both love Star Trek and I love Benedict Cumberbatch’s uncanny ability to get punched in the face . . . with style. (Yes, I am one of those Sherlock fangirls that Trekkies seem to resent for moving onto their turf upon the movie’s release–and yet I, too, am a Star Trek fan! What strange manner of hybrid is this?*)

Anyway, we were watching Into Darkness, and the whole time I was thinking, “I can tell that they’re riffing on Wrath of Khan, but I don’t remember that movie well enough to discern how much of this movie is homage and how much is straight-up ripoff. I want to watch Wrath of Khan.” while the Boyfriend was thinking, “The Wrath of Khan is my favorite Star Trek movie and is much better than what I am currently watching, which is, by the way, shamelessly ripping off my favorite Star Trek movie. I want to watch Wrath of Khan.”

So we went home and watched Wrath of Khan.

And since I watched both movies in the same twelve-hour period, I figure it is only right and proper to commence a side-by-side comparison: Into Darkness vs. Wrath of Khan.**

Comparison (with sketches and MANY, MANY SPOILERS) under the cut:

Star Trek: Into Darkness. Directed by J.J. Abrams; Written By Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof.

vs.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Directed by Nicholas Meyer; Written by Harve Bennett, Jack B. Sowards, Samuel A. Peeples, Nicholas Meyer and Ramon Sanchez.

And of course, both movies credit Gene Roddenberry as series creator.***

The Titles

Okay, so I’ve got to say that “Wrath of Khan” is a much better title than “Into Darkness.” Because, you see, it tells you something. Even if you don’t know who Khan is, you can guess that “Wrath of Khan” is going to be about an angry person named Khan. And, hey presto, you’d be right. “Into Darkness” tells you . . . well, basically nothing. Are we moving into a darker tone, when we compare this movie to the previous movie? Fighting someone with the power to create solar eclipses? Destroy stars?

And a vague title would not have been so bad if the movie hadn’t also been accompanied by aggravatingly vague previews. Because after watching several trailers for it, I learned basically three things about this movie:

  1. Benedict Cumberbatch was in it.
  2. Kirk, Spock, McCoy and Cumberbatch would, at various points, jump from high places.
  3. A blond woman would appear in her underwear.

. . . And that’s it. In spite of my aforementioned fondness for Benedict Cumberbatch, this was not enough to get me pumped for the movie.

So, yeah. Wrath of Khan wins the title-off.

Kirk vs. Kirk

I’m not really much of a William Shatner fan, or a James Tiberius Kirk fan–I prefer thoughtful, bald captains who like their tea “earl grey, hot” and who can manage to respect both women and the Prime Directive–but I will admit it:

There can be only one.

The original Kirk, up to and including Shatner’s odd halt-and-start acting style in moments of high dramatic tension, is iconic. Often successfully parodied by never successfully duplicated, there’s just something there. There is something about Shatner’s performance that works–even when it shouldn’t. Call it charisma or presence or whatever, but it draws the eye.

And Chris Pine’s performance, while solid, is not particularly interesting.

More importantly from a narrative perspective, in Wrath of Khan, Kirk actually has an arc that allows him to grow and develop as a character. He has to learn to face his own hubris and accept the reality of death in the form of losing Spock. This is heavy, emotionally gripping stuff, made even more poignant by the fact that Kirk, in this movie, is getting old enough to start noticing that he’s getting older, and becoming more aware of his own mortality.

In Into Darkness, Kirk does, technically, ‘face death’–in that he dies. And his death would have been poignant and interesting if it had been allowed to take. But it wasn’t, so it wasn’t. And Bruce Greenwood’s Christopher Pike does try to teach Kirk a lesson in humility by bumping him down to academy student First Officer on his own ship. And returning to the Enterprise as second fiddle under Pike could have been a poignant and humbling learning experience if it had been allowed to happen. But it wasn’t, so it wasn’t.

In Into Darkness, every time it seems like Kirk is about to change or learn or grow, the movie just goes ‘psych!’ and restores the universe’s default settings. Kirk has to be reinstated as captain as quickly as possible! He must be revived before the end credits so that the audience for the next movie won’t have to remember this one! Take that, Hero’s Journey.

You win this round, Original Kirk. (Doesn’t he always?)

pencil sketch of William Shatner as Kirk in Wrath of Khan

Note Admiral Kirk’s slumped, defeated posture and shell-shocked expression when he realizes he has to accept the death of his friend.

Khan vs. Khan

Let’s talk whitewashing!

Khan Noonian Singh, in the orginal Star Trek series, was an augmented superhuman of indeterminate but probably Asian origin, possibly an Indian Sikh (erk, sort of), played by Mexican actor Ricardo Montalban. In Into Darkness, Khan is apparently an augmented superhuman British man played by British actor Benedict Cumberbatch.

J.J. Abrams, I know that you know there are Indian actors out there. Or, if you really want a British Khan, why not at least a British actor of Indian descent, like the lovely and talented Naveen Andrews, who played–oddly enough–an Iraqi torturer in your career-solidifying hit Lost?

Oh, well. If you’re going to whitewash I guess you might as well go all the way, and Cumberbatch is borderline translucent. (Seriously; I keep waiting for him to play a vampire.)

I love BBC’s Sherlock. I love Benedict Cumberbatch. But his Khan is getting served by Montalban’s 1982 performance. Sure, both actors’ deliveries are over-the-top at times. However, old-school Khan’s mania is a lot more engaging than new-school Khan’s arbitrary vacillation between calm, subdued rationality and Passionate!!! Rage!!!! (Because Khan has to be wrathful, remember? No, wait, that was the old movie . . .)

Of course, this may have less to do with performance and more to do with how Khan’s backstory pans out in each of the two movies. In Wrath of Khan, Khan has a reason to be angry. Kirk banished him and his people to an Edenic paradise fifteen years before the movie’s start. So far so good, right? But then–whoops–Kirk forgot about the follow-through, never kept tabs on this group of people, and failed to notice that a natural disaster turned said paradise into a barely-habitable wasteland that Khan’s girlfriend (a former Star Fleet officer who was not as genetically engineered as Khan and his crew) did not survive. Yeah, Kirk. I’d be pissed too.

This old wound drives Khan to a single-minded quest for vengeance that ultimately destroys the surviving members of Khan’s crew, as well as Khan himself. And Khan unselfconsciously quotes Moby Dick the whole way down.

In Into Darkness, I’m a lot less clear on Khan’s motivations. Or fellow villain Admiral Marcus’s motivations. The villains’ motivations are unclear, is what I’m saying. Okay, so Peter Weller’s Admiral Marcus takes 300-years-frozen Khan out of cryogenic stasis so that the antique superhuman can help him design advanced weapons tech for the military–and are you starting to see the flaw in this plan? So then, resentful Khan, in order to save his old, still-frozen crew, hides them in . . . torpedoes, and–I’m sorry, but are you seeing the problem in this plan, too? And then I guess Khan cons Marcus into sending someone after him with the torpedoes, secure in the knowledge that said torpedoes will be perfectly safe, and not deployed or activated or anything. And then he surrenders to Kirk so he can be united with his beloved torpedo-crew, and then he tips his hand about where he’s hidden his crew, giving the Enterprise all the leverage they could ever need over him ever, and supposedly he also wants to destroy “inferior” races, but Into Darkness never really unpacks that so it doesn’t make much sense as motivation and HIDING PEOPLE YOU LOVE IN TORPEDOES IS STUPID BECAUSE A TORPEDO IS NOT A SAFE SPACE.

So, new Khan is not very good at the whole thinking and planning thing. Which seems like a design flaw in a super-intelligent superhuman. At least old Khan’s lapses in judgment resulted from an obsessive revenge driven by plot points that happened both before and during the movie. New Khan doesn’t really have any driving-revenge motivation until the very end when he thinks–erroneously–that Spock murdered all 72 of his people. Hey, you know what would have cleared that up, Spock? Telling him you didn’t. That whole climactic sequence that ended in Spock almost punching Khan to death? Easily avoidable.

Here’s my alternate version of that scene:

SPOCK: Your people aren’t dead. The torpedoes I fired on you were entirely empty of human life because WTF what kind of twisted mind even puts people in torpedoes? Whatever, I don’t want to know. Anyway, I am holding everyone you have ever loved hostage on my ship. So, surrender.
KHAN: Show me evidence that the torpedoes you fired on me were not full of all of my friends.
SPOCK: I do not have any such evidence. And I shouldn’t need it, because seriously, why would anyone even think I would do that kind of thing? Anyway, if I’m lying, there’s nothing you can do to save your crew, but if I’m telling the truth, then you can ensure their safety by surrendering. Basically, you only benefit by surrendering. Logicked!
KHAN: Fair enough. (Surrenders.)

Though that imaginary exchange would have happened before Khan’s last act of terrorism (crashing his ship into Star Fleet HQ), and things probably would have gone a lot better for everyone if someone had let Khan know his crew wasn’t dead before he crashed his ship into Star Fleet HQ. Because, you see, towards the end of the movie, Spock fires the 72 super-advanced torpedoes on Khan’s ship, allowing him to believe that Spock has killed Khan’s crew in the process. Of course he hasn’t; the torpedoes are empty. But Spock–in his own quest for vengeance–seems to really, really want Khan to die thinking all his friends are dead. Because half-Vulcans just roll that way now. Khan gets so mad that he decides to fly his ship into Star Fleet headquarters, presumably costing many lives. Maybe if Spock hadn’t put all that extra effort into making Khan’s death as unpleasant as possible, many more deaths could have been avoided!

(And those super-advanced torpedoes couldn’t take out a single man on a single ship? Pfft, maybe they’re only really scary if you’re inside one.)

Now, Into Darkness had the potential to do some really interesting things with Khan. Since this Khan hasn’t suffered the same tragedies as his counterpart, he has no real reason–at the beginning of the movie–to become entrenched in a vendetta with either Kirk or Spock. We even could have gotten something resembling a Khan redemption arc, since his motivations in the new film are supposedly built around protecting his vulnerable but still very much alive crew. The Trekkies who fondly remember Khan as a classic villain might have found such a move counter-intuitive, but hey, it’s a new timeline, remember? New things should be allowed to happen.

And Khan and Kirk do spend pretty much the whole of Into Darkness helping each other, until the end when they suddenly don’t.

And the win goes to the original Khan “Do you know the Klingon proverb that tells us revenge is a dish that is best served cold? . . . It is very cold in space” Noonien Singh. Congratulations, Original Khan Noonien Singh!

Pencil sketch of Ricardo Montalban as Khan in Wrath of Khan

He’s only this happy when he tells you how cold it is in space.

Spock vs. Spock

So, this one is tricky.

Spock has always been my favorite part of the original Star Trek television series, and his role in The Wrath of Khan includes what is probably the most iconic death scene of any character in Star Trek history. Spock sacrifices himself to save the crew, and it is his death that teaches Kirk what death really means on a personal, visceral level–and that a true friendship can survive it. There is certainly no moment in Into Darkness that tops Spock’s dying words:

SPOCK: Don’t grieve, Admiral. It is logical. The needs of the many outweigh . . .
KIRK: The needs of the few.
SPOCK: Or the one. I never took the Kobayashi Maru test until now. What do you think of my solution?
KIRK: Spock!
SPOCK: I have been . . . and always shall be . . . your friend. . . . Live long . . . and prosper.”

So, if you’re an old-school Trek fan and the original Enterprise crew is near and dear to your heart, you’ve probably heard that exchange many times. And yet, you might be tearing up anyway. Because damn.

Even I felt a prickle just putting that blockquote up there–and I’m honestly more of a Deep Space Nine girl.

So, original Spock is awesome, that scene is awesome, and that scene is in Wrath of Khan.

All that being said, my loyalty to Leonard Nimoy’s Wrath of Khan Spock should be clear, right?

But the thing is, I actually really like Zachary Quinto’s Spock. As in, I thought that new!Spock was the best part of the new movie. There’s just something so vulnerable and endearing about Quinto’s performance, something that really makes me care about this new Spock in a way I wasn’t expecting. I like that the new movie plays with Spock’s youth, his insecurities and what is starting to look like a near-desperate need to please in his two most important relationships (with Uhura and Kirk).

I thought I would resent a new version of my favorite character from the original series, but what can I say? This new Spock is really winning me over.

So, just as the original Spock is my favorite part of the original series, the rebooted Spock is probably my favorite part of the new movies. Which makes it hard for me to choose one over the other.

And even though Into Darkness can’t quite match Spock’s iconic death, their rehashing of the scene with Kirk and Spock in swapped roles is actually one of my favorite parts of the new movie. Sure, it’s imitative, but it evokes nostalgia for the original scene while also offering the audience a new dynamic for Kirk and Spock, in which Spock is the one to learn an important lesson about mortality.

In fact, the new movie was designed to give Spock the more prominent and interesting role in general. Spock is the one who gets to learn and grow and change. Spock is the one with a romantic relationship. Spock is the one who gets to go all vengeful on Khan (though I am docking points for the cheesy way he actually yells “Khan!” I think I felt a collective wince from all the audience members who remembered Star Trek II, as well as from some who didn’t.) Spock even mind-melds with a dying Admiral Pike, to learn even more about mortality! Creepy, sure, as he does not get permission to spy on the dying man’s thoughts, but this moment does underscore the centrality of Spock’s emotional and intellectual development.

And then there’s that whole thing where the original Spock keeps showing up in the new movies, as a refugee from the original timeline. (Remember kiddies, this isn’t just a reboot but an honest-to-goodness Alternate Universe!) Yeah, that complicates things.

And though I should have been happy to get the Nimoy!Spock cameo, I wasn’t really cool with new Spock calling older, AU Spock for what boils down to . . . well, cheat codes for his own life, basically. I mean, where does that end?

So Spock gets his death scene (and what a scene it is!) in Wrath, but he pretty much gets upgraded to main-character status by the end of Darkness.

Into Darkness also give us two Spocks for the price of one . . . thus giving me the artificial impression that if I give the win to ‘Spock in the new movie,’ I’m not actually choosing one over the other. Hey, there’s an out. And an excuse to draw Zachary Quinto’s Spock looking adorably lost and confused.

Into Darkness Spock wins on a technicality!

sketch of Zachary Quinto's Spock in Into Darkness

Zachary Quinto’s Spock is basically a puppy.

McCoy vs. McCoy

Oh, I can’t even.

Okay, so throughout the original series and up into the movies, McCoy and Spock constitute a profound binary, with each of them figuratively sitting on one of Kirk’s shoulders and offering contrasting-yet-complementary words of advice. McCoy argues for empathy and humanity while Spock argues for practicality and logic. McCoy is the conscience. McCoy is the one who cares.

In Into Darkness, McCoy has been downgraded to comic relief. Except that he’s not funny. It’s like Abrams missed the entire point of Bones’s existence.

Also, I find DeForest Kelley a much more personable Bones than Karl Urban. But then again, it’s hard to judge, as Karl Urban was probably given the most poorly-written dialogue of anyone in Into Darkness.

New McCoy cures death; old McCoy gives Kirk a pair of glasses. Old McCoy is still better.

Old McCoy old McCoy old McCoy wins!

Sketch of DeForest Kelley as Bones in Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan

Romulan Ale: For medicinal purposes only.

Uhura vs. Uhura

This is a bit of a cheat. As awesome as Nichelle Nichols’s character is in general, she barely has a presence in Wrath of Khan. Zoe Saldana’s role in the new film is much bigger, even if it is mostly relegated to being ‘Spock’s girlfriend.’

It’s possible that McCoy has been edged out of playing the emotional ‘heart’ of the crew so that Uhura can take on that role. Throughout the new movie, Uhura is the one pushing for communication over conflict. Her fluent Klingon may not do the away party any good, but at least she stops her boyfriend from punching Khan to death so that they can harvest Khan’s magic blood. So, that’s nice.

Uhura replacing McCoy in the empathy/logic binary is most clearly evidenced in the scene in which Uhura, Spock and Kirk are all in a shuttle together and Uhura and Spock begin arguing about their relationship. Kirk, as always, is caught in the middle. This new dynamic is reflected later, in one of the last scenes of the movie, when Kirk and Spock share A Moment and Uhura just so happens to be in the shot with them.

Whatever. At least Wrath of Khan Uhura doesn’t have to wear the mini-skirt.

New Uhura wins!

Sketch of Zoe Saldana in one of Uhura's action glamor shots from the Into Darkness preview

Uhura: action meets glamor

Dr. Marcus vs. Dr. Marcus

Well, new Dr. Marcus (played by Alice Eve) can disarm a torpedo by just giving up on cutting the 23rd wire and ripping a piece out apparently at random, which I guess is pretty badass. Take that, torpedo. But old Dr. Marcus (played by Bibi Besch) is such a badass scientist that, when she is introduced in her movie, she has already made a science-magic thingie that can both destroy and create worlds in a matter of days.

Uh . . . old Dr. Marcus is God.

She’s starting off with a strong lead, folks.

Also, new Dr. Marcus strips to her underwear in a shuttle for pretty much no reason other than to get a woman in her underwear into the previews. When old Dr. Marcus has her heart-to-heart with Kirk, she puts a coat on. On top of other clothes that she already happens to be wearing. Like you do.

Both Dr. Marcuses have important relationships with men. Old Dr. Marcus has an important connection to Kirk: they were lovers back when the time was, and he is the father of her son. Her other important connection is to that son: David, a fellow scientist working on the Genesis project with her. David sees in Kirk the symbol of military authority that wants to pervert science to its own ends. Dr. Marcus moderates the interactions between Star Fleet admiral James T. Kirk and her hot-headed (but peace-loving) son. She’s the peacekeeper within this non-traditional family unit, and Bibi Besch plays the role with an air of dignity and confidence. Not to mention a really cool-sounding alto voice.

Dr. Marcus, though fond of Kirk, does not regret raising David on her own or keeping his father’s identity from him, saying openly that she wanted to keep him “in her world,” and not out chasing adventures with his father.

New Dr. Marcus’s most important relationship is the one she has to her own father, Into Darkness’s villain-behind-the-villain Admiral Marcus. At a pivotal point in the movie, she attempts to save the Enterprise by revealing her presence on it to her father, who happens at the time to be trying to destroy the Enterprise.

As soon as he sees that his daughter is on the ship, he beams her off of it. So, that tactic’s a bust. Once she’s on his ship, she slaps him and pretty much disowns him as a parent, saying something along the lines of how she’s ashamed to be his daughter or doesn’t consider herself his daughter–something like that. But that accomplishes nothing except maybe pissing the Admiral off, so I’d say that overall, new Dr. Marcus is pretty ineffectual as a character.

Especially when compared to old Dr. Marcus, who is God.

Yeah, I’m calling it for God!Dr. Marcus.

Sketch of Bibi Besch as Dr. Marcus in Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan

“Can I cook or can I cook?” –Dr. Marcus
She means planets and the answer is “yes.”

Lieutenant Saavik vs. No Other Prominent Female Characters

Kirstie Alley makes a surprisingly awesome Vulcan as Lt. Saavik, the trainee whose innocent questioning prompts Kirk to start thinking about the larger moral ramifications of how he has gotten away with ‘cheating’ death for his entire life. Saavik doesn’t have much of a function beyond this, but she does seem competent, dedicated and willing to learn. She also brings the total number of Significant Female Characters (with names and speaking parts!) up to three (Marcus, Saavik and Uhura). Into Darkness, on the other hand, only has two female characters with both names and speaking roles (Uhura and Marcus), so there’s not really anybody to pit Saavik up against.

Saavik wins by default!

Sketch of Kirstie Alley as Lt. Saavik in Star Trek: Wrath of Khan

Lt. Saavik, a.k.a. Female Speaking Role #3

Scotty vs. Scotty

I could not remember what Scotty (played by James Doohan) did in Wrath of Khan when I started drafting this post, and I started drafting this post literally the day after I watched the movie. (Re-watched the movie, technically.) The Scotty in Into Darkness (played by Simon Pegg), has a much more prominent and action-oriented role than anyone was expecting, and also makes a much better comic relief than Bones. Despite my fondness for the original actor, I’m giving this one to new Scotty.

Chekhov vs. Chekhov

New Chekhov (played by Anton Yelchin) is adorable as acting Ship’s Engineer (though why Kirk didn’t just promote someone from Engineering to fill that role, I have no idea). However, old Chekhov (played by Walter Koenig) is equally adorable being controlled by a mind-controlling scorpion lobster armadillo earworm, and then feeling guilty about it, so . . .

Tie!

Captain Terrell vs. Thomas Harewood

I’m choosing to pair Captain Terrell (played by American actor Paul Winfield) and Thomas Harewood (played by British actor Noel Clarke) because, even though Terrell has a much bigger role in Wrath of Khan than Harewood does in Into Darkness, the two characters fulfill similar functions. Both Terrell and Harewood are manipulated by Khan, and both men kill themselves as a result of these manipulations.

Yeah, these are pretty much the two movies’ most pathetic characters (in that their situations evoke pity). They also both happen to be black. Which I mention because race is a thing that matters,**** and in spite of Star Trek’s “ethnic diversity” (Look, a Russian! A Scottish person!), which was actually pretty impressive when the TV show began in 1966 but could really use a 2013 upgrade, neither movie has much in the way of characters of color.

It’s pretty much Uhura, Sulu and these dudes. Oh yeah, and Klingons (in the new movie). Who are once again being presented as savage brutes/cannon fodder. And whose actors have their faces obscured by a muchness of forehead-ridging makeup.

And Captain Terrell spends the majority of his screen time in Wrath of Khan mind-controlled by another person, so most of his words and actions are not his own.

And Thomas Harewood is not even a speaking part.

And Captain Terrell kills himself when he manages to overcome the mind control just enough to keep himself from killing Admiral Kirk on Khan’s command. So, he sacrifices himself to save the movie’s white male hero.

And Thomas Harewood kills himself when Khan (traditionally Indian but white in the reboot for some reason) promises to cure his daughter of her terminal illness if he suicide-bombs the archive where he works, thus killing himself and all of its inhabitants. (There’s a dissolving ring involved. Must be one of Khan’s super-advanced pieces of weapons tech.)

And it’s nice that Harewood’s family, at least, appears on screen. However, Mrs. Harewood and daughter Harewood aren’t speaking roles either, and I’m not thrilled by how these women are not so much characters in their own right as they are Things For Harewood to Care About. His wife seems to exist just to complete the family unit and to express the crying, out-of-control sorrow at their daughter’s terminal condition that Harewood can’t because of cinema-induced machismo. And his daughter is, of course, his motivation. And she also only shows up twice, once while unconscious at the hospital and once in a still photograph. So there’s not much room for characterization there. And do I even have to mention how her presence as a literal photograph underscores how she functions in this movie more as prop than person?

Two forced self-sacrifices. One saves a white admiral while one saves the character-in-question’s own daughter, but also takes out an entire building and the people in it. One character speaks and acts for most of his appearance under the influence of mind control, while the other is not mind-controlled but has a smaller, non-speaking role.

Yeah, I don’t know about this one, folks. I’m pretty sure the winner is in some third movie.

So . . . tie?

Sulu vs. Sulu

Underutilized in both movies. Tie!

The Mind-Controlling Scorpion Lobster Armadillo Earworms vs. The Undead Tribble

In The Wrath of Khan, Khan uses the last indigenous surviving species from his wastelandy planet o’ exile to control the minds of two upstanding Star Fleet officers and force them to betray Kirk and Company. These parasites look like crosses between lobsters, armadillos and scorpions and it is their babies–which enter through the ear–that can be used for nefarious mind-control purposes.

Eventually, Kirk and Company catch up with these upstanding officers, and Chekhov kindly informs Kirk that yes, indeed, he and Captain Terrell were being controlled by baby mind-controlling scorpion lobster armadillo earworms, but they overcame the conditioning and are totes cool now. As in, nothing to see here, folks! Not mind-controlled at all, no siree!

And no one checks on them.

Dr. McCoy, who is listening to all this, does not even examine them.

Which is just . . . ridiculous. I mean, it’s theoretically possible. People can get busy, and distracted, and I suppose that it’s within the realm of human possibility that a trained medical professional would not insist on examining a couple of blokes who just fessed up to having alien parasites in their brains. And that no one else would insist that their doctor check to make sure that the guys who had been controlled by alien parasites were not still being controlled by alien parasites. Just to be on the safe side, as it were. I mean, it is possible. It’s not, strictly speaking, a plot hole that you could drive a truck through.

It’s not plausible, though, and it’s not good writing.

That being said, there is something that really, really bothers me in the new movie.

Something that bothers me more than trained Star Fleet doctors not examining people who have just confessed to having alien mind-control parasites for, y’know, alien mind-control parasites.

Something that is, for me, the most disappointing element of the new movie.

And my absolute, number-one disappointment from Into Darkness?

They bring a dead tribble back to life and there is no payoff.

They revive a dead tribble using Khan’s super-engineered, super-indestructible blood of immortality and at the end of the movie, there is only one tribble on that ship. Count it: one.

One tribble.

What’s wrong with this picture?

And I waited for it. I sat through the credits, waiting for a post-credit the-ship-is-now-overrun gag or nod or something–and zilch.

And you can’t tell me that the gag would have been too cheap and Abrams has too much class to go there (well, you can, but I won’t believe you), because there is a lot of unapologetically cheap humor in that movie.*****

If the next movie is not Star Trek: The Great Klingon Tribble Hunt, then I will be the one who’s wrathful.

Sketch of the mind-control scorpion lobster armadillo from Star Trek: Wrath of Khan

The scorlobdillos are the clear winners, here.

Conclusions

Oh, what the hell. Have a tally chart:

Wrath of Khan Into Darkness Tie
Movie Title X
Kirk X
Khan X
Spock X
McCoy X
Uhura X
Dr. Marcus X
A Third Female Character X
Scotty X
Chekhov X
The Tragic Black Male Character X
Sulu X
The Scorlobdillos and the Undead Tribble X

For those of you keeping score at home, that’s seven wins for Wrath of Khan, three wins for Into Darkness and three ties.

Obviously, this post is not a truly thorough comparison of the two movies, as it only really covers characters. And titles. And tribbles and mind-control scorlobdillos. And, to a lesser extent, plot.

I didn’t talk about art direction or cinematography or sound or Special Effects or–any number of other things, really.

But my word count for this post is over 5,000, so let’s wrap this up.

Wrath of Khan is better.

It just is. It’s better-written and better-plotted. The characters are more fully developed, and their motivations make more sense.

Also, the female characters in Wrath of Khan are more powerful, more interesting and more fully-dressed than the female characters in Into Darkness–which is a pretty big deal, especially when you remember that Into Darkness is in theaters right flipping now, while Wrath of Khan came out in 1982.

. . . Yeah. I had fun with Into Darkness, and I will probably watch it again. But sometimes, I worry about the future of SF, especially in terms of its treatment of women.

And of people who care about plots that make sense.

::shakes fist at sky::

Abrams!******

* * *

For some other perspectives on Star Trek: Into Darkness, check out these funny recaps:

* * *

* Must be a Jefferson Starship.

** And those of you who hang out at That Guy With the Glasses may recognize this format as a modified version of the one that the Nostalgia Critic uses in his “Old vs. New” video reviews, which I do, in general, recommend–with the caveat that the Critic’s reviews are often not particularly sensitive to sensitive issues.

*** Writing credits taken from IMDB. Several of the writers for Khan are listed as “uncredited.”

**** Here are a couple of brief but interesting blog posts (found by the highly scientific methodology of a quick Google search) that discuss capitalizing and not capitalizing the word “black” when using it to refer to skin color:

Black with a Capital B

Why the ‘B’ in Black is Capitalized at DiversityInc

Growing up as a white girl in the south-where-we-pretend-we’re-not-the-south-but-really-we-are, I was taught always to use the term “African American” instead of “black” (as if they were interchangeable except for one being more politically correct than the other), which made perfect sense to me until I got a little older and realized that there existed the vast majority of a world out there full of people who were not, in point of fact, American. Which, if you have it, is quite the ::headdesk:: moment, no matter how young you are when it happens.

Yep. My privilege is showing.

***** Most painfully realized in McCoy speaking and behaving like a parody of himself and most crudely realized when Kirk receives (::shudder::) ‘tail’ from women with actual tails. Hey, they may never have used the term, but a sight gag is a sight gag.

****** But seriously. I would have forgiven just about everything for that tribble joke.

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