So, after months of speculation and waiting with baited breath, the next STAR TREK title has been announced.
STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS
It’s certainly different. And not what we were expecting. But is it any good? Well, it kinda works and it kinda doesn’t. TREK INTO DARKNESS sounds fair enough, sound like a gritty indie horror or a survival movie. But STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS? We’re not so sure.
Surprisingly, the biggest complaints amongst some quarters of the fanbase seem to be about the lack of punctuation. Every TREK movie, and series, up to this point, has used a colon in the title. Well, except for ENTERPRISE, but that’s because it wasn’t quite STAR TREK yet.
Anyway, STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS will be the twelfth Star Trek movie to grace the silver screen. And suddenly dumping STAR TREK XII into theatres just wouldn’t have worked. Much less STAR TREK 2.
Let’s take a trek down memory lane and take a look at the titles so far. If nothing else, it’ll let a few of those newbies catch up…
STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE (1979)
It’s blunt and to the point. It’s the motion picture continuation of the TV series. Which was also a motion picture when you think about it. I guess STAR TREK: THE MOVIE, didn’t sound intelligent eneough. It’s also about as dull as most of the movie.
Rather than try to ape STAR WARS – or even BATTLESTAR GALACTICA – and give us a rip-roaring action epic, THE MOTIONLESS PICTURE tried to follow the trend the slow-burning mystery and mind-bending wonder of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY or CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND. Unfortunately, they didn’t quite manage it.
A Giant Space Cloud is hurtling towards Earth, consuming everything in its path, including a bunch of Klingon Redshirts. For some reason, every other ship is Starfleet is away on mission, meaning the only one left to investigate/save us is the newly-refitted Enterprise. Funny how the Enterprise is often the only ship in the neighbourhood.
Anyway, after going boldly, and slowly, out to face the Giant Space Cloud, they find out it’s called V’GER, and is looking for “the creator”.
It’d make a good episode (in fact it did) but it’s dragged on and on and on for one hundred and forty-five minutes. Almost three hours. If anyone was left awake for the movie’s climax at the centre of V’GER, they probably would have been disappointed by the rather twee nature of it all.
Alternative Titles?: Star Trek Into Tedium, Star Trek: The Slow Motion Picture
STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN (1982)
For those of you who don’t know, Khan –who many still think may show up in the new movie for some reason – is a genetically engineered superhuman tyrant who appeared in one episode of the original STAR TREK in 1967. He once controlled more than a quarter of the Earth during the Eugenics Wars of the 1990s (the ’90s were still quite a way off back then), before escaping in a sleeper ship, the Botany Bay.
After being revived from suspended animation in 2267 by the crew of the Enterprise, Khan tried to take the ship, but was busted by Kirk and exiled on Ceti Alpha V to create a new civilization with his people. And ol’ Kirk just kind of forgot about him…
Unfortunately, the planet next door went and blew itself up, turning Ceti Alpha V into a post-nuclear wasteland and killing Khan’s girlfriend. When another starship, the Reliant, shows up, Khan goes and steals it, and then goes after Kirk, armed with the world-building “Genesis device”.
The climactic space battle betwixt Kirk and Khaaaaannn!! (Sorry, had to put it in somewhere) is generally seen as one of the greatest moments in Trek history. And it sets the pins for the next movie…
Alternative Titles?: Star Trek Into Nostalgia
STAR TREK III: THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK (1984)
Pretty much as it sounds. After Spock’s heroic sacrifice to save the ship at the end of WRATH OF KHAN (you knew about that right?), his funeral casket finds its way to the newly created Genesis Planet, where much of the action takes place. Because of the [insert techno-babble here], the planet has been formed out of the nebula Kirk and Khan played Battleship in during WRATH OF KHAN.
Unfortunately, the planet’s going through billions of years of existence in a matter of days, and is about to tear itself apart. It also has the side-effect of resurrecting Spock, who is found by Genesis scientist David Marcus – who also happens to be Kirk’s estranged son…
Meanwhile, back home, Kirk finds out that before he snuffed it, Spock downloaded his memories, his “katra” (soul, basically) into McCoy. And if they don’t get it back out, Bones is going to snuff it too. So Kirk rounds up the gang, steals the Enterprise and goes to rescue his Bestest Fwiend Evah. And then a bunch of Klingons show up.
The whole “Search For Spock” actually takes about fifteen minutes; the rest of the movie is Kirk fighting Christopher Lloyd’s Klingon captain for the planet for the secret of Genesis and Blowing Stuff Up. Including the Enterprise.
Alternative Titles?: Star Trek: Progeria
STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME (1986)
With Spock back in the gang (and the director’s chair), Kirk heads home to face the music. He did steal a starship and sabotage another to rescue Spock, after all. So yeah, it’s a voyage home. Of course that wouldn’t have been a very interesting movie.
Much like THE MOTIONLESS PICTURE, a Giant Alien Probe has appeared, disabling every ship that goes near it. Arriving around Earth it starts sending out a signal, which royally screws the entire planet’s power grid and causes a minor End of Days. Spock (who is still recovering from death) works out that the Probe is calling out to humpback whales, which have been extinct on Earth ever since evil, uncivilised 20th Century Man wiped them out. Since only a whale can answer the call of the Probe, Kirk and
Ko Co do what comes naturally. They travel back in time to 1986 (Hey, that’s when the movie was made! How about that!) to rescue a few whales. Culture clash humour and ecological messages ensue.
Bringing two whales, “George” and “Gracie” back to the future, the whales tell the Probe to naff off, and it does, saving the day. And in recognition for his heroic deeds, the charges against the crew are dropped, and Kirk gets demoted to Captain. He also gets a shiny new starship, the imaginatively-named Enterprise A.
Alternative Titles?: Star Trek to the Future (part 1)
STAR TREK V: THE FINAL FRONTIER (1989)
After two movies with Leonard Nimoy directing, William Shatner was given the other Big Chair for this one. And it shows. It’s a much more action-oriented movie with a lot of “running and jumping”, as Nimoy put it.
Spock’s renegade half-brother Sybok, exiled from Vulcan for being too emotional, engineers a hostage situation to steal a starship. Taking over the Enterprise A and sweet-talking the crew into helping him, he sets sail for the Centre Of The Galaxy, past “The Great Barrier” to the planet Sha Ka Ree… Also known as “Eden”, where Kirk finally meets his match. And then a bunch of Klingons show up.
Having used the “Voyages” part of that speech, the next movie went and used the “Final Frontier” part. Apparently, “the final frontier” is travelling to the centre of the galaxy and having a barney with “God”.
Kirk also has a little spiel about death and how he’s always known he would die alone. And, yeah, death is pretty final. Unless you’re Spock, anyway.
Alternative Titles?: Star Trek: God Botherers
Interesting to note that STAR TREKS II, III, IV and V seem to take place within just a few months of each other, despite being made over a period of seven years.
STAR TREK VI: THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY (1991)
The title for this one actually has a bit of meaning, and is actually referenced in the movie; the Klingons suffer a major catastrophe and their chancellor, Gorkon, starts peace negotiations with the Federation. As he sits down with a decidedly racist Enterprise crew, Gorkon goes and makes a toast to “The Undiscovered Country. The Future”, which Spock helpfully informs us, is from Hamlet- Act 3, Scene 1, to be exact.
Except ol’ Hamlet was talking about death, not the future…
Unfortunately for Gorkon, his Chief of Staff, General Chang (played with scenery-chewing relish by Christopher Plummer of all people) is a bit more of a Shakespeare buff, and plots to kill Gorkon, and pin the blame on Kirk, as part of a Grand Scheme to destroy any chance for peace in the Galaxy. Naturally, Kirk and
Ko Co. (gotta stop doing that) save the day, with a little help from Captain Sulu and the Excelsior.
The picture ends with the crew defying orders one last time, flying off into the sunset instead of handing the keys to the Enterprise over to the next guy…
Alternative Titles?: Star Trek: Retirement
Pretty simple one, really. The NEXT GENERATION crew have their first motion picture and Picard gets to ride horses and tag-team with Kirk against Malcolm MacDowell’s genocidal psychopath. He’s trying to get back to “The Nexus”, a Big Swirly Thing which can show you your own private heaven. The Enterprise B “rescued” him from it 74 years earlier (“killing” Kirk in the process) and he’s so desperate to get back, he willing to blow up several solar systems to do it, helped by NEXT GENERATION holdovers, the Duras Sisters, a pair of- you guessed it- Klingon renegades.
The movie marks the handing of the torch between the original and Next Gen casts. Kirk is killed off, for real this time, and GENERATIONS also marks the swansong of the stalwart Enterprise D; after seven years and 178 episodes, the old dear is blown to smithereens. Well, half of it. At this point, perhaps in an attempt to differentiate between the two generations, the word “the” was dropped from the movie titles. Makes you wonder what they might have ended up with if they’d kept the The…
Alternative Title?: Star Trek: The Generation Gap
STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT (1996)
A whole bunch of firsts with this one; the first movie to feature the Enterprise E, the first to feature the Borg Queen- who would return for villain duties on the small screen in STAR TREK: VOYAGER, the first feature film directed by Jonathan Frakes – and his best, arguably.
It’s also the first Trek movie that doesn’t have any Klingon bad guys in it. Instead, FIRST CONTACT brings back the Borg. The Pseudo-Cybermen hatch a dastardly plot to attack and assimilate Earth in the past, thereby rewriting history and generally making life easier for themselves.
Picard succeeds in destroying the Borg ship, but a bunch of them sneak on board and start re-decorating the place, led by the Borg Queen, who soon takes a shine to Data.
While Picard goes all Captain Ahab and leads the rapidly-shrinking crew against the Borg, Riker and his gang help warp-drive pioneer Zefram Cochrane make his first warp flight, thereby making First Contact with the Vulcans, thus bringing everything full circle, and setting a few markers for baby Trek series ENTERPRISE.
Alternative Title?: Star Trek: The Beginning of The End, Star Trek to the Future (part 2)
STAR TREK: INSURRECTION (1999)
In terms of the title, presumably they wanted something a little more cerebral than “Mutiny” or “Rebellion”.
The Ba’ku live for hundreds of years in perfect health, and the Son’a, who are all dying of old age, want a piece of the action. Since the Ba’ku are in fact a technologically advanced race and aren’t really indigenous to the planet, Starfleet Admiral Dougherty sees no problem in moving them off to another planet and returning them to their “natural evolution”, while the Son’a mine the planet’s rings for their [insert techno-babble here], trashing the planet but potentially bringing immortality to the masses. Naturally, Picard decides to do something about this and leads an insurrection to keep the Ba’ku on their own world.
It’s the classic “good Starfleet, bad Starfleet” routine with a large dollop of messy family issues thrown in; turns out the Son’a are actually Ba’ku juvenile delinquents; after a massive falling out with their elders, they were exiled from the planet and spent the next hundred years planning their revenge. It’s a very silly movie, and the ”we’re getting too old for this shit” subtext is laid on pretty darn thick.
Alternative Title?: Star Trek: The Mid-Life Crisis
STAR TREK: NEMESIS (2002)
NEMESIS is in effect a NEXT GENERATION rehash of WRATH OF KHAN, except the villain is a new guy rather than a reheated leftover. (They did that in GENERATIONS by bringing back the Duras Sisters).
Keeping with the cerebral motif, the Oxford English Dictionary says: “the inescapable agent of someone’s or something’s downfall”.
Which works: Bad guy Shinzon is the “nemesis” of the Romulan Empire taking a crack at the Federation, and Picard is his “nemesis”, the agent of his downfall. Appropriate, seeing as Shinzon is an Evil Clone of Picard…
Having spent his life being beaten and mistreated by the Romulans, Shinzon leads the Reman underclass in a campaign against both the Romulans and then the Federation, fighting to ensure his people are free from slavery, whatever it takes. As well as being backed up by a psychic Ron Perlman, Shinzon’s also got help from Data’s long lost brother, B-4, and the keys to a super-weapon that could destroy all life on a planet.
He’s also dying, and needs a transfusion from Picard to survive.
The writing was already on the wall by this point, but NEMESIS was the final nail in the coffin.
Alternative Title?: Star Trek: The Unloved Child, Star Trek Into Obscurity
STAR TREK (2009)
When JJ Abrams brought STAR TREK back with a bang (several, in fact), he made the wise decision to go right back to basics and go with simply, STAR TREK. The idea presumably being that a new generation of Trekkies (who hadn’t yet advanced to Trekker) could come in off the street with little to no prior knowledge of forty-odd years of Trek and still understand and enjoy the movie.
Needless to say, it worked. STAR TREK was back with a new cast playing (and nailing, in Karl Urban’s case) the old crew, and by using the old Time Travelling Bad Guy routine and establishing a separate timeline, STAR TREK now has free reign to go off in new directions without fear of treading on four TV series and ten movies’ worth of continuity.
However, there is a potential problem lurking. In the original STAR TREK, Kirk and his crew had spent time together, years as a crew, learning each other’s strengths and weaknesses, becoming the core team at the heart of a crew of hundreds. This time around, they’ve been thrown together by circumstance and have yet to make those bonds as they venture out into the Final Frontier. And this version of Kirk is a much younger, untested man, without a career of experiences to draw from.
Alternative Title?: Star Trek Episode I: The Fandom Menace, Star Trek to the Future (part 3)
So here we are.
STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS
The urge to put a little pause in there is strong, isn’t it? That little niggle. Maybe that was the idea; go with something which sounds perfectly reasonable, but just avant-garde enough to stick in your mind…
Whether it means anything in terms of plot, we’ll have to wait and see, but the “darkness” could be Kirk coming to grips with being Captain, and the sacrifices a Captain has to make… What’s one Redshirt to the safety of your entire crew? Would you sacrifice a shuttle crew of ten to save a civilization of millions…
Or maybe they just end up in a bit of space with no stars…
Anyway, that’s the title, and we’re stuck with it. Unless this is another of JJ Abram’s Jedi mind games.
STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS is expected to materialise in 3D in summer 2013. More news as it arrives.