Movie Guyd: “Star Trek Into Darkness,” the Spoiler FAQ

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May 21, 2013
6:51 a.m.

From Rob Bricken.

After making a mere $84 million at the U.S. box office, Star Trek Into Darkness is considered by some to be a disappointment. Perhaps the problem is that it was a touch confusing. To help our readers better understand it, we’ve complied and answered these Frequently Asked Questions about the movie.

Maximum spoilers ahead…

How does the movie start?

Well, with Kirk and Bones fucking with a planet of primitive aliens. They steal some kind of holy scroll, and then get chased through a red jungle.

Seems like kind of a dick move.

Well, it’s not very clear, but ostensibly they’ve stolen the scroll to get chased, in order to draw the aliens away from a volcano that’s about to explode.

Okay, that seems reasonable.

Except that 1) when the volcano erupts, it’s going to kill everybody on the planet, so it hardly matters where they are, and 2) Spock is getting dropped down into the volcano to set off a cold fusion bomb.

Wait, what?

Yeah, he sets off the cold fusion bomb and all the lava freezes.

You know cold fusion isn’t actually cold, right? It’s only “cold” in the sense that opposed to regular fusion it’s not a bazillion degrees hot.


And did you say Spock was in the volcano? Why the hell didn’t they just beam the bomb in there?

Um, something about the planet’s magnetic field. Although they do beam Spock out of the volcano just a few minutes later, so…

And why did Spock have to go with the bomb to set it off? Are you telling me in the 23rd century that people don’t have a way to detonate bombs remotely? That’s stupid.

Well —

And why the fuck is the Enterprise just carrying around a cold fusion suitcase bomb anyways?

Look, you’re getting very upset, and this is just the first scene of the movie.

Okay, fine. What happens next?

Well, Spock’s zipline breaks, so he’s stuck in the volcano, The Enterprise is underwater, so Kirk can’t ascend without the aliens seeing it, thus breaking the Prime Directiv —


The Enterprise is parked in the ocean.

That’s ridiculous. Even the ship designed to function in the vacuum of space could handle the pressures underwater — which I’m 99% sure it can’t — even if the thrusters could function underwater, which makes no sense — and even if the ship could survive flying out of the water without the insanely large surface area of the front part snapping off like a twig — why the fucking fuck did they park it underwater instead of just hanging out in space like they were supposed to?!

Because J.J. Abrams saw the Helicarrier scene from Avengers and got jealous, I guess.

Look, I know Star Trek is science fiction, but hasn’t Trek always at least nominally tried to get science right? Shouldn’t a Star Trek movie give the tiniest shit about such things?

One might presume.


Let’s just move on. So Kirk rescues Spock, breaks the Prime Directive by showing themselves to the aliens, the aliens start worshipping the Enterprise, Spock sends a report to Starfleet on what happened, Kirk gets busted, Kirk is removed as Captain of the Enterprise.


Yeah. You know how the first movie was all about Kirk’s journey from a rebellious kid to a more mature leader of men?


Well, we’re doing that again!

I repeat, UGH.

Meanwhile, Rose’s boyfriend Mickey from Doctor Who puts a ring in a glass and blows up the Starfleet library in London.

Why does he do that?

In exchange for Benedict Cumberbatch saving his sick kid. This forces all the Starfleet bigwigs — including Pike, who’s reinstated as the captain of the Enterprise — and Kirk, who becomes Pike’s first officer — to meet at very specific room with large windows at Starfleet HQ to discuss the situation.

That sounds like a bad idea.

As it turns out, it is. Cumberbatch bombed the library just to get all the heads of Starfleet in this room, so he can use a small gunship and shoot the hell out of everyone in it. Pike dies before Kirk manages to destroy the ship with a fire hose, and Cumberbatch beams away.

Pike dies? He doesn’t get in his little wheelchair box?

Alas, no. Because everything is about Kirk, Kirk uses the opportunity to ask Starfleet Admiral Peter Weller for permission to take the Enterprise and go kill the shit out of Benedict Cumberbatch. Weller accepts. After Scotty somehow figures out that Cumberbatch has gone to the Klingon homeworld, Weller gives the Enterprise 72 experimental new photon torpedoes and says when they locate Harrison, they need to just bomb him from orbit.

Eesh. So that “kill the shit out of Benedict Cumberbatch” thing was literal, huh?

Very much so.

That… that doesn’t seem very Starfleet-y to me.

Well, it doesn’t seem very Starfleet-y to Spock, either, who points out to Kirk that it’s both legally and morally wrong to kill even a known terrorist without a trial. But Kirk really, really want to get revenge for Pike, even to the point of firing Scotty when Scotty refuses to allow the mysterious photon torpedoes on board unless he can see what’s in them (something to do with them maybe fucking up the warp engine).

Kirk fires Scotty? What kind of a Star Trek film is this?

Well, he accepts Scotty’s resignation, but I think your question stands. Anyways, Carol Marcus — who is Admiral Peter Weller’s daughter, although we’re not supposed to know this, and who also has an English accent for some reason — sneaks on board, because she’s a weapons specialist and interested in the torpedoes.

Wasn’t Carol Marcus a molecular biologist in the original Trek universe?

Yeah, I assume the career switch is Eric Bana’s fault.

So then what?

Then Kirk finally decides that murdering a man in cold blood possibly isn’t the right thing to do, and announces they are going to try to catch Benedict Cumberbatch alive. They head to Kronos and are pretty much immediately caught by Klingons, but are saved by Benedict Cumberbatch.

Huh? Why does he save them?

I think mostly to show what a supreme badass he is, since he takes them all out simultaneously, including a few ships, thanks to a very big gun. And then he surrenders.

Huh? What? Why?

Well, he finds out about the weird torpedoes — specifically, the number of them, which is 72 — and then surrenders. There’s actually a reason.

Which is?

Well, as Kirk finds out when he interrogates Benedict Cumberbatch, Cumberbatch made the torpedoes for Peter Weller, and inside each torpedo is one of his cryogenically frozen people, because as it turns out that Cumberbatch is actually —



Aren’t you shocked? Aren’t you surprised at this incredible reveal?

No, I’m just angry. When the movie was announced, Abrams and whoever clearly stated that Cumberbatch would be playing a canon Trek character, and everybody guessed it was Khan. Then they promised he wasn’t playing Khan. And then they said Cumberbatch’s character’s name was John Harrison, even though there’s no previous Trek character named John Harrison, and again we knew it was Khan. And they tried to make it this whole big mystery as if we were all morons who had some how forgotten a classic Trek character named John Harrison, like they were actually going to pull one over on us when we were telling them over an over again that we knew it was Khan and the only thing they were accomplishing by denying it was 1) being assholes and 2) insulting our intelligence.

Well —

And furthermore, using Khan just proves that nu-Trek is going to be nothing more than the greatest hits version of Star Trek, and not even the original hits — some new band covering the old hits. It means that Abrams doesn’t have any original ideas for Star Trek, and is content to rehash the shit people enjoyed the first time. Of all the classic Trek characters to bring back, of all the classic stories they could have brought to mass audiences for the first time, or even bad stories that they could have improved, they go with the one character everybody already fucking knows because they think all we want to see is the same old shit.

You seem to have strong feelings about this.

I do. Also, did you say Khan put his frozen people in torpedoes?


He’s a brilliant strategist and that’s the best plan he could come up with? To hide the people he so desperately wanted to save in explosives? What the fuck was he going to do if Kirk hadn’t conveniently had all those torpedoes on him? And why did Peter Weller give Kirk all 72 torpedoes to kill a single dude in the first place?

…um… Eric Bana?

Fuck you.

Don’t shoot the Frequently Asked Question Answerer, please. Anyways, Kirk verifies the frozen torpedo people with thanks from Carol Markus and Bones, gets some coordinates from Khan, and calls Scotty, the person he’d so recently let go and asks him to check it out. As it turns out, Peter Weller is building a giant combat starship out there because he wants to militarize Starfleet because he’s certain we’re going to meet more races like the Klingons and also because he’s a dick. Weller is also the one who found Khan floating in space, woke him up, and forced him to use his intellect and powers to make badass weapons for him.

Why was Khan floating in space?

Actually, this Khan has the same origin as the original Khan; he’s a genetically engineered warrior, created for the Eugenics Wars of the 1990s. He ruled part of Asia befor —

Wait, what? The Eugenics Wars of the 1990s?


We didn’t have any Eugenics Wars in the 1990s, unless you count Dawson’s Creek.

Yeah, but Gene Roddenberry didn’t know that when he created Khan in 1967.

But we do, because it’s 2013.

But it’s canon! Don’t you like canon?

I like it when it doesn’t get stupid. And why the hell would Abrams and crew stick to Khan’s origin timeline, even though it makes zero sense, but also suddenly change him to a white dude? That’s cherry-picking the stupidest parts of canon and non-canon!

I don’t know. I think it’s nice that in this day and age, a white male can still be cast as an Indian played by a Mexican. White men really have come a long way!

I’m going to punch you in your throat.

Anyways, that’s Khan’s deal. Weller flies the Killerprise to meet Kirk and steal his prisoner, so he 1) doesn’t get caught being an evil dick and 2) can continue being an evil dick and militarize Starfleet. He beams his daughter onto his ship, and then starts firing. The Enterprise takes more direct hits than it does in the entirety of the original TV series.


But before Weller fires the final shot, Scotty, who has snuck upon the Killerprise and apparently been waiting for this exact moment, resets the Killerprise’s power, forcing it to boot back up like Mac (and almost as long). Since the Enterprise has no weapons or shields, Kirk takes the opportunity to team up with Khan and they fly over to the Killerprise; Scotty lets them in.


Yeah, Kirk teams up with Khan! Isn’t that cool? The two enemies, forced to work together to take out a greater enemy?

No, because Khan’s an asshole. Kirk’s being a moron.

In Kirk’s defense, it only takes him 5-10 minutes to realize he’s made a horrible mistake. This mistake is confirmed when they reach the bridge and Khan beats the shit out of Kirk and Scotty, breaks Carol’s leg, and crushes Peter Weller’s head in his hands.

Yeah, that’s pretty much what I figured.

Meanwhile, Spock calls old Spock to ask him what the deal with this Khan guy is.

I thought Old Spock has agreed never to tell New Spock anything so he could live his own life and all that jazz.

Yes. And we know this because Spock says “I had vowed never to tell you anything of your future because I want to live your own life and blah blah blah” just before adding “but Khan is an asshole and here’s exactly how we defeated him.”


Khan offers to trade Kirk and the others for his people and their torpedo beds, which acting captain Spock agrees to. Of course, Spock arms all the torpedoes right before Khan beams them over, so the Killerprise explodes (although not before shooting the Enterprise several million more times).

Brilliant strategist, eh?

He was a little excited. Also, he still had Peter Weller’s skull juice all over his hands; that would distract anybody.

So we’re done?

By no means. The Enterprise is pretty much dead and has entered Earth’s orbit, meaning it’s falling really, really fast. The problem is that the warp drive is misaligned, so —

Wait a minute. I know what’s happening here.

— so the ship can’t stop falling, but the warp drive room is full of radiation and —

Goddammit. GODDAMMIT

— so Kirk runs into the Warp Drive room and kicks it back into place —


— and then Spock realizes what’s happened and he runs down to the room where he sees Kirk dying behind the locked glass door and —


— and Kirk puts his hand on the glass and Spock puts his hand on the glass and he makes the Vulcan salute and Kirk dies and —


— Spock —


— Spock yells —




Why don’t you like it?

I liked it just fine, the first time I saw it in Wrath of Khan. Of course, the reason I like it is is because Kirk and Spock’s friendship has been part of pop culture for 15 years, so Spock’s death and Kirk’s anguish was given some actual agency, instead of now, when Kirk and Spock have known each other for four hours of screentime, two of which they didn’t like each other. I also liked it the first time because it was new and not a crass, creatively bankrupt attempt to manipulate the audience’s emotions, not through sadness because there’s clearly no way Kirk is actually going to stay dead, but because the scene is nothing more “HERE IS SOMETHING YOU HAVE SEEN BEFORE WITH A SLIGHT DIFFERENCE SO YOU WILL LIKE IT” as opposed to even trying to give us something, anything, genuinely new.


So next movie is “The Search for Kirk,” I suppose?

Nah. See, Bones drew some of Khan’s blood to figure out why he was so strong and resilient, and he injected it into a dead Tribble because… because I suppose Bones’ hobby is inject dead things with various people’s blood? It’s a little weird.

/sound of facepalm

As it happens, as soon as Bones’ hears Kirk has died, the dead Tribble comes back to life, thanks to Khan’s blood!

/sound of gun being loaded

The Killerprise has crash-landed on San Francisco, and Khan is of course fine despite the destruction of many, many high-rise buildings and thousands upon thousands of people. Spock chases Khan down, they have a fist fight on top of some moving flying cars, and with help from Uhura they get their man. And they bring Kirk back to life!

Uh-huh. So they’ve just eliminated death forever.

Beg pardon?

Kirk was dead for many, many minutes of radiation poisoning, right? He gets injected with Khan’s blood —

A synthesized version of it.

— even better. So what wouldn’t Khan’s blood fix? Decapitation, but most other mortal wounds? Poisons? Phaser blasts, I bet. Certainly most other illnesses and cancers and such. And probably aging, at leats to an extent. So basically Bones has discovered the secret to eternal life, and not only will no one on the Enterprise ever need to die again unless their body is somehow destroyed, but all of the civilization — heck, probably galactic civilization – will be irrevocably changed because of this amazing discovery.

Uh, I don’t think so. I think they just save Kirk and then forget about it.

Of course they do. And I suppose the Tribble that Bones brought back to life multiplies like Tribbles do and causes its own horrible situation?

No, it’s just not mentioned again. Maybe Bones kills it with his bare hands to keep it from spawning. Or maybe he injects it with Mountain Dew or something, since that’s how he rolls.

/sound of gun being cocked

And then Kirk gives a speech at Starfleet a year later, because everything is all about him, and then they start on their five-year mission! Which will almost certainly involve Space Whales, since that’s the next biggest thing people remember about Star Trek. The end!


Anonymous User
Scififan91 (Guest)
9 years, 2 months ago

Sooo didn’t wanna see the movie until AFTER reading this. Now I gotta!

Anonymous User
Jay McD (Guest)
9 years, 2 months ago

So you guys ripped of i09? Pretty crappy.

Anonymous User
David Toussaint (Guest)
9 years, 2 months ago

Hey, the author and iO9 are credited in the piece and the excerpt, and there is a link. We did not claim to write this; quite the opposite.