Forgive me. I am always quite late to feature films, since I refuse to pay $15 to watch 20 minutes worth of ads, and then (all too often) deal with annoying people during the film, often missing important dialogue. So I wait until most films are on cable before I see them.
It is for this reason that I saw Star Trek Into Darkness almost a year late. [N.B. If you have not yet seen STID, this article is one huge spoiler.] And anyone who is familiar with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (and the "Space Seed" episode of the original television series) will realize that Star Trek: Into Darkness hopelessly destroys the Star Trek timeline. [N.B. I actually avoided the new Star Trek franchise entirely because I am an original Trekker (not Trekkie!), and could not imagine “prequels” being any good. I ended up being charmed by the first film -- against my will.]
It is important to note here that during an interview when the first film of the new series came out, one or the other of director J.J. Abrams, writer-producer Alex Kurtzman and producer Bryan Burke stated that it was not a “re-boot”: that they specifically set out to “honor the canon” (the five TV series’ and ten feature films). Indeed, during that interview, when asked why William Shatner did not appear in the new film (since that was part of the original plan), one of them stated (I am paraphrasing here), "We could not find a way to include him that was not either gratuitous or did not interfere with the original storyline. There is a film in which Kirk dies, and even in a world of science fiction, we could not find a way to ‘resurrect’ him and make it work. With Spock, once he was resurrected in Search for Spock, he remained alive, so his inclusion made sense within the canon.” They added (again, a paraphrase), "There is a legion of fans out there and we do not want to let them down by interfering with the canon."
In this regard, the only…logical error in the first film is the romance between Spock and Uhura. Given this early romance, why do neither of them seem to even be aware of it when we meet them in the original television series? After all, even if they had broken off their relationship by then, one would still expect to see “vestiges” of it. Yet there is nothing in the original TV series, or any of the films starring the original cast, that even hints at such a romance.
Sadly, the…illogical aspects of Star Trek Into Darkness are far more significant.
In STID, we are introduced to Khan Noonian Singh -- a "product of 20th century genetic engineering" -- even before the “Space Seed” episode of the original series; he is a much younger version of the one played (brilliantly) by Ricardo Montalban in that episode and in Star Trek II. Khan tells us that he and his crew had been locked in suspended animation for "300 years" before he alone was awoken. Khan wreaks havoc (as Khan is wont to do), and is eventually put back into suspended animation by Spock & Co. In the meantime, Captain Kirk is fatally irradiated when he fixes the warp core, but is miraculously brought back to life after Dr. McCoy creates a regenerative cure from Khan’s "superblood."
If we had not met Khan in the original television series and one of the original films, STID would be even more excellent than it is. (And it is excellent.) However, by introducing him this early in the life of the Enterprise crew -- and particularly by having Kirk brought back to life by Khan’s own blood (or at least a serum derived from it) -- the rest of the Star Trek franchise story is thrown into disarray.
After all, assuming all the events of STID, why don’t Kirk and the rest of the senior crew recognize Khan (or even his name) when he appears in the “Space Seed” episode? And why does Khan not recognize them? After all, they met (in STID) only a decade or two prior to the original TV series, and Kirk is only alive because of Khan. As well, in "Space Seed," Khan spends time “catching up” on 300 years of Earth history, including Starfleet (which is why, in Star Trek II, he recognizes Chekov, even though Chekov did not appear in “Space Seed”). So why would he have to do so twice?
As well, given Kirk's repair of the warp core, his death by radiation, and his revival, why did no one in the senior crew notice the similarities when Spock does the exact same thing in Star Trek II? (Indeed, some of the dialog is identical in both films.)
Ultimately, STID could not…logically precede either the television series (which takes place about 10-15 years later) or the original film series (which takes place about 20 years later).
What to do? If director J.J. Abrams has any interest in correcting the timeline, it is actually still possible to do so -- by writing it into the next film. And I just happen to have an idea how to do that (which I will share even if Abrams steals it and gives me neither credit nor the millions I would otherwise receive). Here, then, is my idea for what I am calling Star Trek: Out of Time -- a very sketchy outline of a plot that would “re-adjust” the timeline such that it would make sense that neither Kirk and his crew nor Khan would remember each other when they meet just 10-15 years later in "Space Seed."
At the end of STID, Khan is back in stasis with his crew in an undisclosed location, and the Enterprise is just beginning its five-year mission. We pick up the story just weeks later.
Somehow, Khan’s cryotube malfunctions, allowing him to re-awaken. Furious at Kirk, Spock & Company for his capture, he awakens the remainder of his crew, commandeers a ship (a nice opportunity here for homage -- and ultimately "prequel" -- to Khan’s similar action in Star Trek II) , and goes after the Enterprise.
Just as the first space battle begins between Khan and the Enterprise (Kirk & Company are unaware yet who is attacking them), an unknown and powerful new alien race appears. This race subjugates all other races by remotely erasing their memories (and thus any reason to revolt), and turning them into slaves. It is explained (in some fashion) that this memory-erasing process works backward (a being’s most recent memories are erased first, and the process moves back in time) and that the process takes a little time. The first thing the aliens do is knock out communications (including view screens) in both ships.
The aliens begin the memory-erasing process remotely -- on both ships (i.e., the Enterprise and Khan’s ship) -- and we see (via cloudy imagery) the memories of the two crews being erased. (This could provide some interesting filming, since their memories would be being erased as events were occuring, as well as erasing them “backwards” from the present.) The remainder of the film would have to include some sort of unspoken understanding (since the two ships cannot communicate via audio or video) between the Enterprise and Khan’s ship to jointly go after the alien craft (“the enemy of my enemy is my friend”). Note that while Kirk & Company never know that it was Khan who attacked them, Khan knows -- initially -- but that memory is wiped as the aliens begin wiping everyone’s memory. Finally, in destroying the alien ship, some sort of massive energy force is released that sends the Enterprise and the commandeered ship in opposite directions (through different wormholes?) such that there would be no way for them to find or communicate with each other (even if their communications had not been destroyed). Thus, at the end, we have Kirk & Company in one "quadrant," never having known who attacked them, and having had all memories of their encounter with Khan erased, and Khan & Company in another quadrant, with all memories of Kirk & Company having been erased.
This storyline would allow Abrams to erase only back to the point that the Enterprise and Khan met, thus re-instating a proper timeline such that relationships among the Enterprise crew would remain intact, while the meeting in "Space Seed" would be new to all parties. [N.B. The memories of Spock and Uhura could be erased a bit further back if we want to eliminate their relationship entirely. This could make a wonderful subplot for the film.]
I admitted that it's sketchy, but something of this nature would fulfill many positives for Abrams & Co. It would: allow the "corrected" return of Khan (ranked #10 Greatest Screen Villain according to the Online Film Critics Society), this time with his entire "superhuman" crew; allow for a correction of the entire internal timeline; provide ample opportunity for space battles and other intrigues; and allow for an ending that would provide a…logical explanation of why the two crews do not meet again for 10-15 years, and why they do not recognize each other when they do meet.
Mr. Abrams, if you’re reading this: I realize the plot needs a little tweaking. So I'll take a mere 5% off the back end. What say? - Ian Alterman
Mr. Alterman is a founding moderator of Progarchives.com, the number one progressive rock website in the world. He writes there under the name Maani. (Don't ask.)