That's Illogical, Captain: Why Star Trek into Darkness Screws Everything Up


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 dialog. So I wait until most films are on cable before I see them.

It is for this reason that I have only just seen Star Trek into Darkness. [N.B. I actually avoided the new Star Trek franchise entirely because I am an original Trekker (not Trekkie!), and could not imagine a reboot being any good. I ended up being charmed by the first film -- against my will.] 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. [Note that if you have not yet seen Star Trek into Darkness, this article is one huge spoiler.]

We are here introduced to Khan Noonian Singh, a "product of 20th century genetic engineering" – even before the "Space Seed" episode; 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, Star Trek into Darkness 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 Star Trek into Darkness, 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 before, 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 see the similarities when Spock does the exact same thing in Star Trek II? (Indeed, some of the dialog is the same in both films.)

I might also add that, in the new films, Spock and Uhura are romantically involved. (At least, as romantically as Spock is ever likely to be.) Given this, why do neither of them seem to even be aware of having had any such relationship when we meet them in the original television series? Even if they had broken off their relationship by then, one would still expect to see "vestiges" of it.

Ultimately, Star Trek into Darkness 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 in to the next film. And I have the germ of 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.

At the end of Star Trek into Darkness, Khan is back in stasis with his crew in an undisclosed location, and the Enterprise is just beginning its five-year mission. What follows is 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 10-15 years later in "space Seed."

Somehow, Khan's cryotube malfunctions, allowing him to re-awaken. Furious at Kirk, Spock et al for his capture, he awakens the remainder of his crew, commandeers a ship, and goes after the Enterprise.

Perhaps in the middle of a first space battle, an unknown and powerful alien race appears. This race subjugates all other races by erasing their memories, and turning them into slaves. It is explained (in some fashion) that this memory-erasing process works backward: i.e., a being's most recent memories are erased first, and the process moves back in time. It is also explained that this process takes a little time; in the meantime, the beings are somehow restrained (perhaps via mind control, or drugs, or whatever).

The process begins on both ships (i.e., the Enterprise and the ship commandeered by Khan and his crew), and we see (via cloudy imagery) the memories of the two crews being erased. This 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 would have to be erased a bit further back if we want to eliminate their relationship entirely.]

The remainder of the film would have to include some sort of agreement between the Enterprise and the commandeered ship to jointly go after the alien craft ("the enemy of my enemy is my friend"); perhaps the viewscreens on both ships were damaged in the initial battle, so that they can no longer see each other, and thus would not recognize each other later. 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. Perhaps the end of the film could show each ship in a separate (new) battle of some sort, and thus too "engaged" to be thinking of the other.

I admitted that it's sketchy, but something of this nature would fulfill many positives for Abrams & Co. It would: allow the 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 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'll take a mere 5% off the back end. What say? - Ian Alterman

Mr. Alterman is a founding moderator of, the number one progressive rock website in the world. He writes there under the name Maani. (Don't ask.)