Scotty once started a brawl with Klingons — and risked a diplomatic crisis — when a member of the warrior race merely called the Enterprise a "garbage scow." What must he think of the baddie who's inflicted this hull-breaching, bulkhead-shattering damage on his beloved ship in Star Trek Into Darkness?
A new poster released by Paramount for the movie (out May 17) continues the tradition of showing the Enterprise in a state of extreme damage that started with those shots of the ship crashing into San Francisco bay in the first teaser last December. Presumably this damage is being inflicted upon the NCC-1701 by villain John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch). But this raises even more questions. How is Harrison able to pull this off?
He's a former Starfleet agent — I've been guessing for awhile he's a member of the rogue Federation black ops intel agency Section 31 — so it's possible he could commandeer another ship to launch an attack on the Enterprise. But we've never seen a glimpse in any of the trailers of this mystery ship that seems to be suckerpunching it. In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, the Khan-commandeered ship, Reliant, is only able to inflict damage upon the Enterprise via a sneak attack. Kirk & Co. thought the Reliant was part of their big happy fleet, so they didn't even bother to raise shields in time.
But it seems like John Harrison is established as a villain very early in Star Trek Into Darkness, because of the attack on London he launches that apparently sets in motion the events of the film. It's hard to imagine Kirk would be caught off guard by Harrison the way his alternate-universe alter ego was with Khan. So if he's not caught off guard, how could Harrison, having commandeered presumably only one ship, inflict all this damage on the Enterprise? Maybe he hasn't only taken over one ship...maybe it's some kind of fleet-wide mutinee, with the Enterprise having to fend off multiple attackers. That could explain why it's damaged so severely that it crashes into San Francisco Bay. Unless Counselor Troi has traveled back in time, taken the helm of the Enterprise and unnecessarily crashed it just like she trashed the Enterprise-D in Star Trek Generations. I'm just hoping Chris Pine's Kirk is taking a page from Shatner Kirk's playbook and destroying the Enterprise to achieve ultimate victory, like he does in The Search for Spock.
This is all speculation, of course, but I've thought before that Harrison might be leading a faction within the Federation that thinks Starfleet needs to be a military power first and foremost, and not the exploratory and humanitarian organization Kirk and his crew want it to be. Harrison could launch the attack on London as a wake-up call to a Federation he perceives as stagnant, ineffectual, and vulnerable — "You think your world is safe..." — after they don't fundamentally change their priorities following the destruction of Vulcan in the last film. The movie, then, could be about a battle for the soul of the Federation. Will that august interplanetary coalition continue to seek out new lifeforms and new civilizations and boldly go where no one has gone before, or retreat within its own boundaries and become a security state?
That's a theme that Star Trek has touched upon before — especially in the fantastic Deep Space Nine two-parter of "Homefront" and "Paradise Lost" that was based on Seven Days in May — but this could really be a chance to go deeper. Already the trailers for Into Darkness indicate this movie will feature more of Earth than any Trek movie or TV episode before. Originally, writers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci had suggested they wanted their sequel to be a true "trek," about Kirk and his crew encountering some mystery, paradox, or threat from the universe itself, rather than just having it be a good vs. evil thriller with a clearly denoted bad guy. Well, the latter seems to be what we've gotten. But maybe some of those more philosophical musings are still in the script. Maybe, amidst all the urban terror that seems to be such a central part of this film, are themes that speak to the very heart of why we should care about the Federation, why the ideals of Kirk & Crew are worth aspiring to. And I maintain that the "threat from the universe itself" angle could still be in play, if some godlike being imbued John Harrison with those superhuman powers he seems to exhibit in the trailers.
No matter what, the Enterprise seems to be facing danger from a source far greater even than that gangly 24th century Romulan mining ship from the 2009 film. Based on that breach landing, it looks like Kirk should be preparing to move into a replacement ship, an Enterprise-A if you will. But he shouldn't worry. As Commander Riker once said, "There are plenty of letters in the alphabet."
Follow Christian Blauvelt on Twitter @Ctblauvelt