It’s been a bit more than a week since the newest Star Trek movie came out, making a lot of money and should to make millions more. I’ve seen the movie, and I’ll probably talk about it more as a review, especially comparing it to the original show and run of movies, but for now I’ll do something that is pretty much spoiler-free. Except for the first scene in the movie.
At the start of the film, we seen goings-on at a planet where Kirk and McCoy are running from the natives. That planet, with an Avatar-like feel except for having mostly red plant life and white aliens, is called Nibiru. The name of the planet is well-known to the conspiracy-minded as it was predicted by doom-sayers to be on a collision course with Earth. Of course, that prediction was first for 2003. Then it was switched to 2012. What next?
Now, why Nibiru? Skeptics like Phil Plait moan at seeing the name, and other nerds don’t seem to understand why. However, I think there is a simple explanation, and it can help explain the entire movie in a literary way. Again, I won’t spoil anything beyond the opening, but this may help enjoy the movie in a more total fashion. The full action of the scene is that the Enterprise crew, when researching the planet, discovered it had an intelligent civilization but soon to be wiped out by a volcano. Spock devises a “cold fusion bomb” to kill the volcano’s wrath (yeah, instead of that, they should have said something like endothermic warhead–it’s SciFi and not cringe-worthy), but the setting of it goes wrong. So Kirk has to reveal the Enterprise to the natives to save Spock, rising out of the water (yes, the ship was acting as submarine), and then getting into beaming position to save Spock at the last minute. After leaving, the natives are seen drawing the ship and worshiping it. Kirk, in saving Spock, has broken the Prime Directive.
Now, what this scene has going on in its superstructure is something I see through the rest of the film: reversals. In the myth promoted by people such as Zecharia Sitchin, aliens from Nibiru came to Earth, landed, and used humans for their own purposes, namely for getting gold. In the process, they make human civilization and the myths of peoples, such as the Sumerians, who hold on to these tales. In Star Trek: Into Darkness, this is completely reversed: humans go to Nibiru, they save the aliens (rather than use them), and humans inspire their myths. Also the Enterprise comes from the water rather than from above, both acting as a reversal as well as recreating the helicarrier scene from Avengers–so it’s awesome and a reversal. This makes the scene intelligible and not just a name thrown on there to seem cool. I’m just surprised I haven’t seen anyone else make the same observation.
Throughout the rest of the movie you have these sorts of reversals, especially when you have this film playing with the material from the original series and movies. But again, no spoilers here, just the point that there are a lot of reversals, which seems to be the primary story-telling method being used by Abrams and his writers, which can be compared to perhaps the best Trek film of all, Wrath of Khan. But about that next time.