Star Trek Into Darkness Writer Defends One Of The Flick’s Most Controversial Choices

By David Wharton | 8 years ago

HandsStar Trek Into Darkness co-writer Roberto Orci has been in the unwanted limelight in a major way this week after basically losing his shit on Twitter and yelling at fans who didn’t like the latest Trek sequel. More specifically, he compared naysaying fans to children “acting out” against their parents, and then ramped things up even further by telling those fans to “FUCK OFF!” Of course, he soon backpedaled and apologized, but that sort of thing doesn’t go back in the box. Assuming Paramount doesn’t ship him off to anger management classes, Orci should maybe take a lesson from his writing partner Alex Kurtzman, who used the week of Star Trek Into Darkness’ Blu-ray release to speak honestly about some of the movie’s more controversial elements…without once insulting anybody.

Speaking to Blastr, Kurtzman didn’t make any apologies for Star Trek Into Darkness, not even for the bits that sent some die-hard Trekkies into the stratosphere on fiery columns of pure Nerd Rage. As you might guess…


Obviously the biggest, most debated and yelled-about element of Into Darkness was its villain. Months were spent dodging questions, providing false clues, and outright lying about one of the worst-kept secrets on the planet over the last year or so: that British actor Benedict Cumberbatch was playing the legendary Khan, first played — and perfectly played — by Ricardo Montalban. That character was considered sacred by many Trek fans, so the very notion of recasting the role at all smacked of heresy. But even more controversial than redoing Khan at all was Into Darkness‘ ending, which flipped Wrath of Khan’s iconic finale by having Kirk and Spock switch roles — Kirk dies (briefly) saving the ship while Spock looks on helplessly. But while that scene has been the target of plenty of online anger, it turns out the sequence is one of Kurtzman’s favorite parts of Into Darkness. He tells Blastr:

It’s one of, if not the most iconic scenes ever in Trek canon. Knowing that we were going to be heading to that place but for totally different reasons and having the roles be completely reversed was this weird magnet we were drawn toward as we were writing. We knew we had to make that moment credible and believable. What made it work for us conceptually was the idea that Spock was unable to understand for the whole movie Kirk’s definition of friendship. He didn’t know what it meant. What Kirk was saying was ‘The reason that I risked my life for you is because you’re my friend, and that’s what you do for each other.’ Spock’s Vulcan mind just wasn’t able to process that, and it wasn’t until he experienced the loss of his friend that he finally came to understand what friendship meant as Kirk was defining it. In that moment, he was able to express emotion that he was not able to tap into. We got emotional writing that scene. The way it was done in The Wrath of Khan was so brilliant, and it’s so beloved, so knowing you are even stepping into that territory is so tricky, but I think we felt like we accomplished what we wanted. And when I watch it now I’m proud of what that moment represents.

That’s not a response that’s likely to change anyone’s mind, but I have to respect the guy for owning his creative choices and not trying to, as Orci did, attack the fans who didn’t like those choices.

As somebody who for the most part enjoyed Into Darkness for what it was, rather than what it wasn’t, I think the movie handled a controversial decision in as good a way it could have. Redo-ing Khan was always going to be a lightning rod, all the more so for a rebooted version of Trek that many longtime franchise fans hate. But if you’re going to revisit that iconic character, for the love of god at least do something different with him. For the most part, for good or ill, they did that, crafting a new way to introduce the character into the timeline, and one that was thematically linked to the big shocker of Abrams’ first film, the destruction of Vulcan. As much as Into Darkness pissed off many, can you imagine how much worse the furor would have been if they’d literally just redone Wrath of Khan with the new cast? It would have made Gus Van Sant’s shot-for-shot Psycho remake look positively sensible.

Either way, what’s done is done. While Into Darkness has done nothing to endear Abrams’ take on the Trek universe to the naysayers who hated the first movie, it was still a decent success, taking in $465 million worldwide, against a $190 million budget, and earning generally positive reviews, currently sitting at 87% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. For comparison’s sake, here are the ratings for a few of the year’s other high-profile science fiction releases:

In spite the rebooted franchise’s less-than-cordial reception by some dedicated Trek fans, Kurtzman and Orci will return to script Star Trek 3, which is likely being targeted for a 2016 release to tie into Trek’s 50th anniversary. With Abrams’ attention primarily over in that other beloved sci-fi universe, and having already revisited probably the most controversial bit of Trek canon they could have possibly chosen, I’m hoping the rebooted franchise will move on to tell a new story for the next installment. Kurtzman doesn’t have any secrets to tell, at least not yet:

It’s overwhelming and daunting, because every time we think we’ve narrowed down a passageway, we come out the other side and realize there are two trillion more out there. You want to choose the right ones. But we always imagined that we were creating an alternate timeline so we could play in harmony with canon. We can see things that were familiar, but also the events themselves might have minor differences, and sometimes major differences. I think that leaves us room to go either way and be unpredictable, which is the whole point of creating an alternate timeline. At the end of the day, because we give so much thought to what the stories are going to be and how to tell them, it’s ultimately about what feels right. Certainly our ears are open to what fans are saying about the show, the movies and our movies, so that all goes into the stew.

Star Trek Into Darkness is now available on 3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray, DVD, and digital download.