J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek did the impossible. It took a franchise whose fans personify extreme geek obsession and updated it with big budget effects and smart, youthful castings. It managed to bring a new audience the franchise, making Trek cool, but had enough reverence of the classic series to keep the majority of the Trekkies (or their more extreme version Trekkers) happy.
After the gambit of time travel, allowing for Leonard Nimoy and Zachary Quinto to share the screen as the same character, paid off massively, everyone, fan or no, was eager to see what the sequel, Star Trek Into Darkness, would bring. The film has proved to be a resounding success, playing with audiences expectations and allowing a fine balance of action and brains. Lens flare makes a return, but certainly not to the level before and in this sci-fi future (rather than the nostalgic eighties of Super 8) it feels right at home. Quinto wows again as Spock, but the whole cast, including newcomer Benedict Cumberbatch as a menacing superman, are exemplar
Time Travel creating an alternate timeline allowed for films that could perfect elements from the original show without having to be fully reverential. Despite that, Abrams and his team have filled the film with countless in jokes and subtle references for the fans to discover. Some are blatantly obvious, but some are subtly hidden in the stellar screenplay, or just there in the background. In honour of this fan pleasing, we bring you ten cool things in Star Trek Into Darkness you might just have missed the first time around.
Spoilers to the film abound, so if you haven’t seen Into Darkness yet (and any warm blooded sci-fi fan should have), tread carefully.
Honourable Mention – Many More Species
One of the few blanket criticisms levelled against the first Star Trek was the short shrift it gave the plethora of classic aliens the series has amassed, instead spending its time on big eyed, long faced newcomers (and the known pointy eared ones). The sequel has gone above and beyond to bring more favourites back. Aside from blatant appearance of the redesigned Klingons and Kronos, there’s plenty of others.
The weird ball of fluff that gives Bones a way to save Kirk after Khan’s blood brings it back to life is a Tribble, who with their ridiculously fast reproductive system, wreaked havoc in the original series and proved to be the basis for an exciting crossover between The Original Series and Deep Space Nine. Arguably more well know, the Gorn, a species made iconic by the worst fight scene ever, gets a mention; Bones has helped one birth octuplets.
These aren’t too well hidden, hence why this is just a mention. For some devilishly hidden references, click next and discover what exciting things you missed in Star Trek Into Darkness.
10. The Mudd Incident
The events of Star Trek Into Darkness take place one year after the events of the first film, allowing for the crew of the Enterprise to have developed as a group and to have had their initial adventures. One such adventure mentioned is the ‘Mudd incident’. Taking place a month before the film, Sulu tells us it’s the reason the ship the crew take down to Kronos was in the Enterprise.
Harry Mudd was a recurring baddie in the original series. Always trying to con someone out of something, he appeared twice in the show and once in the animated series. His mention here, however, is a lot more involved than some other side references (like the gorn).
In a preview comic for the film, suitably titled Countdown To Darkness, we get to see the incident play out in full. And it’s a little different to how fans would have imagined it…
Mudd in the comic is Bajoran woman, but rather than a daring redesign of the character, its in fact an expansion; this Mudd is the original’s daughter.
9. Section 31 Returns
We’ll see an awful lot in this article that there’s a lot in jokes present in Into Darkness that reference the original series, but the other Trek shows also get a mention. Our introduction to Benedict Cumberbatch’s John Harrison/Khan is him using Noel Clarke’s Federation worker to attack what is known as a Starfleet archive in London. It’s later revealed that it wasn’t just an archive; the target was Section 31, a secret branch of Starfleet with militaristic goals. The plot of Into Darkness crosses with various existing stories – Wrath Of Khan in particular – but this concept is direct from one source.
The organisation featured in both Enterprise and Deep Space Nine, giving non-classically inclined Trekkie some love. There are differences between the small and large screen representations, but the general idea (an unethical, secret branch of Starfleet with a bent on armament) is the same.
What’s particularly poignant about Section 31 in this alternate reality, is that it’s housed in the Kelvin Memorial Archive. The destruction of something in tribute of his father just adds fuel to Kirk’s vengeance trip.
8. Admiral Marcus’ Starships Desk
When Kirk is convincing Admiral Marcus to let him go after John Harrison, we see his room is adorned with models of various starships. Not as random as they first appear, each model is of a ship of some impotence to the development of Starfleet and space travel in general.
Of the five ships, three are various Enterprises. There’s the real world NASA space shuttle Enterprise. Then there’s the obscure, ringed XCV 330 USS Enterprise which appears as a painting in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. And finally there’s the NX-01 Enterprise from the TV show Star Trek: Enterprise. The other two are a bit more interesting. There’s the Phoenix from First Contact, the first Earth ship to reach light speed and, foreshadowing the plot of the film, the USS Vengeance, which provides much of the action in the later part of the film.
It’s impressive that in one scene, Abrams’ manages to references many different areas of Trek lore and expand upon what exists in this alternate reality.
7. Chekov Can’t Meet Khan Yet
Scottie proves to be a much bigger piece of events than in the previous film, resigning from duty and eventually finding himself aboard the USS Vengeance. Due to his proficiency in the area, Chekov is ‘promoted’ to his position. It’d be quite easy to dismiss Chekov taking up the role of Chief Engineer simply as a screenwriter’s solution to filling the hole Simon Pegg’s Scottish engineer left on the Enterprise. But there’s a much geekier reason at play here.
Khan first appeared in Season 1 of The Original Series, but Walter Koenig didn’t join the cast as Chekov until Season 2, making The Wrath Of Khan the first time the two character’s paths cross (in fact, Chekov’s the only crew member of the Enterprise to meet Khan in person in that film… which leads to a memorable continuity mistake of Khan remembering Chekov and “never forgetting a face” despite it being the first time they have met!).
In putting Anton Yelchin’s Chekov below decks, Abrams and co. have maintained that element of the film, potentially holding back scenes for a later instalment with Cumberbatch.
6. Nurse Chapel Gets A Nod
One notable, humorous scene of Into Darkness has Carol Marcus telling Kirk of a former conquest of his, Christine Chapel. In a moment where Chris Pine channels Barney Stinson, he doesn’t remember which of his many encounters she is. It’s a rare moment where the film slows down and gives a non-plot related view of the characters, but for fans of the original show, it’s truly geektastic.
Christine Chapel, better known as Doctor Chapel, was a large presence in the original and animated series. Slowly introduced, she worked on the Enterprise and had a romantic attraction to Spock. In Star Trek she had one off-screen line, but here she gets some proper development. Her and Kirk had a brief encounter, which ended up motivating her to become a doctor.
It’s a nice mirroring to have her and Kirk, rather than the now taken Spock, have a romantic encounter. Abrams’ alternate timeline allows for plenty of reverential mirroring, but here its also used as a way to look into the film’s main character.
5. Some Guys Really Have It Rough
Fans of any form of Trek should have had a feeling of familiarity when Kirk, Spock, Uhura and two red shirts departed for Kronos. Not only are audiences getting to see the first appearance of Klingons in the alternate timeline after a scene involving them was deleted from the first Abrams film, presenting a fresh redesign (all ridged helmets and smooth heads), but they’re getting to see some less well known characters return.
However, the sequence also has plenty of fan pleasing for those who were new to the series with Star Trek. The two red shirts that Kirk brings along are the same ones who beat him up at the start of the original film. They already were made the butt of a joke in that film when Kirk quickly rose above them, but here its more a little nod to the audience, with a blink and you’ll miss it close up.
We don’t see the characters after Khan is captured, implying they were killed by him or the klingons. Taking off those red shirts didn’t help.
4. Urban’s Reading From The Original Script
Each of the key crew members of the Enterprise is iconic enough that non-Trekkies could recognise them; there’s Russian Chekov, Japanese Sulu, Scottish Scottie. OK, most are extensions of their race, but they’re all done sensitively (Uhura is an impressive portrayal of a black woman given that the show is from the sixties). But there are characters where it’s their overriding characteristics that are the most recognisable.
Leonard McCoy, the Enterprise’s doctor, is most known for his catchphrases and by extension gruff humanity, something played up to in Abrams films. His most famous catchphrase, “Dammit Jim! I’m a doctor, not [something ridiculous]” was used in Star Trek, but in Into Darkness it goes a step further, with the suitably crazy ‘torpedo technician’. It’s worth noting that in both occurrences in the alternate timeline, it has been said to Spock, not Kirk, once again showing the differences between universes.
This isn’t the only time Urban utters a line used in the original series. The line “Shut up Spock, we’re rescuing you!” from the film’s opening is directly lifted from the second season episode The Immunity Syndrome. As, I would say, the most relatably human character out the key crew, Bones is a great way to sneak in these little references without it feeling too forced.
3. Remnants Of The Old Earth
Even though Star Trek is set in the 23rd Century, the Earth it presents still has some remnants of the world we know today. Although London is full of skyscrapers that make the Shard look positively archaic, St Paul’s Cathedral still stands tall and obviously the Golden Gate Bridge is still part of San Francisco, easily seen from Starfleet headquarters.
But the film isn’t only content with showing the survival of major buildings. Following the crash of the USS Vengeance, Spock chases Khan through the San Francisco streets, darting across a road. As well some floating cars much more advanced than the classic Corvette Kirk joyrides in the first movie, tucked away on the side is the iconic cable car.
What’s most noteworthy about this inclusion is how nothings changed; the tram still goes on the track like it does today and doesn’t appear to have any futuristic enhancements.
2. The Wrath Of John
It’s not hard to notice the mirrors between Into Darkness and The Wrath Of Khan, the second Trek movie; the Quinto/Nimoy conversation even directly references it. Being an offset universe, however, this film allows Abrams and co. to have a lot of fun with that. Obviously there’s the entire final act which takes the key elements of Khan and reverses Spock and Kirk, but there’s a lot of smaller references.
Carol Marcus is a fairly major character in the Original Series, having a love affair with Kirk, with whom she has a son, David. In Wrath Of Khan, David sneaks onto the Enterprise in much the same way as she does in Into Darkness, using his mother’s surname to avoid his more prominent father’s.
Abrams’ Star Trek’s really do delight in knowingly subverting the classic series and films; in this universe Uhura, capable of rusty kilingon in Into Darkness, while knowing none in the original one (see The Undiscovered Country). Sure, it could be a plot contrivance, but its still a lot of fun.
1. Dedicated To Post 9/11 Veterans
J.J. Abrams isn’t new to evoking modern events in his movies. With shots of a devastated New York and civilians covered in dust wandering aimlessly, Cloverfield, which he produced, skirted very close to 9/11 media coverage. You could argue Star Trek Into Darkness’ crashing of the USS Vengeance into San Francisco is going for a similar goal, but by Abrams’ own admission, the film is going for something a bit different.
Few people will have stuck around after the trip around the universe at the start of the ending credits (there’s no Avengers-esque sting here), but there is a rather nice note. The film is dedicated to post-9/11 veterans, thanks to Abrams’ involvement with The Mission Continues, a charity that helps veterans integrate back into society through community work.
On top of the touching dedication, Abrams’ also cast six veterans in the movie. During Admiral Pike’s funeral, the six men who fold the flag are fellows of the charity, lending a sombre realism to the already tragic scene.
So there’s our ten things you could have missed from Star Trek Into Darkness (with a few other gems thrown in for good measure). Are they any we’ve not mentioned on this list? Let us know in the comments below.