Star Trek: Into Darkness, Nitpicks and Plot Holes

This is Spoiler Country. If you aren’t ready for spoilers, you might want to skip this post.

I haven’t even opened my M&Ms and we already got nitpicks.

  • Why did Khan use his blood to save the girl and have the guy drop a ring into a glass of water to destroy the lab in London? What if when proposed with this opportunity the man called Starfleet police instead? What if he let Khan cure his daughter first and then call Starfleet police? Why take these risks? Can’t Khan with his superior intellect blow up that lab on his own?

  • How does Spock use a “cold fusion bomb” to freeze a volcano when cold fusion in real science generates heat/energy?

  • Wouldn’t suddenly freezing an active volcano have other bad side effects for the planet? Volcanos help a planet release pressure. Where is all the pressure going to go now?

  • Was the Enterprise really designed to function under water? To be able to use thrusters under water?

  • Why are we hiding the Enterprise under the water just outside the village when the goal is not to be seen? There is no fucking reason for the ship to even be in the atmosphere of this fucking planet. There are shuttle crafts and beaming for this kind of stuff.

  • Kirk gets stripped of command, sent back to the academy and reinstated as first commander in like what, 5 on-screen minutes? Give him 5 more: Pike dies and he becomes Captain once again. For a movie with a theme of learning responsibility (which is sadly a repeat of the first movie) this just feels wrong.

  • How does Spock rationalize breaking the prime directive via freezing an active volcano but looses his shit about letting the natives see a starship? What a fucking hypocrite.

An aside on the “The Prime Directive” for you ignorant sluts out there…

The Prime Directive, Articles of the Federation, Chapter I, Article II, Paragraph VII:

Nothing within these Articles Of Federation shall authorize the United Federation of Planets to intervene in matters which are essentially the domestic jurisdiction of any planetary social system, or shall require the members to submit such matters to settlement under these Articles Of Federation. But this principle shall not prejudice the application of enforcement measures under Chapter VII

Jonathan Archer:

Some day, my people are gonna come up with some sort of a doctrine, something that says what we can and can’t do out here, should and shouldn’t do. But until someone tells me that they’ve drafted that…directive, I’m gonna have to remind myself every day that we didn’t come out here to play God.

Jean-Luc Picard:

The Prime Directive is not just a set of rules. It is a philosophy, and a very correct one. History has proven again and again that whenever mankind interferes with a less developed civilization, no matter how well intentioned that interference may be, the results are invariably disastrous.

Fuck the Prime Directive we have a volcano scene to shoot, I mean to stop!

Khan’s plan makes no sense!

After the events of the first movie Admiral Marcus wants Starfleet to be militarized and needs more powerful weapons. Admiral Marcus starts searching space for an edge of some kind and discovers the Botany Bay. Marcus unfreezes Khan and finds out he has super intelligence and strength. Marcus convinces Khan to help him build long range torpedoes and advanced starships to help militarize Starfleet. Khan goes along with this plan but after a while something changes and Khan leaves the secret base.

  • What a coincidence, they unfreeze 1 of 73 and it just so happens to be Khan once again. Why not give some screen time to Joachim?

  • Khan went into cryostasis in 1996, before First Contact and before we had warp capability. How the hell does he know how to make all this shit?

  • Why didn’t Marcus unfreeze more if not all the other super smart people? Surly more super intelligent people would help him get better weapons and faster too — Mythical Man Month not withstanding.

  • Why does Khan not demand the rest of his people be unfrozen right away? Perhaps Marcus doesn’t trust Khan, but if that’s true then shouldn’t Marcus have a tail on him. How does Khan get away with so much stuff while under Marcus’s nose?

Based on his character and behaviors let’s assume Khan was working with Marcus as a ruse. Khan knew a day would come where he would betray Marcus to enviably get back his frozen comrades and the advanced starship he had built with all the cool long range torpedoes and shit. This is his plan:

First he’ll take the long distance torpedoes he developed for Marcus and hollow them out. He’ll put his frozen friends in them. He then blows up the lab in London where he and Marcus were doing research and development. I’ll assume the torpedoes we’re not being stored there (maybe they were already onboard the super starship?). I’ll also assume the reason he attacks this base an no other is to help stunt Marcus’s development of advanced weapons.

Khan knows the attack will kick off a protocol meeting of high end Starfleet leaders. He’ll fly a fully armed craft right up to the windows of the meeting room and shoot. However, killing everyone at this meeting is not Khan’s goal. If it were he could just use another ring bomb and be done with them all. Apparently the goal is to scare Marcus and leave a trail to make it clear he is hiding on Kronos. He figures this location is the perfect excuse for Marcus to use those long range torpedoes with all the friends hidden in them.

  • Khan’s taking an awful risk no one will notice he switched out the contents of these torpedoes with people. If Marcus doesn’t trust Khan you’d think he’d have some cameras and shit on him, like Gus on Walt. You’d think Marcus would notice all the frozen people are missing.

  • I have to imaging there was a lot of manual labor for this plan, to hollow out these torpedoes and swap in the cryo-tubes. Why didn’t Khan just unfreeze people right there and then while he had access to them all? Why hide them and make up a convoluted plan to get access to them again later?

  • Khan seemed to be firing that gun pretty recklessly into the meeting room. What if hit Marcus? Considering Khan needs Marcus alive to order the torpedoes with his friends hidden in them be used, it all seems pretty dumb. Maybe he got some pointers from Neo who has no problem shooting guns right at the person he is trying to free.

  • If there was an attack on Starfleet London don’t you think the main headquarters would be on lock down? How the hell does an armed craft get anywhere near the windows of an Admiral’s meeting? Wouldn’t there be some shields or something?

  • Does Khan really expect the Enterprise will fire all 72 of these torpedoes at his location?

  • Why was the Enterprise given so many torpedoes for one target anyways? They at best need 3 or 5. Seems like overkill to me.

  • Why didn’t Marcus keep any for himself and his ship?

  • Have these torpedoes been updated to land softly on a planet after being fired?

  • I would think cryo-tubes are pretty fragile. How does shooting them at warp speeds, traveling through planet ozones and landing effect their ability to keep the people asleep?

  • If things are so volatile with the Klingons how does the away team fly to their home planet without being noticed from the Enterprise which parked in neural zone?

So instead of firing the torpedoes like Marcus ordered, and as Khan planned for, Kirk takes Khan prisoner instead. I have to assume being taking prisoner was not part of Khan’s plan. If it were it means he assumed a starfleet captain would have been ordered to fire but not done so. One might argue Khan specifically worked things out so Kirk would have been the one given the mission; that Khan knew Kirk would ignore the order and do the morally right thing. In reality though Khan actions killed Pike, Kirk’s father figure which pissed off Kirk a ton. It took the advice of ever officer under him to change his mind from killing Khan using the torpedoes to taking him prisoner.

Beaming as a plot device

With no real cause or reason the first reboot movie had Scotty figure out a whole new style of beaming that let’s people beam onto ships traveling at warp and long distances. It’s been some time since the events of the first movie and Starfleet is apparently using this new tech everywhere (at least when it helps the plot).

  • Khan can beam from Earth to Kronos but we can’t beam Spock out of a volcano?

  • Why can’t we beam to Kronos from Earth like Khan did?

  • Kirk, Spock, Uhura and two red shirts are surrounded by Klingons about to be killed, why can’t we beam them up?

  • Can’t beam Khan up to the Enterprise from Earth during the end movie chase scene because he is moving too fast on a ground transport BUT we can beam people to him? WTF! THIS MAKES NO SENSE?!?

  • Why didn’t they just beam Kirk and Khan to the Admiral’s ship instead of that space jump scene? Probably because he had shields up — but if he had shields up why didn’t Kirk and Khan smash in to them after being shot out from the Enterprise? Oh I know, Laaaaaazzzzzzyyyyy wriiiiittttiing.

Spock Prime

Old Spock you money grubbing son of a bitch. Why are you here? Fan service? Did you even come to the set to film this scene? Looks like you did it over Skype(1).

1: Props to RTM for that joke — just had to steal it! :)

Hey Spock Prime, give these kids chance to stand on their own! We don’t need you here.

So you do realize that using knowledge from the future to change the past has dire consequences. Well that’s good to know. What? Fuck it all and tell them about Khan anyways. So much for Vulcan oaths.

For Young Spock to call Spock Prime and ask about Khan sure does seem like a shot in the dark when there are a lot of other things going on.

Why is Earth space so fucking empty?

  • Right before the final space battle the Enterprise is visually kicked out of warp above Earth space. If they weren’t kicked out of warp by the Admiral’s ship they would have traveled lightyears past Earth.

  • Wouldn’t being kicked out warp that violently cause more damage to the ship?

  • Why didn’t they pull out of warp right when they were being fired upon in warp. The Admiral’s ship would have zoomed right passed them ala Spaceballs.

  • Why does the enemy ship in these modern movies always have to be bigger and scarier looking? One of the great things about Wrath of Khan was that Khan disables the Enterprise with the Reliant, a much smaller ship.

  • The final battle happens right over Earth space. Why aren’t other ships there? If they were there but not shown, don’t they question this mysterious higher tech ship firing on their fellow ship? Let alone the flagship of Starfleet?!?

  • The first movie of this reboot had Nero torture Pike for codes to deactivate Earth’s “defense grid”. Apparently even as advanced as Nero’s ship was he was scared of Earth’s defense grid. Where the fuck is the defense grid now? Why is it not helping to defend starfleet’s flagship from being attacked?

  • The Enterprise has lost all power and is slowly falling to earth. Why can’t one of the dozens of ships and/or space docks that should be floating around Earth beam the crew off? Shield are obviously down as they barely have enough power for life support.

Answer: Earth space is empty is because it’s convenient to the plot. The reason the final attack happens above Earth at all is so we can have that sequence of Khan slamming the starship into the Starfleet Headquarters which looks sexy as hell in the trailer but doesn’t effect the plot at all. What’s different after that crash scene? Nothing. Khan jumps off the ship no problem (WTF?!? How is he still alive?) to start the chase scene.

  • Related: Having the Enterprise underwater was for the trailers too. It helps tease the idea that the Enterprise would crash into Earth at some point as we saw it inside the atmosphere of an M-class planet and we also see a ship crashing.

We may be out of popcorn but not nitpicks!

  • In the heat of the final battle, Scotty begins to fall and Kirk grabs him. Kirk begins to fall and Chekov grabs him. Little Chekov who weighs 90lbs soaking wet, pulls them both up the to railing. Space muscles!

  • When Kirk dies they figure out they can bring him back with Khan’s blood. Why Khan and not any of the other 72 frozen people in those tubes? Hell they probably had to take one out when they put Kirk under while they were waiting for Khan’s blood. I suspect coming out of cryo requires care and handling. I bet the guy they kicked out in a hurry, to make room for Kirk died. Poor guy. OMG I hope it wasn’t Joachim! :(

  • Why would injecting human blood (even if it is “magic” human blood) into a Tribble be a good idea for science? Seems like a waste to me. You have to imagine better experiments could be performed on that blood.

  • Bring Khan back alive they say. As if Spock can kill a man who’s blood brings others back to life?

  • When Scotty blasts Khan with a phaser set to stun it knocks Khan out, at least for a minute or so. At the end of the movie, for Uhura using the same phaser it takes like 10 shots to do the same thing. (Maybe his genetic enhancement gives him the power to become less susceptible to the stuns after the first experience (ala borg)? Nah, I don’t give the writers that much credit.)

  • At the end of the movie we never hear what happened to Khan. Did we keep Khan alive? Is he in jail cell? Are we using his magic blood to keep other people alive now?

  • What happened with the Klingons? We’re told we are on the brink of war and I have to imagine the events of the movie, where like 30 or so Klingons were killed with starfleet weapons, have only escalated things. The movie ends with a year of time passing but all is well on Earth. No war, plenty of time for a ship re-commissioning party. When I saw Kahn’s ship smash into Starfleet Headquarters I said to myself oh shit, Klingons are going to take advantage of this and attack Earth in the next movie. Guess not. :(

What year is it anyways?

It’s 2013, I don’t like being spoon fed that in the mid 1990s there was a Eugenics War with genetically enhanced humans and we also had perfected cryostasis too. I was alive in the 90s, there was no war and no frozen people, just grunge rock.

For me and I think most people, the best sci-fi is where everything in the story’s timeline matches up to your own until the event of the story. For example, if I’m in a movie theater in 2013 and we have a movie taking place in 2016 where aliens are invading Earth, I’m pretty likely to let my imagination stay with the movie. If I’m in a theater in 2013 and a movie tells me aliens invaded in 2010 it breaks my illusion immediately. (Unless there is a related multi-demential plot device with a pretty girl who throws me ammo and health in which case I might allow it.)

Movies usually fix this kind of stuff. Take for example early drafts of Back to the Future that reference 1982 as the current year but then changed it to 1985 for the official release. The Matrix did the same, referencing the year as 1997 in its early drafts and then upping the year as the screenplay saw revisions:

You believe the year is 1997 when in fact it is much closer to 2197.

You believe the year is 1998 when in fact it is much closer to 2198.

You believe the year is 1999 when in fact it is much closer to 2199.

With a reboot like this who’s story origins come from 1960s TV it’s hard to work around the “1990s Eugenics Wars” issue I’ll accept but for us nerds who are quick at math and paying attention to the years and ages being thrown around in a movie screenplay like this it still bothers us.

Closing Commentary: The Wrath of Copy and Paste

While I’ll commend the acting and special effects I really have to roll my eyes at the writing in this movie.

I feel like the writers room started with a wall of index cards, one for each reference and action scene they wanted to make and then they wrote a story to make these connect. The writers were not interested in trying to tell a new unique story with these characters. They were interested in creating another trek-themed, reference-filled, no thinking action movie that placates to the masses. Arguably they have succeeded at their goals, I just had higher expectations.

Movies should stand on their own and this one doesn’t. This movie uses way, way too many callbacks to Star Trek 2: Wrath of Khan. In fact “callback” or “homage” aren’t really the right words, this movie flat out plagiarizes Wrath of Khan to the point of distraction.

One example, there is the scene where Kirk is questioning his new prisoner and while explaining his past, his true identity, the camera zooms in, a long dramatic pause, “My name is Khan.” Now for anyone who isn’t familiar with the previous movies this is a meaningless event. Even Kirk and Spock “in-character” have no reason to react to the reveal of this alais. They might as well keep calling him John Harrison for all they care.

Hey old Spock, ever have trouble with a “John Harrison” in your days? Nope. Ok thanks anyways.

I’m sure many people enjoyed how they mirrored the Spock/Kirk death scene but for me when Spock died in Wrath of Khan it meant something more. For one, we left the theater with Spock dead. There was a significant ending where Kirk and the audience get to come to grasp with the realities of what had just happened. There was real tension that this was the end for our favorite vulcan.

When Kirk dies in this movie there isn’t much tension if you are paying attention to things and know modern hollywood. The screenplay doesn’t even give the audience enough time to grieve and collect themselves before starting the next sequence, a huge, over the top crash scene that doesn’t impact the plot at all.

Again I’ll give the actors credit, the performance of that death scene was extremely good. They matched the emotion level of the original which is a classic scene for all movies. What doesn’t click though is that the original pair of Kirk and Spock had been adventuring together for years and were extremely close friends. This version of Kirk and Spock had known each other for a year, maybe less, and have not really demonstrated a true friendship bond yet at least not at the same level as their predecessors. Having such an emotional scene copied and mirrored doesn’t really make that much sense when you don’t take into consideration this version of the characters. This version of the characters were not ready for that scene.

I think nostalgia was important for the first movie to help people make connections from the past to this new crew but I was hoping with this second film, now that it has its own timeline and canon, would be able to break out and do new things. It sadly did not and now I’m left to wonder if they ever will or if this new Trek series will simply be a collection of continued nostalgia rehashes from archives, albeit very pretty rehashes.

Video: Introduction to Objective-C Categories

I’m hoping to do some formal screencasting, educational videos for iOS and Rails, in the future so for practice I hacked together this little Introduction to Objective-C Categories to try some stuff out. It’s not the worst thing ever so I thought I’d share it and my notes.

Objective-C Categories from Mike Zornek on Vimeo.

A short introduction to Objective-C categories for iOS and Mac developers.

As far as what I was trying to learn through the process of making this…

What is a good resolution to shoot at?

Ended up trying 1920x1080 which in TV speak is 1080p. This I think worked well. There is enough screen real estate to show Xcode with all “widgets” open, plus enough room for a side app like the iPhone Simulator. Speaking of which, 1080p barely squeezes both portrait iPhone retina and portrait iPad non-retina. Finally, should this ever be pipped out to a TV it should be full screen with no scaling.

What I don’t like is how tiny the file browser and non-source text can be. I envision zooming in on occasion to have those read well when needed.

How is Vimeo these days?

I’ve put up a few videos in the past on Vimeo but for this new project I’m considering using their Pro service so I saw this as an opportunity to play around with their stuff.

Overall things seem good. They are really good about suggesting codec and bit-rate changes to get the most from their platform. They also provide a nice HTML 5 version of their player.

Why not YouTube? Long term I could see some of this content becoming pay-for or subscriber/membership-based and YouTube isn’t really good for that.

To record audio before video or with video?

For the majority of my previous screencast work my typical process included recording the audio on its own and then recording the video, matching everything up in editing. The result is a nice, tight video without any real hesitations or pauses.

For this video I did things more casual. I had a list of things I wanted to demonstrate and recorded my voice right with along the video. There are pros and cons to this.

Pros:

  • I do enjoy the personality that comes from this style. To hear the typing and a few ums makes a human connection.
  • If done well, it can shorten overall capture time.
  • It lends itself to camera shots of the speaker, which again can help create a human connection.

Cons:

  • Doing the video live with the audio is much, much harder to perform. It’s easy to miss things you intended to showoff (I did so in this video.)
  • I myself have bad allergies and tend to breath into the mic. If recording the audio on its own it’s easier to isolate this.
  • Some people will not like hearing the typing.
  • If the screencast is based off a fixed script I’ll be able to post a text version easier, which is extremely valuable (for Google-food as well as people who pref text over videos).

In the end I think I’ll be going back to audio only first, then screen recording but welcome your feedback.

Other random observations:

  • Probably want to hide the dock for more “Xcode space”.
  • Those early “title slides” were done in Keynote. Works great for this kind of stuff, especially animations to explain abstract concepts.
  • In the future I won’t be typing everything. Longer code will be uncommented in place or dragged in from snippets.
  • Could have done some some zooming to help visualize things like the new file Xcode sheet, schema editor.
  • Need to overlay URLs in large type when promoting a website.

Not sure how fast we’ll see real production start on these videos as I do have a few things already cooking but I don’t mind too much as it’s good to be busy. :)

New Let’s Play Section

While I haven’t mentioned it too much on the blog, I’ve recently got back into Let’s Plays. From the new Let’s Play index page:

Let’s Plays (often shortened to LPs) are basically people playing a video game and adding commentary on top. Some people like showing off all the things and secrets, such as HCBaily and ChuggaaConroy, while others treat LPing more as a personal journal, like NintendoCapriSun. I’m still finding my voice but am enjoying the process.

I just finished a Let’s Play of Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past and have now started a Let’s Play of Super Mario Galaxy 2.

For more info, RSS links and such check out the new LP index page.