Star Trek Into Darkness–Review

I am not a Trekkie.  I didn’t grow up watching the show, and the few times I saw it, I didn’t really get it…but suddenly, I do get it.  I thoroughly enjoyed the first Star Trek movie (or at least the first of this last reboot) and was absolutely looking forward to this latest addition.  Something about Science Fiction is kind of like humor – it allows you to look at something close to you and personal from a safer distance.  It ‘s a different lens that helps you see issues more clearly, and then you suddenly realize that it’s not just about a movie, or space, or science or fiction…it’s about you, your life, your world.

There are two passages of scripture which have been on my mind as I reflect on the film.  Two passages of scripture which made more sense to me and became a little clearer after having seen Star Trek Into Darkness.

The movie is largely focused on relationships Kirk has with his crew mates who are also his friends and technically his subordinates—complicated dynamics.  Kirk is a leader, both by nature and by position as captain of the crew.  He and Spock in particular are paired together in an odd mismatch.  Kirk lives by instinct and gut feeling.  He throws reason and caution to the wind and acts on his heart.  Quite the opposite, Spock lives by calculation, rules, reason and logic, practically devoid of feeling.  They love each other and respect each other, but as is only to be expected by two such opposites—they also clash.

In Kirk’s zeal to prove himself and to respond to pressing dangers and threats, he tends to move too fast.  His crew, however, is more cautious.  They are more rule oriented and won’t just gloss over things—they realize that the devil is in the details, so to speak.  They are Kirk’s greatest protection.  Spock is one of Kirk’s greatest blessings because he is provides the check and balance to Kirk’s personality.  Kirk doesn’t always see that though.  At times he sees Spock and Scotty and the crew as hindrances and obstacles, rather than as partners and helpers.

I have Psalm 101 written on a notecard, placed inside a ziplock baggie and stuck to my shower wall.  I can always remember it because when you take a beginner level course in college, it’s a “101” level course.  Literature 101.  Accounting 101.  101 signifies that that class is the basics, the foundation.  Psalm 101 is basic.  It’s foundational.  I’ve nick-named it the “Psalm of Resolve” because it’s filled with “I will” statements like “I will ponder the way that is blameless”, and “I will walk with integrity of heart within my house”, and “I will not statements” such as “I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless.”  (Side note – does that statement make anyone else uncomfortable – or is it just me???)

It’s verse 6 in Psalm 101 that keeps coming to mind when I think about James Kirk.  It says, “I will look with favor on the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me; he who walks in the way that is blameless shall minister to me.”  At first, that seemed like such a strange thing to resolve.  It seemed obvious.  Of course I would look well upon the faithful and good people of God.  Right?  But then I look around and realize that it may not be so natural after all.  One look at the most recent magazine covers will tell you that we as people are tempted to look with favor on the sensational and the beautiful and the exciting in the land, the rich and the talented…  but you will see very little evidence of us looking with favor on the faithful.  The faithful are…well…boring.  They go to work every day.  They love their wives and families.  They read their Bibles and make good decisions. There’s not a lot of drama there, and probably not very much glamour either.  They are steady and faithful.

It’s not just our magazines either.  You see it in dating and romance too.  Girls are so often drawn to the bad boys…even if they know they are bad boys.  We might know that it’s better to be around the faithful, but sometimes the faithful just aren’t as exciting and attractive as those who aren’t faithful.  So the Palmist wills it.  He chooses it.  He resolves and commits, publically – or at least before God – to look with favor on the faithful, to live life with them and to let them minister to him (to meet his needs).

Star Trek Into Darkness is largely about James Kirk learning to let the faithful men of his crew (Spock and Scotty in particular) minister to him.  It’s their faithfulness, their discipline, their character and integrity which rubs him wrong at times, which seems to squelch his zeal, but those qualities are the very things which he needs to protect him; and as much as he doesn’t always like it, he does have sense enough to choose the faithful Spock as his right hand man.  He chose to “dwell” with the faithful by choosing men like Spock and Scotty for his crew.  And in the end of the movie, he learns to yield more and buck less when they “minister” to him by opposition.

Questions for Discussion:

  • Just because Kirk chose his crew to begin with, he didn’t always value their input.  Why is that?
  • Do your friends tend to be like you, or do they balance you because they are different from you?  What are the pros and cons of having friends that are like you, and those that are different from you?
  • Are you drawn to drama or faithfulness (righteousness) in your friends?
  • Why do you think the Psalmist might need to make a resolution to look with favor on the faithful?
  • What does it mean to you that “he who walks in the way that is blameless shall minister to me”?  How can you apply that to your life?
  • How might your life be different if you chose to surround yourself with those who were faithful and blameless?

Kirk and his crew face an evil opponent.  Khan is cunning and ruthless and superhuman.  Marcus (Kirk’s superior) intends to respond to Khan “in kind” – to do to Khan as he had done to them.  Kirk has to make some tough decisions about how to respond.  How can he protect everyone from this imminent danger, and yet do so in a way that doesn’t make himself just like Khan?  His final speech is insightful:

“There will always be those who mean to do us harm. To stop them, we risk awakening the same evil within ourselves. Our first instinct is to seek revenge when those we love are taken from us. But that’s not who we are… When Christopher Pike first gave me his ship, he had me recite the Captain’s Oath. Words I didn’t appreciate at the time. But now I see them as a call for us to remember who we once were and who we must be again.”

As Kirk watched Marcus become the same evil as Khan (just on the opposing team), he realized how easy it would be, in the midst of fighting an evil, to awaken that same evil in himself.  He grounded himself by remembering the vision he started with.

I had a Bible teacher who used to say that it’s not enough to know what you’re against; you have to know what you’re for.  Being against something is too big a target.  Actually, it’s not a target, it’s a non-target.  You only know what you aren’t aiming for, but you still don’t know what you are aiming for.  When you are against something, you usually go too far in the opposite direction and become the opposite (but equal) evil.  The opposite of a vice isn’t virtue; it’s the other extreme, another vice.  Virtue is the median between the two extremes.  It’s a very fine point, a very specific target – one you don’t hit by accident.  You have to aim for it.  To give an example – cowardice is too little courage.  Recklessness is too much courage (it’s foolhardy and lacks wisdom).  The virtue of courage (bravery) is found in the middle.

So, Kirk realized that in fighting against an evil he could become so focused on what he was against, he forgot what he was for, and he could lose himself in the process.  The verse I couldn’t help but think of is Romans 12:21.  “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  Fighting evil with evil never works.  Evil is overcome with good.  Sometimes that good is something you have to fight for in your mind.  Sometimes it’s a matter of knowing what you are for (the good things you are for), and not just knowing the bad things you are against.  It’s a matter of taking captive your thoughts and making them obedient (2 Corinthians 10:5), of thinking things that are “true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable…excellent [and] praiseworthy” (Philippians 4:8).

Questions for Discussion:

  • What are you against?
  • What are the things you are resolved NOT to become in your life?  Have you ever thought about what it is you DO want to become?
  • Have you ever seen someone like Marcus who got so focused on the thing he was fighting against that he (or she) became just like it in the process?
  • What examples can you think of when evil couldn’t be beat by evil, but was instead overcome with good?  (Les Miserables has one of my favorite examples – when the priest gives Jean Val Jean the silver candelabras.)

Review by Stacey Tuttle

Click here to read a collection of quotes from Star Trek Into Darkness.