Anthony Pascale is the owner/editor-in-chief of the number one independent Star Trek site: TrekMovie.com. You can find his Star Trek Sequel column here at Movies.com every other Monday. Follow Anthony on Twitter @TrekMovie.
The Star Trek sequel countdown returns with some new spy images, some thoughts on all the talk about Khan, and more.
More pix from Star Trek set
We are now around the halfway point on production for the Star Trek sequel, which is scheduled to wrap in May of this year and will have a long post-production while we wait for launch on May 17th 2013. Things have returned to the typical shroud of secrecy that director J.J. Abrams likes with no new details to report this week. However, there have been a couple more sightings of Trek actors shooting on location in Los Angeles.
Last Star Trek update I reported on pictures of a very spoilery scene featuring Benedict Cumberbatch (the film's villain) along with Zachary Quinto (Spock) and Zoe Saldana (Uhura). Since then Chris Pine (Kirk) has also been spotted being carted around set with Zoe. Unfortunately no actual scene being shot was spotted and Chris and Zoe appear to just be wearing street clothes. (More photos can be seen at JustJared and PopSugar).
Chris Pine and Zoe Saldana being carted around on set of Star Trek sequel
More interesting is another set of photos once again featuring Zoe and this time with John Cho (Sulu). This new set shows Cho and Saldana wearing an interesting new uniform. You can ignore the big coat (those are issued by Paramount to all the cast to wear on set). However, with the coats open you can catch glimpses of their uniforms, which appear to match. The grey uniform they are wearing is not one seen in the 2009 Star Trek feature. (You can find more photos and get a closer look at zimbio.com and JustJared).
John Cho and Zoe spotted wearing new type of uniform (under the coats)
Don't worry, I have confirmed that the classic colorful outfits seen in the 2009 Star Trek film will still be featured as the main duty uniforms, and in fact we saw Zachary Quinto and Zoe Saldana in those uniforms in last set of spy photos. These grey uniforms are likely for some special purpose. But for what we can only speculate, but they certainly do come with cool boots. One of the upsides of Paramount giving Star Trek the big budget treatment is that we get to see our heroes in a variety of uniforms and outfits. While beloved, the Star Trek films of the '80s and '90s often featured characters in the same outfits for most of the film (and from film to film).
...but don't worry, we'll still see the classic colorful Trek uniforms
It is also interesting that whenever Trek stars have been spotted for this production, Zoe Saldana has been there. This can just be a coincidence, or it could be that Uhura plays an even bigger role in the sequel. The original classic Star Trek films focused on Kirk and Spock, but DeForest Kelley's Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy was always the 3rd billed star. However, with this new series it may be that Zoe has moved in the #3 slot, ahead of Karl Urban's McCoy -- something made explicit in this banner for the 2009 movie.
Does Zoe Saldana's Uhura outrank Karl Urban's McCoy?
(and yes, nitpicker, not really as she is a lieutenant and he is a lieutenant commander)
The pros and cons of Khan
As there isn't a lot of new news about the sequel this week, I thought it would be a good time to discuss one of the hottest topics about the film, and that is the question about who is the villain (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) and what if the rumors are true and it is Khan?
Firstly some background. Last month happens to be the 45th anniversary of the birth of Khan Noonien Singh, originally played by Ricardo Montalban. Khan appeared in just one episode of the original series - "Space Seed," which first aired February 16, 1967. The episode has Kirk and the Enterprise finding a derelict Earth spaceship which contained Khan and a number of others cryogenically frozen, but genetically enhanced humans who were exiled after they tried to take over the world in the 1990s (don't remember that happening? Well, more on that later). After he fails to take over the USS Enterprise, Kirk exiles Khan on a planet and promises to check in later. Jump to 1982 when Paramount releases Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, where Kirk finds out how it really pisses off genetic supermen when you never write and you never call.
Ricardo Montalban as Khan in 1967 in "Space Seed" & 1982 in "Star Trek II"
While "Space Seed" is considered one of the better Star Trek episodes, it is really Star Trek II that put Khan into the pantheon of villains. To date, the film is still considered the best of the series by most fans (including yours truly). All Trek films have been held up to the STII standard, with some blatantly trying to rip it off (especially the very disappointing Star Trek: Nemesis which almost killed the franchise in 2002). And thus you have the debate on if it is a good idea to try and bring back such an iconic bad guy.
On the upside, Khan has instant buzz value. Ask an average member of the action movie target audience to name a Star Trek villain and they might say "Klingons," but they would be hard pressed to name a single Klingon. More likely will say "Khan." Even though he only appeared in one episode and one film, Khan is the closest thing Star Trek has to Batman's Joker, especially if we are talking about original series villains. This kind of top of the charts status is why there was even some consideration of putting in one of those post-credit scenes in the 2009 Star Trek film which would have shown a simple shot of Khan's sleeper ship (SS Botany Bay) just floating in space. While the filmmakers decided against this as they worried it would have limited their options, it shows that Khan was always a sort of default choice for the second film.
However, many Star Trek fans (in fact most hardcore fans) are quite skeptical if not outright against the notion of Khan in the sequel. Many feel that doing Khan is a case of "been there, done that." They don't want to see rehashes of old stories. Now that we have our heroes established in a new universe, they want to see them explore strange new worlds, hopefully with new characters to rip Kirk's shirt in a fight. And then there is the risk of any actor being able to inhabit a role so memorably played by Ricardo Montalban. Anything too close could be seen as mimicry (and possibly even parody), but deviate too far and you run the risk of dreaded fan cry: canon violation!
My view is that both points of view are right. I do think that using Khan would bring a lot of buzz for the film in a way a new character would not. And this film will need buzz as the novelty and meta story of J.J. Abrams breathing new life into Star Trek wont be available in 2009. Now that Trek is set up as just another blockbuster franchise, it has to survive on its own. However, I agree that there is little interest in seeing a rehash of what we have seen before. The notion of a replay of "Space Seed" with the new crew finding Khan and having him take over the ship just seems to be boring.
But what if they do both? What if they use Khan in a different way? Think of how Christopher Nolan handled the Joker in The Dark Knight. They used a well-known character from comics, TV and cartoons (and once played on screen by the great Jack Nicholson) and found an entirely new way for him to take on the Caped Crusader. So for the Star Trek sequel -- and just spit-balling here -- maybe someone else found Khan (the Klingons? The Gorn? Blalock and The First Federation?). Maybe he has a totally different plan and agenda. This kind of having it both ways approach is actually what they did with the 2009 movie, making it both a prequel to the original Star Trek and a reboot (using the alternative universe). If they did it before, maybe they can do it again. So I say go ahead and use the character, as long as you tell a new story.
Jokers from Tim Burton's "Batman" and Chris Nolan's "The Dark Knight" show
using the same character is not the same as telling the same story
For those interested in delving deeper into Khan, there are a few areas of extra credit you can assign yourselves besides rewatching "Space Seed" and Wrath of Khan. The themes of genetic engineering and the Eugenics Wars were also covered in the Star Trek animated series episode "The Infinite Vulcan," Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's "Dr. Bashir, I Presume" and most notably in the three episode "Augments" arc on Star Trek: Enterprise ("Borderland," "Cold Station 12," and "The Augments" - guest starring TNG's Brent Spiner!). But if you want more stories with Khan, you have to go to the non-canon extended universe. Greg Cox's 2002 two-novel series "The Rise and Fall of Khan Noonien Singh" tells a hidden history story about how Khan and Eugenics Wars actually did happen in the 1990s as an underground war behind events like the War in Kosovo. And to learn what happened between "Space Seed" and Star Trek II you can pick up Cox's 2005 novel "To Reign in Hell: The Exile of Khan Noonien Singh" or IDW's 2011 comic book series "Khan: Ruling in Hell" (available in Trade Paperback).
Star Trek books and comics have filled in Khan's life story
Trek Merchandise Item Of The Week: Life-sized Spock statue
The world of Trek collecting and merchandising is diverse and always growing. And recently it grew quite a bit indeed. Germany's Muckle Mannequins has announced a new line of life-sized Star Trek statues. The first statue will be an original Star Trek series Spock which stands 77 inches tall! They plan to follow this one with an original Captain Kirk later in the year. The Spock statue is limited to a run of 300 and will set you back $3000 bucks at the Star Trek Store.
What home wouldn't benefit from a life-sized Spock statue
Viral video of the week: Worf Denied!
As part of the ongoing celebration of the 25th anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation, here is a video that has gone viral featuring everyone's favorite Klingon: Worf...getting denied (over and over).
The Star Trek Sequel Warps Into Theaters In 414 Days.