Star Trek’s intergalactic war on terror

John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) in custody
John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) in custody

Certain corners of the right wing are apoplectic about director J.J. Abrams’ just released blockbuster, Star Trek Into Darkness, claiming it condones an appeasing, liberal spin on the Bush Administration’s War on Terror.

Here’s the set-up: (some spoilers ahead) After a terrorist attack in London, vengeful star fleet commander Admiral Marcus (Peter Weller) lusts to wage war not only against the perpetrator of the attack, John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), but also against the Klingons, who, while belligerent, were in no way responsible.  9/11? Check. The Iraq War? Check. Dick Cheney? Double check.

Simon Pegg, who plays Scotty in the film, broke it down this way:

There is a parallel with the terrorist activities of Osama bin Laden and the decision to attack Iraq. Iraq had nothing proven to do with 9/11, and yet [President] Bush used that as an excuse to start a war with those people. You can always see the Klingons as like Iraq and John Harrison the proxy for Osama bin Laden.”

Admiral Marcus certainly seems like a stand-in for former Vice President Cheney. “Absolutely,” Pegg laughs. “He’s definitely a Republican.”

Observed Pop Matters:

Star Trek Into Darkness is immersed in a series of lessons regarding the war on terror: the dark side is still the dark side, violence breeds violence, we make our own demons.

Not surprisingly, the conservatives at PJ Media pounced, saying:

In case you missed any of the signals scattered throughout the movie, Abrams’ writers tell you exactly what to think about the War on Terror in the closing seconds. One of the leads argues in the end that there will always be those who will wish to do us harm — but that to stop them we risk awakening evil in ourselves. Sure, and Guantanamo must be closed immediately, right, fellas? Amusing as it is to realize that Hollywood is well to the left of even Barack Obama — and that this is just the beginning of the age of disguised cinematic attacks on The One from the left — the moral equivalence argument simply won’t wash in a country that welcomes and celebrates immigrants like the Tsarnaev brothers, only to be savagely attacked in return. Sorry, Hollywood, we’re not just like them. We’re better.

“We’re better.” Yeah, that attitude will solve everything. Bring it on, Klingons.

FWIW, my takeaway from Star Trek Into Darkness was the same message as all the Star Trek stories: there is no Them, there are only increasingly complex manifestations of Us.