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‘Star Trek’ boldly goes ‘Into Darkness’

“Star Trek Into Darkness” (2013). Cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoë Saldana, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Bruce Greenwood, Benedict Cumberbatch, Alice Eve, Peter Weller, Noel Clarke, Beau Billingslea. Director: J.J. Abrams. Screenplay: Robert Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof. Source Material: Star Trek TV series, by Gene Roddenberry. Web site. Trailer.

Those seeking an enlightened path for themselves often gravitate exclusively to “the light,” casually ignoring or even actively eschewing “the shadow” side of things. But is this a wise course? Are there things that “the dark side” can teach us? The answer might come as quite a surprise, but that’s what the crew of an intrepid space vessel is about to find out in the action-packed sci-fi adventure, “Star Trek Into Darkness,” the twelfth and latest movie installment in this long-running entertainment franchise.

Some days throw us some mighty big curves. Just as Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine), the brash, young, sometimes-reckless commander of the Starship Enterprise, believes he’s about to be awarded a plum mission assignment, he instead gets a hard lesson in “no good deed goes unpunished.” In the wake of a perilous first contact mission to the planet Nibiru during which he went to extraordinary lengths to save the lives of that world’s primitive inhabitants and of his best friend, First Officer Mr. Spock (Zachary Quinto), Kirk is unceremoniously demoted in rank and stripped of his command. He’s punished for actions that brazenly violated the Prime Directive of the expedition’s authorizing body, the United Federation of Planets, which strictly prohibits interference by UFP representatives in the natural course of a world’s evolution.

But, if that news weren’t bad enough, Kirk becomes even more upset when he learns that the report detailing the Nibiru incident (and prompting his demotion) was written by his First Officer. As a Vulcan, a race of beings whose culture is based on logic and total honesty, Spock is fundamentally incapable of lying, either by intention or omission. And so, despite the consequences, the ever-diligent Starship officer and scrupulously earnest Vulcan feels compelled to tell the truth, even if it places his friendship with Kirk in jeopardy.

However, despite his transgressions, Kirk is not without his allies, such as Admiral Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood). As the young swashbuckler’s superior officer, Pike is charged with delivering the bad news. But, as Kirk’s former captain, he’s also well aware of his protégé’s command abilities and sincerely seeks to minimize the impact of his demotion. So, in reassuming command of the Enterprise, Pike informs Kirk that he’s appointing his prodigy as his First Officer, with Spock being transferred to a different Starship. Kirk has mixed feelings about this new arrangement, but, if it gets him back aboard the Enterprise, he’s willing to go along with it.

By being named First Officer of the Enterprise, Kirk is allowed to remain in the upper echelon of Starfleet Command, the military and peacekeeping arm of the Federation, a move that proves to be a wise decision. When one of Starfleet’s high-ranking agents, John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), unexpectedly goes rogue and masterminds a horrific terrorist incident, the inner circle of officers holds an emergency meeting to investigate the event. Kirk’s keen insights cut through the clutter and get his peers’ attention, most notably that of Admiral Alexander Marcus (Peter Weller), head of the investigation team. By quickly identifying how and where the fugitive insurgent fled, Kirk is given the go-ahead to devise a plan for apprehending the renegade operative. But launching that endeavor comes at a high price and involves tremendous risk, including the threat of interplanetary war, all of which make Kirk’s adept command skills more valuable than ever.

To say what happens next would divulge far too much about the film’s intricate, engaging plot, but suffice it to say that Kirk and company are indeed propelled “into darkness,” as the picture’s title indicates. In so doing, the Enterprise sets off on a mission filled with intrigue, deception, false pretenses, danger and more than enough thrills to satisfy even the most ardent action-adventure junkie. But the story line also presents a thoughtful narrative characterized by explorations into personal empowerment, growth and development, as well as the rise of maturity, the sharpening of intuition and the expansion of individual capabilities. It’s quite a jam-packed saga, to say the least.

Considering the supremely hopeful view of the future that Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry envisioned, one can’t help but wonder why this latest installment in this immensely popular entertainment franchise has embarked on such a “dark” journey. Idealistic fans of this body of work might even see this as a betrayal of the originator’s optimistic vision. But I believe there are several sound reasons behind this move that have solid metaphysical underpinnings, notions that effectively complement and expand upon Roddenberry’s original concept.

Whenever we’re on the brink of a major spurt in our personal growth and development, we’re invariably faced with some kind of test, one that usually involves fear and movement into uncharted territory. Such ventures are frequently scary, and we often feel besieged by the circumstances with which we’re presented (or, more precisely, that we inevitably draw to us, be it consciously or unconsciously). We might well be tempted to flee in terror, but, if we genuinely hope to get past such daunting situations, we must face up to them. And this, as anyone who has successfully made it through trials like this can attest, is tantamount to living out the dark night of the soul.

For many of us, the term “dark night of the soul” evokes unsettling, perhaps even hellish images, and the prospect of going through it may seem overwhelming. However, those of us who have successfully maneuvered our way through such experiences know that we emerge from them stronger, wiser and better able to respond to the circumstances that cross our paths. They force us into becoming more creative, more resourceful and more imaginative, pushing us to broaden our horizons and become more effective conscious creators. And the benefits of such developments serve us well as we move forward in life, making us better able to respond to whatever challenges – and opportunities – come our way.

All of the principals in this film go through such personal transformations. Kirk and Spock experience these changes to the greatest degree, growing immeasurably in stature and maturity as effective Starfleet officers and as forthright, courageous leaders of their minions. But other members of the Enterprise crew grow as individuals and professionals, too, including Communications Officer Nyota Uhura (Zoë Saldana), Helmsman Hikaru Sulu (John Cho), Engineer Montgomery Scott (Simon Pegg), Navigator Pavel Chekhov (Anton Yelchin), Medical Officer Leonard “Bones” McCoy (Karl Urban) and Science Officer Carol Wallace (Alice Eve). Even Harrison, despite his heinous deeds, grows in unexpected ways, some of them even laudable. But the true measure of success at this ultimately depends on the degree to which we learn how to effectively employ and manage our conscious creation proficiency and the power that accompanies it.

This is where the “darkness” allusion comes into play once again. Those who understand the conscious creation process are well aware that the reality we experience arises from the beliefs and intents we maintain. Our externalized world springs forth from the internal world of our thoughts, an infinite, formless realm in which all possible probabilities reside, one that’s sometimes called “a great shining darkness.” Whenever we tap into it, we plumb the depths of that well of potential manifestation, and the deeper we go, the darker it may seem, especially when we seek solutions for addressing new and thorny challenges. By allowing ourselves to become immersed in such conditions, we enable new ideas to percolate into our consciousness, ideas that we can convert into beliefs for materializing the existence we subsequently experience.

Such expansions of consciousness invariably reveal our innate capacity for flexibility and adaptability, providing us with glimpses of our true multidimensional selves. These qualities promote open-mindedness, as well as a willingness to try out new ideas and to view situations from a variety of perspectives. And this, in turn, enables us to see ourselves for the greater beings we really are. One would hope that the enlightenment afforded by such increased awareness would allow us to see the “preferable” choices open to us, including traits like fairness, justice, mercy and, above all, compassion.

Opportunities to examine such options are presented repeatedly to the Enterprise crew throughout the film. For their sake, we can only hope that they have the wisdom, intuitive insight and courage to recognize and follow through on them when they arise. But, as in any conscious creation scenario, they (and we) must always be cognizant that they (and we) always have choice to draw upon in deciding which beliefs to embrace. While the choices of supremely virtuous characters like Spock should be patently obvious, they may not be as clear-cut for others, like Harrison and even some of the supposedly honorable Starfleet brass. And that’s when matters can get tricky, especially when the darkness factor is once again considered.

The intrinsic nature of the aforementioned great shining darkness represents a tremendous source of power, one that we can draw upon to create virtually anything we wish to experience. And, when that power joins forces with the element of choice, the mix can become quite volatile. Understanding how to properly balance these two potent forces is essential, for they carry tremendous potential – and consequences – depending upon how they’re handled.

Descending deeply into the great shining darkness and tapping the raw power available there can yield impressive results, as well as disastrous outcomes if not tempered by wisdom and insight. Again, in this picture we see characters who pursue both courses, as well as various gradations in between. What they choose and how they manage their power provide us with a wide range of examples of how we can find our own way through the great shining darkness.

Venturing into “the darkness” need not automatically be assumed to be a descent into evil or an ill-fated voyage of the damned. Rather, it can provide a valuable lesson in seeing the true expanse of the choices and power we have available to us – and learning in earnest how to draw upon both of them wisely. In boldly going where we’ve never gone before, it helps to have a lantern to light our way through the darkness, and this film provides us with just such a shining metaphorical torch.

As with the film that preceded this picture, director J.J. Abrams has once again knocked it out of the park – and even better this time. Before the release of “Star Trek” in 2009, longtime fans of the franchise were justifiably skeptical about whether the filmmakers could successfully reboot it. But the cast and crew of that initial outing came through, and they have impressively built upon that success in this latest offering, paving the way for what should be a brilliant cinematic future.

This picture’s mind-blowing action sequences and 3D special effects, coupled with a thoughtful script in the tradition of the time-honored franchise, combine to create a thoroughly enlightening and entertaining movie experience. Its impeccably assembled cast comes through once again, delivering fresh yet reverent portrayals of younger versions of characters that viewers have come to know so well through the original TV series and six theatrical films.

I’m especially pleased that the film continues to build on one of its predecessor’s greatest strengths – its audacious exploration of a new line of probability. At the risk of playing spoiler about this picture’s forerunner, when the filmmakers embarked on rebooting the franchise, they made a very shrewd decision that opened them up to a plethora of new possibilities by making use of a simple but highly effective plot device – they changed the time line of the original franchise, wiping the slate clean of its existing mythology and making it possible to do whatever they want along the new narrative path. In a very literal sense, then, the current keepers of the Star Trek franchise truly are free to boldly go where no one has gone before.

With that said, however, the filmmakers have also wisely chosen not to abandon familiar elements, like character traits, locales and institutions. Fans of the franchise will no doubt recognize references to material from a wide range of Star Trek properties, including the original TV series (1966-1969), “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” (1982) and the spinoff TV series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993-1999). But, as familiar as these elements are, they have been tweaked in intriguing ways, giving us delicious new spins on the tried and true. Likewise, references to well-documented events from the original time line have been retained, and some have even been re-created here, but their components have been rearranged in captivating ways, a move that lends considerable credence to a notion that conscious creation (and, to a certain degree, quantum physics) holds dear – that an infinite number of simultaneous, parallel lines of probability exist, all of which are distinct yet accessible to us, depending on where our beliefs and powers of manifestation ultimately take us.

The movie’s reference to Nibiru is an interesting new development, one that draws on material from outside the Star Trek franchise. Those familiar with the writings of investigational mythologist Zecharia Sitchin will undoubtedly recognize the name Nibiru as the mythical planet the author cites in his alternative history of how the Earth came to be populated by humans. While Nibiru’s depiction here differs markedly from Sitchin’s description, it’s intriguing to see the film include a world with such a readily recognizable name. How Nibiru will figure into the unfolding of the franchise’s current line of probability, if at all, remains unclear, but its introduction here – and the salient role it plays in the events of this picture – open up fascinating possibilities for future films.

As conscious creators well know, “everything is in a constant state of becoming,” and so it is with the Star Trek material. While some purists may balk at the direction the franchise is taking, I heartily applaud the new focus. It epitomizes Gene Roddenberry’s iconic motto, and it demonstrably embodies principles that straddle the worlds of both metaphysics and new science.

Indeed, who would have thought that “the darkness” could shed so much light?

Photo by Zade Rosenthal, courtesy of Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions.

Copyright © 2013, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.

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