‘Star Trek Into Darkness’ Spoiler Special: Burning Questions Answered

Co-writer Damon Lindelof exclusively addresses the mysteries surrounding the blockbuster.

By now you’ve probably seen “Star Trek Into Darkness” at least once — the sequel has earned an impressive $165 million in worldwide box office since opening last week — or if you’re like me, three times. Stop looking at me like that. I went to “Star Trek” conventions as a kid. This is in my blood. This is what I do.

Any “Trek” film lends itself to a good round of post-mortem of massive geekery by die-hards like myself, but this one might take the cake thanks to its many secrets held close by director J.J. Abrams and his team.
Luckily we’ve got a direct line to “Star Trek Into Darkness” co-writer and producer Damon Lindelof. Last week, just as we did for “Prometheus,” Lindelof and I traded a few emails to dive deep into the many secrets of the blockbuster.

Before we get to our correspondence, let me put this as bluntly as possible.

MASSIVE “STAR TREK” SPOILERS LIE BELOW. DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN “STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS”!

Still with us? OK, here goes.

From: Josh Horowitz
To: Damon Lindelof
Sent: Sat, May 11, 2013 2:58 pm

Damon,
Here we go again. Thanks for subjecting yourself to my nerdy inquiries once again. I’d apologize but you’re the one who co-wrote/produced a Star Trek movie. You knew what you were getting into. I’ve been lucky enough to plunge “Into Darkness” twice already (to be clear I’m talking about your movie because I first plunged into darkness long long before we knew each other) and truly thought it was a blast from start to finish. Congratulations.

OK, down to the nitty gritty. I feel like I have to start with the biggest mystery/conversation that’s surrounded the film from the get go. Why is Alice Eve in her underwear at one point?
Oh and also, let’s discuss your villain.

When and how was it finally determined that you’d be tackling Khan? Did anyone in the team have great trepidation about tackling such an iconic figure? I’d imagine it’s great fun to write for an arrogant super-genius. Basically, tell me everything.

Not to get too weird (too late?) but is it true there’s a shirtless scene of Benedict’s that didn’t make the final cut?

Creepily yours,
Josh

From: Damon Lindelof
To: Josh Horowitz
Sent: Saturday, May 11, 2013 8:12 PM

Josh,
Thanks for the kind words about the movie and for the (rather personal) revelation about you “plunging into darkness.” I’m going to assume this is a plumbing metaphor as opposed to some weird sex thing because it will just be better for all of us that way.

Tally ho! Onto the questions.

Why is Alice Eve in her underwear, gratuitously and unnecessarily, without any real effort made as to why in God’s name she would undress in that circumstance? Well there’s a very good answer for that. But I’m not telling you what it is. Because… uh… MYSTERY?

As for our friend Mr. Harrison (I am still uncomfortable even typing his true identity, so conditioned I have become to not do so), yes — there was a fair amount of back and forth as to whether to take on such an iconic character. But it was never really a “Should we or shouldn’t we?” as much as it was “We really have to do this but if we don’t get it right people are going to kill us.”

I think that character is so iconic — he has such an intense gravity in the Trek universe, we likely would have expended more energy NOT putting him in this movie than the other way around. But more importantly, Josh?

He monologues. He monologues like no one else. Pop in the original Star Trek II and watch the scene where poor Chekov stumbles into the Botany Bay. Seriously. In this day and age, most bad guys just run and jump and do that cool neck-breaking move and get the hell on with it. Outside of a Bond movie, does ANYONE monologue like this guy?

No, Josh. They do not.

And when you can get that monologue to come out of Benedict Cumberbatch’s mouth, does the “writing” even matter? I mean, seriously, I made that guy say “Milk, milk lemonade, and this is where the fudge is made” and it scared the living sh*t out of me.

As for the shirtless scene… we scripted it, but I don’t think it ever got shot. You know why? Because getting actors to take their clothes off is DEMEANING AND HORRIBLE AND…

Oh.
Right.
Sorry.

Boldly Gone,
Lindelof

From: Josh Horowitz
To: Damon Lindelof
Sent: Mon, May 13, 2013 10:36 am

Damon,
While we’re talking about he whose name is dare not spoken, I want to dig into the host of past Trek allusions you guys make in this go round. And yes of course the film works for the uninitiated to Trek but by golly I am initiated (that reminds me of something a Ferengi once said in my fanfic…) so let’s get specific.

There are a lot of fun callbacks to “Wrath of Khan”, from “the needs of the many” to Spock’s anguished scream. Did any other allusions nearly make the cut? ie. was there some Moby Dick in one stage of the script or even a Genesis device?

I loved the switcheroo of Kirk sacrificing himself for his crew in the end but here’s my question, was Captain Awesome always going to come back to life in this one or did you seriously consider leaving him dead at the end (to be dealt with another day…or in a sequel)? Why in the end did you think he needed to come back in this one?

And how about this Khan blood? Will the repercussions of death defying blood be dealt with should we get to the 3rd go around? Could Kirk adopt any homicidal tendencies as Bones jokes as a consequence of what went down?

Finally, did I catch a reference to a “Mud incident” or am I hearing things? Is that a reference to a Harry Mudd or were you guys just really looking forward to Matthew McConaughey’s turn in the Jeff Nichols indie?

Josh

From: Damon Lindelof
To: Josh Horowitz
Sent: Tuesday, May 14, 2013 1:53 AM

Commander Josh,
First and foremost, let me reiterate this film DOES work for the uninitiated… but let’s be honest. None of them are interested in reading this exchange of dorkitude, so seriously, screw them.

Did any callbacks not make the cut? Hmm. I suppose I always did want to settle the Joaquin/Joaquim controversy (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, then I just lost all respect for you), but there was neither the time, nor the space (get it? GET IT?!?) to do so. As for Genesis… that was never part of the plan. Not for this movie anyway. But wouldn’t it be great if Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins COULD get back together? Sigh.

But seriously. We were ever wary of the line between “reimagined homage” and “direct ripoff” and erred on the side of the former. As a fun FYI, Bob, Alex and I code-named the script file “PLANT STUDY” as we sent it back and forth.

We never considered leaving Kirk dead at the end of this movie. No one would’ve believed we’d leave him that way and in this spoiler-centric culture, the inter webs would have known we were bringing him back and how long before the release of STAR TREK KIRK IS BACK WE PROMISE.

I’m purposely avoiding talking about the blood thing, but by writing a sentence in response about it, it will feel like I’m not avoiding it completely.

I think when you typed Mud you were testing me to correct your misspelling of “Mudd” because there is no frigging way you’d make an amateur mistake like that. So, A, you’re busted. And B, if you want to learn more about the “Mudd incident” to which Sulu refers, I highly recommend the fantastic IDW Star Trek Into Darkness Comic Book on stands now. And yes, typing that last part killed a small part of my soul.

Live Long and Party,
Damon

From: Josh Horowitz
To: Damon Lindelof
Sent: Thu, May 16, 2013 8:49 am

Admiral Lindelof,
To be clear when I call you admiral I mean that a sign of respect and not an accusation of war-mongering like Admiral Marcus. Actually let’s start with Mr. Robocop, shall we? He’s a tough sonofabitch, ain’t he? I’m talking about both the character and actor of course. I just want to parse out his plan though. Why load the 72 genetically enhanced folk into torpedos? And more importantly why do he and his nefarious crew change into new uniforms on the Vengeance? And why is the lighting so ominously evil in there. It’s almost like they’re up to no good.

One twist that I enjoyed is that you’ve clearly set up as much of an antagonism between Khan and Spock as the classic Kirk/Khan one in TOS. If you had to predict Khan’s level of pissed off-ed-ness at Spock for fooling him (and kicking his ass) when he gets out of cryo (they ALWAYS get out of cryo), what would you say that would be?

Speaking of vengeance, J.J. told me you guys seriously were considering that as the name for the film. What was your preferred name when you guys were debating titles? I remember you mentioned to me once you guys were thinking about not using a “Star Trek” in the title at all. True? Or was that like Karl Urban saying Benedict Cumberbatch was going to make a fine Gary Mitchell?

Josh

From: Damon Lindelof
To: Josh Horowitz
Sent: Thursday, May 16, 2013 5:29 PM

Commander Horowitz,
I don’t know what your rank is either, but I’m going with “Commander” because, seriously, the ladies love that sh–.

As for “Mr. Robocop” (the name of my favorite indie band, btw), he didn’t load the torpedoes. Harrison did. This is made clear in the movie when he growls, “There are men and women in all those torpedoes. I put them there.” He removed the fuel compartments and replaced them with the cryotubes in attempt to smuggle his crew out of the underground bunker where he was forced to develop them. When his plan was discovered, all he could do was escape, leaving Admiral Marcus with his 72 Trojan Horses. When Kirk suggests going after Harrison on an unofficial vendetta mission, Marcus thinks for a moment (you can actually SEE this happen in the movie) and then realizes he can kill two birds with one stone by having Kirk fire the torpedoes at the Klingons, getting rid of the evidence and starting a war in the process.

And yes, typing all that made me realize how silly it is. But WAR IS SILLY!!!!

Khan’s level of pissed-off-ed-ness at Spock is a 37. Unfortunately, I cannot divulge 37 out of what.

Yes, we considered Star Trek Vengeance as a title. But a wise man once said, “Ghost Rider Did It.” And that wise man was J.J.. We debated multiple titles… there are seriously email chains between J.J., Alex, Bob, Bryan and myself that offer up no less than HUNDREDS of ideas. Many of them did not include the words “Star Trek.” My personal favorite was “Space Fun!” (yes, the exclamation point was included)

I will forever love Karl for openly lying about Benedict’s true identity (which I still can’t bring myself to type)… but can you entirely rule out that he WAS Gary Mitchell?

BUMBUMBAHHHHHHHHHHM!

(he wasn’t)

LLAP,
D

From: Josh Horowitz
To: Damon Lindelof
Sent: Sunday, May 19, 2013 12:53 PM

Damon,
Before we go our separate ways on our respective five year missions (yours to write riveting television and movies, mine to eat as much ice cream as possible), let’s finish our correspondence with a last round of miscellaneous questions stuck in my craw, shall we?

At least twice in the film, Bones expresses concern that Kirk’s vitals are off. Was there a payoff to this that was cut? Did he catch an STD from his threesome with two alien women with actual honest to goodness tails? That dude is a freak.

It’s always great to see Nimoy pop up and his cameo certainly came as a surprise to me. Can you talk about why you guys felt the scene was necessary?

Why does Robocop’s daughter speak with a British accent?

Finally, it seems clear you guys know where this franchise is going. All out war with the Klingons + Khan & friends still very much alive (and angry) seems like a recipe for escalated stakes/chaos. How much would you say the third film you guys have in mind is tied to the events that went down in “Into Darkness”? Throw me a frickin’ bone.

And with that I shall leave you be. I’m heading back to my cryo-tube.

Qapla’!
Josh

From: Damon Lindelof
To: Josh Horowitz
Sent: Sunday, May 19, 2013 10:53 PM

Josh,
First and foremost, can we switch our respective five-year missions? I find the ingestion of ice cream much less daunting than writing television and movies and suspect that I will have a much higher success rate making said consumption of delicious frozen treats “riveting.” Seriously, you have not lived until you’ve seen me devour a triple-scoop cone of mint chip. With sprinkles.

Why is Bones concerned with Kirk’s vitals? Well, he’s a doctor, dammit. And I think our intention was more in the area of “blatant foreshadowing” than it was “setting up something that would pay off later.” Sound familiar? Welcome to the world of unfulfilled expectations! I should also state here that you calling a man a freak just because he keeps company with young ladies who happen to have tails is ignorant and prejudicial and clearly indicative that you are jealous. Tails are hot and we all know it.

As for Mr. Nimoy, well… we continue to feel blessed that we get to carry the Trek torch and the best way of expressing that in story is to acknowledge the parallel world we are deviating from — a world whose sole ambassador just happens to be Mr. Spock. It would have been hubris for us to represent to the uninitiated that Khan was our idea and there was no one better to pop in briefly and say — “Hey, these guys are just doing their own spin on a bad guy that was around a long time before they came along.” The minute we stop honoring, acknowledging and representing the original Trek, we are bound to lose sight of the enormous gift we have been given in sustaining it.

Why does Robocop’s daughter have a British accent? Well, she explains that at length. But we cut it out because the story wanted to explain the torpedoes… not the fact that Marcus was stationed in London when Carol was a little girl. We did shoot this and I’m sure it will be available on the BluRay for all interested in the under-discussed area of British accents and why they are awesome because British people are cooler than we are.

And the future? Well… the honest truth is, yes — seeds — indeed SPACE seeds — have been sown for what comes next. But after spending four years of not telling who our bad guy was this time around, we’re certainly not in a position to say anything about the plot of the next movie, should we be lucky enough to do another. So BOO-YA, bone withheld!!!

Okay. That sounded weird.

As always, I thoroughly enjoy the back and forth. Until we meet again…

Live Long and BlahBlahBlah,
D