‘Star Trek Into Darkness’ And The Security State

I’ve been looking forward to Star Trek Into Darkness, which, judging by the first trailer, looks gorgeous, and has appropriate amounts of Cumberbatchiness, though I am somewhat concerned about the levels of Karl-Urban-as-Bones:

One thing I’d note, though: I kind of appreciated the ludicrousness of the Red Matter-driven explanation for Nero’s actions in the last movie, if only because of the way they removed the movie from contemporary geopolitics. Nero was acting like a terrorist, but for reasons that had to do with failures of diplomacy, bonkers science, and personal grief. Star Trek Into Darkness looks like it could be considerably more engaged with our own environment, and I’m not sure how that will play out.

The voiceover from Benedict Cumberbatch’s villain here lays out are a sort of inverse of the current justifications for our security state. Currently, we convince ourselves—and pop culture plays a role in this, from the veneration of Abu Nazir on Homeland to Silva in Skyfall— that we’re under constant threat from hyper-competent terrorists, even though all of the potential attacks on the U.S. over the past couple of years were small-ball affairs that were easily foiled, in part because they were carried out by laughably incompetent figures. Cumberbatch, by contrast, tells Kirk (presumably) that his society is complacent, saying “You think your world is safe. It is an illusion. A comforting lie told to protect you,” and then setting out to prove it. Even though these sentiments come from different places, they’re both fundamentally oriented towards ramping up security, towards the maintenance of a certain level of paranoia. I’m looking forward to seeing how the movie handles that challenge, especially in the political context of the Federation, which is much more interconnected than our own world.