10 Things to Know Before Seeing Star Trek Into Darkness

A primer for both the nerds and the novices.

For the most part, I am excited to see new movies (save for those in the Twilight series or anything starring Julia Stiles). But the movie that I have anticipated the most this year is Star Trek into Darkness. Perhaps it’s because I grew up in a household where my dad and I watched The Next Generation every Monday night. (The best was when Captain Picard and the Enterprise had to fight the Borg or deal with Q. The holodeck episodes? Not so much.) Or perhaps it was due to J. J. Abrams’ killer 2009 reboot that was perfectly cast and perfectly fun. Either way, I’m pleased to say that Darkness lived up to my anticipation.

True, as is the case for most sequels, it is a bit more serious and downtrodden: a lot of dialogue focused on feelings and emotions, and a plot featuring a bombing. (Which, just like in Iron Man 3, still feels too raw, too soon.) Yet with the great cast—now including the incomparable Benedict Cumberbatch—and J. J. Abrams’ focused direction, it remains faithful to Gene Roddenberry’s original vision while providing much needed energy and quite a few laughs.

So whether you’re fluent in Klingon or can’t tell a Tribble from a Romulan, here are 10 things that will help you understand and enjoy Darkness even more.

1. For anyone who experiences any degree of motion sensitivity, do not see Darkness in 3D. (Especially IMAX 3D.) With Abrams’ penchant for shaky camera work and quick-cut editing—demonstrably present in the opening moments—the addition of another dimension only makes it harder to focus.

2. In the first Star Trek film—well, the first of the revamps—the original captain of the Enterprise, Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood), convinces James Kirk (Chris Pine) to join the Starfleet Academy. As Kirk’s superior and mentor, he quickly becomes a father figure to him, as well.

3. Starfleet’s Prime Directive is that no one should interfere or make themselves known to developing alien civilizations.

4. First Officer Spock (Zachary Quinto) is half-human and half-Vulcan (a pointy-eared, alien species who value reason and logic over emotion). As such, he’s also able to do some really cool tricks. With strategically placed fingers on someone’s face, Spock can “mind meld” with the person (i.e., share every thought and emotion the person is experiencing). He can also grab someone by the neck (aka, the “nerve pinch”) and incapacitate them.

5. In the first film, planet Vulcan was destroyed killing billions of Vulcans. Including Spock’s human mother played by Winona Ryder. Seriously.

6. What would a J. J. Abrams movie be without oodles and oodles of lens flares (the times where the camera is aimed directly into a light)?

7. Most fans have probably already seen it, but just in case: Avoid Wikipedia and other plot synopses before seeing Darkness, otherwise you risk ruining some great surprises (specifically in regards to one of the main characters). If, however, you never saw the originals or simply don’t give a frickin’ frak, then read away.

8. Klingons are an alien warrior race (noted for their giant, plated foreheads) that fights, kills, and dies for honor. For centuries they are the sworn enemies of humans, but later (during The Next Generation era) they become important allies.

9. Yes, Spock and Uhura (Zoe Saldana) are in a relationship now (much to the chagrin of many Trekkies/Trekkers out there). But it takes a backseat to the friendship developing between Spock and Kirk.

10. The recent Marvel movies (Iron Man, The Avengers, etc…) have trained us to wait patiently through an action movie’s final credits to catch a special bonus scene. (What, they’re eating shawarma? That’s hilarious!) Alas, none is to be found here.