Make It So

‘Star Trek’ for Dummies: Get Ready for ‘Into Darkness’ With Our Primer

Ahead of ‘Star Trek Into Darkness,’ Sujay Kumar offers a primer on the voyages of the Starship Enterprise.

Star Trek (noun) Science-fiction franchise launched on television in 1966. Not Star Wars.

The series was not, in fact, created by Jean-Luc Picard, but Gene Roddenberry. The television shows were prolific: The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise. There are 12 installments on film: Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (yes, this was the movie with the humpback whales), Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Star Trek Generations, Star Trek: First Contact, Star Trek: Insurrection, Star Trek: Nemesis, Star Trek, and Star Trek Into Darkness. The new film franchise, which launched in 2009, is mostly inspired by the original television series.

If you have to ask whether Star Trek is like Star Wars, you are horribly, irrevocably misguided.

Trekkie (noun) A fan, sometimes rabid, of Star Trek.

These people do not always frequent conventions wearing Starfleet uniforms. They don’t sign emails with the Vulcan salute, “Live long and prosper.” A trekkie will, however, drop everything to discuss the merits of Klingon spirituality. Or make a bad joke about a tribble (a Furby-like creature).

James T. Kirk and Spock (nouns) Main characters in Star Trek. Engage in bromance.

A wild one, James T. Kirk rides motorcycles, wears leather, and enjoys the occasional bar fight. Spock, half-human and half-Vulcan, quits the Vulcan Science Academy because he doesn’t fit in. Both men join Starfleet (Star Trek’s version of the military), save the world, and become best friends. At the end of the 2009 Star Trek, Kirk becomes the captain of the Starship Enterprise (that ship that looks like a spoon). Spock is first officer of the ship, and he scores a girlfriend, Uhura.

Vulcan (noun) Alien humanoids who live by logic and reason and suppress emotion.

Like Spock, Vulcans have the Beatles hairstyle, pointy ears, and eyebrows like this: \ /. Vulcans are known for the “nerve pinch” move, which knocks a person out by pinching a spot on his or her neck, and mind-meld to enter another person’s brain and sift around the thoughts. They also make a “V” with their fingers as a salute.

Romulan (noun) Evil alien race.

They killed Kirk’s father! Why? The Romulans, of which the evil Nero was one, share ancestry with Vulcans, and they believed in the 2009 Star Trek that Spock had something to do with the destruction of their planet Romulus 129 years ago. Really, he was trying to use “red matter” to make a black hole, destroy a menacing supernova, and save everyone. That didn’t work.

The Destruction of Vulcan (noun) The Star Trek universe’s 9/11.

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To avenge the destruction of their planet, the Romulans drill red matter into the core of Spock’s home planet and induce a black hole that destroys Vulcan. Six billion are annihilated. This has often been referred to as the September 11 moment that will reverberate through the new Star Trek universe.

Parallel Universe (noun) Why some people are pissed off.

This is where it gets tricky. One hundred and twenty-nine years in the future, Spock failed to save Romulus. He's exiled to Delta Vega to watch Vulcan's annihilation. Nero, the angry Romulan, traveled to the past to kill the present Spock. Old Spock (Leonard Nimoy) reunites with Kirk (Chris Pine) and explains this whole thing. Old Spock later meets new Spock (Zachary Quinto) and tells him to follow his heart.

Basically, the parallel universe allows director J.J. Abrams to do whatever he wants to Star Trek without altering the classic story. Technically, all that stuff from years past still exists—it just happened in another alternate universe. And unlike Back to the Future, altering the past doesn’t change the present.

Leonard Nimoy (adjective) Awesome.