Monday, May 20, 2013

Star Trek Into Whiteness: The Wrath of Whitewashed Khan

Yeah, I know, I'm a nerd - but this making Khan a pasty white guy in Star Trek Into Darkness is really bugging me. Let me state right here at the start that I am a huge fan of alternate universes - changing genders, races and events in everything from Star Trek to Battlestar Galactica, Elementary, Hannibal and so on. Alternate universes are fun. And yes, J.J.'s two Trek films are set in an alternate universe, created by time travelers altering the original timeline - the arrival of Nero and Spock Prime lead to the destruction of the U.S.S. Kelvin, the death of Kirk's father and ultimately the death of Spock's planet, among other things. Going a step further, in Star Trek: First Contact, Picard's Enterprise pursues the Borg back in time which alters the events surrounding mankind's initial meeting with the Vulcans - and creating an alternate timeline which results in the series Star Trek: Enterprise. In that series, a prequel to J.J.'s movies, time travelers are waging a "temporal cold war," going back in time and changing events to alter the timeline even further. Humans meet Klingons much sooner this time around, and even battle the Borg without the help of Q. Here's the thing - even though I'm a longtime sci-fi nerd, I'm having a had time believing, let alone imagining, that time traveling agents would go back centuries just to change the ethnicity of Khan Noonien Singh from Indian to white. It stops the story cold. Usually, when an alternate universe presents a familiar character undergoing a gender or ethnicity change, it's an alternate universe from Day Zero, like the aforementioned Battlestar Galactica, Elelmentary, Hannibal, Casino Royale or even the Marvel Cinematic Universe or the upcoming Man of Steel. But J.J. Trek films are different - it's an alternate timeline created by meddlesome time travelers, not an entirely brand new universe. So for Khan to be changed from Indian to white, a time travel conspiracy seems to be the only logical explanation. (Perhaps that story will come in the comic book). Bottom line - a POC should have been cast as Khan, or John Harrison should have been another augment being mishandled by Section 31. Khan could have been one of the frozen augments in the torpedo tubes, and Harrison could have been Khan's chief engineer (which would be why Marcus wants him to help design ships and weapons). While I've heard some people say that it "just doesn't matter" that a white actor is playing Khan - I respond with the question "Is it important that a black actress play Uhura and an Asian actor play Sulu?" Yes. Yes it is.

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