MOTW: The Ladies of "Star Trek Into Darkness"

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Star Trek Into Darkness stars Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, and Zoe Saldana as the Enterprise crew as they face a new foe portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch.
Photo Credit: Paramount Home Entertainment
May 14th, 2013

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MOTW: The Ladies of "Star Trek Into Darkness"

When people think of J.J. Abrams' new Star Trek films, they often think of characters such as Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock. However, fans of the longtime series of TV shows and movies know that those men depend on some very strong women to keep the USS Enterprise going strong. Two of those women are Nyota Uhura (Zoe Saldana) and Carol Marcus (Alice Eve).

Uhura is a character whom even casual fans of the series will probably recognize, because she was a part of the iconic "Star Trek" series, which many fans now refer to as TOS, or the original series. Back then, Uhura was played by Nichelle Nichols, a television pioneer who had the first substantial female African-American role on TV. Nichols would play the part not only in the television show but in several movie adaptations in the 1980s and '90s as well. When J.J. Abrams decided to produce and direct a rebooted version of the original series, he cast actress Zoe Saldana in the role of Uhura.

In Abrams' 2009 movie "Star Trek," the character of Uhura is the same as the one in the television series but is younger and at the beginning of her career. At the start of the film, she is still fairly fresh out of the Starfleet Academy and holds the rank of cadet. By the end of the film, she has been promoted to the lieutenant, which is her rank in the original television series and the rank that most fans associate with her.

In "Star Trek Into Darkness," Uhura is still an integral part of the crew of the Enterprise as a communications officer on the bridge. She is tough and disciplined and doesn't take flack from anyone, including Captain Kirk. In the television series, Kirk and Uhura once shared a kiss, but in "Star Trek Into Darkness," Uhura is in a relationship with Spock that occasionally complicates her ability to do her job. This is evident in a scene at the very beginning of the film, when Kirk must decide whether to break Starfleet protocol to save Spock's life and asks Uhura for her advice.

Those who don't closely follow the Star Trek canon may not know who Carol Marcus is, but she is actually an important part of Kirk's world. Most only know of Kirk as a womanizer, which is how he is often portrayed in the Abrams films, including the new "Star Trek Into Darkness." However, Kirk did have an actual relationship with Dr. Carol Marcus, a science officer who was very focused on her lab work in the original films from the 1980s. She became pregnant with Kirk's child, which complicated their relationship so much that it eventually broke them apart. She would end up raising their child alone, choosing career and stability over life as Kirk's girlfriend or wife, constantly traveling aboard the Enterprise.

In "Star Trek Into Darkness," Marcus is played by Alice Eve, but the character is at a very different point in her life than she was in the 1980s films, in which she was portrayed by Bibi Besch. Carol and Kirk have not yet established the close relationship that would lead to her pregnancy, though they are both ambitious and career driven just like the original iterations of the characters. In interviews, Eve has said that she thought long and hard about her portrayal of the character, opting to make Carol emotionally softer than she was in the original films. She said that she wished to bring a sense of hopefulness to the character, who hadn't yet been bogged down by her career and the tough life of a single parent.

The character isn't as emotionally tough as Besch's character and has a lot to learn. It is rumored that the character will get into a relationship with Kirk sometime during "Star Trek Into Darkness," but this can't be confirmed until the film is released on May 17, 2013. Until then, J.J. Abrams isn't letting very much information out, as evidenced from his silence regarding whether Benedict Cumberbatch's villain, John Harrison, was really Khan or not.

Both Uhura and Carol Marcus are examples of strong women in films who stand out in a sea of men. Both characters also have storylines that set them up for juicy parts in any additional Abrams films, should a third or fourth installment get made. Until then, sci-fi fans will have to wait while Abrams helms that other big space-set franchise, Star Wars.