Monday, July 21, 2014

Character Insight No. 105: Alexander Marcus

This is the latest installment in a series of "Character Insight" articles regarding the rich history of characters in the Star Trek universe.  An audio version will appear on the This Week in Trek podcast, available for direct download here.--------------------Welcome back to Character Insight!  This week, we profile Admiral Alexander Marcus from Star Trek Into Darkness, who surprisingly jumps all the way to number 6 on our best Trek movie villains countdown.

(Perhaps a perfection of the "Badmiral")

Alexander Marcus is an admiral who serves as the head of Starfleet during the Kirk era. He is also the father of Carol Marcus, who later has a child named David with Captain Kirk, at least in the prime timeline. So in a way, this is old grandpa Marcus. 

When Kirk is demoted following a breaking of the Prime Directive, Marcus is convinced by one of his proteges Christopher Pike to let Kirk keep serving actively as first officer on Enterprise. But that decision does not shield Kirk from annoying Marcus, especially when he can't keep quiet during a top level briefing following Khan's bombing of an archive facility in London.

Quote of the Week: "Speak Up Son, Tomorrow is too late..."

In that same briefing, Khan attacks the admirals, captains, and first officers, which leads to the unfortunate death of Christopher Pike and the re-assigning of the Enterprise to Kirk. In order to get rid of Kirk and kill two birds with one stone, Marcus sends Kirk and the Enterprise to go bomb Khan, who has taken refuge on an abandoned part of the Klingon homeworld Qo'Nos, and he sends him with 72 special torpedos which just so happen to have frozen people inside. 

Of course, Kirk listens to the better judgement of Spock and Scotty in not using the torpedos to launch a direct attack on the Klingon homeworld, especially in view of his engine problems. Khan gives himself up when he learns of the torpedos and eventually causes Kirk to open one and discover the truth. Admiral Marcus had been using the genetically-enhanced Khan to build epic warships and armaments to gear up under the guise of Section 31 for a war to be provoked with the Klingons. 

And of course, when Khan turns on Marcus and starts a one-man war with Starfleet, Marcus tries to cover his mistake by killing Khan while also provoking the war he has prepared to start. When Kirk doesn't follow this plan as expected, Marcus and his Section 31 cronies track Kirk down in the warship Vengeance and turn against the Enterprise in an effort to finally finish Khan and correct Marcus's mistake. 

This warmongering desire and his disregard for the lives of the Enterprise crew immediately turn Marcus into another villain of the film, one that Khan and Kirk must combine forces to defeat. Indeed, Damon Lindeloff has been quoted that the Marcus storyline was intended to bring a trope of Hong Kong filmmaking into the Trek movies, that being the villain and the hero needing to team up temporarily for the sake of both.

Marcus gets what is coming to him, though, thanks to the efforts of a rogue stowaway Scotty on the Vengeance and a totally unrealistic but entertaining Thruster suit jump of Kirk and Khan between the damaged ships. He stands by his principles until the end though,...

Quote of the Week (2): "All-out war with the Klingons is inevitable, Mr. Kirk. If you ask me, it's already begun...You killed a Klingon patrol. Even if you got away without a trace, war is coming. And who's gonna lead us?! YOU?! If I'm not in charge, our entire way of life is decimated! So, you want me off this ship, you better kill me."

...And then Khan crushes his head, ending this Badmiral. 

Marcus pushes into the top 10 because the acting performance of Peter Weller is superb, showing a man standing by his principles even when the result seems flawed. Weller has been quoted as disliking the label of villain for Marcus because everything he says about the Klingons is true and he is simply trying to fix his mistakes to clear his conscience when Kirk and the Enterprise get in the way. That belief helps him pull off this performance so much more than a typical bad guy actor. This character is a huge bright spot in an otherwise ordinary copycat movie.

Weller has played in many movies and television series since the 1970's, highlighted by appearances on 24, Dexter, and of course, as Robocop in those original movies. (Insert Officer Murphy)

Until next time, live long and prosper...

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