Are the good times over in the 23rd century? As the title suggests, Star Trek Into Darkness brings the crew of the USS Enterprise into some grim space. ''They are tested, and the tests are cruel ones,'' says Chris Pine, who returns as James T. Kirk, the newly minted captain of the Enterprise. ''The first film was the story of him getting the captain's seat this one is the story of him earning it.''
A mysterious foe (Sherlock's Benedict Cumberbatch) is the one challenging Kirk with acts of mass terrorism. He drags the Enterprise crew down into the moral gutters moviegoers usually expect from Gotham City, not the iPod-shiny Starfleet terrain. How will Kirk & Co. get back to the bright side? ''Friendship is the key,'' says Zachary Quinto, reprising his role as the frosty, logical Mr. Spock. ''They grow closer as things get worse.''
Having successfully revived the Trek franchise, director J.J. Abrams will soon be heading to the transporter room himself to direct the seventh film in the rival Star Wars series (he'll remain a producer in the likely event of another Trek sequel). Quinto jokingly suggests that the filmmaker might one day forge an onscreen mind meld of the two galaxies. ''That's what this is all about, I'm sure,'' Quinto says. ''Ultimately he's bringing the franchises together for a battle royal.''