Star Trek Beyond successfully continues the reboot
The Star Trek reboot
Star Trek: Beyond (2016) directed by Justin Lin has special effects the early Star Trek series could only dream about. It is the third movie in the group known as the “Star Trek Reboot” (theguardian.com) intended to rejuvenate the characters created by Gene Roddenberry for a new generation of movie goers as well as long term “trekkies”.
These movies go back in narrative time to before the beginning of the cult series.
I do not like to give a lot of spoilers when a film is still in the cinema, so I will briefly point out things that were good about the movie to wet your appetite if you have not viewed it yet.
What does Star Trek Beyond do well?
- Star Trek beyond introduces us to a new character Jaylah. This is a feisty woman who was left stranded on an unknown planet. She has distinctive hair and make-up and can fight well. I would love to see her join the crew of the enterprise in future.
- Creates villains. Krall and his companions are well represented, whether this is by computerised effects or make-up and costuming.
- Humanises long term characters. Montgomery Scott gets a new nick-name, James Kirk appears to enjoy using a vintage (in Star Trek terms) boy-toy and Bones articulates his friendship bond with another team member.
- Sneaks in new alien crew members. We all know the Enterprise had a crew of thousands… but I don’t remember one who had the handy skill of spitting acid in the original series. Or one whose hair could do such interesting things. Wasn’t Spock our token alien (half-alien really) in the pilot episode of 1965?
- Combine special effects with humour. This includes the placement of some of the debris from the alien drones, and the use of holographic duplicates to confuse the aliens. I will leave you to watch for other examples of this in the movie.
Last but not least...
- Star Trek beyond develops an understated romance between Spock and Uhura.
- The original Spock could not do this – he was designed to be too “logical”, too emotionless. Also he may have been betrothed to a woman back on Vulcan (See "Amok Time" #30, 1967). However, planet Vulcan has been destroyed and Spock is now single.
- In Star Trek (2009) the relationship looked more like a crush on Uhura’s part and I was not convinced. In Star Trek: into darkness (2013) there was a brief kiss, but the signals of relationship between them did not go beyond her rebuking him for lack of feeling regarding his mortality.
- In Star Trek: beyond, Spock has given Uhura a family heirloom as a keepsake. This appears to be a deep token of affection. Moreover, it is one he will not allow her to return even when she is angry at him.
Star Trek (2009) introduced the "Kelvin" timeline:
Star Trek (2009), directed by J.J. Abrams is also affectionately known as “09” to distinguish it from Star Trek: the motion picture (1979) directed by Robert Wise. It uses a clever play with time travel and alternate time-lines to establish grounds for new adventures for the crew of the original enterprise.
Stardate 2233: the Narada hails the Kelvin and demands that its commander board the Narada via shuttlecraft. Captain Robau hands command of the ship to his first officer, George Kirk, who is played by Chris Hemsworth, and leaves the ship. Ayel interrogates Robau about the whereabouts of “Ambassador Spock”. Narada's captain, played by Nero Eric Bana, stabs Robau with a long bladed weapon. George Kirk commands the Kelvin to open fire and tries to plot a collision course to destroy the enemy ship. He also orders his wife Winona Kirk, played by Jennifer Morrison, to get on a shuttle craft and escape. Mrs. Kirk gives birth to a son and they name him “James Tiberius” over the intercom.
Ten years later
Stardate 2233: on earth, a young James Kirk is in trouble with the police for dangerous driving. A few years later Kirk gets into a bar fight, which is broken up by a Star Fleet officer who reminds Kirk of his father’s heroism and challenges him to join Star Fleet. Kirk, played by Chris Pine, joins the recruits and meets McCoy, played by Karl Urban. I had always assumed “Bones” was his nickname because he was a doctor, but the young McCoy explains he lost everything in a divorce and only has his "bones.
Kirk and McCoy become friends, but not Kirk and Spock. Kirk encounters Spock when he attempts the Kobayashi Maru test, which no one has ever passed, for the third time. He beats the technology and the attending officer, Spock, who is played by Zachary Quinto, accuses him of cheating. A hearing is called, where they debate whether the test is one of character or wit.
The disciplinary hearing is interrupted by an SOS call from the planet Vulcan. As the Star fleet main forces are already deployed the recruits are commissioned to commence a rescue mission. They are assigned to the newly commissioned U.S.S. Enterprise. Kirk is grounded, for the cheating incident but McCoy basically smuggles him on-board. Hikaru Sulu (John Cho), Pavel Chekov (Anton Yelchin) and Nyota Uhura (Zoe Saldana) are on-board the Enterprise bringing the crew from the original series together.
Kirk recognises the cosmic phenomena detected near Vulcan as the energy singularities the Kelvin encountered some twenty years previously. He believes they are running into a Romulan trap, and Uhura confirms his suspicions.
Stardate Kelvin 2258
The Narada, last seen Stardate 2233, appears and attacks the Enterprise . How did it do this? It apparently travelled time in through a black hole from 2387 when a supernova destroyed Romulus. (See the wikia.) The Romulan crew are very angry at “Ambassador Spock”, whom they blame for not saving their planet and intent on revenge and are drilling a hole into the core of Planet Vulcan.
Captain Pike promotes Spock to captain; and to Spock’s annoyance, makes Kirk first officer. Like Captain Kirk’s father before him, he then boards the Romulan ship. Spock manages to rescue his father, but the planet explodes. Nerada escapes and the Kelvin heads off to destroy earth in the same way it destroyed Vulcan.
Kirk and Spock disagree, and Spock expels Kirk from the ship onto Delta Vega, a small planet in Vulcan’s system. He seeks shelter in a cave and encounters “Ädmiral Spock” in a cameo appearance by Leonard Nimoy. The black hole had also carried him back in time. Together, Kirk and future Spock go to a Star Fleet outpost and meet Montgomery Scott, played by Simon Pegg. Admiral Spock persuades Scott to use technology Scott would invent in the future to beam Kirk back on-board the enterprise, where Kirk declares the younger Spock unfit for command due to grief over the loss of his planet.
The Enterprise flies after the Nerada and saves the earth. The two incarnations of Spock meet in a hallmark moment, and then future Spock goes to assist the remaining Vulcans and present Spock re-joins the enterprise.
Star Trek: Into Darkness seemed very familiar
Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013) directed by J.J. Abrams was fast paced and contained many special effects. However, it was spoilt for me by the sense that I had seen a similar story-line before in an earlier Star Trek film or episode that was so comparable.
Stardate 2259: when The USS Enterprise is sent to explore the "Class M" planet Nibiru. Spock falls into a volcano. Kirk risks exposure by using the enterprise to save his life. Apparently this is against Star Fleet prime directive. (I am not a full “trekkie”, who I am sure would be able to explain this logic, but it doesn’t make sense. Isn’t the “Federation” a force for good in the Star Trek universe? Don’t they make treaties and alliances? How can they do this while keeping operations secret).
Anyway, Kirk is relieved of his command as a punishment. Admiral Pike, played by Bruce greenwood, is sympathetic and makes Kirk his first officer. “John Harrison”, a Star Fleet agent bombs an installation in London. He then attacks Star Fleet headquarters using a gunship. Pike is killed and “Harrison” flees to the Klingon home-world known as Kronos (Qo'noS). At this stage in Star Fleet history, the Federation is still at war with the Klingons, so Kirk is given his command back and furnished with extra weaponry.
The Enterprise malfunctions and Kirk, Spock and Uhura use a trader to go to Kronos. The ship is by Klingon patrols and forced to land. The Klingons are about to kill them when they are assisted by “Harrison”. “Harrison” surrenders to the enterprise crew and it is revealed that he is really Khan Noonien Singh a criminal who was supposedly suspended in cryo-sleep.
The super villain Khan is back
Khan appears willing to help the Federation. He suggests Kirk take a closer look at some prototype torpedoes which are opened to disclose genetically-engineered humans in cryo-sleep. These are members of the crew from Khan’s ship the Botany Bay. Scott also investigates coordinates the enterprise was given Khan and discovers a secret Starfleet shipyard.
A huge unregistered battleship, the USS Vengeance pulls up alongside the Enterprise. The commander of the ship is Admiral Marcus, who was responsible for waking Khan from cryo-sleep. He demands the enterprise hand over Khan, but Kirk refuses and returns to Earth, where return Khan can be put on trial again for his crimes.
The Vengeance attacks the enterprise, but is disabled by Scott, who had secretly climbed on board. He is joined by Kirk and Khan, who capture the ship. Some torpedoes detonate and Khan erupts in rage fearing his crew were killed, but Spock reveals the cryo-tubes containing Khan’s crew are safe. The vengeance crashes into San Francisco and Khan attempts to escape, but is pursued by Spock. McCoy uses some of Khan’s blood to revive Kirk who gave his life for his crew.