In the fifty one years since the first episode was produced – and rejected – Star Trek has been almost everything to everyone. A failed television show, a cult phenomenon, a Saturday morning cartoon, a major motion picture series, a first-run syndicated smash hit which paved the way for a whole wave of science fiction shows, the flagship show of a new television network, a multimedia franchise which has spanned books, comics, games, toys, collectables, conventions, costumes and fan films and inspired generation after generation.
It was on September 8th 1966 that the first episode was finally broadcast, The Man Trap, and next year will see the fiftieth anniversary of that night which (slowly) changed and shaped television history. Many of the cast and creators of that long ago episode – creator Gene Roddenberry, producer Robert Justman, designer Matt Jeffries, actors Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley and James Doohan, composer Alexander Courage – are now lost, but their work is remembered, celebrated and cherished in the new films which have revitalised the Star Trek dream under the guidance of producer J J Abrams, the latest of which is released next year immediately prior to the anniversary.
Having directed the first to hugely successful features, Abrams has remained as producer on Star Trek Beyond while his focus has been on Star Wars: The Force Awakens, handing the reins over to Justin Lin, director of three Fast and The Furious films as well as episodes of Community and True Detective.
Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, John Cho and Anton Yelchin return to their established roles along with Simon Pegg who co-wrote the script with Doug Jung, Roberto Orci and John D Payne, while joining the cast are Idris Elba and Sofia Boutella.
The first trailer has been released and it has surprised the team, who express their opinions here.
Michael Flett – First up – it’s great to see the gang again. I’ve missed them. I’ve missed them a ridiculous amount considering we’ve only actually spent two films with them – well, at least with these particular faces. I’ve said it before and it’s still relevant – the casting was the thing that sold these films. If it had been wrong, J J’s Star Trek would have sunk like a stone in 2009 but every one of the ensemble was perfect.
When Into Darkness came out, I was in some ways disappointed that it was in many ways not the wholly original film that we wanted, the first having obviously been a “handing off” film between the prime and the new universes performed graciously by Leonard Nimoy, but was instead a thematic remake of The Wrath of Khan, though wisely subverting and twisting all the expectations that label would bring. That’s the way to do a remake of an iconic piece – make it your own. Even if it doesn’t work it’s better to be admired for your ambition than damned for your timidity.
So here we are at number three and it has to be something new or they will forever be seen as a cover band, and it looks like they’ve done it, though from the outset it’s apparent that there will be at least one holdover from the previous third movie. It was back in The Search for Spock in 1984 that the Enterprise was scuttled, sacrificed over the Genesis planet so Kirk and co could escape, and hoo boy, it looks like the beautiful new Enterprise is going to get trashed big time.
Tut, tut, helmsman Sulu! And we thought Deanna Troi was a bad driver… So much for the five year mission, eh?
We have the Beastie Boys, we have the gang in some spiffy new uniforms, we have two new alien races – oh, and keeping with the Trek tradition established by Michael Westmore and his colleagues on The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager, one of them is practically defined by their eyebrows.
It’s scripted by Simon Pegg and Doug Jung and directed by Justin Lin, all untried within the franchise, but we know Simon can tie a story together (Hot Fuzz) or utterly botch it (The World’s End) and with J J, Bryan Burk and Roberto Orci all on board as producers so there should be consistency.
Both Idris Elba and Sofia Boutella will be great, I have no doubt – despite being painfully neglected by the script he was great in Prometheus, and I loved her in Kingsman and even Monsters: Dark Continent, where she was mesmerising despite being almost silent, two roles which couldn’t be more different.
Certainly in terms of locations and scope, filming in British Columbia, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates has paid off (and will increase overseas box office potential), and perhaps unsurprising with Lin in the captain’s chair there is going to be a huge emphasis on stunts and action.
I’m conscious that a lot of people are going to take umbrage that this is “not Star Trek” and certainly it’s not the approach that the television show took, but the films never did, they were always something different and if it was to survive it had to adapt. Star Trek has been many, many different things, and I believe a wise man once said “change is the essential process of all existence,” though with what looks like a slave labour camp or possibly a prisoner of war camp, it could also be returning to deal with modern issues very directly.
The news that CBS is bringing us a new Star Trek show means that there will be another avenue for the wider universe and philosophies to be examined in an extended format, and though nothing has been confirmed I have no doubt but that it will be tied to the universe of the new films as it’s being developed by Alex Kurtzman who co-wrote Star Trek and Into Darkness.
Those hoping it will be a return to the “prime” universe need to wake up; much as we love it, they’re not going to have two different universes running at the same time, one on film and one on television. They’re going to be set up to complement each other, very likely in the way that the Marvel films and television shows run in parallel.
That’s not until 2017, but in the meantime, the fiftieth anniversary of original broadcast looks like it’s going to arrive with a bang. One thing I will be expecting, though, is a dedication to Leonard Nimoy. These new films wouldn’t exist without his glorious endorsement, and I have no doubt that will be remembered and reflected here.
Hannah Nicol-Rowe – I have always been a Trekker rather than a follower of the Force, so this is the film with “Star” in the title that I’m excited about. So far, they’ve struck a nice balance of action, plot and comedy while providing a very clever reason for these parallel characters brought to life with aplomb by Pine, Pegg, Saldana, Quinto et al.
This trailer looks like they’re not straying from that well lit path with this third installment, especially with the addition of the mighty Idris Elba. Pure joyous sci-fi escapism, perfectly executed. Pass the popcorn.
Wes May – Not too sure how to feel about this. I’m not tied to the original Star Trek as some sort of definitive universe that could never be touched or anything, and am a pretty big fan of J J Abrams’ two reboot films. That said, having a Fast and Furious take over for a such a visual stylist as Abrams shows, and shows big time in this trailer.
This scarcely resembles Star Trek at all. That could be by design, but I can’t shake the feeling that this is that moment that most all franchises reach early on where “what was” spins off into “what will be”, and “what will be” tends to be the end of the line.
Matthew Rutland – Where can you even start? The last film was so bad, it was such a rip-off of Wrath of Khan that they had to look to a more inventive storyline. To be fair Robert Orci himself said he wanted that, so it looks like a little more original than the last. Which is good, right?
Well, no. Now it seems to have strayed too far away from Star Trek, borrowing so much from everything else successful, like Serenity and Guardians of the Galaxy, but it just doesn’t work. The dialogue, the action sequences all seem far too average. Sabotage is a great song but feels well out of place in this film.
As for the cast, I wonder how many others feel like me, that Chris Pine is just not leading man material, and Karl Urban would have made a much more commanding (pun intended) Kirk. I used to adore Simon Pegg but it really feels like he just checked out after Hot Fuzz and has not made anything good since.
I love Idris Elba, but after Benedict’s performance in the last one, I fear the English acting flag will be flying at half mast still, unlike the superb English presence in the Star Wars franchise. I would rather people would give these big films a longer timeframe to be written, cast and made, as it feels too much of a production line these days, and we all know that unlike bespoke, production lines just breed uniformity – great if you are making cars, not if you are trying to be creative.