“Let’s see what’s out there.” With that proclamation the far-enduring Star Trek franchise has achieved more and far exceeded the expectations of its original television run. The Original Series (as it has become known in marketing) was created in 1964 by Gene Roddenberry and was the television writer’s vision of a “wagon train to the stars”. In his poetic optimism, Roddenberry imagined a future where Earth’s civilization united under one banner to explore the depths of space in a journey of self-discovery.
Though along the way the Starship Enterprise (registry NCC-1701) often found itself in the most compromising of positions, and whether the threat came in the form of warmongering Klingons, shifty Romulans, or even some trouble with tribbles Capt. James T. Kirk (William Shatner and then later Chris Pine) managed to steer the crew out of peril. Along the way, there was always a lesson to learn. Star Trek delivered socially significant morality plays hidden inside of its science-fiction premise.
After all you could get away with sneaking in important themes so long as they get cloaked in along with the sci-fi element. An interracial, sometimes interplanetary, crew on a 5-year mission in space...anything can happen -- and it often has! Star Trek has continuously proven than in its 50 years as a pop-culture phenomenon, and as it returns to the big screen (and little screen, more of that later) this summer it makes good on that promise: “to seek out life, and new civilizations.” but this time when Star Trek goes Beyond it may just be more than Kirk and crew are prepared to handle!
Space. The Final Frontier. If Star Trek has proven anything, it’s that the imagination has no limits. For 50 years fans have tuned in, and in the case of The Original Series -- rescued the show from primetime obscurity to have it reign in the ratings when it entered into syndication. The Starship Enterprise’s adventure went on to become legendary, and its crew pop icons! When the crew made the leap onto the big screen with 1979’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture audiences were slightly underwhelmed, but that didn’t keep the franchise from enduring.
The immediate follow-up would win many theaters even those who had never followed the series. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was a blockbuster hit! The Director’s Cut of the film was just released on Blu-ray and features an all-new documentary exploring the making of that film. Interestingly enough, there are some parallels between Star Trek II and the latest feature. Star Trek Beyond is the thirteenth film in the franchise and the third in the line rebooting the series after J.J. Abrams reinvigorated the classic for filmgoers in 2009.
Star Trek Beyond is also the first film featuring the new cast that will not be directed by Abrams, who moved on to another space opera franchise, and focused his energies on Star Wars: The Force Awakens. There were serious concerns that when he vacated the chair, the studio would have a very difficult time filling it, but feelings abated when it was reported that longtime Bad Robot collaborator Roberto Orci had stepped up. Orci was the most logical successor especially having contributed to the scripts of both of the previous reboot films.
But no sooner had fans gotten comfortable with the idea of Orci leading the charge for the next trek it appeared the studio wasn’t to keen on his direction, and Orci ditched the project citing “creative differences” -- which translated to: “And by the way...I’m taking my script.” Suddenly the future of Star Trek was looking pretty grim. With pre-production looming and a start date imminent, the studio scrambled but had to look no further than to one of the film’s stars. Ardent Star Trek fan Simon Pegg who also inherited the role of Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott, had already proven himself an able storyteller and script writer.
Pegg had to work fast though! The studio was determined to keep its July 22 premiere date in accordance with the celebration of Star Trek’s 50th Anniversary. Teaming up with Doug Jung the two went to work on a script that pushed the envelope and asked a very challenging question: Could Gene Roddenberry’s optimistic take of the future actually work? Does the Federation really have a place in galactic affairs? The finer scope of this theme takes a more pinpoint look at the crew of the Enterprise and whether the 5-year mission they are tasked to perform is just a big farce or folly.
For Captain Kirk it’s a matter of asking himself whether or not this journey is all worth it. Is he living up to his own potential or just living in the ghost of his father or lost his life captaining the ship that saved his own life. The all-too thrilling film trailer already depicts the destruction (yet again) of the Enterprise. It looks like in this “alternate” timeline they have a really hard time keeping her together -- it’s a good thing she’s proven herself one of the toughest ships in the galaxy. Idris Elba is the villain “Krall” that brings the crew done, and may be the toughest bad guy in the new frontier!
Whether is lives up to expectations, we’ll have to wait and see by Star Trek Beyond opens nationwide on July 22nd and is directed by Justin Lin known for his breakneck work on the Fast and the Furious franchise.