Star Trek Beyond
Screenplay by Simon Pegg and Doug Jung
2.35 : 1 aspect ratio
Star Trek Beyond is a film based on the Star Trek television series, which was first broadcast on 8th September 1966. Star Trek Beyond was released in Star Trek’s 50th anniversary year, which was celebrated with the announcement of a new series in the Star Trek universe, Star Trek: Discovery, a prequel to Star Trek. The significance of 1966 within the i franchise is referenced with Cpt. Kirk’s log acknowledgement that Star Trek Beyond begins on the 966th day of the 5 year mission.
Star Trek ran for 3 seasons, with 2 animated seasons, bringing the 5 year mission to a successful completion. Star Trek Beyond is set toward the end of the 1st year of that 5 year mission, putting Star Trek Beyond firmly in the time-frame of Star Trek’s 1st season, which began all those years ago in 1966. Cpt. Kirk acknowledges that events are beginning to feel “episodic”; and Star Trek Beyond is definitely more like an extended Star Trek episode.
Following the political thriller of Star Trek Into Darkness, Star Trek Beyond returns to formula – but this should not be mistaken for being unimaginative. Long-time Star Trek fan Simon Pegg makes his first screenwriting contribution to the Star Trek universe (no surprise that Pegg’s character, Lt. Cmnd. Scott gets more screen-time and much more dialogue), and takes the approach of establishing that Star Trek Beyond is very much the traditional Star Trek known to the television series’ audience, before dividing and pairing characters in order to examine how the bridge crew work as separate components, before putting them back together again. Pegg realises that Star Trek Beyond only needs so much plot; if three major things happen, the events between those points can be focused on character study.
That’s why the logical Cmdr. Spock is paired with his opposite, the rational Lt. Cmdr. McCoy – putting these antitheses together will only lead to synthesis. The same is true for the pairing of Cpt. Kirk and Ens. Chekov – the highest-ranking bridge officer with the lowest-ranking bridge officer, and their father-son/mentor-student relationship. These characters’ mere presence with one-another creates a narrative fusion by default, and the characters become individual from story.
The aim is to lend appreciation to the Star Trek bridge crew by taking them apart and re-establishing them. Thus, the conventional three-act structure of equilibrium – establishment, disruption and reestablishment – is inherent to the subject and approach. The first act works because we know who these characters are, the second act is better because these characters are now being amplified and combined, and the third act is even better still because the crew now feels larger and more complex, both as an integral crew and as a collection of fractional people. However, this is still part of a greater theme of togetherness and unity.
Antagonist Cpt. Edison is opposed to the United Federation of Planets for what Cpt. Edison perceives as treachery; Cpt. Edison served in the former Military Assault Command Operations, which fought the species now united with Humanity. Believing that Earth needs liberating and restoring to a greater former state, Cpt. Edison intends to destroy the United Federation of Planets in order to regain Earth’s independence. This being a deliberate analogy to Britain’s relationship in Europe, and relations with Germany, is probably not the case given how long before the announcement of the Brexit Referendum Star Trek Beyond began development.
But Star Trek has always been a marker for its time by creating a future reflecting the present. In the year of numerous shootings in places of sexual liberation, the character of Lt. Sulu – originally portrayed by sexual rights activist George Takei – has been given a spouse. Star Trek’s core ideal is the strength in unity – the bridge crew consists of an American, a Brit, a female of African descent, an Asian and a Russian.
These are all demographics that would have never worked-together – the American War of Independence against Britain, the black civil rights movement, the Cold War and the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. If Star Trek is constructed on contemporary politics, then 2016’s events should be as much of an influence as 1966. In Star Trek Beyond, that is still the case.
The details are different, but the gaps that need filling are still present. If anything, Star Trek’s 50th anniversary has shown us that we still have a way to go.