Star Trek: Beyond may have only just been released, but Paramount have their eye on the horizon, and Star Trek 4 has already been announced. The next film in the franchise will feature the return of Chris Hemsworth as George Kirk, which has very interesting implications for the plot. George was captain of the USS Kelvin for five minutes, and in those five minutes he ensured his crew got to safety — and he sent the timeline spiraling into an alternate version of events to those we saw in The Original Series.
This alternate timeline setting — dubbed the Kelvin Timeline after Kirk Senior's ship — allows the new movies the freedom to rewrite Trek history, a decision which was controversial among the fanbase.
So what does George Kirk's appearance in Star Trek 4 mean for the timeline? It's possible that he's just appearing in flashbacks, but there are some signs that already point towards Star Trek 4 being a time travel romp.
Following A Pre-Destined Path
There's plenty of foreshadowing for George Kirk's return in Beyond (and we'll get to those hints later), but as for time travel being involved, there's an interesting theory as to why it's likely we'll see this in the next Star Trek film. So far, the reboot films have incorporated some landmark plot points from the original movie series. Let's count them out.
- The Motion Picture and 2009's Star Trek both feature the crew protecting Earth itself from an alien threat.
- Wrath of Khan and Into Darkness both feature the return of Khan.
- Search For Spock and Beyond both feature the Enterprise being destroyed.
As we all know, The Voyage Home is primarily a time travel film, as the crew journey back to the '80s to save the whales — and humanity — from extinction. If Star Trek 4 follows this pattern, it seems likely that it will also feature time travel in a big way, and that could explain the surprising return of George Kirk.
Foreshadowing In Beyond
When it comes to concrete hints in Beyond, there are many nods to Jim Kirk's father, as our Kirk contemplates his role in Starfleet and why he joined in the first place. Early on in the film, Kirk turns to his old friend Bones for advice.
"You spent so long trying to be George Kirk, you forgot what it meant to be Jim."
This is an interesting direction for Kirk's story to take, as his Prime Timeline counterpart was inspired by his father.
The two Jim Kirks had very different upbringings, with William Shatner's Kirk learning strict morality and his upstanding manner from his father. Chris Pine's Kirk, on the other hand, bounced from father figure to father figure, acting out because he had a lack of stability, and felt unable to live up to George Kirk's legacy.
In Beyond, Jim manages to overcome his existential crisis, deciding not to leave the Enterprise when he is reminded by this new adventure why he does what he does. Beyond gives Jim a sense of purpose in a very tangible way, as we see him defend the values of the Federation itself.
This line references George Kirk's sacrifice in a really neat way, as well as being a fantastic defining moment for Jim himself.
The fact that George Kirk was mentioned twice in Beyond — and in the trailers — has more significance now we know he'll appear in Star Trek 4. It seems as though the next film will be a continuation of Kirk's crisis, as Jim comes face to face with the man he's been trying to emulate all his life. And we'll just have to wait to find out what potentially timeline-altering adventures that could bring!