The rebooted Star Trek films are confident, slick and well-produced, yet they are terrified of losing grip on the Star Trek brand. What do I mean by this? Well, even though much of the audience these movies are aimed at will not have seen the original series, there is still the worry that they don't truly embody the public conception of what Star Trek is. They do this through references. Lots and lots of references. In this regard, Star Trek Into Darkness is by far the worst offender.
I'm genuinely surprised these films haven't referenced the Gorn yet, probably because our collective memory of it is entirely made of hokeyness, and the inevitable CGI required to bring it back would diminish the fun. The amount of memorable phrases and images that Into Darkness ploughs through leads me to believe that the rebooted Star Trek movies are running out of signifiers that they are indeed part of Star Trek. What might be done, then, for Star Trek 3? Perhaps we will even be forced to dip into The Next Generation!
Now I know that Star Trek: The Next Generation is set roughly 100 years after the original series. Any implementation of that series into these films would be no doubt impractical, but unfortunately, the recognisability of a brand and potential wells of storytelling override the internal logic of a series. Besides, for Star Trek 3, the filmmakers could channel James Cameron's old adage of "hey, there's always time travel". Sure it's blatantly disrespecting Sci-fi as a genre, but hey, it makes your job easier!
So what elements of Star Trek: The Next Generation might be tempting to use in Star Trek 3?
This one is a bit of a cheat, since Klingons were featured in the Original Series, and Into Darkness. However, the most widespread image of Klingons is defined by The Next Generation, Deep Space 9, and Voyager. Klingons will likely be indulged in Star Trek 3, considering that Into Darkness ended with the possibility of the Federation going into all out war with the empire. That said, indications from Roberto Orci's first draft of the script suggest Star Trek 3 will take place well into the Enterprise's five year journey.
I wouldn't be surprised if Simon Pegg's version of the script did at least include the Klingons in some way. They're one thing in the reboot that isn't exploiting the imagery of the original series, so at least that's impressive. It's just a shame they now look way more generic than before.
James McAvoy! You're up! You're the guy who plays young Patrick Stewart now! Enjoy your career of remaking everything he's too old to remake!
This is a huge stretch as far as references go, and pretty hard to implement given that itsy bitsy 100 year gap between the two shows. That said, it really wouldn't surprise me if Star Trek 3 attempted something like this. As James Cameron so casually put it, "there's always time travel", and Kirk himself featured in Star Trek Generations, albeit much more Shatnery than these newer films would like. My point is that, if the fantastical elements of these movies facilitate a way to create recognisability, the filmmakers may well try them. They forced Spock into the first two, practically skyping him in for Into Darkness. Now that's not possible anymore, we should brace for some sneaky reference to Picard in some shape or form. Probably his dad walking across screen just long enough to mention that he has a son. Hey, The Hobbit did it!
The Borg are a fantastic concept for a villain that had a longevity if about 5 episodes. Any attempt to reintroduce the Borg beyond The Best of Both Worlds double has cemented the problems of making a supposedly unstoppable force expendable and recyclable. Doctor Who has the exact same problem with the Daleks. Why would Star Trek 3 wish to use the Borg as villains? Well, they're bigger, and more intimidating than most Star Trek adversaries, and if there's anything these modern movies love, it's bigger and more intimidating.
Think about how the trailer would look if the Borg played a key role. They would be ideal for Abrams' Star Trek, appearing unstoppable (until the heroes inevitably stop them, but that won't be in the trailer.) The Borg aren't restricted to a particular canon either, so could simply be yanked out of deep space and BAM! Theres giant cubes in 3D on the screens, and the audience is yawning only slightly less than before!
All of these things could and hopefully will be avoided by Pegg, Orci and the rest of the team involved in Star Trek 3. Hinting toward Picard and the Borg would certainly make for a cynical entry in these films. Let's just sit tight and hope Star Trek 3 does what's best for this series. Bring William Shatner back and have Chris Pine see what he is to become...