Like many fans, I was tentative when Star Trek Beyond was announced. After the Star Trek films were rebooted in 2009, many Trekkies recoiled at the prospect of a re-imagined timeline, while the fun movie indoctrinated plenty of new fans to the Trek universe. Star Trek Into Darkness further divided the fanbase, as J.J. Abrams attempted to emulate one of (if not the) best Trek films to date, Wrath Of Khan. Unfortunately, Into Darkness wasn't the epic Abrams had hoped, and so the news of Star Trek 3 got a lukewarm reception from fans.
But with Simon Pegg, longtime scifi writer and nerd extraordinaire, penning the script, and confessed Trekkie Justin Lin directing, the outlook is distinctly hopeful for Star Trek 3: Beyond. In fact, the creative team have gone out of their way to assure fans that the new film will return to the franchise's roots, boasting a more intelligent script, character development, and a love-to-hate-him villain in the form of Idris Elba. With years (nearly 50!) of the TV shows to draw from, Beyond has a lot of inspiration it can use. So how can Star Trek 3 succeed? By utilising the best aspects of the TV shows of course! And here's what we want to see incorporated.
The Human Element
It's easy to forget the people that make up scifi epics, with all those big ideas and flashy space battles. But ultimately, one of Star Trek's greatest strengths has been the characters that populate it, as they defy stereotypes and allow the audience to imagine themselves in the futuristic scenarios.
These characters must be more than just figureheads or two dimensional portrayals: the human element is crucial to any Trek story as Gene Roddenberry's entire reason for writing it was to examine humanity's future and how we can be our best. The best way to explore this is through the crew's dynamic and interactions, while providing good character depth and development. Granted, this is tricky to do with a 2 hour run time, but director Justin Lin is ready to take up the challenge.
"There's still a lot to be mined from these characters, and the mission sets up an opportunity for exploration and the deeper you go, the more you are examining humanity. Those are the things that I absorbed as a kid and hope to tap into and embrace and celebrate."
For me, one of the best parts of the Trek shows was when they revealed the characters in their everyday life, their routines, their hobbies, and their social lives.
The Next Generation's poker nights, and pretty much every show's escapades in the Holodeck, offered a window into the lives of these characters, adding a bit of variety to the shows. Plus, stuff like this is fun! And fun is always a key element in Star Trek.
So how could Beyond incorporate this? Just by showing a few snapshots of everyday life on board the Enterprise would do. Give us some banter between the characters that haven't yet really been showcased in the reboot movies: Chekov and Sulu had a fantastic rapport in TOS. Or how about a recreation of the most epic fight scene ever (the bar fight in Trouble With Tribbles)...
But fun and games with the crew isn't the only human element that the reboot movies desperately need. One of the crucial aspects of Star Trek has always been the idea of humans being the outsiders: taking the audience out of their comfort zone, the Trek writers use new worlds to present humanity as the real aliens. With the Five Year Mission, Beyond does seem set to explore this idea, driving the plot away from being totally human-centric. This also will allow the story to explore another of Trek's crucial elements, which is diplomacy.
The Five Year Mission was primarily exploration, but diplomacy and fostering relations with other races was definitely one of the key mandates. We've seem pretty much no evidence of this in Abrams' Star Trek films, with the plots revolving around humanity and Earth. While this was a good way to establish the differences in the new timeline, it got old fast, and thankfully Star Trek 3 will push beyond that. This will free up the plot to examine some social commentary too, with Earth culture as a comparison to others.
It certainly seems like Pegg is ready to play with some social commentary, which can only be a good thing.
"It's going to be spectacular, but we're going to underpin that with some genuine 50th Anniversary ideas about what's happening in our world and the Star Trek world and try to make it a bit thoughtful too."
Fun is all well and good, but it just wouldn't be Trek without a serious discussion about the Prime Directive, and a poignant speech that tugs at our heartstrings...
But on the other hand, there's a pitfall in trying to achieve too much in the short space of a movie, especially when it comes to incorporating the grittier side of Star Trek. As io9 expertly pointed out, one of Into Darkness' failings was the attempt to make it dark.
Don't get me wrong, some of the best Star Trek has explored the limits of the Federation, revealing its arrogance and corruption. This was a major theme in Deep Space 9 (especially the episode In The Pale Moonlight), but it's not really something that the reboot movies should replicate. Star Trek Beyond is set in an era of optimism, and with the scifi market currently saturated with dark dystopias, we are in desperate need of a story which shows humanity at its best, blazing trails among the stars.
Of course, there are other pitfalls in trying to reproduce the successes of a TV show: after all, Star Trek Insurrection is often criticised for seeming like a feature length episode. But by balancing the human element with fun little moments, and a dose of ethical dilemmas and diplomacy, Star Trek Beyond really could be the best reboot film yet.
Or at least, that's what I'm hoping for!