Star Trek Beyond has not had the easiest road to the silver screen. After J.J. Abrams departed the franchise, Roberto Orci's script was rejected, and Simon Pegg was given only six months to write a new script for the film. Both he and new director Justin Lin assured fans that Beyond would mark a return to the spirit of adventure and "thoughtful" themes that made the franchise great. And yet, the first trailer divided fans and casual viewers alike.
With a Beastie Boys soundtrack (a callback to 2009's Star Trek) and plenty of action sequences, the trailer definitely concentrates on the lighter side of Beyond. Having said that, Idris Elba's character Kraal also has a line that hints at post-colonial commentary...
"This is where the frontier pushes back."
Justin Lin later confirmed that an examination of Starfleet's mission of exploration was indeed one of the major themes of the film. And now we've had news of some additional scenes being added to Beyond, to feature a very intriguing character from the Federation.
Enter The "High Command"
Earlier this week, it was revealed that Star Trek: Beyond would undergo reshoots in order to add a new character: Shohreh Aghdashloo as the "High Command of the Federation."
The press release reports (SlashFilm, Deadline, and more) have simply referred to this character as "the High Command of the Federation." This is somewhat confusing. The highest rank in the Federation is the President, while the Vulcan government is known as the High Command. It could be she's a Vulcan High Command ambassador or political representative within the Federation, or she could be the Federation President.
Either way, this has interesting implications for the film's plot. It's likely that these new scenes occur on Earth, as the Enterprise is off on its Five Year Mission. This could mean a flashback sequence within the film. But it seems more likely that the crew of the Enterprise is forced to communicate with the highest ranking members of the Federation when they run across some trouble out in the final frontier.
Commentary On Colonialism
This definitely seems to be a major theme in Star Trek: Beyond, as Idris Elba's villainous Kraal has problems with Starfleet's mission.
According to Justin Lin, the politics of the Federation's expansion is something he had thought about from childhood. He told BirthMoviesDeath how he incorporated these ideas into Beyond:
"What would happen if you go on a five year journey and you’re trying to not only explore but also maybe introduce other people to your way of thinking? What would that mean? What are the consequences of that? You’re spreading a philosophy that you think is great - are there going to be any philosophies that counter you? That was something I thought about since I was a kid, and we got to explore that."
Sometimes Starfleet's mission of exploration can come off as an attempt to convert more undeveloped parts of the galaxy to the Federation's post-sparsity way of life. This has been explored in many of Trek's past shows: The Next Generation and especially Deep Space Nine ran with this theme.
So, with this new casting, it's possible that the filmmakers wanted to flesh out this storyline a little, showing the effect of Kraal's actions on the Federation and maybe their attempts at a diplomatic solution.
We don't really have enough information yet to draw any speculative conclusions, but suffice to say that this new Federation character does seem to fit with one of the main themes of the plot. So far this all seems very quintessentially Trek: a thoughtful criticism of Starfleet's mission, all wrapped up in a stranded-on-an-alien-planet plot, which is the staple of many a classic Trek episode.