When Simon Pegg and Justin Lin took the helm of the Star Trek movie franchise, they had a tough job ahead of them — JJ Abrams' movies might have revitalized the franchise, but they were nothing if not divisive. With only 6 months to pen a script, and around the same amount of time to shoot the film, Star Trek: Beyond seemed to be plagued with problems from the start. And yet, the finished result was a thoroughly enjoyable film, and a fantastic addition to the Trek movie series.
By Fans, For Fans
This is probably thanks to the fact that Pegg and Lin are self-confessed fans of the franchise, which is one of the reasons Paramount chose them to lead the next Star Trek movie. As Empire said in their coverage of Beyond, Paramount decided to "pass the torch to a fan" after Into Darkness disappointed critics and Trekkies alike.
Their first stop was Pegg because of course, the co-creator of Spaced and the Cornetto Trilogy was the perfect, nerdiest choice to pen a Trek script. Justin Lin seemed to be a more off-the-wall choice to direct Beyond, known as he is for the Fast & Furious movies. But as he has been stressing ever since he got the gig, Lin has been a Trekkie for years, telling Empire that he saw Beyond as the chance he'd been waiting for for years.
"Watching [Star Trek] on a nightly basis, you go into a kind of fan-fiction mode. what are these characters like outside the missions? Does Sulu hang out with Chekov? You take the Enterprise away from them and you're ripping away the security blanket. You just see them as humans."
This is probably the best way to approach a film so late on in the franchise's history, especially considering the previous two movies in this continuity basically ignored anyone on the Enterprise crew who wasn't named Kirk or Spock.
Beyond focuses on the crew as a whole, splitting the group up into pairs so they can all pursue their own little adventures — a strategy borrowed from the much-loved film The Voyage Home. If there's a duo that gets the spotlight, it's actually Bones and Spock, with the bickering pair teaming up with Kirk in the final battle to restore the classic Trek triumvirate. Perfection.
But it's not just nods to the rest of the franchise and Easter Eggs galore that makes Beyond a love letter to fans — it's the fact that the filmmakers actually consulted with fans when making the film.
Consulting The Experts
Beyond isn't just about one era in Trek's in-universe history. As the crew get marooned on an alien planet, they take an unexpected trip into the past when they discover the USS Franklin, an NX model ship from before the Federation was formed.
This is a time of Trek history which we still know very little about, although the TV show Enterprise did cover some of it. Without spoiling too much, Beyond relies heavily on some major plot points from this era — the Earth-Romulan war, and the Xindi attacks are both mentioned, and if you know your history then the post-WWIII culture of fear comes into play in a big way.
Before Beyond was released, Pegg revealed to Coming Soon that he had fact-checked his plot intensively with the authors of Memory Alpha, the canon wikia for Star Trek.
"We actually wrote to the Memory Alpha guys and got them to name a certain device in the movie. I sent them a letter saying, ‘Can you come up with this for me?’ In two hours, they came back with an entire etymological history of what the thing was. It’s beautiful. It’s fantastic to have that support network."
This research turned out to be crucial when tying Beyond in to the wider narrative of Trek, and the film manages to fill in some blanks from the fictional history in a really neat way.
But this isn't the only way that fans had an impact on Beyond. Ever since the first reboot movie in 2009, a major pet peeve for fans has been the lack of rank insignia on female officer's uniforms — because the rank is shown on the base of the sleeves, and the female uniforms have cap-sleeves, the rank is missing. It may seem small, but considering visible rank is crucial in a semi-military operation like Starfleet, this was a huge oversight on the part of the filmmakers.
Thankfully, Beyond brought the ranks back, which is entirely because of the fans asking for ranks to be restored.
During a press conference for Beyond, Karl Urban revealed his part in the rank issue.
"I had a fan point it out to me, and I was shocked. When I got to Vancouver I talked to [the costume department] about that, and they said, ‘Oh don’t you worry. The women are going to have ranks'."
It's fantastic to know that the filmmakers paid attention to the fan reaction to the movies, and incorporated their thoughts into Beyond.
And this might be just a coincidence, but the use of "classical music" in Beyond was one of the most amusing elements of the film... and it might just have been inspired by a popular Tumblr post from three years ago.
Ok, that last one might just be wishful thinking, but all in all it seems as though Beyond was made very much with the fans in mind. It might not be a perfect film, objectively speaking, but Beyond is definitely a great addition to the franchise — and tons of fun to boot. Which just proves beyond all doubt that when you consult with fans, great things can happen.