Facing the ire of fans burned by Into Darkness, the next film in the rebooted Star Trek franchise had a tough challenge ahead of it. But thanks to careful attention to in-universe history, as well as observing Gene Roddenberry's vision, Star Trek: Beyond is a fantastic addition to the franchise — and there are tons of clever little reference to Trek's previous movies and TV shows to boot.
Beyond is basically what you get when you smush First Contact and The Voyage Home Together: It expands our knowledge of Federation history as First Contact did, while paying homage to "The One With The Whales" with its lighthearted nature and also in structure, splitting the crew into pairs so each officer has their own little adventure on the planet's surface. Oh, and there's a beautiful reference to this particular moment:
Keep your ears out for Bones bemoaning the "dark ages" medical technology he's forced to work with.
Although JJ Abrams wanted to break away from Trek's past films, Beyond's filmmakers (Simon Pegg, Doug Jung, and Justin Lin) seem determined to remind us of what made the franchise great, and their attention to detail is, to borrow a phrase from Spock, fascinating.
Callbacks To The Original Series
So let's start from the beginning. Even the name of the starbase where the Enterprise crew take their shore leave is a reference — Starbase Yorktown is named after the USS Yorktown, which was Roddenberry's first name for the NCC-1701. The ship was only called Yorktown in Roddenberry's pitch to MGM in 1964, and by the time the original pilot episode, "The Cage", was filmed the ship had been renamed the Enterprise.
Of course, the Starbase is very reminiscent of another Star Trek station we know and love, and there are some neat little nods to Deep Space Nine if you look carefully.
But the best references are probably to The Original Series, and my personal favorite is towards the end of Beyond — back on Starbase Yorktown, we find Chekov educating a young alien woman on a little bit of Russian history. A running joke in TOS was Chekov's tendency to ascribe many historical events, and inventions, to Russia, and it's this particular moment from "The Trouble With Tribbles" that is cheekily referenced in Beyond.
Keep an eye out for those Redshirts too — as any good Trekkie knows, the officers most likely to die in TOS episodes were from engineering, wearing their resplendent red shirts. Although this is actually a misconception (Empire found that Redshirt deaths comprised only 44% of fatalities in TOS), Beyond pays homage to this tradition in a clever way — although a few people die in the film, the two we zoom in on and pay attention to are wearing those glorious red shirts.
And then there's the poignant moments — a sensitive homage to Leonard Nimoy's Spock towards the end of the film, when Zachary Quinto's younger version of the Vulcan finds some keepsakes from his Prime Timeline counterpart. The Vulcan philosophy of "infinite diversity in infinite combinations" can be seen written in Vulcan script, in a moment that is bound to have you tearing up.
But it's the conclusion of the film that really takes the cake as far as references go. The NCC-1701 was destroyed, as we all know, in The Search For Spock, but by the end of The Voyage Home a new Enterprise had been constructed: The NCC-1701-A. This next generation Enterprise was the third of many, as the Federation's flagship was recreated several times.
We can see history repeating itself at the end of Beyond, as the crew set off for the final frontier aboard another version of the NCC-1701-A. Lovely.
Beyond TOS: Nods To Other Treks
Of course, Star Trek isn't just about The Original Series and the first collection of movies, and surprisingly enough, the other show Beyond references most is Enterprise.
Enterprise was the last show in Trek's golden era — cancelled in 2005, Enterprise never really hit its stride or chimed with most fans. Yet it does have its merit, as the show took us back to a time before the Federation, as humanity took their first steps into the stars on the NX-01 a.k.a. the Enterprise.
This show filled in many gaps in Trek's in-universe history, and Beyond references them in a really clever way. You might want to buff up on the Earth-Romulan war of the mid 22nd century, not to mention the Xindi attacks on Earth around the same time. This is explored in the Enterprise two-part episode "In A Mirror, Darkly" (thought of as two of the best in the show), and alluded to in the TOS episode "Balance Of Terror".
Thanks to the USS Franklin (NX class), the crew also experienced some issues with the early transports. Thankfully, they didn't experience any problems with their "molecules", as Hoshi did in the Enterprise episode "Vanishing Point" (or at least, she thought she did).
And finally, not to turn their back on other films in the reboot era, there are two little nods to Abrams' movies — Scotty escapes the destroyed Enterprise using a torpedo casing (Khan was concealed in one of these in Into Darkness), and then there's that gloriously silly use of "classical music" in Beyond's final act, as the crew use a Beastie Boys song to disrupt the Swarm.
This sequence was probably the most enjoyable of the film, though there's no doubt some will take issue with it. But to those people who think that Trek must always be intellectually ponderous, without a sense of fun, I can only repeat some wise words from Captain Kirk himself — “well, double dumbass on you!"
Did you spot any other Easter Eggs in Beyond?
[Source: Empire August 2016 print edition]