One of the world’s most iconic sci-fi series now celebrates its 50th year and the newest reboot features over 50 unique alien races, new pairings and a script written by cast members.
It’s cool – and fun, as it should be. After all, films of this genre shouldn’t be dead serious, ultra-dark or apocalyptic
It was the first time audiences see the crew on their five-year mission, on a galactic adventure more akin with the original series.
Its two predecessors were basically earth-bound. The first focused on forming the group that would become the Star Trek family. The second dealt with galvanizing the crew to face a new threat.
Interestingly, actors themselves wrote the “Beyond” screenplay. Simon Pegg (chief engineer Montgomery Scott, “Scotty”), co-wrote it with franchise newcomer Doug Jung, who also played husband to John Cho’s Lt. Hikaru Sulu.
In “Star Trek Beyond”, the Starship Enterprise explores the furthest reaches of uncharted space and was destroyed (again), stranding the crew and scattering them on Altamid, an unexplored alien planet.
“The stakes are as big as they get,” says producer J.J. Abrams. “After they see the Enterprise ripped to shreds and torn asunder, the crew is forced to survive and reconnect with each other. We get to see how well these separate pairs, who had previously shared little screen time, work together towards a common goal.”
The writers enjoyed pairing characters.
A newly introspective Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) finds himself stranded with youthful optimist Chekov (Anton Yelchin).
“Kirk (Chris Pine) is an alpha male who has had all the answers and lived by the seat of his pants with his hair on fire. He’s proven himself and moved out of his father’s shadow, but now he’s faced with the existential question: What now?” Doug explained.
“We put the more jaded cynical Kirk with Chekov, who’s young and eager and much less cynical.”
Chris Pine agrees, “The first two films were very Spock and Kirk-centric, but it’s smart to break everybody up to see how they all work together, how they play off of each other. Being the captain of the Enterprise is the most defining thing in Kirk’s life. His father was also the captain of a ship that was destroyed, so the destruction of the Enterprise brings up a complex set of emotions tied to who he is and I think Kirk sees a lot of himself in Chekov.”
“Where Kirk starts the film unsure of the future, Chekov comes from a place of absolute confidence in the mission,” Anton noted.
“When the Enterprise is destroyed, it really takes away everything they thought was important. They don’t even know if the rest of the crew is alive. That forces them to relearn the value of love and the respect they have for their crewmates.”
“Anton and I laughed a lot,” Chris recalled. “We have scenes where I’m harping on him and he’s harping on me, we’re being shot at and things are exploding all around us. It’s anxious and intense, but more fun than anything, because there’s such a great heart to Anton’s character and to Anton himself.”
To bring a dramatic and comedic foil for the pragmatic half-Vulcan Commander Spock (Zachary Quinto), the writers paired him off with the ever cantankerous Doctor “Bones” McCoy (Karl Urban).
As Kirk’s two closest friends, they reliably fail to see eye to eye when making decisions.
“The relationship between Spock and Bones has always been fascinating and funny, as they are diametrically opposed to each other,” Simon elaborated. “Yet somewhere beneath that is a great friendship we wanted to explore.”
“Historically, Bones and Spock are about as different as you can be,” Zachary acquiesced. “Whereas Kirk and Spock are two sides of the same coin, Bones and Spock have completely opposite modes of operation.”
“You get to see the relationship with Bones and Spock develop like you’ve never seen before,” Karl put in. “Both of our characters are at a crossroads and dealing with their own internal dilemmas. And being stranded on an alien planet forces us to confront these things together.”
“Spock’s more human and vulnerable here,” Zachary remarked. “I appreciate the times where the action dials back to give Spock quieter moments, which are some of the most fun and interesting to play.”
After Spock suffers an injury, Bones finds himself stretched beyond his comfort zone.
“He’s a compassionate doctor forced into a situation where he may have to take a life instead of preserving it,” Karl noted. “He’s been thrown into the deep end and becomes a curmudgeonly action hero out of necessity.”
“Bones is a character who people really love, and I never quite feel like he gets his due,” Simon lamented. “This was our time to rectify that. As easy as it might be to give Scotty all the cool lines, it felt a bit strange, so a conscious effort was made to share the wealth.”
In addition to losing the Enterprise, the end of Spock and Uhura’s (Zoe Saldana) relationship provides the film with an additional metaphoric casualty.
But before either is able to properly process the split, the ship is torn apart and Uhura finds herself on Altamid with Sulu (John Cho).
Like Scotty, John’s reaction to the loss of the Enterprise was visceral.
“My heart breaks every time we hurt the Enterprise a little bit. It’s tough. I’m the helmsman, so I feel some responsibility for its well-being, and it’s gone through so much more than it deserves. This iteration is particularly violent.” “
“I realized on this film that Uhura and Sulu are very similar in their commitment to their duty and their faith in their crew. They’re counting on the crew as much as the crew is counting on them,” Zoe remarked.
As for Scotty, “Of the crew, he’s probably the most satisfied with his life at the start of the film,” Simon pointed out. “He’s doing his thing in the guts of the ship, keeping things moving and obviously, that’s all quickly taken away from him.”
Scotty finds himself depending on Jaylah (franchise newcomer Sofia Boutella) a strong willed, technologically adept alien ally, after she saves his life on the surface of Altamid.
“Jaylah has been alone on Altamid for some time,” Sofia expounded. “She’s had to fend for herself for so long that when Scotty arrives, she sees the potential to make a friend. Even though she’s defensive and guarded, Jaylah and Scotty develop a sort of brother and sister dynamic that Simon and I have off-set.”
“Sofia charmed the socks off of all of us,” Simon laughed. “She inhabits the character in such a way that made it a real joy to be her foil in the film. She’s super-resourceful and tough. I love that she has this strange, syntactical way of speaking, which makes her feel very alien, and yet she’s unbelievably sympathetic.”
As for the antagonist, Idris Elba joins the cast as “Krall,” the hostile alien responsible for destroying the Enterprise.
“I didn’t want to play the archetypal bad guy,” he clarified. “I knew Benedict Cumberbatch (who played Khan in Star Trek Into the Darkness) would be a tough act to follow, so I worked extensively with Justin, Simon and Doug to figure out exactly who this guy is. How does he speak? What’s his physicality? Why does he have this beef with the Federation? When you have an answer to that, he’s no longer a monster. There’s a reason for everything that he does.”
“It was fascinating to learn all about the Star Trek universe,” Idris went on. “Then to be put in a position to challenge it, poke at it, and tear it all down. Krall really doesn’t care.”