The original Star Trek series was based around a "five-year mission." The end of the most recent movie in the rebooted franchise, Star Trek into Darkness, sent the crew of the Starship Enterprise on the same extended trip. Now we know exactly far into that mission Star Trek Beyond will pick up, and exactly how the long trip is impacting the crew.
John Cho, the actor who plays Enterprise helmsman Hikaru Sulu, told Entertainment Tonight that the movie will open with the characters in ruts, and on each others' nerves, because of the extended period together. This makes sense given that Karl Urban reveals that we'll be finding the Enterprise a couple years into their big five-year mission:
On this one you’ll notice that there’s been aging. It’s two years into the mission, so there’s wear and tear on the ship.
It’s an interesting place to start Star Trek Beyond, as it’s dealing with an issue that the original series never touched on with their own five-year mission. That idea being that after awhile in the depths of outer space, the Enterprise crew might just be ready to go home. The concept of a serialized storyline in the 1960’s was basically unheard of, as VCR’s didn’t exist, and you could never count on your audience being able to watch every episode. For that reason, you couldn’t really have your characters change too much over time, as people would lose track of what was going on.
The decision will also give these characters a bit more of a history together. While two years of adventures will have occurred off screen, the fact that something has been happening will be a benefit to Star Trek Beyond's overall story. The original series of films had the TV show to build off of, and while the new movies are an offshoot of those stories, the fact is that these versions of the characters simply don’t have the history together that we’re used to seeing. It’s one of the difficulties that the reboot movies have had to deal with in order to build a proper foundation.
Perhaps the most interesting piece of news regarding this development is Sulu’s own reason he really wishes he was home. It turns out that Sulu has a young daughter that he hasn’t seen in the two years they’ve been gone. While her name isn’t mentioned here, we have to assume it will be Demora, which was the name of the daughter we met in the movie Star Trek: Generations. She was sprung on us as an adult in that movie, but apparently we’ll learn of the child earlier in this timeline. Check out Cho's remarks, as well as some more moments with the cast, in the behind the scenes interview below.
The good news is that anybody who survives Star Trek Beyond probably gets to go home at the end of the film, as they won’t be able to finish their five-year mission without an Enterprise. We'll see what the loss of the iconic ship will entail when Star Trek Beyond opens on July 22.