Star Trek Beyond: What We Know So Far

The next installment of the rebooted Star Trek saga, Star Trek 3, officially dubbed Star Trek Beyond, is still more than year away, but it’s close enough that fans are already counting down to next summer. Even at this early in the game, it’s already been a bumpy ride. There have been behind-the-scenes issues, the original director butted heads with the studio over the direction of the franchise, and the original script was even said too be too Star Trek-y, and handed over to one of the stars to rewrite.

All in all, it’s kind of a mess, but things do appear to be moving forward, as we keep hearing talk of progress, casting, and even potential plot details. We know some things and have general ideas of other elements, but it does promise new adventures for the crew of the starship Enterprise, which will hopefully entail them actually going into deep space instead of hanging around Earth like they have for the last two movies.

Star Trek Beyond recently dropped a first trailer, which is beyond action packed. Check it out below.

So now seems like as good a time as any to take a moment and collect everything we know so far about Star Trek Beyond. Laid out side to side as it is, hopefully this will give us all a better idea of what to expect from the third part of the franchise that J.J. Abrams and company helped remodel back in 2009, and gave another facelift in 2013 with the much-maligned Star Trek Into Darkness.


The Director

The question of who was going to direct Star Trek 3 was an issue since day one. Obviously, J.J. Abrams departed, moving onto helm Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and after much deliberation, and some misdirection on the part of the studio, the reins were handed over to Roberto Orci. Despite a long history as writer and producer, including on the last two films, Orci had never directed anything, ever, before landing the job. This choice didn’t sit well with many fans, as he shoulders, rightly or wrongly, much of the ire for the underwhelming Star Trek Into Darkness. This was to be short lived, however, as conflict with Paramount over the direction of the franchise led to a split, and though he’ll still serve as a producer, he will no longer direct or contribute to the script.

In the wake of Orci vacating the big chair, the studio tapped the man largely responsible for bringing The Fast and Furious franchise back to life, Justin Lin. Beating out the likes of Duncan Jones, Rupert Wyatt, Morten Tyldum, and Daniel Espinosa, among others, Lin is trading in hot rods for starships, and bringing his considerable action chops to the science fiction realm. Given how insane he gets with stunts while still a slave to Earth’s gravity, it’s should be a hoot indeed to see what he pulls out of his sleeve in deep space. He has said that his ultimate goal is to deconstruct the franchise and reaffirm all of the things that make it great.


Action, Action, Action

When Justin Lin was announced as the director of Star Trek Beyond, and the successor to Roberto Orci, damn near the first thing out of anyone’s mouth were jokes about hearing tires screeching in the depths of space. While’s he’s traded out fast cars for faster spaceships, one thing Lin is definitely brining to the party is action, action, action. The rebooted franchise has always been heavier on this than The Original Series, but from what we saw in the trailer, Lin is cranking things up at least a notch, maybe two.

But just because Star Trek is set in space, don’t expect Lin to totally completely abandon his proclivities for high-octane gravity-bound vehicles. Oh no, he brought a motorcycle along to for this particular adventure to the boundaries of the galaxy, and we got to see it in action in the trailer, soaring off of a makeshift ramp, the rider performing daredevil feats in mid air. So it’s entirely possible we will hear the screech of tires in Star Trek Beyond, or at least tires crunching through the dirt.

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The Plot

As earlier stated, the previous two installments in the franchise have stayed rather close to home. Granted, they venture out into the unknown from time to time, but never all that far. This is something that has been noticed by many fans of the earlier member of the Star Trek family, much to their continued chagrin. Part of the basis for the series is that the crew is out there on the edges of space, making discoveries, encountering new alien civilizations. This element, an integral part of the larger mythology, hasn’t played as big a role in the new films.

That, however, is reportedly going to change this time, and we've seen some of that in the first trailer. At the moment everything we’ve heard indicates that the plot will in fact, finally, revolve around the legendary five-year mission that Shatner, Nimoy, and the others embarked on so many decades ago, and that's where we find the new crew. You know how it goes, they’re going to explore new worlds, seek out new life and civilizations, and boldly go where no one has gone before, but things don't always go as planned. We’re going to finally see space for what it is, the final frontier -- we couldn’t be happier about that -- and we see them interacting with alien species, for good and ill, on the surface of at least one distant planet. Fans want to see them out there, pushing against the very boundaries of the known universe, encountering strange new people, getting into tough scrapes and sticky situations, and this is an exciting turn of events. How else is Captain Kirk going to smooth talk his way out of trouble or make out with more alien ladies? He has quite a reputation to uphold back on Earth.


The Enterprise Is Lost

Aside from the basics, we still don’t know a ton about the plot. These movies have been notorious, perhaps even infamous at this point, for their secrecy. They’re on a planet, they encounter some natives of that world, it looks like there are a number of races/species to be found, perhaps they go to multiple planets, but we don’t have many specifics. It does, however, look like their venerable starship, the Enterprise, is lost, perhaps even destroyed. In the trailer, Chris Pine’s Captain Kirk remarks that they have no ship, and we see a number of instances where she takes quite a beating.

But there are a lot of questions surrounding this. Is this one massive scene of destruction, or does the Enterprise take a lot of damage over the course of the movie? When Kirk says, "We got no ship," does that mean it is destroyed, or could it mean it’s been stolen/pirated by someone? If, for instance, they crash, does that mean the Enterprise is totaled and done for, or is it just seriously damaged and in need of repair? It seems doubtful that they’re willing to destroy such a beloved part of the franchise, but over the years there have been many different incarnations, so this could be a way to introduce a fresh new ride, and we know how Lin likes his high tech vehicles. Perhaps this is where the Enterprise gets and upgrade.

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The Cast

Thus far, the key players from Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness are already in place to return. This includes Chris Pine as Captain James T. Kirk, Zachary Quinto as Spock, Zoe Saldana as Uhura, John Cho as Sulu, Simon Pegg as Scotty, Anton Yelchin as Chekov, and, of course, Karl Urban as Bones, the medical officer on the Enterprise. There are a few other actors who have been rumored or attached to the film, but the big ones are said to be villains, which we’ll deal with in a moment.

Some fans have taken issue with the new cast—it’s always hard for an actor to step into an already existing, well-loved role, you can't please everyone—but they do have a great chemistry together, one that pays homage to the stars of The Original Series but still breaks their own new ground. Pine has the cocky, alpha male swagger that Kirk has always been known for, Yelchin and Pegg both have a total blast with their versions of Chekov and Scotty, and Quinto practically channels Leonard Nimoy’s wry humor and sardonic wit as the highly logical Vulcan officer. A few take issue with the romantic angle between Uhura and Spock, but overall, the core cast has a solid crew of actors in place, and this helps make these movies fun to watch.


No Spock Prime

While the bulk of the core cast remains intact for Star Trek Beyond, there is one key player that will be notably, and sadly, absent. Back February 2015, Leonard Nimoy passed away due to complications from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease at the age of 83. One of the original cast members on Star Trek, he reprised his role of the half-vulcan, half-human science officer Spock in the rebooted movies, hailing from an alternate timeline.

More than just cameos, Spock Prime as he came to be known, played a key part in the new narratives and was an integral part of the team. We weren’t sure if he was going to return for Beyond, but there were rumors that in at least some versions of the script, Spock Prime could potentially show up with Kirk Prime, a prospect that had many fans intrigued. During production, the cast and crew released a moving, heartfelt tribute to their dear friend, helping to raise funds for one of his favorite charities.

Idris Elba

The Villain

What is Star Trek without cool villains? And there is a potential doozy lined up for Star Trek Beyond. The talk since the beginning has been that the Klingons are going to be the primary antagonists, which would be nice since they’ve had a very minimal role in the narrative thus far. We’ll see how that shakes out now that the original script has largely been scrapped, but Idris Elba is on board as the, or at least one of the key enemies the crew will face. Simon Pegg has said on a couple of occasions that Elba is not going to be a Klingon, which has lead to much speculation on the matter. Then again, the whole Benedict Cumberbatch-isn’t-Khan fiasco is still fresh in our minds, and we’re well aware that they’re not above straight-up lying about a character’s identity, so who the hell knows.

Whoever Elba plays, we knew he was going to absolutely kill, and in the trailer, we got our first look at him, unrecognizable under crazy prosthetics, and we know his name is Krall. That sounds vaguely Klingon, but according to reports, he is still not. Though we don’t know much more about him, some rumors have indicated he could be a Gorn assassin with ties to the Romulans, but we’ll have to wait and see for sure. What we do know is that he’s very opposed to the Federation and its philosophies, which will automatically pit him against the Enterprise and crew. In the trailer, he tells Captain Kirk, "This is where the frontier pushes back," and it appears they push back hard.


Sofia Boutella

While you may not know the name Sofia Boutella right out of the gate, if you saw Kingsmen: The Secret Service earlier this year, she’s the badass with the swords for feet who tears through secret agents like warm butter. When she was attached to Star Trek Beyond, she was reportedly cast in what was called a lead, or at least substantial, role. While there weren't any concrete details, it is widely presumed that she would be a bad guy, perhaps teaming up with Elba’s character. That, however, doesn't appear to be the case.

We now know that she plays a character named Jaylah, and though there aren’t tons of details, more are starting to creep out. She’s a warrior, and Justin Lin said he put her through "hell" during her introductory fight, which is a promising way to meet a new badass. That, unfortunately, is all we know about her at this point aside from she appears to be an ally. On a very surface level, she resembles the Nibirians from the first scene of Star Trek Into Darkness, but that’s really just the markings on her face and nothing else. We’re curious to meet her and find out what she’s all about.


The Writers

When Roberto Orci was ousted as director, his script was also reportedly pushed to the side. Writing duties were then handed over to Simon Pegg, who you already know plays Scotty, and Doug Jung to whip into shape. Pegg is certainly no stranger to writing, have written or co-written the likes of Shaun of the Dead, Run, Fat Boy, Run, Paul, and many more titles. He’s never worked on something quite this scale, but he brings an engaging sense of humor and a warmth to just about everything he writes, and this is far from the first script he’s written where he’ll also appear in the finished film. There have been a lot of jokes making the rounds about Scotty being in charge now.

Doug Jung has primarily written for television. In fact, his only other feature film credit is on the 2003 crime thriller Confidence. Working on the cable shows the likes of Banshee and Dark Blue, he certainly seems to walk on the darker, grittier side. Perhaps working in tandem with Pegg, this more serious side will balance out some of the other’s tendencies towards comedy.

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What Does Less Star Trek-y Mean?

When talking about the script a while back, Simon Pegg revealed that one of the issues Paramount had with Roberto Orci’s original screenplay is that it was "too Star Trek-y." They looked around at movies like Guardians of the Galaxy and The Avengers, films based on what have traditionally been kind of niche properties, but that were adapted to the big screen with raging success, especially in the financial realm. When they see those titles, they think, "Why not us?" The goal basically seems to be to make Star Trek 3 as accessible to as many people as possible. As Pegg put it, the idea is to make a western or a heist film, but one full of Star Trek characters, to attract viewers that might otherwise be put off by the franchise name.

The worry among hardcore fans is that the new film will eschew all of the things that make Star Trek unique and different from other properties—Marvel’s films, Star Wars, what-have-your—and turn it into nothing more than a reflection of those. Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness definitely have a different feel than the earlier films and TV shows, with more of an emphasis on sweeping action and high adventure. This has already been a point of contention for many fans, and from Pegg’s words, it sounds like the franchise is only going to go further in this direction. That style isn’t going anywhere, but you also have to consider that The Original Series was once called Wagon Train to the Stars and envisioned as a space western. So this approach may not be as different as people initially think. When Kirk and crew show up places, it’s an awful lot like watching a new sheriff ride into town.

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The Title

It took a while to be officially confirmed by Paramount, but the name they finally settled on was Star Trek Beyond. This was rumored for a while, but with all projects that fall under the Bad Robot banner, there’s always a chance this is a misdirect or something of that nature—not to beleaguer the point, but we all remember the Benedict Cumberbatch/Khan situation from last time—but word from the studio did finally come down.

Admittedly, this is a pretty bland title. It’s like the vanilla of titles; it isn’t awful, it’s safe, and it’ll do, but maybe you could have tried something a little more adventurous. As the plot finds the crew on their five-year mission, or at least very far from home, this moniker likely refers to the fact that they’re venturing beyond the normal boundaries, beyond what is known, out into new and unexplored territories and adventures. In that regard, this certainly fits thematically, and does an admirable job. And in the end, does anyone really give a damn what the title is as long as movie kicks ass? A good title doesn’t hurt, but it won’t make up for a subpar movie, just like it won’t dampen anyone’s enthusiasm if the film rules.

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The Release Date

Star Trek Beyond was scheduled for release on July 8, 2016, but it was pushed back a few weeks to July 22, 2016 to give it a more open playing field at the box office. Those of you familiar with the franchise will know that this roughly coincides with the 50th anniversary of The Original Series’ debut in 1966. We know, we know, the show actually premiered in September of 1966, and Paramount knows this, too. But a mid-summer release simply happens to be a more advantageous slot for a big studio movie, and when we’re talking about five decades, we’ll give them a couple of months worth of wiggle room.

More than anything, however, this shows that Paramount has faith that Star Trek Beyond will perform. That’s a big-time slot usually reserved for a studio’s big guns. The two previous movies have done very well at the box office, but their $385 million and $467 million worldwide takes, respectively, still haven’t quite lived up to the hopes of those in the boardroom. Hence all of the tweaking and toying with the formula and seeking to emulate the Marvel game plan. For such a widely recognized, beloved property, the execs would like a few more hundred million to show for it. Watching how Star Trek 3 performs from a financial standpoint will be interesting, and depending on the showing at the box office, this could go a long way towards determine the future of the franchise.

Brent McKnight