This is a very special year for the Star Trek franchise. Not only will our current trip around the sun see the release of the 13th film in the long-running series – in the form of director Justin Lin’s Star Trek Beyond - but it also happens to mark the 50th anniversary of the original series that started it all. As you might imagine, one is having an effect on the other, but you definitely shouldn’t expect the movie to just be a collection of "greatest hits" moments from the incredibly long run of films and television shows.
Paramount Pictures kicked off this year’s run of studio presentations on Monday night at CinemaCon – the annual convention in Las Vegas held for theater owners – but before the festivities kicked off in Caesar's Palace’s Colosseum I had the chance to ask Simon Pegg and producer J.J. Abrams about the effect that the 50th anniversary is having on Star Trek Beyond. Discussing the special anniversary and the sequel’s level of accessibility, Pegg made an analogy to the Echo and the Bunnymen compilation album ‘Songs to Learn & Sing,’ which was the first one that he bought and led him to look deeper into their catalogue – but also dismissed that the movie will be any kind of Greatest Hits for the Star Trek franchise. Said Pegg,
No [it’s not a Greatest Hits], but it’s a later iteration, obviously. I think for real fans of Star Trek, they’ll get a real kick out of the fact that it very much is Star Trek in its DNA. We’re at pains to maintain the canon that we’ve created and the canon that exists for Star Trek. But never make it feel like it’s a closed shop; that people aren’t welcome to come into it and buy a packet of chips or a bottle of milk.
Instead of constant references back to the history of the series, Simon Pegg instead drove home that he sees the connection between Star Trek Beyond and the franchise’s 50th anniversary being more about accentuating the key values of the sci-fi universe – specifically Gene Roddenberry’s vision of a world that is open to everybody and entirely inclusive. Said the actor/writer,
I think it’s just knowing what’s gone before, in a way, but at the same time understanding that this is a story which and always has been open to everybody. This is a universe that is so inclusive; no one is not welcome in Star Trek. So it has to embrace the fans that have been there for 50 years, and it has to embrace the people who go, ‘Oh, Star Trek, what’s that?’ Hopefully it gives them a chance to find out!
The original Star Trek arrived at a time of great divisiveness in the United States, as the Civil Rights Movement was at a key juncture in 1966. The show used its sci-fi stories as allegorical tales based on real-world issues, and even just created a sense of inclusiveness within its cast with minority actors Nichelle Nichols and George Takei playing key roles (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. famously told Nichols not to quit the show because of the importance of having a black actor playing such a large part on television). Simon Pegg is obviously suggesting that the inclusiveness of Star Trek Beyond will come externally from audience’s perception, but hopefully the film itself embraces that important spirit as well.
Disappointingly, Paramount Pictures didn’t bring any new footage from Star Trek Beyond to CinemaCon this year, but considering that it’s been about four months since the last trailer, one would assume that we’re due some footage soon. Either way, we look forward to its release on July 22nd.