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Avengers: Endgame poster shot of the cast

Warning: SPOILERS for Avengers: Endgame are in play. If you haven’t seen the film, come back once you’ve seen the film.

There’s been a lot of talk about Avengers: Endgame in the media as of late, what with the first arc of recorded history ending with the Infinity Saga’s close. For a juggernaut as huge as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, 22 films across 11 years is quite a bit of time for an audience to be invested in a story’s progression. And when I think about it, there’s only one other event that comes close to matching it.

Back in 1991, the original crew of the Star Trek series made their final appearance as a complete group. It was a moment that saw the end of one era,and the dawn of another, dovetailing each other for one brief moment in time. And as Avengers: Endgame honored its original crew’s departure in a very similar way as Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country did, I realized that the Marvel Cinematic Universe had its very own Star Trek VI moment.

What’s a Star Trek VI moment? Allow me to explain.

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country crew photo on the Enterprise bridge

What Is The Star Trek VI Moment?

At the end of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, we see the original crew of the USS Enterprise-A prepared to sail off for decommissioning. With Captain Kirk’s orders of “Second star to the left, straight on until morning,” Kirk and his fellow Federation members make their way into the history books, retiring the original crew that started the bold journey to where no one has gone before. Ending literally with the signatures of the original Star Trek cast flying off into space, it was a truly emotional moment.

While the Star Trek franchise would continue in the decades past director Nicholas Meyer’s swan song for the original series cast, it was a moment that would stand as a fixed point in the timeline. Every crew, every captain, every ship would be compared to that original lineup and the adventures that they embarked on. With that gold standard in place, as the signatures of the original cast flew into the stars of Star Trek VI’s finale, series history had an official gold standard of what to do and what not to do in future installments.

The voyages of Starfleet would continue, surely enough; but the first storied era of adventures in the Star Trek universe were officially complete. Which paved the way for the likes of Jean-Luc Picard, Benjamin Sisko, Kathryn Janeway and Jonathan Archer to lead with distinction and carve their own legacies into the stars.

Avengers: Endgame office scene where several Avengers are lined up

How Did Avengers: Endgame Have Its Star Trek VI Moment?

Keeping the definition of a Star Trek VI moment in mind, Avengers: Endgame approached its own version of that very ending with a battle so great, it ensured that the original lineup of Marvel Cinematic Universe heroes would never be able to return to the series. Consequences were set and honored, and the message was clear: this is the end of the MCU as we know it, but not the end of Marvel’s cinematic world by a long shot.

By time Avengers: Endgame said its final goodbyes to the Avengers that either fell in the line of duty or retired, the MCU found itself on the same sort of path that Star Trek before it had. With Phase 4 still officially unannounced and the future unknown, the landmark cinematic franchise is now at a crossroads as to how it should proceed. But as Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country had done in the past, the original six Avengers all saw their autographs commemorated on screen, as if putting their final signature on the characters they helped bring to life.

Just as we saw Captain Kirk soar into series history, Tony Stark, Steve Rogers and Natasha Romanoff all saw themselves consigned to the past when all was said and done. Avengers: Endgame served not only as the close of an arc 11 years in the making, it also opened the door for whatever came next to have autonomy to find its own voice.

Avengers: Endgame Nebula and Rhodey look up with stern expressions

Will We Ever See The Marvel Cinematic Universe Have Another Star Trek VI Moment

While it’s easy to appreciate a Star Trek VI moment, it’s not something that comes easy. Even in the Trek franchise, it only happened once or twice more, with the departure of the Next Generation and Deep Space Nine casts. It’s a fair assessment that to have a Star Trek VI moment, you really need the people to love you a ridiculous amount.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe does have a legion of loyal fans who’ll follow it to the moon and back, and that’s not too much of an exaggeration. But, again, with the future being an unspecified blank outside of Spider-Man: Far From Home, we can’t really tell if there will be a sendoff so huge that it’ll eclipse or even match this point.

That’s not to say that it can’t happen though. Much like Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country gave original series fans their goodbye, it also left them open to really invest in Star Trek: The Next Generation. And on top of that, the next phase of fandom came in, which would eventually mark the TNG cast’s departure as a cultural touchstone of their own. So while it’s unclear when or where it’ll happen, there are probably at least a couple more Star Trek VI moments waiting in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It really just depends on the fans.

The fandom isn’t in the same place it was when the Marvel Cinematic Universe started, so some may change with the times and keep up with the MCU past Avengers: Endgame. Others may call it quits and leave the past where it lies, as they aren’t convinced the future is something they want to see.

But no matter what either of those two factions think, everyone has this one moment in time where the two halves overlapped. Past and present are one, and all got the spectacular battle that Avengers: Endgame used to close off this first arc of history. And that’s still a win on both sides of that particular fence.

Like my Trekker father did back in the day, I’ve now seen a great age of fandom come and gone. And just like he moved into The Next Generation without a hitch, I look forward to the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, while acknowledging all the bright and bountiful moments that came before.

Avengers: Endgame is in theaters now, waiting for history to ultimately judge its efforts. But if you’re more interested in the future of moviegoing, look at 2019’s release schedule for some more immediate fun. And be sure to keep your eyes open for any Marvel Cinematic Universe scheduling that comes to pass, with our Upcoming Marvel Movies guide.

Joe and Anthony Russo on Avengers: Endgame Spoilers and More

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