Star Trek Beyond Review (Mild Spoilers)

The original Star Trek show was lauded for its starting point of putting a positive vision of the future in the otherwise gloomy world of the late 1960’s.  Today, the world in some ways is under more threat than ever.  War and dictatorship across the Middle-East, increasingly assertive China and dictatorial Russia, repeated acts terrorism across  much of the world and especially France and Germany plus a United States suffering from a lack of social cohesion and uninspiring political outlook.  Who’d have thought us in Brexitland are in one of the better positions?

Never has the pop-culture world more needed a hope for the future and a move away from the distopian nightmare that unravels in the real-world and in the world of entertainment.  For many people though the last Star Trek movie was a thrilling high-quality movie, the one thing it couldn’t claim to be was to be presenting a positive look at the future that was similar to the original Trek tv show.  As such changes were promised, notably that the next film would harken back to the 50 year old TV show in spirit if not always in style.

Plot

Star Trek beyond is set 3 years into the historic 5-year mission and is the first to have the look and feel of a TV show.  Admittedly Star Trek 5 and 9 felt like a TV show but they were mostly bad as it wasn’t intended they feel that way. With tempers frayed and energy levels dampened, the Enterprise docks at the Yorktown space station.   Captain Kirk is musing over a promotion to a desk-bound job in the Admiralty whilst Spock too is considering his future perhaps due to problems in his relationship with Uhura and then more obviously due to the news that Spock Prime has died.

Soon though the Enterprise is dispatched to an asteroid field where a survivor on an escape pod begs Kirk to help her at a planet deep inside an asteroid belt whose natural properties inhibit subspace communication.  Soon the ship and crew confront a new threat and the crew find themselves trapped in small groups on an intensely hostile planet.  It becomes clear that their nemesis, Krall, is planning to attack the Yorktown, as a precursor to destroying the Federation itself.

As McCoy has to spend time in the wilderness with a wounded Spock, Kirk and Chekov, Sulu and Uhura find themselves isolated from each other whilst Scotty bumps into an alien by the name of Jaylah.  Jaylah too is a captive of her planet and whilst she is a good fighter, she is not uncivilised and convinces Scotty that she will help find and save his friends if he will help her finish repairs on a spaceship that might see her escape the planet.

It turns out that the damaged ship is actually an ancient Federation starship from approximately 100 years earlier and Krall was originally a Federation Captain Edison whose ship crashed onto the planet in middle of an unfriendly asteroid field.  A veteran of the old Romulan-Earth wars.  As his broadcasts for help are never received and Federation rescue ships unable to locate him, he blames his fate and the loss of his crew on the Federation and their risk adverse outlook on life.   Using alien technology he has been extending his life by draining others of theirs, something which has changed his original appearance.

As Krall launches his attack on Yorktown, Kirk manages to get the old USS Franklin off the surface of the planet and though severely outgunned, find a way to eliminate the alien attack before Kirk deals with Captain Edison in person.

The film ends with Kirk and Spock deciding that their futures lie together on the USS Enterprise.

star-trek-beyond-banner-3.jpg

Opinion

I really enjoyed Star Trek Beyond and for me it very much was like an original Star Trek tv episode albeit with quicker pacing and a budget for the film which probably surpassed the entire series of Star Trek.

I’m not one for enjoying fast-cutting science fiction movies and whilst I understand the current media find this style en-vogue, it never is for me.  I was therefore glad that a good proportion of the opening of Star Trek beyond was paced at a level I could appreciate.  Whilst the pacing was quick throughout the movie, it was never too quick or too constant.

If it felt like an original episode then maybe that is because for once we were treated to an adventure that wasn’t galaxy changing in scope or with everyone facing death.  It was a story of a routine adventure though Star Trek is very seldom routine.

This film was always going to be rather emotional.  The untimely death of actor Anton Yelchin in a freak accident just a month ago coupled with the death of legendary Leonard Nimoy meant that for many fans, this would be a special movie.  To many of us, the characters of Star Trek are family and this feeling was embraced throughout Star Trek Beyond.

The scene where young Spock receives news of his older self’s death was moving and gave some gravitas behind the idea that he might want to leave Starfleet .  It’s relatively rare that the death of an actor is acknowledged onscreen as it is but to see the obituary of Spock  onscreen was sad.

Similarly that scene at the end of the film where Spock goes through older Spocks belongings and opens up a photograph of the original series characters (actually a PR shot for Star Trek 5) was poignant as it allowed us to remember all of the cast who are no longer with us and said much of Spock Prime who obviously treasured his time with his friends.

The photo that Spock finds amongst the belongings of Spock Prime

The photo that Spock finds amongst the belongings of Spock Prime

Likewise it was hard not to feel sad everytime when Chekov appeared on screen and there was a nice touch at Kirks birthday party where as well as toasting to absent friends ie his own father who died at his birth but also to Leonard/Spock and Anton/Chekov.  The camera settled on Chekov at this point, very well done and both actors were commemorated at the end of the film

There were several slower moments and reflective scenes which added to the characters in this film.  We got to see a little of their regular lives onboard the Enterprise.  The revelation of Sulu being gay in homage to original series actor George Takei as he was welcomed home by his male partner and presumably his daughter, Demora.   Kirk never drinking on his birthday due to his father.

The idea of pairing off main characters on the planet was genius and at long last gave us the chance to see McCoy and Spock go at it for an extended period.  Once again Karl Urban excelled as the Southern Doctor.    In fact all the actors seem more at home with their characters now and Kirk is positively Shatneresque at times.

I really liked the character of Jeyrah and her interaction with Scotty.  I’m still not the biggest fan of Simon Pegg as Scotty but it doesn’t stop me enjoying the recent movies.

That’s not to say there aren’t faults with the movie.  I understand how in the movie the alien craft were destroyed but I still don’t get it.  I thought actor Idris Elba was wasted in the film and can’t decide whether that is because his character motivation needed an added scene or two or because in the style of the original Star Trek, there are rarely any outright villains and those who are have their reasons.  I enjoyed the cinematography and scope of the film but I thought the soundtrack to be poor by Star Trek standards.

I thought the film was beautiful and detailed to look at.  The weird plants and critters on the planet, USS Franklin and the various set-pieces.  The Yorktown, in particular, seemed gorgeous and perhaps the best visualised sci-fi city that I have ever seen.

Star Trek Beyond is the first of the alternate universe Trek movies which doesn’t set out to impress us but simply allow us to become immersed in their worlds and adventures.  I also appreciate it being in the spirit of the TV show.  Though there are times for epic films like Khan or The Borg, if the idea behind the story isn’t epic or substantial enough then why pretend they are.  Much better to have something like Star Trek Beyond.

startrekbeyondposter

Even the film poster for Star Trek Beyond takes a nod from the past and Star Trek : The Motion Picture.

One of the things I really liked about Star Trek Beyond was the injokes and references to both the original Star Trek and also Star Trek Enterprise.  Just a few I caught were:

  1. Kirk’s shirt getting ripped (a regular TOS occurrence).
  2. McCoy hating being transported (a regular TOS occurrence)
  3. Mention of the Green Hand in space (reference to Who Mourns for Adonais)
  4. The empty turbolift shaft of the USS Franklin was triangular in shape ( a la Star Trek 5)
  5. Captain Edison mentioned the Earth-Romulan wars (TOS Balance of Terror & TNG too)
  6. Captain Edison was a MACO in the Xindi War (Star Trek Enterprise)
  7. Kirk mentioning they were on the 966th day of their mission (Star Trek started airing in 1966)
  8. Chekov mentioned Scotch Whiskey was a Russian invention (The Trouble With Tribbles)
  9. Scotty cracked his knuckles (Star Trek IV – The Voyage Home)
  10. McCoy shouting “I’m a doctor not a Fu…” (a regular TOS occurrence)
  11. Kirk morose on his birthday (Star Trek 3: The Search For Spock
  12. Spock finding the photo of the original Enterprise bridge crew (Star Trek 5: The Final Frontier)
  13. Captain Edison and his crew crashing on an alien planet, mostly dying and reliant on aliens to save the survivors (TOS The Cage, TOS Whom Gods Destroy)
  14. Commodore Paris could be related to Tom Paris (Voyager)
  15. The Enterprise saucer crashing onto a planet (Star Trek Generations)
  16. Kirk gives a toast to lost comrades, the same as given by Kirk in Star Trek 3, by Picard in Star Trek Nemesis and Kor in DS9 Once More Unto The Breach
  17. The original crew of the USS Franklin are wearing Enterprise era uniforms
  18. The original name of the USS Enterprise was to be Yorktown
  19. The Beastie Boys hit “Sabotage” harkens back to the 2009 Star Trek and also aptly sabotages the alien attack.
  20. The aliens Kirk is dealing with at the beginning look huge and fierce but turn out to be tiny and mostly harmless (TOS The Corbomite Manouvre).
  21. Kirk mentions he has finished off Saurian Brandy and McCoy mentions it is illegal (numerous TOS episodes and movies)
  22. Kirk forgoes a deskbound job at the Admiralty (ST:TMP)
  23. The movie concludes with a new Enterprise-A (ST:TVH)
  24. Sulu having a daughter (ST:Generations)
  25. Announcement of USS Stargazer leaving Yorktown.   The Stargazer was a very old ship at the time a young Captain Picard served aboard her (Star Trek: TNG)
  26. Kirk confiding to McCoy over a drink and seeing them “off-duty” and talking off the record (a regular TOS occurrence).
  27. Captain Edison being marooned on a planet and going crazy! (TOS several episodes)

 

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About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. With several books to my name including a #1 seller, I also write environmental, travel and history articles for magazines as well as freelance work. Recently I've appeared on BBC Radio and Bloomberg TV and am waiting on the filming of a ghost story on British TV. I run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with small, private and totally customisable guided tours run by myself!
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5 Responses to Star Trek Beyond Review (Mild Spoilers)

  1. Very informative review, thank you.

    The original series episode, Balance of Terror, is one of my favorites. Many fans might not be aware that the story, written by Paul Schneider, was structured along the lines of WWII-era submarine movies. Go back and watch it with this in mind, and pay close attention to the tactics and weapons used for combat. Take the space setting away, and the starship Enterprise can easily be seen as an Allied destroyer hunting a German U-boat.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad that you enjoyed it Robert. Yes Balance of Terror is one of my favourites too and I think the sense of reality by them following actual naval tactics makes the whole episode that much more gripping. I believe that the third season episode The Enterprise Incident is loosely based on the Pueblo Incident too. Both shows are even better now they have the modern era special effects which rejuvenates them for the modern high definition televisions.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I REALLY want to see this! Great cast!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s a really good film even after my second viewing 🙂 good mix of humour and action and character moments. The actors have really grown into their roles and guest actors are really good. Jayrah is great!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. mlbradford says:

    Great Post!
    I enjoyed th film, but cldn’t really place it as a “Star Trek” film – a bit too rushed
    It didn’t feel like an original episode
    Fantastic list of injokes/references – btw, no. 19: “Good choice!”
    Here is my review if u’re interested:
    https://bradscribe.wordpress.com/2016/07/27/star-trek-beyond-the-bradscribe-review/
    Cheers!

    Liked by 2 people

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