Daily Archives: December 26, 2022

Star Trek: Beyond

We have arrived at the last of the Star Trek films to date.  Star Trek: Beyond is the third in the theatrical reboot of the series, and it asks the question, “Can they bowl over a silly and somewhat disjointed script with raw talent, effects, and a solid musical score once more?”

Star Trek: Beyond

Hrmm… maybe?

The previous two films have set a pretty high bar for just going all in on those things to distract from any shortcomings, and successfully so.  Part of writing about this series of films is sitting down and thinking about them after watching them, which leads to inevitable compare contrast between how I felt in the moment watching them versus how they feel after a bit of post-credits cold reflection.

As with the last post, I will be getting into spoilers and this is the most recent of the Star Trek films, so I should probably warn you of that.  I won’t reveal major plot points, but I’m not going to try and avoid moments of tension that are resolved shortly.

The film starts, oddly enough, with Kirk being bored.  At the end of Star Trek: Into Darkness he was all excited that he and the Enterprise and all the usual suspects were getting the coveted five year exploration mission that was one of the framing element of the opening credits the original series.

These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no man has gone before!

Cue that ethereal Desilu sound track and off they go.

Some time later, after trying to broker peace between a couple of alien species by delivering some geegaw that nobody seems to know much about as a token and failing to impress or succeed, Kirk is in his quarters pondering a request to an administrative post that comes with an Admiral’s rank.

And it really feels like a betrayal because he’s been in Starfleet for what… three weeks now?  He’s gone from being a cadet in the midst of cheating scandal to the commander of the most modern exploration wessel in the Federation’s inventory (We’re not counting however many real warships Admiral Marcus built with Khan’s help and which were never mentioned again) in a little over four hours of screen time and he’s now bored with the whole thing.

Prime timeline Kirk would be ashamed.  Isn’t this Kirk drinking and womanizing enough to keep himself distracted?

Anyway, moody Kirk takes the Enterprise to the Yorktown star base where he asks Admiral Avasarala if she can’t get him an admiral’s slot of his own, which again makes me wonder what in the hell kind of organization Star Fleet is if somebody with as little time in grade… any grade… as Kirk can just wander on up into senior leadership simply because he saved the galaxy a couple of times early on in his career.  What has he done for Star Fleet lately?

This is all interrupted by a distress call and the Enterprise, true to the whole history of the movie series so far, is the only ship on hand who can take the mission, so off they go into a nebula that is about a five minute drive from Yorktown I guess in search of a ship or somebody’s missing crew or something.

Anyway, it was, as Admiral Ackbar noted so succinctly, a trap.  Then the film falls into one of my least favorite recurring events of the series, the destruction of the Enterprise.  Yes, we’ve reached the point where severe damage, gaping holes in the superstructure, and hundreds of dead crew are not enough.  Nope, we’re crashing that MF into a planet.

There are some ugly aliens down there that look like Balok in the Corbomite Maneuver… the fierce screen version, not wee Clint Howard… and the crew has been split up with some of them captured by the aliens.  Not Kirk, Scotty, or Spock and McCoy, who all have their own side adventures until reuniting with another alien who lives in an old Federation ship that has been sitting on the planet for decades that Scotty immediately gets working because of course he does.

Anyway, a rescue plan is concocted, Kirk rides a motorcycle, Scotty’s jury rigged devices don’t kill anybody, the villain’s real plan is uncovered, and the deleterious effects of listening to the Beastie Boys are demonstrated.

After a series of improbable events, the greatest of which is flying that Federation starship off the planet, there is a chase scene and the villain’s motivations are revealed… to be petty and banal and a whole lot of work for little end result.

The crew of the late USS Enterprise prevails and nobody from the main cast dies on screen, though Anton Yelchin passed away in real life before the film was released.

Kirk, having had a real adventure, decides the five year mission might be pretty cool after all and decides to keep being captain of the Enterprise.  The problem of having gotten the Enterprise destroyed is taken care of via a fast time lapse video of a NEW Enterprise being built before our eyes.  That was pretty cool, though it still does make you wonder how Star Fleet is run if they just keep a crew and command staff idle while a new ship is build from scratch expressly for them, and given the same name no less, so they can carry on as before.

All in all, a mid-pack outing in the context of the series.  I am not at all keen on the script writers blowing up the Enterprise then bringing her back in the form of a newer, sexier model.  The ship is as much a character in the story as most of the crew members, and what kind of crazy show would just find a nutty plot device to change actors every once in a while just because they felt like it?  WHO would do such a thing?

And Kirk… I get that he is young, too young for his command, so to suggest that he would be up for an admiral’s slot already is too silly.  And all the more so because he is petulantly bored with the five year mission he was previously so eager to lead.

What this episode… I mean film… needed was Admiral Pike to slap him around a bit, both not buying Kirk’s whiny tendencies and mentoring him as to what he should be doing, how he should be behaving as a Star Fleet captain.  Kirk clearly needs it… and the series clearly needs it.  Kirk, this Kirk, young and still in need of seasoning, needs a mentor.  Admiral Avasarala shouldn’t have patiently listened to Kirk, she should have told him to grow a pair and get on with his mission.

Oh well.  As I said, not a bad film in the scope of the series, but a bit of a let down after the first two.  I would still be up for another film with this cast.  One has been in the works off and on for a while, but COVID and conflicts have gotten in the way.  Maybe some day.

So, just to round things out, here is how I rank these three entries in the reboot films.

  1. Star Trek: Into Darkness
  2. Star Trek (2009)
  3. Star Trek: Beyond

Into Darkness gets top spot for subverting the Khan story into an oddly parallel universe version of events.  I like it and all that it implies about this version of Star Fleet.  Also, no freaking origin story nonsense.

Star Trek gets a solid second place for being as good as it was.

And Star Trek: Beyond… well, it had big shoes to fill after those two and didn’t quite get there.  Also, negative 100 points for Slytherin for destroying the Enterprise.

So that is it.  My wife and I have watched all 13 of the Star Trek films.  There will likely be a follow up post reflecting on Star Trek in the medium of film versus its episodic origins… and I might also try to stack rank the full list of films, which should be comically divisive.

It was also suggest that my wife and I watch Galaxy Quest as a follow on, which sounded like an excellent idea.  We’ve seen it before, but a rewatch in the context of so much Trek would be interesting.  The only problem is that it is not currently available on any of our current streaming channels and I don’t own that one on DVD or BluRay.  So we’ll have to get to that when the opportunity arises.