The cast and crew of Star Trek Beyond held a junket last week where they answered questions about their characters, the writing process, and hopes for the future of the franchise (including plans for a fourth film).
Beware of light spoilers (nothing we haven’t seen in trailers, promo videos, or learned from cast and crew interviews).
The day began with the main cast of Beyond answering questions about their characters’ journeys in the film and the ins and outs of making the movie.
“We wanted to create a hybrid of an episode of The Original Series and a spectacular cinematic event,” said co-writer and co-star Simon Pegg. “The Star Trek films have always been event films. With the TV series’ you get time to spend with the characters, it’s a longer game. In a film you have to hit it, it has to be very self contained, it has to be memorable.
That was the thing: to try and make sure that [the fans] who’ve been here for 50 years get what they deserve in terms of a good Star Trek film. But, the people who haven’t seen it before, who aren’t necessarily familiar with Star Trek, they’re welcome, too. This is an inclusive universe in every way.”
Fans of the original will be thrilled to learn that we get to see the growth of the relationship between Bones and Spock who find themselves paired off together after the Enterprise’s destruction.
“For me I feel like this is probably the most fun I’ve had making a Star Trek film,” says Karl Urban of his experience growing the relationship of Bones and Spock. “I think what [writers] Simon [Pegg] and Doug [Jung] were able to do was to present the most well defined, most well rounded version of the character [of Bones]. It certainly gave me a lot of material to work with.
It was so great to have those two characters who are so diametrically opposed to one another be forced into a situation where they have to depend on each other to survive. Through that process came a deeper understanding of who they both are. It was obviously a great way to explore a lot of comedy but also the relationship between the two. For long time fans, I think it’s a rewarding direction.”
Bones and Spock play off of each other so well in part because they are so different from one another. But their shared values can end up bringing them together in very meaningful ways.
“These two characters historically in this franchise come at things from entirely different perspectives and points of view,” adds Zachary Quinto. “and I think there’s nothing more fun for fans of the original show to see that dynamic unmitigated by Kirk who usually manages to get between them. Bones really saves Spock’s life in this film, and I think there’s really a deep appreciation for that. They end this film in a much better place as a duo.”
Of course, one of the most controversial plot points from Beyond is the fact that the Enterprise is destroyed… again. When asked about his thoughts on what was originally Justin Lin’s idea to blow up the Big E, Simon Pegg said that, although he was initially opposed to it, he came around to realizing why it was really a genius move for the film.
“I hated the idea at first,” said Pegg. “I swear, I was shouting at [Justin Lin], ‘You can’t do that! You can’t destroy the Enterprise!’
My problem was, if you think it’s something new, well we’ve seen it before. It happened in The Search for Spock, it happened in Generations. But, Justin was very very determined, and as we spoke about it, I realized what he was doing brilliantly was he was not only taking out a main character, but he was removing the physical connective tissue between the crew to see what happens when you take away the thing that physically bonds them together. If you take away that thing that necessitates them being a unit, do they dissipate or do they come back together? That was the genius of [destroying the Enterprise]. You wait and see if they come back together as this family, which is essentially what they are. When I realized, I backed down immediately and said ‘yeah, you’re right’.”
When asked about the progression of Uhura throughout the film and how her relationship with Spock is changed, Zoe Saldana said, “She’s tired. She’s homesick.” One of the things that writers Pegg and Jung tried to do in Beyond is to make the crew of the Enterprise more multidimensional. “They made us human,” said Saldana who added that in Beyond we get to see how being overworked and away from all of the things that keeps people grounded can put a strain on the personal and professional relationships between the crew.
On the Spuhura romance, Saldana added,
“The relationship between Uhura and Spock seemed so normal and human to me that, these are the sort of consequences that may occur when you decide to love your coworker. Sometimes the professionalism can get in the way of the spirituality, and I feel like that’s what happened between both of them.”
So, is Spuhura doomed? When asked if there is any hope for the pair to stay together in subsequent films, Saldana sheepishly responded, “I mean…” Quinto was quick to interject, “I thought they ended on a really hopeful note, don’t you? Yeah, let’s go with hope.”
Of all of the characters in Star Trek Beyond, Uhura is perhaps the one who has undergone the most significant change since the original in the 1960s. Women are being recognized more and more for their ability to perform in tough, typically male-dominated occupations.
Beyond takes one small step for women kind thanks to Karl Urban, who tipped off the costume department regarding the female uniforms.
“One thing I’m very proud of is the fact that, unlike the previous two films for whatever reason, the women in Starfleet uniforms in Star Trek Beyond all have ranks on the uniforms. I think that’s a fantastic thing. I had a fan point it out to me [that there were no rank stripes on women’s uniforms in the previous two films], and I was shocked. When I got to Vancouver [to shoot Beyond] I talked to [the costume department] about that, and they said, ‘Oh don’t you worry. The women are going to have ranks.'”
But, of course, Uhura isn’t the only character that represents the social change the world has undergone since the 60’s. I’m talking of course about the reveal that Sulu is gay.
“I thought it was a beautiful idea,” says John Cho of this character’s sexual orientation. “I had some concerns about how it would be received by George [Takei]. I had some other concerns, but it was really the handling of it that was most important to me. I think its nonchalant posture toward it is the best thing about it, the fact that it’s normalized. It’s kind of news now, but if you rewatch the movie in 10 years, you won’t think anything of it. It’ll just go right by you. There’s no musical cue. There’s no close-up. It’s just… he’s gay.”
Zoe Saldana added that it’s not only important that Sulu is gay but that he is a father. “None of our characters have families that we’ve ever talked about. I actually feel quite puzzled that in 2016 we’re having like a bit of a fit over who he fathered a baby with. I’m just happy he’s a dad, you know?”
A big reason that the move to make Sulu officially gay is controversial to some fans is due to the reaction of George Takei, who came out against the change. “People like to make things a big spat,” says Simon Pegg. “George and I, we email all the time and have had long discussions about it. We’re on great terms. It was a great discussion to have, so I’m really happy with the way that it’s been talked about and responded to.”
Seeing Star Trek Beyond will be bittersweet for fans after the death of Anton Yelchin, who passed away in a freak accident just last month.
“It’s devastating to lose a family member,” said Karl Urban. “We should be celebrating not only this film but also this beautiful and talented man. The pain of this loss is still very raw, but this film will forever be the most special experience for all of us since it represents the golden period where our family was fully together for the last time. We love him so much. We miss him terribly.”
What could potentially be a big change to the visual and storytelling style of Beyond compared to the first two reboot films is the directorial replacement of JJ Abrams (who was busy working on Star Wars: The Force Awakens) for Justin Lin of Fast and Furious fame.
“Justin has a very different energy about him,” says Zach Quinto. “He’s incredibly gifted as a visual storyteller, and I think he is really sensitive to character dynamics as well. He brings a balance of both of those extremes. He didn’t have a lot of time to prep for this film, and I think a lot of us were extremely impressed by his sense of leadership and vision. All in all, he was a welcome addition.”
Later in the day, when the behind the scenes crew had the chance to answer questions, Justin Lin spoke about his love for the franchise.
“We moved to the States when I was 8,” said Lin. “Star Trek was our family time. Moving to a new country, sometimes it felt like it was just the five of us, but Star Trek instilled in me that my family is not just my blood, it’s shared experience. That’s what Star Trek gave me. Every week it was new obstacles, new challenges. That sense of exploration and discovery is something that was a big part of growing up. My friends all had their Star Wars figures, we didn’t have any of that. We had Star Trek.”
Also new to the team is Sofia Boutella who plays the mysterious Jaylah. “Sofia is incredible,” says Simon Pegg who shared several scenes with her.
“She’s a dancer and so she is physically quite adept. So, she was very up for the physicality of it.
When Doug [Jung] and I were in the writers’ room, we wanted to create this very independent female, a very resourceful character, but we didn’t have a name for her. So, we used to call her Jennifer-Lawrence-in-Winters-Bone.”
That was a long name, and as the two got tired of reciting it over and over, they shorted into to J-Law, which became… Jaylah.
There were some other fun tidbits about the film dropped by Pegg, including a subtle nod to the Star Trek’s 50th anniversary. In the beginning of the film, it’s noted that the crew of the Enterprise have been in space for 966 days, a reference to the 50th anniversary of the franchise, which began in 1966.
The film hasn’t even hit theaters yet, but people are already dying to know: will there be a fourth film? When asked if he has thought about an “Episode IV”, JJ Abrams responded,
“Yes, and this is something that we are hopefully figuratively minutes away from talking about. But, the answer is 100% yes, and that’s incredibly exciting”
This morning, Paramount made it official and announced that a fourth Star Trek film will be made and will include Chris Hemsworth who played Kirk’s father in Star Trek ’09.