Back in 2009, Chris Hemsworth was just a little-known Australian TV actor when he appeared as George Kirk in J.J. Abrams’ reinvention of Star Trek. Now of course – thanks to becoming Thor in a series of Marvel movies – he’s one of the biggest stars on the planet. And he’s also due to return as George Kirk in the upcoming Star Trek 4.
According to the official announcement about the film, Chris Pine’s James T. Kirk will “cross paths” with his father, played by Hemsworth. The only problem: Hemsworth’s character died ten minutes into the 2009 Star Trek film, sacrificing himself to save the crew of the USS Kelvin, including his wife and infant son James.
So, Star Trek 4 has to find a way to get James T. Kirk together with his dead dad as a simple flashback is not going to cut it if these guys are to “cross paths.” Fortunately, this is Star Trek, and death has rarely prevented characters from returning to the franchise. Let’s take a look at a few of the means by which George could make a comeback:
James T. Kirk travels back in time
Time travel is the most obvious solution. It’s been a staple of Trek since its fourth broadcast episode, “The Naked Time,” and has allowed various crews to meet their predecessors, interact with historical events, and save humpback whales from extinction.
It’s also something the current movies have touched on before, with the timeline initially being created by Nero when he traveled back from future and destroyed the USS Kelvin. The Enterprise travelling back to the same period, and potentially even closing out the series, would be a nice bit of symmetry. Of course the time travel may involve some other means, and perhaps only involve Captain Kirk himself.
Captain Kirk going back in time could also create an interesting “The City On The Edge Of Forever”-type dilemma: with his foreknowledge of the future, will Kirk do something to save his father’s life, aware that the future as he knows it depends on George Kirk’s death?
George Kirk travels forward in time
Time travel goes both ways, so we could see George jump forward from a point before his death to what is the “present” for his son Jim and the crew of the new USS Enterprise-A. There are multiple instances in Trek of characters jumping forward in time, including James T. Kirk himself in Generations. It’s entirely plausible that George Kirk could travel 30 years or so into the future and have an adventure with his son.
George moving forward in time still brings the same moral and emotional dilemma for his son. The current movie timeline is based on George Kirk being on the Kelvin at the moment of its destruction. His heroic death allows the crew, including the infant James Kirk, to escape.
This means there’s only one obvious way for the movie to end. George has to return to his own time, either oblivious of his fate, or more likely with the foreknowledge of his impending death. If he stays in the future, then he condemns his wife, son, and the Kelvin’s crew to death. Oh, and Nero will likely destroy the Federation. This puts Jim Kirk in a somewhat similar position – although the time travel causality rules used were different – to Captain Picard in “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” knowing a sacrifice in the past is needed to save the future.
George never died
Jennifer Morrison, who played Winona Kirk in the 2009 Star Trek film, recently made headlines when she speculated that George Kirk may not have died after all. Although she later explained that she was joking, and knew nothing about Star Trek 4, it’s possible she was inadvertently correct.
We know, at least through deleted scenes, that following the battle between the Kelvin and Narada, Nero’s crew was captured by the Klingons. Who’s to say that a badly injured George Kirk wasn’t among the prisoners? We have seen characters who were assumed dead show up later, including a few held in a Dominion prison in Deep Space Nine.
The downside to this? The movies are set around 30 years after the Kelvin’s destruction. While it’s safe to assume that Hemsworth will age better than us mere mortals, he is – let’s be honest – annoyingly handsome. It’s doubtful Paramount will want to hire him only to hide his good looks by covering him in aging makeup to portray a 60-year-old character.
George is a duplicate
Of course, it’s always possible George Kirk is dead after all, and the version of George that the Enterprise crew encounter isn’t actually the original. There are numerous examples in Trek of characters being either cloned, copied, replicated, or duplicated through various means.
In fact, James T. Kirk himself has duplicated as an android, and even split in two, via a transporter accident. Other characters that have been copied or cloned include Riker, Picard, and Trip Tucker.
One issue is that the emotional core of a movie that brings James T. Kirk together with a copy of his father would be diminished, reducing the impact on the characters. Just look at TNG’s “Second Chances” and how the Enterprise-D crew don’t hold the same affection for Thomas Riker as they do for Will. Okay, maybe Troi liked Tom better, but you get the point. There is also a possible twist that the copy is unaware he is a copy, something we have also seen in Trek before, such as when Data met his “mother” (co-creator) who turned out to be oblivious to the fact that she was an android duplicate of the original.
George is from the Prime Universe
Don’t forget, there’s a living, breathing version of George Kirk around at this point in the multiverse. In the 2009 Star Trek film, Ambassador Spock informed young James T. Kirk that the Prime version of his father George “proudly lived to see you become captain of the Enterprise.” Prime Kirk assumed command of the Enterprise around 2265, two years after the events of Beyond.
It’s conceivable that the Prime version of George could cross into the Kelvin timeline. Leonard Nimoy’s Spock has already done so, as has Nero and his crew. And of course there are other examples in Trek of characters doing some universe-hopping; Worf visited quite a few in “Parallels.”
Age difference between Hemsworth and Kirk Sr. aside, there’s no reason why his character couldn’t traverse timelines. However, you again run into the emotional resonance issue as Prime Kirk has the memories of a life with his son Jim that Chris Pine’s Kirk wouldn’t share.
Alternatively, the Enterprise crew could travel into the Prime timeline. However, in that timeline, we’re now getting into the events of Star Trek: The Original Series (which begin in 2266), not to mention getting a little too close to Star Trek: Discovery (Season 2 starts in 2257). With the current state of affairs between CBS and Paramount, this seems unlikely.
George is from the Mirror Universe
Of course Trek’s most famous alternate reality is the Mirror Universe, home of the evil Terran Empire and Spock with a beard. Introduced in The Original Series episode “Mirror Mirror,” visits to and from The Mirror Universe in Deep Space Nine and Enterprise, and more recently during Star Trek: Discovery have been popular. They have also often been used to bring back the Mirror versions of dead characters.
Since events in the Mirror Universe unfold independently of its Prime counterpart, any Kelvin timeline crossover could be to (or from) the same version of the universe we’ve visited previously. Things might be simpler if Mirror George pops over to the Kelvin-verse to visit Jim.
Once again, Mirror George would not really be James T. Kirk’s actual father, and could quite possibly be … well, evil. As such, the emotional impact of bringing these characters together will not be the same; however, we have seen examples of how characters can still forge connections with Mirror versions of past dead characters, such as Bareil on Deep Space Nine or Georgiou on Discovery. And the Mirror aspect of a character could also be a surprise twist … dun dun dun.
There are certainly aliens in Trek with the power to bring characters back to life. The most obvious of these is the omnipotent Q, who resurrected both Worf and Wesley (admittedly after they were killed in a scenario he created) in “Hide and Q,” as well as (possibly) Picard in “Tapestry.” We’ve also encountered technology which has the power to resurrect characters, such as Nomad (“The Changeling”) or that possessed by the Kobali (VOY “Ashes To Ashes”).
While it’s unlikely any of these particular methods would be used, it does establish that there are precedents in Trek, so it’s a fair possibility. Such a resurrected George Kirk would be Jim Kirk’s real father. This method could also be used to explain why Hemsworth’s George appears to have aged (as the actor is now over a decade older), either as part of the resurrection process or because he has spent a decade with whomever it is that resurrected him. That could also cover any sort of age discrepancy, given that Chris Hemsworth is actually three years younger than Chris Pine.
Of course, it doesn’t have to be anything we’ve seen before that brings George Kirk back. Writers Patrick McKay, John D. Payne and director S.J. Clarkson may have an entirely new way to reunite the two generations of Kirks. Only time will tell.
What about the comics?
For the purposes of this article, we have focused on the canon of Trek films and TV. Some of the above scenarios have been touched on in the two series of comics set in the Kelvin universe; there is even an instance where Kelvin Kirk gets to see an alternative universe version of his father. However, the comics are not considered canon and so we haven’t used them as precedent here, as we don’t expect them to be referenced in Star Trek 4.
George is back
Have we covered all the possibilities? Is there another way the film could bring George Kirk back? Have your say in the comments.