Tuesday 23 August 2016


Star Trek Beyond
Captain Kirk vs Idris Elba

The Mission: Diplomatic mission to Teenax; stopover at Yorktown base; investigation into alien attack beyond the Necro Cloud Nebula.

Period: March 2263 (Kelvin Timeline)

Spoilers beyond this point

Locations visited:

Altamid: A mineral-rich class-M planet on the far side of the Necro Nebula. The surface areas seen display verdant forests and broken fields of rock and glass. It was once inhabited by an advanced alien civilisation that has long since abandoned it, leaving behind much of their technology including mining equipment and robotic drones. There is little development on the surface, but significant underground construction (the planet is very likely a mining colony, not the aliens' homeworld).

Teenax: A barren planet, home to a civilisation called the Teenaxi, who seem to mostly live underground (see below). It is the initial stop for the Enterprise prior to the stop at Yorktown.

Yorktown: A gigantic Federation space station, home to millions of people, from every Federation world. The station is constructed from dozens of interconnected structures, each with their own gravity, webbed together into a huge structure and surrounded by an atmosphere. Each structure boasts entire city blocks and rivers. Evidently the Federation of this timeline is significantly ahead of the Prime universe version in terms of technology. Yorktown is perhaps the most beautiful thing I've ever seen in Star Trek.

Captain James T: He grew up to believe it is better to die saving lives than to live with taking them. The long shadow of George Kirk hangs over Jim's career, but backs up his heroism and moral centre. The Kirk of Beyond is calmer, more composed and more mature than the version we saw in Star Trek and Into Darkness. He's also bored as hell with his five-year mission, in spite of various exciting "episodes," and has distinctly lost his way. He's feeling his age and applies for the vice-admiral position at Yorktown (ultimately declining it). He still loves 20th century music and can ride an antique motorbike.

Green-Blooded Hobgoblin: Also undergoing something of a crisis, Spock decides to leave Starfleet and go to New Vulcan to make lots of little baby Vulcans. He and Uhura break up but he struggles to open up to Kirk. He's clearly cut up over Spock Prime's death (given how close they were, a lot of this is probably Zachary Quinto mourning Leonard Nimoy). Following this adventure, his faith in himself and Starfleet is restored, just as with Kirk. He's hard enough to take a metal girder through the gut but screams like anyone would when the wound is seared shut. He has the utmost respect for McCoy. He gave a Uhura a radioactive mineral as a necklace, apparently not planning to use it as a tracking device (but it does come in handy).

Spock Prime: Ambassador Spock's obituary reads "2230.06 - 2263.02" yet given that he travelled back to this timeline from 2387, he would actually have been 162 or 163 at the time of his death. Among his personal effects is a photograph of himself with the bridge crew of the primary universe's Enterprise-A. Given that this must have come with him on the Jellyfish mission, Spock must carry around this snapshot with him whenever he goes into space, which is just about the cutest thing ever.

The Real McCoy: Has more of an insight into women's minds than Spock does, and cuts to the nub of Kirk's ennui. He and Spock have huge respect for each other but McCoy would rather it was never voiced. He's still looking at the universe through the eyes of a terrified realist. In the absence of anaesthetic, he basically says, "Look over there!" and does something horribly painful.

Great Scott: Gets most of the best lines, no doubt because actor Simon Pegg co-wrote the script. He's unflinchingly chipper throughout the whole film. Scotty develops a rapport with Jaylah, but there's no hint of romance. He loves his mate Keenser, but settles for a manly handshake instead of a hug when they're reunited. He's such a brilliant engineer that he can get a smashed up 22nd century ship spaceworthy and up to 23rd century standards, and get its cargo-only transporter to beam dozens of people to safety. He's also seemingly strong enough to stop himself falling off a cliff with one hand and climb back up.

Hailing Frequencies Open: Sadly, Uhura doesn't get a great deal of screen time in Beyond, although she does hold the Enterprise survivors together on the surface of Altamid as they face Krall. She rescues Spock as he swoops in to rescue her. She manages to recognise Edison as Krall from a very brief snap of old footage on the Franklin.

Boy Wonder: The final appearance of the late Anton Yelchin as Pavel Chekov. He has something of a father-son relationship with Kirk by now (or maybe elder/younger brothers, given their respective ages). He's certainly picked up Kirk's old habits with the ladies, starting the film with a rough break-up with a green-skinned fellow crewmember, totally checking out Jaylah and chatting up an alien woman on Yorktown. He drinks Glenfiddich scotch, proving that he is a man of exquisite taste.

Punch It: He can damned well fly anything, even a hundred-year-old beat-up starship. He has more of a personal stake in this than the others, since his husband and daughter live on Yorktown. This is very briefly, quietly and subtly done, and I think it's rather wonderful. Their daughter is almost certainly named Demora. (Sulu's daughter in Star Trek Generations. The girl in this timeline is born much earlier, but given how quickly they're getting through ships, she could still end up flying the Enterprise-B.)

Angry Space Villain:  Once Balthazar Edison, a United Earth MACO (Military Assault Command Operations) soldier, who fought in the Romulan War and the conflict with the Xindi in the 2150s. Following the founding of the Federation, Edison joined Starfleet and became captain of the USS Franklin. In 2164, he and his crew were stranded on Altamid (clearly they didn't have an engineer of Scotty's calibre to get them spaceborne again). Due to their distance from the young Federation's border, their distress calls went unanswered and Edison felt abandoned by an organisation he felt had lost its way.

Discovering alien technology that allowed him to prolong his life, he survived for a century on Altamid, becoming ever more obsessed with the Federation's betrayal and the need for conflict in society. The alien technology transformed him into a sort of vampire, requiring him to drain the life energies of others. It also seems to have absorbed their DNA; after decades of feeding off aliens, Edison has mutated into a grey-skinned creature, unrecognisable as human. As he feeds on humans, his original form begins to return. Now calling himself Krall, his plan is to use the Abronath to annihilate Yorktown base and from there attack the Federation.

Alien Life Forms:

Vulcans: Several Vulcans are present on Yorktown, and report Ambassador Spock's death to young Spock. One of them has a British accent.

Teenaxi: Puppy-sized quadrupedal aliens with prominent teeth and an almost reptilian appearance. Although intelligent and apparently civilised, they do not wear clothes and are quite aggressive. Their leader, at least, is absurdly paranoid and quick to panic. The Teenaxi are in a state of conflict with the Febonan Republic, and their leader honestly seems to think the Febonan are planning to eat them. Two Teenaxi are brought onto the Enterprise when Kirk is beamed to safety; one of them later goes by the name Kevin.

Kelara: An alien female with a complex ridged skull who speaks an unknown but translatable language. Kelara pretends to be a victim of Krall in order to bring the Enterprise to Altamid, but Kirk wisely mistrusts her from early on (not that it helps much, he still gets his ship smashed up). She's killed aboard the collapsing Enterprise. Seemingly, she was originally a member of the Franklin crew, one of only three who have survived.

Manas: Krall's reptilian henchman, originally his second-in-command on the Franklin, who is barely featured but is apparently Jaylah's nemesis. He is a skilled combatant.

Jaylah: An alien female with extremely pale skin and white hair, and black marks that run over her face and eyes. Jaylah was stranded on Altamid when her ship was seized by Krall and his followers. Her father was killed by Manas while he covered her escape. She's spent the last decade or two scavenging on the planet's surface, using the Franklin as her "house" and collecting advanced technology to construct her traps. She's an extremely skilled fighter and quite the engineer. She enjoys shouty 20th century music. Having overcome her fear of facing Krall and Manas and helped theEnterprise crew save Yorktown, she is granted admission to Starfleet Academy.

Syl: A female Starfleet officer, Syl is humanoid but with a heavily ridged face and skull (she doesn't look to dissimilar to Kelara, which is a tad confusing). Her cranium is composed a long, bony fingers, which she can use to hold and hide objects, such as deadly MacGuffins.

Keenser: The Roylan engineer has a cold, which allows him to sneeze highly corrosive mucus, which is handy for escaping cells.


USS Enterprise NCC-1701:  Having been ripped to shreds in Into Darkness, this newly retrofitted Enterprise is practically a new ship. The escape pods of the Enterprise are now called Kelvin pods after the lost ship. In the battle with the Swarm, the Enterprise loses its deflector dish and warp nacelles. The latter is probably a good thing, given that Kirk orders Sulu to go to warp, and no one's going survive that without a working deflector. The ship is finally destroyed utterly after crashing into the surface of Altamid, most of its saucer blown up by Kirk to defeat the aliens who are hunting him through it.

USS Enterprise NCC-1701-A: Already under construction at Yorktown, the latest and most advanced ship is an evolution of the designs used for the Constitution-class. After the destruction of the Enterprise and Kirk's saving of Yorktown, the new ship is named after the lost ship and Kirk is given command, and will presumably complete his five-year mission.

Starship Franklin
USS Franklin NX-326: An early Federation starship that went missing in 2164 while exploring the Gagarin Belt. No one knows quite what happened to it, but given that it washed up so far from the core of the Federation it was probably due to a freak wormhole effect (The Motion Picture has shown that an unstable warp drive can cause this kind of anomaly.) It is listed as Starship-class.Visually, it looks a lot like the Enterprise NX-01 (from Star Trek: Enterprise), but with new universe style warp nacelles. The Franklin was the first starship to achieve warp 4. (This is problematic, considering the Enterprise NX-01 was the first warp 5 ship, and launched in 2151. It's possible the Franklin predates it, and was later refit and recommissioned. The lack of transporters capable of handling living matter, and the restricted weapons technology which doesn't stretch to photon torpedoes, support the ship predating the NX-01. It's still an uncomfortable fit, but then, so was Star Trek: Enterprise.)

Swarm ships: I can only imagine that Krall spent the last hundred years spending most of his time building lots and lots of nasty little ships. Linked together by a "cyberpathic network" that is vulnerable to VHF radio waves, these ships, that Jaylah calls bees, rip through the hull of starships and space stations and tear them apart.

Phenomena: The Necro Cloud Nebula presents a natural frontier on the current edge of Federation space. It's also an asteroid field, strangely enough, full of incredibly closely-packed space rocks (par for the course in screen science fiction).

Giant green hands in space are apparently a known phenomenon (see "Who Mourns For Adonais?")

Future History: After the formation of the Federation, the MACOs were disbanded and/or absorbed into Starfleet, ostensibly a non-military organisation. If Edison fought the Xindi, he was very probably on the Enterprise NX-01 under Archer during the mission to the Delphic Expanse (see the whole third season of Enterprise).

In the 23rd century, The Beastie Boys are considered classical music.

The Enterprise is three years into its five year mission of discovery. There are a couple of mentions of "hundreds of years" of the Federation, but in 2263 the organisation is a mere 102 years old.

Future Treknology: 

The Abronath: thousands of years ago, the aliens that lived on Altamid created a terrible biological weapon, for reasons best known to themselves. The Abronath was broken into two parts, one of which was sent into space and somehow ended up on the possession of the Febonan, who later presented it to the Tenaxi, who didn't want it. Thus, it ended up on the Enterprise, and eventually in Krall's hands. When completed, the Abronath emits some kind of nanotech or particle radiation that vaporises living things.

Holography: Jaylah has access to such advanced holographic technology that she can not only make her "house," the Franklin, invisible, but create multiple copies of herself to act as decoys or fight on her behalf. Again, where she got this is anyone's guess.

Drones: Edison mentions mining drones in his ship's log, and these would seem to have become the bulk of his army. So, most of the pilots and foot soldiers we see aren't aliens in spacesuits, but robots.

Magellan probes: used by Yorktown to gather data from the nebula. The capture of one of these allowed Krall to gather data on the base and Starfleet operations in the area.

Future Fashion: More new uniforms on display. The regular shipboard uniform is a slight tweak of the classic series costume that has already evolved throughout the new movie timeline, now with a more military cut that works really well. There's also an away uniform, more practical for outdoors work and bearing a distinct stylistic resemblance to the Earth Starfleet uniforms from Star Trek: Enterprise. On Yorktown, personnel wear a station uniform in light grey topped with department colours. For the first time, we see the Starfleet uniform from the earliest days of the Federation. It's form fitting and has some nice white details. As with Into Darkness, there's the impression that the crew spend a lot of their duty hours getting changed.

Space Bilge: Building the Federation's most advanced and populous space station, with a huge civilian population, on the edge of a seemingly inpenetrable nebula from which no one has ever returned, hiding who knows what dangers on the other side that might come through and attack at any moment? Not the most strategically sensible move.

I'm not entirely sure about the clifftop "running start" for the Franklin. It's not a glider.

Kirk is offered the vice-admiralty, at age 33, allowing the possibility of jumping another two rungs on the ladder after only five years as a captain.

Krall's plan makes absolutely no sense. He has a gigantic fleet of ships, with which he can go anywhere in the Galaxy, and which give him the power to tear apart starships and space stations and wreak his revenge on the Federation. Instead, he waits for a century until the Enterprise crew happen to get their hands on the other half of the abronath, uses his killer ships to lure them and maroon them on his planet, and then goes to attack the Federation with a supposed super-weapon which seems far less destructive than fleet of warships. Also, by failing to take out Kirk and crew, he ensures that there's a Starfleet presence alert to his plan, rather than just coming out of nowhere and taking Starfleet completely by surprise.

And why the hell does he call himself Krall anyway? He's a proudly human, anti-Federation alien fighter with probably the coolest name in the history of Starfleet and he decides to go by a generically alien-sounding villain name. It's also very strange that the three surviving Franklin crewmen speak an alien language, even among themselves.

Links and references:

Commodore Paris, the superintendent of Yorktown, might be part of the family that later gave us Admiral Paris and his son Tom, in the 24th century (or at least, the prime timeline version), seen in Voyager.

The green-skinned alien crewmember seen briefly is played by Fiona Vroom. She might be an Orion, although she's kind of pale compared to those we've seen before. Vroom previously played an Orion in  an episode of the fan series Star Trek Continues.

The scene where Kirk and Bones take a drink to celebrate Kirk's birthday is a direct callback to a similar scene in The Wrath of Khan, only there Kirk was in his fifties and here he's only thirty (younger than he was in the original series!) Bones's line regarding Kirk's hair and eyesight calls back to this; the admiral needed glasses and Shatner was wearing a toupee in that film. Kirk and Bones acquire some illegal Saurian brandy on the planet Thasus. Saurian brandy turned up numerous times in the original series, while Thasus was the planet where "Charlie X" was found. Not the sort of place you'd expect to find Saurian brandy, really. It's also never said to be illegal in the original; they seemed to have got it mixed up with Romulan ale. The talk of Chekov's drinking habits is probably a callback to a scene between him and Scotty in "The Trouble with Tribbles." Like in the later part of this film, Chekov there claimed scotch was invented by a little old lady in Russia.

The Franklin is not named for Benjamin Franklin, nor any of the several ships over the centuries that have borne his name; it's named for director Justin Lin's father, Frank. The registration number of 326 refers to the birthday of the late Leonard Nimoy, on the 26th of March.

The Enterprise was destroyed in The Search for Spock, and its predecessor the Enterprise-D in Star Trek Generations. This current Enterprise was practically destroyed in the previous film, and this new refit is virtually a whole new ship. Of those previous destructions, two involved the ship crashing into a planet. The reveal of the Enterprise-A is a callback to the end of The Voyage Home, which introduced the new Enterprise that featured in the fifth and sixth films.

This is the first Trek movie in which the Klingons aren't even mentioned, let alone seen. Counting Worf's appearances and the cut scenes from the 2009 film, only The Wrath of Khan previously didn't feature them, and even that had Klingon ships in the Kobayashi Maru scenario.

Kirk's line, "Spock, skip to the end," is a blatant reference to Simon Pegg's sitcom Spaced.

Music of the Spheres: Rihanna's excellent new single "Sledgehammer" is the movie's official song, but more airtime is given to The Beastie Boys' "Sabotage," which is used to flood the Swarm ships' communications and previously featured in 2009's Star Trek. They absolutely, 100% should have used "One Step Beyond" by Madness instead.

The Verdict: The best Trek film in ages, with a strong message of unity. If they'd released this back in June, we might still be in Europe. See main review for more.

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