Despite having been told that there was a great story ready to go, that the actors were all keen to get started, and that Star Trek 4 was pretty much set to begin production (after tidying up some of the details), the science fiction movie has now been delayed. Once again. Star Trek 4 will no longer be releasing at the end of 2023, to no one’s surprise.
However, this time, Star Trek 4 has been removed completely from Paramount’s slate of upcoming releases, with an indefinite delay. That tells us a few things – most of all, that Star Trek 4 is still in a state of flux. The sci-fi adventure movie, a follow-up to the underperforming and underrated Star Trek: Beyond, has gone through multiple directors, rewrites, and has had an impossible time tying down the core cast.
It now looks like Paramount may have decided to cut its losses, focus on Star Trek’s many healthy TV series, and put Star Trek 4 to bed permanently. That would come to the disappointment of countless Star Trek fans, and would be a sad waste of on screen talent and potential, just when the movie series seemed so close to kicking into full swing. But, don’t be too disheartened just yet. For the future of Star Trek movies, it might be the best thing that could possibly happen.
Don’t get me wrong. The Star Trek reboot trilogy, as it stands, has some great moments – and just as many awful ones too. The first movie takes a breathless, action-first approach, with character and plot coming in as afterthoughts. This makes for some entertaining moments – even if the action movie is over-reliant on flashy setpieces and fast action. Its sequel, Star Trek: Into Darkness, is a near-incomprehensible mess, however, doubling down on the worst excesses of the first movie.
The 2016 follow-up, Star Trek: Beyond, was a big pivot. It scaled everything back, grounding the characters with relatable, human motivations. It managed to combine Star Trek’s classically introspective tone with a more modern, adventurous spirit. The only issue was that it was a huge financial disappointment. So, it shouldn’t be a surprise that over six years later, Paramount still doesn’t know where to take Star Trek on the big screen.
If the years continue to tick by without any progress, there will no longer be a decision to be made. Star Trek 4 just won’t happen, and the movie series will end without a proper conclusion. That would be a shame. Undeniably, despite all the bumps, there is a part of me that wants to see the adventures of Chris Pine’s Kirk, and his crew, continue on. I do want to see where their USS Enterprise goes next with Kirk, now more experienced and mature, at the helm.
But if Star Trek 4 never happens, that won’t be the end of Star Trek movies. The franchise has the potential to be too lucrative, and too popular for that to be allowed to happen. Give it another decade, and there will be a new cast, taking on new adventures. The indefinite delay of Star Trek 4 opens up an entire new galaxy of possibilities, and the allure of something completely new is magnetic.
Star Trek has suffered from prequel-itis, and a stifling reverence for what has come before. Out of the current crop of Star Trek series, only Lower Decks truly stands on its own feet as something that isn’t a prequel, or direct sequel. And, even then, the series is addicted to constant references. The movies haven’t been exempt from this, and the determination to link to characters and plots from decades ago is like a lead weight around the franchise’s ankle.
With the delay to Star Trek 4, the next Star Trek movie, when it comes, has the chance to unburden itself from this and be something entirely new. It’s not as if the Star Trek universe has a lack of space for this.
A Star Trek movie would be the perfect forum for a proper look into the aftermath of the Dominion War. Or, it could be set on the other side of the galaxy, with a Starfleet vessel making first contact with an entirely new alien race. Maybe, it could examine tension within the Federation as it continues to expand.
New characters, new ships, new storylines, new Star Trek captains. After so much time looking backwards, the thought of something truly new, within Star Trek, is tantalising. The exact details about those characters, or about those plots aren’t what matters. Originality is what matters.
And, we were so close, when Quentin Tarantino was all but ready to make his Star Trek movie. It probably would have been a disaster, but it would have been original, and who doubts that it would have been a hell of a lot of fun along the way? At the very least, it would have been something new: in tone, style, and execution.
Of course, originality and creativity doesn’t necessarily make for good filmmaking. Take The Last Jedi; undoubtedly the most creatively ambitious Star Wars movie in decades. The movie was bold, and took big risks. A lot of these paid off, and a lot of them didn’t. It was original, sure, but originality isn’t the be all and end all, and it doesn’t guarantee that a movie will be worthwhile, or have value.
Despite its flaws, though, when all is said and done the creativity, originality, and ambition of the unapologetic The Last Jedi means that its legacy will live on for much longer than the movies to either side of it. Being creatively bold is, arguably, a greater risk than playing it safe. But with greater risks, come greater rewards.
Star Trek has an ethos. The Star Trek series, each in their own way, are all about exploration and the search for something new. It’s about boldly going, and pushing your own limits. The Star Trek movies have not adhered to that principle, but they should give it a go, and see where it takes them. There’s a whole galaxy of stories and adventures out there to explore. With the delay to Star Trek 4, Star Trek has the chance to finally embrace that.