Star Trek’s 2025 origins movie: where the new film might boldly go

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Paramount is looking to get a new Star Trek film in cinemas in 2025 – but why this adventure, and where might things go? A few thoughts.

Another week, another Star Trek film announcement. So currently goes the online discourse for the seemingly endless array of Star Trek cinematic announcements we have experienced for almost ten years since the last big screen endeavour, Star Trek Beyond, in 2016.

As I in part chronicle in my book Lost Federations: The Unmade History of Star Trek, that decade has seen us face promises of movies including Chris Hemsworth returning as Captain James T Kirk’s legendary father in a time travel installment; Noah Hawley of Fargo fame penning a tale about a deadly virus (perhaps understandably shelved after a certain pandemic…); directors including Matt Shakman and SJ Clarkson coming and going; even Quentin Tarantino considering turning The Original Series gangster episode ‘A Piece of the Action’ into a movie event.

In other words, Star Trek movie announcements have become legion with only one constant: none of them have been made.

Release dates have been set and nothing has warped in. Paramount, who own the cinematic arm of the franchise, through a number of executives, seem entirely unable to figure out a direction of travel for Star Trek on a big screen landscape. Many ideas have been mooted. The latest is intriguing by virtue of what the title suggests: Origin Story.

Let’s assume that’s a placeholder title but news is that writer Seth Grahame-Smith – best known for penning Pride And Prejudice And Zombies – and director Toby Haynes, who’s helmed episodes for sizeable TV shows such as Black Mirror, Doctor Who and Star Wars: Andor, is promising. Both presumably under the producing aegis of JJ Abrams’ Bad Robot stable, gatekeepers of the movie corner of Star Trek since the successful 2009 reboot film that sent a photon torpedo into the dormant heart of the universe and kickstarted a whole new era.

Star Trek Into Darkness
Star Trek Into Darkness

The question is what we can expect from a film with the Origin Story moniker. Casual fans might ask: did we not get that in the 2009 film? That took longstanding ideas going back to the 1960s of showing Kirk and his best friend, the Vulcan science officer Spock, as children and at Starfleet Academy before using temporal shenanigans to create a whole separate timeline. It did not, however, depict the Star Trek world at its earliest point. That had already been done on TV between 2001-2005 with the fourth and for a while final spin-off series, Star Trek: Enterprise.

Enterprise took the franchise back to the mid-22nd century, one hundred years before The Original Series, to depict the adventure of the first starship Enterprise taking tentative steps out into the final frontier. Headed by Quantum Leap’s Scott Bakula as Captain Jonathan Archer, while it began as a fairly routine series in line with The Next Generation and Voyager, falling ratings led to two creative rethinks. First with a propulsive, dark action season, inspired by the reaction to 9/11, and secondly with what would be a final season built on ‘fan fiction’ storylines that connected to The Original Series and later Star Trek shows.

Had Enterprise survived for seven seasons, as all previous Star Trek series had, it would have built toward two key moments in the mythology of Star Trek, established across three decades. A devastating war with the Romulan Star Empire, shadowy and enigmatic antagonists with ambitions for conquest, and from it the birth of the United Federation of Planets, which underpins Starfleet and all the subsequent adventures in series and movies that follow.

Therefore, when I hear the title Origin Story, this feels the natural tale that Grahame-Smith and Haynes might be looking to tell. How the Federation, ubiquitous as a peaceful, explorative United Nations (or United States, you might cynically suggest) in space across Star Trek, was forged out of a brutal war that almost led to Earth’s extinction. A narrative vehicle for depicting a Star Trek era previously unseen, but one with the scope for a story with thematic resonance to a world seemingly sleepwalking toward World War III, out of which the hope and spirit of Star Trek’s utopian future can emerge.

Read more: Star Trek revisited | The Motion Picture (1979) and a film whose reputation has grown over time

If this does turn out to be where the story is heading, what might it look like? Previous Star Trek movies have rather unadventurously revolved around various USS Enterprise ships with either The Original Series or Next Generation crews, usually spending more time fighting megalomaniacal villains bent on galactic domination or destruction rather than actual exploration, as per the series. Origin Story would look quite different should it depict a Starfleet at war, depict terrifying early Romulans, and the powerful event of the signing of the Federation charter (imagine Magna Carta on steroids).

One near certain fact is that the cast and crew of Enterprise would not be protagonists. That show will be 20 years cancelled next year, with actors now middle or even edging toward old age in some cases, none of whom have cinematic backgrounds of note to carry a franchise film in the way William Shatner, or Patrick Stewart or Chris Pine have. Bakula’s Archer does however, canonically, become the first Federation President, so it would not be outside the realms of possibility for he to enjoy at the very least a fan-baiting cameo, if not a supporting role of some note. That would go down very well with most Trekkies.

It is also unlikely that Grahame-Smith is pulling from a previous project developed in the shadow of Enterprise’s cancellation called ‘In The Beginning’, from Band of Brothers’ writer Eric Jendresen, which planned to spend a trilogy of films depicting the Earth-Romulan War with one of Kirk’s ancestors, Tiberius, as our plucky hero. A script for the first film exists online and is genuinely involving. It would have made a bold departure for Star Trek in style and tone, bolder than the admittedly fun and retro-styled 2009 film.

We know nothing at this stage beyond a title which encourages nothing but speculation, but we could be looking at an approach to Star Trek which takes a broader view of the universe than we have before seen on the big screen, should this approach be taken. There is one other possibility, however, that feels far less likely to make for a commercial cinematic project, but which could fit the scope of the title. Maybe Grahame-Smith and Haynes will depict Star Trek’s World War III.

The mid-21st century in Star Trek lore is perhaps the most thinly characterised in the series’ history. We know there was a third global conflict out of which rose a ‘post-atomic horror’, 800 million dead and the majority of nation states we know today seemingly wiped out. Star Trek: First Contact takes place a few decades hence, humanity now a touch more agrarian but still boasting technology advanced enough that plucky, quirky inventor Zefram Cochrane can invent warp drive, launching a test flight that catches the eye of the Vulcans and begins the century-long road to the events of Enterprise. Humanity’s discovery of alien life leads to the Federation utopia we know.

Star Trek: First Contact
Star Trek: First Contact

Star Trek: First Contact trod that ground, but maybe Origin Story intends to take a real swing and depict the transformation of a world similar to the one we live in now, through to the decimated Earth which the despotic, Hitler-esque Colonel Green seeks to control. There we have a built-in villain, a man tethered to the kind of rogue eugenics that Star Trek has played with via memorable characters such as Khan Noonien Singh. Perhaps a hero we know little about rises in Origin Story to provide that hope and help point humanity toward Gene Roddenberry’s utopia.

As I say, fascinating to see rendered as this period would be, the chances are far greater that Origin Story concerns events Enterprise never lasted long enough to depict, which foster the universe ahead that we know and love. Indeed, thanks to time travel shenanigans affecting the 23rd century, such a film would serve as an origin for what we know as both the Prime (1960s onwards) timeline and the Kelvin (2009 film onwards, except on TV) timeline. It would logically, stylistically, work to evoke Star Trek’s past while remaining consistent in how the Kelvin films visually influenced the ‘third age’ of Star Trek on television, including Discovery, Picard and so on.

Will Origin Story end up made? Who knows. Star Trek movies notoriously do not garner impressive box office receipts outside of North America, which makes producing a big screen adventure with mass appeal a tricky endeavour. Any new film not relying on the pop culture power of Kirk, Spock and the like has a mountain to climb, in an age where Star Trek no longer has any kind of unique monopoly on modern sci-fi escapism. In a world with Star Wars and Marvel, Star Trek gets a bronze medal – at best.

To speculate about how it might boldly go is nonetheless appealing. What Origin Story does suggest is an attempt to revitalise what Star Trek means on the big screen, and 15 years on from the last reboot, after the longest break between films since 1979, that’s nothing but welcome.

You can find A J. on social media, including links to his Patreon and books, via here.

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