The end of Star Trek Into Darkness fundamentally changed the status quo of the Star Trek universe. Not only did the Federation now have the ability to beam themselves between planets in different parts of the galaxy, ending the need for starships, they had also cured death thanks to the magic blood of Khan and his crew. The human adventure had come to an end, it seemed, as humanity had ascended to the level of immortals who could be essentially omnipresent in the galaxy.
Of course that wasn’t the intention of Into Darkness, it was just the side effect of some perhaps overly convenient plot points. Some of us wondered how the next movie, Star Trek Beyond, would handle these immense revolutionary changes, and when I talked to director Justin Lin about the first teaser for his movie I asked him about it. His basic answer: his movie will be politely ignoring just about everything that happened in Star Trek Into Darkness, especially magic blood and interstellar beaming.
[Co-writers] Simon [Pegg] and Doug [Jung] and I have spent some time on that. [laughs] Star Trek has been around for 50 years, and every filmmaker that comes on has a different point of view, and it’s a universe that can support many points of view and journeys and adventures. I embraced what JJ has brought - without him this whole group wouldn’t be together - so I’m definitely very appreciative of him. At the same time, do we address it? No, but we don’t discount it. We don’t sit there and say it doesn’t exist, it’s part of this universe now.
It’s sort of the traditional way that episodic stories deal with stuff like that - “Let us never speak of this again!,” to quote The Simpsons. And of course those elements, which are essentially universe-breaking, make prime candidates for the ‘never speak of this again’ trope. But what about other elements of Into Darkness, like Carol Marcus and her burgeoning relationship with Captain Kirk? Don’t expect any follow-up on that. Says Lin:
We pick the crew up about two and a half years after Into Darkness. There were many iterations where we did go and explore [Carol Marcus], but we figured it was two and a half years… It was something we talked about and worked on, but in the presentation of this film it didn’t quite fit in. It’s there with the transporter and everything [laughs].
That’s so Star Trek it hurts - having Kirk meet a woman in one episode, fall for her hard and then never mention her again. That’s a perfect way of doing it. But what about Spock and Uhura? Lin gave a cagey answer:
What we’re doing is appropriate to the two and a half years. It’s a continuation in a way, and I don’t want to ignore things and act as if they don’t exist, so there’s an acknowledgement and I think their relationship is consistent to the way it was before.
It really sounds like Spock and Uhura have cooled it off at some point during the five year mission. Maybe as a recognition that they can’t be boning while working together on a starship? Could this leave room for a more traditional romance to blossom, one between Spock and Nurse Chapel? Or is this just a reflection of the fact that the crew spends most of the film split up, and so there’s not much room to explore Spock and Uhura this time around? We’ll have to wait and see.
The big takeaway, though: feel free to watch Star Trek 09 and then skip right to Star Trek Beyond, as none of the events of Star Trek Into Darkness will have an impact on the new movie.