Film Review | Star Trek Beyond (2016)

star trek beyond chris pine zachary quinto sofia boutella justin lin poster star trek the motion picture doug jung review 50th anniversary

We will find hope in the impossible.

I’m always unclear on what the deal is with the colons on these movies. Star Trek Beyond, rather than Star Trek: Beyond, seems to be the case. Not quite sure how I feel about that.

Anyway, I watched this movie yesterday; I’d been looking forward to it for a while, despite the dismal first trailer, because of quite how positive word of mouth has been recently. The reviews have resoundingly attested that Star Trek Beyond was a really good movie, and one that would return to the heart of the Star Trek ideals that had, in some ways, been missing from the previous two reboot movies – just in time for the 50th Anniversary, too.

It was undeniably a good movie, in any case. A very entertaining way to spend a couple of hours, if you’re so inclined; it’s very exciting, has some great action set pieces, and it’s the most visually impressive of all the three reboot movies. I want to draw particular attention, actually, to the warp drive effect; though we didn’t see much of it, it was a standout sequences and possibly the most unique way I’ve seen the process conveyed on screen. Another quite effective scene was the destruction of the Enterprise by the swarm – again, it stands out because it’s quite different from the manner in which we’ve seen various Enterprises destroyed before. On the whole, the film looked great, and I think it’s absolutely fair to say that Justin Lin did a wonderful job directing this movie.

One of the other things which stood out about this movie was how well it handled the characters, particularly in comparison to Into Darkness. There’s a danger with ensemble movies to lose focus of the group, and end up with a movie that’s essentially just the Kirk and Spock show. Both Star Trek and Into Darkness had suffered from this a bit; Karl Urban has quite openly said, in fact, that he almost hadn’t returned for this movie as a result of how he’d felt McCoy was marginalised previously. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case with Beyond; it was evident that Simon Pegg and Doug Jung, the writers, had gone to a lot of effort to give each character due level of focus. (Perhaps somewhat ironically, though, given the level of focus on him in the run-up to the movie’s release, Sulu probably had the least screentime of all the bridge crew.)

I really appreciated the fact that this movie put in a greater effort with the characterisation and emotional arcs for their characters. In fact, I thought that Kirk and Spock’s arc was particularly fitting for this movie; they both waver somewhat as to whether or not they’re going to stay with Starfleet, but ultimately reaffirm their desire to stay on the Enterprise. This was quite appropriate, I think, and in some ways reflected the manner in which Beyond intended to bring the reboot movies closer to the original spirit of Star Trek.

Did it succeed in doing so? Well, perhaps. It’s much more immediately obvious that this movie was written and directed by fans, in contrast to the previous ones; there’s a lot of self-referential, tongue in cheek humour there. (A particular favourite was Kirk’s downbeat “I ripped my shirt again”, as if this happens to him a lot.) It also feels a lot more in tune with the rest of Trek, from its unexpected-but-appreciated extensive references to Enterprise, to the vivid colour palette that’s so reminiscent of the original series. There’s a lot more of a focus on exploration than there had been previously (although still not a great deal) and there’s also that lovely moment with Sulu that reaffirms Star Trek’s commitment to diversity and representation.

And yet.

During all the associated press interviews and whatnot prior to the movie, Simon Pegg said that when writing the script, he “wanted to […] question the idea of the original vision of it. Gene Roddenberry’s original idea of the Federation was like a UN in space. We wanted to ask whether it was a good thing or more like a colonising force.” The movie was being presented as a post-colonial, structuralist critique of the original Star Trek, and it was this that had excited me the most about the new movie – the potential for some quite complex themes and a nuanced internal debate. To me, that’s the heart of Star Trek, and something I’ve felt was missing from the most recent movies. Indeed, it particularly appealed because that sort of post-colonial lens is one I find to be quite interesting generally, so to apply it to Star Trek sounded like it’d be really compelling.

In the end, though, that doesn’t really come across. Krall, our villain, does little to present a truly opposing viewpoint to the Federation; his military jingoism is something we’ve seen before, and there’s little time to properly delve into what he’s saying. At times he often seems to contradict himself; despite dismissing unity as a concept, his swarm technology is entirely reliant on being unified, and he mourns the death of his friend towards the end of the movie. Further, I think the revelation of his identity actually undercuts a lot of those themes; given that Krall was never colonised, there’s not exactly anything approaching those sorts of ideas. As ever, DS9 did it best with “You assimilate people and they don’t even know it” back in the day.

Ultimately, Star Trek Beyond wasn’t what I had hoped. The villain was a bit weak, and there were a few minor issues throughout. But it was a movie that emphasised the need for progress, that dismissed xenophobia and jingoism, and took care to reaffirm the ideals of inclusivity, diversity and discovery.

For the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, that’s rather appropriate.



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Nine Years of the Ninth Doctor: The Long Game

doctor who the long game review ninth doctor rose tyler adam mitchell the editor simon pegg jagrafess russell t davies brian grant

Create a climate of fear and it’s easy to keep the borders closed. It’s just a matter of emphasis. The right word in the right broadcast repeated often enough can destabilize an economy, invent an enemy, change a vote.

The Long Game is an interesting one. We’ve got a new companion in the form of Adam, and another trip into the future. Russell T Davies is back, writing his fifth script of the series – and, interestingly, it’s an idea he’s had for quite a long time. The basis of the script, with Satellite 5 manipulating the media to control society, was originally pitched by RTD to Andrew Cartmel back in the 80s. It was refused, as you can tell, but I still find that rather interesting.

How different would it have been? Adam, I imagine, wouldn’t have featured, and it’d have been restructured to 4 parts… would I have been better that way? There’d likely have been more of a focus on the role of media, which was definitely the more interesting part of the plot, and it would have fit the manipulative 7th Doctor quite well, methinks…

Ah, the road not taken. This is Nine Years of the Ninth Doctor, not… 25ish Years Since the Seventh Doctor.

So, how did The Long Game as we got it manage?

doctor who the long game review ninth doctor rose tyler adam mitchell info spike russell t davies brian grant bruno langley christopher eccleston billie piper

There’s a lot of different ideas at work here. By far the best one is that of the manipulation of the media. It’s just a really fascinating concept, and I kinda wish it had been explored in a little bit more depth. A lot of it was only really touched upon, where it had the potential to be built into a really intriguing plot. For example, you’ve got this quote –

‘That thing’, as you put it, is in charge of the human race. For almost a hundred years, mankind has been shaped and guided, his knowledge and ambitions strictly controlled by its broadcast news, edited by my superior, your master and humanity’s guiding light, The Mighty Jagrafess of the Holy Hadrojassic Maxarodenfoe.

– and there’s also the one I used at the top of the page –

Create a climate of fear and it’s easy to keep the borders closed. It’s just a matter of emphasis. The right word in the right broadcast repeated often enough can destabilize an economy, invent an enemy, change a vote.

They just… they’re both indicative of something bigger, and something more interesting than the episode ever really managed to explore. Maybe I’m asking too much, but I don’t really think so; a little bit more depth to this and the whole episode could have really gone up a few points. Still, we did get some good stuff, and it’s definitely food for thought. (And, hey, there’s always fanfiction, right? Maybe Seven and Ace could turn up on Satellite 5 themselves…?)

The other thing I really liked about this one was, in fact, Adam. We’ve never really seen a crappy companion before, a ‘companion who couldn’t’, as he’s been described. (No jokes about Mel, thank you very much!) I really liked seeing the way he treats his time in the TARDIS. I know he’s often criticised for selfishness, but honestly? I’m not so sure. Yes, travelling in the TARDIS is a privilege and a wonderful thing, but not everyone is going to look at things like that.

One of the most common responses to the “If you can travel anywhere in time…” question, at least in real life, is something to do with personal gain. Something to improve your own life – some little change, so that things turned out a bit better. So… I think it’s realistic, and it’s nice to see it, if only for the one episode. It also rather nicely foreshadows Father’s Day with Rose

doctor who the long game review the editor simon pegg ninth doctor christopher eccleston slave enslaved yes jagrafess russell t davies brian grant

We’ve also got Simon Pegg in one of the best guest roles of the series. Simon Pegg is a really, really fantastic actor – the character he’s created here is way different from, say, his version of Scotty in Star Trek. The Editor is quite scary at times actually, and he’s got a very commanding presence. He’s one of the most memorable things about the episode – far more than the Jagrafess itself, which is… cool, but weird. It’s an interesting monster, in that it’s sort of different, but it doesn’t really do much, does it?

As ever, Christopher Eccleston did a good job. I liked his scenes with the Editor (“Is a slave a slave if he doesn’t know he’s enslaved?” “Yes”), as well as his inspiration of Cathica. It’s one of the first instances I can think of where the ‘little people’, if you like, are really important to the episode and it’s resolution. It’s nice, and quite Doctor-y too.

Nothing about the direction particularly stands out to be honest – it’s good, but not really outstanding. One thing that does stick out, though not for good reason, is the backing music. It’s incessant, isn’t it? Really, really over the top. Brings you right out of it at times.

So, in all… it’s a good, solid episode, with a lot interesting ideas and some great performances all round, though as a whole it’s somewhat less than the sum of it’s parts. 7/10


Nine Years of the Ninth Doctor Reviews

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