Star Trek 4’s Rejected Plan Made The Same Abrams Kelvin Movie Mistake

The rejected plan for Star Trek 4 for Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) to team up with his father, Lt. George Kirk (Chris Hemsworth), would have made the same mistakes as J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek movies. Writers Patrick McKay and J.D. Payne, who now serve as showrunners for Amazon Prime Video’s Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, recently discussed their scrapped concept for Star Trek 4, which they developed with director S.J. Clarkson. Pitched as an Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade-like father/son team-up, Captain Kirk would have learned his father miraculously survived Nero’s (Eric Bana) destruction of the USS Kelvin in Star Trek 2009.

Payne and McCay’s idea to resurrect George Kirk in Star Trek 4 involved the Starship Enterprise finding Chris Hemsworth’s hero still alive inside the USS Kelvin’s transporter pattern buffer. The Enterprise crew would have been able to retrieve Lt. Kirk from the pattern buffer intact, reuniting the father with his son, Jim, who is now the Captain of the Enterprise and the same age as him. The concept of George surviving in the transporter would have worked because Star Trek: The Next Generation did it already. This is how Scotty (James Doohan) survived for over 70 years to emerge in the 24th century to meet Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart). Payne and McCay even referenced Scotty’s TNG episode, « Relics. » So, they would have recycled an old Star Trek idea just like J.J. Abrams’ movies did numerous times.

J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek movies were notorious for ‘borrowing’ myriad ideas that happened in Star Trek: The Original Series and the TOS movies, and calling them homages or Easter eggs. Abrams felt that te alternate Kelvin timeline was a license to simply redo things that happened in the Prime timeline. Kirk cheating the Kobayashi Maru test in Star Trek 2009 was lifted from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, for example, as was Captain Kirk melancholy on his birthday and drinking his sorrows away with Dr. Leonard McCoy (Karl Urban) in Star Trek Beyond. The Enterprise’s destruction in Star Trek Beyond, the third film Abrams produced, was swiped from Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.

Star Trek Into Darkness was the most blatant hodgepodge of ideas stolen from past Star Treks, especially Wrath of Khan. The Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch) storyline rehashed Spock’s (Leonard Nimoy) death but switched Kirk for Spock (Zachary Quinto) and condensed the genetically-engineered warlord’s feud with Kirk into a two-hour runtime. The evil Admiral Marcus (Peter Weller) was just the latest Starfleet Admiral who went insane, and Dr. Carol Marcus (Alice Eve) brought back Admiral Kirk’s (William Shatner) love interest from Star Trek II.

George and Jim Kirk to team up may never happen now, but if and when Star Trek 4 does escape development hell, the sequel desperate needs to introduce new ideas to canon instead of relying on what worked in the past. The temptation to borrow from prior Star Trek TV shows and movies is understandable; after all, 800+ hours of TV exist and there have been 13 Star Trek movies, so it seems like every idea has been done. But this is why it’s all the more paramount to do something new with Star Trek 4. Captain Kirk teaming up with his father hasn’t been done, but the means planned to make it happen were purposefully derivative.

The first six Star Trek movies added so much to canon. They introduced the Kobayashi Maru, Spock’s katra (Vulcan soul), killed and resurrected Spock, and they set up the Klingons making peace with the United Federation of Planets. Even the Enterprise searching for God in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier was a bold swing (and a miss), but Sybok (Laurence Luckinbill) is now back in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. And the best example of all is Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, « the one with the whales, » which sounded crazy on paper but became one of the highest-grossing and most beloved Star Trek movies. Star Trek 4 needs another daring new idea rather than constantly rehashing old ones.