The Real Problem Facing Star Trek 4 Is The Kelvin Timeline
Among the many difficulties in launching Star Trek 4, the real issue plaguing the next movie is the Kelvin timeline. Star Trek 4’s director, Matt Shakman, recently left the project in favor of helming Marvel Studios’ Fantastic Four. This put the long-delayed new Star Trek movie in limbo. Meanwhile, it can be conjectured that another problem that has caused a lack of urgency in making Star Trek 4 is that the new Star Trek TV series on Paramount+ have made the Kelvin Timeline pointless.
The Kelvin Timeline was created to solve some problems for J.J. Abrams’ 2009 Star Trek movie. It allowed Abrams, then a neophyte to the franchise, to direct a Star Trek movie that was free from decades of continuity. The alternate reality enabled Abrams to recast Kirk and Spock with the younger Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto, as well as youthful versions of the Starship Enterprise’s crew. Perhaps most important, the Kelvin Timeline was a convenient excuse to give Star Trek a fresh coat of paint. With a new reality to design from scratch, Abrams gave Star Trek a sorely-needed facelift, and the director updated the movie’s visuals and special effects to modern blockbuster levels. Star Trek did, indeed, feel fresher and cooler than ever before, and Abrams’ movie trilogy kept the Star Trek franchise alive in the dark years after the cancelation of Star Trek: Enterprise in 2005 and the launch of Star Trek: Discovery in 2017.
However, the Star Trek franchise has completely changed since Star Trek Beyond bowed out of movie theaters in 2016. There are now five successful Star Trek series on Paramount+, with more in development. In the first half of 2022, there was a new episode of Star Trek every single week, which hasn’t happened since the franchise’s 1990s heyday. But this is just part of why there is a lack of urgency for a new Star Trek movie. The greater dilemma is that there is no longer anything special or necessary about the Star Trek movies’ Kelvin Timeline.
Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Picard, and Star Trek: Strange New Worlds have now replicated everything distinctive about the Kelvin Timeline and made it irrelevant. All three series boast top-level acting and cinema-quality visual effects. The days when Star Trek TV series looked hokey and produced on a shoestring budget are long gone. All three live-action Star Trek series are as visually striking as J.J. Abrams’ movies; indeed, Discovery, Picard, and Strange New Worlds thoroughly adapted J.J.’s Star Trek movies’ innovations for television. The serialized Picard and Discovery are even presented as 10-15 episode movies. The animated Star Trek series on Paramount+, Star Trek: Lower Decks and Star Trek: Prodigy, are also of the highest visual quality and every TV series has stirring cinema-level musical scores.
Meanwhile, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds has nearly everything that Abrams’ Star Trek movies had and more. Strange New Worlds boasts the USS Enterprise, which is as sleek and upgraded as it looks in Abrams’ films. J.J.’s Star Trek movies ended up borrowing from and adapting famous incidents and villains from the original 1960s TV series and 1980s Star Trek films, like Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch). But Strange New Worlds is doing what the Kelvin Timeline Star Trek movies simply can’t do: visit a new planet and alien race each week to seek out new life and new civilizations. Everything about Strange New Worlds’, from its uniforms to its sets and extraterrestrial environments, thanks to its AR wall, is as eye-popping as the best of Abrams’ Star Trek movies.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds has also co-opted the biggest selling point of J.J. Abrams’ Kelvin Timeline Star Trek movies: a young Kirk and Spock. Ethan Peck has deftly and completely taken over the role of Star Trek’s prime Vulcan, Mr. Spock, and Strange New Worlds’ season 1 finale stunned audiences by introducing Paul Wesley as James T. Kirk, who will have an even bigger role in Strange New Worlds season 2. In comparison, Chris Pine’s Kirk and Zachary Quinto’s Spock are now over a decade older and will actually be closer to the ages William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy were when they started making Star Trek movies (although Wesley is of comparative age and playing Kirk in his 20s).
In addition, Strange New Worlds doesn’t need the Kelvin Timeline to feature Celia Rose Gooding as the young Cadet Nyota Uhura, just as Zoe Saldana was in J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek movies. Jess Bush has also won raves as the younger version of Nurse Christine Chapel. Plus Strange New Worlds centers on Anson Mount as Captain Christopher Pike, playing a more dynamic version of the character Bruce Greenwood embodied in Star Trek 2009 and Star Trek Into Darkness. In addition, Rebecca Romijn reinvented Number One as Lt. Commander Una Chin-Riley, and Strange New Worlds has introduced fan-favorite new characters like Christina Chong’s La’an Noonien Singh and Melissa Navia’s cocksure helmsman, Lt. Erica Ortegas. Strange New Worlds’ skyrocketing success is perhaps the biggest reason why Star Trek 4 doesn’t feel necessary, and why everything once unique or advantageous about the Kelvin Timeline is now inconsequential.