Star Trek Beyond (2016)

SPOILER WARNING: This article recaps the entire plot of Star Trek Beyond and will spoil the whole movie for you!

Star Trek Beyond had its premiere in July and, appropriately, was dedicated to both Leonard Nimoy and Anton Yelchin. Like the two previous movies in the Star Trek reboot series, Beyond, which was co-written by Simon Pegg, has its moments, but lacks substance to place it in the same category of great science fiction as the classic series it’s based on.

The movie begins with Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) negotiating with aliens who, for whatever reason, are pissed off, and in an attempt at visual humor, turn out not to be as imposing as the camera initially makes them seem. These small creatures malevolently attack and cover Kirk like they’re gremlins before Scotty (Pegg) beams him back. Kirk also gets a souvenir called an Abronath for his trouble.

The article continues after these advertisements...

Kirk next explains in his captain’s log that the Enterprise is now three years into the five-year mission it began at the conclusion of Into Darkness. He adds that, with his birthday approaching (a subtle nod to Kirk’s birthday in The Wrath of Khan), he’s struggling to find meaning in his life, away from the shadow of his father.

This begs the question of what happened to Carol Marcus, who joined the crew in the previous movie. Longtime fans know that in the original timeline, she and Kirk had a son David, who was tragically taken from Kirk by Klingons (led by Doc Brown, of all people) in The Search for Spock. But the reboot gave an opportunity to show that relationship in a new light. I don’t know if Alice Eve didn’t want to reprise her role here or not, but this was definitely a missed opportunity.

The Enterprise arrives at the awesome-looking new Starbase Yorktown, where Kirk is considering accepting a promotion. While not having Carol in this movie is a shame, we do see another crew member with a family life here, and that’s Sulu (John Cho). Star Trek: Generations revealed that Sulu had a daughter, and upon arriving at Yorktown, we see her as a little girl, with both her fathers, no less.


It’s also revealed that Spock (Zachary Quinto) and Uhura (Zoe Saldana) have ended their relationship, and if that wasn’t enough, Spock receives word that his older self, Ambassador Spock (Nimoy) has died.

Not long afterward, however, Kirk gets orders to take the Enterprise on a rescue mission to a nearby nebula. An alien named Kalara (Lydia Wilson) informs the crew that her ship is stranded on a planet in the nebula. Upon arriving at the planet, named Altamid, the Enterprise encounters a swarm of small ships that quickly tear the hell out of it. The leader of these aliens, Krall (Idris Elba) boards the ship with his minions looking for the Abronath, but to no avail. As the ship gets torn to pieces for the third time in as many films (again? sheesh…), Kirk orders the crew to evacuate to Altamid.attack7

As the ship’s saucer section crashes on the planet, Krall captures crewmembers including Uhura and Sulu. But Kirk manages to rendezvous with Chekov (Yelchin) and Kalara in the damaged saucer section. She then reveals herself to be one of Krall’s soldiers, and attempts to take the Abronath. But Kirk is one step ahead of her as he and Chekov escape by activating the saucer’s boosters. The fight ends with the saucer flipping over, crushing Kalara.

Elsewhere, Spock and McCoy (Karl Urban) are reunited and attempt to locate the others, while McCoy shows his unique bedside manner by tending to Spock’s wounds. The two later have a heart-to-heart where Spock informs him of both Ambassador Spock’s passing and his breakup with Uhura. However, it’s not clear whether they broke up because of Spock’s wish to attempt to keep his Vulcan family line going, or whether he wanted to simply continue the work his older self was doing.

Scotty turns out to be on another section of the planet, and after narrowly avoiding a fall over a cliff, is rescued from Krall’s men by Jaylah (Sofia Boutella). She informs Scotty that she escaped Krall’s prison some time ago and has taken refuge in what turns out to be the USS Franklin, a Federation ship reported missing a century earlier. We also learn that she enjoys listening to rock music in her spare time (gee, I wonder if that’ll become important later). Soon, Kirk, Chekov, Spock, and McCoy join Scotty on the ship and plot their rescue of the rest of the crew.

But Krall has managed to find the Abronath, which Kirk instructed Ensign Syl (Melissa Roxburgh) to hide inside her roomy head (that’s original). As Uhura attempts to talk sense into Krall, he uses the Abronath to complete a weapon that was created on the planet centuries ago. Krall then demonstrates it on Syl before announcing his plans to use it to attack Yorktown, and then the Federation.


Kirk and the others then launch an attack on Krall in order to transport the remaining crew onto the Franklin. But this doesn’t stop Krall from launching his fleet toward Yorktown. Spock and McCoy are able to beam onto one of the small ships and learn that VHF transmissions can disrupt the wavelength the ships operate on. As it so happens, Kayla has just the kind of transmissions needed to destroy these ships (what are the odds?). Naturally, this means that rock music is the only thing standing between the Federation and total annihilation. But I suppose this is no less ridiculous than aliens attempting to conquer the Federation with a video game in the Next Generation episode “The Game”.

As the ships are destroyed, Krall crashes into the Yorktown and blends into the evacuating populace. It’s at this point we get the plot twist that had to happen. Uhura looks at the Franklin’s logs and realizes that Krall is actually the Franklin’s captain, Balthazar Edison. She and Kirk also learn that Edison was a soldier who became disillusioned with peacetime after the Federation was formed, and that he blames the Federation for abandoning him and his crew once they were stranded on Altamid.

Apparently, the crew was able to somehow change their appearance by using technology they found on Altamid.

Kirk tracks Krall into Yorktown’s ventilation system as the villain tries to activate his super weapon. But Kirk manages to send both it and Krall into space before Spock and McCoy rescue him.

The film concludes with everyone celebrating Kirk’s birthday while staying on the Yorktown for the entire time that it takes for the Enterprise-A to get built. Not surprisingly, Kirk decides not to take the promotion offered to him, and Jayla is offered a chance to join Starfleet. It’s not clear if Spock and Uhura are a couple again, but there is a nice moment where he goes through Ambassador Spock’s things and comes across a picture of the original crew (which I guess Ambassador Spock just happened to have with him when he traveled back in time in the first reboot film). This is such a nice moment that I’m willing to forgive the fact that the pic itself is a group photo from Star Trek V.

In another nice touch, we hear the famous “Space, the final frontier…” speech with each of our seven characters reciting parts of it.

Like its two predecessors, this movie definitely has some plot holes. For instance, we learn that Jayla was able to keep the Franklin hidden from Krall by somehow cloaking it. I guess nobody managed to accidentally bump into it the whole time Krall was on the planet? Also, why did Krall wait until he just happened to come across Kirk to get the piece he needed to create his super weapon? How did he lose that piece in the first place?

I also think it goes without saying that seeing the Enterprise get ripped apart is getting very old.

In the plus column, Elba does a fine job as Krall, under makeup that makes the actor unrecognizable. The Yorktown itself is as awesome-looking as Spock flying inside V’Ger in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Also, Carol Marcus’s vanishing act, while a missed opportunity, did give Reboot Kirk a chance to go through a film without putting on his ladies’ man act. As I once noted, Kirk was much more than that, which is something Kevin Sorbo learned the hard way when he fucked up Andromeda (assuming Sorbo learned that lesson at all).

But again like its two predecessors, Beyond’s focus on being fun is at the expense of being something meaningful. It’s dumb fun, which more or less sums up the Trek reboot series. In fairness, Star Trek as dumb fun truly began with Voyager, specifically after that show decided to toss its premise out the window in order to put the action center stage. This decline continued with Enterprise when that series elected to do the same thing. But this makes the reboot series all the more disheartening, because the reboot was promoted as giving Trek a new lease on life. But apparently this new lease on life meant turning out movies that, stylistically, aren’t much different from all the other mindless action films that get released each summer. The fact that, unlike the original Trek movies, we don’t have to wait two years to see if Kirk comes back to life or if our crew will get a new ship, illustrates that.

While a movie or TV show being dumb fun isn’t a crime in and of itself, it’s somewhat sad that Star Trek began as smart, ahead-of-its-time science fiction and eventually became mindless (albeit enjoyable) fluff like, say, the Friday the 13th series.

Rob Kirchgassner

Rob is a blogger, critic, and author. His latest novel is The Thoughts of a Proud Nerd: A Story of Hope, available now from Amazon.

Tag: The Star Trek Movies

You may also like...

  • I imagine that if there had been a series bible and ongoing plan when the reboot first happened we would be seeing more interesting narrative moves at this point.

    For instance, having Pike still be the captain at the end of the first one. Have Cumberland be an original villain in Darkness, and having to deal with Spock and Kirk leaving the cast in Beyond so that Sulu could take over command and a shift of focus to new characters so that the series can move BEYOND the trappings of the original series.

    • Thomas Stockel

      Yeah, but that would have called for risk taking and you knew the moment you saw time travel and Nimoy being involved the studio had cold feet regarding that.
      Me, I would have liked to have seen the movie not be an origin story and maybe have the first movie told a bit by Chekov’s point of view, as a new crew member. It’s a good cast, they deserved better scripts in those first two films.

      • They blew up a planet. That is pretty risky. They seem fine blowing up stuff and writing inventions that create plot holes, just not taking risks with characters.

        • Thomas Stockel

          Eh, after Star Wars is blowing up a planet all that risky?
          Years ago someone pointed out, in fact, that JJ Abram’s Star Trek is just a rehash of Star Wars, with the farm boy tempted off planet by a mentor who knew his father, exploding planet, etc. Considering how The Force Awakens turned out it seems JJ really, really loves remaking the same movie over and over again…

          • It’s one thing to blow up a hypothetically peaceful world that the audience has never been to. But Vulcan is a big part of science fiction mythology and has appeared in the original series, the original movies, the animated series and lots and lots of other stuff.

            I saw it as akin to blowing up Metropolis… which I guess DC movies ignored but I thought it was going to amount to more… Whatever. Point is, Vulcan was a familiar location and one that had story potential for the new series. ALL GONE! That is a pretty big change to the mythos.

          • Pooh Stick

            I don’t know… in any series where time travel has been established is anything really risky? At any moment someone can change the past and it’s a mulligan… DO OVER! Anyway, Vulcan was never really a presence in the Trek mythos as a thing, it’s just a vaguely weird place where some people came from. Like China. It’s a lot easier to have a Big Boom than write some drama.

          • Thomas Stockel

            I suppose, but with JJ playing it safe and saying this was an “alternate reality” I immediately became less invested in the franchise. I can enjoy the movies when they are done well, but I am just not very much invested in them emotionally the way I was the original series and movies.

  • BBO

    Though I like the reboot series for the Dumb fun and I am not sure where my life would be without a movie that includes transporters. I miss the boundary pushing themes of the original and next generation series and cinema. One of my biggest draws to the series is the fact that the human race is portrayed to be more mature. Not only omitting the weight of racism, sexism, religious piety, etc, but actively rejecting that these things should divide us. Showing that through education and hard work we can overcome and achieve so much more than we are now. The reboot has its draws, and I like it for what it is, but there is more owed its namesake that flashy lights..

    • Greenhornet

      Then they did DS9 and the Bajoran religion. In my opinion, that was dumber than scientology.

      • Thomas Stockel

        Glad to hear I’m not the only one who thought DS9 was overrated.

  • Thomas Stockel

    Krall did not lose the widget; the aliens who created it split it in two and tossed it into space…
    Typing it out like that, it sounds a little dumber than Krall losing it.

    • Wow. It’s not often an explanation of a Star Trek plot point reminds me of Blackstar.

      • danbreunig

        I’m one of maybe five people on this whole site who knows exactly what you’re talking about without clicking the link.

      • I was going to point out that “Masters of the Universe” also had a good and evil split master sword. But it turns out that “Blackstar” beat “He-Man” to cartoon form.

        I guess they must have ripped off the comics… and Flash Gordon.

  • Greenhornet

    “…Edison was a soldier who became disillusioned with peacetime…”
    “Oh dear God” was my only reaction.
    How did he and his crew “forget” where the Franklin was?
    The super weapon was designed “centuries ago” and Edison expects it to be far more effective than the weapons of today. That would be like someone restoring the big canons used by the muslims to destroy Constantinople’s walls and expecting to use them to conquer 20th century London!
    That’s a personal gripe of mine; some science fiction features a civilization that peaks hundreds of years ago and DOES NOT CHANGE, socially or technologically.

  • Trekkie313

    I liked this the least of the three movies. It felt cheap, short and the character of Jaylah is hamfisted. Plus the ending has some seriously bad CGI.

  • Xander

    I remember reading at the time the movie was coming out that Pegg–as a fan of the original series–really wanted write something more like the series and less action-oriented. He was told that he needed to re-write the movie to make it more like the other two. I found this article from around the time of the move, so I know I didn’t just misremember something: