The release of Star Trek Beyond last year brought with it a major surprise: it was actually a really good movie. I’m a big fan of the 2009 reboot and Into Darkness is a fun action flick but even I wasn’t excited for Beyond. The marketing put me off completely with the trailers not communicating the tone and spirit of the film instead opting for the “from the director of Fast and Furious” angle. However, like every Trek fan on the internet who claimed they weren’t going to watch the film, I went and watched the film. It was great with a perfect mix of the new and classic but the poor marketing really hurt the box office, so much so that I was doubting that the proposed fourth film – or fourteenth depending on how you’re counting – would actually happen. Despite a sub-par box office return it would seem that the fourth film is indeed going ahead and that the writing team behind Beyond – Simon Pegg and Doug Jung – are penning the script. Time travel is seemingly a confirmed plot point with Chris Hemsworth returning as Kirk’s deceased dad but my hope is that a very underutilised species will take an active role in the film: Romulans.
Romulans, along with the Cardassians, are the greatest Star Trek villains. They debuted in the classic Original Series episode ‘Balance of Terror’ and have appeared in many amazing episodes of the other shows including a couple of my favourite ‘Next Generation’ episodes ‘The Defector’ and ‘The Chase’. A biological offshoot of Vulcans, Romulans are cold, calculating and the most cerebral villains Starfleet have ever faced. At least they are on TV. The movies have never done the Romulans justice; a brief cameo of a Romulan ambassador in both Star Trek V and VI, cannon fodder in Nemesis and while I didn’t mind Nero in the 2009 movie he was just a simple, but very angry, miner who had no affiliation to the Romulan Star Empire.
Into Darkness seemed to set up the Klingons as the big threat to The Federation with a war being stated as inevitable but with Klingons being such a big part of Star Trek Discovery it would make sense for the films to go in another direction especially considering Discovery with be taking place in the Prime Continuity rather than the Kelvin Timeline. However, to me it seems that the 2009 film set up a storyline with the Romulans that would be interesting to develop. The audience and the main characters know that Nero was acting on his own interests and not of that of the Romulan Empire because it was explained to us in a handy exposition heavy mind meld in the movie but the galaxy at large doesn’t know that. From their perspective, a Romulan, and remember no one in The Federation had seen a Romulan at this time, they are just a shadowy dangerous race with a large and heavily protected area of space, had destroyed Vulcan – a founding planet of The Federation – with a WMD and tried to do the same to Earth. Even if Kirk and co had spread the word that Nero was working by himself, many would still blame the Romulan Empire for the destruction. This would escalate tensions with the race dramatically possibly to the point of another war or maybe the tensions never come to such a dramatic head but the Romulans use that fear to their advantage and become less isolationist and take on more of an active role in galactic politics. Either direction would be interesting and I just hope one of them is taken in the upcoming sequel because it would be a major missed opportunity if they didn’t.
I would love to see the Romulans used similarly to how the Klingons were utilised in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock – which is the franchise’s forgotten masterpiece – with a primary adventure or quest that the crew of the Enterprise are undertaking and the Romulans act as a third party being a secondary plot point but the primary antagonists. This maintains the classical sense of adventure of the older Trek series that Beyond plucked from while still including some bad guys that will make the quest more difficult and allow for some action. I don’t want the Romulans to be the primary focus with say an all-out war with the species (although such an event could make for a cool backdrop) because that would lead to a narrowed thinking action film like Into Darkness rather than a grandiose space adventure.
The only thing we do know about Star Trek 4 is that Chris Hemsworth will be returning as Kirk’s father which would heavily imply a time travel storyline. I would love to see a ‘Yesterday’s Enterprise’ style plot in which we would see the USS Kelvin get sucked into the “lightning storm in space” instead of being destroyed by Nero like it is at the beginning of the 2009 film and rematerialize in James Kirk’s present allowing Kirk to meet his father. However, because the Kelvin doesn’t damage Nero’s ship, the Romulan is free to destroy Vulcan immediately but is destroyed before reaching Earth. The Federation, not knowing Nero is from the future, see this as an act of war from the Romulan Star Empire and would counter attack leading to all-out war between the two. Kirk’s timeline would suddenly ‘catch up’ with these new events throwing him head first into this war he knows nothing about and ultimately would have to send his father back in time so he can die like he was supposed to while damaging Nero’s ship setting the timeline right and concluding the themes of Kirk living in his father’s shadow and Pike daring him to do better that started in 2009 and continued into Beyond.
What do you want from the upcoming Star Trek movie? Let me know in the comments and geek out with me about Star Trek on Twitter @kylebrrtt.