Where Does 'Star Trek' Go From Here?

'Star Trek 4' is experiencing setbacks. As usual, money is causing the drama.

Star Trek Beyond
Paramount Pictures

Movies set out to entertain, enlighten, and provide escapism from our mundane lives. If a film caters to those needs, then it can be chalked up as a success in the eyes of us fans. But moviemaking is a business at the end of the day, and sometimes money gets in the way of making that cinematic magic happen. As a result, chapters to ongoing stories are unexplored and unfinished. This could be the fate of Star Trek 4, which has hit an unwelcome bump in the road to its creation.

The Hollywood Reporter broke the news that Paramount’s plans to push ahead with the fourth film have temporarily stalled due to the financial demands of stars Chris Hemsworth (George Kirk) and Chris Pine (Captain Kirk). The studio wants to cut salaries since Star Trek Beyond flopped at the box office. Hemsworth and Pine want to stick to the deals that were previously agreed upon. The stalemate is on, but Paramount insists the movie remains a priority development and won’t be put on hold.

Following their respective turns in Marvel Cinematic Universe and DC Extended Universe movies, Hemsworth and Pine’s stature has grown since 2016. You can’t really blame them for demanding the cheddar they feel entitled to. At the same time, following the poor performance of Beyond, it’s understandable why Paramount is wary about opening their checkbook.

However, the situation gets muddier. The THR article also states that both actors are contractually obligated to appear in the upcoming sequel. Of course, the terms and conditions of their contracts aren’t clear, either. Must they take pay cuts if Paramount insists? Can Hemsworth and Pine part ways with the project if the studio can’t pay them what they promised when they originally signed on the dotted line? We don’t know yet.

Besides, that’s all legal mumbo jumbo most fans don’t even care about. The big question is where does this drama leave the future of the franchise?

The studio could always recast Hemsworth and Pine. Finding cheaper actors to fill their shoes isn’t the worst idea if you want to save a few million bucks. Then again, considering that Star Trek 4 is supposed to center around a time travel storyline that heavily focuses on their characters, would their absence be too much for audiences to look past? Hemsworth has only briefly appeared in Star Trek movies, so his departure wouldn’t be a massive loss. And maybe there’s an actor out there who could replace Pine. But in addition to finding someone else who looks the part, gelling with the rest of the cast is also important. The current Trek ensemble has great chemistry together. A new Kirk risks disrupting that connection.

Another alternative would be to make a sequel or a spinoff that excludes their characters altogether. This would undoubtedly derail Paramount’s current plans, but focusing on other established players makes some sense. How about Spock? One of the biggest questions raised in Beyond was his future with the Enterprise crew. He was experiencing an existential crisis and considering leaving Starfleet to save the Vulcan species from dying out. A movie about him pursuing this existential journey is an option, even if that would entail some loose ends from Beyond being left unanswered.

Alternatively, Paramount could — and perhaps should — scrap the film altogether. The downside to this would be S.J. Clarkson no longer being able to helm such a tentpole studio film. Her appointment alone makes me want this movie to happen. These kinds of blockbuster opportunities for women directors are still a work in progress and, if anything, this movie is a step in the right direction for representation.

However, Beyond’s mediocre performance suggests that audiences might be losing interest in this iteration of Star Trek. Another sequel might not be the wisest move on the studio’s part. As for Clarkson, she’s been hired to direct the pilot of the upcoming Game of Thrones prequel series. That show is arguably more anticipated than Star Trek 4.

That said, Star Trek movies will always have the potential to succeed. The brand is a pop culture dynasty after all. It’s been a while since we heard anything about Quentin Tarantino’s planned R-rated voyage into the final frontier. That idea is so damn crazy that it might just work. Sure, an R-rating goes against the long-serving family-friendly nature of Star Trek. But allowing a filmmaker like Tarantino to boldly go where no movie or TV show has gone before is a gamble with a higher chance of paying off than a sequel to a series that’s lost its box office mojo.

Regardless of where the Star Trek movies go from here, we can at least remain optimistic about further space adventures on the small screen. There’s certainly no shortage of television projects in development over at CBS as they seek to add content to their All Access service. In addition to all of the shows currently in the works, franchise producer Alex Kurtzman recently confirmed that three new animated shows are on the way. Which of these numerous planned projects eventually sees the light of day remains to be seen, but fans can take comfort knowing that Star Trek isn’t going anywhere for the foreseeable future.

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