The voyages of the starship Enterprise might not be the only Star Trek adventures we’ll see on the big screen. If Doug Jung — screenwriter of Star Trek Beyond — gets his way, the entire future history of all of Trek could expand into a vast cinematic universe.
Saying that he would love to see the “Zero Dark Thirty version of Star Trek,” Doug Jung suggested that the complex and diverse universe of collective Trek could lend itself to numerous styles of movies, similar to what the Star Wars franchise is attempting with Rogue One.
“Why not blow it out to a cinematic universe?” Jung hypothesized to EW, outlining that such a concept could allow Trek movies to explore “secondary characters” or deal with “an espionage element versus the large-scale exploration themes of the main Star Trek.” What Jung is suggesting sounds awesome and could fundamentally change the way Star Trek movies are created.
Certain Trek purists will probably tell you any Star Trek film is always a dilution of what inherently is good about Star Trek. Because Star Trek’s first medium was television, the translation of the diverse concepts, themes into a movie has always been tricky. In short: there’s a lot of different facets to Star Trek. but really only the easiest and marketable “big” concepts work on the big screen.
In a classic Harlan Ellison-penned episode of the original series called “The City on the Edge of Forever,” Captain Kirk falls in love with a social worker named Edith Keeler while time-traveling to the 1930s. This is one of Trek’s best episodes, but it could never be a movie unless there were more explosions. Similarly, The Next Generation’s most beloved episode, “The Inner Light,” finds Picard living out an entire lifetime, complete with an adorable family on an long-dead alien world. Morgan Gendel’s writing here is beautiful, but it’s not exactly blockbuster material.
But a cinematic Trek universe could change all of that. For better or for worse, the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has proven audiences are more willing to juggle various character continuities within a shared reality across multiple films. At the height of Star Trek’s popularity in the 1990’s, its shared universe was able to do this on television: The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager were all able to reference characters and events across the different shows.
But now, if that episodic sensibility were realized in films, then Doug Jung’s dream could create a completely new kind of Trek film, one that didn’t need to take-on blockbuster-save-the-world trappings to succeed. In short, a Star Trek cinematic universe, if done well, could bring subtly and smarts to Trek films, something the franchise has struggled with since making the leap to the big screen back in 1979.
Arguably, all Star Trek movies — even when they’re as solid as Beyond — are still a compromise of complexity and mainstream accessibility. Paramount (or CBS) has by no means announced that Doug Jung’s concept will happen in any way, shape, or outer-space form. But the idea is downright … fascinating.