A New Star Trek “Origin” Movie Could Combine Two Timelines
Could the Kelvin timeline and the Prime timeline finally be reconciled?
After more false starts than even Spock could feel comfortable counting, the next theatrical Star Trek feature film sounds like it may actually be happening. No, this isn’t the direct-to-streaming Section 31 movie that is going into production this year. Nor is it the rumored Patrick Stewart-centric feature. And, it’s certainly not the — take a deep breath — the Quentin Tarantino movie, the Matt Shakman movie, the S. J. Clarkson movie, the Roberto Orci movie, the Noah Hawley movie, or the Kalindia Vasquez movie. This is yet another, apparently very real, Star Trek movie, and this one will be directed by Toby Haynes, who, depending on your fandom allegiance, is famous for directing epic, and near-perfect episodes of Doctor Who, Andor, Black Mirror, and Sherlock.
According to The Hollywood Reporter and Deadline, the next Star Trek feature film, directed by Toby Haynes, will have a script from Seth Grahame-Smith, probably best-known for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. All we know about the story of the film is that it’s been described as an “origin story” and that it “takes place decades before the 2009 Star Trek film that rebooted the franchise.” It’s also separate from the fourth Kelvin timeline film, which THR reports Paramount is still developing as “the final chapter” for the Chris Pine-led crew.
So what does this mean? Well, it seems very likely that this movie will have to bridge two different Trek timelines and realities.
When does the new Star Trek “origin” movie take place?
By setting a Star Trek movie “decades before” the 2009 J.J. Abrams movie, one has to wonder what is meant by “before.” Because there’s time travel, time jumps, and alternate realities, the 2009 J.J. Abrams reboot movie — just titled Star Trek — takes place in the following years: 2233, 2255, 2258, and 2387. The bulk of the movie, with Chris Pine’s James T. Kirk becoming the Captain of the USS Enterprise, happens in 2255 and 2258; which covers everyone’s time at Starfleet Academy, and then, the main plot of the movie. So, if the new movie is a few decades before the 2250s, then it would be set in the 2230s, which, of course, is dangerously close to the moment the USS Kelvin is destroyed and the timelines diverge.
We can probably assume that the movie won’t take place a few decades before 2387, because that would take it to the Prime Timeline. That is the point when Nero and the time-traveling Romulans accidentally caused the J.J.-verse to form. The 2360s, 70s, 80s, and 90s are also heavily populated by the events of The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Picard, Prodigy, and Lower Decks, so it feels unlikely the new film will mess with those eras.
But, it’s possible that “decades before” could mean a few decades before 2233, which would be sometime in the 2220s or 2210s or perhaps, even earlier, around the 2190s. And if that’s the case, then, yes, this movie will serve as a prequel to not only the first J.J. Abrams movie but, all of Star Trek. In other words, an origin story for the Kelvin movies is also an origin story for the Prime timeline, meaning, both canons could be combined in one movie.
The missing Star Trek era
Set in the 22nd century, the prequel series Star Trek: Enterprise depicted the scrappy beginnings of Starfleet and the foundation for what became the United Federation of Planets. But the events of Enterprise only cover the years 2151 to 2161. After that, the next version of Starfleet from both the Prime and Kelvin Timelines comes from Star Trek Beyond, in the form of the USS Franklin, which was in service around the year 2164 — so basically, right after the events of the Enterprise finale, “These Are the Voyages...”
From there, we jump to the USS Kelvin and 2233, which presents Starfleet as pretty much fully formed, and very similar to how we think of it in all the eras that follow. But, here’s the thing: We know almost nothing about the time between the NX-01 Enterprise and the USS Kelvin. And, in both Prime and Kelvin timelines, we also know next to nothing about the 20 years between the 2230s and the 2250s.
So probably the most tantalizing period here is anything in the six-decade gap between Enterprise, and the earliest versions of Starfleet in both primary continuities. Will the new movie be set in that gap? If we’re looking for an origin story of Starfleet as we know it, anything after 2164 and before 2233 seems wide open for brand new stories, and possibly, shocking new canon.
At this point, the next Star Trek movie to follow 2016’s Star Trek Beyond seems very cursed, but if the franchise wants to put out something by 2026 — the 60th anniversary of the franchise — that project has to start gearing up now. And, if anyone is up to the task, it’s Toby Haynes; the guy who plunged Sherlock off a rooftop, stuck the Doctor in the Pandorica, and set Cassian Andor on the adventure of a lifetime.