'Star Trek 4' Announcement Debrief: A Surprise for Everyone


Seemingly out of nowhere, Paramount has announced that “Star Trek 4,” the latest installment in the iconic series, is finally happening, but roadblocks are still in the franchise’s way.

The Chris Pine Star Trek films have had a winding journey since their inception. The soft reboot (known as the “Alternate Original Series”) of the original show, which first aired in 1966, began with its first installment in 2009, reimagining the franchise’s main characters with some slight changes to the world around them. Jim Kirk’s (now played by Chris Pine) father has now heroically died on the day he was born in an attack by a Romulan ship, creating a divergent timeline for the events of “Star Trek.” The sequel “Star Trek: Into Darkness” was released after a long wait in 2013 to critical and box office acclaim, reimagining the events of fan-favorite 1982 film “Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan.” While 2016’s “Star Trek Beyond” had a positive critical and fan reception, it struggled at the box office, throwing hopes of a fourth sequel into the lurch. There have been intermittent rumors about a new installment since, but finally the franchise is moving forward.

Little is known about “Star Trek 4” so far — which still only has a working title — but there is a lot of exciting potential. Compared to the first two action-packed installments, “Beyond” was significantly more character driven. For example, Spock (Zachary Quinto) and Bones (Karl Urban) spent significant screen time together for the first time in the film-verse — as characters rooted in logic and heart, respectively, their diametric opposition on moral issues and sarcastic quips make them a fan-favorite dynamic, so hopefully a new installment will continue in this vein. The J.J. Abrams films also introduced an onscreen romance between Spock and Uhura (Zoe Saldana): While Quinto and Saldana have excellent chemistry, their relationship has been underutilized beyond some dry tropes.

Anton Yelchin, who played Pavel Chekov, the 17-year-old Russian genius serving on the Enterprise, tragically passed away in 2016, and his absence will be felt in any new installment. Zoe Saldana, who plays Nyota Uhura, has said filming without him will be “bittersweet,” and while it’s unclear how this void will be filled, creator J. J. Abrams has said Chekov will not be recast. Chekov’s character was initially introduced to honor the fact that Russia made it to space before any other country, as well as to take an optimistic look at possible U.S.-Russia relations in the future. Especially considering current events and Russia’s heinous, widely condemned invasion of Ukraine, Star Trek’s vision of a future where humanity can be united in pursuit of art and science regardless of nation is more challenging and important than ever.


What is most surprising about this announcement is that it also surprised the cast. Paramount has reportedly given up negotiating leverage with its actors by jump-starting the announcement to fuel investor interest. Despite not having a finalized script or confirmation that the original actors will be back as Paramount has promised, filming is due to start by the end of the year. This could be a concerning sign if any of the actors are unable or unwilling to return, but hopefully the level of confidence means that the project will be given everything it needs to succeed. They are expected to have a massive budget, which is a great sign considering the high-concept sci-fi elements and amazingly complex makeup and costuming featured in past installments. (“Beyond” was also nominated for a Hair and Makeup Oscar.) If the right people are hired, “Star Trek 4” definitely has a great deal of potential to capture audience attention and fulfill fans’ hopes for further series development.

—Staff Writer Millie Mae Healy can be reached at