Spoilers for Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness lie ahead.
Like their forerunners, the two latest Star Trek films, in their semi-rebooted, alternative universe, are replete with famous faces from outside the franchise, surprising cameos and multiple little touches that raise a smile.
With the third film in the rebooted series coming next year, the 50th anniversary of the debut of Star Trek on TV in 1966, let’s take a look at a few of the geeky nods in JJ’s Trek films.
1. Star Trek Nemesis left a lot of dangling threads, on purpose, as a story treatment for a direct sequel was already being worked on. Unfortunately due to some less than stellar decisions by executives, the release date of the film was repositioned and the decision was made to actually market the film as – in the words of someone who earns more money than us – a great alternative for those who can’t get in to the sold out showings of Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers. The mind boggles.
Nemesis actually only earned around $67 million (combined domestic and international box office) after a production budget of $60 million – so in reality probably made a small loss once promotional costs (what there were of them) were worked in. However, the DVD release was the most pre-ordered disc at the time of release (DVD was nowhere near as ubiquitous as it is today.)
Fortunately some of the threads left were picked up when the official in-canon (according to CBS, Paramount, Bad Robot, et al) prequel to the 2009 Star Trek film was written.
Countdown (a comic series/graphic novel) depicts the events leading up to the destruction of Romulus, with Ambassador Spock (now official Federation Ambassador to Romulus, following the events of Next Generation‘s “Reunification”) getting the Jellyfish. The Federation Ambassador to Vulcan was one Jean-Luc Picard, and the Jellyfish had been designed by Geordi LaForge. A re-born Captain Data/B4 is in command of the Enterprise-E as it rushes to try and save the day, with even General Worf getting involved. Ultimately the singularity/black hole created to save the galaxy pulls the Jellyfish (with Spock aboard) and the Nerada (with Nero and his crew aboard, after being outfitted with extra technology and weapons of Borg origin) in, and deposits them in the past…
If you think the Star Wars prequels were divisive in the Star Wars fandom, it’s nothing compared with the tear through the fandom as a result of these films. The frustrating thing about the films from Bad Robot is that a lot of back story that had been worked out was never shown (or indeed, hinted at) on screen, which would have explained quite why there are the differences between the ‘Prime’ universe (which is the one where Star Trek: Enterprise took place, and may or may not in fact be the same one that the Next Generation crew experienced up until First Contact). There are thousands of parallel universes within Star Trek canon anyway, as shown by The Next Generation‘s “Parallels,” rather conveniently.
As for those with lots of hatred for the new movies, all I can say is… multi-verse and IDIC – Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations – the celebration of which is at the core of Gene Roddenberry’s original vision.
Star Trek (2009)
2. The first two cast members announced for Star Trek were Zachary Quinto and Leonard Nimoy. Both actors were introduced as cast for the film at the San Diego Comic Con in 2007. Leonard’s wife Susan Bay (yes.. she is Michael Bay’s cousin) was apparently a little unsettled when she was in a lift with both Leonard and Zachary looking from one man to another. Indeed, many people looking at early test images of the new Spock and early images of his predecessor from production on “The Cage” (Star Trek‘s original pilot episode) found them remarkably similar.
3. As if it’s not obvious, Karl Urban (well Karl-Heinz Urban for his full name) is a huge fan of Deforest Kelly – so it’s no surprise that Karl’s version of Leonard McCoy is generally regarded as the most reminiscent of the original cast.
Karl was the final main cast member to be selected, bizarrely, but there is apparently no truth in the suggestion he was the 57th actor to audition. Interestingly in Xena: Warrior Princess he played Cupid, Julius Caesar and a character called… Kor. Of course we also know him as the best on-screen Dredd, and from brilliance such as his take on Éomer in the Lord Of The Rings trilogy and Detective John Kennex in the prematurely cancelled Fox show, Almost Human.
4. For those who needed proof that James T Kirk was in fact some form of demi-god, here’s your proof… George Kirk (James’ father) is Thor! Chris Hemsworth took on the role of Acting Captain Kirk, of the USS Kelvin, before appearing as the God Of Thunder.
5. It’s not made awfully clear in the final version of Star Trek, but at the beginning of the film, Acting Captain George Kirk, does actually put the Nerada out of action by ramming the USS Kelvin into it. The Nerada is left drifting as the shuttles escape… drifting close to Klingon space, and actually crossing into Klingon territory.
A huge cut section – all filmed and basically ready bar the odd effect shot – showed the crippled Nerada surrounded by Klingon D-7 battle cruisers, pretty much the same as those in the original Star Trek TV show. The crew would have ended up on Rura Penthe, the Klingon prison planet that appeared in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.
This explains why Nero and his crew are imprisoned for 25 years or so. It’s where Nero’s ear is torn and you see him finally overcome his guards and escape. It is then that the Nerada goes to meet the second lightning storm in space (Spock arriving) taking out 47 of the new Klingon Warbirds en-route. Fortunately this is all present and correct in the deleted sequences on the second disc of the Blu-ray release, along with the other important cut scenes.
6. Intermediate scenes cut from the film include Spock’s birth (though this, perhaps should have been right at the start of the film, prior to use seeing the Kelvin), and a bit of character story showing the teenager that Jim overtakes after stealing his step-father’s car (which originally belonged to Jim’s father), is his older brother, George (Junior), who had just left home after an argument with ‘Uncle Frank’ (played by Brad William Henke).
7. W. Morgan Sheppard appears as the rather terse Vulcan Science Minister. He not only appeared in a second season Star Trek: The Next Generation episode as Ira Graves, Data’s ‘grandfather’, and Star Trek: Voyager‘s “Bliss” as Qatai, but also the commandant of the prison on Rura Penthe in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. His son, Mark A Sheppard also appeared in Star Trek: Voyager. The pair would also appear as different aged versions of the same character in Doctor Who – Canton Everett Delaware III in the opening two-part to new Who‘s sixth series.
8. Rachel Nichols is probably best known for playing the time travelling cop Keira Cameron in Continuum on the small screen, but she appeared in Star Trek as Galia, the flame-haired Orion Starfleet cadet that Kirk shares a bed with. The actress also appeared, with red hair once again, in GI Joe: The Rise Of Cobra as Scarlett, as well as alongside Jason Mamoa’s version of Conan. She stars in the up and coming Pandemic.
9. The sequence of scenes involving Galia, running through into the Kobashi Maru test were originally quite a bit longer. The earlier version showed how Cadet Kirk actually set Galia up to allow him to “alter the conditions of the test.” It was apparently not a purposeful addition to have Jim eating an apple while he proved he didn’t like to lose as those test conditions were altered. They may as well have had Kirstie Alley playing one of the instructors to underline the point!
It’s interesting that in the commentary with this and the scenes I mention above, that director and writers alike aren’t entirely happy that these scenes are not in the final film. Time for a different cut to be put together, perhaps? I don’t like to lose (good character moments, that is).
10. It would be almost wrong to not have anyone from the ‘Prime’ universe, actor wise, turn up, so along with Leonard Nimoy returning as Spock for the first time since 1991’s Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, the voice of the Enterprise computer is played by Majel Barret-Roddenberry, once again, who completed her work on the film just before passing away.
Chief Engineer Olson, who dies after being rather silly and not opening his chute early enough as he space-dived onto the Nerada’s drilling platform, was played by Lancashire-born Greg Ellis, who previously played the Cardassian, Ekoor, in Deep Space Nine, and also lent his vocal talents to two Star Trek video games. Outside of the franchise he has appeared in two Pirates Of The Caribbean films, the third season of 24, as well as various other TV, film and video games roles, including playing a rather nasty piece of work in the pilot of 2008’s Knight Rider reboot.
Also turning up in the film as a voice, in this case as various different Romulans aboard the Nerada, is Wil Wheaton. The actor plays one Romulan in his natural voice and the other lines he provided are all manipulated in some way to sound different.
11. In a sort-of reboot of the cinematic continuation of an original TV show saved from cancellation, it’s rather intriguing to find that three cameos were made by actors from the fan films based on the original TV series. And they all played a character of the same species as their fan-film characters. Show me another franchise that can say that!
James Crawley, who played a certain Captain James T Kirk in Star Trek: New Voyages/Phase II appears as a human bridge officer. Also a scene involving Vulcan scientists includes Jeffrey Quinn, playing one of the roles, after appearing in Star Trek: New Voyages‘ first few episodes as Lt. Cmdr. Spock. Mr Quinn is actually a visual effects artist, rather than an actor, however he does rather a good job, in my opinion, on New Voyages.
Even more incredibly, Zachary Quinto’s body double, Brandon Stacy, not only played a Klingon in the cut scenes on Rura Penthe, but also played Spock in later Star Trek: New Voyages/Phase II.
12. You see that red shirted officer sitting next to Scotty as Kirk and Spock are about to beam to the Nerada? That’s Christopher Doohan that is… that’s the real life son of the original Scotty.
Christopher also appeared in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Star Trek Into Darkness (with lines and everything), and plays Scotty in the fan production, Star Trek: Continues.
13. Some of the other voices you hear in the film are of note. As the young James Tiberius Kirk drives his late father’s antique car at an unsafe velocity, he’s called by his step-father, played by Heroes‘ Gregg Grunberg, who would have appeared physically in the film if it weren’t for scheduling conflicts, and indeed, the cut scene involving the character has a different actor involved.
The Iowa cyborg (?) cop that chases Kirk is given a voice by JJ Abrams.
14. The Admiral dressing Kirk down for ‘cheating’ is played by Tyler Perry, an award winning playwright, author and screenwriter, and distinct non-fan of Trek, who actually said if he’d seen Star Trek: Nemesis before being involved in the project, would have turned it down. You may also recall the Romulan officer aboard the Nerada that witnesses Kirk and Spock beaming in – he seems familiar… The character is played by Joe Quinto, Zachary Quinto’s brother.
15. Early versions of the script included a sequence where a recorded message from future Captain Kirk, played by William Shatner, would have been played to young Spock by Spock Prime at their hanger meeting at the end of the film. Also considered was an earlier introduction of Carol Marcus (that would have stuffed her sneaking onto the Enterprise under another name in Star Trek Into Darkness!)
16. In the story universe, the ship in the film is the second Constitution Class USS Enterprise, according to the back story worked out for the film, that was explored in the in-canon IDW/Bad Robot comics. When Starfleet (via Section 31?) discovered that the Klingons had reverse engineered technology from the Narada while Nero and his crew were on Rura Penthe, operatives smuggled out the technology. This is where the major changes in technology occur in the alternative timeline.
As the Klingon Defense Force replaced its D-7 Battle Cruisers with the vessels designated as Klingon Warbirds by Starfleet, Starleet started replacing its fleet too, with the original Constitution Class USS Enterprise having already completed its tour of duty with Captain Robert April (who faked his own death), and a tour with Captain Pike (including the events of “The Cage,” perhaps) before being decommissioned and directly replaced with the Constitution (Mark 2?) class vessel seen in the film.
From a production point of view, when you think about it, there are a few pointers about the ship’s design that suggest it may well be the second. The saucer section especially echoes that of the refit Enterprise and Enterprise-A from the first six original series cast Star Trek films, and indeed, the paint job using interference/pearlescent paint was specifically to mimic that of the refitted Enterprise in Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)
17. After Kirk has enjoyed ignoring the Prime Directive, we find ourselves in London with Sherlock and Mickey Smith. John Harrison (John Erickson and Harold Erikson in earlier drafts… just as they were in earlier drafts of the Star Trek original series episode, “Space Seed”) is, of course, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, while his coercion victim, Lieutenant Thomas Harewood is played by Noel Clarke, notably of the Christopher Ecclestone and David Tennant eras of Doctor Who, Adulthood and various other productions.
18. Hands up anyone who didn’t know who Khan Noonien Singh was (even if it’s a weird combination of religious backgrounds in the name)… no-one? Originally introduced in the original Star Trek season one episode “Space Seed” (prior to Pavel Chekov making it to the bridge…) the character was played by the fantastic Ricardo Montelban. The actor then reprised the role in 1982’s Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan… though the character had been pushed beyond the edge and dangled a little into insanity. The character was also, of course referenced in Star Trek: Enterprise as Dr. Arik Soong tried to bring genetic engineering back after its abandonment, following the Eugenics Wars, that in turn led to the exile of Khan.
We are also led to believe that Dr Soong abandoned eugenics and started development on positronic robotics instead (at the end of “The Augments” – Enterprise season 4) and that the research was continued by his descendants, including a certain Dr Noonian Soong. It’s no wonder that his descendant loved plays on words for names (Data, Lore, B4) so much after being kinda-named after Khan. Both Doctor Soongs were played by Brent Spiner… who of course also played Data, Lore and B4.
19. Dead or alive you’re coming with me, (son)… actually just dead…, and drifting in space. Of course you recognise the original (and best) RoboCop in Peter Weller, but not only did he head up Odyssey 5, he also turned up in 24, Fringe, and Star Trek: Enterprise. The actor’s character in Enterprise‘s two parter “Demons” and “Terra Prime” was an Earth for Earthers extreme right wing KKK type – the evolution of racism and someone clearly intent on being at war with every other species. I guess he might have been maternal grandfather of Admiral Marcus in Star Trek Into Darkness as the characters felt very similar to me.
20. Seen on display behind Admiral Marcus’ desk are several models in what appears to be a chronological order. Starting with the Wright’s flyer, Spirit of Saint Louis, both Russian and American space capsules, then the Space Shuttle, the models included ‘future-history’ ships.
The post-present ships included Enterprise XCV-330 – a pre-Warp ring ship (as it’s placed before the Phoenix, that first appeared as an image in Star Trek: The Motion Picture), Zefram Cochrane’s Phoenix (the first Warp ship as seen in Star Trek: First Contact), the NX Alpha from Enterprise‘s First Flight, the Enterprise NX-01, the hero ship from Star Trek: Enterprise, with the USS Kelvin (from Star Trek 2009) and finally the USS Vengeance. It seemed strange at the time that a Constitution class starship wasn’t present… one look at the deleted scenes however…
21. An Original Series Constitution class-a-like type starship was supposed to appear above Admiral Marcus’ head, and still does in a deleted scene where he receives the message from Lt Harewood explaining why he’s about to blow up section 31. The reg number is a bit weird though for the class of vessel.
22. Section 31. Quite possibly the biggest departure from Gene Roddenberry’s vision you can imagine, that’s canon within Star Trek. Section 31 was introduced originally in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine‘s “Inquisition” and though separate from Starfleet was actually set up, in universe, by way of article 14, section 31 of the original United Earth Starfleet charter. It was conceived as a clandestine organisation originally looking after the United Earth’s best interest, and later that of the United Federation Of Planets. So it’s essentially the Federation’s version of The KGB, CIA or MI6, mirrored in Deep Space Nine specifically by the Cardassian’s Obsidian Order, or the Romulan’s Tal’Shiar.
It’s interesting that the honorable Klingon Empire doesn’t have such an organisation, and it’s very clear the whole idea of Section 31 is completely at odds with everything Gene Roddenberry was trying to state with his original vision. At least it’s obvious that the vast majority of Starfleet officers are repulsed by the concept… at least until they need their dirty work needed doing, as DS9‘s Odo put it.
Section 31’s Sloan (played to perfection by William Sadler) re-appeared in DS9‘s Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges and Extreme Measures and then his predecessor turned up in Enterprise‘s Affliction, Divergence, Demons and Terra Prime. It seems threads from those last two really did feed into Star Trek Into Darkness.
Further off-screen backstory explains that Admiral Marcus and Section 31 got such a stranglehold on Starfleet to have their secret research and development centre beneath the Kelvin archive because of the Nerada’s attack on the Kelvin, and subsequent technological advances of the Klingon Defence Force.
23. When we first see the Klingon Homeworld, Qo’Nos (from a distance) it’s shown with an exploded moon in orbit… Could this be a nod to Praxis exploding in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country?
24. There were a few other call backs to the original Star Trek series – in Space Seed there were indeed 72 followers with Khan aboard their exile ship, the SS Botany Bay.
25. The meeting of Starfleet brass that’s attacked by ‘Harrison’ is in the Daystrom conference room – a nod back to The Ultimate Computer (Original Series) which involved Dr. Richard Daystrom, and his starship destroying computer. His institute was also referenced in The Next Generation.
26. Of course the small vessel that had been confiscated during the “Mudd Incident Last Month” is a reference back to Harcourt Fenton ‘Harry’ Mudd of Mudd’s Women, I Mudd (both of the Original Series) and Mudd’s Passion (Animated Series) – though he’s appeared in various other Star Trek works. However, in the official prequel story Countdown To Darkness from IDW it turns out that the ship in the film belonged to Harry’s estranged daughter (who has rather Bajoran-like nose ridges, and is thus maybe half Bajoran) who had teamed up with Captain April of the earlier USS Enterprise. I am guessing that Stella Mudd doesn’t know about Harry’s daughter…
27. Finally, ‘Harrison’ takes refuge in the Ketha Province on Qo’Nos – uninhabited in this alternative universe, but in the ‘Prime’ universe the Ketha Lowlands was the home of one General Martok, commander of the Klingon Forces for the majority of the Dominion War in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
Expect more geeky nods when Star Trek: Beyond arrives next summer…