Spoiler Warning: Minor spoilers are present for Star Trek 2009, Star Trek Into Darkness, Star Trek Beyond, and Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.
It’s been a while since we last talked about the currently-untitled Star Trek 2023. The most recent official news we got came back in February of this year, when it was announced that the film would involve a return to the Kelvin timeline that had been established by 2009’s J.J. Abrams-directed Star Trek reboot. Since then there’s been very little official news from Paramount – and some of the unofficial news and soundings from some of the actors supposedly involved with the title have been very strange indeed for a film that’s supposedly been greenlit.
Several members of the Kelvin timeline cast – including Karl Urban, who plays Dr McCoy, and Chris Pine, who plays Captain Kirk – have given cryptic, non-commital statements when asked about the film, and it seems as if Paramount may have jumped the gun and announced Star Trek 2023 before everything was officially in place and ready. That’s certainly the impression I’ve been getting.
Making a film is complicated, and I think it’s imporant to stress that. It takes a lot of effort to get contracts in place, to agree the division of profits, to line up the schedules of actors and directors, and to cover all of the legal, contractual, and economic bases – and that’s before anyone can begin rehearsing and learning their lines, let alone be on set ready to get started. There’s a reason why so many people are named in the end credits of a film; many of those jobs begin years before production gets underway.
One thing that we can say for near-certain is that, as of August 2022, Paramount doesn’t have all of the main Kelvin timeline actors signed on to Star Trek 2023. For a film with a preliminary premiere date of December 2023, that’s not good – and it almost certainly means, at a bare minimum, that we shouldn’t expect the new film to make that deadline. Perhaps we’d better start calling it Star Trek 2024… or more realistically, Star Trek 2025.
Then there’s the question of a script. Last year we got two announcements about a new Star Trek film being written: one by Discovery and Short Treks writer/producer Kalinda Vazquez, and another by Geneva Robertson-Dworet (who co-wrote the scripts for Captain Marvel and 2018’s Tomb Raider) and Lindsey Beer. It wasn’t clear, following the second announcement, whether that meant the Vazquez project is not progressing, whether two Star Trek films may be in early production, or what exactly is going on.
It isn’t unusual for a big film studio to commission scripts, change their minds, and go in a different direction. The film industry can be brutal like that, so we can’t really infer much from the fact that two different scripts appear to have been commissioned – nor that their announcements came within weeks of one another. But the script situation certainly doesn’t help clear things up!
At this point, though, we should be seeing some progress on whichever project ultimately became Star Trek 2023. We’re less than eighteen months away from the film’s currently-scheduled premiere – at which point all three previous Kelvin timeline films were already shooting. 2009’s Star Trek took 141 days of filming (not including reshoots and pick-up shots) between November 2007 and March 2008, and the film wasn’t ready until May 2009.
While I could entertain the notion that Star Trek 2023 is working to a tighter schedule – not unlike some past entries in the cinematic franchise, such as Generations in 1994 – even then we’d expect to have heard a lot more positive noises about the film’s pre-production. At the very least I’d have expected all of the principal cast members to have confirmed that they’re signed on to the project, even if other aspects of production are still up in the air.
As recently as last month (July 2022), Kirk actor Chris Pine said the following about reprising his role: “If it happens, I think all of us would come back.” That doesn’t exactly sound like someone who’s signed a contract – or is even getting ready to sign one. That sounds speculative, hypothetical, and it’s not the only comment from a Kelvin timeline star that raises concerns.
“As soon as they can figure out our moment we can we could all be together, I’m sure we’ll do it.” So said Scotty actor Simon Pegg in June of this year, and a month earlier in May, Dr McCoy actor Karl Urban said “I have heard that it is happening, but I’ve been hearing that for the last three years… All I know is they are developing it, they’re writing a script…” From these comments, it sounds like neither has signed on to the project officially.
While none of the actors have ruled out working on Star Trek 2023, it’s significant at this stage that none of them have committed to it, either. According to some reports, earlier attempts to get the film made in the immediate aftermath of Star Trek Beyond in 2016 were hampered by financial issues, and actors and their agents have a history of using public statements as part of salary negotiations. Perhaps that could account for some of what’s been said – but again, that means the film is clearly at a very early stage with no guarantees of going ahead.
If we were to see Star Trek 2023 arrive on time in December next year, realistically the film should be on the verge of beginning principal photography. That would mean not only would the script be finished but sets would have been built, outdoor filming locations secured, costumes sewn, and all of the actors would need to have cleared their schedules and be ready to go. The fact that we’re still hearing comments from members of the cast that seem to confirm that they haven’t made any significant commitments or made space in their schedules tells me that the film is nowhere near that stage – and that means that its December 2023 release date feels completely unrealistic.
I have to be honest: if I’d been in charge of the Star Trek franchise for Paramount, I wouldn’t have greenlit this project. Don’t get me wrong, I wish it well and I hope it succeeds both as a fun Star Trek story and as a film that turns a tidy profit and brings new audiences to the franchise. But with so much other Star Trek on our screens from Prodigy to Strange New Worlds and beyond… I can’t help but feel that the money thrown at this project could be better-spent.
The Kelvin films were undoubtedly what Star Trek needed in 2009, not only rebooting the franchise but showing that there was still life in it. We would never have got Discovery, Picard, Strange New Worlds, and the rest of modern Trek without the Kelvin films’ success on the big screen. So in that sense I thank them for carrying the torch and paving the way for the current renaissance that Star Trek is enjoying.
But as I’ve argued before on more than one occasion, there are drawbacks to a new Kelvin timeline project. A new film set in the alternate reality risks overcomplicating what can be an already convoluted franchise, with different projects occupying different time periods and timelines. The unique premise of the films also no longer exists, taking a look at “young” Kirk and Spock in their Academy days and youth. And with Strange New Worlds coming online – and blowing up to become the most-watched Star Trek show on Paramount+ in the United States – there’s a real risk that a new Kelvin film would retread too much ground with many of the same characters also appearing in that series.
So if Star Trek 2023 is faltering, could it be for the best? Aside from the fact that Star Trek Beyond seemed to tease a sequel, is there really a pressing need to revisit this alternate timeline right now? With so much else happening in the Star Trek franchise, I think I’m inclined to say “no.”
I will always support Star Trek as best I can, and I always feel that more Star Trek is good news! If Star Trek 2023 manages to get off the ground, I’ll wish it all the best and do what I can on my small corner of the internet to get hyped up for it. But at the same time, I wouldn’t be devastated to learn that it isn’t going to happen. With so much other Star Trek on our screens, I just don’t feel that another Kelvin film is a necessary addition to the franchise’s current and upcoming lineup. And with Strange New Worlds in particular including characters like Spock, Uhura, and even Captain Kirk, there’s a danger that it could feel underwhelming, as if the two projects are stumbling over one another without offering anything new to say about these characters.
There’s definitely room in the Star Trek franchise for a new film or two – whether they get a full cinematic release or end up going straight to Paramount+. But maybe it would be better if Paramount redirected its efforts into new projects, or perhaps a film based on Discovery, rather than pressing ahead with this new Kelvin timeline project. If things seemed to be going smoothly I guess I wouldn’t be thinking that way, but if the film is already struggling and looks set not to make its intended release date, maybe that’s a sign that it isn’t meant to be.
Regardless, I’ll keep my ear to the ground! If there’s more news about Star Trek 2023 in the weeks and months ahead, I’ll do my best to cover it here on the website.
Star Trek 2023 is currently scheduled to premiere on the 22nd of December 2023. The Star Trek franchise – including all films and series discussed above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.