Will Star Trek ever resolve the destruction of Romulus?
The approaching disaster the Enterprise crew don’t talk about
“129 years from now, a star will explode, and threaten to destroy the galaxy. That is where I’m from, Jim, the future. The star went supernova, consuming everything in its path. I promised the Romulans that I would save their planet… We outfitted our fastest ship. Using red matter, I would create a black hole, which would absorb the exploding star. I was en route, when the unthinkable happened: the supernova destroyed Romulus.”
Ten years ago, J.J. Abrams changed the Star Trek movies forever with his reboot of the Original Series, which saw a young Kirk (a fresh-faced Chris Pine) contend with a vengeful Romulan from the future destroying Spock (Zachary Quinto)’s homeworld of Vulcan.
Although the movie used time travel to send the classic Enterprise crew on new destinies, where they would contend with unexpected calamities like the aforementioned destruction of Vulcan, a lot of Trekkies wondered if a sequel could see the characters go back in time and ‘correct’ history. I was never one of them, as I got Abrams and co. were trying to unshackle the new films from the predictability of prequels, but also because I was much more concerned with the film’s backstory.
To me, even if the supernova that Nero blamed Spock for was over a century away, it was still urgent that the Enterprise crew found a way to stop it, or else they’d be in a timeline where not one, but two planets full of Vulcans/Romulans (Vulcanoids?) were annihilated. With Leonard Nimoy’s Spock already finding a suitable site for a New Vulcan colony, it felt like the new crew’s priority had to be finding the means of producing more red matter and stopping the Romulan supernova asap.
But for whatever reason, in 2013's Star Trek into Darkness, Peter Weller’s paranoid old Admiral Marcus is much more concerned with those pesky Klingons than, y’know, the Romulans that just destroyed a founding Federation planet. And while sowing the seeds for this new conflict, the film ultimately uses the destruction of Vulcan as a weird workaround for resurrecting Star Trek’s greatest villain. (Do I need to name him at this point?)
Abrams jumped ship to the Star Wars galaxy though, and Justin Lin’s Star Trek Beyond went into yet another direction, effectively creating a $150 million version of a classic series episode for the 50th anniversary in 2016. The Klingon War unfolded instead on the franchise’s small screen return, Star Trek: Discovery, which was ironic, as establishing the conflict did happen in the Prime (TV) timeline proved mad old man Marcus was right to fear the Space Orcs after all.
There were two further sequels in development. Star Trek 4, which was meant to come out this year, was to see the return of Kirk’s dad (Chris Hemsworth), who died to protect his newborn son in the fiery prologue of the 2009 film (time travel? parallel universes? We’d have waited to find out). However, the movie got held up and shelved due to a pay dispute with Hemsworth and Chris Pine, who wanted more money despite Beyond underperforming. (It was certainly bound to make things awkward with director S.J. Clarkson, who was going to be the first woman to helm a Trek movie.) The other sequel being prepared will be helmed by none other than Quentin Tarantino: according to Karl Urban, the first R-rated Trek movie has a “bananas” conceit and will explore the “horror of space”.
Needless to say, neither project seemed like they would open up a way to save Romulus, and for all we know, we’re going to be left to assume the characters of the Kelvin (movie) timeline save the planet’s denizens someday, while those in the Prime timeline have to deal with the fallout on the upcoming Picard series with Patrick Stewart. Ultimately, perhaps watching characters rekindle that Star Trek spirit of optimism after a disaster, instead of preemptively solving one, may prove to be more dramatically exciting.
Who am I kidding though, watching the Enterprise escape a black hole should never get old. (It was so good Solo: A Star Wars Story ripped it off.) Whatever happens, hopefully someday the Romulans and Vulcans of both realities will come to live long and prosper together.