I liked Star Trek Beyond very much. The thing I picked up on that I wanted to point out for discussion is that Pegg and his cowriter were very deliberately introducing actual literal themes of fascism into the story in an interesting way, probably in order to reflect contemporary anxieties about the European (and now the American) right.
Krall (why do space villains randomly change their names like this? It’s just pointless scriptwriter obfuscation, isn’t it. V’ger, for god’s sake) in his occasional moments of exposition, eschewing action for philosophy, tells us that he wants humanity to be returned to a state of endless struggle. This valorization of struggle, social darwinism, is a key component of fascism.
OK, so we have a British writer who’s given us a Space Nazi as our big baddie. No big deal, right? But wait!
Throughout the film our band of doughty heroes oppose Krall’s expostulations and threats with the repeated word “Unity,” counterpositing that value to Krall’s endless struggle.
Scotty even explains why that unity is valuable to Jaylah via the metaphor of a bundle of sticks. A bundle of sticks! The emblem of authority of the Roman state. A fasces. The symbol from which fascism takes its name. It’s worth noting it’s Pegg who delivers this line. He is well-aware of what he’s doing with this theme.
Now, I wish I could say the same. There’s a case to be made that action movies are inherently fascist. Is Pegg ironically commenting on that? Is he intentionally constructing the basis for presenting a critical view of the Federation as a fascist society?
Given that a take on the (which I share) UFP appears to directly relate it to Banks’ Culture, I would guess that it may be more of a cinematic irony than an attempt to lay the ground for a critique of the Federation from the left.
Anyway, I enjoyed the film, plot holes and all, much more than I did the prior two nuTreks. I hope Pegg continues his story involvement. I don’t think there’s any question that this film succeeds primarily because of his writing.
A commenter on the MetaFilter FanFare thread for the film wondered to what extent the buildings seen comprising the architecture of the Federation space station Yorktown were drawn from footage shot of Dubai, which I found interesting in light of my prior remarks on slavery in the franchise, which I’ll summarize here in the context of the question regarding Dubai.
It would actually be ironic in interesting ways if nuYorktown were portrayed onscreen using footage shot of Dubai, Yorktown being of course where Washington defeated the British, and also a colonial city in old Virginia. Dubai being Dubai. Both cities? Slave labor economies. Which we could then say underpins the economy of the Federation if those buildings in Dubai are the actual buildings seen onscreen portraying nuYorktown.
There’s another whole discussion here to be had about the role of slavery, let alone the use of the term and concept “race,” in every iteration of Trek – The Klingon and Cardassian economies clearly have engaged in enslavement, for example, and in TOS, the Federation has trade ties with the Orions, whose best-known economic export are green-skinned dancing girls. But another time.