Shatner, Pine, or a Kirk triple whammy: where should Star Trek boldly go next?

<span>‘Pompous and swaggering’ … Chris Pine, Paul Wesley and the original captain William Shatner.</span><span>Composite: Alamy, PR</span>
‘Pompous and swaggering’ … Chris Pine, Paul Wesley and the original captain William Shatner.Composite: Alamy, PR

It probably says something about the gaping void where Star Trek movies ought to be sitting right now that even 93-year-old William Shatner reckons he might have a chance at getting back in the Enterprise command chair, albeit with a bit of futuristic de-ageing tech. Speaking to the Canadian Press a couple of weeks ago, the original Captain James Tiberius Kirk suggested he could easily play a younger version of the erstwhile Star Trek admiral, thanks to a company he’s working with that specialises in software that “takes years off your face, so that in a film you can look 10, 20, 30, 50 years younger than you are”.

Kirk was, of course, killed off in 1994’s Star Trek: Generations. Yet given the propensity for alternate timelines in mainstream sci-fi fantasy these days (and the fact that one was already introduced in the 2009 JJ Abrams-directed reboot) it would be no surprise at all to see him back on the deck of the Enterprise, like some kind of AI-assisted, uncanny valley facsimile of his former self, grinning with lurid romance at Uhura while fiddling with his (rumoured) corset.

Meanwhile, Kirk 2.0, Chris Pine, is completely in the dark as to whether his version of the cocksure interstellar navigator will ever be back on the big screen, following recent suggestions that a new screenwriter is on board to pen the long-gestating sequel to 2016’s Star Trek: Beyond. “I honestly don’t know,” he told Business Insider when asked for an update on the long-mooted Star Trek 4. “There was something in the news of a new writer coming on board. I thought there was already a script, but I guess I was wrong, or they decided to pivot. As it’s always been with Trek, I just wait and see.”

Given that yet another version of Kirk (played by Paul Wesley) now exists in the excellent, and rightly popular, TV show Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, Pine and Shatner can probably be forgiven for wondering if Paramount studio will ever get around to returning to their own timelines. And this week comes news suggesting that none of the Kirks are likely to be hitting the multiplex anytime soon: Andor director Toby Haynes is reportedly on board to oversee a new episode that will take place close to the present day, and is likely to focus on the creation of Starfleet and humankind’s first contact with alien life. It is expected to be the first in a new series of films overseen by super-producer Simon Kinberg, previously best known for the highly mercurial X-Men movies.

Doesn’t this all sound a little bit like Enterprise? Maybe Paramount should just bite the bullet instead and give us the triple-Kirk, multiple timeline movie that is probably the only way to rescue this aching franchise, before Shatner himself finally fuses with the Borg and is no longer available. Given 2009’s reboot made such capital out of featuring two Spocks, this is probably the only way to go one step further and deliver the Spider-Man: No Way Home of Star Trek movies, and surely Shatner deserves it in the week in which his valedictory documentary You Can Call Me Bill hits digital platforms. They could even throw in the actor who played young Kirk in Abrams’s first entry, along with Sandra Smith (who once portrayed Kirk trapped in the body of a woman in the infamous Original Series body swap episode Turnabout Intruder). It would be like those Doctor Who specials in which all the previous inhabitants of the Tardis turn up at once, except with a lot more American accents and Tribbles.

On the other hand, maybe it really is time to leave the Kirk era behind and see if Star Trek can flourish without constantly telling the same story over and over again like the filmic equivalent of a particularly wonky Möbius strip. It didn’t work with Enterprise, but hey-ho. Quentin Tarantino won’t be showing up any time soon to give us his mooted “hard R” take on Starfleet’s ongoing mission to seek out new life, so really where else is there left to go with this stuff?

My bet, and secret hope, is that Shatner somehow finds his way into at least one of these new Star Trek big screen concepts, even if the result is the modern-day, hi-tech equivalent of Game of Death’s foolish attempts to keep the splendour of Bruce Lee posthumously alive via the magic of mirrors and a bad cardboard cut out of the martial arts star’s face. There is simply no other Kirk like him. And while there are those who will tell you that the much-missed Leonard Nimoy’s wonderfully taciturn Spock was the real reason Star Trek is still going after the best part of seven decades, it is hard to imagine anyone who really loves this preposterously long-running space saga not doing so because of some kind of secret crush (guilty or not) on this most brilliantly pompous and swaggering of screen presences. He’s 93! And he still reckons he should be given another go in the hot seat – maybe we should just give him the chance?