Nero, upset at the loss of his home, demanding vengeance upon the Federation whom he felt stood idly by, and was equally responsible for that loss. Opening a singularity using stolen technology that had once been the Federation’s last, failed, scientific attempt to save Romulus, Nero thought he could destroy the Federation. 1 Instead his quixotic tilting at vast interstellar windmills fractured into a disparate timeline. One where Nero was at least able to put a mark of vengeance into the galaxy by imploding the important Federation founding world, Vulcan, and nearly doing to the same to the Federation’s other most well regarded founding world, Earth.
Three movies in and it seems clear the through arc of the Kelvin Timeline, so named because the first history changing moment of vengeance wreaked by Nero was the destruction of the U.S.S. Kelvin 2, is an arc of vengeances against the Federation.
The timeline was built out of the vengeance issues of one megalomaniac and seems doomed for however long it will last to see ever further megomaniacal attempts at vengeance and destruction. It is the Star Trek Vengeance Verse. That is its defining characteristic and its sole reason for being, and that is weird and not very Star Trek, but also entirely too much like Star Trek.
I don’t have much in the way of spoilers for Star Trek Beyond (aka Trek & Furious). I enjoyed it, and it was the most Star Trek imbued film in the Kelvin Timeline, and thus the best Star Trek film in the Kelvin timeline. Its problems are the Kelvin Timeline’s problems, the baggage of nothing but vengeance plots and attempts to take down and destroy the Federation; a Federation one would imagine badly hurting with each additional vengeance attempt. It is a wonder that this Federation is still capable of marvels amongst the mayhem, and I would like to credit Beyond for having some of the best marvels we have seen in any Star Trek timeline and also one of the better ensemble films since the TNG era of films. It will come across as faint praise indeed, but to me Beyond was at its best when it felt like the B-Side to Star Trek: Insurrection. The hard parts being that so much of the ensemble work still has to rely on Kelvin Timeline baggage and increasingly decoherent bleed-over from The Original Series. Beyond seems to do its best with that to work with, but more so than ever begs the question on whether or not the Vengeance Verse should exist and if it is actually good for Star Trek….
The Vengeance Curse
I’m enough of a self-aware fan to realize that the Vengeance Verse’s originating vengeance arc, in our time, is most accurately Star Trek: Generations. Largely every film of the The Next Generation crew involves a vengeance arc. Even my beloved Star Trek: First Contact can be elevator pitched as one or another vengeance arc.
It seems to be the nature of selling Star Trek movies to executives, and it has only been exacerbated as the television shows have fallen out of favor. 3
Discounting vengeful probes of questionable sentience 4, the original crew dealt with a lot less vengeance. Mostly just Wrath of Khan and certainly that impacted the Kelvin timeline pretty hard due to several non-fans hard-on for that particular film. 5
It’s All The Temporal Cold War’s Fault, Isn’t It?
What if all the vengeancing isn’t an accident in the Kelvin timeline?
It wouldn’t be my blog without offering my own deeply overthinking it idea about the Kelvin timeline’s relationship to the Prime timeline: I think it is the “Vietnam War” of the Temporal Cold War. It’s a hot, proxy war zone of vengeance that is in provides a place to test terrible weaponry and guerrilla tactics while somewhat protecting the Prime timeline.
What better place for a hot war between proxies of time travelers than a bubble universe entirely created for vengeance?
Time traveler involvement would also explain why the Kelvin timeline may be diverging in time from the Prime timeline backwards from the Kelvin event as well. It seems plausible that some of the Temporal Cold War hiccups we witnessed in Enterpise were directly or indirectly related to stabilizing the Prime continuity as the Kelvin timeline retroactively severs itself into a tighter bubble dimension.
I can even imagine that the analogy to the Vietnam War is somewhat intentional by Orci and Kurtzman. After all, the title of Star Trek Into Darkness does point to the riff on Heart of Darkness that was eventually buried alive and mostly suffocated in subsequent drafts 6, best known as the book that inspired Apocalypse Now.
Star Trek Online and other canon sources tell us he failed in the Prime timeline and is barely remembered as a hothead diplomat with a chip on his shoulder.
Also, STO explores who the real architects of the Hobus explosion were. ↩
Reference the opening sequence to Star Trek (2009). ↩
It doesn’t seem worth hoping that Star Trek: Discovery will help given the now permanent corporate split between Star Trek’s film and television divisions. ↩
That’s right, I’m calling out the intelligence of V’ger and Mr. Whale Lover. What are they going to do about that sick burn? (They aren’t going to deal with it rationally, they’ll just try to boil more oceans or destroy more starships.) ↩
I hate STID so much it that I’m willing to throw out Wrath of Khan with that bathwater. ↩
Hash-tag Boycott Damon Lindelof script drafts. My own personal vengeance arc born of pain from Star Trek Into Darkness and Prometheus that will probably take too long to go nowhere and end with a whimper of a Deus Ex Machina full of fantasy elements in a supposedly sci-fi setting. It was probably Purgatory the whole time. ↩