12:49pm PT by Graeme McMillan
'Star Trek': The Many Deaths of the USS Enterprise
The new trailer for Star Trek Beyond underscores the stakes of the third installment of the rebooted sci-fi series, both in terms of Captain Kirk's (Chris Pine) attempt to escape the legacy of his father and also the five-year mission of exploration, seemingly brought to an end as the Enterprise is destroyed by forces unknown. That last part shouldn't come as too much of a surprise, however; no matter what the Trek, the Enterprise has proven itself to be an impressively vulnerable vessel.
There have been four distinct Star Treks centering around Enterprise crews — the original series (and subsequent movies), Star Trek: The Next Generation (and movies), Star Trek: Enterprise and the current reboot crew. That doesn't mean that there have only been four Enterprises, however — indeed, with the release of Star Trek Beyond, only Star Trek: Enterprise has successfully managed to avoid destroying its ship at one point or another (and in an alternate timeline, even that happened). Here's a brief history of the Many Ends of The Enterprise(s).
Star Trek III: The Search For Spock (1984)
The first destruction of the Enterprise came as the franchise was busily resurrecting another beloved character — and, sure enough, the next movie saw the Enterprise resurrected as well, with the ship rebuilt and the crew reunited with her once more. It was Kirk and crew that was behind the destruction of the ship, triggering its self-destruct sequence in order to keep the ship out of the hands of the Klingons (and blowing up said Klingons in the process). It was a good way to go, and one that… wouldn't exactly be matched by later events.
"Yesterday's Enterprise" (1990)
The time-travel aspect of this third-season episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation — in which the previous ship bearing the Enterprise accidentally ended up in its future, re-writing the timeline temporarily — obscures the fact that this is a story that ends with the destruction of another Enterprise, albeit off-camera and years in the past. The Enterprise-C, as it was called, nonetheless went down in history — its destruction at the hands of the Romulans eventually led to peace between the Federation and the Klingons. Consider it payoff for what happened in Star Trek III.
"Cause and Effect" (1992)
While the events of this fifth-season Next Generation storyline were eventually undone as the result of even more time-travel nonsense, it doesn't erase the fact that audiences got to see the Enterprise-D destroyed a lot during the episode: it's revealed that the Enterprise has been trapped in a time loop that keeps destroying the ship then starting over for almost 18 days, although audiences only watch it happen four times. Nonetheless, when it comes to the most destructive Enterprise crew, the Next Generation team would win it hands down on this episode alone.
Star Trek: Generations (1994)
The Enterprise-D was eventually "really" destroyed in the first Next Generation movie, where it sustained damage from a battle with a breakaway Klingon sect and had to be evacuated before it exploded. Surprisingly, the majority of the crew made it out safe and sound, but that seems to be a common theme with the numerous destructions of the ship: an impressively low number of casualties. Clearly, there aren't enough redshirts to go around…
In an alternate timeline where Captain Archer — leader of the crew of the NX-01, the very first Enterprise starship Starfleet produced — was infected with a parasite that ate his memories, he realized that the only way to retroactively save humanity from near-extinction and undo the destruction of Earth was to create a big enough explosion to undo the entire timeline. The only way to create such an explosion? Destroying the Enterprise. But at least it went out in style. (And, yes, that means that the Enterprise wasn't really destroyed, except that it had to have been destroyed otherwise the timeline wouldn't have been reset, but in the reset timeline everything went differently, and… Perhaps we need some parasites to eat our memories of this paradox.)
Star Trek Beyond (2016)
So, what to make of the destruction glimpsed in the latest trailer? Well, it certainly looks as if the Enterprise is well-and-truly destroyed in the movie, stranding the crew on a mysterious planet with only their wits — and some friendly aliens — to help them survive. But will the movie end with a new Enterprise to continue the ongoing mission to seek out new life and new civilizations and continue boldly going? That almost certainly has to be the case — it would be strange for the 50th anniversary of the franchise not to have an Enterprise at the end of it — but perhaps new frontiers require all new starships? We'll find out on July 22 when Star Trek Beyond is released in theaters.