Before last summer’s Star Trek Beyond had premiered, producer J.J. Abrams announced that a fourth movie would be made. Fans were intrigued when Abrams revealed that Chris Hemsworth would return to his role as James T. Kirk‘s father George from 2009’s Star Trek. The first three Star Trek films dealt with Kirk’s desire to live up to his father’s legacy, but they resolved that arc neatly. However, there is one story development that would justify reintroducing George’s return: the birth of Jim’s son, David Marcus. Let’s look at the significance of David Marcus in the existing canon, and show how his introduction, alongside the return of George Kirk, could continue Jim Kirk’s arc in a fresh and engaging way.
Jim Kirk’s Emotional Arc So Far
George Kirk’s sacrifice in the opening minutes of the 2009 film established a legacy that his son, Jim, would be challenged to surpass. Growing up fatherless, the young Kirk became a delinquent. It took a dare from his mentor Christopher Pike to get him to join Starfleet, and he was eventually thrust into the centre seat of the USS Enterprise. Star Trek Into Darkness explored the consequences of putting a brash, hotheaded rebel in a position of authority, with Jim stripped of command after violating the Prime Directive. His sacrifice at the end of the film, when he (temporarily) gives his life to save his comrades mirrors his father’s heroism and shows that he is ready to assume the mantle of leadership.
Star Trek Beyond saw Jim feeling restless after several years in command. This is partially triggered by the realization that he is now older than George was at the time of his death. At the end of the movie, he regained his confidence, and his choice to decline a promotion to Admiral signified his newfound comfort with his position. He made peace with his father’s legacy and can now live his own life.
What David Marcus Means to Jim
Introduced to the prime timeline in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, David Marcus is the adult son of Jim and Carol Marcus. His mother explains that she kept Jim out of David’s life because she didn’t want him to grow up living the dangerous Starfleet life. David is initially unaware that Jim is his father but eventually becomes part of David’s life. A few months later, however, a renegade Klingon murders him, leaving Jim devastated.
The dramatic value of the character in the prime timeline is his impact on an older Jim, who has moved past his younger, more carefree days as an explorer and faces doubts as he enters old age. His inability to save David humanises him, as it is the first great defeat the audience sees him suffer. The fact that father and son had only just begun to bond makes it even more heartbreaking.
In the new timeline, there is an opportunity to tell a different version of this story. Not only is Jim still in his headstrong, cowboy phase of development, but this version of him has grown up without a father. Where the prime Jim may have resisted the responsibility of fatherhood, the Jim of the Kelvin timeline would be mindful of the impact a parent’s absence can have on a child. Introducing a younger David would likely stir some powerful and conflicting emotions in him and make him question his commitment to his career in the face of raising a son.
What George Kirk Would Bring to the Story
With Jim’s conflict over what role he should play in David’s life serving as the backdrop, a story involving Jim and George meeting face-to-face makes more dramatic sense. To reconcile his feelings and accept his responsibility as a father, Jim must confront the pain of never having his father around. Whether time travel or some other means facilitates the eventual father-son reunion, the dramatic payoff would result in getting a taste of the relationship they never got to enjoy, allowing Jim to release his pain and embrace a new role as a family man.
It would be a bold and unexpected choice for the creative minds behind the Star Trek films to send Jim into premature retirement to raise a son. However, with the future of the franchise uncertain after the fourth film, it could also provide an emotionally satisfying end to Jim’s emotional arc. It would also lend a degree of symmetry to the quartet of movies, with the series opening and ending with stories about growing up and inheritance. We shall see how the minds behind Star Trek 4 choose to include George in their story when the movie is scheduled to hit theatres in 2019.