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A Critical Look At 'Star Trek: Beyond's Villian: Spoiler Edition

By Emily Cutler | Film | July 28, 2016 |

By Emily Cutler | Film | July 28, 2016 |

Star Trek: Beyond opened last week to mostly positive reviews (including our own), and a huge box office weekend. But we need to talk about the important things. Meaning mostly this guy and meaning:


So Krall, chillingly played by beautiful man Idris Elba, is intent on destroying the Federation because he believes it has been an enemy to humanity by making us soft. Humans are improved through struggle, and the lack of struggle has knocked us from our rightful position as best of the species. Which is to say, Krall is a Trump supporter, yes?

It’s not just that Krall is a villain or that his largest complaint is about people getting “soft.” It’s also his eventually-exposed, plot-twist background. Krall, the villain, used to be Balthazar Edison, the awesomely named captain of the USS Franklin which disappeared a couple centuries before the events of the movie. As it turns out, the Franklin was pulled through a wormhole (maybe) and crash landed onto a deserted planet on the edge of the known universe. Using space plot holes and unexplained magic, Edison has been able to extend his life, but has lost his humanity. Feeling abandoned and forgotten by the Federation, Krall has spent years planning his revenge.

If it were only the revenge, I would argue that Krall/Edison is a standard villain. But his justification for the revenge is really what moves him into our particular political zeitgeist. Because before the Federation was formed, Edison was a career military commander. One who spent years battling Klingons and Romulans before his government fired him, made peace with the enemy, and stuck him on a starship. Am I the only one imagining Krall shouting about how those Klingons turk er jerbs?

Which isn’t to say that I’m unsympathetic to Krall or his real life counterparts. Economic obsoletion is a serious issue. With the market crash in 2008, older workers are finding themselves pushed out because they aren’t as technically proficient in specific areas. Jobs they’ve been successful at for decades are suddenly unavailable to them not because their performance changed, but because the game changed. Given that context, it’s not surprising to hear some older employees bitching about how they got pushed out because of “diversity.”

Here’s the thing though: your old racist uncle who got laid off is wrong. Shifting economic policies aren’t the fault of “the Mexicans” anymore than “peace” and “unity” were to blame for Edison being flung to the far reaches of space. Krall’s fight against “weakness” is as futile as demands for “our country back.” That’s not only an impossibility, it misses the point of what’s actually happening. And while I understand that disenfranchised workers don’t need any lip from a young-ish internet writers who specialize in dick jokes, that doesn’t mean I’m not going to do it. People, listen, Grandpa Simpson already warned us about this:


Yeah, getting old means becoming out of touch in specific ways. We need to do a better job of making sure those ways don’t lead to older generations facing destitution in their golden years. But becoming a racist, xenophobic hate monger doesn’t make you tough. It makes you the villain.

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