By Darren Franich
Updated July 21, 2016 at 04:15 PM EDT
Credit: Todd Williamson/Getty Images
  • Movie

Simon Pegg knows Star Trek. Before he was Scotty, before he co-wrote Star Trek Beyond, before he mixed roles in Star Wars and Mission: Impossible with his work on the culty Cornetto trilogy alongside collaborator Edgar Wright, Pegg rose to prominence in the nerd-focused Brit TV series Spaced. At one point in Spaced, Pegg’s character declares offhandedly, “It’s a fact, sure as day follows night, sure as eggs is eggs, sure as every odd-numbered Star Trek movie is sh–.”

So how does Pegg feel now, having co-written an odd-numbered Star Trek flm (in which he also once again plays Mr. Scott)? “That line is gonna come back to haunt me,” he laughs, before clarifying, “I don’t think it’s necessarily true.” As part of the writing process on Beyond, Pegg and co-writer Doug Jung would often watch episodes of the original Trek at the end of the days — and sometimes sit through one of the movies featuring the original cast. “It’s really interesting to look at the successes and the not-so-successes of the movie series, and where they worked and where they sometimes didn’t.” Pegg shared his thoughts on the first six movies in the Trek series.

The Motion Picture

“The first one was very talky. It tried to be a little bit more grown-up than Star Wars, which obviously had given science-fiction such a shot in the arm in 1977. SO when this came out in ’79, it wanted to be a little more like 2001. It was a little more grand, austere.”

The Wrath of Khan

“They really got their mojo back with II, which became a lot more fun, sort of high adventure, a little bit more like the series. When you watch that film, it is pretty much like a submarine drama, in the same way that [classic TOS episode] ’Balance of Terror’ was. It’s a bridge-to-bridge submarine drama, with a few bits and bobs on the Genesis Planet and Seti Alpha, but the main swing of it is the face-off between Khan and Kirk. When you watch it back, it’s a little more still than you might imagine it being.”

The Search for Spock and The Final Frontier

III a weird one. [The original films] suffered a little bit from budgetary restraints, particularly V. I know William Shatner’s idea for his directorial one — which was of course Final Frontier — he had a lot grander ideas for it, and it just got slashed and slashed and slashed.”

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The Voyage Home

“It’s a lot of people’s favorites — a lot of non-Star Trek fan’s favorites — because it’s incredibly entertaining, but it’s often been looked at as a slightly whimsical iteration of the series. But it is an absolutely genius piece of filmmaking. The biggest expense when you’re writing science-fiction like this — particularly with [Star Trek Beyond], which is nowhere near Earth, hundreds of thousands of light years away — is that every environment you create, if it’s not the ship, it has to be alien. And virtually every thing, person, creature you meet can’t really be human. So the further away you get from Earth, the more expensive the film becomes. So when you look at The Voyage Home, it was set in 1987, on Earth. They come back in time, the whole thing with the whales… it’s genius! Because they could save a sh–load of money and set their science-fiction in contemporary times, and at the same time make it incredibly relatable and entertaining.”

The Undiscovered Country

“I think it’s a bit of an underrated movie, actually! The fourth one has such an excess of personality, and the fifth one was seen as a bit of a misstep, perhaps. I don’t think it was anyone’s fault other than the economics. The sixth one, I think, is pretty damn cool. Doug and I really enjoyed watching it. It’s one worth revisiting, if you haven’t seen it for awhile. There’s some great performances, wonderful stuff with Kirk and his fairly reactionary opinions about Klingons.”

Star Trek Beyond

  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • 120 minutes
  • Justin Lin