When going into the 2009 film, Star Trek director J.J. Abrams knew that he would have to do something to avoid messing with the established canon of Star Trek: The Original Series. That something turned out to be time travel. And by introducing a new timeline, now dubbed the Kelvin Universe, the Star Trek reboots are free to make changes to characters, plots, and storylines without undoing anything from TOS. One of those big changes has been the death of Captain Kirk's father, George, a topic that gets explored in Star Trek Beyond. In the new movie, Kirk mourns his father's death, but as it turns out, we'll be seeing George again, as the newly announced fourth film in the Star Trek series will reportedly include Chris Hemsworth reprising his role as the elder Kirk. That's all well and good, but I have one big hope for the upcoming movie: that filmmakers also choose to feature Jim's mother, Winona Kirk, who deserves just as much attention as her husband.
When Romulan Nero traveled through time and encountered the USS Kelvin in '09's Star Trek, a battle ensued, during which George Kirk, who had been named captain for all of 12 minutes, was killed just as Winona was giving birth to Jim on an escape shuttle. That change resulted in Kelvin-timeline-Jim never knowing his father (and presumably never having a brother as he does in TOS). But in the Prime timeline, Jim most certainly knew, and grew up with, his father. When Jim asks Spock Prime if his version of Kirk knew his dad, Spock Prime responds, "Yes. You often spoke of him as being your inspiration for joining Starfleet. He proudly lived to see you become captain of the Enterprise." It's a sad change, but one that ultimately allowed Abrams to revamp the series.
But now it appears that time travel is going to play another role in the Star Trek reboots. As the official press release announcing the fourth film reads, "In the next installment of the epic space adventure, Chris Pine’s Captain Kirk will cross paths with a man he never had a chance to meet, but whose legacy has haunted him since the day he was born: his father." Although this is certainly exciting, it also raised a question for me: would Kirk's mom also be involved in this new movie? '09's Star Trek featured Jennifer Morrison in the role of Winona, but with that announcement, it doesn't seem likely that she'll be making a return. The exclusion is frustrating to me, because Star Trek 4's plot description suggests that men are only defined or influenced by the actions of their fathers, and it ignores Winona's importance in Kirk's life completely. She gave birth to one of the greatest Starfleet captains of all time and then... disappeared? It makes no sense.
I'm hoping that her story gets explored, too, in Star Trek 4, and not only because it's important for Kirk. Both TOS and the new reboot films, as a result of sticking primarily with TOS characters, are a bit unbalanced when it comes to the inclusion of female characters. Out of the seven original series characters included in the reboot, only one crew member, Lieutenant Uhura, is a woman. Gene Roddenberry's future is supposed to take place in a diverse universe, and while there are numerous women in the background in the Star Trek reboots, very few get storylines worthy of Roddenberry's vision. Both Uhura and Star Trek Into Darkness' Carol Marcus, for instance, were stricken with sexist underwear scenes. It's good to know that Star Trek Beyond is introducing a new female character, Jaylah, who looks strong, smart, and interesting, but even with that inclusion, Star Trek 4 needs to tone down the sausage fest. And if Kirk's father is going to make another appearance, why can't Kirk's mother be in the movie, too?
Hopefully, Star Trek 4 won't ignore Winona completely, and instead will dig deeper into her story. After all, she was a member of Starfleet, stationed aboard the USS Kelvin with her husband George, who was first officer. After the death of George, she seems to have settled in Iowa and re-married a character played by the voice of Greg Grunberg. But in Grunburg's step-fatherly rant against a young, misbehaving Jim, he mentions that Jim's mother is "off world." Perhaps Winona has stayed in the service, travels the galaxy, and has taken on an important role in Starfleet? That's the story I'd like to see explored in a new movie.
But perhaps the best reason to include Winona Kirk is that, because her character has so little canonical info from which to pull, the writers of Star Trek 4 would have the ultimate freedom to explore her backstory without the huge undertaking of a) inventing someone new or b) altering a favorite character's history to the anger of numerous fans. Winona Kirk is the ultimate gift to a Star Trek writer. Not only would her inclusion would provide the series with more of a gender balance, but it wouldn't put all of the story's importance on George. Of course George's death had an impact on Jim — but I'm willing to bet that Winona, as the woman who raised him, had an even bigger one.
Images: Paramount. Giphy