How Did Kirk's Father Die? 'Star Trek's George Kirk Made The Ultimate Sacrifice

As Star Trek Beyond, the third film in Abrams' Star Trek reboot series, arrives in theaters, several rumors about the return of George Kirk, aka Chris Hemsworth, are popping up, mostly because James spends a big chunk of the new movie brooding about his late father. And although Star Trek Beyond is just hitting theaters on July 22, the studio behind the franchise, Paramount, has already confirmed that a fourth movie featuring the return of George in the works. That's great news for fans, but if you're a bit lost and wondering, how did Kirk's dad George die in the first place, and so why is his return so important? Well, it helps to know that Captain Kirk's father gave up his life saving his family during one of the saddest opening moments of a Star Trek movie ever.

When Star Trek came out in 2009, J.J. Abrams and crew showed fans that they weren't messing around and killed off George Kirk, Captain Kirk's father, in the first 15 minutes of the film. Picture it: space, the 23rd century. The USS Kelvin, a Federation starship, is checking out a rando lightning storm when a Romulan ship emerges and starts to attack. The officers aboard the bad guys' ship play a sick game of Red Rover and demand that good guys' captain come over; they ask him about the whereabouts of an "Ambassador Spock" (yep, that Spock) and then kill the captain off. In the meantime, George Kirk is like, "Everyone get off of the Kelvin!" and kisses his super pregnant wife Winona goodbye as she goes into labor with James. She gives birth as George sacrifices himself and crashes the Kelvin into the Romulans, saving everyone's day but his own. It's a pretty busy, and depressing, opening scene.

It turns out, though, that Abrams is going to give George another go. Paramount recently announced the plot of the fourth movie in anticipation of Star Trek Beyond's release, and as Deadline reported, the plot for Star Trek 4 is: 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. Chris Hemsworth, who appeared in the 2009 reboot Star Trek, will return to play George Kirk."

Because Trekkies live more hardcore than any other fanbase, the theories about how George will come back are already rampant. My personal favorite comes from Slate, where Marissa Martinelli hypothesized, "Due to a time portal, or a transporter accident, or an alien device, Kirk is sent back in time where he meets his father but cannot reveal his identity lest he compromise." This would be a dramatic turn for the series, especially since James would have to let his father meet the same tragic fate without ever introducing himself. I'm ready to cry just thinking about it.

So, while Captain Kirk's father may have died rescuing his family and friends aboard the Kelvin, we do know that he'll be returning in the future, er, past.

Images: Giphy (2); Paramount Pictures