Hemsworth first appeared as George Kirk in 2009’s Star Trek, dying within minutes of his son’s birth. In the fourth film, Jim Kirk will apparently “cross paths” with his dead father, hinting ominously at a trope that plagues way too many movies. That’s right, it’s time for some daddy issues.
This leaves us wondering, where the heck are all the Space Moms?
In J.J. Abrams‘ Star Trek, George Kirk looms large. Jim lives in the shadow of his father’s legacy, a narrative decision that coincidentally erases Winona Kirk from existence. After giving birth to Jim in the middle of a space battle, her role in the franchise is over. Which is kind of weird, considering the fact that she raised Jim from birth.
Genre movies love daddy issues, but they’re consistently terrible at moms. With a handful of exceptions like Terminator‘s Sarah Connor, moms don’t get to be heroes. They rarely even get to be interesting. Though bonding over moms was a key turning point for Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent in Batman v Superman, Jonathan Kent and Jor-El loom far larger over the Superman franchise. Tony Stark‘s mom was functionally nonexistent until Captain America: Civil War. In the Dark Knight trilogy, Martha Wayne was a nice lady in the background while Thomas Wayne was an icon of Gotham city. As for Star Wars, a story whose father issues are far more complex, Padme Amidala fades into the background as Anakin’s legacy lives on.
It’s certainly possible that Jennifer Morrison’s Winona Kirk will appear in Star Trek 4 alongside Chris Hemsworth, but the previous movies don’t bode well. It’s a safe guess that we’re heading for the Daddy Issues Zone again.
This is just too bad, because both versions of Jim Kirk break the mold from the typical tragic hero backstory. In the reboot movies, the formative person in Jim’s childhood is a woman, and their relationship begs for further examination. Meanwhile in the original timeline, there’s every indication that Jim Kirk had a pretty normal upbringing—except for one live-changing event.
As a child, Kirk survived a famine on the colony Tarsus IV. To preserve their remaining supplies, the governor had half of the 8,000 colonists executed. As a staunch believer in eugenics (an ongoing theme in the early Star Trek stories) the governor personally decided which colonists should live, and which should die.
William Shatner’s Kirk was a lot less angsty than Chris Pine’s, but this backstory proves he wasn’t just the wholesome product of a nuclear family in Iowa. He went through a huge trauma as a child, and it shaped his political opinions and sense of empathy as an adult. It’s also a much more interesting story than rehashing the familiar trope of a hero coming to terms with his dead father’s legacy.
Basically, Star Trek 4 has a lot of options to work with. Let’s hope they don’t choose the most obvious one.