BWW Review: STAR TREK IN CONCERT, Royal Albert Hall
The Royal Albert Hall is about a month into its inaugural Festival of Science - a range of talks, screenings, concerts and comedy events that are taking enthusiasts of all ages on an exploration of space, both factual and fictional. This weekend was no exception, with special screenings of two Star Trek films (also part of their Films in Concert series): Star Trek and Star Trek Beyond.
The franchise is now over 50 years old, spawning several TV and film series as well as garnering a collection of avid fans. These two films are from the recent reboot, known as the 'Kelvin timeline', which sees younger versions of the well-known characters launched into an alternate reality when a group of vengeful Romulans accidentally travel back in time through a singularity and change the course of history. Of the original cast, only Leonard Nimoy remains, playing the older Spock (or Spock Prime); 2009's Star Trek was the first in the franchise to completely recast established roles, beginning the story again for a new generation of viewers.
Both screenings were accompanied by the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra, conducted by the brilliant Ernst van Tiel, bringing award-winning composer Michael Giacchino's original scores to life below the big screen. Orchestral music might seem incongruous with science fiction, until you think of the long line of films and television programmes in this genre that rely on classical-style music to soundtrack the action - other iconic examples include Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Music and sound play a pivotal role in productions like these, whether it's blasting out "Sabotage" by Beastie Boys or heralding the arrival of the USS Enterprise, so screenings of this nature are often more like experiences than simply watching a film.
In a venue such as the Royal Albert Hall, it's comparable to an IMAX viewing thanks to the large screen and the acoustics of the place; it's effectively surround sound, and the volume and energy that come from live performance on musical instruments go right to your core. Hearing the original Star Trek theme (composed by Alexander Courage) played out with the closing credits was spine-tingling on both occasions.
For Sunday's Star Trek Beyond screening, co-writer and star of the film Simon Pegg came to give a short introduction, arriving onstage to rapturous applause. "This film is very significant to me - not just because I'm in it!", said Pegg. It was a bit of a whirlwind writing period as everything had to be done very quickly and not following the usual process, resulting in "rages of Klingon intensity" as they raced to get it finished during pre-production. Whereas the first two films in the series were directed by J. J. Abrams, his Star Wars commitments meant Justin Lin took over the director's chair for this one, and Pegg said he couldn't speak highly enough about his time working with Lin.
Star Trek Beyond also marked one of the final screen performances of Anton Yelchin (Chekov) before he was tragically killed in a car accident at the age of 27. The son of Russian figure skaters, Yelchin and his family relocated to the United States when he was still a baby, where he carved out an acting career from a young age. Pegg talked warmly of Yelchin, describing him as "an extraordinary human being" and usually the most intelligent person in the room, before dedicating Sunday's event to him and his parents (Viktor and Irina). His moments on-screen felt even more poignant following this touching tribute.
A self-confessed Trekkie, Pegg couldn't resist taking a photo of everyone in the audience doing the Vulcan salute, bidding farewell with "Live long and prosper".
The Royal Albert Hall's Star Trek weekend must go down as a resounding success, buoyed by incredibly enthusiastic audiences and standing ovations on both Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon; for the completists among us, it's a shame that Star Trek Into Darkness wasn't also included on the schedule, though it was previously performed there in 2014. These may have been special screenings, but should there be more in the future I recommend you "boldly go" and experience it for yourself.