Actors who play a recurring role often come to have considerable insights into their characters, and some useful ideas on how to write stories about them.
After quitting the Bond franchise, Sean Connery was hired to contribute to the script for a maverick 007 feature — though I suspect this was just a foxy feint by the producer to lure him into playing the role again. (It worked: the movie was Never Say Never Again.)
But the principle remains sound, and it also helps in a science fiction franchise if the actor in question is a big genre buff... it means they know things like a starship isn't designed for atmospheric flight.
Hence Simon Pegg, who plays Scotty, the engineer of the Enterprise, has ended up writing not just a serviceable Star Trek script, but a terrific one.
Star Trek Beyond is the best movie in the new series. Or, if you want to be mean about it, the only one worth seeing.
The film begins with a great visual gag which wouldn't be out of place in any SF franchise, then moves swiftly to an audacious end-of-act catastrophe when the Enterprise is blown to bits and the crew, in escape pods, end up on the surface of a hostile alien planet.
What ensues is a series of subplots making good use of the various protagonists, who have been separated after their disastrous downing.
The characterisation is better than in the previous movies, and there is some splendid new blood — Jaylah is a wonderful female alien whom Scotty falls in with. (In an Arthur Dent-style misunderstanding she believes his name is "Montgomery Scotty" and refers to him as this throughout.)
Played by Sofia Boutella (who was the unforgettable amputee assassin Gazelle in Kingsman), Jaylah has bewitching make up, with a black and white face reminiscent of Daryl Hannah in Clan of the Cave Bear. She has an hilarious moment when she sits down in the captain's chair on the bridge, slouching across it, while Chris Pine's Captain Kirk stares on with pained discomfort.
I also loved the fact that, halfway through, it dawned on me that the heavily made up alien bad guy Krall was actually Idris Elba.
Pegg co-wrote the script with TV writer Doug Jung (Banshee) and some uncredited assistance from the likes of Roberto Orci. Great job. This is the first of the summer blockbusters to really deliver the goods.
(Image credits: Thank you, Imp Awards, where there was a rich selection. As you can see, I've really gone to town on Sofia Boutella's posters. Poor Simon Pegg was pretty much unrecognisable on his... Clan of the Cave Bear is from GStatic.)