Star Trek 4 will include the crew of The Next Generation, but with new actors playing them.
The upcoming Star Trek 4 will feature an appearance by the cast of The Next Generation, but with new actors starring as the iconic crew of the Enterprise-D. According to our trusted and proven sources, not only will Star Trek 4 have appearances by Next Generation figures like Jean-Luc Picard, Geordi La Forge, and Worf, it will act as essentially a backdoor pilot for their own reboot movie. This is a pretty big risk for Paramount Pictures to attempt to recast one of the most beloved starship crews in all of science fiction history, but in many ways it makes sense.
Star Trek 4 takes place in the much-debated “Kelvin Timeline,” which is to say an alternate universe in which Chris Pine is James T. Kirk, Zachary Quinto is Spock (and so forth), and we have yet to see any hint of the future that is The Next Generation. It debuted in the controversial 2009 Star Trek reboot, which rankled some fans with its many J.J. Abrams affectations (lens flare, anyone?) and the recasting of the original Enterprise crew with new, younger actors. However, the first Kelvin Star Trek did $385 million at the box office, the even more controversial Star Trek into Darkness went even higher, and the third film, Star Trek Beyond, did adequately enough to not exactly be considered a failure.
What this means is that Paramount Pictures executives have enough evidence that recasting is not enough of a fan turnoff that Star Trek 4 cannot try to pull the same trick with The Next Generation crew. It also makes sense that the studio would try to look into extending the Kelvin Timeline brand into new areas, given that it has been seven years since the last Star Trek feature film (and more than a year away from the next movie’s tentative release date). In the meantime, the careers of stars like Chris Pine, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, and John Cho have steadily risen, which will almost certainly make them far more expensive to keep signing to Star Trek deals.
The most interesting thing to consider is how Star Trek 4 will tie the characters from The Next Generation into itself, since, canonically speaking, about 110 years pass between the end of The Original Series (starring the classic version of the Kelvin Timeline crew) and the rebooted show. The Next Generation would occasionally have an appearance from an incredibly ancient Dr. McCoy or by having Mr. Scott held in stasis by a transporter beam, but it is clear with the show that the events of TOS are as distant to TNG as World War I would be too us. However, given that Star Trek has never been afraid to work some time travel shenanigans into the plot in either TOS or TNG, so that seems a likely possibility.
This also means this could potentially be the finale of things for the Chris Pine-led crew, but we shall just have to see how Star Trek 4 manages to work The Next Generation in and how fans react to new actors playing beloved characters this time around.