Friday, March 27, 2009

Orci and Kurtzman Three Part Interview

Sci Fi Wire has posted a three part interview with Star Trek and Transformers writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman. The discuss class Star Trek bits used in the film, Star Trek's trinity (Kirk, Spock and McCoy), and why the movie isn't a reboot. Below are excerpts and links to the full interview. My comments are in parenthesis.
Part I | Part II | Part III

Are there things that you wanted to put in that you couldn't find a place for?
Orci: Yes, there's a few little things. You know, in an early draft we wanted to potentially lay down the foundation for his friendship with Carol Marcus [Kirk's love interest, introduced in Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan], who ends up in the original continuity being the mother of his child. In an early draft she was in, and then literally because of the nature of the introductory story and making sure that our core group of characters had the proper amount of story that they deserve, she went into the potential future draft.

Anything else?
Kurtzman: Yeah, well, the biggest is [Shatner] in the movie. There's been a lot of debate about that. ... We just, we really tried very hard to get him in there in a way that felt organic, but the problem was that because he died in continuity [in Star Trek: Generations], ... I think it would have felt a little bit cheap, is what we all decided. And, you know, we really struggled with it, because we wrote a scene that we really loved, and, ultimately, I think it might have felt like an add-on, you know? Whereas our story, without giving away too much, Spock [played by Leonard Nimoy] is such a critical part of the story that literally the story cannot be told without him.

What, in your mind, in broad terms, was crucial to keep in order to make it feel like Star Trek, and what did you feel you could change or alter or get rid of and not lose what was Star Trek?
Kurtzman: Tone was a big part of it. ... There were certain elements that seemed very ... universal in all Trek iterations that we felt ... needed to be represented in our version. Certainly, the bridge crew as a family was one of them.
Orci: You mean, too, their specific characters. We didn't feel that we could change their characters very much. Spock had to be Spock, Kirk had to be Kirk, Bones had to be Bones, Uhura had to be Uhura, Scotty Scotty, Chekov Chekov. ... So it was "Just how do you keep the same character in a new situation?"

There was an inherent difficulty, of course, in the initial premise that Gene Roddenberry set out, which is if you have a utopian Earth society, you don't have opportunities for much dramatic conflict unless you're running into hostile aliens or something. Did you find the same kind of issue in approaching this kind of story, or did you just not think about that part of it?Orci: Well, the world that we render in terms of the world that we all live in Star Trek is, I think, in our version, a little bit closer to our world today than it is to a utopia. Now, that doesn't mean that it's not optimistic, but I don't think that it's quite as utopian as it's been imagined in some iterations. And across canon you can see that the utopia is relied upon to varying degrees, and sometimes not at all through the movies. So we wanted the world in which our movie begins—and you can see this through some of the trailers that have been selected, the idea of young Kirk driving a car on the road—imagery that you're not even sure if you're in the future for a minute. So it was very consciously trying to make the world as close to ours as possible with, you know, significant advancements toward utopia, but not utopia.

Why is the time-travel element necessary?
Orci: I don't think that fits into the classic definition of a reboot. So it was necessary for that. And it's also necessary in order to both connect the world to the original Star Trek, but then also to then give us the dramatic license and the dramatic stakes of having an unknown future in the movie.
Kurtzman: Yeah, the biggest thing I think we all hiccupped on, just conceptually, when Trek was presented to us was, "Well, we know how they all died. We know what happened to them." And when you know that, it's very difficult to put them in jeopardy in a way that feels fresh or original. How do you ever have real stakes to your characters?
Orci: We didn't want it to just seem like a historical document.

This also conveniently allows you to violate canon, such as it is, if necessary.
Orci: Well, again, it's a continuation of canon. If words have precise meaning, it's not technically a canon violation.
(I still theorize the movie is launching a parallel 2.0 universe, if so then no on canon violations as that universe's continuity is being defined by the movie itself.)

There are a couple of points that fans seem to have seized upon. One is: The Enterprise is supposed to be built in space, not on the ground. What do you say to that?
Orci: Things are built in space when expense in getting it to space is difficult. But when you have a ship that can literally cross the galaxy faster than light, getting it up 100 miles above the atmosphere is not particularly expensive. Number two, ... one of the reasons to build things in space is things don't ever have to enter a gravity, because they're going to be flimsy, like satellites are fine to build in space because they don't ever need to be in a gravity well. But because we all know warp speed itself is the warping of ... space, which equals gravitation, then you want to make sure the Enterprise can actually sustain [that]. ... It's not a flimsy pleasure-cruise [ship].
(Eh this could be debated. Mostly I just think a bit of majesty is missing by doing something as pedestrian as building the Enterprise planet-side like it’s some oversized space shuttle all just so they can have a moment of Kirk gazing at it.)

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