Star Trek Writer Explains The Long Delay Between Movies

By David Wharton | 9 years ago

J.J. Abrams’ 2009 Star Trek movie left a lot of people excited. Even if, like me, you thought the movie had some serious flaws that needed to be addressed, there was still no question that Trek had been revitalized and made relevant in a way it hadn’t been in over a decade. So it’s only logical that many of those fans, both old and new, have been growing increasingly impatient as the intervening years have ticked by with — until recently — no word of when we’d actually see Star Trek 2. Some of those fans were troubled earlier this week when Spock actor Zachary Quinto told TrekMovie that the script was “changing…on a regular basis.” Did that mean that the sequel’s script was in bad shape? Should Trek fans panic? Was it time to start flipping shuttlecraft over and setting them on fire?

Everybody can just calm down now. Screenwriter Roberto Orci popped up on TrekMovie to directly address some of the naysaying fans. He attempted to explain the reasons for the long delay between movies, what sort of changes are still being made to the script, and generally provide a window into the development of a giant Hollywood movie. Here are his comments:

First, this movie is by no means written by committee. It has been written by ONE team. Me, Alex [Kurtzman], and Damon [Lindelof]. Thanks to the protective umbrella of the success of our first movie and JJ Abrams, we get less studio interference than almost any other production around. This process is the OPPOSITE of script by committee.

As for a full time trek staff, you should know that we have been working on the video game, the comics, and the story for the last two years. Trek has never been far from our minds. And we were doing all of that without even having a deal with the studio to do so (and our deal is only for script. all other stuff is pro bono to make the universes consistent). We were acting in good faith.

The reason the script wasn’t finished until recently is mostly for strategic philosophical reasons. We were not willing to turn anything in until we knew for sure that we had a start date, based on JJ’s availability. If we had written the script a year ago and it sat on the shelf, it would not have been current. Nothing messes up a script like it sitting on the shelf, because then everyone does get time to second guess and wonder, and then movies fall apart.

Finally, you should know the story hasn’t change, the structure hasn’t changed, and the action sequences haven’t changed. Most changes are minor. The changes I suspect Quinto is referring to are the character interactions as we fine tune the level of their various friendships. How well they all know each other and what they’ve all been through off screen is a nuanced yet essential part of the actors understanding where they are coming from with each other. While discussing the exact same plot elements, what they’ve been through colors their attitude toward each other. And given that the time past in real life is different than the amount of time passed in the movie world, it takes a polish to get it just right. That’s what polishes (a legal contractual word in our contract) are for.

Does any of this mean the movie will be any good? No. But if it’s no good, it will be because we were wrong to execute exactly what we wanted. Not because we changed our minds or someone changed our minds for us.

Frankly, the fan reaction to a pretty innocuous comment from Quinto is a little silly, and mostly based in a basic misunderstanding the filmmaking process. Between writing, filming, and editing, the movie is constantly being tweaked to one degree or the other. That’s simply the process. To hear that the Trek 2 script is still evolving shouldn’t be a surprise to anybody, and certainly not a cause for concern. Hell, at least they’re not in the middle of a writer’s strike this time, so they actually can keep polishing it as needed.

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