Star Trek is a beloved, enduring franchise that’s sliding into a creative ditch and desperately needs a shake-up. Star Trek is fifty, and still going strong-ish, with both a TV and a film series in active production. And yet, it feels like Trek is in decline, getting lapped by Marvel, Avatar, and Star Wars, to name just a few recent and ongoing sci-fi franchises.
However, fans are not particulary enamored with the latest Trek TV iteration, Discovery (found exclusively on CBS’s All-Access streaming service, a source of much fan angst). J.J. Abrams famously rebooted the film version in 2009, recasting the original 1969 TV crew as a more action-y version — the three Abrams-verse films have been profitable, but seem mired in re-hashed, shinier versions of previously told Trek tales.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the galaxy, Quentin Tarantino has written and directed nine films (I count Death Proof, even if no one else does), and he’s promised to retire after his tenth, which is slated to be a quasi-historial retelling of the year 1969, amidst the backdrop of the summer of love and the Manson family murders. What does all this have in common with Star Trek? Well, not much… until this week!
According to Variety, Tarantino and Abrams have teamed-up to make a new Star Trek film, and they’re already hiring a writer’s room to make it so (that’s a pun, I know… but I’m not sorry). What does all this mean, besides the fact that Tarantino apparently has eleven fingers or toes?
First, this project is far, far, far afield from anything Tarantino has done before. His films have (generally) dealt with crime and injustice, typically depicted in shockingly-graphic terms from a criminal’s point-of-view. His films are also set either in the past or the present — albeit in an abstracted, stylized manner. Tarantino also tends to be write and direct his own material rather than by committee.
Second, taking on a Star Trek film is a major change for Tarantino, at a point in his career where he expected to be sitting on a beach somewhere counting his cash. He’s never made a sci-fi film, and he’ll be (assumedly) playing in the Starfleet sandbox, which has laws and rules that run counter to the types of stories he’s told in the past. So, this is a really intriguing choice, and I admire his willingness to step into uncharted territory.
Third, according to SlashFilm, this new Trek project will be R-Rated, a first for the franchise. Additionally, several writers have been hired, including Mark L. Smith (The Revenant), Lindsey Beer (Godzilla vs. Kong), and Drew Pearce (Iron Man 3). Got your attention now? While there’s only speculation regarding the plot, Tarantino noted a couple of older Trek TV episodes as his inspirations, including “Yesterday’s Enterprise” from Star Trek: The Next Generation, which is an alternate timeline story wherein the Federation is getting crushed by the Klingons in an epic, galactic war.
What’s really interesting and exciting here, for Trek fans and cinephiles alike, is how this represents an opportunity for Star Trek to get way outside of its comfort-zone, and engage (another not-sorry pun) in new stories with new characters in new places the franchise hasn’t dared explore before. If Star Trek is going to compete with Jedis, superheroes, and whatever James Cameron is doing over there in his Avatar films.
Star Trek is built to tell a range of possible stories, and Tarantino is just the guy to push them into dangerous territory. As a lifelong Trek fan, I can’t wait for this to happen!