In the third and final part of our retrospective interview with Ron Moore, the veteran writer talks about the two Trek feature films he co-wrote with Brannon Braga. We also discuss JJ Abrams new Star Trek feature, including Moore’s visit to the set. Lastly Moore talks about his new non-Trek movie projects.
[AUDIO + Transcript below]
LISTEN: Ron Moore TrekMovie.com Interview – Part 3 Moore on Star Trek Feature films
TrekMovie.com: Lets switch to the features…I am not sure if you said it or if Rick [Berman] said it, but upon reflection some people thought a better first TNG movie would have been "Yesterday’s Enterprise" instead of Generations. Was that you?
Ron Moore: I think it was Rick who said that.
TrekMovie.com: What do you think of that notion?
Ron Moore: I think that is probably a valid point. If you listen to the commentary track on the Generations DVD, Brannon [Braga] and I talk pretty openly about our dissatisfaction with Generations and the reasons why it went south and the reasons we are not happy with it. I kind of feel it was a missed opportunity and a movie that just didn’t come together. "Yesterday’s Enterprise" would have been a great movie. You could certainly have done a fairly significant major motion picture out of it. It would have had a startling dark–I surprised Rick [Berman] cottoned to it, because the alternate Enterprise was so dark and so war-like and a completely different Federation and starship. It would have been a much edgier and rougher feeling on the big screen. You would have had to expand that idea of what it meant to be on the Enterprise at war for most, if not all of the movie would have been that idea. That would have been great. So sure, I could have seen "Yesterday’s Enterprise" as being the first feature.
Moore’s "Yesterday’s Enterprise" would have made for a darker first TNG film
TrekMovie.com: Leonard Nimoy said he really didn’t like the script from Generations and he felt that he didn’t want to direct it, he didn’t like the Spock role, so he denied that, and he felt the Kirk death was "gratuitous." So, do you think that…
Ron Moore: Well, I knew that. Leonard turned down the script, turned down the director’s chair on the film and I knew he didn’t like the script. It is hard to say at this point he was wrong. I think that Kirk’s death in our minds was integral to the film because it was a movie about death. It was a movie about mortality. It was a movie about Picard reaching a certain age and realizing there are more days behind him than were in front of him. His brother had died, the Enterprise herself died, and this mythic hero would ultimately have a mortal ending as well. Despite realizing we are mortal, you still move on and you still live your life and you still try and the make the most of it. That is what the movie was trying to be about. I think–Brannon and I were not ready to write that movie at that point in our careers. Our reach exceeded our grasp. We didn’t have the maturity and the seasoning as writers, and probably as human beings, to tackle something that grand and marry it to an action-adventure Star Trek film. So Leonard’s instincts were right. He clearly put his finger — I didn’t meet with him, but I remember after he met with Rick, Rick conveyed to us his reservations and why he didn’t like it. He put his finger on the right problems. The Nexus was a problem. The Nexus was a difficult concept that we were never able to crack and Kirk’s death didn’t pay off the themes in the way we wanted it to pay off. At the time we were doing our best and we thought it would work. We believed in the project and were trying to make it happen, but we were also writing the TV series at the same time. In retrospect it is easy to look back and say ‘here are all the problems and here is where you went south’ but at the moment we were all dedicated to trying to do the best movie that we could and we thought we had a good movie on our hands.
TrekMovie.com: Kirk dying in Generations is the public and, from what I understand much of the reason why William Shatner is not in the new movie. How do you resurrect someone and have it only be a cameo? There is a big call to resurrect Kirk and bring him back to life, to reverse what you did. What do you think of that thought?
Ron Moore: I think they are doing…as far as I am concerned they are doing Kirk, they are doing Spock. I don’t know. I like Bill. I have nothing against Bill, but I don’t know that there is a need to get beyond Generations in terms of Bill and bring him back in some thing. I don’t know. I don’t quite get it on some level why there is such a hew and cry to do that or not do that. It seems besides the point. They are going back to the beginning and starting over. They are bringing Leonard in and I sort of understand the desire to establish a tie between old Trek and new, but to me it just feels like a great opportunity to start over. I think the new movie will be more about the new Kirk and new Spock and the new McCoy than it is about ties to old.
Moore: Kirk’s Generations death didn’t work but leave it be
TrekMovie.com: Switching to First Contact, most people would say that both financially and review-wise that was the last big successful Star Trek movie. It was a hit and the fans liked it. That makes you an expert in making a good Star Trek movie…
Ron Moore: because I have a fifty-fifty track record [laughs]
TrekMovie.com: As an expert witness, what do you think the key elements are to a great Star Trek movie? What would you have told JJ [Abrams] two years ago when they just started. What are the key elements if anything?
Ron Moore: That’s hard because First Contact was done in a very specific time and place and the context of Trek where it was at that point. And at that point in time the gold standard was Wrath of Khan and everyone wanted to do Wrath of Khan by some other name. Even in Generations we were talking about Wrath of Khan. Wrath of Khan says ‘here is how you do a Star Trek movie.’ It’s action-adventure. You’ve got a big villain. You’ve got themes of aging and great little character moments, small moments of humor interspersed throughout. It embraces all the characters. You laugh with them, you cry with them. It ends on a bittersweet but hopeful note. It is just a great movie and it really stands up. First Contact hits a lot of those chords too, but it was done on a restricted budget. Paramount just didn’t want to spend much money on Trek movies. So the action quotient was kind of tame. If you really look at the action sequences they are not that exciting really. We were sitting production meetings counting phaser shots and trading dollars, it was an absurd sort of way of doing a movie like that. You were dealing with a lot of themes of time travel and what it meant to be human and reaching for the stars and so on, and it was a great little piece.
Moore: First Contact more about the character moments than action
Ron Moore: (continuing) If JJ and all would have asked me, I don’t know that I would have given them a lot of advice about Trek movies. I think I would have been more concerned with trying to capture the spirit of the Original Series. I am more interested as a fan of that. Going back and capturing that feeling of being on the frontier and being on the edge of something that was something that was part and parcel to the Original Series. I have been showing The Original Series to my kids now because they are getting old enough to watch it, and I am always struck by how out there by themselves Kirk, Spock and McCoy felt. The Enterprise was always a long way away from Starbases. Messages would take a long time to go back and forth. There was really a sense of them being out there on their own, with no one to turn to for help. There was a great sense of the frontier and the unknown and not knowing what is around the corner and only having themselves to fall back on. I think we kind of got away from that with the subsequent series. We started dealing with the Federation a lot. There were other starships involved a lot. Starfleet Command was never that far away. Even in First Contact you are going all the way back to Earth. There was a big battle with a lot of other starships involved. When you are thrown back in time you are on your own, but it is all within the context of a very populated Trek universe where there lots of other people around and lots of things going on. There is something great about Hornblower and his sailing ship out on the Pacific all alone far removed from the Admiralty and having to face down these ships that would loom out of nowhere. The wits of Hornblower and the strength of courage of his men manning the guns, I would have said that is the spirit I would try and capture for the movie.
Moore: Abrams Trek should recapture TOS sense of frontier
TrekMovie.com: You had a chance to visit the set. How much did they tell you about the script and the plot?
Ron Moore: Virtually nothing…and I didn’t really ask. I didn’t want to know and it was the first time in a long time that I could approach one of these Trek things as a fan and I just wanted to preserve that. I sort of avoided looking at the teaser trailer for a long time and finally broke down and watched the teaser trailer. I was just there to walk onto a Federation Starship again after a long time and just enjoy the thrill of not knowing what the scene was and not knowing who that character in the corner was. I just wanted to be a fan again for a moment and not know too much on the inside.
TrekMovie.com: What did you think – where you on the Enterprise set?
Ron Moore: I saw it. I liked it. I liked the aesthetic. I liked the production design. I was very pleased with the visual of it…I think they have a lot of faith in what they are doing. There is a lot of confidence in the production. It is a very happy set. They all seem really committed to what they are doing. I think it is going to work.
Moore likes Star Trek’s new aesthetic
LISTEN: Ron Moore TrekMovie.com Interview – Part 4: Moore on his upcoming movie projects
TrekMovie.com: Let’s talk about the latest announcements quickly, you just signed a deal with UA to do a sci-fi trilogy. Is that an original idea from you?
Ron Moore: Yeah, I had a meeting with UA a while back and we started talking about the potential for a film franchise and doing a trilogy and there was an idea that came up in the room that was sort of a combination of things and was an arena they were interested in and things I was interested in. The more we talked we realized there was a great opportunity to do something. And we went from there.
TrekMovie.com: Is this a big sci-fi space, tent pole kind of stuff?
Ron Moore: Ya, but that all I can probably say about it at this point. The idea is to do a big epic sci-fi franchise.
TrekMovie.com: The other thing is this Fox project, Virtuality. There is a brief description and most people are going ‘that sounds a hell of a lot like a giant holodeck ship’ or something like that. Is that a fair description?
Ron Moore: Not really. It is not a holodeck ship at all. It is a ship on an extended voyage and the astronauts on the voyage have these virtual reality modules that were given to them to essentially alleviate the boredom and to give them rest and recreation on the way. It is a very very long mission — I think we are talking about a ten year mission in total — the ship is essentially going in a straight line for a very long time. So it is not like the ship is going to have all these adventures and things to do so it will mostly be maintenance. So NASA and a private consortium gave them, invented these modules, which at this point is technology that was available to people back on Earth. And it allows them to sort of insert themselves into virtual reality worlds that are three dimensional and photo real and they go off and can sort of do things to pass them time. And something sort of starts to occur within the realities of those worlds which leads them to believe something is going on here. But it is not like a holodeck where you walk into a holodeck and a physical reality is created around you. There is not a room on the ship where you experience these things. Essentially you go into this virtual reality.
TrekMovie.com: From a practical point of view you will be shooting scenes where they are in this virtual world…
Ron Moore: Ya
TrekMovie.com: So you can use location shooting and have it be in the virtual world
Ron Moore: Or it might be CG or a combination of both. We are still working out all the parameters of how we work out the parameters of that.
TrekMovie.com: But it doesn’t take place entirely in that…so there will be ship sets and such…
Ron Moore: Oh yah. Absolutely.
Moores new “Virtuality” not about a holodeck ship
(image from "Our Man Bashir" Moore’s sole ‘holodeck malfunction’ episode )
Read (or listen) to the first two parts of the TrekMovie.com interview with Ron Moore
Part 1: Breaking Out Of The Box (on changes at TNG and dealing wtih continuity)
Part 2: Fighting the cliches (on doing different episodes, DS9, VOY and BSG)