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Abrams & Orci: Star Trek Sequel To Be Modern-day Allegory

We have another update on the Star Trek sequel, this time JJ Abrams and Bob Orci talk about how they are looking to the roots of Star Trek and how it has been a way to tell modern-day allegories, possibly dealing with war and torture. Latest details come from a new LA Times, interview, excerpts below.

 
 

Abrams and Orci, looking for an allegory
Star Trek on TV and in the feature films has famously dealt with issues of the day. And apparently Bob Orci and JJ Abrams are looking to bring some of that allegorical element to the next Trek. Firstly JJ told the LA Times:

"The ambition for a sequel to ‘Star Trek’ is to make a movie that’s worthy of the audience and not just another movie, you know, just a second movie that feels tacked on. The first movie was so concerned with just setting up the characters — their meeting each and galvanizing that family — that in many ways a sequel will have a very different mission. it needs to do what [the late ‘Trek’ creator Gene] Roddenberry did so well, which is allegory. It needs to tell a story that has connection to what is familiar and what is relevant. It also needs to tell it in a spectacular way that hides the machinery and in a primarily entertaining and hopefully moving story. There needs to be relevance, yes, and that doesn’t mean it should be pretentious. If there are simple truths — truths connected to what we live — that elevates any story — that’s true with any story."    

And Bob Orci added:

We’ve literally had two meetings now. We haven’t decided anything but we’re starting to circle around some ideas. We got a lot of fan response from the first one and a considerable amount of critical response and one of the things we heard was, ‘Make sure the next one deals with modern-day issues.’ We’re trying to keep it as up-to-date and as reflective of what’s going on today as possible. So that’s one thing, to make it reflect the things that we are all dealing with today.

So what modern day issues? Is War and Torture in our Trek future?, Here is another excerpt:

I asked Orci somewhat flippantly if that meant we might see Starfleet grappling with the ethics of torture or dealing with a rising terrorist threat or perhaps a painful, politicized war with the Klingons.

"Well yeah, those are the kind of issues we’re talking about. Wow, you’re good! But seriously that’s the way we’re thinking, that’s an approach. So if you have any ideas … "

More at LA Times

Star Trek and Allegories
There are many examples of Star Trek dealing with issues of the day, some of which even evolved over time, like how the Klingons were always the stand-in for the Soviet Union during the cold-war in the 60s on Star Trek: The Original Series [see clip below] and then detente of the late 80s and 90s in The Next Generation and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

Although torture is an issue of today, it was also something that was explored in the season six TNG episode "Chains of Command".

Osama bin Khan? Tali-Klingons?
This talk of modern-day allegory brings back the talk of whether the film will be going back to the well and bringing back original series elements, or creating their own. Even though they may be doing a modern story, they could always use a classic baddie. Being that we are in an alternative universe, it is possible that the Star Trek team could reshape a famous Trekkie baddie to be a stand-in for the modern era. Khan could emerge in this time to be some kind of terrorist leader. Klingons, who were cut out of the Star Trek movie, could come back for the sequel as some kind of allegorical space Taliban, who knows.

All in all it is good to see Abrams and Orci looking back to the roots of Trek for inspiration. Using sci-fi and Star Trek to tell a modern story is great, and in fact this summer’s District 9 was a prime example of how well the genre can tell a nuanced and thought-provoking topical story. However, hopefully it can be done without losing the optimism that worked so well in the 2009 Star Trek movie.


"District 9" – a sci-fi film dealing deftly with S. Africa race relations

 

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Rocket Scientist
September 15, 2009 7:03 pm

I like what I’m reading here!

Geodesic17
September 15, 2009 7:06 pm

I love this!

Sybok doesn’t have to be a disliked… uh, villain… in this new timeline. Maybe there are some emotional, vengeful Vulcans out there after the events of last movie? Although, that sets up another revenge plot.

Geodesic17
September 15, 2009 7:07 pm

*Fingers crossed for an Undiscovered Country style Star Trek movie*

September 15, 2009 7:07 pm

Whatever, but no Khan, PLEASE. We want new stories, not rehashes.

September 15, 2009 7:09 pm

Cool. Of course, I hope it’s something that fits organically into the world they’ve created, and that the characters inform the plot instead of the other way around. If that’s the case then hopefully we’ll have some powerful complex drama with nuance so that it doesn’t become preachy.

Trek Nerd Central
September 15, 2009 7:14 pm

Excellent, excellent, excellent news.

But still, I wanna know: Will there be a FLYING LEG KICK?

Sybok's Secret Brother
September 15, 2009 7:15 pm

This is WONDERFUL news!!!

That is indeed the core, the very soul of Star Trek.

Thank-you.

Jim Nightshade
September 15, 2009 7:18 pm

Yes! Sounds like the supreme court have the right idea! They can still do almost anything within that framework but its great to hear they are out there looking for that-to make trek more than just a scifi shootemup- take that star wars-trek actually means something sometimes-

September 15, 2009 7:21 pm

I just hope this doesnt turn into a big soap box for lefty or righty political pandering. Ironically episodes like “A Private Little War” took the practical route when discussing these issues, and were not concerned with proving who specifically was right or wrong, but what can and might happen in certain situations. and the tough decisions that must be made. TOS was very good at speaking plainly without polarizing its audience.

Not to mention if this goes with a strongly anti war message I will have to laugh because this new franchise used lots of “Sex, Drugs & Rock and Roll” in its previews. Violence, action and explosions, and sex to promote to a wider audience.

So if Trek is going to be serioues than it needs to be genuinely serious about such issues and tackle them in a fashion that lets both sides of the audience at least have a sense they arent being told to sit down and shut up.

In any event I look forward to see the next one!

Techtrekker
September 15, 2009 7:23 pm

Very cool news!!!

Whatever you do, please make it subtle and thought provoking. Make sure we have to think on different emotional/political/cultural levels. Do not give us a 2D allegory which is plain as the nose on our faces that can only be true from one point of view.

Please do not cater to the lowest common denominator. :-)

Chris Dawson
September 15, 2009 7:25 pm

Just make a film that makes us think.

Forget “box-office only” mentality – that’ll be the tough part.

September 15, 2009 7:27 pm

Me like….

Finally, someone is talking about making a relevant TREK, with the core ideas and philosophies that Mr. Roddenberry would approve of.

Of course, it’s a long way to production, but this definitely sounds promising.

September 15, 2009 7:31 pm

Make sure the next one deals with modern-day issues.??

How about: MAKE SURE IT ACTUALLY HAS A STORY WITH AN ACTUAL PLOT AND INTELLIGENT PLANNING?

jas_montreal
September 15, 2009 7:33 pm

great news ! Glad to see this next trek movie will ACTUALLY talk about something. Hopefully it’ll be a trek movie that would make Gene proud.

Jim Cude
September 15, 2009 7:35 pm

A 9/11-style attack on San Francisco prompts a smirky President of the United Federation of Planets to attack both the Klingons and the Romulans in retaliation. The true villain is a young Khan who’s learned of his original timeline fate by torturing Spock Prime. That will be one million dollars Bob.

September 15, 2009 7:38 pm

I’m of two minds about Khan. On the one hand, it would be cool, on the other, you could border on rehash.

For example, Batman 89 and The Dark Knight both have the Joker as the villain, but those movies are vastly different.

So in theory, you could have Khan return and still have it be fresh, and new.

September 15, 2009 7:40 pm

Right track guys.

Some more depth would be much appreciated. And the topics I’m hearing are right, too.

September 15, 2009 7:42 pm

This sounds fantastic! I can’t wait!

OneBuckFilms
September 15, 2009 7:43 pm

And people said they didn’t get Star Trek in the early stages.

I hope the crow tastes good. :)

But please, remember that there is a difference between allegory and preaching.

What would the Federation do if they had something similar to the Taliban, or something as catastrophic as 9/11?

– Peace process with the Romulans underway …
– A Klingon faction decides to engage in an “Act Of Honor” and blom themselves up at a Federation outpost, almost destroying the station.
– The Romulans blame the Klingon Government, and threaten war.
– The Federation urges against war.
– The Enterprise has to figure out who is behind it all.

There are many ideas that can be inspired by current events.

Thomas Jensen
September 15, 2009 7:44 pm

Be careful. If you use elements of what is going on today in our society, just make sure you research all aspects of it. There are two sides to the “torture” question. This is an issue which is more complex then the black & white issue the media claims it to be.

I’d hate to see a trek movie become unrealistic just because subsequent historical developments render it “dated”.

I’d love to see a relevant Star Trek with regard to modern day political issues, but not a superficial one-sided treatment.

tman
September 15, 2009 7:45 pm

9- Audience is already split into Trekkers vs. general population, Canon-Nazis vs. people who don’t really love trek. I’m hoping they don’t find other groups to potentially alienate.

I think TOS was more about how people maintain their humanity in the face of conflict. It’s about how hard a soldier’s life is. I think what it can show is how the brutalities of war bring out our worst traits and we have to fight to maintain our humanity and find ways to fight the exhaustion of it all. I think it’s right to have a “war should be avoided” message, but crafted with a realism that was in TOS but not in some of the later Kirk+crew films.

Again, I would love it if they present the Klingons (if they are in this) as intelligent and completely ruthless in their method of warfare, fearless warriors and hint at a more complicated culture beyond war without dwelling on it or trying to make them “understood.”

EFFeX
September 15, 2009 7:46 pm

I am already loving this thought process. Although we’ve heard so little about the upcoming sequel, it is clear that the powers that be have been listening to fan reactions all along. I know it’s premature, but I’m already very excited.

LH
September 15, 2009 7:47 pm

Open Maw “So if Trek is going to be serious than it needs to be genuinely serious about such issues and tackle them in a fashion that lets both sides of the audience at least have a sense they arent being told to sit down and shut up.”

I absolutely agree with this. To me the writers can still have some views expressed, but not have it turn into a “you suck” diatribe at certain quarters. Right now political analysis/thought doesn’t seem to extend beyond knee-jerk reaction to disagreement, though I guess that’s been true (for both sides) for a while. Or maybe I read too many rightie and lefty blogs. I think people are more, um, *passionate* online.

But if they do want to write a diatribe I encourage them to do so…on a movie that isn’t Trek :-)

September 15, 2009 7:49 pm

Hey remember Enterprise?

Oh that’s right, nobody does…

Anyways, there was a little arc that got the show CANCELLED about A TERRORIST plot to destroy Starfleet and all. Sadly I remembered that episode when I read the possible ideas for the new movie.

I’m scared.

Enterprise
September 15, 2009 7:49 pm

Um, the reason the Trek movie was fun was because it DROPPED the heavy stuff DS9 and Voyager and Enterprise had. Please don’t go back to that.

VOODOO
September 15, 2009 7:49 pm

Sounds like they aren’t going to dumb it down. I like what I’m hearing.

tman
September 15, 2009 7:57 pm

20- I think torture especially this late in the “war on terror” isn’t something that needs to be explored specifically (though Klingon’s use of torture can be depicted more realistically than in TOS which makes it’s own statement). I would say, though that they really need to reinvent the Klingons as smart and vicious and forget all the nonsense in TNG. If they do that, they create an enemy where you are forced to confront your notions of conventional “rules of war” and decide whether to give in to brutality and whether you lose your humanity in the process. Look at Pike’s discussion with the doctor at the start of Menagerie and you get an idea what I’m talking about. Look at Hurt Locker and Bullet as other examples of films that survey how we lose our humanity in the face of the worlds’ brutal reality. I think that’s the natural arc of Kirk between the first film and TOS so I think making a story “true” to the characters is a no-brainer.

RapidNadion
September 15, 2009 7:59 pm

I’m also a fan of this line of thinking, and also fully agree with the commenters who are concerned about “dating” the film with issues too transient, or alienating portions of the audience with a preach-fest. IMO, Star Trek is at its best when it showcases the fat expanse of gray between the black and white viewpoints. If JJ&Co. Can do that while incorporating the same amount of excitement and character work as in the first film … We’ve got a winner, IMO.

Oh, and Voyager: ENT was canceled due to a lack of viewers, not because of a terrorist allegory.

mdbchud
September 15, 2009 8:05 pm

Just please don’t forget the “fun”

and NO Khan

samrock83
September 15, 2009 8:05 pm

I hope they don’t re-use old villains, i.e., specific characters. Dropping in a bit character here and there for those hard-core fans is fine. But I would rather see something new, something original.

And, why all the talk about Harry Mudd? I mean, is Mudd really such a great character that we need him in a new film? I don’t get it.

September 15, 2009 8:08 pm

if they do a modern day allegory, this movie will have elevated 100% to status of worthy pf the original series…if done well of course….

EnterpriseSucks
September 15, 2009 8:12 pm

Gay marriage allegory please.

Julio
September 15, 2009 8:20 pm

Hopefully they will treat the movie as a means to encourage discussion about a certain issue as opposed to just grandstanding and preaching.

Actually, I’d rather them skip the “issues” deal altogether, but people seem to want that sort of thing in their Star Trek. And yes, I know Star Trek has always dealt with issues, but I found the worst of TNG was when they were overtly “liberal”. It was embarrassing to watch.

Just tell me a good sci-fi/Star Trek story, and I’ll be pleased as punch.

September 15, 2009 8:22 pm
“I asked Orci somewhat flippantly if that meant we might see Starfleet grappling with the ethics of torture or dealing with a rising terrorist threat or perhaps a painful, politicized war with the Klingons.” “Well yeah, those are the kind of issues we’re talking about. Wow, you’re good! But seriously that’s the way we’re thinking, that’s an approach. So if you have any ideas … ” I think this is an excellent direction to go, and yes, I do have some ideas: The Federation infiltrated by Klingons engineered to look and read (scan) as human, perpetrating an attack that buckles the Federation, leading to Federation measures that threaten the liberties of all the Federation worlds by the measures taken, with the very crew of the Enterprise divided on the appropriateness of the Federation response and the Enterprise’s role in carrying out controversial Federation orders. Spock seeing the logical necessity of extreme measures while Kirk is rightfully suspicious and doesn’t like the direction things are headed. I like it. Give us a good look at ourselves. We need it. The war in Afghanistan is ramping up as it grows ever more unpopular and questionable. This is the best of what Star Trek did in the 60’s, and as long as it doesn’t become a secular humanist preach fest, but something all reasonable people can identify with, something like this would have wide appeal. And it would be controversial. It would be the perfect vehicle to introduce a young Klingon Captain Chang… Read more »
HotStove
September 15, 2009 8:29 pm

The Supreme Court gets it. They soooooo get it. Social commentary within Star Trek is one of the elements that made it so great in the first place. Mix in great sci-fi effects and strong characters, that’s the recipe for another winner of a film.

Where do I get my advance tickets?

siphunclekaiju54
September 15, 2009 8:31 pm

The best thing about TOS was seeing the crew of the Enterprise “boldy go where no man has gone before” and experience the unknown wonders of the universe. I’d love to see this next film live up to that, instead of just being a war movie in space. That’s why the ending to the first film was so great, it set up the beginning of the 5-year mission. I want to see that adventure into the unknown, save the war with the Klingons for the third film.

September 15, 2009 8:32 pm

33: “Actually, I’d rather them skip the “issues” deal altogether, but people seem to want that sort of thing in their Star Trek. And yes, I know Star Trek has always dealt with issues, but I found the worst of TNG was when they were overtly “liberal”. It was embarrassing to watch.”

I think you make an important point. Whatever issue they embed in the story should not target a political party or religious group. The issue should be something that all people can relate to even if it makes us uncomfortable because we may come out on different sides of the issue.

Thorny
September 15, 2009 8:35 pm

My thoughts on Trek 2011…

The allegory should be something fairly important, but not something depressing. People don’t go to movies to be reminded about terrorism, torture, and war. Instead, make the next movie about the energy crisis. “Star Trek III” told us that ‘protomatter’ was dangerous, but no details were given. The next movie will be set some 20 years before Star Trek III. How about we find out what was dangerous about it? The Enterprise, perhaps while scouting for a new Vulcan homeworld, discovers a huge source of protomatter in uncharted space. Protomatter had only existed in laboratory quantities before, but this new source could power the entire Federation for a century. Up-and-coming molecular physicist Carol Marcus is assigned to the Enterprise to study the protomatter source. Meanwhile, the (insert nemesis here) have learned of the protomatter find and have sent a ship to stop the Enterprise and claim the source for themselves…

Harry Ballz
September 15, 2009 8:37 pm

I don’t like how TPTB claim that one message that came through loud and clear from the fans regarding the next movie was to “make sure the next one deals with modern-day issues”.

That’s a bald-faced lie. I come to this site several times a day and very few people voiced that particular opinion. Most of us asked for an exciting and engaging story that reminds us of what was best about Star Trek. Most stories that are allegory-driven, reflecting current-day circumstances, look hopelessly out of date after a few years.

I hate it when writers come up with a specific storyline they want to do, then spin it to make it appear as if the fans asked for it! Total crap!

Something original would be a refreshing change, but I guess that would require a concerted effort, now wouldn’t it?

Gary
September 15, 2009 8:41 pm

Looks to me like Orci is thinking of similar allegories used in the Battlestar Galactica reboot.

September 15, 2009 8:42 pm
“21. Audience is already split into Trekkers vs. general population, Canon-Nazis vs. people who don’t really love trek. I’m hoping they don’t find other groups to potentially alienate.” I wasnt speaking so much of Canon Nazies vs General Public. I was speaking of the political divide, particularly in America’s regard, that still exists. The last thing Star Trek needs to do is go on a rant about the War on Terror or White Wash Left side or Right side. “21. I think TOS was more about how people maintain their humanity in the face of conflict. It’s about how hard a soldier’s life is. I think what it can show is how the brutalities of war bring out our worst traits and we have to fight to maintain our humanity and find ways to fight the exhaustion of it all. I think it’s right to have a “war should be avoided” message, but crafted with a realism that was in TOS but not in some of the later Kirk+crew films.” Yes. There are many episodes where instead of focusing on Political idealogies they focused simply on the aspect of humanity, which allowed the story to not only be relevant for the time, but also go beyond and become renewably relevant. If they have a “George Bush” or a “Barack Obama” and try to make this really specific, they are going to hurt themselves. “21. Again, I would love it if they present the Klingons (if they are in this) as… Read more »
September 15, 2009 8:45 pm

36: “I want to see that adventure into the unknown, save the war with the Klingons for the third film.”

First of all, why save it for the third film? That seems arbitrary.

Second, starting the five year mission in the sequel only to have it interrupted by major Klingon conflict in the third film would be highly illogical.

Spock and the Vulcan Science Academy would not approve.

RetroWarbird
September 15, 2009 8:46 pm

I’d love to see Sybok pushing for Reunification, to be honest. But he’d be a radical.

We have the set-up … a natural evolution from the TOS Federation/Klingon Cold War allegory. We have smaller factions – Vulcan fundamentalists … potentially Andorians, and more that can act like Israel/Palestine … Eastern Europe … Southeast Asia …

And we have the Federation (U.S.), Klingons (Russia) and Romulans (China, maybe? Growing stronger very fast and keeping very mysterious within their borders) … who would potentially be backing these “third world galactic territories” the same way – Klingons selling arms for instance, has been seen in TOS on Neural.

There’s definitely room for real-world allegory there.

tman
September 15, 2009 8:49 pm

36- I’m also a fan of doing the next film on something sci-fi, maybe with a fight with the Klingons on the way in, but I can’t think of something topical (energy conservation, climate change, pollution’s consequences) that I would want to see discussed. That said, you can always have a mystery going on during a war. Many great and some lesser films (Predator) went hat route in the horror genre.

Marvin the Martian
September 15, 2009 8:55 pm

Maybe *this* supreme court won’t be afraid to weave gay characters into the tapestry of the universe they create, unlike the previous regime.

Not as a focus of the story necessarily, but just *there*.

For example, I can totally see Chekov as gay in this alternate universe. He’s sensitive and intelligent, and a humorous throwaway line could establish this fact without beating the audience over the head with it.

September 15, 2009 9:00 pm

41: “If they have a “George Bush” or a “Barack Obama” and try to make this really specific, they are going to hurt themselves.”

Agreed. But these guys are smarter than that.

And a story involving interstellar terrorism does NOT have to be this dark and depressing story. I mean there’s probably no other franchise out there that has the philosophical tools to see beyond the clouds to the sunny skies above, so there’s probably no other franchise that could take a dark subject like that and find a way out of it. I would love to see a story that tells us we don’t HAVE to be afraid of terrorism—fear is a contract with the devil—and that we can deal with human inflicted tragedy without losing our humanity or values.

Star Trek is the franchise that can do that type of story and do it well.

siphunclekaiju54
September 15, 2009 9:01 pm

42. “Second, starting the five year mission in the sequel only to have it interrupted by major Klingon conflict in the third film would be highly illogical.”

Alright, I just meant that a war with a familiar race (as in a race Starfleet has already made contact with) is not the direction I’d like to see the film go in. I want to see at least some element of exploration and discovery.

Andy
September 15, 2009 9:04 pm

This really could go either way at this point, but I trust JJ and co. I’m hoping that whatever they do, its subtle but deep. It’s hard, but definitely doable. I think The Dark Knight is an excellent example of this done right. TDK tackled a number of issues well: the idea of corruption in society, whether people are naturally evil/good. Both of these notions were really well done and developed. I’m hoping the next Trek movie chooses to go in the same direction: deep but fun.

GarySeven
September 15, 2009 9:04 pm
Harry Baby, I have read your posts over the years. They have made me laugh (you are very funny) and at times they have made me think. You are a great contributor to this page. I have to say, though, that I am THRILLED (and relieved, and grateful) that the Supreme Court will make the next Star Trek movie “about something.” I have posted repeatedly, in appeals to Bob Orci, to please please please make the next movie a spiritual descendant of Roddenbery. I urged them to use metaphor to comment, to make us THINK, about the society. I want to add that it would be very good if they channeled a related, albeit distinct, quality of Star Trek- to comment on aspects of the human condition, and point the way for a path for humanity’s growth in the future. I know this may sound heavy handed, and the way they do this does not have to be that way. It can, and should, be vastly entertaining at the same time. I believe that if the Supreme Court failed to do these things, they would have essentially killed Star Trek. No matter how many people saw it, no matter how much more popular Star Trek would be, it would not really be Star Trek anymore. These guys did a GREAT job of reinvigorating the franchise, which was necessary. I am grateful for this. But they must, since they did not do it in the first movie, make the franchise worthy… Read more »
Thorny
September 15, 2009 9:09 pm

46… “And a story involving interstellar terrorism does NOT have to be this dark and depressing story. ”

I must have missed all those easy-going, happy-go-lucky terrorism stories…

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