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Exclusive: The True Story Behind The Bryan Singer ‘Pitch’ of “Star Trek: Federation”

For years there has been talk about a Star Trek pitch made by director Bryan Singer, including a mention by Jonathan Frakes last week. Some details have been reported online, but TrekMovie has received an actual copy of the "Star Trek: Federation" proposal document, and has talked to one of the authors about the supposed pitch. Exclusive details below.

 

The true story of "Star Trek: Federation"

The rumored and discussed "Bryan Singer Star Trek Pitch" is actually a proposal for a show to be called "Star Trek: Federation". TrekMovie has a copy of the series proposal and this week spoke to one of document’s authors, Robert Meyer Burnett (currently directing episodes of Cinemax’s Femme Fatales) to get the real story behind the supposed pitch.

The story of "Star Trek: Federation" begins way back in late 2005, before this website even existed. This is the same year that Star Trek: Enterprise was cancelled, ending 17 years of consistent Star Trek on TV. It was also the same year that Erik Jendresen’s prequel script Star Trek: The Beginning died at Paramount, leaving no active Star Trek projects going on at the studio for the first time in decades.

So at a Seattle sushi restaurant in December 2005, three big Star Trek fans started to talk about creating the next Star Trek TV show, but these weren’t just three ordinary fans. This particular dinner was with director Bryan Singer (X-Men), Oscar-winning screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects) and director/documentarian Robert Meyer Burnett (Free Enterprise). Singer and Burnett were working on Superman Returns at the time and the pair were visiting Singer’s long-time friend and collaborator McQuarrie to talk about their next project (the Tom Cruise WWII film Valkyrie).


Star Trek fan and director Bryan Singer’s cameo in "Star Trek: Nemesis" (2002)

At the dinner, the topic of "wouldn’t it be cool to create the next Star Trek TV show?" came up. The group of Trek fans saw that with no one at Paramount or CBS doing Star Trek, the door was open for new ideas. The team of three then hatched the beginnings of a plan to create a pitch for a new Star Trek series to be produced by Singer’s Bad Hat Harry production company, with a pilot written by McQuarrie and directed by Singer, with Burnett on board as an executive producer. This arrangement would not be dissimilar to how Singer put together the deal for the hit Fox medical drama House, which premiered the previous year.

At the dinner it was decided that Burnett would draft a series proposal document, which the team would tweak and then take to CBS Paramount TV in 2006. Burnett then turned to writer Geoffrey Thorne (Leverage, Law & Order: CI) a fellow Trekkie with a few stories published in Star Trek anthologies, who Burnett was already working with on a comic book ("The Red Line").

Burnett and Thorne then put together a 25-page long "series proposal", which outlined a new Star Trek series set in the year 3000 of the same continuity of the previous five Trek TV series, but in a Federation that has been on the decline. Burnett explains that they wanted to create an allegory both to the decline of the Roman Empire as well as to the 21st century "American Empire" which had started showing strains. The premise has a new threat facing the Federation with a brand new USS Enterprise (and a brand new Kirk) trying to return Starfleet to the glory days. Here is an excerpt from the document: 

The Federation hasn’t had a flagship in over two hundred years. They haven’t done anything either scientifically or in terms of exploration that comes near the deeds done in the long ago Age of Expansion.

There is no sense of true unity in the Federation and unity will be required if these new aliens return in force. The people need a symbol to remind them who they are, what they mean to each other and that there are prices to be paid for living in paradise.

They need, in short, a sense of Enterprise…
– from "Star Trek: Federation" series proposal

The series proposal contains a forward (assessing the state of TV drama and Star Trek), a "Welcome to the Future of the Future"/"Welcome to the United Federation of Planets in the Year 3000" outline of the "Star Trek: Federation" universe, a "The Crew" section on main characters for the show, plus outlines of the first four episodes. There are also two appendices: one on the technology of the new USS Enterprise, and one on the possible use of some "virtual sets" using CGI. The "Star Trek: Federation" The pitch document even had a new logo created by veteran Star Trek designer Mike Okuda.

The proposal was finished in late January 2006 and was sent to Singer and McQuarrie for review. At the time Singer was deep into post-production on Superman Returns and the notion was to pick up on the Star Trek project later in the year, refine the pitch, and then try and sell the show. However, in April Paramount revealed they were working with producer JJ Abrams on a new Star Trek feature film. As Star Trek was once again under new management, the Singer team felt that the window for new pitches had closed and so they dropped their plan and moved on to other projects.

So the truth is that the "Bryan Singer Star Trek Pitch" was never actually pitched. It was really more of a plan to make a pitch, but there were no meetings with Paramount or CBS. And although Singer and McQuarrie were at the dinner where it all started, neither ever had the chance to make comments on the first (and only) draft of the "Star Trek: Federation" series proposal written by Burnett and Thorne. 


Logo for "Star Trek: Federation" designed by Mike Okuda

More on Star Trek: Federation tomorrow

On Saturday morning TrekMovie will do a follow up article with exclusive excerpts and details from the "Star Trek: Federation" series proposal.

Sort by:   newest | oldest
Dr. Image
April 14, 2011 3:11 pm

IN THE YEAR THREE THOUSAND!!
(Glad it didn’t happen.)
Frst!

Dee - lvs moon' surface
April 14, 2011 3:14 pm

Ok… ‘ll be waiting for more… tomorrow!

:-) :-)

Newman
April 14, 2011 3:16 pm

Hmmm….interesting

trekmaster78
April 14, 2011 3:21 pm

In the year 2525…

JP
April 14, 2011 3:26 pm

“…and that there are prices to be paid for living in paradise.”

That’s the part that stuck out to me, and the part of this that I find the most interesting. The rest is standard fare, but that tag at the end suggests a lot of possibilities.

somethoughts
April 14, 2011 3:31 pm

Pass, I prefer a reboot of TOS on TV or reboot TNG

No DS9, No Voyager, No Enterprise and no Year 3000 Federation crap.

Lt. Bailey
April 14, 2011 3:32 pm

Year 3000 does not make that much sense…. unless you are Crewman Daniels, the time traveling Temporal Agent from ENT.

Since it is called ST FEDERATION, they could pick up in the year 2161 when Archer had the articles of Federation signed at the end of “These are the Voyages…” That way they can have stories about the beginning of the Federation.

It does not have to set so far in the future and meke out to be such a bleak future.

njdss4
April 14, 2011 3:32 pm

I’m so desperate for Trek to be back on TV that I can’t look at this pitch logically. TNG was a jump forward from TOS, so jumping ahead to the year 3000 doesn’t really matter. As long as they don’t bump into Fry and Bender, I’d be cool with it ;P

Kev-1
April 14, 2011 3:33 pm

My first reaction is against watching the Federation’s decline, but we don’t know how they would have realized the scenario. Would like to know what they planned for the Enterprise, though.

somethoughts
April 14, 2011 3:38 pm

I never see it as a price to be paid to live in paradise, did the Native Indians have to pay a price to live in utopia before the invasion?

I believe in patriotism and defending ones land/beliefs but not in wars based on propaganda, designed to stimulate the economy/funnel money into black ops. At the end, it comes down to money and greed and self serving interests. Deal with the devil etc.

reb
April 14, 2011 3:40 pm

Good on you, Anthony, for hunting down and getting the facts! Wonderful reporting.

Can hardly wait for the rest.

Good job!

Andy
April 14, 2011 3:41 pm

The year 3000? Would the crew run into Zap Brannigan?

John in Chicago
April 14, 2011 3:42 pm
Wow. This could have been very good. That is, if they had avoided the traps that doomed Enterprise. In my humble opinion, those traps were that the creators didn’t take advantage (both aesthetically and story-wise) of the possibilities their contruct presented. If you’re going to go BACKWARDS, you have to be BOLD. That’s where ST:09 succeeded: it’s creation of the alternate universe revealed an approach with huge cajones and added to the epic nature of the endeavor. Enterprise felt like a gray, muted retread by comparison. Singer’s propsed show could have had two things that, in contrast with each other, might have proved fascinating. One is the future. Star Trek’s most lasting cultural impacts have been made by its characters and its technology. By setting the series in 3000, Singer could have “invented” a whole new scientific framework (and a whole new set of gadgets) that might have grabbed our 21st century imaginations like the transporters and holodecks did in the 20th century. The other element Singer might have had going for him is the idea of the decline of the Federation. Trek has always worked best as allegory, and I have personally always appreciated it most when it focusses on the geo-politics of that world. Having a Federation in decline would not only be a wonderful way to talk about our world without talking about it, but from a character standpoint it would be a great way to give our new captain and crew something real to fight for.… Read more »
Windelkin
April 14, 2011 3:45 pm

I, for one, would have welcomed a new show like this and I still would. I love to sit and brainstorm with my trek buds about hypothetical new stories and a new crew. These people could have had a shot and I wish they would have taken it. Even if I didn’t love everything about it, I’d rather have hours and hours of material to bond absorb than 2 hours every 3 years, which is what we’re getting now.

svenden
April 14, 2011 3:47 pm

Well I like the idea of a darker Star Trek, a grittier Star Trek in which the Federation has lost its way. You can still a do a show like that and have it be fundamentally hopeful and optimistic. In fact, the struggle to regain all that the Federation had lost could be rather inspiring.

But I agree with most everyone that there’s no reason to set it a millennium in the future. Keep it in the 2400’s or 2500s, a time that doesn’t seem so far off that it couldn’t really happen.

But all things considered, given the garbage that Bryan Singer typically puts out there, I’m much happier with Abrams at the helm.

astrodem
April 14, 2011 3:51 pm

This overview sounds an awful lot like Andromeda. That said, I’ll still be interested to read about the technology they imagined and the reasons posited for Federation decline.

Simon
April 14, 2011 4:03 pm

#15 – Garbage? He’s done some of the best genre pieces out there. As happy as I am with what JJ Abrams has done, I would welcome Singer into the world of STAR TREK.

Commodore Mike of the Terran Empire
April 14, 2011 4:04 pm

Well. It looks like it would have been good. I would love to see what they had in mind for the Enterprise and if this new Kirk was a Decendent of James T Kirk. Thanks Anthony for this great Article.

Phil
April 14, 2011 4:09 pm

1. Dr. Image – April 14, 2011

(Glad it didn’t happen.)

Really? Why?

Commodore Shaggy
April 14, 2011 4:10 pm

While I’m sure that the series would have changed some by the time they got it to TV, I think the basic premise sounds interesting. It actually picks up on what Patrick Stewart wanted to do in a way after Insurrection (I think I remember reading about that) with the Federation becoming corrupt. Oh well

anthony
April 14, 2011 4:28 pm

They should just do a Section 31 show or alternate ST show that deals with all the side and fringe ideas that have been brought up over so many years. They could include cameos from so many of the characters we love and also have new ones. Why not live and expand on the universe we all know and love. It seems to be working for STAR WARS (I know blasphemy) but you got to admit that franchise is stronger now than it has been in years and is only expanding on the universe it has already given us.
So many good ideas were already mentioned by characters within the ST universe that there are so many stories to tell.

DS9 IN PRIME TIME
April 14, 2011 4:36 pm

It would be kinda cool if they picked up 10 to 20 years after voyager so they can impliment the new technologies that voyager came across like slip stream, blade of armor, transportrs that transport you 40k light years. cool stuff that star fleet never had…

Browncoat1984
April 14, 2011 4:39 pm

…they could actually still do it if Abrams was okay with it. I sort of find it an intriguing idea.

April 14, 2011 4:43 pm

It could have been potentially good. That said, I’m somebody who thought ENTERPRISE wasn’t afforded the chance to prove itself TNG, DS9 and VOY got. It was getting there in Season 3 and was on track with Manny Coto helping to steer the good ship. So yeah, I’d prefer to see what went into creating the FEDERATION in the first place. Namely the Romulan War and having the NX-01 properly secure their place in history. So sad it fell victim to CBS’ overall disinterest in looking after the Trekkies who stood by this franchise for almost two decades straight and whose good word of mouth, might’ve brought a generation of fans in. I see something like that from time to time, folks who came in just after ENTERPRISE got canned. Getting very interested in the Xindi Arc and the foreshadowing of the Original Series and Next Gen in Season 4, only to see all that enthusiasm drain away upon reaching the appalling last episode. :(

April 14, 2011 4:49 pm

I always enjoy hearing what people would like to do with Star Trek. Apart from this premise, the only other one I’m familiar with is the Straczynski re-boot. Have we already heard what Frakes and Shatner pitched?
No offense to these people, but I’d speculate that if Nimoy had a pitch it would have been brilliant.

Robert Meyer Burnett
April 14, 2011 4:56 pm

Folks,

If any of you have read Azimov’s FOUNDATION trilogy, well, that was kinda’ where I was going…

Keachick
April 14, 2011 4:56 pm

For me, the year 3000 just seems sooo far away that it really would have little or no meaning. Maybe “in the year 2525, if man is still alive…”

I think that we were seeing signs of the Federation in decline in the DS9 series with the emergence of the marquee, who often had legitimate grievances against what the Federation and Starfleet were doing which they wanted to have no part of anymore. Of course, not all of the marquee were “saints” either.

#18 – “I would love to see what they had in mind for the Enterprise and if this new Kirk was a Decendent of James T Kirk.”

Now that appeals to my romantic/maternal side because that means that this Pine/Kirk will get to father at least one child, preferably two (minimum), because I don’t believe in one child families. A child needs at least one other sibling. Besides, Kirk’s menosian lady, Jasmia, needs to have a baby before she reaches 30 and a miracle is achieved here…

Robert Meyer Burnett
April 14, 2011 5:03 pm

ASIMOV. Apologies.

April 14, 2011 5:04 pm

If Burnett was involved I would have welcomed it. And contrary to some recent schools of thought I’d have liked seeing Singer involved too. I would have trusted it more than the current regime.

Craiger
April 14, 2011 5:34 pm

Would a new Trek TV series be too expensive for TV in this economy? ABC just announced they are cancelling ABC All My Children and One Life To Live because of cost.

sci-fi bri
April 14, 2011 5:36 pm

glad this didn’t happen

Chroniton
April 14, 2011 5:37 pm

Sounds like a rip off of the fan audio series, “Lost Frontier” to me.

Phil
April 14, 2011 5:38 pm

30. Well, the rating for both have been in the crapper for a while now, too.

Rusty0918
April 14, 2011 5:39 pm

Well, the “Federation has lost it’s way” could easily apply to the sequel movie. I’d say that would be the best bet.

I like it!
April 14, 2011 5:41 pm

I guess it’s a matter of preference and opinion but i actually think the premise is brilliant. Star Trek has always been an allegory of us anyway and we have been in decline as a world power. Historically, empires decline after a few hundred years so it’s logical that the Federation could undergo such a decline.

A show which still pushes forward with Star Trek’s positive view of the future under the guise of actually beating (but barely) the odds of a collapsing “empire” is quite intriguing. I don’t think the year is significant. You could make it simply 100 years after Next Generation. That way, we can still have all the cool references like we sometimes did with TNG with TOS. Maybe Data is still around….

Zort
April 14, 2011 5:41 pm

this strays way too far from the premise of Star Trek and Rodenberry’s conceptions for it. purist fans would’ve killed it faster than ‘Enterprise’ went belly-up. besides, it doesn’t ring Trek at all.

ensign joe
April 14, 2011 5:41 pm

Sounds great. Love Foundation. I would watch this.

Phil
April 14, 2011 5:44 pm

I’ve seen a few comments from people that they were glad it didn’t happen, and I’m still wondering, why? If your sole objection is the year or some other hardware/character issue, set those aside for the moment. This seems like a wonderful treatment, and it would have kept my interest because it was far enough down the line that the writers and producers would not have to look backward for inspiration.
Cheers….

joe
April 14, 2011 5:44 pm

I kind of liked this idea. In a way it kind of reminded me of Roddenberry’s Andromeda which I thought was a good show although Andromeda was after the fall of the Commonwealth and this is in the decline of the Federation. Maybe setting it in the year 3000 was a bit much and I would be interested in seeing if the new Kirk was meant to be decended from James Kirk. Interesting idea.

Craiger
April 14, 2011 5:46 pm

Also would another ship exploring the Galaxy seem repetitive unless they put a new spin on it? I’m wondering if they put Klingons and Harry Mudd in the sequel I think they running out of ideas and they just want to retell Trek to new audience. I did like the TOS reboot movie.

Jonboc
April 14, 2011 5:47 pm

Cool. Nice job Anthony. Now I’m wondering what Shatner’s pitch was…if he really had one, that is.

Drij
April 14, 2011 5:49 pm

Star Trek by “Bryan Singer would have been crap. Just like his movies.

Phil2
April 14, 2011 6:03 pm

The next Star Trek serie needs to break the tired mold with ensemble casts done in TNG, DS9, VGR and ENT. I’d rather follow the career of a main character in a continues story and have him be the captain in the last season.

April 14, 2011 6:09 pm
Well, I’m not afraid of the “Undiscovered Country” that these pitches seem to represent. There are a lot of comments that reflect the don’t like the premise, but give no reason as to why. There’s a lot of potential in a Star Trek that is set very far into the future, and just because it sounds different and detached from things we already know of Trek (JJ and team reusing Kirk and crew solely based on familiarity for cripes’ sake) does not mean it gets an automatic “Glad they didn’t do it” from me. I support a Star Trek that still wants to continue onward. I thought Trek09 was going to do that in some way, but it ended up not contributing anything to Star Trek at all. Say what you want in Trek09’s defense that history, lore and canon was a hinderance to Star Trek and that the franchise needed to get away from. It makes as much sense to say that aging is a hinderance on living things and we should stray away from it. Sure, you may do something like take the original crew and create a fresh start, but you’ll still end up with the same problem that you claim you’re getting away from. You’re creating history! When you’re doing a story where things ‘develop’, you will inevitably create a history for your overall story that you will most likely have to take into account for future endeavors. Do you really want a Star Trek that… Read more »
April 14, 2011 6:13 pm

@43: “I’d rather follow the career of a main character in a continues story and have him be the captain in the last season.”

I freaking hate this “male by default” crap. You do realize that a female lead has just as much potential to be a strong interesting lead in a story as a male lead, right?

Jack
April 14, 2011 6:18 pm

I see potential. Heck, for much of the first season we didn’t know how far into the future Star Trek was. Personally, I’m still a fan of the TOS formula — where there was no real hook (they didn’t start out as the best ship in the fleet, we weren’t there from the beginning to see how they gelled, there was no major back story (DS-9, Enterprise) they weren’t trying to get home every week, there was no romantic history between the characters, no families on board) it was about one ship of many and its varied adventures. The lone ship with something to prove and the constant danger of the project’s plug being pulled reminds me a little too much of Enterprise, but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t work.

Daoud
April 14, 2011 6:28 pm

Nothing new under the Sun. These are the same ideas Roddenberry himself had. Starship, Andromeda…. all came from the same core idea.
.
And wasn’t that cartoon that was proposed a similar concept?
.
Just jump to 2450 with a series, and make it ambiguous which universe it is in. It could even be both: as MWI of QM could certainly have a convergence of as much as is possible.
.
Even TNG was very ambiguous at first about when it was (after all, the didn’t even specify the old Admiral really *was* McCoy!)

Thomas E.
April 14, 2011 6:30 pm

@ 45: Who said the next Captain had to be Human for that matter. Perhaps in the year 3000 the Captain of the Enterprise is a Romulan or Klingon. Maybe even something else entirely?

TBW
April 14, 2011 6:31 pm

Hey, #5

You say…

“…and that there are prices to be paid for living in paradise.”

That’s the part that stuck out to me, and the part of this that I find the most interesting. The rest is standard fare, but that tag at the end suggests a lot of possibilities

I’d have to think that a lot of people here don’t share your view, though. (I happen to.) DS9 gets crapped on here a good amount, but from pretty much the moment the Maquis show up, that last sentence is the entire (damned near explicitly stated) premise of the show.

For all of the talk about Roddenberry’s “vision” around here, sticking to that becomes pretty limiting. Let’s face it, there are only so many variations that you can do with this type of exploration theme. After a while, on GLB becomes more or less like another. Same goes for “other-crew-creates-period-of-Earth’s-history-on-alien-world.” Eventually, you get up a creek when all of your conflicts are either external or non-serialized.

TBW
April 14, 2011 6:33 pm

46,
What backstory was there in DS9?

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