Damon Lindelof On Star Trek Sequel Writing Process, Secrecy & Nerding Out On Trek

Star Trek sequel co-writer/producer Damon Lindelof is a guest on this week’s popular Nerdist podcast where he touches on Star Trek, describing the collaborative writing process with (Bob Orci and Alex Kurtzman), JJ Abram’s trademark secrecy and how cool it is to be writing for Trek. See excerpts below.  

 

Lindelof talks Star Trek writing collaboration, secrecy and nerding out

Damon Lindelof is a guest on this week’s popular Nerdist podcast with Chris Harwick. The hour long podcast covers a lot of ground with a little bit of Star Trek. Of interest was Lindelof talking about what writing is like for him in the post-Lost era where he no longer is working with Carlton Cuse and a writers room:

I function best in collaboration so I have sought out writing partners….On Trek 1, I produced it, but was obviously very involved in the story process with JJ [Abrams], Bob [Orci], and Alex [Kurtzman], so that was great. For Trek 2 I am actually writing, but again it functions a lot more like a TV show. We are all sitting in a room together throwing ideas around and seeing what sticks…I do not like sitting by myself staring at the blank page.

Damon also talked about dealing with the secrecy on Lost and Star Trek:

It’s tough. JJ is really good at secrecy and really good at playing the game because ultimately people want to know but they don’t want to have stuff spoiled for them. … We are working on Trek 2 now and there is such an expectation that it is top secret, because everything we do is top secret. And with that expectation comes this idea that "they are going to do something that is totally mind-blowing that is going to friggin’ fry our brains!" Because we are keeping it such a secret. As opposed to the fact that we are just keeping it a secret because we don’t want the audience to know too much going in. The fact that people went to go to see Trek and they didn’t know we were going to blow up Vulcan. They might have known that time travel was involved and they knew that Nimoy was in the movie, but they didn’t understand how it all worked so when you get to that point in the movie it’s cool because you get to emotionally experience it without being primed for it. It requires a
tremendous amount of – there are only so many people you can include in your circle of trust.


Lindelof defends "Star Trek" secrecy in order to maintain the "emotional experience" of big surprises – like the destruction of Vulcan

Damon also talked about being able to write what he called "professional fan fiction," in some of his favorite franchises, and specifically noting on Star Trek:

That is the coolest thing ever is playing in those universes and writing "Kirk" and dialog, and you are like "oh my god!" It was particularly awesome writing for – as he was slugged in the script – "ORIGINAL SPOCK." Because you are like "Nimoy is actually going to say these words!"

The podcast also contains some talk about how "awesome" the Star Trek movie was, with Chris Hardwick talking about going to see the movie with his friend Wil Wheaton. Listen to the full Nerdist Podcast with Damon Lindelof at Nerdist.com, to hear Damon talk more about Twitter, his favorite TV shows, how he got his start with JJ Abrams and Lost, nerding out meeting George Lucas, and more.


Lindelof still excited to be writing for Star Trek and collaborating with Orci, Kurtzman and Abrams (photo: Anthony Pascale)

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Dee - lvs moon' surface

Ok it’s a secret… but I want to know as much as possible… so I hope somebody gets it… because I say again, I like spoilers… and there are no spoilers to keep me away from what I want to see … on the contrary, I’ll be more curious!

But I do not need to know everything… I want to be surprised too!

:-) :-)

Keep it secret… keep it awesome… keep us surprised… but keep the clues coming… :)
You guys are awesome, and you’re all over it!

moauvian waoul- aka: seymour hiney

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

Blowing up Vulcan wasn’t emotional for me in the movie. Cause the movie involved time travel… and I was waiting, that the timeline was restored… Like in any other Trek plot.

I was even taking a look at my watch every now and then, wondering why they haven’t travelled back in time, already. The slight shock came after the movie. And when I watched the DVD I could take a closer look at my feelings.

@4 – that was one of the themes I liked in STAR TREK: you cannot restore things and you cannot go back (a theme often found in LOST). You deal with what you have now and move on. it may not be the best of things; it is what it is.

I really wish he would stop calling it Trek 2.

To quote Gandalf “Keep it secret, keep it safe…” I like knowing some basic stuff like “time travel is involved” so I have SOME idea of what to expect, but I don’t like to know the whole story so that every big moment, whether its Spock dying in Trek II, Vader’s big reveal at the end of Empire or Vulcan blowing up in Trek 11 is a surprised to me when I first watch it.

I loved Lost, Battlestar Galactica and Trek ’09 partly because I was never spoiled very much with either of those. I could sit down, watch it and have NO idea where they were taking the story. In fact, with Lost and BSG I just said “I’m gonna stop trying to figure it out and just enjoy the ride” and I’m sort of in the same mindset with the new Trek. Keep up the great work guys, I know whatever you deliver will be fun!

well this is awesome! and i mean it. i’m happy,Damon you helped make my day very awesome!! thank you! i want to be surprised as well,i loved watching 09 and knowing Nimoy was in it but not knowing how. but at the same time,i want a little something something to smile about,you know? (like when its done and hopefuly J.J s at the wheel!) :)

Trek 2 is not Trek II, so I see no problem in it. Yeah, I like surprises in movies, so keeping the secrets is cool, Imho.

Why do I not find the phrase “Throwing around ideas and seeing what sticks” particularly inspiring?

Keachick (rose pinenut)

As long as they are throwing our ideas around, especially mine…:)

“The fact that people went to go to see Trek and they didn’t know we were going to blow up Vulcan.”

Sorry, I saw it coming. It was IN THE TRAILER!

I thought the blowing up of Vulcan was a big mistake. It makes Spock an emotional cripple, and there will have to be numerous heavy references to it in the sequel. Boring. That and the big mistake of the Uhura romance boxes two main characters into a corner.

4. I’m afraid I have to agree. The destruction of Vulcan wasn’t emotional to me. Shock and awe, certainly. But my reaction was more… “Okay. I know enough about Star Trek. I’m just going to wait them out, until they fix that.” I’m still waiting…

I wonder how Trek fans Damien thought he would anger or shock with the decision to destroy Vulcan.

I hated the decsion as people would already be aware of but I think it would be a crime if the repercussions weren’t addresed in Star Trek XII.

However, as far as I am concerned Vulcan is still there in the prime universe.

I kinda got spoil about Vulcan but was really shocked and suprised when you killed Amanda.

The destruction of Vulcan was the point in the film I was wondering WTF? I think this must have been the make or break moment amongst the fans.

Doesn’t ruin the film, and I guess it takes us out of the comfort zone which is probably a good thing. But its the one part of the film I find the most painful to watch.

Yet it is only fiction but still.

14

It was more for shock and I think it could have been more emotional. If it is not mentioned in Star Trek XII then some interesting dram will have been overlloked.

All I can say is thank god it is still there in the prime universe.

They should spend a day or two with Steve Jobs and talk about advancements in 30-50 years from now that they can incorporate into the movie now so Star Trek continues it’s reputation for being the precursor to modern technology.

I knew that Vulcan would be destroyed, before the movie came into the cinemas. There were spoilers about this.

As long as it doesn’t suck as bad as the Lost finale, it’ll be fine.
Seriously.

#19. Amen and pray to God!!

I imagine the first spoilers about Vulcan emerged from that special preview screening, where fans attending thought they were there to watch “The Wrath of Khan”. Before that, secrecy was absolutely airtight.

The trailer clip was a unknown planet being destroyed and at the time, I’d defy anybody from clearly identifying it as Vulcan. It could easily be Mars or M-113 or indeed any desert-world.

Keep me in the dark, please. I hate spoilers.

These guys do it right. As much as I want to know, as much as I’m going to spoil myself, I’m glad they’re here to save me from myself.

@14, 15, 16

As horrible as it sounds, I’m fully in support of the destruction of Vulcan. (Yes, more emotion came from Amanda’s death than the death of the planet, but still.) It was absolutely the best way for them to show that everything old is new again, and anything can happen in this new universe, short of actually killing off one of the main characters, which they would never have recovered from.

#24,beside looking at it with a writers point of view,(which i get because i my self write) you heartless person!! (just kidding.) but now that you bring it to light,who thinks they would kill off a main crew memeber? i think not;but i’ve made bad calls before,so,whata ya think?

It’s a double standard. If you can be okay with something that upsets some, you should also be prepared for upset yourself… somewhere down the line.

Vulcan being destroyed wasn’t emotional for me whatsoever, and I really had no problem with it. Unfortunately, most of the the shots of the new E didn’t provoke much of a response in me either (except when they come out of warp into the field of destroyed ships – that was cool).

Anything really stirring came from the entire Kelvin scene, Nimoy’s lines, and the death of Amanda. In my humble opinion, of course.

No issues with destroying Vulcan. It’s an alt-universe anyway and I really doubt on a practical level that it’ll change much in Star Trek other than if they go the TNG route of mooching around Federation space on diplomatic missions, rather than properly exploring far outside Federation space. Away from Starfleet, Klingons and so on, who really cares?

Vulcan’s destruction was spoiled early on by Ain’t It Cool, but Amanda’s death was the bigger shock. I think Spock should be back to normal by the next film. In early TOS he usually referred to his parents in the past tense anyway.

As for killing off an established crew member, I’m all in favour. Keep Kirk, Spock and McCoy, but any of the others should be viable targets. Sulu or Chekov are obvious ones to get killed off. Maybe Sulu bites the dust and gets replaced by his sister! ;)

#28. (rolls eyes at Sulu geting replaced by his sister) let me guess,shes hot too right? but if i was gonna kill somebody off,it would be Sulu,i got no beef with him or anything but,i like Chekov! :)

I have my fingers in my ears. Why you ask, when this is a text media? Because it feels good.

Please !!! Please!!! Please!!! Whatever you do if not done already don’t let these fans (OK, which I happen to be one of) influence you in bringing back HARRY MUDD as a major character involved with the plot. In fact, if I were you, I would’nt bring the “KLINGONS” back until the 3rd film. Reason being, the anticipation for it would be so big, it would have to feel like you’re going through the motions of the first film, making it that much better than planned! But, if I know you and studio heads, they’re probably laid out in plot for this film! In any event, good luck!!!!!!!!!!

Blowing up Vulcan didn’t affect me as emotionally as destroying Romulus in the TNG timeline, which is exactly what they did.

It’s a shame that they were willing to do something so bold and yet almost make it an afterthought. I would have love to have seen the TNG timeline reconcile with such a huge ordeal.

That’s the real tragedy.

…come to think of it, since we’re in an alt-universe now anyway, it dawns on me that it really doesn’t matter too much to me who/what they kill off in the future film(s).

I’m a Prime timeline guy – no way around it. And that’s history.

I’m just hoping the Supreme Court doesn’t buy into the Hollywood sequel tradition of blowing up stories. We don’t need to make the story bigger, just better. We don’t need: 4 separate villains, the death of a main character, “the universe on the brink of winking out.”

Just a good story, PLEASE.

Guys, this is all orchestrated PR.

JJ needs zazz and image-appeal for his personal “brand.” Lindelof is doing the same thing, especit.ally as his cred grows on Trek and the “Alien” prequel/non-prequel he’s writing for Sir Ridley Scott.

I just hope ‘boborci’ is not an army of young, unpaid PR interns, but the real deal. His writing style seems to match how he speaks….

Bob Orci and his team are the best damn writers we could hope for Trek,and i’m glad they took it,because StarTrek scares alot of film makers and writer teams,heck,it scares non-fans before they watch it!!

Dee - lvs moon' surface

The Lost finale was GREAT! … And I’m not expecting disappointment in Trek 2 (? )!

:-) :-)

36…

– Nero wants to destroy the Federation because they, uh… did nothing in particular to him.

– NewKirk and Spock Prime just happen to meet in a cave in the middle of a frozen wasteland.

– NewKirk makes Captain a few hours after graduating Starfleet Academy.

Best damn writers? Uh, if you say so.

No surprise for me. Blowing up Vulcan was spoiled by me by this site about 3 days before I saw the movie, and it was just some random interview with Zoe Saldana and it’s like “Oh, you blow up Vulcan in this movie, what do you think about that?” It’s hard to even lightly browse Trek sites before a big opening otherwise you’re going to have random stuff spoiled.

I actually think Trek II would make a decent title, helps distinguish it from the first movie series and avoids confusion with “Star Wars” (LOTS of people keep confusing the two because of the common word). Besides, when you say “Trek II,” people will probably figure out it means “Star Trek II” (heck, the first posters just had the darn icon without words and people knew what it was).

36

Right?

That’s unfair to DC Fontana, Gene Coon, Gene Roddenberry, Ron Moore, Michael Pillar, Brannon Braga, Rene Echevarria, Mike Sussman, Jeri Taylor and others.

A lot of the writers I have mentioned have written stonger Star Trek.

DC Fontana helped develop the TOS characters.

Orci and Kurtzman wrote a great event movie but compared to a lot of the shows it doesn’t compare.

I remember seeing Logan’s Run as a teenager and the sexiness of every girl on screen was just so impressive. Tasteful but good.

Would like to see that taken up just a notch in the sequel.

It would be congruent with the original series too.

#17 – Spend a day or 2 with Steve Jobs to find out new tech?

LOL: Jobs just refines and markets EXISTING TECHNOLOGY!

and makes it cool and desirable. The guy still knows where things are heading.

I would have suggested Bill Gates but the Enterprise would have to crash six times during the movie.

40

No I think the TNG approach is the best way Star Trek then semi colon then title. No number and definitely keep Star Trek in the title.

Star Trek II is Wrath of Khan and always will be.

i’m talking about Trek after 45 years! and 6 shows,and 10 (now 11) movies! thats alot to take on now you have to admit!! and theres us,and you know,were demanding sometimes,i know i am. and that scares some people,as far as what i said about the writers being the best,i still mean that,and no story is without flaws,not even the ones in TOS. i’m not trying to make people mad,i’m just speaking my mind.

Shhhh! Spoilers….

47

Fair enough, Just pointing out that the current writers are not the best ever writers in Trek IMO.

I think DC Fontana, Ron Moore, Michael Pillar and Brannon Braga are stronger.

I love Damon’s work on Lost so I think he will enhance a great writing team. As for the audience not knowing that Vulcan was destroyed, well I have to assume that Damon was referring to the portion of the audience that did not see the theatrical trailer. Mr Orci, if your reading this can you please tell the guys that put the trailers together not to spoil all of your surprises. Don’t get me wrong it was a fantastic trailer but it did give away far too much and seemed to undermine all the secrecy JJ had previously done well to maintain.

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