Regular visitors to this site know that Star Trek co-writer and executive producer Roberto Orci isn’t just another A-List Hollywood writer, but is also a geeky sci-fi fan like rest of us. To find out just how big a geek he is Bob was kind enough to take some time out and talk Trek in an exclusive interview with TrekMovie.com. In the first part (of two) of our interview the screenwriter talks about his history as a Trek fan, his views of all the Trek series as well as his favorite books and episodes. He also discusses his insights into what has made the franchise endure and how that is influencing the approach to re-invigorating the franchise.
TrekMovie.com: Do you consider yourself a ‘Trekkie?’
Roberto Orci: Yes. I think you can probably put me and [producer] Damon [Lindelof] into that category.
TrekMovie.com: When did it all start for you?
Roberto Orci: When I was a child, with my uncle who could tell what Original Series episode it was just by one tiny moment in the show. He got me into Trek and I really got into it through watching The Next Generation. I had seen the movies, but the TV experience of Star Trek is the originator and Next Generation was going back to that. To this day I still feel that The Next Generation is the best television show from my lifetime.
TrekMovie.com: What was it about Trek that that attracted you?
Roberto Orci: First of all I am a sci-fi fan and there has never been anything on TV that has made sci-fi as relatable and respectable as The Next Generation. The humanity of the situation was never lost in the technobabble. The sci-fi and the character was always intertwined brilliantly and it is an example of how to approach all genre. All genre needs to have as big a character component as it has a genre component; be it sci-fi, be it fantasy, whatever.
TrekMovie.com: You got into the show as a teenager, did you Trek fandom extend beyond just watching the TV series? Did you collect or join fan clubs and that sort of thing?
Roberto Orci: I have every toy. I have an Enterprise phone. I have every phaser that has ever come out. I never joined any clubs, but I did go to Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country wearing a Star Trek shirt like a true geek. Christmas in particular with my uncle is for Trek. I don’t think a Christmas has gone by, to this day, that we didn’t give each other Star Trek stuff.
TrekMovie.com: What did you give him last year?
Roberto Orci: I gave him a DVD set of all the movies and, of course, a copy of the script
TrekMovie.com: Seriously? So he is one of the tiny handful of people who have actually have the whole script?
Roberto Orci: Well he actually helped. A lot of my part of the script is stuff I actually ran by him.
TrekMovie.com: So have you seen it all, every episode of every series and every movie?
Roberto Orci: Yep, well actually not all I haven’t seen all of the Animated Series yet.
TrekMovie.com: But TNG is still your favorite?
Roberto Orci: Yes
TNG – Orci’s first and still favorite Trek
TrekMovie.com: Do you like them all, do you have a second favorite?
Roberto Orci: I like them all, I guess The Original Series is my second favorite.
TrekMovie.com: You have talked about what you liked about TNG, let’s quickly go through the others. Can you give a quick thought on each?
[on Star Trek: The Original Series]
For it’s time it made sci-fi part of television pop culture. And it was part of the civil rights movement. It was part of women’s rights. It was part of normalizing relations with the Soviet Union. It was part the ideal of a Federation/Superpower doing what is best for all life. In the 60s that was an amazing thing. It couldn’t have been more forward thinking
[on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine]
With Deep Space Nine I loved that it was exploring the slightly darker side of Star Trek. It showed the cracks in the utopia which was interesting to me. It was pushing the envelope of what Star Trek originally meant.
[on Star Trek: Voyager]
Voyager I loved because it was a singular experience of being separated from utopia. It sort of played a counter point by saying ‘oh you love everything about Star Trek, what if we separate you by a zillion light years.’ And obviously I loved the idea of the first female captain. It showed that all Star Trek had that kernel of progressiveness. What they were attempting was more complicated and as such was more fraught with potential pitfalls that were difficult to navigate for any crew behind the scenes. Still inherent in it is still the love of Star Trek. A good moment on the worst Star Trek to me is better than the worst moment on any other show.
[on Star Trek: Enterprise]
I loved the idea of the danger of the first explorations into space. In a way we are very much partners with Enterprise in spirit because it is was a prequel and because it is attempting to explain the origins of Star Trek. You cannot deny that they were the first to try it. Execution aside we understand the appeal and the value of trying to show how we got to what Star Trek was. Star Trek II was about dropping some of the look and feel of what was done before and making it much more naval and like a submarine and Enterprise clearly was attempting to tap into that. In so doing, they were attempting to relate it as much as they could to our contemporary defenses and submarine captains…and that’s a cool idea.
TrekMovie.com: You mentioned Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, would you say that is your favorite of the films?
Roberto Orci: I would say yes. In general for all of us I would say Star Trek II is one of my favorites and one of Damon’s favorites. For Alex [Kurtzman] and J.J [Abrams], who are fans but not as much crazy Trekkers as us, Star Trek II is an example of the best elements of Star Trek. Star Trek II is a major touch point.
Star Trek II – an influence to the new team
TrekMovie.com: In another interview you mentioned Trek books. So have you read many of them?
Roberto Orci: Tons of them. I have them all in my room.
TrekMovie.com: Is that because Paramount sent you all of them?
Roberto Orci: No no no, these are things I have read for pleasure. Some of them I have read many times, never imagining I would be a part of it. When I found myself being paid to re-read those books – you don’t get luckier than that. That is a blessing.
TrekMovie.com: So what are a couple of your favorites?
Roberto Orci: My favorite one is "Prime Directive" and I would say "Spock’s World" is my other favorite. I saw your interview with Judith and Garfield Reeves Stevens and I think they are great. I have read "Prime Directive" three or four times and I think it is one of the best Star Trek stories ever…period. Here is an interesting tidbit. In casting we have to give sides out to actors [scenes from scripts]. But since we are being so secretive we don’t want to give real scenes from the movie so a lot of the scenes we have been using are from their books.
TrekMovie.com: Of course the books are not officially part of Star Trek canon, but as fans of the books are you guys going to grab any elements and give them little mentions in the film…essentially canonizing them?
Roberto Orci: We are actually still pouring through and we are going to do stuff like that for sure. Because it would be an homage to my and Damon’s view of Star Trek.
TrekMovie.com: Getting back to the shows – what are some of your favorite Trek episodes?
Roberto Orci: I love the one with the Romulans attacking the enterprise – "Balance of Terror." I love "Yesterday’s Enterprise." Also "Best of Both Worlds" where Picard becomes Locutus, but there are so many that it is hard to zero in. Those are certainly ones we have all referred to collectively.
New Film makers look to "Balance of Terror" and "Yesterday’s Enteprise"
TrekMovie.com: So as you guys are working are you regularly throwing in DVDs from the shows as part of your process?
Roberto Orci: Totally, are you kidding? Especially now that we are getting our crew up and running they are asking questions as well. And so we do refer to previous episodes as a kind of baseline and then see if anything needs to be augmented or is it ok as it is. Every single one of our offices has tons of Star Trek material and it is constantly being reviewed by us and by our consultants and our production designer, etc, etc.
TrekMovie.com: Trek is over 40 years old now and its been 20 years since you got into it. People are still talking about Trek when they aren’t talking about many other shows from the last 4 decades. What is it about Trek that makes it endure?
Roberto Orci: Well number one I think the characterizations of The Original Series became what we call internally ‘Shakespeare Characters.’ Spock and Kirk and Bones are Shakespearian in that they are so archetypal in their relationships. One of things we have approached Kirk and Spock with is like Lennon and McCartney whose background is also very archetypal. They have managed to become characters who are more than the sum of the actors, more than the sum of the writing, they are pop culture icons. We have read doctoral theses and dissertations on Star Trek and what it means. One of the common things we have read is that Star Trek was not just a TV show, but it was a commentary of our society at the time. Because it was disguised by science fiction you got to get a way with things like the first interracial kiss and a Russian you love and all kinds of societal boundary breaking conventions. But because they came through such a clever and entertaining show it was digestible to a mass audience. The fact that it still has a foot hold in popular culture means that it was ahead of its time.
TrekMovie.com: Back in the 80s and early 90s Star Trek was pretty big. The movies were hits and it was even on the cover of Time Magazine. Do you think Star Trek can be big again? Do you think it could be Star Wars big?
Roberto Orci: I do. Let’s not forget that Star Trek predates Star Wars. Sci-fi being palatable to a mass audience has to be credited to Star Trek. It laid the foundation to some degree for Star Wars. I think it can be big again. Trek is like Star Wars with its archetypal and Joseph Campbell-type characters. It started as sci-fi and got reduced to a human relationship and Star Trek was the first to do that. Star Trek can be as relevant and as archetypal today as Star Wars and as Star Trek was originally. Obviously that is a lot of pressure to put on ourselves, but we would not be going forward with this if we did not believe it could be as relevant and as cool.
TrekMovie.com: So you really think that, in terms of mass appeal, Trek could be as big as Star Wars or your recent Transformers film?
Roberto Orci: Transformers is a great example because it was a franchise that was existing and had a strong fan base, but that was a niche market let’s say. Because of that our approach was to re-invigorate it. We don’t think that there is anything inherently flawed at all with the soul that Star Trek has laid down. And we feel that if we can tap back into that soul, then it can actually be those things. Not only do we want to please the fans, and we are confident that we will have a movie that fans see in a certain way where their knowledge of canon is not wasted and is part of their enjoyment of the movie, but simultaneously the story has been developed so that it is also an introduction for someone who is not a fan or even someone who knows nothing about Trek or think’s it is dead. We think that it can be that because we think that the bones of the house are right and all it needs is some redecorating.
TrekMovie.com: What is that soul of Star Trek that you guys are trying to get at?
Roberto Orci: I think for all of us it is firstly the relationships. And that doesn’t mean everybody gets along. I agree with what J.J. has said: "it is about unbelievably impossible situations being forced upon a group of people who have to look beyond their differences to face the impossible." In a way everyone life has that sort of element to it. We all get through our difficult times with a little help from our friends. It is also what [Leonard] Nimoy said: ‘It is about different people facing the same direction in the face of events they cannot control." That was extremely relevant in the cold war and the sixties and it is as relevant now.
Orci thinks they can do for Trek what they did for Transformers
Part 2 of the TrekMovie.com interview with Roberto Orci (focusing on the new film)
You’re kinda cute for a geek ;)
I kid I kid, you are cute regardless.
Seriously, great interview. Nice to get some background and history. I’m not worried about the film, but I know some fans are. Hopefully this will help put some minds at ease.
PS- Paul as Scotty!! :)
I have great hopes for this movie, and I wish all of these guys the best with it. One of my biggest hopes is that if Mr. Orci has really done the amount of research he’s saying he has, that he’ll realize that certain devices are really played out– time-travel, for example– and proceed accordingly.
Great interview Anthony! Nice to know that there’s another fan out there who has found something he loves about all of Treks incarnations. Not to metion the novels! My room is full of them as well. Looking forward to part two.
Every time this guy opens his mouth, I get this damn feeling of hope! I have believed for a long time that Trek can be as big as it was during the TNG highs, if not bigger. It has to be done right though, and I honestly believe in these guys, they show respect not only to TOS but TNG and the later series and that they will reference them as well shows not only respect but an understanding of all things Trek.
After they do the Prequal, I would love to see their take on the TNG era, a Titan tv show or movie.
But at the end of the day, I feel good.
that is all
It does my heart good to hear the movie is in the fans hand s of real honest to -to-god fans. I’ve been on the fence for a while but I’m leaning towards the positive side now.
I hope the higher-ups at the studio don’t interfere and screw it up.
Now if we can just get some confirmation that it will LOOK like out beloved TOS and not some Hollywood make over (like TMP)…
Great Job Anthony!
Hello Mr Orci!!
I hope they stick to Star Trek TOS and not Star Trek TNG theres a huge difference in that.
and please no mention of Jonathan Archer or T’Pol in the movie *shudder*
Paul McGillion as Scotty!!!!!
sign him please!
I dont think a Trek fan could ask for more; that someone who obviously loves all things ‘Trek’ and is so obviously a big fan is helping to create this film! It makes me feel like a kid again, I’m giddy with excitement! I grew up watching Trek, I wouldn’t classify myself as a ‘geek’ but I took the ‘Cmdr Riker’ mug my grandmother bought me as a child to College and Uni! It survived halls of residence, countless shared houses and my first a(part(y))ment…and still survives to this day! Its my good look charm!
Kudos to you Mr Orci! And great interview AP!! Looking forward to part 2! :)
Roll on Xmas 2008!!
P.s. I agree with Jen, Paul McGillion For Scotty!
I just want to say that I am very grateful that Roberto took out so much of his day (actually his evening) to do the interview and to do all the fan outreach he has done for this movie. Trek fans are always change resistant and so I really think he has done a lot to help people feel confident in the new team
THANK YOU. And your entire creative staff for the next Star Trek movie for that account!
If you could see me now: I’m giving you photo the Vulcan salute. But being human, with a warm smile. I felt from the get-go that [JJ & Co.] would do Gene Roddenberry’s vision proud, and you just acknowledged that in everything you said. Too many fans are “worried” that this saga is giong to be “messed with,” to be sure, but most of us were assured a rather long time ago — and you just hit the nail on the head for resting their concern: with the Vulcan IDIC: “Infinite Diversity In Infinite Combinations…” (that’s the key to survival), “…and the way those differences combine to create meaning and beauty” (—from a 3rd season episode of TOS; I’m sure you know which one). Leonard (as Spock) said it, and we S.T. fans usually choose to practice it in real life.
(I’ve been hooked on S.T. since Shatner, as Kirk, said, to Eve McCuran (in “Mudd’s Women”) that incredibly cool complement: “There’s only one kind of woman…or man, for that matter: you either believe in yourself, or you don’t.” WOW, what a nice thing to say to her, even after she caused so much concern! Man, I just had to come back next week and see what they’d tell [us viewers] next. That was back in TOS’s first-run as a Desilu series on NBC in the 1960s.)
I like ALL of the S.T. series, as a matter of fact: I feel that TAS, TNG, DS9, VGR and ENT are simply more of a good thing: The Original Series.
Yeah, I read the novels, too—and can already think of many amazing “links” to that material. We’re looking forward to what you present! Hey, my friend, you’re making me WANT to beam up, all over again!
Thanks Anthony for a great interview, and to Robert as well (for the interview and popping in from time to time). Reading this makes me believe that Trek is in good hands.
Having read that interview, it is now clear to me that the franchise is in good hands with the OrcSter™. I officially give him the hitchworld© seal of approval. He’s well-thought and expresses his ideas eloquently. Very mac in the pants®.
A few years ago when I learned that Doctor Who would return I nearly wet my pants. Upon seeing the new episodes I felt like crying it was so well made and fresh yet still touched the classic series.
I have the very same feelings for this new Trek but with a shade more confidence this time that they will be doing it justice.
Godspeed, Mr Orci, JJ and the whole crew.
Very good first part, thanks. I think i’ll check out that book Prime Directive — as a rule or thumb I avoid most novels because they aren’t canon and they always seem to be about one of the captains dealing with two warring factions lol
This is going to be soooooooooooooo gooooooooooood!!!!!! WOO HOO!!
Fantastic interview! It’s great to see that Mr. Orci has the same excitement for the possibilities that Star Trek represents and that he seems to have captured the “soul” of the show we have come to love.
I keep getting more and more anxious for each tidbit of news to come out, but simultaneously, I am antzy for too much news. I know elements are going to leak in the age of the internet, but I still dream of being surprised on opening day. Hope spring eternal!
By the way, congratulations on an outstanding site, Anthony.
I have just recently been re-introduced to the trek novels, and am enjoying them emensly. The nice thing about more recent books is that they are filling in the gaps, and extending the shows after they were cancled. I am reading the DS9 relaunch novels, and the TIME TO… novels about the year before NEMESIS. Good stuff. Hardly cannon, but who gives a sh**
“But since we are being so secretive we don’t want to give real scenes from the movie so a lot of the scenes we have been using are from their books.”
OMG. LOL. That is good stuff. I remember reading all those books when I was a kid. Spock’s World – wow. Talk about old school. Takes me back a bit.
Beto, you are a cool dude in my book. Thanks for being real and for being a good role model to our peeps.
Buena Suerte. Peace.
I know just how you feel about the novels; I’ve only read Greg Cox’s Khan series. Now I’m tempted to check out “Prime Directive” and “Spock’s World”.
FIRST!!!! What this is the first time I have posted in this thread! Awesome interview kudos to Mr. Orci for being someone who has the balls to stand up in a Hollywood where Star Trek is largly viewed as a laughing stock and say “No, Star Trek can be as big as Star Wars if not bigger.” and stick to the guns.
Thomas cool, whats that like, I heard it ties in with modern day events and features Gary Seven. Might check that out. I did read the mirror universe Shatner-Reeves-Stevens novels and loved that trilogy, it was much better than the first trilogy. I’ve yet to read the latter one, although I hear its not as good. Not sure if I want to read the Academy one knowing its gonna be different to canon now.
The writer of Nemesis was a huge Trek geek too, but instead of coming up with a solid, original story, he just rehashed a bunch of ideas from the past that he happened to like (Data having a twin brother, etc).
Hopefully these guys will do a better job with their movie. The reason TWOK worked was because it was just a tightly constructed, down and dirty submarine movie with great characters. It proved you don’ t need to overload a Trek movie with a bunch of high concept crap involving time travel or alternate dimensions or evil clones.
I’m impressed as hell that Roberto took time out of his schedule to speak with you, Anthony. Great interview… I’m glad to hear that Roberto’s favorite Trek movie (thus far!) is WoK… that bodes well for the eleventh installment, imo.
8 – This correct the mistake they made with Nemesis, where the director knew nothing about Star Trek.
Although the same risk worked for Trek II, Nicholas Meyer got the basics right with the characters.
The Khan series not only ties in with real-world historical events, but also makes numerous references to all the Trek series, expect for the Animated Series if I remember correctly. Definitely worth checking out if you ever wondered (like me) where Khan could have come from and what he and his followers did to get banished from Earth. That’s covered in the first two books in the series; the third book follows Khan’s life on Ceti Alpha V.
Awesome stuff! Thanks so much for doing this. Can’t agree with Orci’s comments on TNG’s treknobabble though. Sometimes the humanity did get lost because of it. Hope it is kept to a minimum or preferably not at all in ST XI.
I have to say that when I saw “Balance of Terror” listed as one of Orci’s favorite interviews, my confidence in the movie shot up a lot….the Romulans changed a *lot* between TOS and TNG (it’s almost like Romulans and Klingon’s switched places) and, since it seems that Romulans will be a big part of thsi movie, it’s good to know that someone behind this movie is going to remember how Romulans appeared and the backstory given to them when they were first portrayed.
And I can’t wait to see bits of the novels canonized — my friend and I are HUGE star trek novel fans!
Kirk has to have the familiar wave in his hair. Jesse Lee Soffer would be great with that look.
Thomas, thanks for that. Time to go on ebay and see if i can bag some at bargain ;) It’s amazing how much top merchandise goes for peanuts these days.
First of all, I’d like to say thanks for the interview. (That’s for all involved)
I’m glad to see not only hardcore Trek fans involved in this project, but also passing fans and input from the actors who created these iconic roles. The idea of a passing fan… or even non-fan may worry some people, but they can offer a fresh perspective and be able to see whether or not non-fans would enjoy and understand it.
This interview, along with the casting news we’ve been privy to so far has lessened any worry I might have felt for this movie and the direction the franchise in general… of course, lessened doesn’t mean I’m 100 percent confident; But who really is?
It’s good that Trek fans are in charge of this movie. My favorites were DS9, TNG and TOS. Voyager I thought was ok. Enterprise I didn’t like since it never dealt with the Romulan War and I thought the 22nd Century was too easy for Archer and crew for being the first deep space crew.
You think Mr. Orci has a curling iron handy?
Thanks in advance to you and the team. Loving the interview…the franchise is in good hands.
Star Wars, Feh.
It sounds like these guys have one helluva stew on the front burner. Orci cited more than one of my favorites from the various series, as well as the singling out what I, too, found attractive in each incarnation. Man, I am really starting to salivate over this film now.
Thanks for a very fetching interview that increases my interest in the forthcoming film. The exclusives this site offers make it truly special.
Roberrto Orci – bravo on your choice of literary Trek! Prime Directive is one damn fine story.
And the quote from JJ about these characters facing the impossible is right on the money. The social parallels are ok, but it’s always the wild and imaginative stuations that I enjoyed, Just how WOULD one react to meeting the actual Greek god Apollo or having the your wildest dreams of the OK Coral come to life in the blink of an eye, with you in the role of the soon-to-be-executed Clantons? TOS was so good at that type of creative and imaginative storytelling where the impossible WAS faced and it was very real and very deadly. Space was a very dangerous place..as it should be. I couldn’t be happier that you, along with the rest of the production, understand that aspect of the show.
Oh yeah, despite all the heavy allegories and character dynamics, don’t lose sight of the fact that TOS was also a hell of a lot of fun. It never dragged itself down by being too serious all the time. It always struck the right balance of drama and adventure along with a bit of humor. Not jokes with punchlines, but humor in characters and their reactions to one another.
It sounds like you guys really have a handle on it. Looking forward to a fun, yet pulse pounding movie in 08!
What a great interview!! It sounds like Orci and Abrams are serious about doing this thing right. I am extremely impressed with these guys.
Good interview, but ye gods, ‘Prime Directive’ was pure rubbish. If his script is anything like the Reeves-Stevens’ mediocre pablum, count me out.
Did he read The Return?
Hope Orci reads Shakespeare too.
This is the most amazingly positive thread I have ever read on this site. Is this some kind of Mirror Universe thing? Except for #38 (which has a positive element in it), it is strikingly full of hope and good will. That, I believe, can only be a tribute to Mr. Orci. Thank you Mr. Orci.
The posts on this site are often so negative and confrontational sometimes to boot. So, another thought: for Mr. Orci to spawn such a positive post must mean a lot.
As the Great Philospher said, “Only Nixon can go to China.”
Thanks for the interview, Mr. Orci. Not only do you show an obvious love for Trek, you’re also a class act.
Are you by any chance a fan of the book Killing Time?
” A Romulan time-tampering project leaves the Enterprise (and the rest of the galaxy) in an alternate dimension, where Kirk is an embittered young ensign and Spock is a besieged starship commander. Together they race to escape the plotting Romulans and return to their original timeline, before the unforeseen effects of the Romulan project destroy the galaxy. “
Sounds promising. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding.
Wow, what a great interview, Roberto sounds like a great guy!
I’m so glad that there’s someone who’s totally enthusiastic about every aspect of Trek and hasn’t come along with the intention of shunning everything (or some things) that have gone before. Indeed it’s cool to know that he loves every Trek series to some degrees.
Even though I’m not the greatest fan of TOS (I still really like it), I’m really optomistic that this film will be really good, because although this film won’t be directly about the Trek I love most it’s got people behind it who love the things I love as well.
I think it’s great that there’s someone who’s really pationate about Trek behind it’s continuation.
I think it’s great that Mr. Orci is interacting with the fans + seems to care what we as a group think.
With that in mind I would read William Shatner’s “The Return” if I were him.
Alright! The more I hear about this film, the more I start thinking that Star Trek is on its way to a revivial not seen since the days of TNG… Robert Orci, Damon Lindelof, J.J Abrams; everyone involved in the movie seems to be awesome and professional, and the actors so far look good as well.
This movie’s gonna rock!
“This is the Captain. We have escaped the gravitational pull of Berman-Braga purgatory.”
I love how Mr. Orci respects the social allegory part of Trek — I look forward to seeing what that means in an Original Series story in 2008.
When do we get any taste of the production design??? I hope they can see what makes the original series look so timeless, and retain that.
#47 I agree and it seems a lot of the group wants to see a certain Mr. Paul Mcgillion, Jensen Ackles as Kirk would be great if at all possible IMO the best candidate by a long way bar none.
Please Mr. Orci and Co. Ackles and Mcgillion for Kirk and Scotty.
As for Bones well…….?