Grand Slam XVI: Highlights From Orci Q&A

The Grand Slam Sci-Fi Summit is over. The Q&A with Star Trek co-writer and exec. producer Bob Orci was well received. The audience was impressed with Orci’s level of geekdom and respect for Trek. Much of the Q&A covered ground that is well known to regulars, but there were a few new items, highlighted below.

Quick highlights from Bob:

  • The whole project began with a phone call from a Paramount exec to Orci in 2005 (while he, Kurtzman and Abrams were working on Mission: Impossible:III), asking if he had any ideas for Star Trek
  • JJ was convinced to direct Star Trek by his wife Katie (who felt the film had strong female characters) and by director Steven Spielberg who was impressed with the script
  • Spielberg also visited the set during shooting scenes on the Enterprise and helped JJ Abrams work out a scene to help ‘with the action’
  • Ben Stiller visited the set as well (and confirmed previously reported visits from: Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, and Tom Cruise)
  • Targeting PG-13 rating
  • Orci on the endless fanboy debate on Star Trek vs. Star Wars: “Star Trek was first” (got big applause for that)
  • Film will have lots of action, but is still mostly about ‘relationships’ and not just about ‘swords with lights on them’ (referring back to earlier Star Trek v Star Wars discussion)
  • Star Trek will make the Trek universe ‘feel real in a way it never has before’
  • Enterprise having components being built on earth doesn’t preclude it being assembled in space, in fact it ‘probably will be’
  • Using the ‘supreme court’ constitutional analogy, your view on if the film ‘fits’ within canon will depend on if you are a ‘strict constructionist’ or believe in the ‘spirit of the law’
  • Any changes would be done after much consideration and ‘no differences will be from ignorance’ of Trek lore.
  • Of all the female characters, Uhura (Zoe Saldana) is the ‘female lead’ of the film and does a lot more than just ‘answer the space phone’
  • Nimoy was the ‘key’ to the script: he was the only way to ‘resolve continuity issues’ of the story and to have an ‘appropriate transfer of the soul’
  • Took a risk with the script so reliant on Nimoy after only one preliminary meeting and before he was officially signed on
  • Hardest character to cast was Kirk (Chris Pine), easiest was Spock (Zach Quinto)
  • Orci and Kurtzman were released from ‘Michael Bay Jail’ (which turns out to be a luxury hotel on the Pacific Coast) on Friday, after finishing the first draft for Transformers 2
  • There is at least one Star Trek reference in Transformers 2 will have more from the two appearance of the Spocks (Quinto and Nimoy) and a video interview with Bob coming up tomorrow.

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i hope this will put canon nuts to rest. probably not.

oh and nice analogy with constitutionalists.

Cool stuff.

Cheers for the report,,

Im wishing like hell I could be there,,

: o )

“Film will have lots of action, but is still mostly about ‘relationships’ and not just about ’swords with lights on them’”

I have faith that the action scenes will be sustained by a smart plot. Action is good and understandable in a big blockbuster movie, but Star Trek needs brain and feelings too. I have no doubt that there will be the right balance.

wow. this must be one damn good script. can’t wait!

Wow! That was one heck of a nice trekmovie report! Sounds even more spectacular than ever!

i am liking the sound of this. Very much looking forward to seeing Uhura too!

“Using the ’supreme court’ constitutional analogy, your view on if the film ‘fits’ within canon will depend on if you are a ’strict constructionist’ or believe in the ’spirit of the law’ ”

We Europeans praticing Roman law, not Anglosaxon. :D

Bob, We expect full reports on Spielberg’s visit and involvement in the direction of that scene once the movie is released and the secrecy is over!

“Not just about swords with lights on them” means STXI has swords with lights on them?

#11 that was a reference to Star Wars.

I just can’t wait until a new trailer comes out.

haha, as a strong believer in the ’spirit of the law’ I guess the canon stuff will turn out alright. I just watched some of my favorite TOS eps on Adobes new Media Player and finished reading “Prime Directive” to get in the mood for next May ;))

An emphasis on a “living, breathing Constitution” is the approach often contradistinguished from the strict constructionist approach.

Or, in this case, perhaps that should be the living, breathing Constitution class… 1701. ;-)

Spielberg’s a legend – love his Close Encounters. I’m confident that scene he helped work out will be great.

sir num nums: I’m aware of that ;-)

I wish I had been there. The more Orci talks about this film, the more confidence I have that it will do justice to the franchise.

15. Iowagirl

Did you know that Spielberg directed and edited the whole Obi-Wan vs Anakin fight in Episode III?

gettyimage got some nice pics of zachary quinto and leonard nimoy

#17 wasnt that bad!

Finally nice to learn who got the idea to hire Orci and Kurtzman to work on a new Star Trek, a nameless studio exec. Awesome!

19. Jay

I love episode III. I Like it much more than Return of the Jedi (But a lot less than Empire Strikes Back.

I wasn’t necesarily saying it is a bad thing, only giving some related trivia.

Awesome stuff and Orci continues to give the answers that demonstrate his awareness and perceptiveness of Star Trek.

Thanks Anthony!

The adventure continues…

#17 Cheve

Didn’t know that because I wasn’t interested in III anymore after finding I and II extremely boring. IV – VI have pride of place in my collection though. Anyway, I might give it a try then, as imo Spielberg’s capable of spicing up an otherwise mediocre film.

Excellent article, Anthony!

Spielberg didn’t edit the end fight for Ep. 3, he worked on the animatics of it.

“Targeting PG-13 rating”

God, I hate the pg-13 rating. It’s like they want everything to be tough so they can say to people “You better think twice before bringing your kids!”. That’s not what I recall Star Trek to be about.

@26 – I think you’re over reacting a little bit. Spiderman was PG-13. If the enterprise fires one photon torpedo it would be PG-13.

Ratings have changed since the earlier movies. If Wrath of Kahn were re-rated today it would *definitely* be PG-13.

“God, I hate the pg-13 rating. It’s like they want everything to be tough so they can say to people “You better think twice before bringing your kids!”. That’s not what I recall Star Trek to be about.”

Dude chill out.

@26 come to think of it, all the original movies would be rated PG-13 today, except for Motion Picture.

#29… today, ST:TMP would be rated NA for No Action.

Sounds great! I do believe more in the “spirit” of the law rather than the “letter” of it, so it sounds like they’re finding the real “essence” of what makes Trek work, not getting the EXACT look of a 40 yr old TV show. As for Nimoy “transferring the soul” of the show to the production; shouldn’t they have called it the “katra?” Kidding! Anyway, judging from the sneaked photos of the shuttle interior and other bits, I really get what they mean by a more “real” Star Trek. Very exciting. And casting Kirk WOULD be a daunting challenge, I imagine. Few characters in pop culture are as often imitated or parodied as Shatner’s Kirk. Comedians have made careers out of it! And a good actor has to walk that thin line between the familiar and making the role his own! Good luck, Chris Pine (eerily close to Chris Pike)! And I agree, #27, Khan would definitely get a PG-13 today.

***”…and by director Steven Spielberg who was impressed with the script”***

Did I miss this one before? I know other people have said the script is good, but before now I didn’t know that Spielberg saw the script and commented favorably. That is encouraging, since Speilberg knows a thing or two about films.

Isn’t it fun how Steven Spielberg has readed the script and William Shatner hasn’t?

I must insist. I honestly believe this is due to his absolute inhability to keep his mouth shut and/ or/ a secret.

And we have to Wait till May 9th of 2009 still little more then a year away Oh man, based on what i have read this going to be very very hard wait.

Just wanted to add this line:

“Star Trek will make the Trek universe ‘feel real in a way it never has before’ ”

warms the cockles of my heart!

The adventure continues…

Star Trek TMP….I still think this was one of the best Star Trek Movies so far….for me, it really captured the Star Trek spirit. This movie is completely underrated . I think it did for Star Trek in the seventies what I hope STar Trek XI will do for Star Trek nowadays: Give it a big boost in the right direction. Why do most Star trek fans hate Star Trek TMP? Because it had no “action”? I really don’t get it. TMP was really a movie about characters. But most of all, a movie about Spock. He was in the focus of the Story. Just as he will be the focus of the Story in Star Trek XI (as far as we can know with all the secrecy.

#33 Agreed! As for Shatner’s loose lips, I refer to the “Shatner talks about life on Mars” thread earlier that caused a real tempest in a teacup. I half expect a government agent from the Total Recall universe to drag him away, saying, “You blabbed, Shat! You blabbed about Mars!” Kidding! And if Spielberg gave the new script a thumbs up, well….the man who gave the world my favorite action movie, “Jaws”, can’t be wrong! All the signs for this movie are so good, it’s hard to be cautiously pessimistic anymore!

#35 Right…this sentence strikes me too….great stuff ahead…we never needed a next generation on screen…. we need it behind the scenes…..
I wish the best of luck to JJ, Robert Orci and the rest of the staff and crew

…and to Leonard Nimoy of course….

#36. Mark, I respectfully disagree. It was the LACK of character drama that was one of the main issues with TMP. If you never watched TOS, you would not know who ANY of those characters were based on TMP alone. And it really did not push the franchise in the right artistic direction, because many in the production team were changed afterward, thus the whole look and feel (and direction) of the sequels was radically different from TMP. If you meant a FINANCIAL push in the right direction, then I agree. TMP did make a lot of money in those days, thus ensuring the survival of the movie series. But artistically, the sequels were a 180 from TMP. And yes, I did enjoy TMP on a visual and aural level, but to me it tried to be more 2001 than Star Trek (not to knock 2001; it’s my favorite sci-fi film of all time). Let’s hope JJ Abrams and Co. do better!

– Star Trek will make the Trek universe ‘feel real in a way it never has before’ –

As far as Orci’s referring to the much higher advanced level of filming technology, special effects, etc. – stuff that nowadays is indispensable to make something seem “real” – then he is certainly right.

With respect to intriguing ideas and visions, coherent character interaction, lively plots, and a one-of-a-kind chemistry – in short, the ingredients which eventually characterize the ST universe, it can’t get any better as far as I’m concerned. It always felt perfectly real.

The analogy of “strict contructionist” versus “sprit of the law” only works if you think the United States Constitution lacks a “strict” interpretation (i.e., The Congress shall have Power…To provide and maintain a Navy”) or think the Amendment process does not allow for a “spirit of the law” revision to take place (i.e., Amendment 18-Liquor Abolished versus Amendment 21-Amend.18 Repealed). Or ask how a “strict constructionist” might interpret Amendment 13-Slavery Abolished versus a “spirit of the law” interpretation? I think I would rather assume a strict constructionist view (slavery IS abolished) rather than argue about whether a “living, breathing constitution” meant only black slavery was intended!

Seems it would be better to assume that where the Constitution is rather clear in its pronouncements we should follow it to the “letter” (that is, not create new “laws” that go beyond the simple statement before us such as a president serving only 4 year terms–not 5 or 6 because we think the founding fathers might not have thought about a sitting president being in the middle or a war or extremely likable by the “majority”) but the Constitution does allow a lot of freedom to live out the “spirit of the law” (that is, “The Congress shall have Power…To establish Post Offices” but we are not told how this is accomplished merely that Congress gets to do it–with as much creativity as the Constitution allows!).

In this latter manner, I think Abrams and company have a lot of freedom to be creative and still be within canon much like Manny Coto was attempting during season four of Enterprise. Plus, if they only accept the TV series and movies as canon there is a rather large universe for them to play in that does not violate either a “strict constructionist” view or doesn’t allow them to move forward with a “spirit of the law” interpretation of the canon!

For the nitpickers I am sure there will be something but for the rest of us who enjoy a good story over the ability to keep every “jot or tittle” (New Testament reference for minutiae) in place–well, I am just going to trust the integrity of the Abrams team to accomplish that and vote them out of office if they fail. :)

I’m a strict constructionist — both in my U.S. Constitution and my Star Trek! For example, I think Americans have the right to own muskets so they can serve in their state militia and protect themselves from other states’ incursions, and those pesky Indians. ;-)

I’m sure I’ll enjoy the movie, but I admit I’ll be one of those guys who delights in reading the online lists of all the continuity violations. It’s part of the fun!

Scott B. out.

So, if my wife Ping asks me to direct the next Star Trek movie, the job is mine? Oh, boy!

Ben Stiller visited the set? I hope they had the seat covers on the E that day. Really, not a selling point.

I’m very glad to hear that they are not married to canon. I know they’ll respect the ideas, but I don’t care if they flub the starbase numbers or duplicate the exact shade of green on the orion slave girls’ heinies. (You said it’s PG-13)

Sounds good! Still want more photos. C’mon, Speed Racer crap is everywhere. You can practically build the key scenes by re-cutting all the ads. ONE little pic of the full E. Puh-leeeeeze.

#36 Mark SMP dragged a bit and had some script and story Issues, but it was definitely an entertaining film. Its visuals even by todays lofty standards still looks stunning. The director of the Film Robert Wise who did another great scifi film The Day the Earth Stood Still, gave the film its larger then life look and feel. Of all the Trek films this is by far the only one that best exemplified the trek philosophy

Spielberg liked the script and to me that is high praise.I think based on everything that I am reading, that this film is going to great and it may end up being the best trek film ever.

So awesome – can not wait til December. I mean – d’oh! – May of NEXT FRIGGIN YEAR! Unfair!!!

Re Spielberg – he and Abrams must be quite chummy – in the commentary track of Cloverfield, Matt Reeves says that Spielberg got to see a very early cut and made “suggestions.”

” Any changes would be done after much consideration and ‘no differences will be from ignorance’ of Trek lore.”

I’m glad to hear this. It’s the correct approach to updating a franchise – make changes not just for the sake of change, but because it makes a hell of a lot more sense that way.

So, this means that it was a conscious decision to make the arrowhead insignia a universal Starfleet symbol (as seen on Aint It Cool’s pictures of a Starfleet Academy shooting) instead of USS Enterprise assignment patch, right?

#45 – re Robert Wise – remember he also directed the Andromeda Strain – another SF classic (but very slow by today’s standards.)

#49 Interestingly enough he also directed The Hindenberg and if you look at the opening sequences of that move when they show the airs ship being built the style and visual cues have an interesting similarity the rebuilding of the Enterprise.