Comic Con 08: Exclusive Interview – Lindelof Gives A Star Trek Production Update

Star Trek producer Damon Lindelof was at Comic Con to promote Lost as well as participating a couple of other panels. TrekMovie caught up with the prolific writer/producer after he finished moderating the Always Sunny in Philadelphia panel and he gave us a breakdown on where things are with Trek and also talked about the film’s humor, the appeal to TNG era fans, Nero’s ear, and more.


Comic Con 2008 Interview with Star Trek producer Damon Lindelof So Damon, can you give us a production update? Where are you on your timeline?

Damon Lindelof: We are still cutting the movie, getting effects from ILM, and we are going to show the movie to the brass at Paramount, probably by the end of the month. We are really, really, really excited about what we got. I think the movie really works. Then I think we are just going to be putting effects shots in. It is one of those things where we have stayed on the schedule to get the movie ready for Christmas, so we are going to be sitting on it for a while. JJ [Abrams] said his first cut is almost done, but [executive producer] Bryan [Burk] says very few effects shots are done. So the next five months is all about the effects? 

Damon Lindelof: I think the thing about an effects shot and Trek, in terms of all the elements that are going on, yeah some effects shots are partially done, so if you are looking at a viewscreen you see space out there. But it is not fully rendered space, nor are there any elements, the planets are only — it is like every iteration is sort of like you are watching Michelangelo sculpt David. It is a block, then it is slightly starting to take human form, then ‘oh my god.’ It is just that nothing is ‘done done’ because of the sheer size of it — it is why you didn’t see the robots in Transformers until six weeks before the movie came out. At the TCAs JJ talked about how this movie is ‘real’, and he said it was ‘not kitschy’ and I think one of the actors recently said it was ‘not cheesy’ or something like that. So does that also mean ‘not funny?’

Damon Lindelof: No, not at all. I think when we use a word like ‘cheesy,’ the Original Trek series was bound by certain budgetary limitations, so it looked silly at times. The sets were unrealistic, the costumes, there is a fine line between a well-executed episode of Trek and one that is cheesy on a production level. But "Trouble With Tribbles," which should be cheesy, just given what they look like, is actually a Trek classic. I think the reason that is, is because it is funny. It doesn’t feel like they are poking fun at themselves. The movie has a real sense of humor. I think Kirk has a great sense of humor. I think Bones has a great sense of humor. Every scene with that [Simon] Pegg is in is laugh-out-loud funny. But the stakes are real. The fact of the matter is that these guys are in a version of the military, so they take their jobs very seriously. So you to find the humor as organically as you can. I know you are a huge Next Gen fan. By the way, I loved "The Constant" which you told me was your homage to the Next Gen finale, and in fact I emailed both Brannon [Braga] and Ron Moore that quote from you and they got a kick out of it….

Damon Lindelof: …oh good, I always plead guilty to wholesale thievery. So as a big Next Gen fan–you know that some fans prefer the Next Gen era shows–so is this film for them too, even if they don’t like The Original Series?

Damon Lindelof: I think for us, it is mostly about capturing the world of Trek. A world in which there is a Federation of Planets. The characters are sort of interchangeable in that world. For me, I would get into a very lengthy debate with someone who says ‘I love The Next Generation, but I hate The Original Series.’ Why is that? Both of those shows function in the same universe, abide by the same rules, are set in a future that is optimistic and adventurous, and they are exploration shows. So I would have hard time saying to them ‘if you liked Deep Space Nine, you probably won’t like our movie, but if you liked Voyager you will like our movie.’ You can’t separate the shows out as far as I am concerned. I have seen more Next Gen episodes than I have seen of The Original Series, just because I was more into it and when I was growing up Next Gen was on. So the question of the week is, since you put out those new posters, what is up with Eric Bana’s ear?

Damon Lindelof: Oh the piece that is missing? You will see in the movie.


Lindelof shows his Trek cred at Comic Con 2008


Bonus Video: Lindelof Talks Time Travel (on Lost)
[Lost Spoilers] As mentioned above, the last time TrekMovie talked to Damon, he said that he thought the TNG episode "All Good Things" was the best series finale of all time, and that this season’s episode of Lost "The Constant," was an homage to "All Good Things." That episode of Lost firmly established time travel as a story element within the world of Lost. The subject of that episode and time-travel came up during a panel discussion with a number of TV showrunners earlier at Comic Con. Below is video of Lindelof (and co-showrunner Carlton Cuse) talking about hard it was putting "The Constant" together and how he feels there can’t bee too much time-travel on TV.


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All this post Comic-Con hype is driving me crazy. I’m SO glad they’re still effectively doing a slow-burn for their publicity machine.

I wouldn’t be able to last till May otherwise.

Thanks Anthony!

Someone went Mike Tyson on Nero!!!

I wish he had at least seen all the episodes of TOS before becoming producer of the Star Trek film, which is about TOS. Troubling.

I think we are very lucky that these men are fans and not only care about Trek, but also the product they are putting out.

take all the time you need getting those effects right , guys. if the story, script & film is everything they say it is AND the TrekEffects make us all wanna build model Enterprises after seeing it, then you are solid gold.

On a side note, thoufh I love all Trek, I am a TOS man. that being said, I am currently watching the last 10 or so episodes of DS9 and dang DANG are they good. I almost forgot how amazing they were.

Nah. There are about ten or fifteen TOS episodes that are reasonably necessary.

I did it.

Directed at #2 BTW.

I trust this guy. He knows his trek – and he knows what audiences want as well. He’s perfect to bridge the gap between you’re every day trekkie and you’re every day movie going consumer.


damn it – *your

Dennis#6- Sacrilege! You must go to the Guardian of Forever and ask forgiveness, or no decent Orion slavegirl will want to be seen with you.

Yankee hat. Not good.

In the words of Seinfeld, “If you have character, you root for the Mets. If you need character, you root for the Yankees.”

Anyway, I’m sure he’s good.

#5. I’m a TOSer myself, and I always liked DS9. They were a messier bunch of folks than on TNG. That whole crew was too spic-n-span for me.

“I have seen more Next Gen episodes than I have seen of The Original Series, just because I was more into it and when I was growing up Next Gen was on.”

This quote is obviously going to make some die-hards wet their pants, but remember two things: As others have stated, Nicholas Meyer and Harve Bennett weren’t huge fans of TOS to begin with either, and they both did rather nicely with the movie material, regardless.

And point 2: How do we know that someone didn’t simply steer Lindelof away from the lousier episodes? Maybe he just focused on the classic and near-classic episodes only?

So it is confirmed that there is something missing from Nero’s ear. It is not just disfigured.

I guess I’d like the militaristic aspect to be de-emphasized. I prefer the seeking out new life and new civilizations part of ‘Star Trek’.

More military.

I trust this guy mainly because The Constant had me in tears. He knows a good story on Lost, why wouldn’t he know one in the Star Trek world?

Something definitely happens to Nero in regards to his ear, however, we only see one ear in the photo. If he actually has only one disfigured ear, odds are it was lost in a fight or accident somehow. However, if both are missing, I’d guess self mutilation.

I always liked the fact that TOS felt less military. As if we’d grown beyond that in the future.


Agreed. That’s a bit of an extreme statement.

While Lindelof hasn’t seen all of TOS, he does reference one of the best stories by its full title. That’s more than many folks could do, including some, I’m sure, who were involved in the production of previous Trek. Clearly he’s familiar with some of the good stuff.

But the stakes are real. The fact of the matter is that these guys are in a version of the military,,,

What ever happened to the five year mission of,,”seek and Explore”

We come in peace,,,(shoot to kill men)


Lindelof is a very, very talented guy whose career will only grow bigger with time. Once I heard that he and JJ were sheparding this film, I felt completely comfortable. I’m not worried in the least.

Since I’m more of a TOS guy(though I loved TNG) I’m very pleased they chose to go back to where it all started.

I liked that Mr. Lindelof demonstrates an appreciation of Star Trek as an overall fictional world in which the various series take place. His comment about the movie being, in part, about “capturing that world” is rather reassuring. Good stuff!

Also meant to say – “The Constant” is one of the best hours of TV I’ve seen in forever. I was a total wreck at the end. Those of you who don’t watch “Lost” absolutely must.

DS9? Seriously? How can you compare the Ferengi and friggin Odo to Klingons & Spock and Borg & Data? I welcome the flamers when I declare DS9 is only barely canon.

Take that!


I can understand it if DS9 is not your cup, but be honest; how much of it did you watch? And if you watched it, could you please fill us in on the basis of your undefined character comparison? That statement is roughly like saying “Bebop? Seriously? How can you compare The Jazz Messengers and friggin’ Sonny Stitt to Led Zepellin & Zappa and Yes & Santana?”

Your grab for attention… is most illogical.

DS9 was okay. The show was pretty war happy there at the end. I’m glad TNG didn’t feel the need to destroy the entire universe every episode.

DS9 just wanted to show a realistic aspect to the trek universe.
Just because everyone was best friends and there was never much threat of war in TOS doesn’t mean it couldn’t of happened.

I think the Dominion War was a necessary story arc that showed how far the federation was willing to go in order to preserve its ideals and values. If the federation had “grown beyond being military” it would NEVER have survived past the solar system!

The thing that was lame about DS9 was Sisko becoming the prophet at the end. It didn’t really add anything to the story. Dukat and Sisko wrestled. Dukat’s dieath was anticlimatic. Now, if Sisko became a prophet and saved Earth and the Federation, the story would have been a lot better because the focus was on Sisko becoming a hero for Bajor and DS9.

Some of you guys think one dimensional and don’t consider all sides or possibilities to what they mean, especially with the term “military.” It’s possible this an alternate timeline, that Starfleet perhaps IS a military, or he was using the term loosely, etc. Just best not to take every little single thing so literal and try to over analyze it in the face of little context. Perhaps some forgot J.J.s comments about hope, etc?

Some could even tell you the military offers opportunities like what Starfleet did, and some joined the military because of Star Trek, namely engineers, etc.

#3—Did you say that about Bennett too, or just Lindelof?

#29—No it did not, but it sure could bore me to tears.

You Know, Starfleet had many functions. One of its more important ones was defense. It was all well and good to consider it primarily the Federation’s exploration arm, that is, until a D-7 Battlecruiser showed up or a Romulan BOP started wiping out Earth outposts with a deadly plasma weapon. Let’s not be quite so “revisionist” in what Starfleet was in the beginning. Starfleet had military characteristics from top to bottom—in its command structure, its terminology, traditions, discipline, and much of its purpose. Like the European ship masters of the 15th and 16th Century, Starfleet captains were explorers, diplomats, and soldiers.

While Orci and Lindelof have both confessed to being bigger TNG-era fans, they are also smart enough to come to the realization that a movie of this scale could only be centered around the iconic TOS characters. It still might not garner enough interest from the mainstream moviegoers to justify its budget, but the only way it has a chance to is by featuring Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty, and the other classic characters. Say what you will, but the characters never again got that good, and the writers and the guys at Bad Robot are smart enough to get that.

Gary Seven…what do you mean he needed to see ALL the episodes of TOS? Great, let’s insist he watch space hippies, idiot barbie dolls who steal Spock’s brain, and attorney Melvin Belli attempting to act.

I was hoping we’d learn when the next trailer will debut. That’s what I’m most concerned with (well that and hearing how the execs like their screening next month).

Perhaps the next trailer will be with David Fincher’s next film for Paramount?

You people are aware that there are only 79 episodes of TOS, while there are about 100 more of TNG, are you?
So even if he’d seen every single episode of TOS there’d be a good chance he’s seen more TNG, simply because there are more episodes available.

What’s wrong with the military?

The shows always had something of a military feel. There is a chain of command, people can and are Court Martialed. They hold Navy rank. There is a lot of “yes sir,” “no, Sir,” etc. being said. They all have regulation uniforms. They have regulation haircuts. And from time to time, the have been involved in wars. There was never any mention of the Marine Corps (sorry, for mentioning them first. I’m biased) or Army, etc.

They are a form of the future military. And there isn’t anything wrong with that, in my book. Grant it, they are in a very, very relaxed military. (or else we would probably know very few first names. And every officer higher in rank would simply be called sir. Never by their rank to their face.)

A future without a military of any kind is not my idea of a wonderful, hopeful future. That’s just living in a unrealistic world. Because no matter how many races they meet, and are friends with, there is always aliens like the Borg.

What concearns me–not really that much though, is that Damon Lindelof says he doesn’t see a major difference between TOS and the spin offs. There is a huge difference. That’s why I like TOS and don’t care for TNG and most of Voyager. DS9 was alright. And I am probably one of a few who likes Enterprise. Even when they went to war.

Jeff said: “Great, let’s insist he watch space hippies, idiot barbie dolls who steal Spock’s brain, and attorney Melvin Belli attempting to act.”

LOL. I’m a huge TOS fan, but yeah, some of the TOS shows are, umm, less good than others. Yaaaaay, brother! But really, what other ’60s sci-fi shows stand up as well as TOS? Lost in Space? Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea? Time Tunnel? Land of the Giants? (Yes, I’m so old that I saw all those on first run. In black and white. On a CRT with vacuum tubes.)

The best sci-fi, though it’s sometimes set in the future, is usually an extrapolation of current culture. It reflects the society from which it came. TOS was produced in the ’60s so we got hippies, mini skirts, and women more or less trapped in their traditional gender role with varying amounts of clothing. And more than a little cold war paranoia.

The new movie will need to connect the early 21st century audience to the 23rd century in a meaningful and entertaining way. I’m sure J.J. and crew will be able to do that.

37. There’s nothing wrong with the military. But Starfleet is an organization of exploration as well as of defense, so it’s not comparable to today’s navies. In TNG, Picard and Riker emphasized several times that the primary mission of the Enterprise is exploration, not defense. But we’ve also seen other ships which were primarily on patrol duty.
So Starfleet is for exploration and defense and it has a military structure, like if you were to fuse NASA (congrats again) and the US Navy.

I prefer to see the science and exploration of Starfleet, simply because there’s so much military SF around, and it’s all basically the same stuff, but I like to watch something that is exceptional, not “enemy battle cruisers detected, fighters launched” over and over again.

#38 Jackson Roykirk

Sadly, the Movie will probably refelect our ‘terroristic’ times no doubt….rather than the exploration of the mysteriously, inexplicably ‘unknown’….but I’m sure it will still be dramatic.

However, It looks like they’re keeping the mini skirts, which is good.

I never had the impression, TOS was much about the military, nor was TNG. Starfleet was shown more like the Royal Navy in 1805 (the era the Hornblower adventures takes place). It’s military, but it is nothing like Starship Troopers or BSG. Starfleet is for exploration and defence and not only for defence and even first strikes like our present day navys.

Starfleet’s ships are not called battleships, carriers, cruisers or destroyer. Only the USS Defiant in DSN was called a “warship”.

The stuipid and unnecessary things like haircut regulations came first up with TWOK and later with VOY (the episode Tuvok tries to make some Maquis into starfleet officers.)

I guess, Lindelof just mean with military, that Kirk & Co takes their job serious as officers and not sail out for making some fun in space.

6. & 14. If he only saw episodes recommended to him by other, bigger, fans then he’d get a sense of the best of that universe at that particular point. But it is good to have bigger, more obsessed fans like Orci on board to serve as sort of a check and balance in this Supreme Court. That way he can have an idea for something, but if Orci says, “No in ‘For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky’ McCoy said X so we can’t do that,” then everything’s cool.

Oh, I meant to say – “Every scene that [Simon] Pegg is in is laugh-out-loud funny.”

EVERY scene? Lord, I hope they haven’t made ‘Scotty’ into a total buffoon in this reboot, with (English Brit) Simon wearing a kilt, getting drunk, and fighting with anyone who complains!

I hope there’s a BIT of moderation where the ‘Scotty’ character is concerned, as he also commanded great respect where his leadership qualities were concerned, throughout the originals….as well as conveying a necessary seriousness at times. I sure hope those were some of the episodes that Damon, and some of the others involved, watched….

Fingers crossed, as I certainly aint sure at this point.

#9 People thought the same thing about John Logan at one point and look what happened to Nemesis, it disgraced the greatest crew in this franchise.

The other thing is I do believe that the Royal Navy metaphor doesn’t preclude Starfleet from being very “military.” “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World” was very much about the tension between military objectives and scientific exploration, and I think “Star Trek” shares some of those themes.

TOS was certainly like that. In some episodes Kirk and Scotty were more often interested in the military and tactical applications of a particular thing whereas Spock and McCoy were interested in the social and scientific aspects of a particular adventure.

Of course I’m exaggerating the dichotomy to make a point, it was a much more blurry line between the two (for example Scotty was probably more interested in technical journals as in “The Trouble with Tribbles,” and Kirk really did want to help people overall though he did tend towards an arrogant belief that his was solution to solving the problems of a planet he was only familiar with over the span of a week, while Spock and McCoy were capable of feeling either cold or vengeful), but that’s also part of my point. All of these characters were flexible regarding that tension because they had to be. It was part of being a Starfleet officer. It was part of the mission of that branch of the UFP.

Gary #3 – I might be concerned if the writer or director hadn’t seen all the TOS canon, but I’m willing to cut some slack to the producer.

Captain Rickover, always the voice of reason.

Well the important thing is this, JJ and Nimoy CAN tell the difference between TOS and TNG. The differences are there and they are huge. Nimoy liked the script and JJ, a big fan of TOS, not to mention the classic Twilight Zone, is running the show.

So, despite Mr. Lindeof’s preference for TNG, I don’t think he’s blind to the fact that 24th century Trek and it’s repetiveness is the very era that ran the franchise into the ground. I’m not worried.

Although he really should watch more TOS, the costumes designs of Bill Theiss are classic and part of the of the series’ signature style and aesthetic.

43. Why would having every scene with Scotty be in it be hilarious mean that Scotty’s a buffoon? Isn’t a sense of humor a sign of intelligence? Maybe the way he copes in emergency situations is to make wisecracks or to find an unconventional solution to a problem. Ingenuity in engineering has been a hallmark of film comedy, especially in the silent era with stuff like Buster Keaton’s “The Electric House.”

Besides, characters like Han Solo, Indiana Jones, all of Simon Pegg’s characters, and hell, both Maxwell Smarts all were hilarious characters that were certainly no dummies, they just thought differently.

Just an idea about Nero’s ears…. I have a hunch that he self mutilated himself. Sort of a rejection of his Vulcan heritage kind of thing. Wouldn’t it be interesting if that is something that all Romulans have to do… a rite of passage.

#43—-Mr. Scott always had a sense of humor about him. He was always funny, just not in the way STV and TNG “Relics” (buffoon funny) portrayed him as being. It was more sarcastic, if not downright intelligent humor. He could wisecrack with the best of them.

There is no reason to believe he will be portrayed as buffoonish.