JJ Abrams Talks Trek Humor, Trek Purists and More

In a new interview with the LA Times Heroes Complex Blog, Star Trek director JJ Abrams talks in detail about how he approached the movie, what he thinks about hardcore ‘purists,’ why humor is important in Star Trek and more. Excerpts below.


Excerpts from LA Times

Abrams on approach to Star Trek vs. BSG, Star Wars, Bond, etc.

LA Times: As franchises move into new eras it’s interesting to watch how they change — or don’t change. "Battlestar Galactica" could hardly be more different than it was in the 1970s while "Star Wars" is essentially the same. With "Star Trek" you seem to be pursuing a revival like we’ve seen with Batman and James Bond, which holds on to core mythology but recalibrates the tone.

JJ Abrams: I think I benefited because I came into this movie as someone who appreciated "Star Trek" but wasn’t an insane fanatic about it. The disadvantage is I didn’t know everything I needed to know immediately at the beginning and had to learn it. The advantage though is I could look at "Star Trek" as a whole a little bit more like a typical moviegoer would see it; it allowed me to seize the things that I felt were truly the most iconic and important aspects of the original series and yet not be serving the master and trying to be true to every arcane detail. It let me look at the things I knew were critical.

Abrams on hardcore fans

LA Times: You know that no matter what you do, you’ll get an earful from hardcore fans.

JJ Abrams: The key is to appreciate that there are purists and fans of "Star Trek" who are going to be very vocal if they see things that aren’t what what they want. But I can’t make this movie for readers of Nacelles Monthly who are only concerned with what the ship’s engines look like. They’re going to find something they hate no matter what I do. And yet, the movie at its core is not only inspired by what has come before, it’s deeply true to what’s come before. The bottom line is we have different actors playing these parts and from that point on it’s literally not what they’ve seen before. It will be evident when people see this movie that it is true to what Roddenberry created and what those amazing actors did in the 1960s. At the same time, I think, it’s going to blow people’s minds because its a completely different experience than what they expect.

Abrams on critiques of the footage shown in November

LA Times: In the footage you showed at the Paramount lot I was really struck by the comedic touches. There was a humor that felt natural and exuberant … there was also some vamping moments for your cast.

JJ Abrams: Yeah, among the kind of anecdotal critiques I read online some people said ‘Oh, look at this, they’re trying to sex it up,’ by having Kirk in bed with a girl or Uhura undressing, and they said, ‘Oh that’s not ‘Star Trek.’ Other people wrote, ‘Oh there’s comedy in it, that’s not ‘Star Trek’ I know.’ Look, if you actually watch the show, that show was always pushing buttons all the time and was considered very sexy for its time. It had the first interracial kiss on television and it was a show that was sexually adventurous. And it was very funny. One of my favorite things about "Star Trek" wasn’t just the overt banter but the humor in that show about the relationships between the main characters and their reactions to the situations they would face; there was a lot of comedy in that show without ever breaking its reality. That’s important to us.

Go to the LA Times to read much more from Abrams on the new Star Trek.


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Good stuff!

wow interesting

Smart, well-intentioned guy. Good choice for the captain’s chair.

I agree, it’s good to have the look from a non hard-core fan on Star Trek.

And… I don’t care what the engines will look like! :-)

If they kill Porthos, i’m going ape shit.

Hear hear!

My “Hear hear!” was directed toward JJ’s comments, not 5. Mazz Nx01 –
“If they kill Porthos, i’m going ape shit.”

Btw, it’s highly unlikely that Porthos was ‘Admiral Archer’s prize beagle’ mentioned since Porthos woulda been long dead due to natural causes many, many decades before the ‘incident’.

I have always felt ST had humor. I wonder who was saying it didn’t or shouldn’t?

McCoy for one is a hoot. Some of his facial expressions were quite humorous. I miss DeForest Kelley.

IMO, it wouldn’t be ST w/o the humor.

#7 – Dogs live longer in the future.

Honestly, it sounds like Abrams has a prettygood take on it, and I say that as someone who’s been a hardcore trek fan since the very first showing of the very first episode.

However good or bad the movie is, there is no doubting that these are talented and conscientious people involved,

Star Trek isn’t about the actors or the ship (they’re merely the vessel that has made Star Trek as popular as it is today), it’s about presenting a view of humanity that makes people really stop and look at themselves and the world around them. Star Trek reminds people of their weaknesses as human beings while at the same time always challenging men and women alike to make this world a better place.

I’m pretty sure JJ gets that. Let’s hope others allow themselves to see that optimistic future as well.

I don’t know what to think.

I am really looking forward to this movie. I have heard differing views about the alleged “alternate universe” plot and how everything will fit and make sense with “what has come before.” Am I a purist? I loved Battlestar Galactica as a kid. A lot. And I love the new BSG even more. So I don’t think of myself as being a “hardcore purist.”

I do want this new Trek film to be successful and for me to love it. But I fear so much that I’m going to be disappointed. I have looked forward to this movie and followed it here since it was first announced. I now feel that this was probably the wrong thing for me to do since now nothing could possibly live up to my expectations. Too much build up.

I wanted to see things closer to what they were in TOS, albeit with updated effects, higher detail in the sets, and basically an upgrade to the new times. On many counts I think we will get that. The E sort of looks like the one in TOS. Sort of. And the uniforms do too. Sort of. I just want to know that the AU plotline will make sense to my view of this universe since I was 5 years old.

He’s right. There IS a lot of humor in Trek. And Trek is also very sexy in places. Those Skant uniforms have a way of showing those legs ;-)

Green Orion slave girls? A girl in every port? That IS a BIG part of the Original Series.

The fallacy with what Abrams said is:

Just because there are fans that appreciate consistency, that doesn’t make them “insane fanatics”.

So now we are attacking those that disagree.

Wow, are you that insecure JJ?

He has good points- but the proof is in the pudding. I hope it works, I really really do.

Great article. I have alot of faith and hope invested in this new movie. I’m very much looking forward to new (old) trek! As long as JJ is true to his word about focus on the characters, and retaining the “tone” of Star Trek, I think we’re in for a real treat this May. Bring it on!

oh, and #7, #9…could be Archer just likes beagles. I myself prefer collies. When my collie passes on, I’ll probably get another. Grew up with one too. I doubt if Porthos made it that far only to be left in transport limbo. But this is Star Trek…ANYTHING is possible…

Spot on JJ.

TOS was never about jokes and punchlines. It was the characters sense of humor, the situation and the actor’s timing and reactions. Good job JJ!

I think he truly understands the real meaning of Star Trek, something that I have a huge problem getting through to my family and friends!

15 – No. He’s acknowledging that there are those that will cry foul over tiny details that really don’t mean a hill of beans to the overall picture.

There is a level of fandom that will dismiss this movie because it does not match what they expect, or ideally want.

I’ve seen that kind of fandom.

I think He has some great points. But If this Move fails then thats it for Trek as with all the Money they Spent and all the advertising and merchendising will all be for nothing.it looks as though the Movie will be great and I for one will be there opening Night and again the Next day at the Imax. J.J We all have faith that you made a Great Star Trek Movie.

I’m a huge supporter of this movie… but I have to admit some of the comedy and sight gags I’ve read about DO make me a little nervous.

There’s nothing wrong with sex or humor in Trek, as long as it doesn’t become juvenile (like the boob jokes in INS).

TOS had humor, but it wasn’t slapstick. Hopefully they won’t go overboard in the film.


No problem with comedy in Trek, but I am hoping they are not trying for Trek comedy. There are good examples of comedy in Trek which are entirely in accordance with the characters and universe (Trouble with Tribbles), then there’s bad examples at the EXPENSE of the characters like ST:V. Scotty knocking himself out was slapstick at his expense, not in accordance with the character. Scotty starting a fight over his ship but not his Captain- funny and completely in accordance with my favorite engineer.

23 – Trouble with Tribbles.

Let’s look at the big picture: There is an opportunity to bring in a whole new audience who’s never been exposed to ST, or never really gave it a second thought, as well as give the franchise at least another 20 years of potential life and do things that could not have been done given the SFX technology of the 1960’s. If I were king, would I forego that opportunity to placate the hardcore “I Grok Spock” crowd? Hell no!

I loved TOS, but you can chew on the original 78 episodes for only so long. . . .

Full speed ahead, warp-factor 10, J.J.!

You’re all right……..the movie will bomb big time w/ purist fans, so bipass the theatrical release completely and go direct to video! :)
And make sure it’s avail. only on vhs for under 14.95!

26 – I hear you.

#15:”So now we are attacking those that disagree.

Wow, are you that insecure JJ?”

He’s not attacking anyone. He’s making a fair observation.

He’s not the first close observer to make that kind of statement.

He’s probably not even the 15,000th to notice it.

Are you so insecure that seeing someone point out the obvious (again) feels like an “attack?”

porthos MUST have a cameo…i dont care how or why but PORTHOS MUST BE IN THIS!! looking at kirk or Bones with that ‘your stupid…Im not’ look he made his own

maybe porthos’ great grandson ‘Porthos the third’ would be bones pet or something…get the original dog from ENT too…let the reshoots begin (if porthos not already in it that is)

I didn’t get the impression that the TV show was as concerned with continuity except for an underlying humanistic optimism and familiar enough settings+devices that the audience could focus on the stories without distraction. The stories in Star Trek (TOS) were great. Who gives a rats ass about symmetric warp coils?

This is one of JJ’s least annoying interviews, IMO.

31: “I didn’t get the impression that the TV show was as concerned with continuity”
No big deal, since TOS created the legacy in the first place.

#31- could it be argued that a character’s backstory or at least behavior being consistent is the only continuity which matters? That was typically consistent throughout TOS even when things like UESPA and Starfleet weren’t. Or, is the story more important, so a character’s behavioral patterns can be sacrificed to make a good story? I don’t pose this in an adversarial fashion, I am honestly interested in viewers’ and fans’ opinions on what the acceptable level of change is for story… It’s not like it didn’t happen on pre-JJ Trek (how many personalities did Janeway exhibit to fit a particular story?).

So he has a built in excuse for chucking out 40 years of history and back story just so he can make his Trek version of Star Wars. THere are certain iconic images is SciFi, things like Robby the Robot or the Monolith or the TIE and X-Wing fighters that are synonymous with the mythology that they belong to. The Enterprise (NCC-1701) is one of those iconic forms and the radical redesign of not only it’s basic form (I’m referring to the bloody warp engines JJ) but to it’s very construction isn’t needed and slaps those of us who have stuck with this brand through odd and even movies and, God help us, Enterprise in the face.

i watched the ST2 bonus features and everything JJ says feels and sounds almost verbatum of harve bennett and Nick Meyers….they get it, werent crazy fans but understand how to make what we love about ST shine and continue.

And just think. All will be revealed in less than 100 days.

One thing I am looking forward to more than anything is being able to share my love of Star Trek with more people. This is a Trek that my wife says looks interesting to her and will want to go see with me. She WANTS to see this movie. However she doen’t usually stick around when I put on TOS. If the movie’s good, I may round up some family and friends who might not normally go to a Star Trek movie…and they might have a better chance of enjoying it than if I had tried to take them to a previous Trek. I went to Nemesis with someone who FELL ASLEEP halfway through! I’m excited about Star Trek, in all its 40+ years incarnations, and I want people to be able to share that, and enjoy it and maybe get something out of it they can’t get out of TOS for whatever generational or cosmetic reasons or what have you.

JJ said in the interview: “The reason that it works […] is that I and people who have seen it have walked away feeling that these are the characters. There’s a transition that happens.”

I agree. The essence of Star Trek is really in this movie, and you can feel the dedication of the team everywhere. The Pasers are not black or blue but shiny, the ships nacelles look strange, but this movie is pure Star Trek.

Abrams speaks a lot of sense here, it’s good to have someone like him at the helm – someone with the vision and the direction but also not a rabid fan of Star Trek which clouds so many fan’s heads at times.

I am going into this movie ,
not expecting to be dissapointed.
If I am dissapointed ,
I will deal with it then.
But I am not going to assume its a foregone conclusion that I will be dissapointed.
I am really looking forward to the film.

#15—“Just because there are fans that appreciate consistency, that doesn’t make them “insane fanatics”.

So now we are attacking those that disagree.

Wow, are you that insecure JJ?”

Wow, John. I don’t think that JJ is the “insecure” party in this equation.

And if anyone should be complaining about being attacked for having a different viewpoint, I think it’s Mr. Abrams. That’s been going on since day one. But he isn’t. He has accepted the inevitable—that not everyone is going to love everything about it.

Personally, I think you’re digging a little deep for something to hit him over the head with in this interview.

I hate to say it, but the average movie-goer will look at the Enterprise and see the Enterprise. It has the smae basic design and the different is on the details, which they won’t really care about. As long as it feels like real Trek, and the characters are right, that’s what counts in the long run. I’d rather have a smash hit like it is, than a slavishly-recreated and cramped TV show look on the big screen that only draws the die-hards.

#42—Forget the average moviegoer. I recognize it immediately. Sure, as a longtime fan, I see the changes. But there was never a chance that I was going to mistake it for another ship. I have no problem seeing this as the Enterprise that carried my favorite characters on their five year mission.

You’re absolutely right about what really counts.

Speaking of being nit-picky…

I’m guessing that “Maysell’s Monthly” was supposed to be “Nacelle’s Monthly”, given that the hypothetical nerd would have been upset about a change in the engine design?


Huh, what? I was reading Maysell’s Monthly.
Hey — your nacelle caps are wrong, fella! Fix that before May 8th!

37 – your lucky they just fell asleep during nemesis…the ‘friend’ i persuaded to go along with me to Nemesis (i dont like going to the pictures alone) WALKED OUT halfway through..he said ‘thats it!’ during a talky bit with shinzon then stood up and took off (cinema was nearly empty) leaving me there…….alone :(

i had to talk him into it in the first place as he wasnt a trek fan at all and only agreed to go after i swore i knew for a fact it was a great film, the best one yet, had good reviews, had Patrick ‘X Men’ Stewart etc…looking back i was lucky – he could have quite rightly punched me in he face as hard as he could for having blatantly lied to him like that…leaving me unconscious for the remainder of the film….being left slumped there after the credits to be discovered by an usher muttering ‘not another one’ under his breath

Abrams: “They’re going to find something they hate no matter what I do.”

Not true. I’m not going to hate your product if you do it right….and you aren’t even trying.

Who the heck said there isn’t humor in Star Trek. Even Sisko had a good laugh – “I’m not Picard!” after he knocks down Q.

This list is crawling with nattering naybobs of negativism towards the movie. Sometimes it really hard to take. I’m sue JJ is to the point (and has been for a long time) where he just shakes his head at some of the comments made here and on other fanboy sites.

Hell, I though underwriters were a humorless bunch…

I think Trek is much bigger than what Gene expected. The existing “whole” is much greater than the sum of it’s parts.

Saying that he made changes because he knows he cannot please all the purists is a cop-out. His use of the word “finatic” is far too broad and includes those of us who live normal lives but who also believe there was a better solution for the art direction.

Needing to change things to make the “average movie-goer” happier is also a myth. If the average, non-Trek, movie-goer doesn’t know Trek, they won’t know where the changes are…therefore they would not have known what stayed the same. The only group pissed off with changes is the group that made Trek fandom what it is today. If the story, acting and Uhura bras are making them happy…then leave the Enterprise, Bridge, Tricorder, Phaser and communicator alone.

Comparing Trek to BSG is totally unfair. I could not even begin to tell you what a BSG blaster looks like. The Trek gear (and the SHIP) IS just as important to the Trek experience and Kirk’s sexual escapades.

It’s about the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. That’s the core. Reverence is the key. More of needed they.

He sounds pretty well right on the money I have to say.