Late last week over a couple of days Star Trek co-writer Roberto Orci dropped by one of the TrekMovie.com article comment threads and started an impromptu online chat/Q&A discussion. Today we present that as an easier-to-read Q&A. Plus Bob and his writing partner Alex Kurtzman have also agreed to continue the online fan discussion this week. Details below [SPOILERS]
Orci dives in to the comments and answers fan questions/concerns
The vast majority of visitors to TrekMovie.com just read the articles, but you can really miss out by not reading the hundreds of comments made here every day (even if you aren’t going to make your own). In the Tidbit article covering the WGA event that Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman attended, many fans began to comment about some of their questions, concerns and nitpicks about the Star Trek movie. And then, as he sometimes does, Bob Orci joined in and started answering questions.
Bob answered questions regarding clarifications of events in the film, aspects of various technologies and ships, and more. The biggest debate/discussion has been regarding the nature of the time travel and specifically how the alternative timeline presented in the movie relates to the original ‘prime’ timeline. To make it easier for regular readers, TrekMovie is posting the pertinent parts of the online discussion below in a Q&A format (broken into subject categories).
But first, Do you have a question for Bob & Alex?
TrekMovie has asked Bob if he and his writing partner Alex Kurtzman would want to continue to answer some fan questions and they agreed. So if you have a question, just post it in the comments section below. We ask that you focus on the Star Trek movie and treat this like Jeopardy by making comments in the form of an actual question. To make it easier for Bob and Alex, start your query by typing ‘QUESTION’. For example:
What rank was Scotty when Kirk and Spock Prime met him on Delta Vega?
Over the next week they will pop in from time to time and answer question and when this article rolls off the front page, TrekMovie write up a new article taking their comment section answers and put them into a new single Q&A article. They will try to get to as many questions as possible.
Wednesday UPDATE: Q&A over
After hundreds of submissions and answering as many questions as possible, the Q&A is now complete. Feel free to make comments, but no more new questions will be answered. TrekMovie will post a simple Q&A transcript soon.
TRANSCRIPT OF LAST WEEK’S Q&A WITH BOB ORCI AND TREKMOVIE.COM
The following is taken from the comments made over the last four days in the comments section of our Tidbits article from Thursday. The questions have been broken into categories. Note: where possible comments were ‘clipped’ to focus on the ‘question’ and spelling errors were fixed.
moauvian moaul: …How could Kirk and Scotty beam aboard the Enterprise from Delta Vega – half way across the galaxy? I know Spock gave Scotty the formula but, if they could transport at that range why the need for starships? Why a Star Trek to begin with? Am I missing something and wouldn’t that undermine most of the plots on ALL the various series and movies?
BobOrci: Interesting. We discussed that very question. The short answer is that it is entirely too dangerous. Scotty was almost killed, and we even had a line before they beam out where Scotty says, “If the calculation is off by even .oooooox (insert crazy number) we could end up 3 meters OUTSIDE the ship!” Remember, Spock Prime actually made the calculation. It’s possible there’s something key that he did not tell Scotty so that he could not reproduce the results. Interesting.
martin: When Robou (sp) goes to the shuttle bay, why does his very construction site looking elevator come down to the floor instead of coming up? Isn’t the shuttle bay at the top of the ship?
BobOrci: Oh-oh! Let me go study the matter and get back to you!:) I can’t remember now since the Kelvin is introduced mid-rotation — I can’t remember which way is up! Nice.
RaymondJ: …when the Kelvin and later the Enterprise are under attack, and the helmsmen claim “the shields are at 32%” for example, incoming debris and weapons smash the ship as though there were no shields at all. Shouldn’t they bounce off or be deflecting until the shields were no longer there?
BobOrci: I too miss the glow of the egg-shaped shields. I can’t fully speak for JJ on that one, but I can imagine that he felt it might have seemed TOO protective and somehow rob the scenes of the visceral danger of SPACE right out the window (as evidenced but the genius shot he came up with where a poor crew member gets sucked into SILENT SPACE. Shields seemed to get in the way of that, and I seem to recall conversations about different ways to think of the shields (sealing the hull damage) and providing some kind of electro-tension effect on the hull itself that increased it’s natural strength or something. Nonetheless, I feel ya!
STARFLEET’S MISSION/FEDERATION ETHICS
ety3: My only real concern with the film comes near the end when Kirk offers an olive branch, and Spock — almost jokingly — questions it. Not to get all high-minded and what-not, but isn’t Spock’s reaction antithetical to the peaceful exploration mindset that Starfleet is supposed to imbue in its members? If Spock had been flat-out angry about the olive branch, that would, at least, have made some sense, character wise. But to play it off as a joke?
BobOrci: I can understand that. Entertainment value weighs heavily there!
Matt Wright: One of my concerns with the film is the total glossing over of the fundamentals of what the Federation is and stands for. There is no dialog about the philosophy of explorations, tolerance, etc. “Humanitarian and peace keeping armada” sounds like some possibly very dangerous doublespeak that opens a can of worms about going after WMD’s, etc.
A second comment I have is that now with Vulcan gone there is a great chance to intelligently discuss what a people displaced from their home feel. This Diaspora could be used with great care and offer commentary on the current state of post-colonial peoples. DS9 did something somewhat similar with the Bajoran people very well.
BobOrci: So you agree there is one line at least, even if you don’t like it LOL! You’re right that It is a slight contradiction worthy of being labeled Orwellian double-speak. The question I would pose is, does that contradiction somehow reflect a truth or perception about power in our times?
As for exploration, the last line of the movie mentions that. But you are right that this movie is not about the exploration of the five year mission, it’s about what happened to get us there.
Agree with you about Vulcan. Juicy territory.
TIMING OF FILM EVENTS
VZX: How much time passed between the destruction of the Narada and Kirk getting his medal and becoming captain? I would prefer at least a year or two, as it would make a little more sense than a cadet automatically becoming captain, regardless of how many people he saved. It is just too hard to swallow and it kind of took a lot of believability away from the movie, making it even less realistic. I know you guys wanted to end with the movie with Kirk as captain and everyone in their place, but some line or two of explanation would have been nice.
BobOrci: There a are few subtle transitions in the movie that are purposely ambiguous to allow debate about how long things took to happen, like warping to Vulcan or the very thing you bring up in order to leave it in the eye of the beholder. But yes, we wanted to absolutely end with Kirk as Captain.
Jason: …what were the Vulcan’s doing in the ark — praying? Why no contact/no escape ship?
BobOrci: Bingo on the Katric Ark [in reply to Tim Thomason who stated "I bet the Vulcans (and Amanda) were doing something with the katras in the “Katric ark” while awaiting a rescue ship.’]
NIMOY v PINE ‘SPACE/FINAL FRONTIER’
Robogeek: Since, among other things, the movie was about Kirk’s (altered) origin and journey to the Captain’s chair of the Enterprise, did you not think it should end with us seeing and hearing him make That Speech for the very first time, as the perfect bookend/punchline/finale to the entire film? I have to admit I was surprised and disappointed that we didn’t get that moment (which I sort of felt the entire film was leading up to brilliantly). I was also a little mystified by the choice of having Spock Prime give the speech, since frankly that’s already been done to more powerful/resonant effect (at the end of Star Trek II).
Can you talk about this decision, and whether you considered (or even tried) having Chris Pine do the speech? And dare I ask if you ever considered asking Shatner to do it?
BobOrci: We certainly did consider all of the above as you would’ve. Ultimately, we felt that from a canon and fandom point of view, Spock Prime (Nimoy) had really made this voyage possible (literally within the plot and karmically through his support of the movie), and as such, he deserved to announce the “continuing voyages” which would’ve seemed odd for Pine to say since it’s his first real voyage. But we certainly debated it all at length . Fun stuff.
Robogeek: Why doesn’t Spock Prime try (or even want) to fix/restore the timeline, and save Vulcan?”
BobOrci: Two reasons: The RED MATTER Device is destroyed, so even if he wanted to go back in time, he can’t.
Secondly, our story is not based on the linear timeline of Einstein’s General Theory of relativity upon which most movies about time travel are based (like say, BACK TO THE FUTURE, or TERMINATOR, both of which I LOVE). The idea of a fixable timeline has been a wonderful staple of sci-fi since the 50’s, but in reading about the most current thinking in theoretical physics regarding time travel (Quantum Mechanics), we learned about the speculative theories that suggest that if time travel is possible, then the act of time travel itself creates a new universe that exists in PARALLEL to the one left by the time traveler. This is the preferred theory these days because it resolves the GRANDFATHER PARADOX, which wonders how a time traveler who kills his own younger grandfather would logically then cease to exist, but then he’d never be around to time travel and kill his grandfather in the first place. Quantum Mechanically based theories resolve this paradox by arguing that the time
traveler, in killing his grandfather, would merely split a previously identical universe into a new one in which a man who is his grandfather in another universe is killed in the new one. The time traveler does not cease to exist, although he is no longer in his own original universe (where he is now missing). Or something.
To summarize above on the time travel issue, going back in time is the equivalent of stepping into a parallel universe, according to current speculations based on Quantum Mechanics.
Starfleet and Spock, basing their decisions on this theory, would see that their is NO SUCH THING as “rectifying” the situation in a MULTIVERSE.
… and finally, my ace in the hole, a TEMPORAL PRIME DIRECTIVE.
RenderedToast: a Temporal Prime Directive that Spock Prime doesn’t seem too concerned about following…
BobOrci: He and Nero were sucked into the black hole against their will. Nonetheless, Kirk calls him on it, saying changing things is “Cheating…”
Vapad: Even though the writers say that this movie exists in an alternate timeline, nowhere do you get that impression when watching the movie, even Prime Spock refers to Vulcan as his Vulcan from his past timeline. After watching the movie I was enraged by the fact the Prime timeline had been changed/destroyed.
BobOrci: 2 things. First, see [above answer to Robogeek].
But more importantly, in the scene with the two Spocks, you may recall that Spock asks Spock Prime, “How did you persuade [Kirk] to keep your secret?” And Spock Prime replies, “He (KIRK) inferred that universe ending paradoxes would ensue…” In other words, he is saying that Spock Prime lead Kirk to ERRONEOUSLY believe that time travel worked like it has in the movies since the fifties, when in actuality Spock Prime knows there are no universe ending paradoxes in a multiverse. They are in a parallel reality, as Uhura said.
Dunsel Report: …my only thought about the time travel thing was whether you ever wrote a scene in which Nero finds out it’s impossible to fix the timeline? Since he’s a Romulan working Joe, you’d think this would be on his mind–until, perhaps, he kidnaps Spock, finds out there’s no way to save Romulus and then does the madman thing.
BobOrci: Interesting. I would argue that it’s equally possible that since Nero is from the future, he may be sufficiently acquainted with how reality works that he KNOWS there is no such thing as fixing the timeline… all he knows is that he watched his wife and world die as a result of the inaction/corruption of the federation. So he’s going to make the best of it by make those responsible pay not just for vengeance, but to rid THE UNIVERSE of what he considers to be a threat to the existence of his home world. And though he can’t ever meet his wife again, who is not even born, he can at least know that once she comes into existence, she will have A LIFE.
Vapad: When watching this film there, nowhere does it say or implied that it is a alternate timeline. It’s not there, and I think Bob is grasping for straws.
BobOrci: Uhura says it, and I quote, “An alternate reality.” To which Spock responds, “Precisely.” And then Kirk and Spock debate it, with Spock telling him that Nero’s actions, beginning with the attack on the Kelvin, have set them on a chain of events that neither side can predict because these are alternate events. But I will agree that it goes by so fast that you may need to see the movie, with friends, 20 or 390 times to really catch it.
Jean-Luc: Could you explain why a black hole created from a single drop of “red matter” can swallow a star, yet allow two spaceships to pass to the alternate universe without crushing them? Same thing with Vulcan – since the ships passed into alternate universe, should we assume that same thing happened with debris of Vulcan (i.e.. the black hole spit it into an alternate universe)?
BobOrci: In our research, we read some highly theoretical, but nonetheless learned stuff from Kip Thorne and Archibald Wheeler, and they talked about the fact that it surely is likely impossible for anything to ever escape death at the center of a black hole, but that POSSIBLY one could survive the fall into the singularity in a ROTATING BLACK HOLE by somehow avoiding the singularity through the topography of space created by the rotation (if memory serves). But you still can’t escape back into you’re own universe, you would avoid the singularity and be ejected into another universe/time. So that got us thinking that of course that would only work with a sufficiently advance vessel capable of surviving and navigating the extreme forces or in some other unknown way taking advantage of this theoretical loophole. Think of the debris of the planet as getting sucked into a whirl pool, and Spock’s ship is a boat/vessel that navigates around the whirlpool.
RD: …to ignore the fact that Prime Spock never traveled through time before to restore timelines in ST IV among others, basically ignores canon, in which case Prime Spock could be from any universe, not necessarily the one we’ve been watching in syndicated TV and feature films for 40 years.
BobOrci: Star Trek IV is an interesting case in that it is MORE consistent with the idea of a multiverse in the following way: Kirk and Spock travel to the past, take two whales, thus creating an alternate timeline in which those two whales (and a Marine Biologist) are missing. Our gang then returns to THEIR ORIGINAL UNIVERSE, and the whales tell the probe what to go do with itself. In a way, this is a less irresponsible interpretation, because otherwise, they are necessarily playing loosey goosey with interfering with their present by taking the potential grandmother of the doctor who cures cancer out of history and really changing their own universe! Kirk could in theory cease to exist by removing someone from the past. Not so in the multiverse.
Charles Trotter: The ‘Star Trek: Voyager’ episode “Q2″ established that Kirk’s five year mission in command of the Enterprise began in 2265 and ended in 2270. Was it your intention to have the alternate Kirk gain command of the Enterprise earlier than Prime Kirk, or do you think Prime Kirk could have taken command of the ship by that time in the Prime Universe?
BobOrci: Interesting question. Sounds like a good area of potential new fiction. I won’t bias it with my opinion.
Vapad: Maybe your concept of time travel in this film is too complicated for the casual viewer to grasp, when it has to be explained online from the author. Or I guess I’m to dumb and all my friends and family to grasp.
BobOrci: a movie should layers to be discovered, no? Although I really mean it when I say the movie goes by fast and I understand how things can streak by. On the other hand, the movies is designed to be enjoyed and understood just as well even given Kirk’s assumption, that time travel works like we all think it does.
Robogeek: Yes, I’ll of course grant you the red matter was destroyed — and I won’t even question what the hell red matter is, or where it came from ;-) — but there are clearly any number of other well-established methods of time travel available and known to Spock Prime that he could employ, and has even used before himself (the Guardian, slingshot effect, etc.). Plus, my question is not merely why he doesn’t restore/repair the timeline, but why he doesn’t even express any wish/desire/need/compulsion/obligation/necessity to, when circumstances seem to so clearly demand it. (Dude, you blew up Vulcan, and killed almost the entire race.)
I will also grant you that your intent was indeed for time travel in the film to be “quantum” and not “linear” (and that you’re not simply retconning), and I wholeheartedly respect, embrace and appreciate that choice — but my question is not about your intent, but your actual execution (or, to put it in Supreme Court terms, your final ruling of record, i.e. the film itself). In other words, if that’s what you intended, why didn’t you / the film just say so? Because you didn’t.
Given that the most clearly established and highly regarded precedents for time travel in both Star Trek (City on the Edge of Forever, Yesterday’s Enterprise, All Good Things, etc.) and Abrams’ other work (Lost) are Einsteinian/linear and not quantum mechanical, did you not also feel a particular/extra necessity/obligation to make it crystal clear in the film, and definitively manifest your intent? Because I’ve seen the film twice, and it pretty clearly indicates a single timeline has been altered and replaced with a new one. There is simply no evidence, information or argument presented within the film itself that the characters are in a parallel timeline/universe instead of a replacement timeline/universe. In my view, your intent wasn’t manifested.
Finally, if you can play the “Temporal Prime Directive” card, so can I — and I dare say mine trumps yours. It’s Spock Prime’s fault the timeline has been altered, so it’s clearly his primary responsibility (above everything else) to restore/fix/correct it at any and all cost. Furthermore, if you are going to claim a “Temporal Prime Directive” applies, are you not conceding that the timeline has indeed been altered, and that Spock Prime is not in a parallel universe but rather an altered timeline of his own making? I’m sorry, but you can’t have it both ways — even with quantum mechanics. ;-)
BobOrci: For those who care to truly analyze the movie, a parallel reality is clearly expressed both by the dialogue (Uhura) but more importantly by the plot and how the characters behave within it (like the fact that Spock talking to himself doesn’t interfere with his own existence, etc…). However, I understand for some it is a distasteful or unintuitive concept, and for those people, the movie works just as well if they think of it as linear. Just like the movie is both a prequel and a sequel, depending on your point of view.
Vapad: I took Uhura’s line as it’s an alternate reality from which they could of been in if Nero hadn’t changed the future.
BobOrci: What you’re saying is still true. From Uhura’s point of view, Nero has changed her future from what it would’ve been if he had never arrived.
Robogeek: I completely agree that a movie should have layers to be discovered. I think what I (and others) are saying is that there seems to be a crucial layer missing, which might be as simple as a single word. …Yes, Uhura says they’re in an _alternate_ reality, i.e. one that has been altered, and is different than the original Prime reality. But no one in the film ever says they’re in a _parallel_ reality / separate timeline that coexists with the original Prime one. That’s the problem.
BobOrci: And funnily enough we’ve been accused by some of dumbing it down.
Perhaps it could be clearer, but our goal in that scene is to get our scientists to talk as they would talk, and the fact that the Next Generation is still alive and well in another universe would not be their primary point of curiosity or concern. They would be concerned with what happens to them now. It’s more of an intellectual curiosity for the audience to ponder than for the characters, in my opinion. And as stated above, key characters behave in ways that can only be explained if they subscribe to the multiverse theory. I concede it could be clearer, but I will say it is exactly as clear as we wanted it to be. I’ll bet many more people enjoyed it than would’ve otherwise because they can see it either way.
Vapad: Exactly, it was never expressed they were in a parallel reality.
BobOrci: I concede that the word PARALLEL is not in the movie.
CaptainRickover: I honestly have to disagree about your time travel mechanics explanation. Even if it’s true that Quantum theory might be the right theory about time travel, it don’t work for Star Trek. Since TOS the timeline is considered as a linear process where you could go back and forth. Take First Contact for example. Picard and crew were able to watch on screen, how the timeline changed after the Borg travelled back in the 21st century. If that time travel would have created an alternate universe, Picard & Co. shouldn’t even aware that something has changed.”
BobOrci: I don’t disagree that we are breaking with SOME canon in the way we treat time travel. However, we are doing so purposely, in order to have our theoretical physics conform to the most current and sophisticated theories.
BrF: …There’s almost no major plot point that, after you think about it for five minutes, makes any sense. Most glaring to me were the incredible range of transporters now, and how it takes five minutes now to get from planet to planet.
BobOrci: Well, I would argue it’s slightly impressionistic to give the appearance of real time. For example, it seems as though Chekov immediately gives a ship-wide briefing and then Kirk immediately realizes it’s a trap and that they arrive at Vulcan in four seconds. But if you notice, when Kirk wakes up after hearing Chekov, BONES has completely changed into his blue uniform, indicating an undetermined passage of time.
BobOrci: (to no specific poster) For all those decrying fate, there is actually a quantum mechanical basis for the “fate function” in this film that we have discussed previously. In a multiverse where, as Data once said “anything that can happen, does happen, in a parallel universe…” there is a probability (a number) associated with each possible configuration. Those events that are most probable are theorized to occur more often in more similar universes. Thus, the idea that Kirk and Spock and Bones come together is merely an indication that the probability assigned to such an event is very high in the multiverse. Some may mistake this for blind fate.
Dan: Spock Prime could go back in time and stop Nero, like all the other ways they have done before in movies and TV shows in the past Trek lore, he doesn’t need Red Matter to only go back in time to stop Nero. It’s lame for Bob to say that Prime Spok can’t do time travel without Red Matter. When they could just fly around the Sun like he did in Star Trek IV, or Picard did in First Contact.
BobOrci: In our Universe, as long as I am here, you can’t just slingshot around the sun and linear time is a misconception from the middle part of the 20th century.. A good analogy for what we have done here would be to imagine we were rebooting the modern adventures of a sailor, who at the time that his stories were told, it was believed the earth was flat. Now, years later, here in the re-whatever, we know the world is round. So our story exists in a world where the world is now round, despite that being a “canon” violation.
GaryS: Was the timeline that Nero visited the original past up to the point that George Kirk is killed? Or was it always an alternate timeline because Nero was destined to travel there?
BobOrci: We think of it is as identical to the original until Nero arrives.
THAT’S IT FOR NOW – WHAT QUESTION DO YOU HAVE?
If you have a question for Bob and Alex, type it in below (preceded by ‘QUESTION’ to help identify it). It seems that the whole timeline thing has been covered pretty thoroughly so hopefully we can explore some new territory.