Damon Lindelof On Star Trek Sequel: It’s Not About The Villain

khanThe 2010 Spike Scream Awards were taped tonight in Los Angeles. Star Trek sequel co-writer/producer Damon Lindelof was there because Lost was getting a special farewell tribute, and while there talked (and wore) some Star Trek on the red carpet. More details below.


Damon Lindelof on Star Trek sequel: It Is not about the villain

In a red carpet interview at the Scream Awards with Lost executive producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, Damon said that right now he is focused on only two projects: the sequel to Star Trek and the Alien prequel, noting he is "taking a break from TV."

Regarding the status of the Star Trek sequel script, Damon said:

It is going, it is progressing. We are putting a lot of pressure on ourselves for it to be awesome.

Of course much of the talk online for the next Star Trek movie has been about the villain. Lindelof was asked how much the team are listening to this discussion:

You have got to write the movie for yourself and we are obviously aware of what people are saying on the web and we are interested in it, but at the same time Trek is not about villains, it is about the crew and their relationship with each other – that family. If the villain helps sort of flesh that out and bring that to life, then we have hit a home run. It really doesn’t matter who it is, it is not like the Batman movies where you are like "OK they have done the Joker, how do you one-up the Joker?"

For more from Lindelof and Cuse, watch the video interview at Collider.com.

Lindelof wears Star Trek to Scream Awards

Lindelof and Cuse, along with members of the Lost cast, were at the 2010 Scream Awards for a special Lost Farewell Tribute. Here are some pics from the event (note Lindelof’s Star Trek/Star Wars t-shirt mashup):

Red carpet at Scream 2010 with Jorge Garcia, executive producers Damon Lindelof, Carlton Cuse, actors Francois Chau and Harold Perrineau onstage during Spike TV’s “Scream 2010” at The Greek Theatre on October 16, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (WireImage)

Lindelof, Cuse and Lost stars enter stage at Scream Awards. (WireImage)

The 2010 Spike Scream Awards airs Tuesday October 19th at 9PM. More info at Spike.com.


Poll: What do you most care about?

It is true that much of the talk about the Star Trek sequel has been about the villain (is it Khan, Klingons, etc). But, in the end what are you most interested in about. Pick your top issue in the latest poll below.



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No villain?


Have it be about a situation or circumstance, not an adversary.

With only one option to choose, the poll is quite distortive.
I believe a good mixture of all those ingredients will make a perfect movie, but not a single one!

Most intelligent thing I’ve heard about the sequel so far! Not having a direct threat was what made IV so much fun.

I would like to see a thoughtful staory in the classic tradition of Star Trek. We meed a moral dilemma.

That Star Wars / Star Trek Mashup is going to raise some unhappy eyebrows here, I can feel it. Me, I think it’s cute & funny….

Like Harry Ballz, a villainless plot is exactly what I’ve been hoping for — better to return to the plots that revolve around mind-bending, thought-provoking turn of events.

Of course, “it’s not about the villain” doesn’t necessarily commit him to writing no villain in… but my remarks are more about what I prefer to see anyway.

Yeah, enough of trying to turn Star Trek into Star Wars. That’s the last thing anyone needs.

Think of Star Trek and Star Wars as Apple Pie and Chocolate Sundae. You keep them separate so you can enjoy one on one particular day and the other on a different day.

You try and mix the two and you have a mess, you compromise both and neither works, keep Star Trek as Star Trek and Star Wars as Star Wars, having the variety between the two has kept them both going so long.

I’d like character development, but I realize that the general audience may not. Ah well. Maybe they’ll make a TV series with this cast.

Even TWOK was not about the villain.

I would like to see Kirk escaping from the shadow of his father while paying due respect. That would be a good demon to kill.

Dude, star trek 4 had a villain… You had the probe that was effecting human life on earth. It had the right blance because the “villain” was not human.

To defend him…a movie can work with the villain being a small part of the movie.

Now! That t-shirt..,maybe now…people where fans of the last movie can now be cool to us who think that the last movie was just a ripp off of star wars. I have been fair and gave credit when it was right. This trek production crew just took star wars elements and called it trek. So please don’t hate us when we point that out.

Other (in the poll): For me that would be boldly going, exploration of space, new civilizations, new possibilities etc.

But there’s no hope the guys who are doing rebooted “Trek” these days will ever understand, let alone appreciate, these aspects of Trek. The choice of the explicit options in the poll is very telling. These categories are applicable to just about any action/adventure movie, whatever the genre.

i really dont think they will use Khan (beyond a fun Botany Bay cameo or some throwaway line) as Nero sort of served the Khan purpose as being that style of antagonist for the crew to bond over (superstrong madman out for revenge – which is what Khan is best known for)

its possible Khan may be the main villain for a future movie (Trek 3, Trek 4) but not so soon after Nero…

11. Except in 4 the villain was not a “villain” in classic Trek tradition. Like the Horta in “The Devil the Dark” or the Gorn in “Arena” or V’Ger in “ST: TMP” there was a misunderstanding and the possibility our heroes might be on the wrong side of it. No moustache twirling bad guys.

That said, Lindelhoff doesn’t seem to be seeing “no villain” but the villain does not need or should not be the centerpiece. Sadly, he has not committed to “no villain” in the story (my preference). Trek movies have been lousy with villains lately, most of the villains lousy, third raters and with a few excellent (Khan).

Here’s hoping that there are no villains for awhile. Time for a rest.

Hmm, I tried to choose “character development” and I got a message saying “please choose a valid poll answer”. Bad omen?

We don’t really have any indication of what the Supreme Court has up their sleeves. When Lindelof says, “It’s not about the villain,” all he’s saying is that the villain is not the point of the movie. Star Trek is about the characters — which is why the above poll currently indicates “character development” is the most important thing to the fans. Well, the Court are also fans, so they understand this. I don’t think anyone should underestimate where Orci, Kurtzman and Lindelof are coming from. They came into the first film with a love and understanding of Star Trek, and, no doubt, they’ve learned a lot from making that film, and from hearing the fans comments. I’m sure they’d love to please every member of the fan-base, but that is simply impossible. You can’t have Khan, or Klingons, or Kirk Prime, etc. in a movie and not in it at the same time — which would be the only way to please everyone. (On the other hand, if anyone could pull that off I’m sure it would be these guys).
I believe, now that there’s a whole “new” universe to play in, we are going to see a lot of “new.” I don’t think we’re going to see any re-hashing, or re-making of what we’ve seen in the past. I could be wrong, of course, but I’m betting the Court is as eager to go where none have gone before as the crew of the Enterprise.

The one important element missing in the poll is: The Message!
Comment on current issues!

That’s a tough one.

Star Trek: TMP had no villain and it was so boring.

While ST IV had the whale story going on and no villain, and that was a hit.

ST:Nemesis had a villain Shizon and the movie flopped.

Wrath of Khan was a hit with Montalban as the villain.

We don’t really need a villain. There’s a metric crapton of excellent movies without a villain out there. Consider 2001: A Space Odyssey. Consider Ikarie XB-1 (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0122111/). Even the first Star Wars movie didn’t technically have a villain, more of a “looming threat”…

I actually voted for action. I vastly prefer action-driven storytelling (which is what TOS was all about) which should comfortably be able to incorporate humour, sex, character development and so on if it’s well enough written!

STAR TREK excels at having villains in stories where “it’s not about the villain.”

Look at “Errand of Mercy” and “A Taste of Armageddon” as stories with fleshed out villains, but which are about a much greater thing (war’s violence and futility).

How about the evolution of ‘Q’ in TNG, whose challenges to Picard always resulted in poignant realizations about humanity’s place in the cosmos.

I hope this is what Lindelof is getting at. Only problem is: I can’t see Chris Pine delivering a good Kirk-speech like Shatner did in the day.

Here is what i want to see in the opening of the next film.

The films opens to the Enterprise clashing with some Klingon ship. Kirk is on the bridge, the Kirk we all know, cocky, egocentric, and conniving as all get out. The Klingons are attacking some defenseless alien ship that Kirk decides to protect.

Back at Star Fleet ops, a group of Admirals, most notably Admiral Pike and some wussy Federation foreign minister are watching the clash. The minister is freaking out over Kirk’s actions and demands that Pike order Kirk to withdraw less the Enterprise creates a diplomatic incident. One non-federation alien ship is not worth a Klingon war. Pike laments and orders the Enterprise back.

Kirk, who is not about to cede the day to the Klingons, asks Star Fleet Command to resend the message while he takes the extra time to save the small alien ship.

Federation minister screams with indignation.

Finally Kirk out maneuvers the Klingon ship and the small alien craft escapes destruction. The young Kirk is all too pleased with himself.

The Federation foreign minister is outraged and demands Kirk be brought up on charges. Pike assures him that the incident will be looked at. But when Pike and the admirals leave the ops center out of hearing distance of the enraged foreign minister, they break out into laughter, may be even high five each other. They are totally impressed with Kirk. They want more Kirks. This shows us the beginning of how Kirk always managed to get away with his cowboy diplomacy.

I am sure this is as far as my idea will go. For the first film, i thought Nero should have first encountered Captain April and the Enterprise NX-1701, just out of its construction dock. Kirk’s father should have taken the helm when they were under attack to let little baby Kirk escape. That would have explained Kirk’s infatuation with the Enterprise–it was his father’s ship.

But what do i know.

I, too, wouldn’t be opposed to the film’s villian being a situation or circumstance as compared to an actual person. I think that would be a really bold choice.

Every great story is about the characters. This is a good sign.

Star Trek has always been at it’s best when it has an awesome villain that somehow mirrors an important issue in the real world. A realistic threat that our heroes have to defeat one way or another and a villain that not only pulls at the emotional heart strings of our heroes but also of the audience too. Star Wars would be nothing without The Empire, Star Trek would be nothing without Khan or the Borg, lord of the Rings would be nothing without Mordor and The Dark Knight would have been nothing without the Joker. Star Trek has also been at it’s best when there’s more action in it rather than long talky scenes.

I cite the TNG episode Best of Both Worlds as a stand out episode involving a bad-ass villain and a huge amount of character development with a rich plot – everyone seemed to grow up and take charge in this episode, the story had many levels to it and everyone had a part to play and you could feel the emotion and the tension coming through from each of the characters, even the emotionless Data really resonated with me. Although it was set in the 24th century, because you cared about these characters and especially Picard, you felt engaged with the story because it was playing with real emotions of fear and the loss of someone close to the characters as well as an audience, it was like OH MY GOD! HOW ARE THEY GOING TO SOLVE THIS IMPOSSIBLE ISSUE!

Again another example is the 2009 movie; Star Trek. People engaged with it because it felt real because of the emotions coming across from the characters especially in the opening when George Kirk sacrifices himself to save his crew, I mean it had everything I’d want to see in a 2 hour sequel, it felt real regardless of them being in space. It takes a huge villain, someone or something that can really push our heroes emotions thus getting the audience on the edge of their seats praying that our heroes escape and eventually prevail over this immense enemy. The key I think to the sequel is to just really delve deep into the emotions good and bad and really really make a movie that just makes the audience experience ever kind of emotion.

I kind of see where Lindelof is going but I hope that they all realise that without a villain being an essential part of the story and being as good as The Dark Knight’s Joker or Star Trek First Contact’s Borg or Star Wars’ Empire/Darth Vader – then the movie will fall very flat indeed. The first movie could get away with a slightly weak villain because what the audience wanted to see was the formation of the Enterprise crew and the beginnings of that famous friendship between Kirk and Spock – Nero was just a means to an end. What the second movie has to prove is that these characters are still relevant and worth caring about. For that to happen they have to be thrown into a story that has these characters face up against a huge and deadly adversary. An adversary that gets the emotions going, really tug on those heart strings, that really does draw this crew closer so that you totally feel that all of them completely deserve their place on that ship. This movie really does have to be The Dark Knight of Star Trek on so many levels so I hope that whilst character development is a huge must have, the gang also realise that character development is nothing without something immense (bigger than Nero destroying Vulcan) happening around them to make these characters develop, mature and maintain their relevancy in today’s 21st century world…

Apart from that the second movie needs to be bigger, bolder, cooler and hugely entertaining for ANYONE to enjoy and also have A-listers joining the cast, a bigger, GLOBAL advertising campaign and merchandise from companies such as Hasbro, LEGO, Adidas and many more .

My idea, about Kirk having to go after a renegade Pike, and getting himself involved in galactic contests of Brobdingnagian proportions, seems appropriate to cite here. I first suggested this publicly sometime in the earlier part of this year.

The sequel should flow naturally from the first movie. Pike’s statement (at the bar) that Starfleet needed men like Kirk could be seen as a broader philosophical statement. Pike’s attempt to save Starfleet by engaging in Kirk-esque, damn-the-torpedoes tactics would give his character the prominent role that many fans favor and obviate the need for a villain.

The villain would not be a person, but circumstances involving galactic interests, perhaps including the Romulans (who might desire to avenge themselves against the Federation, believing the Vulcan homeworld to have been destroyed by a 9/11-style conspiracy or an as-yet known race).

The idea of incorporating a 9/11-style conspiracy has not been stated by me prior to this message, but I think that it would be quite au courant given the times in which we live.

Trek has always been about the present as much as the future. There is what political scientists have called a “paranoid fringe” in politics that might be echoed in the world of Trek.

The plot, as revised, would go like this:

Pike leads a secret mission to protect Federation interests in the now-vacant Vulcan quadrant. His fleet mysteriously vanishes just beyond Vulcan space just after he returns to send Kirk off to Kirk’s five-year mission. Rumors abound that his fleet had found evidence of Federation complicity in the destruction of Vulcan for the purpose of militarizing the Federation as a whole. Despite his philosophical beliefs, Pike commandeers a small but fast Starfleet vessel in search of his missing fleet, against Starfleet orders.

Kirk is sent after him aboard the Enterprise.

By the way, just to clarify, my personal opinion — and it’s just an opinion — is that anyone who believes that the U.S. government conspired to destroy the WTC has been watching too many Hollywood films.

Typo: “The villain would not be a person, but circumstances involving galactic interests, perhaps including the Romulans (who might desire to avenge themselves against the Federation, believing the Vulcan homeworld to have been destroyed by a 9/11-style conspiracy) or an as-yet known race.

The characters have already been developed over the course of the past 44 years. What they need to do is drop those already developed characters into a damn good plot…which may or may not involve a villain. We know the characters are awesome, but good characters do not a good movie make. Give them an interesting, exciting, fun and imaginative plot and we’re in business!

Of course it will have a villain…. as they can’t please everyone …they will take the focus off that!!!!
I want to see character development, action and humor!!!

Perhaps what they meant is that it’s not about the villain in the same way that Star Trek II was about Khan’s need for revenge.

A 9/11-type story in the manner proposed could still have a villain in the same way that Star Trek VI had one in the Klingon general. The Klingons, by the way, also had heroes in that film — the chancellor and his daughter.

Real life is complicated. In every situation, those who may have opposed us may also have their villains.

I see Star Trek VI has an archetype for the next Star Trek movie.

Besides, both II and VI were directed by Nicholas Meyer, considered a genius for his direction. Both were successes. And both featured a strong and character-centric performance by the original crew.

Perhaps Mr. Meyer could be a consultant for Star Trek 2, informal or not.

^^”In every situation, those who may have opposed us may also have their heroes.”

As corrected.

Putting Plot and Villian together is just wrong. They should be separate.I’m for a good plot but the ‘villain can be secondary or even tertiary.

@23 – from imdb trivia – “The original opening for the movie was going to feature the Enterprise NCC-1701 under the command of Robert April, with George Kirk second in command. At the climax of the scene the Enterprise would have been destroyed, and the Enterprise featured through most of the movie would have been its successor, the NCC-1701-A (which didn’t debut until Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) in the original timeline). However, Paramount told Kurtzman and Orci that the one thing they absolutely could not do was destroy the Enterprise, even if they were going to replace it with a newer one, and so the “original” Enterprise was rewritten into the USS Kelvin, with Captain April becoming Captain Robau. ”

dunno if all thats true or not but it would seem the ‘logical’ choice – to have had April in command of the original Enterprise (im talking pretty much the same model as used in TOS) and some big star as April (Hanks or Ford etc)

it would have certainly established clearly why the enterprise looked alot different to how it did in TOS!

maybe they couldve gotten away with calling the new enterprise NCC1701 as well (no need for ‘A’) – kind of the same mentality as what one proposal was regarding what to do after 9/11 – to build the towers again only higher (i dunno if thats still planned?)

^^There are a few archetypes one can draw upon for inspiration:

1. Star Trek VI, as stated hereinabove.

2. The Star Wars films, original trilogy. There were two main villains, Vader and the Emperor, with the Emperor a distant second in the villainy department. The “hero’s journey” (see: Campbell) was arguably much more important than Vader, especially in the 1977 movie (Episode VI).

3. The Bond films, where there is most often in fact a central villain (for the most part, primarily the manipulator and boss Blofeld), but he is often at the center of a much more involved conspiracy or criminal enterprise (SPECTRE) with subsidiary villains or henchmen (Oddjob, Jaws, et al.).

In other words, a central figure can distill an adversary, but the adversary need not be personal.

oh wait the NCC1701 wasnt launched until 2245 so thats why they couldnt use that opening (unless theyd just ignored the star trek Chronlogy)

Why are Villain/Plot combined on the poll? You can have a Khan as your villain, but if the plot is a mess it isn’t going to help you.

Well…I really liked LOST from start to the End…. But… I don’t like to see in Star Trek2012… the young crew of the Enterprise in an existential or spiritual journey….I want a real space travel… With much struggle and challenges to be overcome.. the basics…but done with great competence!!!!….LOL!

I’m glad its about the characters.
I’m hoping for something that TESTS Kirks cockiness, dash in where angels fear to tread, confidence etc to his CORE.(maybe past it)
Where whats worked for him in the past doesnt work this time and he pays a heavy price.
He needs to come out of the other side a better man, Captain etc

Interesting piece. I just hope they don’t go over the top and try TOO hard.

A few things – a key character is the enterprise itself (without the ship what have you got?)
I agree the villain shouldnt be as important as the plot itself or the character development (just look at the success of the voyage home which did not have one)
Personally i feel they need to attract a major Hollywood star to the sequel (will help with the worldwide box office)
Paramount will hopefully take heed of what happened when they shrunk the budget for Trek films and will provide an even bigger budget for the sequel (star trek 5 failed mainly due to lack of budget…although the plot whilst not that bad helped too)
Finally do not forget the the impact the first 12 minutes that JJ’s first film had on non-trekkies

I think Nimoy might have revealed the direction of the sequel….

Film 4 (UK film channel) is showing all 10 Trek movies over the weekend – inbetween movies they have interviews with Nimoy and Frakes talking about each movie and a 10 minute segement where they talk about their experiences with Trek itself. On this Nimoy said the last time he saw Roddenberry it was to discuss Trek VI and he said GR liked the script very much but said he would like to see one thing explore that no Trek had ever touched upon before ….the origins of the klingons – why they were the way they were, why so angry, what caused them to go down that route and become a ferocious warrior race, what happened…

Nimoy said he thought it was a great idea and he and Meyer went away and tried to interject some explanations in the movie but they couldn’t figure out how to in the context of the story that needed to be told so it didn’t happen….

Ive a feeling that the klingons will feature heavily in the trek sequel and we might get to see what GR wanted to see and what (to my knowledge) has yet to be explored (even in TNG) – the origins of the klingons (via flashback and explanation from various characters against the backdrop of a story of an epic klingon/federation conflict complete with some kind of mcguffin)

Kind of similar to the way ST09 was the origins of Star Trek itself (or the alternate origin)

Villain or no villain is irrelevant to me. Good story or bad story. That is relevant to me.

I thought the Klingons evolved the way they did because of Kahless and some form of alien enemy or something…

Memory Alpha will know.

Great points, James (42). I agree that Paramount should give the upcoming sequel the Avatar treatment — i.e., as much money as reasonably needed to make it a cinematic hit on the order of any of the Star Wars movies. I hardly need to mention that SW is still the gold standard of space-based SF movies, or even movies in general, in the field of box office appeal.

There needs to be a certain grittiness that would be ideal for the modern sensibility, as well. Nicholas Meyer was sometimes criticized for militarizing Trek, but I think that in the world in which we live, some degree of militarization is inevitable. That is, Trek, at this stage, needs to be the furthest from “Logan’s Run” and closer to “Aliens,” without, obviously, being a bad clone of “Starship Troopers.”

Perhaps we could see a version of the Starfleet Marines, and in such manner start a relatively new, modern-relevant aspect to Trek. I recall that the space marines in Star Trek: Enterprise were a big hit. (Before anyone guffaws at the mere mention of ST:E, I would venture that ST:E was just hitting its stride when it was canceled.)

The poll itself is flawed because it combined “villian” and “plot” into one category when in fact they are two very different aspects of the movie. “Villian” is one rather narrow element of the movie but plot is a wider category which essentially means the quality of the writing, and the originality and interest of the overall storyline. They should have been two separate choices.

My vote is for a quality plot but I don’t think this means there needs to be a “villian” in the traditional sense (e.g. Khan, Borg, Shinzon, etc). Some of the very best star trek tv eps (e.g. “City on the Edge of Forever”, “Inner Light”, “The Visitor”) did not really have a villian. Instead, the story focused on a character overcoming a challenging circumstance or dilemma rather than a tangible villian.

46 – Avatar also delved quite deeply into an alien race and its culture – so its possible the trek sequel might be going that way with the klingons…(home planet, their culture etc)

after all when a film is as big as Avatar (or star wars or any genre defining blockbuster) theres usually alot of similaly themed movies that follow

its a guess but maybe thats the way they are going to go…

I’m sure there will be a villian, Bob even stated as much, and truth be told, just for financial reasons, there almost has to be, its a sequel. Now what DL said is that the villian wont be the focus, thats a lot different than there wont be any at all. It will be in the tradition of Trek, a good solid story, with the crew (family) banding together in some sort of conflict.

I’m sure there will be a villian, Bob even stated as much, and truth be told, just for financial reasons, there almost has to be, its a sequel. Now what DL said is that the villian wont be the focus, thats a lot different than there wont be any at all. It will be in the tradition of Trek, a good solid story, with the crew (family) banding together in some sort of conflict.