Flashback: ‘Star Trek’ Wrapped 3 Years Ago Today + Bob Orci Asks: How Much Time Elapsed Between Films?

Today is the three year anniversary of a big milestone for the 2009 Star Trek movie. On March 27th 2008, JJ Abrams called cut and wrapped principle photography on his first Trek film. With production on the next film still months away, today we ponder a question posed by sequel co-writer Roberto Orci – how much time will have passed for the characters between the two films?


3 years since "Star Trek" wrapped

Three years have elapsed since the end of principal photography on JJ Abrams’ Star Trek. On March 27th, 2008 the director wrapped the141-day long production by gathering the cast and crew for a thank you and to hand out gifts. Although there were some pick up shots and second unit work to be done (like the Iowa scenes shot in Bakersfield), the production phase was over. 15 months later Star Trek went on to be a big success and Paramount quickly moved to secure the team for a sequel, having already signed options with the actors to appear in two additional films.

In the three years since wrapping production on Star Trek the various members of Star Trek’s "Supreme Court" (JJ Abrams, Bryan Burk, Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, and Damon Lindelof) have, in addition to Trek post-production,  been very busy on their other projects (sometimes together, sometimes on their own) including Lost, Morning Glory, Undercovers, Fringe, Hawaii Five-0, Welcome to People, Cowboys and Aliens, Prometheus, Super-8, and more.

And the Star Trek actors have also been busy with all of the major cast shooting multiple TV and/or film projects over the last three years. And of course the actors have aged and are all now in their 30s or 40s (with the exception of young Anton Yelchin at 22). Chris Pine will be just four years younger than William Shatner was for the first season of Star Trek, Zachary Quinto will be only one year younger than Leonard Nimoy was, and John Cho will actually be ten years older than George Takei was in 1966. 

Starting last spring/summer the writing team of Damon Lindelof, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci began the process of breaking the story for the sequel. Last fall they began writing the script. That first draft is still pending, but reports indicate Paramount is still planning to go into production in late summer and release Abram’s second Star Trek production June 29, 2012. 

Abrams on the set with his cast of "Star Trek" – which wrapped production three years ago today

Bob Poses A Question: How Long?

There are many big unanswered questions regarding the Star Trek sequel. For example: we still don’t know if JJ Abrams will direct, what it will be called, or who will be the villain (if anyone). And there is also an important question in regards to time.

When fans and general movie-goers sit down to watch the Star Trek sequel in the summer of 2012, it will have been three years "IRL ("in real life" as the kids say) since they had last visited the crew of the USS Enterprise. This brings up the issue of elapsed "in universe" time between the films. This issue is one that sequel co-writer Robert Orci called "significant" when he posed the following question to TrekMovie community members in our comments section back in January:

Q: By the time we reunite with the beloved crew of the USS Enterprise in the summer of 2012, what adventures from the original series should already be in their PAST?

None? Two seasons worth? Ten Episodes? Which ones?

Obviously Orci knows the answer, but lets play Bob’s game and analyze his proposed options.

Option 1: "None" – no time elapsed between films

This scenario would see our valiant crew go from that final scene in Star Trek straight into the events of the sequel. This kind of dovetailing is how Star Trek’s ‘Genesis Trilogy’ of films were done (Star Trek II, Star Trek III & Star Trek IV).

The advantage of this approach is that (assuming this new crew make at least three films), you can have a nice tight trilogy that all ties together. This model can also justify the importance of the USS Enterprise as much of Starfleet was destroyed by Nero. The film can also pick up on the immediate aftermath of the destruction of Vulcan and the attack on Earth, jumping right into blowback action. In addition, you can continue to explore how the new crew get to know each other better.

The disadvantage is that the characters will not be much different than they were by the end of Star Trek 2009, which means the film could end up re-hashing the drama around the crew’s (and especially Kirk’s) youth and inexperience. Plus, if the designers want to make any changes to the Enterprise or to costumes, this becomes harder to justify (although it is possible some changes were made while the ship was being repaired following the battle with the Narada).

Option 2: "10 episodes" – or a few months time elapsed between films

This scenario would give our crew some time, but have them seen not too long after the finale scene of Star Trek

The advantage: most of the upside of the above "no time" approach, while giving the characters some opportunity to refer to events and experience they have had. For example, the film could include references to encounters the crew had with say "a surly Gorn captain" ("Arena"). The additional time also allows for introducing some changes in the Federation itself and how it is dealing with the loss of Vulcan, which would be a 9-11 like event with likely profound repercussions to society.

The disadvantage: You are still limited in how seasoned the crew will be compared to the first film, so you are still dealing with an young crew (and fresh Captain). You don’t really have much time to explain away any major design changes as well.

Option 3: "2 seasons" – or a couple of years of time elapsed between films

In this case we find our crew well into their mission (is it five years or open ended?) to seek out new life and new civilizations.

The advantage: This scenario matches up in universe time with real life time. It also gives the writers the ability to move the characters along and make reasonable changes. This is especially true of Kirk, where two years or more in the captain’s chair can move him into more of the confident swagger we saw on the original series. You also have the freedom to introduce all sorts of new design elements, props and characters that have been introduced to the Enterprise in the intervening years. And the additional time allows writers lots of chances to throw in references to experiences the crew has dealt with (both new and related to the prime timeline). The two-year gap could also see our crew dealing with a very different universe in the post-Vulcan destroyed Federation (possibly a war, or changes within Federation society, etc.). And of course having a multi-year gap matches with the real world so it fits with when the audience last visited this universe and
fits with any perceptible aging of the actors. 

The disadvantage: This version limits the ability to explore the crew getting to know each other, or Kirk’s evolution from new to seasoned Captain. With years of elapsed time in between films, filled with other experiences, the two films could feel like they don’t fit with each other as part of a trilogy (like the "Genesis Trilogy"). Any experiences referenced for such a large “in between” period would reduce the options for use in the third film.

The new crew heads out at the end of 2009’s "Star Trek" – how much time has passed when we see them again in the 2012 sequel?

What episodes?

Orci also asks the question "which ones?", and in this case he is referring to which specific original Star Trek episodes did the new crew deal with, albeit in a different timeline. This is also a very intriguing question. In the scenarios where there is a span of time between films, you can have the crew make reference to various encounters to both show they are now space veterans, and to have some fan easter eggs. These could even be used for plot points both serious ("I don’t trust them Spock, remember what happened at Organia") and not so serious ("Scotty, you look worse than after your shore leave on Argelius II").

Who has this new crew encountered since we last saw them?

A note about the extended universe

The consideration of how much in-universe time should have elapsed between films should only be decided based on what best serves the sequel as a film. However, the final decision has big repercussions for the extended universe of books, comics and games. Even though it has not been considered official canon, the extended universe of Star Trek fiction has served to "fill the gaps" in Star Trek, telling stories in between films and episodes.

So the decision on how long of a gap (or if there is even a gap) has a big impact on the extended universe. In fact, it has already had an impact. In 2010 Pocket Books was planning to release a series of books set after the film. But after four books were written Bad Robot and Paramount had them all put on hold. This was due to concerns that the books could end up conflicting with the movie.

So the longer a period of time they leave between the two films, the more opportunities there are for future extended universe Star Trek stories, including the four books that were put on hold. This tradition of filling in the gaps has been one utilized by Trek books in the past, including the 2009 "Star Trek Countdown" comic series/graphic novel which filled the gap between Nemesis and the 2009 movie. In addition, even a throwaway line in the sequel could be the launching pad for an entire book, comic series or video game. So I am sure Pocket Books and IDW (and any future official Star Trek game publisher) are all hoping there is a gap for them to fill with new stories. 

Star Trek books, comics and games have often filled in the gaps before and after feature films

My take: Two seasons (maybe less)

Perhaps my bias shows in the plusses and minuses outlined above, but I feel that the best approach is to give this new crew some experience before we meet them again. In a way that is exactly what Gene Roddenberry did with the original Star Trek. The original series had no origin story episode and instead it dropped viewers right into the five year mission.

JJ Abrams 2009 Star Trek was an origin story (for this new universe) and as such it dealt with a family coming together, and all the drama and conflict that this created. By building in some experience (and getting closer to the time setting of the Prime Universe), we can now move on to new conflicts and new arcs for these characters, shedding all the ‘wet behind the ears’ issues dealt with in the first film. This again is especially important with Kirk, who can now move into that bluffing Kirk seen in "The Corbomite Maneuver" which was actually the first episode produced after the two Star Trek pilots. Sure maybe ‘Cupcake‘ may still need some convincing, but we don’t need to rehash all the ‘is he ready?’ stuff. That being said, if we have a 1-2 year gap, we can still have some of the ‘getting to know you’ elements continue into the second film.

I am also intrigued with seeing how the events of the first Star Trek film have changed the Federation and the rest of the galaxy. Has it spawned conflict (hot or cold) with either the Romulans or the Klingons? What is happening with the refugee Vulcans on their new colony? How has the Federation dealt with the loss of a major planet?

More time also allows for the introduction of more new costumes, props, and design or functional elements of the USS Enterprise.  And of course if they did want to jazz up the engine room sets, more time allows us to explain away why Scotty isn’t seen amongst an array of what appear to be steam pipes.

Bottom line: one – two seasons for the three years between movies sounds just about right.

Experience for the new Kirk can take him closer to the cool confidence seen in "The Corbomite Maneuver"

VOTE: What do you think?



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I think the incident in “Where No Man Has Gone Before” is definetly before the 2012 Star Trek sequel. Except in this case Gary Mitchel is ALIVE and well !

How much time will have elapsed between films? Apparently just enough!

I say at least a season or 2. Bob Orci as of yesterday was 75% done with the script. I would like to see a season or two p[ass and some references could be made. Like the Enterprise was just leaving Space dock after having been damaged by the Barrier on the edge of the Galaxy and a reference about lt. Gary Mitchell. Or a nod to the Doomsday machine or even Elan of troyous.


I would rather hope they save doomsday machine for a 3rd or 4th movie :)

But at least a few months for the crew to gell some more and become the crew that we all love and respect as they go on there mission. But again. Maybe just a day has passed and we can see them come together as they take on there next mission. I’m sure Bob is writing as we speak to figure that out.

The second movie should be set long after the third season. Right before the Motion Picture, as it were.

#4. Me to. Or have the Doomsday machine a big part of this movie and have Commodore Decker in this. I threw out an idea of having Lt. Gary Mitchel becoming God like and he finds the Doomsday machine and he takes over it and it takes the Constalation and the Enterprise with Decker and Kirk to try and stop them.

Let’s have at least SOME time to have passed. I always hated how, in the time between TWOK and TVH, which is supposed to be a total of say two months, you could see that Shatner had aged at least four years! Yikes!


I’m a strong believer that Gary Mitchel has to be part of the sequel. He’s Kirks best friend and I think he can play an important role in the sequel. Acting as perhaps competition for the captaincy of the Enterprise. I really want to see someone challenge Kirk’s authority of the Enterprise. DO IT BOB. I command thee.

At the end of this movie the Camra pans out to another sector and we see the S.S Botney Bay drifting in space.


Lol. I’m assuming the Girdle didn’t help.

@ 10

Damon Lindelof mentioned in the commentary of the first JJ trek, that they were actually gonna do it. I guess they didn’t want to set the bar too high. But they gotta make a Khan or Botany Bay reference in the sequel. I’m dying for it !

#8 and 11. With todays tech they can simply Deage the actors. No problem there. Lol

@ 13

Don’t give any ideas to William Shatner. We’ll have that debate start all over again for a role in the trek movie, lol.

#12. I bet Bob has already written that in that we will see the S.S Botany Bay at some point. But. If and or when we see the S.S Botany Bay then they have to have the ship exactly like it was on the Tos series. Even the Clothes they wore and The Interior of the Botany Bay. On that they can’t get away with anything by saying new Universe.

My question is, Does the movie take place before or after the Botany Bay Incident?


I really thought that the Botany Bay should be discovered by someone else and not Kirk.


Manufacturers are coming out with a line of Male Girdles for the aging boomers…

They’re calling it “The Shatner”!

#14. Oops. To late. As we have seen in the Movie Tron. Jeff Bridges was De Aged nicely for the movie. The Shat can also be De Aged to fit a role for Trek12.. In Termanator Salvation there was a scene where we seen the original Termanator like Arnold looked like back in 84.

#17. Well. Good idea but it has to be the Enterprise with Kirk. if not then there may not be KHAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! later on.

@ 18


@ 19

Yea, possibly. Depending if Bob can taylor an incredible epic story that can fit Shatner into it (no pun intended).

#18. At least it won’t be called the Harry line. Lol. Oh by the way Harry. Amy Adams is the new Lois Lane. I was so hoping it would be Erica Durance. lol

@ 20

Khan escapes with some other starfleet captains ship. Possibly steals the Excelsior. That sets up the meeting with Kirk.

I wonder what’s going on in bob’s mind right now about the whole Khan thing, LOL.

#23. At least we know it is not water drops. Lol. Just Kidding Bob Orci. Or am I.

I can see it now…..

The Enterprise encounters the Botany Bay drifting in space.

Kirk: “Prepare a landing party to board her”

Spock: “A moment, Captain. My older self warned me of us possibly finding a ship by this name…”

Kirk: “Really, Spock? What advice did he give you?”

Spock: “His exact words were, and I quote, ‘blow her to bits!”

Kirk: “You got it! Sulu, set photon torpedoes to destroy!”

Sulu; “Aye, Captain!”

Kirk: “Fire!”


The Enterprise proceeds to her next mission.

Harry. I’m Shocked by you. There is hope for you in the Empire after all.

@ 25

Lol. You see the trap Bob set himself into ? Does Old Spock tell young spock everything ?!? Or maybe old spock tells young spock everything, but when they go to the botany bay, theirs nothing there, because someone else beat them to it ? Maybe Nero helped Khan escape earlier. Who knows ?

Khan escaped to Risa where he runs the most popular whore house on the planet. Now THERE is a story!


Amy Adams is Lois Lane? Good! Now, after Smallville goes off the air, Erica Durance can go back to working the night shift at Hooters!


High praise indeed, Commodore Mike!

I don’t see why we have to have seasons pass. Since they are just coming into the ages of TOS can’t two or so years have passed and we’d be just coming in on the first season? Midway through their first five year mission…


LOL. I can imagine Khan saying… “now this…. this is splendid.”

Oh man. Just saw Wrath of Khan like 3 hours ago. That Ricardo Montalban voice is still stuck in my head.

#28 I can see Khan on screen telling People and Aliens in that Montalban voice to come to Risa. He would tak like he did when he sold the Leather.

Why does there have to be a Gary Mitchell or a Commodore Decker, a doomsday machine, or the SS Botany Bay? Been there, done that. Maybe Gary Mitchell could come into the film because he was part of Kirk’s earlier days in Starfleet. As for the rest, the door is supposed to be closed on the prime universe. Keep it closed, and no, I don’t want any locksmith sticking keys in where they don’t belong anymore. Please, throw away the key, Bob and co. I have read so much about these characters from TOS that I can’t even watch the movies and episodes because it has all become so samey. I’m bored already.

I really do not want to see a lot of time past between what we saw at the end of the movie and the beginning of the sequel. This is a new young cast playing characters in their early years. We’ve seen the TOS characters in later years. If there has to be any deaging done, let it be done to the new cast. However, I seriously doubt that would be at all necessary.

Harry. Are you saying that you want Erica to work the Hooters down the street from you. Hmm. That does explain some things.

I’m guessing that the thought that the new Trek film will come out in June, 2012 is going to prove… a little too happy. It could be they get it out before the end of the summer, but I’m betting on a Christmas 2012 or Summer 2013 release date.

Which thus blows the rest of this discussion out the torpedo tube…

#34. I disagree with you. Yes. New stories are a good thing. But you can’t ignore what has happened before and what may still happen again. Just because we are in the new universe does not mean we ignore what happened in the Prime Universe. But because of the new universe and the fact that Spock Prime is in it there can be some changes to some of the stories but done i a good way.


That way I would know where NOT to go. I told you, I’m not into horses!

Oh ok Harry. You had me scared for a moment. But Amy Adams. Perfect for Lois and perfect for one Carol Marcus.

Well, as of this very moment I’m not prepared to go into how many seasons or adventures may have taken place between the first and second film, but I think the sequel should take place somewhere between three and five years after where the first film left off. I also think some kind of lip service should be paid as to whether we’re now in a new MWI branched off universe, or the prime universe undone and in the process of being totally rewritten. I’m even fine with there being a looming question hanging in the air in relation to that with no concrete, definitive answer, because merely suggesting it as a possibility is probably all that’s really necessary to make the point.

But anyway, as for how much time should have elapsed between the two films, three-to-five years IMO.

To Bob – read #25 on how to deal with Khan. Write it in the script. Excellent, Mr Ballz. I am impressed. It does seem that you do have some ballz.

Bob – Make it so. (just make sure it’s that bleedin’ Khan guy is on that ship – don’t need him turning up later, no way…)
Do it! Do it! Do it!

(See how murderous I’ve become about Khan – scary stuff).

Why are you thinking “episodes” have passed? This isn’t the same crew. They probably experienced things very different from the TOS crew.

I’ll be disappointed if more than a few months have passed between films. I’m looking forward to the characters learning more about each other and their relationships developing instead of it just being handwaved. A good plot is a catalyst for this development.

And sorry, Bob, but I don’t even like the idea of measuring the new ‘verse by which adventures happened in the old. I think doing that and skipping a big chunk of time does a disservice to the whole concept of the alternate reality. Things are different. Relationships and personalities and people they meet don’t necessarily have to be the same as in TOS. If we fast-forward, we lose the huge advantage of doing an AU in the first place – seeing the new paths they could strike out on. This is a fresh crew. Have fun with their wide-eyed inexperience.

how ’bout a little over a full season.

I never loved the getting to know you season on TNG, or really, all the
later Trek shows.

I thought the whole point was to show us how it all came to be. Seeing the crew discovering these aspects IS the fun part. Jumping ahead to what we’ve already witnessed, referring to it in the past seems to me short sighted. What’s the rush? Let’s enjoy the journey together.


Thanks, keachick!

I like the two-year scenario. That will also finally allow new novels in the new Trek universe to be published. Plus, like Harry, I don’t like to have to pretend that we don’t notice that the actors have aged several years.

The prime universe is not undone and not being rewritten. This is a new MWI branched off universe, which is very similar to the prime universe and in other ways not. There is no looming question, never was.

OK, Commodore. I agree that seeing some nods to events of the prime universe would be good. As I said, I am not totally opposed to having Gary Mitchell, Kirk’s friend from his Starfleet Academy days. It’s just that everybody seems to want this prime universe character or that – there are so many, of course. It just feels there is no room for something/somebody new. It feels so confining. Of course, this is my perception at the moment.

The other difficulty for the writers is what the expectations of people here would be of any TOS character (friend or foe) they did introduce in the sequel. Are people going to call them out (not that nicely either, at times, as we have seen over the last two years) because they didn’t write these favourite TOS characters the way people think they should be written?

I’d have to say, at this point, we all should be careful what we wish for…

Due to the altered timeline, the next movie will be set during Season 3 of The Six Million Dollar Man.

I will go back to my prediction that I have made several times in the past — the movie will open with a 10-minute action-packed sequence which will represent an concluding part to one of the original series (e.g. The Doomsday Machine). Then the title track will show up. And then we will be get the 105 minute brand new story, which will be something we have never seen before (although there may be some TOS references or characters that show up).