Exclusive: The True Story Behind The Bryan Singer ‘Pitch’ of “Star Trek: Federation”

For years there has been talk about a Star Trek pitch made by director Bryan Singer, including a mention by Jonathan Frakes last week. Some details have been reported online, but TrekMovie has received an actual copy of the "Star Trek: Federation" proposal document, and has talked to one of the authors about the supposed pitch. Exclusive details below.


The true story of "Star Trek: Federation"

The rumored and discussed "Bryan Singer Star Trek Pitch" is actually a proposal for a show to be called "Star Trek: Federation". TrekMovie has a copy of the series proposal and this week spoke to one of document’s authors, Robert Meyer Burnett (currently directing episodes of Cinemax’s Femme Fatales) to get the real story behind the supposed pitch.

The story of "Star Trek: Federation" begins way back in late 2005, before this website even existed. This is the same year that Star Trek: Enterprise was cancelled, ending 17 years of consistent Star Trek on TV. It was also the same year that Erik Jendresen’s prequel script Star Trek: The Beginning died at Paramount, leaving no active Star Trek projects going on at the studio for the first time in decades.

So at a Seattle sushi restaurant in December 2005, three big Star Trek fans started to talk about creating the next Star Trek TV show, but these weren’t just three ordinary fans. This particular dinner was with director Bryan Singer (X-Men), Oscar-winning screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects) and director/documentarian Robert Meyer Burnett (Free Enterprise). Singer and Burnett were working on Superman Returns at the time and the pair were visiting Singer’s long-time friend and collaborator McQuarrie to talk about their next project (the Tom Cruise WWII film Valkyrie).

Star Trek fan and director Bryan Singer’s cameo in "Star Trek: Nemesis" (2002)

At the dinner, the topic of "wouldn’t it be cool to create the next Star Trek TV show?" came up. The group of Trek fans saw that with no one at Paramount or CBS doing Star Trek, the door was open for new ideas. The team of three then hatched the beginnings of a plan to create a pitch for a new Star Trek series to be produced by Singer’s Bad Hat Harry production company, with a pilot written by McQuarrie and directed by Singer, with Burnett on board as an executive producer. This arrangement would not be dissimilar to how Singer put together the deal for the hit Fox medical drama House, which premiered the previous year.

At the dinner it was decided that Burnett would draft a series proposal document, which the team would tweak and then take to CBS Paramount TV in 2006. Burnett then turned to writer Geoffrey Thorne (Leverage, Law & Order: CI) a fellow Trekkie with a few stories published in Star Trek anthologies, who Burnett was already working with on a comic book ("The Red Line").

Burnett and Thorne then put together a 25-page long "series proposal", which outlined a new Star Trek series set in the year 3000 of the same continuity of the previous five Trek TV series, but in a Federation that has been on the decline. Burnett explains that they wanted to create an allegory both to the decline of the Roman Empire as well as to the 21st century "American Empire" which had started showing strains. The premise has a new threat facing the Federation with a brand new USS Enterprise (and a brand new Kirk) trying to return Starfleet to the glory days. Here is an excerpt from the document: 

The Federation hasn’t had a flagship in over two hundred years. They haven’t done anything either scientifically or in terms of exploration that comes near the deeds done in the long ago Age of Expansion.

There is no sense of true unity in the Federation and unity will be required if these new aliens return in force. The people need a symbol to remind them who they are, what they mean to each other and that there are prices to be paid for living in paradise.

They need, in short, a sense of Enterprise…
– from "Star Trek: Federation" series proposal

The series proposal contains a forward (assessing the state of TV drama and Star Trek), a "Welcome to the Future of the Future"/"Welcome to the United Federation of Planets in the Year 3000" outline of the "Star Trek: Federation" universe, a "The Crew" section on main characters for the show, plus outlines of the first four episodes. There are also two appendices: one on the technology of the new USS Enterprise, and one on the possible use of some "virtual sets" using CGI. The "Star Trek: Federation" The pitch document even had a new logo created by veteran Star Trek designer Mike Okuda.

The proposal was finished in late January 2006 and was sent to Singer and McQuarrie for review. At the time Singer was deep into post-production on Superman Returns and the notion was to pick up on the Star Trek project later in the year, refine the pitch, and then try and sell the show. However, in April Paramount revealed they were working with producer JJ Abrams on a new Star Trek feature film. As Star Trek was once again under new management, the Singer team felt that the window for new pitches had closed and so they dropped their plan and moved on to other projects.

So the truth is that the "Bryan Singer Star Trek Pitch" was never actually pitched. It was really more of a plan to make a pitch, but there were no meetings with Paramount or CBS. And although Singer and McQuarrie were at the dinner where it all started, neither ever had the chance to make comments on the first (and only) draft of the "Star Trek: Federation" series proposal written by Burnett and Thorne. 

Logo for "Star Trek: Federation" designed by Mike Okuda

More on Star Trek: Federation tomorrow

On Saturday morning TrekMovie will do a follow up article with exclusive excerpts and details from the "Star Trek: Federation" series proposal.

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