In a very special Mission Log Podcast supplemental, Star Trek writer Bob Orci sat down to talk about what it was like coming into Trek for him, how he listens to fans’ feedback on his work, Trek’s place on TV, what’s next for Trek, and he even responds to recent events getting heated right here on the Trek Movie message boards. We get almost two full hours of Bob Orci talking about Star Trek, what he loves about it, and why he and co-workers wrote the last two movies the way they did. Read some of the highlights and listen for yourself after the jump.
Mission Log Podcast Supplemental 058A: Bob Orci
Listen to the full interview on the Mission Log Podcast
Coming up Trek
Mission Log Podcast hosts John Champion and Ken Ray both came into the work of Star Trek in their own ways — we all did, and it’s a part of what makes Trek special and unique to us. Bob Orci has been long known as the biggest Trekkie of any of the new guard responsible for Star Trek 2009 and Into Darkness, so what is his story? Orci was born in Mexico City and would frequently visit family in Florida. There, a man named Richard Robau (yes, the man for whom Captain Robau is named) would sit down with Bob to watch The Original Series.
“[Robau] made it plain to me at that point that it was the first time that legitimate sci-fi had been on television. That was sort of my entry into sci-fi. Then, when Wrath of Khan came out, that was the first movie I saw in the theater.”
What really spoke to Orci about Star Trek was, of course, the characters and the stories they told.
“The idea that smart people could be thinking their way through problems, I thought was interesting. No matter how smart you are and no matter how moral and how much you’re thinking, sometimes you must do battle. That was an interesting goalpost of the series for me. You can be a genius astrophysicist who cares about nothing more than to maintain the peace and yet you may still have to fire your phasers and your photon torpedoes.”
This, says Orci, is the rationale behind Starfleet being called a “peace-keeping armada” in Trek ’09.
Orci didn’t want to touch Trek… at first
“Are you kidding? I didn’t want to touch it. [When Paramount called us] and said, ‘Hey, do you want to do Star Trek?’ Yeah, we’re interested, but I don’t wanna come and screw it up. I don’t wanna mess with something that I love. Unless we have an idea, we’re not just going to say yes.”
Trek is on the Big Screen these days, but should Trek be on TV?
It’s a question we all have an opinion on (heck, it’s one we’ve talked a lot about lately here on TrekMovie). Star Trek started on television, and so did Bob Orci, who talked a bit about how the two mediums have changed over the years and how Trek fits into it all both then and now.
“When I saw Star Wars I remember thinking, ‘yeah Star Wars is amazing, but I can’t watch it at home. I can watch Star Trek at home. I remember thinking [about Trek], ‘wow, this is a whole universe,’ where as Star Wars seemed like a one-off.”
“A lot of action and not enough philosophy”
The fact of the matter is: Paramount is making Trek for the big screen. But, is this a good home for the franchise? Or should it be back on TV? Orci says both have a place in the Trek world, and so does “new” media like the web.
“I do think Star Trek is wonderful for TV. I think it should be both [TV and movies]. I saw a Next Generation movie, I won’t say which, but I though ‘Ahh, it’s slightly succumb to the trappings of movie making. A lot of action and not enough philosophy.’ It’s interesting to read that criticism of some of the stuff we’ve done in the last two [films]. TV affords you [philosophy]. But, I do think that audiences are sophisticated enough that Star Trek can be Star Trek in both mediums now.”
But, Trek WILL return to TV, says Orci
“Star Trek ain’t going anywhere. It’s going to outlive all of us. And it’s going to be translated into every kind of delivery system you can imagine. It’s not going away from TV either. It just depends on when it comes back and how it’s programmed against the movies.”
“I can’t get into the new Star Trek ‘cuz it’s not really my character”
“We didn’t say yes [to writing Star Trek 2009] until we hit upon the notion, what if Spock as portrayed by Leonard Nimoy is someway indirectly responsible for coming back in time and changing the universe and making it an alternate universe. The question becomes are these peoples’ souls the same? I remember reading, “Well, I can’t get into the new Star Trek ‘cuz it’s not really my character. It’s not the same people”. That’s actually the debate of the movie: are they the same soul? [The characters] have to earn your love anew. . . These characters must stand on their own.”
TWOK: The Wrath of Kirk… “Khan was in our minds”.
We talked about having a coda at the end of the first movie of Star Trek finding the Botany Bay. So Khan was in our minds. Now,  comes out and there is a big push to do Khan. We collectively stepped back from that because we felt like we were falling into the trap of using a villain based on previous knowledge of the villain, and that we were somehow relying on the audience’s expectation of love and hate of Khan to make that story work. So, we stepped back and said, ‘lets say it’s not Khan’.
But, after writing the story about this man, John Harrison, they came back to Khan.
“After we had that story, well, now can it be Khan? We started at Khan, went away from Khan, and then came back to him.”
“Sorry, that’s what Star Wars is for.”
A golden moment comes about a third of the way into the podcast during a great discussion about Star Trek being intellectual in a way that makes it better than your typical “popcorn movie”.
“I think some people are put off and confused by something that is so topical. On the message boards where, obviously, you get a lot of detractors that may or may not represent huge percentages — but, non-the-less they’re fans and they need to be heard — [They say], ‘I don’t wanna have to face those things when I’m eating popcorn in the theater.’ And, though they meant that as a criticism, I actually still take that as a compliment. It means that they sat through a popcorn movie that shook them up a little bit. That’s hard to do! It’s only because of the legacy and power of Star Trek that we were able to actually have this meditation on current events.
Look, I get it. You definitely go to the movies to escape, but you can escape and still think. The movie can be entertaining and still have something to say.”
At this point, Rod Roddenberry, who had apparently been listening in from the back of the room, decided to pipe up.
“Sorry, that’s what Star Wars is for.”
On listening to fans for STID
MLP co-host John Champion brought up the point that Orci and crew actually have listened to fans’ criticisms on the 2009 film and incorporated those criticisms by changing things in Into Darkness. Orci listed off a few of the specific things that changed because fans were vocal.
- We addressed Kirk’s quick ascension [to captain]. . . that’s why he’s demoted.
- We addressed the brewery [engineering]. We went to San Francisco and got a proper warp core.
- We attempted to try and grow the trifecta [Kirk, Spock, and Bones] by having Bones in there.
- We tried to make Scotty less humorous, gave him meat to chew on. He resigns over the Enterprise’s mission not being about exploration.
So, John’s follow up question is of course: what criticisms of Star Trek Into Darkness will Bob Orci and co. take into account for the next one?
“I am hoping that these movies have earned us a degree to go a little more sci-fi. In the first two movies, Paramount has been great in just trusting us in what we were going to do. You can’t blame the evil studio for whatever you hate. You have to blame us. My hope is that these movies have earned us the right to show another side of Star Trek that we have not fully shown yet. A genuine sci-fi mystery; that would be nice.
The third one — and this is based slightly on fan response — the third one should just be unpredictable with as many new elements as possible.”
Sexism in Star Trek? What about the Alice Eve underwear scene?
Ken Ray asks one of the tough questions while he has the chance. How does Bob Orci feel about that infamous scene that has really split fans down the middle?
“Breaking news, you heard it here first. That was not Damon [Lindelof]’s idea. It was JJ’s. Originally, they were going to open that torpedo in orbit, in space. So, originally, we had Kirk chasing her into a room where she was changing into a space suit. It seemed more purposeful when we actually conceived it. For production reasons, we just simply couldn’t afford to go out into space, so it turned into the desert floor. And, that scene, though when she is on the desert floor she is in a different outfit, you could argue that she didn’t need to be in a different outfit when she’s on the desert floor. So, it’s a slight holdover from the original conception of “everyone’s changing into a spacesuit”, which of course made a lot more sense.
I can’t claim to be an expert on feminism and gender politics at this moment. I could point out that you see Kirk half naked as well in both movies. He’s in his underwear, so’s Uhura. Did the movie need that scene? No. Have half the websites I’ve seen criticizing that scene used that exact photograph to publicize their own article about the scene? Yes.
I’m actually torn about it. I don’t know. You can’t watch Miley Cyrus on the VMA’s and not be confused about the state of feminism today.”
MLP Co-hosts Ken and John continue to play off of each other as well as always by offering up two very civil yet directly opposing viewpoints on the scene. At this point, the interview gets real. The interviewers take Orci’s response to the underwear question as a way to ask him about all of the other bits and pieces that they may not have liked about the film: Kirk’s death scene, the Khan scream. . . The whole discussion starts just after the 1 hour mark. Don’t miss it.
Keep up with Mission Log Podcast
If you aren’t already an avid listener of the Mission Log Podcast (a Roddenberry podcast), start listening. The series examines Star Trek — it’s messages, how those messages played when the show aired, and how they play today — one episode at a time. They started with The Cage and are working their way through The Original Series. Plus, every one in a while, they have great supplemental episodes like this one. Check ’em out and subscribe.
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