Interview: Ron Moore On Why Star Trek Is An Uncomfortable Fit For The Big Screen

On Friday, the second season of Ronald D. Moore’s new sci-fi show For All Mankind debuts on the Apple TV+ streaming service. Earlier this week we posted the first part of our interview with the veteran of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine about that show and how he sees it as a “road to Star Trek.”

Now for the second part of our interview, Ron Moore talks about the current state of Star Trek, including his thoughts on a possible Section 31 series and the challenge facing Paramount regarding what to do with Trek on the big screen. We also talk about his next big career move with Disney.

I know you’ve been very busy, but have you been keeping up with the new Star Trek shows on CBS All Access, like Picard, and Discovery, and Lower Decks?

No, I have not to be honest. I saw the beginning of Picard, and then I just haven’t gotten back to it. And there’s also just a part of me that I don’t watch, read, or consume as much science fiction as I used to when I’m working in science fiction. I tend to be like, ‘Okay, no more sci-fi in my spare time.’ I tend to gravitate to other things.

On DS9 you, David Weddle, and Bradley Thompson wrote all the original Section 31 episodes. Do you know they’re actually working on a Section 31 TV show? Do you have any thoughts on that?

I heard that. I remember reading that somewhere. I didn’t know if it was a real thing or if it was just a rumor. Certainly, that’s fertile ground to tell story. And it’s a great concept. It was [Deep Space Nine showrunner] Ira Behr that came up with the original idea of doing Section 31. It’s just waiting there to be told by somebody.

From DS9 “Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges,” written by Moore

Even with all this CBS Star Trek on TV, Paramount still doesn’t have a plan for what to do with it. You wrote two Trek feature films, if Paramount came to you and gave you $200 million or so, what would you do with Star Trek on the big screen?

That’s an interesting question. I’m not sure because Trek is, in some ways, an uncomfortable fit to the big screen I’ve kind of come to feel, even though I did two of them. I thought First Contact was a really good film, Generations not so much. And Wrath of Khan is an outstanding film. The Voyage Home works really well, and so on. It’s not that they’re not good movies, but it feels like the movies have to be spectacle. The movies have to be gigantic, action-adventure, lots of shooting, lots of things at stake – except for Voyage Home. And that’s not really Star Trek to me.

To me, Trek is a morality play. It’s a show about ethical dilemmas. It’s a science fiction show about “What if?” And it’s a character piece. The best parts of Trek don’t necessarily lend themselves towards the big screen. For instance, you couldn’t do “Data’s Day” as a movie, right? It was one of my favorite episodes. “The Conscience of the King” from The Original Series is one of my favorite episodes. That’s not a movie. So, the movie version always has to be hyped up and overdamped and they’re big giant roller coasters. And I don’t know that the roller coaster aspect is what attracts me to Star Trek the most.

So, if they asked me what to do with the movies, I don’t know. I’d want to reboot and start over and do something very different. And try a different flavor of Star Trek for the big screen. And not just make ‘Who’s going to be the “Khan” in this version? What’s the big, giant weapon that’s going to threaten the universe? Or anything like that. I think you’d have to find some sci-fi angle that made it more about: What are the roots of Trek? Why did people come to fall in love with it in the first place? And that’s a tall order.

Do you agree with the view that they should stop shooting for Marvel movie kind of money and just make say a $100 million or less, solid sci-fi movie?

Well, it’s hard because the feature business again is so different than television economics. The feature industry has backed itself into this corner, where they pretty much only make the gigantic Marvel-scale epic blockbusters, or they make very small art pieces for the Academy Awards. And for things in between, they have a tremendous amount of difficulty marketing, promoting, and making money off of. And that’s a weird box of their own making. So, I don’t know how to solve that. As a storyteller, I know that it’s not always satisfying to just throw more money into it and just make another visual effects sequence. That there’s something else going on in science fiction terms and in character terms is just kind of more interesting and more satisfying in a lot of ways.

From Star Trek: First Contact, co-written by Moore

You just signed a new deal with Disney – congratulations – and you will first work on a new Swiss Family Robinson series for Disney+. But there is a lot of IP at Disney of course, so is there any specific Disney IP you have your eyes on? Could we possibly see a Ron Moore Star Wars show?

You’re absolutely right, there’s a lot of great IP at Disney. And it is what attracted me to sign up deal there. And I’m very eager and excited at the possibilities to get my hands on all kinds of different IP. So that’s really all I can say at this point. But it’s an exciting opportunity because Disney was like Star Trek, something very important to me growing up, and a love that I’ve continued into my adulthood. So, the opportunity to get into some of this classic IP that Disney has in all of its facets is a really exciting proposition.

For All Mankind season 2 arrives Friday

For All Mankind season two moves the show forward a decade later to 1983 and to the height of the Cold War, with the US and Soviets going head-to-head to control sites rich in resources on the moon. The 10-episode second season will debut globally with the first episode on Friday, February 19, 2021, followed by one new episode weekly, every Friday, exclusively on Apple TV+.

This first look featurette gives you a taste of what to come, including Ron Moore talking about season two.


Check out more exclusive interviews at TrekMovie.com.

Subscribe
Notify me of
107 Comments
oldest
newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

What I’ve been saying for years is that I think the Trek movies could do the following things:

* Look at the following movies for inspiration (The Day the Earth Stood Still, Close Encounters, ET, The Voyage Home, The Abyss, Tremors, Contact, Master and Commander, Gravity, Interstellar, The Martian, Arrival). Most of those had a lower budget, and were still successful. Most didn’t have villains, and they were about solving problems.
* Think about a different structure, with a more episodic approach, along the lines of the games Judgment Rites and A Final Unity
* Try to avoid villains. Perhaps an antagonist would be better, if there has to be a character that provides the conflict, instead of say a natural emergency, then it could be someone that meets the crew in the middle toward the end. Star Trek is about seemingly implacable foes learning to communicate to solve problems, so having an antagonist that finds redemption would underline that thesis.
* See if it’s possible to write the script without anyone in the script dying. It’s not that death is inherently bad, but if that’s up there on the wall as a goal, then it might inspire more creative solutions to concluding the movies.
* It can be fun and action-packed without violence. Maybe a bit more humor would help.
* See if there can be balance for the ensemble. The Voyage Home and Beyond were probably the ones that best accomplished this.

I agree with pretty much all you’ve said here, though I would point out that The Abyss, Contact, Master and Commander, Gravity, Interstellar and The Martian all had substantial budgets in their day and were relying on the participation of some the most elite and best-known directors of modern times to sell the studio on films that would not automatically get greenlit without them.

Paramount chose to get into bed with JJ Abrams, which was a mixed blessing, obviously – a famous name with some good instincts for scope and good casting skills, but also a Star Wars fan who embraced the action aspect but not the intellectualism and idealism of Trek. And he did it all for ever-ballooning budgets before he then dumped Paramount to get into bed with Disney.

Paramount has to contend with the choice of continuing the Kelvin films which they know will do fairly well but can’t cost $180 million a pop, or do something entirely different, which is a huge risk. I think they can take yours and Ron Moore’s ideas to heart with that cast and make a less expensive proper Star Trek film. But if they go the latter route, they need an A-list writing and directing team to sell it to the studio and the audience. I don’t think Tarantino or Hawley are great fits to do both of those things, but that’s still the right kind of thinking.

Yes indeed. And for those box office tracker types, it should be pointed out that not only were The Martian, Interstellar, and Gravity successful, they all made quite bit more at the box office than any of the recent Trek movies. How about that?

I’d say if you can get artists of the same caliber and popularity as Christopher Nolan, Ridley Scott, Alfonso Cuarón, George Clooney, Sandra Bullock and Matt Damon interested in doing a Star Trek movie, then you will have set yourself up for the same level of success.

Last edited 15 days ago by Ian

I’m not so sure about that anymore. I mean, you would think an astronaut adventure movie with Brad Pitt and Tommy Lee Jones would be a hit or do well, but Ad Astra was a bomb. I guess those big names are never a sure thing.

Last edited 15 days ago by AllenWrench

Don’t know why my first reply to this was flagged. I wrote the words, “one-two pun¢h?” So annoying.

Anyway, Ad Astra didn’t have a known quantity at the helm as a director (audiences were never going to flock to a deliberately placed sci-fi drama just from the tagline, “From the director of The Lost City of Z!”), whereas those other films had A-list directors. Trek has only ever hired big name directors in Wise and Abrams, and never has splurged on an A-list star (unless one counts an uncredited Whoopi Goldberg). They’ve certainly never tried to do both at once, and IMO that’s what would be needed to keep a movie reboot afloat.

Star Trek doesn’t have many immediate options for films. They could do a slightly cheaper fourth Kelvin film and hope it’s not been too long, perhaps let go of the George Kirk plot that’s been a hang up. They could also try something entirely new a la what Tarantino and Hawley were cooking up, or what Berman was planning with Star Trek: The Beginning, but again, I think that would be a big risk, especially without popular legacy characters and a big name director and cast (who would be expensive). Trying to build a movie franchise off of any of the Paramount+ shows would be a similar risk, they likely don’t have total audiences any bigger than DS9 or Voyager, neither of which was deemed popular enough to justify a movie upgrade.

Er, doubtful audiences flocked to Wrath of Khan because it had the director of Time After Time, either. I think a good story “hook,” some novel new way to get people to want to watch the movie, is the only hope they would have for success. You can’t count on people knowing the actors or director, or caring enough to buy a ticket just for them.

Last edited 15 days ago by AllenWrench

But TWOK was a sequel to a successful film with the same cast. There’s less immediate effort needed, which would also be the case with a 4th Kelvin film. If they want to go for a new reboot I maintain that needs A-list clout.

A big director gets you access to a more prestigious cast and a combo of the two gets more hype and more attention. One would hope that a better story is tied up in all of that given the hypothetical level of talent involved.

I don’t think TWOK’s success had anything to do with TMP, which was seen as something of a disappointment, creatively speaking. If I had to guess, it had more to do with the novelty of seeing Mr. Roarke fighting Captain Kirk on the big screen. Probably the hook non-Trekkies saw in it.

Last edited 15 days ago by AllenWrench

TWOK was very profitable because it was shot for a little over $11 million. However, in total it only made less than $80 million. Even factoring in inflation that wouldn’t be enough today considering you would probably spend at least $100-150 million on making a Trek movie.

Exactly. People tend to forget that Trek movies, historically, have rarely been hits (TWOK and TVH the exceptions) Into Darkness remains the highest grossing Trek film EVER in the US, adjusted for inflation (globally too, but finding global numbers for the older movies is an inaccurate science).

The older films were successful for the studio not because they made a lot of money, but because they had smaller budgets.

But before anyone says “they should just do that again”– remember what Mr. Plinkett said about the blurring effect of modern cinema: it was easier to be memorable (and successful) in the past because there were fewer options to sort through.

In 1982, if you wanted to see a movie you had to go to the theater or find something on one of 3 different channels on TV (very few people had cable). That was it. Now there’s countless options, many of which are essentially free, on-demand, and can be watched anywhere, even on the go.

THAT is why Hollywood has become such an all-or-nothing business. It’s actually a GOOD thing that Trek is on streaming, because that’s where studios are now spending their time and money.

The irony is, streaming is where a network could profit on something lower budget, and yet CBS continues to treat Trek like it’s a blockbuster movie series on TV.

I don’t think most non-trekkies even bothered with TWOK, though most of the ones who did, liked it (I say most, not all, because my best friend at the time couldn’t stop talking about how disappointed he was with the music on TWOK afterward, saying, where is the great melody?)

Box Office-wise, the TREK movies didn’t ‘recover’ from TMP till TVH. The first was an event film that regular folks went to, more out of hype than word of mouth (how I got suckered into watching the 89 BATMAN with Keaton, which I have never managed to stay awake thorough spread across four tries in four decades), and based on the returns, they stayed away till they got a safe fun fish-out-of-water story in TVH.

The video numbers on TWOK and TSFS may have also helped fuel TVH in theater, but I kinda doubt it was the major factor because TWOK alone should have fueled a theatrical renaissance with TSFS, like the way FIRST BLOOD on homevid sparked RAMBO 2.

No major director was going to take TWOK just based on it being a sequel with no budget, so there is very little basis for comparing it to any other TREK project, except maybe GENERATIONS, which at least had some budget but a lousy script.

I agree in fact I’d go so far as to suggest that they should get Denis Villeneuve the director of Arrival involved with Trek after he finishes his work on Dune.

Villeneuve is a fantastic director, he’d doubtless make a Star Trek movie that looks beautiful, appeals to critics and is loved by me. Sadly he’s not guaranteed box office gold and it would probably be about as successful as the brilliant Bladerunner 2049.

Nah, they just overestimated the draw of a sequel to a 35-year movie.

He’d be perfect for Star Trek, and it would do well enough financially.

Last edited 14 days ago by Methusalah

I’d love to see a Villeneuve Trek movie, I’m just saying that his name alone is not enough to bring in a crowd. Given the state of the film industry as a whole at the moment and the fact that the Star Trek brand doesn’t have as much pull at the cinema as many other tentpole franchises I’d say it’s a pretty bold statement to say explicitly that a Villeneuve Trek movie would do well enough financially.

Not true — most of those had substantial budgets.

The thing about Section 31 is, for what was originally portrayed as a clandestine organisation, the power of the idea of them lay more in what you didn’t know about them – the more often you saw them, or how different this portrayal became, the less interesting they were. The power of “DS9: Inquisition” would have been far more had it been years before they were ever mentioned again.

The best representation of spycraft is when nobody knows they are there, and they get away with their operations cleanly and quietly – not huge bombastic space battles witnessed by hundreds while the name of the organisation is being shouted over subspace channels.

For a show about an organisation like the way Sloan originally described it to Bashir to work, they would have to have episodes where the vast majority of the time, the team is out on the fringes of space dealing with threats to the Federation before they get to its’ borders, or dealing with internal Federation stuff without leaving any witnesses, otherwise all we are going to have are more questions about why centuries later people aren’t still talking about the open way they conducted themselves in the 2250s.

Also, I don’t know if anyone’s made this connection before, but it suddenly occurred to me that another of the reasons they always sounded nefarious to me was in their name itself; “Section 31” sounds just uncomfortably close to “Section 28”, a horribly bigoted piece of legislation introduced in Britain in the late 1980s by Thatcher’s government that did much harm to many people for myriad reasons before it was repealed. The similarity of the names is undoubtedly entirely coincidental, but the subconcscious link was there for me and may have been what reinforced my negative opinion of the organisation.

Oh my, from the photo I got worried he died. I don’t know about elsewhere, but in Poland it’s common practice for the press to show photos of a recently deceased person in black and white.

They’d better fix Apple TV+. Can’t for the life of me finish the first episode without it stopping, looping, and then stopping.

Probably your device or router. I watched all of For All Mankind and Tom Hanks’ Greyhound without any issues whatsoever.

LOL. Never had an issue with their service over two years. Probably your cheap streaming device I am guessing.

He’s right. If you’re not going to make a film blockbuster sized, you might as well rework your story into the streaming model. Streaming is the middle ground now.

The old days of a medium budget Trek film like First Contact are behind us and are not coming back.

I want to see a trek movie on Paramount Plus and made for Paramount Plus. No need to worry about making a billion dollars and they can focus on story and not necessarily special effects. But then again…if they use the special effects from Disco and Picard…and get their budget…it would look amazing..

I just don’t know if they’d actually spring for that though. Think about it – a movie is just two hours of content, and likely at the cost of tens of millions of dollars. A mini series or tv season costs the same or more, but is amortized over several episodes, and more likely to keep a subscriber subscribed.

There is definitely a market with fans for one offs like a Captain Sulu or DS9 reunion TV movie that could not justify a theatrical release, but at that point… why not just make that into a mini series for the above reasons?

Ron Moore is right to say that theatrical movies now have to go big or go home, unfortunately. I don’t think a Trek movie will ever get made for under $100 million again, but they also can’t cost what Into Darkness and Beyond spent, either.

I think that a lot of money could have been saved by NOT using as much CGI, I am a huge fan of CGI, but I really didn’t need to see all that was used for instance a 3D fly over of the space station. Great visual but not necessary to the plot of the script. Its almost like if you got it, use it–less directing and acting that has to be done.

One of the silver linings to not having an overly generous budget is that it does tend to make writers and directors think more judiciously about what best serves story and character, and if more money is needed then it prompts a real passionate fight for it. All of that can often lead to creative solutions that would not present themselves if money were no object from the outset.

Wow, so there is a chance we can see a Ron Moore Star Wars or Marvel show. Just thinking about this makes me excited.

I participated in the “Ask Ron Moore” board on AOL in the 1990s. Ron answered a lot of my questions, even my silly ones. I learned quite a bit about writing and TV production from those online chats with Ron. He was very giving with his time and information, and I appreciated it greatly. He even connected me with his first agent (although nothing came from it) which shows how willing he was to help new writers. He is a class act and I really wish he was still writing for Star Trek.

That said, I think it is interesting that he no longer keeps up with new Star Trek, but I think I can speculate: he doesn’t like it. He is a major Star Trek fan, so to not watch the new stuff is very telling. In this article he low-key blasted the JJ movies by saying he doesn’t like Trek to be about spectacle, a new “Khan”, high-stakes, or a giant weapon. The Kurtzman Trek shows are a continuation of that. “Conscience of a King” is his favorite TOS episode, that is a not the foundation for a big movie. I’m not saying that Kurtzman Trek needs to be validated by Ron Moore in order for it to be considered good, but it is interesting.

I am looking forward to his Swiss Family Robinson, but I don’t think I’ll watch For All Mankind. Not my thing. I’m still holding out hope he’ll get his Dragon Riders show going some day.

‘I saw the Beginning of Picard and just didn’t get back into it.’ Says a lot!
‘He doesn’t like it’ indeed, especially with ST Picard it became tiresome and a disappointment to watch after the initial hope and thrill of seeing Picard again post-TNG, that Ron helped to create.

What is says is that you are deliberately changing the context of his quote to prop up your own opinion on Picard.

Last edited 14 days ago by Methusalah

I did the same thing. I read Ron’s quote and then used my own opinion about Picard as a logical explanation for his actions. Picard wasn’t nearly as entertaining as the last four seasons of Star Trek TNG. It was basically a three (maybe four) hour story stretched out to ten episodes.

Last edited 14 days ago by Jeff

That’s amazing, that you were on an AOL board with him in the ’90s. I went to a talk he did at New York Comic Con a couple of years ago and even in that one session I learned a great deal about writing and how to keep scenes surprising in some of the simplest ways. He’s an inspiring speaker.

I used to ask him questions too! That was such a lovely time to be a fan and it was a great interaction he entertained with us.

Please read the interview again on what he said about Picard and the new shows. There is a big difference between speculation and just making shit up. He doesn’t have time for scifi outside of work — he directly gave us the reason.

Yet had had time in the last 18 months to introduce his child to BSG, rewatching the pilot and 33 with her. So yeah, he has time for Scifi, just not for time-waster scifi.

Bit of a stretch to infer anything there, especially using the example of how he showed a few hours of his work to his daughter of all people.

Hey, I interviewed the guy; didn’t get any ‘no time for fun sc-fi’ vibe at all from him.
https://issuu.com/icgmagazine/docs/october2019?fr=sMmEyODMyMjE0%252F54

starts on Page 30

That’s lovely, but there’s nothing printed in your interview about what else he was watching, which was the pointed question he was replying to when he said he doesn’t watch much science fiction these days. The closest thing to an inference we can glean is simply that he didn’t volunteer any further thoughts. He did tell Collider that he liked what he’d seen of Picard earlier this year, leaning into how great it was to see those actors in those parts again, and he mentioned elsewhere that he’d seen some of Discovery but he was intimidated by how much Star Trek there is, and it all being part of the same continuity.

And again, watching a few hours of his own sci-fi show because his daughter requested it is entirely a different context.

The only Guy how can save Star Trek

Strange….Trek was never an uncomfortable fit when the shows driving the films were good.

It was, though. As fun as they are, his concerns are valid IMO. How many beloved Trek TV episodes revolve around a dastardly singular villain with plans for planetary/galactic armageddon? Not that many of the top-rated TV episodes fit that bill. But every single movie but TVH (and TMP if you stretch the parameters) not only has a larger than life baddie, but lives and dies by how memorable that villain and the action is, as if Trek was 007.

Well, they tried to make a non blockbuster film with Insurrection (which I personally like very much and feels the most Trek to me), but that went nowhere (perhaps due to the campy VFX, but that can’t be all). Which is a pity, because I don’t like those big blockbuster-wannabes like the Kelvin movies (except for Beyond, which tries to be more Trek as well)…

Insurrection still tries to have it both ways. Has a plot that is not out of line for a TV two-parter (I could see it fitting in very well on Voyager or Enterprise, certainly), but with the addition of another dastardly baddie who must be taken down in an action-heavy climax. That’s typical of the movies, by and large, but not exactly in keeping with how Jean-Luc Picard resolved most of the conflicts he was presented with on TNG.

That’s true, they could’ve toned that down and not have Picard resort to stunts and action. Otherwise, I agree, it would’ve made a nice two parter, because the story itself isn’t bad.

I get the sense Patrick Stewart wanted to be more of an action man on the big screen. Maybe he was just annoyed that in Generations, while Kirk was handing out jabs and punches, Picard was burning his hand on pans and sobbing over his family’s untimely demise.

I remember watching First Contact and being a bit taken aback but also impressed by Picard 2.0, while also wondering who Stewart’s personal trainer was.

It made sense for a Borg movie, but in the long run, it was a bit ridiculous for Picard to be such an action hero, sure! That’s the movies for ya.

Agreed. It’s not terrible, but unexpected and totally not in line with what one has come to except in 7 seasons of TNG. Not that Picard couldn’t be bad ass, but not in a physical way.

OMG, the horrid Anji love interest thing — so bad and silly. That ruined the movie for me.

I recall Frakes saying his Director’s Cut would restore the kiss between Picard and Anij, as if that would really solve anything. It’s a cheap-looking and unambitious movie with slapdash humor, mediocre acting and a plot that has little punch.

Perfectly stated!

…but if it had been a TV episode, it would have been fine, even a memorable one. When you have that cast back together though for just two precious hours and on the big screen, it’s got to be special. Insurrection really just felt like it was everyone resting on their laurels.

I love his work but I disagree on Star Trek (TOS) being “ethical dilemmas” for ethical dilemmas” sake. . It had to tackle ethical dilemmas” because it was about those on the outskirts of civilization yet had to represent all of civilization (Master and Commander – this ship IS England. No phoning home to Starfleet Command for what to do). When you are in an unknown universe without help and where you don’t know the right answer – ethical dilemmas” just appear everywhere.
I think Trek worked fine at the movies when it was TOS Wagon Train to the Stars Western on the frontier – similar to his show.
Of course movies about ethical dilemmas” are boring. And trying to take a dreadful show about “ethical dilemmas” for “ethical dilemmas” sake would suck.
But look out, here comes Genesis… is it a terraforming device that will feed billions or a weapon of ultimate power that will plunge the galaxy into universal armegeddon… It can be both!!! And when you are alone and out there, you do what you have to.
If you say, well, energy is free, no one has to worry about terraforming anything, class M planets for all, everything is sooo easy, who even needs Genesis?!?!
The movies fell apart when Trek become less about humanity on the frontier and more about everything but that because humanity is so great and the aliens are all going to want to be with us, like us in with our statist superiority. This is something DS9 I think hinted to ironically, that the UFP was transforming itself slowly into the Borg.

Not true that a dilemma like that is boring.
The captain America films for one had cap grappling with how to deal with his loyalty to SHIELD and then the avengers over his friendship with what some considered a killer.

It’s the essence of drama.

Actually ‘crimson tide’ is even better example of that kind of drama.

Exactly. And don’t even get me started on the Godfather series, Saving Private Ryan and Bridge over the River Kwai.

Again of those movies had ethical dilemma’s that resulted from the situation…
Saving Private Ryan has World War 2 total combat, Godfather has the mafia. Again in these cases you have a cool action/adventure where the protagonists (in Godfather, no heroes but protagonists I guess) are in challenging overwhelming situations and ethical dilemmas will naturally result.

Last edited 13 days ago by Cmd.Bremmon

All of those movies had ethical dilemma’s that resulted from the situation… SHIELD being infiltrated by HYDRA, a nuclear submarine on the verge of World War. In both cases the writing started with cool submarine movie, cool super hero movie. You come up with an action-adventure where the heroes have limited resources and are up against a threat beyond them and you’ll naturally get ethical dilemmas.

“Of course movies about “ethical dilemmas” are boring”

LOK, OK right. You do realize that both Avengers Infinity War and Inception each had a huge moral dilemma component, right?

Star Trek movies are wonderful but mostly flawed, wonderfully flawed so to speak. It’s mainly due to the well-deserved success of TWOK that most Trek movies wanted to be exactly like that. We got so many TWOK rip-offs it hurts. But next to TWOK itself, the best Trek movies are the ones that tried to stand on their own: TVH, TUC, FC…

That said, I think Trek needs to take its mission literally in future movies. Unlike TV shows, movies would have the budget to really take us where no one has gone before but for whatever reason, no Trek movie has tried to do so since 1979’s TMP… strange new worlds, new life… taking us beyond our imagination… literally…

There are a couple of genre movies, both sci-fi and fantasy, that have done that a lot more successfully than any Star Trek movie, with Avatar probably being the greatest of them all. We even got more strange new worlds in the Star Wars PT…

And please get rid of those two-dimensional cardboard villains emulating Khan…

The funny thing about the budgets were that the cap they had on costs only got them so much more production value than they had on TV, at least as RDM and Braga explained it. They found themselves right back to reusing sets, counting phaser optical shots and downsizing set pieces because $35-65 million did not get you very far!

That of course doesn’t detract from what you are saying about originality at all. But TMP and the Abrams movies are the only ones which had the resources to really fund an epic imaginative story (not that they all spent that money wisely, but it was available to them!)

All the movies of the 90s do look superior to any TV of the day despite the movies only have moderate budgets.

Floating CGI (it was 1991!) blood
The Saucer Crash
Exploding planet (done well!)
Exterior shot of upside down Enterprise with crew walking on it
The Borg Redesign
The Collecter Thing
Etc..

Yes, those are the set pieces that they chose to prioritize for the movies, and they look lovely. But at the same time we also had:

Reusing the Enterprise D engineering set for TUC
Reusing stock footage from TNG and TUC and uniforms from TNG and DS9 for Generations
Reusing the Voyager sickbay set for First Contact
Limited number of new Borg costumes
Space battle that’s far shorter than the writers and director were hoping for
Cheap-looking CGI in Insurrection
That joystick
That cave set
Etc.

Choices still had to be made to offset the big spends, not unlike what they dealt with on the TV show, just on a bigger scale since it was for a 2 hour film.

About half of them are good and wonderfully flawed. The other half just plain suck — V, Generations, Insurrection, Nemesis, STID and Beyond.

A lot of good points/reasons were brought up in his answers. While I like to think that ST;TMP started it all to see Trek on the silver screen. There really are some that should not be films, Generations, Insurrection, Search for Spock. But TWOK and First Contact were made for theater viewing. The Final Frontier, which I personally enjoy, could go either on the small or big screen as it was not a “caper” type ST film but a very needed character driven film for Kirk, Spock and McCoy. I have to admit that a Section 31 film or TV series would be a nice addition.

The Search for Spock is my fav Trek film of all time.

I love Search for Spock as well. Stealing the Enterprise is still one of the best scenes from any Star Trek series or film and when I saw it the audience cheered when Sulu says, “We have cleared space doors.” The look of that film, Christopher Lloyd’s performance, how the Klingon’s were portrayed, the visual effects and much more set the tone of every Star Trek incarnation that followed. William Shatner also does some of his best work as Kirk in that film.

So, yes, I agree. I’m a huge fan of that movie and it just works on so many levels.

Couldn’t disagree more about FC, it is very small in scale and feels very television to me. TFF did have a widescreen feel to framing/compositions.

Their is only one good thing about TFF(and that goes also for the equally dreadful TMP) is the brilliant score by Jerry Goldsmith. Quite magnificent. The friendship theme of TFF has me in tears every single time I listen to it.

Last edited 13 days ago by Dvorak

I love Ron Moore to death and I wish anything he could be involved in Star Trek again, but that’s life. And the guy is really really busy these days. ;)

But yes I completely agree with him about the Trek movies in general and why I never been in love with the movie side like the TV shows. Star Trek really is more geared to TV because of the stories it can tell vs the films. The films can definitely be good and obviously there have been a few iconic ones that really tell good Star Trek stories, but the majority of them just don’t have the same quality or tone of the shows. Of course that’s because they need a bigger mass audience to justify their existence and can’t tell the more personal or innovative stories as the shows the hardcore fans cares about.

The Kelvin movies are really the perfect example of that of course. They certainly have all the Trek elements but they lack smaller intimate stories that doesn’t require an uber-villain trying to destroy the Federation. What’s interesting about Star Trek on TV is that some of it’s best stories doesn’t have a villain at all. They are truly about the characters and self reflection. City on the Edge of Forever, The Inner Light, The Visitor, Timeless, New Eden, Similitude, Measure of a Man, Duet, It’s Only a Paper Moon, Living Witness, Tapestry, The Menagerie, Carbon Creek, Latent Image, The Offspring and on and on and on.

Just a lot of great, introspective and thought provoking stories. Now obviously there are just as many great stories with villains, big battles and etc. Again, some the best Trek episodes involve lots of action and thrills and gave us great stories like Year of Hell, Balance of Terror, Way of the Warrior, etc . But the thing about Star Trek on TV, it can be very dynamic and diverse in it’s storytelling. You can literally go from BOBW to Family in the very next episode. That’s why TV Trek can be so great.

The movies just can’t do that, at least not on a profound level. And for some odd reason for the last five movies, it’s always about a villain and their big ship (or ships) with big explosions and quick cuts. To be fair they all try to have quieter character moments, but it still all comes down to trying to stop the maniac out for revenge from releasing a bioweapon or blowing up a planet.

There is no real diversity in the story telling in the movies like the shows have done for decades now. The fact there has only been two films out of thirteen that had no villain at all says that. Forget about trying to do small stories like The Inner Light, Living Witness or The Visitor on the big screen. It wouldn’t work.

Last edited 15 days ago by Tiger2

Yeah, of the episodes you described, only The City on the Edge of Forever and Timeless could probably be adapted into a movie screenplay with work to boost the ensemble nature of them.

Trek is versatile on TV. The movies feel hamstrung by a set formula, with tone being the only real variable between them, beyond TMP and TVH being notable outliers. And for what it’s worth, TMP and TVH are the films Roddenberry had the most influence over and liked the most, respectively.

Actually, Roddenberry had very little involvement with any film after TMP and that includes the TVH. By all accounts he enjoyed TVH but he had very little involvement with it.

Which is why I wrote, “respectively.” He had the most influence over TMP but liked TVH the most.

GR’s like of TVH was qualified, as he tied its success to the fact he had been pushing his own terrible godawful time travel story for several years — the one where Amanda is raped to death by Klingons and that hangs on the whole JFK thing.

I know he pitched versions of that idea for years, but I’ve never read anything where he said he only liked it because it was a time travel story, rather that it felt the most like a Star Trek story to him.

I’d like to see Ron Moore involved in Star Trek again too. He’d definitely be my first choice as a showrunner.
 
There are 2 episodes that I think could have worked really well as full-length big screen movies: “Yesterday’s Enterprise” and especially “In the Pale Moonlight”. They could have kept all the brilliant character-driven stuff from the TV episodes, and expanded the length to 2 hours by actually showing on-screen the devastating impact of the wars with the Klingons and the Dominion. Starfleet catastrophically losing battles, populated worlds coming under horrific assault, millions of refugees fleeing the war zones, maybe increasingly-desperate classified high-level debates within Starfleet Command and Starfleet Intelligence, maybe also show POTUFP. Stuff like that to add further context to Picard and Sisko’s eventual actions. But keep everything else we saw in the TV episodes, especially Pale Moonlight (including Sisko’s famous monologues bookending the story).
 
Handled like that, I think “Star Trek: In the Pale Moonlight” in particular could have been a fantastic big screen film — possibly the best Trek movie since TWOK. And, of course, the story *does* have villains — they just happen to be Sisko and Garak ;)

I want to see a Star Trek movie as a LOTR 3 part epic trilogy, A Final Unity would be awesome, but the best movies are about a Human story, it’s not about space battles, pew pew, But Drama and the Human story and that’s what makes the best movies. i’ve love to see Robert Zemeckis direct it, and Christopher Nolan and Jonathan Nolan write a great scifi movie for Star Trek.

The movies were at their best with the ‘khan’ trilogy in the 80s

Quentin Tarantino’s thesis was that some TOS episodes could be expanded into movies, and apparently he tested that idea by expanding “A Piece of the Action” into a film script.

It looks unlikely that we will ever see the movie, but hopefully we’ll see the screenplay published someday at least so we can judge for ourselves if he was right.

And again Paramount misses an opportunity to snap R.D. Moore up for Trek …. as we continue with the much less than spectacular stewardship of Kurtzman & crew. R.I.P. Star Trek.

It could be worse, dude…Voyager and Enterprise for example.

VOY and ENT are awesome.

Well, maybe Ent season 4.

Not even when compared to SPACE RANGERS and TEKWAR.

reply was to TONY, not TEMZA

ViacomCBS is always going to be at a disadvantage when it comes to attracting star talent. If it comes down to a creative who wants to play with lots of famous IP, the choices of what they control are limited versus WarnerMedia and Disney. I still think the stupidest thing Viacom ever did was turn down the chance to buy Marvel.

And if it comes down to money, ViacomCBS also can only compete so far now when it comes to a splashy multi-year contract. As much as I deplore media consolidation, they are probably going to have to bulk up by way of making an acquisition or being acquired by a bigger company unless they can really build/acquire some major new hits across the board.

You really should consider just getting some fresh air lol. Life is to short.

So’s your attention span, if what you’re saying differs so drastically from JC’s assertion.

Two quick things popped into my mind listening to Moore regarding TREK at the cinema. First, I’m a believer in that old argument that TREK on TV had so saturated the media, it made little sense to ask millions to pay for something they could get for free. It was true in the 80’s and here the POB are going through yet another saturation barrage on TV of TREK material, only this time with a twist. They are expecting people to pay to see movies, even when they are already asking customers to pay to see way too much product on TV, and this time, it’s not for free? So far, it’s looking like Paramount has figured out this makes no sense financially.

Second, in order for TREK to even have a chance at a movie franchise–if they were silly enough to try it–it would have to dump it’s sci-fi roots and come up with a comic book or fantasy-based concept. Science fiction is too cerebral and talky a genre (read drama-based) to become a top grossing film franchise unless it is combined with, and dominated by comedy, fantasy, action, horror or any other populist genres.

Last edited 14 days ago by Wallace

The 80s was a great time for the movies, especially as they kept budgets down.
Actually salary demands from shatner, nimoy became an issue.

There is no need to jettison what makes ‘trek’ great to make profitable for paramount.
Cerebral SF does make money as has been shown recently by blockbusters mentioned in this thread.

It’s not necessarily cheap though, hence the discussions. The films need to look good to get the respect they are due, and they can’t just appeal to hardcore fans, there aren’t enough of us. Getting the production value and talent needed to have a good chance at a hit costs money, cerebral story or not.

My point was, I just don’t see pure, cerebral sci-fi as top grossing franchise fodder. Too expensive to make, not enough consistent audience to justify.

Last edited 8 days ago by Wallace

Paramount has the same problem with Mission Impossible. Two properties that were based on intellectual story telling which Paramount confused for tent pole movie making. They might be able to get some monetary success under those names, but there will always be a shadow overhanging the movies that they just don’t quite exceed the meat of the TV series.

The m:i movies are profitable for paramount and critically acclaimed, especially ‘nation’ and ‘fallout’

And yet still only vaguely like Mission Impossible the TV shows.

I’d say in this case the movie series has far outstripped the TV show in terms of popularity and name association. If they ever did a new Mission: Impossible tv series (and I seriously doubt Paramount+ isn’t contemplating that), I suspect a majority of people would expect it to be spun-off from the films, if not think it was an outright adaptation of them. People go into the films wanting a Tom Cruise action stunt-fest, and that critical acclaim comes with that. Needing to be more in line with the TV show does not come up as a popular gripe much beyond the odd plaudit whenever it leans on Ethan Hunt’s team.

It’s a similar situation with The Fugitive. The movie looms so large over everything else, the original TV series doesn’t factor in that often. In that case, the film is closer in spirit to the show.

Last edited 13 days ago by Ian

Well don’t get me wrong. I think the movies are excellent Tom Cruise action movies. The Star Trek movies are also generally good action movies. But neither of them really capture what made the TV shows great.

Are the Mission Impossible movies successful because they are a generic Tom Cruise action movie or because they are telling good Mission Impossible stories?

Personally I think The Unit (from CBS) was a better Mission Impossible reboot than the Tom Cruise movies.

Last edited 13 days ago by Jeff

J J’s involvement as producer, director meant the series is more interested in teamwork than the earlier installments as well as story arcs

He’s right about Trek movies. They worked as “B” movies, and there really isn’t a market for those in the cinema. What were B movies in that era go straight to streaming today. From a business standpoint, the first JJ Trek movie worked because they did a good job building it up and people were curious. The second one worked off the good will of those that liked the first film and blew it. No one outside of fans cared about the third.

I still say it can have a future in cinema, but it needs to quit trying to fit the formula. Trek can be done cheaper, and not be a big shoot ‘em up. Just go high concept Sci Fi. They can sprinkle some action in, of course.. but think about movies like Interstellar. It can work, but it takes some bold decision making, and that’s not how Trek is treated these days.

Agreed on Interstellar, they could go real hard sci-fi and it would work. But not with TNG hotels in space where energy is free and all the aliens want to be like us because we are sooo smart and peaceful.

TNG went hard SF all the time, technobabble spouted all the time

Technobabble isn’t hard SF as I understand that concept, which is to develop drama based on an exotic but physically possible situation, e.g. we need to land on a planet where the gravity will kill us, we need to get off Mars without proper gear, a stowaway is consuming oxygen and taking up mass that will make it impossible to deliver medicine. Technobabble isn’t anything but making up a cute name to resolve a problem. It isn’t a foundation for drama. it is the thing that kills the drama actually

Paramount never saw the OS films as b movies ever, especially after VH did $100 mil domestic.
You can do ‘trek’ well on big screen without a MCU budget.

Paramount, apart from a slight largesse in the early Brad Grey years, was always a stingy studio. They popularized co-production hedge bets in the 90s, with their most famous being the deal to pay $60 million to Fox in exchange for the domestic rights to Titanic. Fox tried for more as the budget kept spiraling, Sherry Lansing would not budge. But apart from the odd tent pole like Mission: Impossible, they kept budgets lower. Star Trek costs largely only increased as the stars’ salaries went up, they could never see the point of spending $70 million+ when international returns were never great and only 3 films had ever grossed more than $80 million. Maybe not b-movie, but it’s cautious, probably with cause. It took a reboot and new director and cast to trigger the go big or go home mentality.

I think a great last Kelvin film is possible, I love that cast. I don’t think we need a Star Trek writer to come back to save the project. What we need is a tight focus on why the film demands to be made, aside from making Paramount a few bucks. As fans, what would respect the show we love, and as general audiences, what would distinguish this show and get me off my couch and into the theatre?

I don’t have the right answer but I refuse to believe there are no right answers possible.

I have a few theories, in no particular order:

  • Drama from character. TOS is largely about Kirk and his decisions. He has Spock advocating the logically defensible and legally correct choice, and McCoy to advocate the emotionally right and humanely compassionate choice. Kirk can’t do both (or not easily). That’s conflict flowing organically from character as well as a fun texture because Spock and McCoy actually deeply respect each other despite how very far apart they are on issues.
  • Kirk is the hero not because he’s cute (though he is cute) or because the ship has x number of cannons but because he is a literal 4D chess master who can perceive an unlikely path to victory. His methods are unconventional and borderline illegal (Kobayashi Maru) but it is the reason he was the youngest heavy cruiser captain in Starfleet history and why his crew has such faith in him. Kirk is a leadership genius. If you have that, you have a hero that can bring a satisfying resolution to a seemingly impossible problem. And in Chris Pine you have an actor with the chops to make us feel his pressures.
  • Trek is a show about things that are alien. Due to TV budgets, it is a forehead appliance show, which the movies do not need to conform to (see Insurrection for why that looks stupid in movies). But Trek has done well to expand our understanding of what is human and what is humanly possible. Think of Devil in the Dark – that is a horror movie with a scary monster that at the end is just a mom. Think of All Good Things – Q set up a problem that is solved by looking at events in reverse chronology, which he points out nearly blows our minds, and there is much crazier stuff in the universe. SHOW ME THAT CRAZY STUFF and don’t just make it an ordinary monster or ordinary situation dressed up with spacesuits and technobabble – we have seen that countless times before and for free. Show us alien concepts. Alien morality. Alien reality.
  • The Enterprise is home. It is a village in space. Everyone knows everyone, sometimes too well, but there is a sense of belonging. The Enterprise is iconic in its look and we’ve been in it so many times we feel sentimental about it. Stop blowing it up or spending so much time off the ship. If you can set a scene on the Enterprise, do it.

Trouble is pine’s Kirk is not that chess player and the film series has shown little interest in the ‘crazy stuff’ or alien reality.

That has to change.

I agree that the movies have played it too safe. But in the first Kelvin movie, we did have the revelation that Kirk planned and executed a brilliant hostage retrieval and suckered the Nerada into pursuit in deep space where they got blown up with their own weapon. That is 4D chess and I can stand to see a lot more of THAT

But then he foolishly took on the swarm in ‘beyond’ and lost the enterprise.
Epic fail.

If I were Paramount/Viacom/CBS I would adapt A Star Trek Novel such as The Final Reflection by John M. Ford or do something to fill in the corners of Star Trek we’ve heard of but never seen.