EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Damon Lindelof
Star Trek Into Darkness marketing is blasting through the entertainment press like a Xindi Power Weapon through Florida. StarTrek.com has had exclusive interviews with nearly every member of the cast and I was able to elbow my way to the table to talk with some of the behind-the-scenes folks.
That's right, your humble host of the weekly One Trek Mind column had a brief chance to toss a few questions to co-writer Damon Lindelof (and co-producer Bryan Burk who pipes in once.) An abridged transcript of this conversation is below.
We are doing this interviewing for StarTrek.com, so we are going to go hardcore. We are traveling at Warp Factor 6 into the deep nerd stuff. Re-imagining Star Trek and making it contemporary for today's fans must be one heck of a challenge. How do you bring the script to life?
LINDELOF: What happens is, in the script we'll write “Scotty is in a bar made up of exotic aliens and humans and it is difficult to tell which is which.” Then our incredible creature design team goes off and comes back with what they are and what they look like. They put them in front of J.J. (Abrams) and he picks the coolest ones. The production designers are, of course, inspired by, and in some cases directly cribbing from, established Trek canon. This covers everything, the original series, the novels, the animated series, Voyager and Deep Space Nine, the whole bit is up for grabs.
In this film when the ship goes to warp, there appears to be some sort of physical manifestation, a remnant as they enter subspace. Looks really cool, especially in 3D. This is new.
LINDELOF: The warp contrails? That was driven by a few things. One was to show the audience that Scotty has made modifications to the Enterprise between the two films. He says this a few times. We never want to effect the fundamental design properties of the Enterprise because those are iconic, but you can mess around with the ship's functionality.
Do we want the Enterprise to have cloaking technology? That feels like a bridge too far. But, since Scotty is now the engineer, is there something he's done that makes it feel different and unique without aberrating from canon? So Roger Guyette, our visual effects supervisor, took J.J.'s phrase “warp contrails” and ran with it. If you were standing in space at a spot where a ship just zapped off from, is there something we can do, considering it is 6 months after the last movie, that can show us that there are new technologies at play? Roger tried a few tests, some of which felt a bit too radical, but it was basically us having the same reaction you just did, saying “wow, that looks cool.” And we went with it.
There definitely are changes to the old school technology, but that make sense in a modern context. The first that comes to mind is the scene where Scotty and Keenser are at the bar and Kirk is in orbit around Kronos. Kirk picks up his communicator and basically calls him as if it were a cell phone. This, you know, wasn't exactly how it was done before, but, to be fair, when those original shows and films were made we didn't have our cell phones and the current ease of contact. That move makes sense to a modern audience.
LINDELOF: What happened in that case, actually, is Kirk is walking down the hallway and he says to Uhura “will you find
Mr. Scott and patch him through to my communicator” and she says “right away, Captain.” So then you cut to the other scene. But when we were editing we realized that the way you want to introduce Scotty is to cut to San Francisco, find him
in the bar, and then have Kirk call him. The audience has somewhat forgotten that he left the ship – by having Kirk announce “track him down” it takes away from the fun of the storytelling. So we lost that bit not fully aware that this was a significant change from canon. But that's the explanation for it.
Let’s talk about some of the other characters we see in Star Trek Into Darkness. There was a bridge crew member, a young woman with an Anime look going for her – very evocative silver hair. What is her story?
BURK: She's human but she had her hair done on another planet.
She doesn't have any lines, but gets a few great reaction shots. Back on the original show, the non-core characters, a Lt. Kyle or Lt. Leslie, they were just dudes. Now we've got some exciting looking people, so it's a twist. Can you confirm that the creatures we see with Kirk during his off-hours on Earth are Caitians?
LINDELOF: You mean the women with the tails?
Yes, this is the species that Lt. M'Ress was, from The Animated Series.
LINDELOF: Yes, we can confirm this.
Bob Orci, your co-author, is very vocal about conspiracy theories and finding strange things on the Internet to tweet and is frequently at odds with the quote lamestream media unquote. There are conspiracy elements in this film, I don't know if they originated with him or you or Alex Kurtzman, but I wonder if you ever spent some late nights over a beer with Bob and dug into some of the great conspiracy theories throughout history.
LINDELOF: It's impossible to know Bob Orci and not get involved in those conversations. He believes very passionately in a lot of that stuff and has done a tremendous amount of research. I think you can start it as a casual interlude but it can become intense rather quickly.
Personally speaking, I've known Bob feels that way for a long time. I'm not sure it influenced any of the storytelling in this film, as it was something we all wanted to do very early on,. To think of what happens in the first movie and what the effect would be on Starfleet.
After what happened to Vulcan, after Earth gets attacked, would Starfleet say, “well, we dodged that bullet, back to exploration?” Or would they say “we have to prepare ourselves if this ever happens again.” What would a more militarized Starfleet look like? Ultimately, the story would be about that, and for the soul of Starfleet. This was the story we all wanted to tell and it just so happened to play right into a lot of Bob's interests.
I couldn't help but notice that there are 72 torpedoes. John Harrison is a terrorist and of course Al Qaeda promises the “72 virgins.” Mere coincidence?
LINDELOF: Quick answer is, of course it is a coincidence, because that is a number taken from canon. It was pointed out to us at the scripting phase – the 72 virgins – and that actually gave us pause, because we didn't want people drawing that comparison… but there it is.