ran an interview with Star Trek Into Darkness co-writers and co-producers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman a couple of weeks before the film opened, but when we got a chance to speak with Orci again after we saw the film, but still before it opened to the public, we decided to take advantage of the opportunity. Somewhere in the middle of this second, and solo, conversation with Orci, it was agreed that we’d touch on some spoilers and hold the interview until after the film debuted. Well, the film is in theaters and now is the time to run the story, spoilers and all. Below is part one, and check back at again tomorrow for part two.

How hard was it, in scripting Star Trek Into Darkness, to balance the nostalgia element with the forging-a-new-path factor?

The freedom of the second movie was actually more challenging. On the first movie, on Star Trek (2009), frankly, we only had one idea. The only way we could imagine doing Star Trek was it had to have Leonard Nimoy and had to honor Star Trek and yet free itself. We had really one idea. So ’09 was easy. This movie comes around and we’re supposedly to do whatever the hell we want, and that was actually the most terrifying part. So the balance was… that’s partly why we took so long. We wanted to make sure that we could it down from the shelf and look at it and still believe in it and still into account what the fans want. This is not a franchise that we own or created. This is a franchise that has been alive, thanks to Star Trek fans, oh man, coming up on 50 years now. So we wanted to learn the lessons from the first movie. We wanted to hear what our cohorts, in terms of fans, had to say. And we wanted to make sure that we weren’t just phoning it in and that we didn’t get lazy, like we tried to avoid on the first movie, and just rely on fan love of Star Trek. It had to be its own movie, and that was our goal. So it was a pain in the ass.

Zoe Saldana has been quoted in interviews as saying that the Uhura (Saldana)-Spock (Zachary Quinto) romance will not work in the long run because that’s not what ultimately happened in The Original Series. Given the alternate timeline, can’t this relationship go anywhere? Can’t you do… anything, really, with any and all of the characters?

If she says that, I think she’s wrong. We can do whatever we want. However, the rule that we have for ourselves is that it has to harmonize with canon. This is going to get way too geeky, and I apologize ahead of time… Quantum mechanics, which is how we based our time travel, is not just simple time travel. Leonard Nimoy didn’t just go back and change history (as Spock Prime in the 2009 film), and then everything is like Back to the Future. It’s using the rules of quantum mechanics, which means it’s an alternate universe where there is no going back. There is no fixing the timeline. There’s just another reality that is the latest and greatest of time travel that exist. So, on the one hand we’re free. On the other hand, these same rules of quantum mechanics tell us that the universes that exist, they exist because they are the most probable universe.

And, therefore…

ORCI: And, therefore, the things that happened in The Original Series didn’t just happen because they happened, they happened because it’s actually what’s most probably going to happen. So, (Saldana) is probably half right. Their relationship is slightly predestined. On the other hand, our whole point was to give all of our characters free will again. They truly have free will. The universe is not written. The future is not written. And it’s not clear what’s going to happen. It’s going to up to what the characters do. Be it us as the next writers or someone else who has a better idea, may these characters fulfill their destinies according to their own devices and their own free will.

Let’s talk about Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch). Take us through why you went with Khan as the villain and, also, can you clarify why he does what he does?

OK, I’ll do a deep dive with you. In a way, (fellow co-writer and co-producer) Damon (Lindelof) and I were the biggest debaters about this. He argued for Khan from the beginning and I argued against it. The compromise that we came to was, let us devise a story that is not reliant on any history of Star Trek. So, what’s the story? Well, we have a story where our crew is who they are and they’re coming together as a family. Then, suddenly, this villain arrives and his motivations are based on what happens in the movie. They’re not based on history. They’re not based on Star Trek. They’re not based on anything that came before. They’re based on his used by a corrupted system of power that held the things he held dear against him and tried to manipulate him. That story stands alone with or without Star Trek history. That’s how we approached it, and God bless Damon for going down that road.

So, once we had that, that’s when Damon came back and reared his ugly head and said, “OK, now that we have that, is there any reason why we cannot bring Star Trek history into this?” And he was right. So we ended up sort of reverse engineering it. We started with, “What’s a good movie? What’s a good villain? What’s a good motivation? We cannot rely on what’s happened before. Now that we have that, can we tailor this villain into something that relates to Star Trek history?” And that’s what we did. So, step one was “Don’t rely on Star Trek.” Then, step two was “Rely on Star Trek.”

Visit again tomorrow to read part two of our exclusive interview with Roberto Orci.


J.J. Abrams
Star Trek
Roberto Orci
Benedict Cumberbatch
Alex Kurtzman
Star Trek New