The characters of Kirk and Spock are among the most instantly recognizable fictional characters created in the past 50 years. If the Star Trek reboot -- which kicked off with Star Trek (2009) was going to work, it would require writers who could take the well-established personalities of those two men and reverse-engineer them to show what had forged their hopes, dreams and motivations in the first place. The project found its way to Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, a writing team that was already working with Paramount Pictures on Mission: Impossible III. But although the two men were fond of Star Trek (particularly Orci), they hesitated to commit to the project. The challenges were intimidating; they knew that it would take a lot of thought to truly engage “the next generation” of Star Trek fans without alienating the original audience. However, the offer was too tempting to ignore, particularly the prospect of creating the early lives of Kirk and Spock. Exploring who Kirk and Spock were as adolescents helped the writers get to the root of their compelling personalities: Spock, a young man torn between his Vulcan and human heritage, trying to figure out where he fits in; and Kirk, who, without the presence of his real father in his life, grows up a rebel without a cause.

According to Kurtzman, a big part of their journey was how, once they met at Starfleet, they learned to use the best in each other to make command decisions that would help the Enterprise and the galaxy itself survive. The two writers knew that their story would play havoc with the accepted “canon” of 40 years of Star Trek. To address that in a way they hoped would satisfy the longtime fans, they needed two things: a plot involving time travel and Leonard Nimoy appearing as an older Spock. The older Spock’s journey through a black hole (along with the story’s antagonist) creates a parallel reality, tweaking all that had been established up to that point in the Star Trek chronology. The presence of Nimoy’s Spock would provide a touchstone for the audience; he would remember the other version of reality—just as the audience did. But he would accept that the universe had changed. It was an audacious plan, but one that the writers felt was necessary to the success of a new version of Star Trek. So Orci and Kurtzman wrote Nimoy into the film as a key part, even though they knew he might very well say no—in which case, they’d be back at square one. They pitched Nimoy, who agreed to read the script when it was finished. And fortunately, he liked it and agreed to be the “bridge” to the new Star Trek universe.

Star Trek (2009) went on to become a tremendous success, paving the way for Star Trek Into Darkness, which he co-produced and co-wrote with Orci and Damon Lindelof. Kurtzman -- whose many other writing and producing credits include Alias, Fringe, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Sleepy Hollow, Hawaii Five-O, Scorpion and the upcoming films Van Helsing, The Mummy and The Invisible Man -- returns to the Trek universe as an executive producer of Star Trek: Discovery.