Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Guest Post-- The Star Trek They Should Have Made by Andrew Price

The new "Star Trek" movie has created quite the debate lately over whether on not the film took the right direction in setting up a new franchise. As of right now the movie is popular among modern audiences for it's big CGI component, but die-hard fans are feeling a distinct lack of development in character and plot development. Rather than break the existing film down, my friend Andrew Price has written what he thinks would have been a better script for a modern "Star Trek." Give it a read, let us know what you think, and tell us what script you would have written. ~SQT The Star Trek Movie They Should Have Made by Andrew Price Last week, I got into a discussion about the new Star Trek movie with sqt, who runs a really cool sci-fi website. In that discussion, it dawned on me that my biggest beef with the new movie was that it lacked courage. Rather than making a truly interesting movie with depth, the filmmakers instead opted for a generic, shallow CGI summer blockbuster -- Pirates of the Caribbean In Space. That got me wondering, what kind of Star Trek movie should they have made? As I see it, the original Trek was essentially a character study acted out in the midsts of a series of morality tales, with a little action thrown in to make the series more accessible. I tried to follow that same formula, only making it a little more accessible for modern ADHD audiences. As you will see, I am borrowing heavily from several series episodes, but hopefully with a twist. . . First, I would begin with the incident mentioned in Obsession (gas cloud monster) where eager young (by the book) Lt. James Kirk of the USS Farragut freezes up for a split second, leading to the deaths of several officers including the captain he idolized (Captain Garrovick). Kirk freezes because he fears that shooting the gas cloud could kill his then-girlfriend (who is the science officer on the Farragut). This gives us the question of whether or not Kirk can make the truly hard decision of sacrificing someone he loves to save others. Fast forward several years. A no-longer-by-the-book, Kirk boards the Enterprise for the first time as Captain. He is replacing the very popular Captain Pike, which gives us a chance to see if Kirk can win over the crew. Spock, who is already on the Enterprise, was Pike’s science officer and represents the voice of reason. Sulu, also already on board, represents the voice of Pike’s crew. McCoy comes on board for the first time with Kirk, but has not previously known Kirk -- he will be the voice of the audience. Also coming on board with Kirk, as second officer of the Enterprise, is Kirk’s best friend from Academy days. These characters will let the audience see Kirk’s actions being judged from different perspectives. Kirk’s first assignment is to take the science team to the outer rim of the galaxy to investigate and cross over an energy barrier that rings the galaxy and seems to hold it together. The science team includes Kirk’s (now ex) girlfriend from the beginning of the film. She still pines for Kirk, but he has an aversion to her because of the bad memories of the Farragut incident. This gives us a potential romantic interest and lets us see how Kirk is dealing with his own past. Moreover, you can add the element of him trying to resolve the idea that he wants a relationship but simultaneously has come to believe that a relationship would interfere with his duties as Captain. Kirk tries to take the ship through the barrier, causing the ship to become damaged. Several people die and a handful of people start developing strange ESP powers -- including the ex and the best friend. As the crippled ship heads to the nearest Federation outpost, things start to go wrong. First, they encounter the remains of an alien starship. During the next hour of the movie, Spock will slowly decode that ship’s logs. He will learn that the crew came under attack from both within and outside of the ship, and that the alien captain blew up his own ship, but they won’t know why until near the end of the movie. In the meantime, strange things start to happen. They discover a ship following them on their sensors, but can’t get near it (like a sensor mirage). It’s like they are being stalked (“Balance of Terror”). People also start to see visions of ghosts walking the hallways and hear things pounding on the hull. Soon people are hallucinating, with deadly consequences. In this portion of the film, I would go for a level and style of horror similar to the Grudge -- uncomfortable and disturbing (a little shocking), but not gory. As these events begin, the crew believes that they have intruders aboard. Then they start to think that they brought something back from the destroyed ship. But as Kirk’s friends gain more and more powers it starts to become clear that they are manifesting these nightmares. Further, as their powers grow, they start “losing their humanity” as their powers corrupt their thinking. For example, you have the “power corrupts” angle, but you can also play other angles -- like being able to read minds and see the fear and hate within those minds causes them to turn nasty and paranoid. As these powers grow, they become increasingly menacing to the crew, until it is finally revealed that they are causing the manifestations the crew are experiencing. Spock tells Kirk that they cannot be allowed to reach a populated planet -- he also discovers that this is why the alien captain destroyed his own ship, so they would not unleash this on a populated planet. At the same time, McCoy is working on a cure, but likely won’t find one in time. Kirk is now faced with THE choice -- egged on in multiple directions by Spock and McCoy. He can’t let them reach the nearest outpost, and he must protect his crew, but can he kill his friends in cold blood? That is the very issue Kirk could not resolve at the beginning of the film. In terms of adding a little action, as Kirk is making the decision, I would have the “sensor ghost” (now nearly fully manifested) finally attack the Enterprise. This would be the final trigger that pushes Kirk to make the decision. So does he kill them? Yes, but if this is written well, the audience should not be sure until he does it that he will actually do it. Then wrap it up with a speech about duty, and stressing that while space exploration is dangerous, it is in our nature to take risks. The end. I think this movie does a good job of keeping the feel of the original, updating it, and creating a movie that is both challenging to the audience and yet accessible. Also, this movie leaves the door open for all kinds of stories in the future, whereas the new movie really can only lead to more CGI action flicks.


Stewart Sternberg said...

Yeah....no. I like the different characters and the possible tension..but do we really want to relive the first episode of the series? Charlie X? I think we can do better. I think we can stretch into something unique...perhaps an encounter with a species existing at a submolecular level...somethng...anything...

I love the idea about the morality play concept.

SQT said...

There are some ideas here I like. The girlfriend-in-peril thing works if he has to work with her later and it's a great explanation for future cold-feet. I also like the break-up of character introductions. Spock serving with Pike but McCoy coming on board with Kirk.

But I have to side with Stewart on the desire not to borrow from the original too much. The morality play part is a big part of the Star Trek foundation so that should stay, but I think the story-lines should be wholly unique.

One thing that really needs to be fixed in the future is the science aspects. I've heard too many people cringe over the black-hole thing so being factually correct is essential.

AndrewPrice said...

Stewart, it's "Where No Man Has Gone Before" not Charlie X.

I agree that this isn't the most original plot -- I believe I was up front about that in my comments. But I think it could be put to very original effect. Indeed, the idea of horror is new to the franchise.

Likewise, I would envision this story being driven by the "human drama" rather than the plot points. So I think, in a way, the plot points are themselves irrelvant when compared with the emotional/philosophical points you have to hit.

If the relationships are written with sufficient tension and drama, the audience won't care what is exactly is going on with the ship.

Also, this is just a draft. There is plenty of room for tinkering. Given a little time, the plot could probably be twisted beyond recognition without really losing the framework. Indeed, part of preparing this was to see what suggestions others might have to improve the piece.

SQT -- If we were producing this script, the science would be simple to fix. Hire Michio Kaku to read the script and tell us anything that doesn't make sense. The guy is brilliant.

He would probably object to the galaxy barrier, but he could easily re-write it to a multi-verse barrier.

sean said...

So many of these 'here's the movie I would have made' ideas sound like fan fiction, to me. Why redo an old plot from TOS mixed with Sphere?

These new folks took on a monumental task when they decided to tackle Star Trek - to make it fun, sexy and relevant again to a generation that had been overloaded with bland TV reincarnations and silver screen abortions like Insurrection or Nemesis. And they succeeded in most every way, from what I can see.

The majority of die-hard fans I know personally are thrilled with this film, and the return to the spirit of adventure that TOS was all about. Sure, they threw in some high-minded concepts and smart allegory here and there, but if you go back and watch Star Trek in its original form, it's really about action, humor and Captain Kirk getting the girl. The new movie turns that last concept on its head, but to great effect, IMO.

Star Trek the TV show was free to explore more bizarre or out of the ordinary concepts, but film is a different medium all together. The most successful Star Trek movie (prior to this new one) was a fish out of water time travel romp involving whales. And the least favorite film among most fans and non-fans is TMP, arguably the purest science-fiction story of all the Star Trek films. That might tell us something.

SQT said...


Thanks for stopping by. I've been in the defender-of-the-new film category from the get-go, and I agree that making the film too preachy would have been a mistake. I do think a few tweaks would have helped the movie have more credibility and continuity, but it was a fun movie and I think it will bring new life to the franchise.

sean said...

I agree that the film is far from perfect - then again, what Star Trek film is perfect, if examined too closely? There's a definite coincidence pileup toward the end, though I think the writers argued for entropy in that instance, and I don't find that idea totally implausible as a storytelling concept.

I think this film had to move itself as far from the less desirable aspects of Trek as it could, and in doing so was going to inevitably alienate a certain portion of fans who defined Star Trek by those qualities. But IMO, it had to be done. The slate needed to be wiped, but Abrams & co smartly decided not to toss the baby out with the bathwater.

AndrewPrice said...

Sean, the purpose of this exercise was not to draft fan fiction. It is a continuation of a discussion that began the other day about the missed opportunity of the movie.

If you liked the current film, that's fine -- taste is a personal matter.

But I think you are hailing the success too soon. What does this film offer for the future? Right now it's nothing more than a typical summer block buster based loosely on an old tv show. That formula gives no room to grow. It just allows you to repeat the first movie once, maybe twice, before people move on to bigger, shinier CGI explosions.

I'm not saying it's not a fun film, but that's all it is -- Pirates of the Caribbean in Space.

sean said...

I never said that was the purpose, Andrew, but to paraphrase - The path to dreadful fan fiction is paved with good intentions. Fans often want storylines that translate with less than stellar results.

I must disagree when you dismiss the film as POTC in space. The Pirates movies were totally soulless (the first had its charms despite the rather hollow plot, it simply shouldn't have received a follow up), and this new Trek's entire appeal and strength is its heart, not its effects. POTC had no heart, but at least the first one made no bones about it.

What does this film offer for the future? What *doesn't* it offer? It has successfully resuscitated a rotting corpse otherwise known as Star Trek. The future is wide open now that these characters have been not only reintroduced to the culture at large, but given an unwritten future where anything can happen. Now that people are reinvested in this story, you can literally go anywhere you want with it (as long as we don't return to the preachy condescension that was partially responsible for its death in the first place). The room for growth is unmeasurable.

And come on - 'loosely' based on a TV show? Lost in Space was loosely based on a TV show. POTC was loosely based on a Disneyland ride. Star Trek - while offering an out with a timeline change - is absolutely rooted in the original show, right down to the sound effects.

Could it all be screwed up? Sure. But personally, I lean toward optimism. Until I see evidence that leads me to think otherwise.

The Curmudgeon said...

I enjoyed the new movie, though I was predisposed not to. It may have been an instance of having my low expectations exceeded.

I don't know that so closely tracking TOS plot lines would allow a true re-launch of the franchise; if the producers had tried something along the lines proposed by Mr. Price, I'm afraid we old grumpuses would probably carp that it was too slavish an imitation.

That said... in TOS Jim Kirk was the youngest captain in the fleet... but he had some meaningful service experience. Now he's an arguably-reformed juvenile delinquent at the helm of a top-of-the-line starship? Sure, we know he's up to the task, having watched Kirk's skills (and waistline) expand down through the decades in the now-lost timeline (and Spock Prime knows it as well), but why the heck would the Admiralty also think so? If his heroics required that he be given a command of his own, wouldn't any likely bureaucracy give him the dinkiest patrol ship on the most distant corner of the Federation?

We fans will miss Vulcan -- the new S-T writers could use some lessons in logic.