If you have not yet seen Star Trek Into Darkness, walk away this very instant. Given the chance to talk to the film's co-writer Damon Lindelof and the producer Bryan Burk, we weren't going to mess around with questions that avoided digging into the many mysteries inside the latest Trek adventures. If you're going to talk to the guys who made the story possible, and who have been carefully maintaining that mystery box you're going to ask them about everything-- and that means SPOILERS ABOUND in the conversation that follows.
Want to know how they chose the film's villain? Want to know just how much they think about Trek fans and what they've been demanding of the sequel ever since the first one came out? (Spoiler: they care a lot). Want to hear about the decision-making that went into one of the film's biggest scenes, which directly references what's probably the most iconic Star Trek moment of all time? Read on! We've got it all here for you!
With the first Star Trek movie, you worked really hard to kind of set the new series off on its own path and break away and do whatever you want. And then you make this movie, which is crammed full of callbacks to the original series. I’m wondering why you guys would end up doing that after you put all that time travel in so you wouldn’t have to.
Damon Lindelof: Well, I think that the big challenge of doing these movies is how much you’re making them for audiences who haven’t been following Star Trek for the last four and a half decades or even maybe just the last decade and how much you make it for the hardcore fans. What we’ve all decided is that we make up a broad range of fandom ourselves, the five of us who are coming up with these stories, and if we can find the story idea that gets all five of us excited, that’s the one we’re going to go down. As you might imagine, over the course of working on the story for the first one and certainly in the space after the first one, before the second one, there was really only one question that we were asked repeatedly over and over and over again.
I remember that question. Everyone was asking you if you were going to do Wrath of Khan.
Damon Lindelof: Right. So, that was the question we really had to contend with, and I think there was a little bit of the damned if you do, damned if you don’t quotient to it. If we didn’t do it, the people who were hardcore fans of Trek or even just casual fans of Trek, they all have love for that movie in common. You can’t just do that movie again. We all know what it is and you don’t want to just play a cover song. So, is there an interpretation of that movie that seems cool and a little bit outside of the box and unexpected? Ultimately what we knew was coming into this film is we didn’t want the audience to know if we had done it. There had to be that, “Did they do it or didn’t they do it? We’re not entirely sure.” I think that if we had decided not to do it, there would have been a certain level of fundamental disappointment, you know, not just from the hardcore fan base but also the casual fan base. What I keep saying is, you know, you can do Batman Begins without the Joker, but at the end of Batman Begins, Commissioner Gordon turns over a playing card and shows it to Batman and says, “There’s this new psychopath in town. Calls himself the Joker.” So, you know it’s coming, because the gravity of that character is just so intense that it can not be avoided. We fit that into account as we were deciding what we were going to do with the second movie.
Bryan Burk: - I’ll take it a step further and say that when I saw Batman Begins in the theater, I loved it, but I can’t tell you who the villain was.
Damon Lindelof: It was Ra’s Al Ghul.
Bryan Burk: Which has no meaning to me.
Damon Lindelof: And the Scarecrow.
Bryan Burk: But I could tell you who the villain was in the second one, because he was such an iconic villain, so when you think of the Star Trek universe, there are not as many iconic villains.
Damon Lindelof: In the first movie, our bad guy was a new character of our own invention. He was a Romulan, obviously, a creature which exists in Trek, but I do think that idea of creating an entirely new force of opposition that you’ve never seen before, it’s a risk in and of itself. In the first movie, we created Nero in some ways that was successful and in other ways it was unsuccessful because you have a lot of explaining to do when you’re introducing an entirely new construct to the audience. In the second movie, we may or may not have taken the same path.
You have a very famous line from Wrath of Khan said by somebody else this time. Will you guys talk about what went into deciding to include that line?
Damon Lindelof: A big challenge of this was not doing it the same way that it had been done before. But the promise of the first movie in terms of the way that this would work in our new universe is that there are certain kind of tent poles that can’t be avoided. So, it’s sort of like the idea that the Enterprise is going to be severely damaged by this guy and it’s going to require the sacrifice of a member of its crew, but this time around, it was in a different iteration. When Spock yells out what he yells out, it’s in an entirely different context than when Kirk yells it out in Wrath of Khan. He’s not yelling it out because anyone’s been killed. It’s because he’s down there stranded on the Genesis testing ground, et cetera, et cetera.
So, when we talked about this movie, we said, look, there are going to be moments that are just so powerful in Trek lore, but particularly in that movie, and that to avoid them, would require more energy than to lean into them. If we choose to lean into them, how can we have them come out in a new and surprising context that feels like we’ve earned it and it’s not just being different for different’s sake. That one was just like, for a guy who’s been sitting on his emotions for the entire movie and Kirk’s been prodding him and wondering why it is, he’s able to make this decision to not feel, for him to explode at a certain point, what’s the one word that should be coming out of his mouth when that happens, there didn’t seem like there was any other way to go.