With actor Zachary Quinto recently revealing that Star Trek 3 could begin filming in the next six months, and screenwriter (and presumed director…) Roberto Orci reporting that the first draft of the script is done, it’s time to do what the Internet does best. Wait, don’t start surfing for porn. It’s time to do what the Internet does second best – speculate on things we have no way of possibly knowing!
Orci and co-screenwriters Patrick McKay and John D. Payne seem unlikely to spill the beans about what the story of the rebooted franchise’s third entry will be (all we know so far is that Orci says this film will bring the characters ever closer to their original television counterparts and will take place in deep space with a focus on exploration), but that hasn’t stopped me from looking back through all 79 episodes of the original Star Trek to find stories that would be a fantastic inspiration for a new film. Naturally, not all of those old installments lend themselves to being part of a feature film (sorry, episodes where alien societies are built on ancient Greek/Roman/American cultures!), but I’ve found a solid five that have either plots or thematic ideas that could work really well in a third film. With that in mind, let’s get to it.
ArenaLet’s just get this one out of the way right up front. I have little reason to believe that we’ll ever see a big screen version of season one episode "Arena," primarily because it’s a Kirk story and the Star Trek films are ensemble affairs. I love the Gorn, though – and dream of the day they’re featured in one of these movies.
"Arena" is arguably one of the most instantly recognizable of all Star Trek episodes, thanks in no small part to the silly lizard costume an actor is forced to wear as a captain of a Gorn ship. When said captain orders the destruction of a Federation colony, Kirk sets out for revenge. He’s about to get it when an alien race known as the Metrons intervene and demand Kirk face the Gorn captain in close quarters combat. An epic battle ensues, with Kirk eventually using his ingenuity to get the upper hand and emerge victorious, but not before he learns the Gorn captain had legitimate reasons for acting the way he did.
What Star Trek 3 could use: Obviously, the Gorn. These fan favorites have only appeared twice in all the years of Star Trek – here, and on an episode of Enterprise. Many Trekkies would freak out if they turned up in the new film. It’s time for a Gorn renaissance. Also, the idea that The Federation isn’t always right has potential.
The Enterprise IncidentThis third-season episode is not as big and bombastic as one you’d expect to find in the new wave of Star Trek films, but with a little tweaking and finessing, it could make for a really compelling starting point for a much bigger story.
The Federation decides it really wants a Romulan cloaking device of its very own, and the best way to get one is to send Kirk (sporting some hilariously bushy eyebrows and Romulan ears…) and Spock aboard a Romulan warship undercover. Spock seduces the female Romulan Commander, while Kirk absconds with the device in this heist tale -- although Spock later acknowledges that any advantage gained by acquiring the device will be short-lived because the Romulans will just build a better one.
What Star Trek 3 could use: The Romulans have already been a villain in the franchise, but there’s always room for more stories about them. The heist set-up shows Kirk and Spock at their best, and could make an interesting set-piece in a larger story. Cloaking devices could be used in a lot of different ways.
Charlie XThe second episode of the first season seems sort of perfunctory and familiar at first glance, featuring an immature boy with psychic powers who uses them in all the wrong ways. However "Charlie X" isn’t just a riff on a classic Twilight Zone episode ("It’s a Good Life"). It’s a solid tale with elements that could easily be worked into a modern Star Trek film.
Kirk and the Enterprise crew pick up teenager Charlie from a ship called The Antares. Charlie was the lone survivor of a spaceship crash landing, and he spent 14 years alone on a planet called Thasus, where he learned to talk from a computer and developed psychic abilities. When he finds himself aboard The Enterprise, Charlie takes a liking to Yeoman Rand, and a disliking to anyone who laughs at his social awkwardness – which leads to numerous complications (including the destruction of The Antares) before the Thasians intervene and take him back to their world, despite Kirk and Charlie’s protests.
What Star Trek 3 could use: The petulant teenager with psychic abilities wouldn’t work in a feature film like Star Trek, but an older Charlie X (or a Gary Mitchell from "Where No Man Has Gone Before"), with more ambitious objectives than simply wooing Yeoman Rand, definitely has potential. Maybe instead of the traditional Klingons and Romulans, we could have someone with crazy powers be the big bad.
The City on the Edge of ForeverWidely regarded as one of the greatest Star Trek episodes of all-time, Harlan Ellison’s "The City on the Edge of Forever" would have to be drastically tweaked to work as a Star Trek movie, but the core idea – of Kirk loving a woman and being forced to choose between his personal needs and the needs of the masses – is pure Trek.
When McCoy accidentally overdoses himself with Cordrazine, he flees The Enterprise, winds up on a planet where The Guardian of Forever shoots him into the past, alters history, and Kirk and Spock must follow and make things right. They wind up in the 1930s on Earth, where they meet social worker Edith Keeler (Joan Collins). Kirk falls in love with Edith, but Spock eventually figures out that she was supposed to die (McCoy prevented this in his drugged out state…) and that by not dying, the Nazis will win World War II and history will be changed forever. Kirk has to let the woman he loves die for the greater good.
What Star Trek 3 could use: We already know that Orci and company like the whole time travel thing (hence Spock prime turning up in the 2009 film), and this is one of Trek’s best time travel tales. The main storyline would have to be tweaked considerably, but the core idea of being forced to choose between your own happiness and the best thing for humanity is one of the founding principles of the show’s universe.
The Doomsday MachineOf all the Star Trek episodes that could provide a framework for Orci and company’s newest movie, season two’s "The Doomsday Machine" is the one with the most potential. Kirk and company square off against a giant, planet-destroying machine from another galaxy in what is one of the series’ high water marks.
The Enterprise is out investigating a swath of destroyed solar systems when it picks up a distress signal from the USS Constellation. Kirk and crew arrive aboard the ship to find a distraught Commodore Matt Decker babbling about being attacked. The attacker turns out to be a giant precursor to Star Wars’ Death Star, and Kirk and Spock must find a way to destroy it before it wreaks even more devastation. They come up with a dangerous plan (does Kirk ever have anything in mind besides a dangerous plan? I mean, aside from green alien women?), and the story ends with a nice little sci-fi coda that ties into modern concerns.
What Star Trek 3 could use: The Doomsday Machine. It’s the perfect sort of huge, galaxy-altering force that you could build a summer blockbuster around. Frankly, I’m shocked no one’s used it already. It doesn’t have to be utilized in the same way as it is in the show – it could be something completely different used in different circumstances – but an alien intelligence that destroys all life in its path has the high concept, high stakes angle modern Trek should be striving for.