Trying to Make Sense of Tarantino’s Star Trek

Is Star Trek the right decision for Tarantino's final film?

We’re at a fascinating place in the history of Star Trek. Discovery has marked the beginning of this new era for the franchise and beginning next year, for better or worse, a deluge of new content is heading our way. This upcoming content follows no clear thread but rather aims to expand the malleable franchise in several new directions. We’ll continue to have whatever Discovery is, a character-driven sequel show with Picard, an animated comedy series in Lower Decks, an exploration of Section 31 in an apparent Discovery spin-off and a Starfleet Academy series for teens is in development. Star Trek has returned to television in full force and the feature films have seemingly ceased after the lacklustre performance of Star Trek: Beyond and a pay dispute with Chris Pine. But over the past year we’ve been receiving bizarre incremental insights into a new Star Trek project, and it might just be the weirdest yet: a Quentin Tarantino Star Trek film is in development.

Jump back to before this news broke and I don’t think anyone could have predicted that Tarantino, one of the most influential and acclaimed directors working today, would float the idea of doing a franchise film. And I’m still struggling to believe it. In fact, I don’t actually think the film will happen. I’m even conflicted on whether I want it to happen. I imagine a Star Trek film helmed by Tarantino would be a sight to behold, a wonderful and insane merging of two worlds I feel passionate about. At this point Star Trek should take risks and I could see this being an incredible and unique film. I mean, why wouldn’t you want one of the best directors working today playing in the huge Star Trek sandbox? Well, I can think of a reason. My concern emanates from the idea that this would not just be a Tarantino film, but rather the final Tarantino film.

Tarantino has stated many times that he plans to direct only 10 movies and (by his counting) he’s already directed 9 of them. Shouldn’t he go out on a very ‘Tarantino-y’ film rather than a franchise picture that may limit his creative freedom? I want Tarantino to do exactly what he wants, particularly with his final film. He also hasn’t written the script for this Star Trek instalment, those duties went to The Revenant scribe Mark L. Smith, and I always want to see the “written and directed by Quentin Tarantino” credit on his films. While the script may be fantastic, I hope Tarantino pens a hefty rewrite if he does tackle the project. If not then we’ve already witnessed his final screenplay earlier this year with the brilliant Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, and the idea of that pains me. Now don’t get me wrong, if Tarantino says he’s actually planning on directing 12 films then I’d love nothing more than Star Trek to be one of them, but as his final motion picture I think I would prefer something more classically Tarantino. But this is hardly a done deal. From what I’ve read, Tarantino is weighing his options and is far from committing to anything at the moment. This is what he had to say about the film:

“I don’t know if I’ll [direct] it or not. I’ve got to figure it out, but Mark wrote a really cool script. I like it a lot. There’s some things I need to work on but I really, really liked it.”

But let’s say it is happening and use what little we know about the film – plus a little sprinkle of speculation – to see what Tarantino’s version of Star Trek could possibly look like. What we do know for certain is that it’ll be R-rated; Tarantino himself has confirmed this. An R-rating may initially seem antithetical to the utopian world of Star Trek but there’s precedent there. It’s not like the franchise is against a good old ‘rough and tumble’, quite the opposite in fact, and I think Star Trek can easily expand to accept more adult material without losing the essence of the franchise, if done correctly. Discovery introduced more brutal violence and the odd bit of strong language to the series, although that may not be the best example because most of it was unnecessary. But it can be done, even if it upsets a percentage of the fandom. And I’m sure the recent success of Joker is only going to make the R-rating more likely. The species that comes to mind for R-rated content is the Klingons. Their penchant for violence lends itself perfectly to Tarantino’s tendencies. Just imagine the Crazy 88 fight scene from Kill Bill but with Klingons instead of Yakuza and Bat’leths instead of samurai swords.

Discussing the film, Tarantino has said, “It’ll be Pulp Fiction in space. That Pulp Fiction-y aspect, when I read the script, I felt, I have never read a science fiction movie that has this shit in it, ever. There’s no science fiction movie that has this in it. And they said, I know, that’s why we want to make it. It’s, at the very least, unique in that regard.”

“Pulp Fiction in space” is certainly a strong elevator pitch but what does that mean exactly? I imagine it’s not because it follows a non-linear structure, although that would be interesting, but rather that it will focus on the rarely-seen criminal element of the Star Trek galaxy. Could characters like Harry Mudd make an appearance or organisations such as the Orion Syndicate? I think it’s certainly possible and I always enjoy the rare glimpses of criminality among the stars in the series. And, because it’s now an unapologetic staple of the franchise, I don’t think we can rule out time travel playing a part in the film. Tarantino has spoken for his love of the classic TOS episode City on the Edge of Forever in the past and I wouldn’t be surprised if he takes inspiration from that wonderful time travel episode. Or maybe the Enterprise crew will find themselves once again in a western or 20’s gangster setting that might suit Tarantino’s taste and style.

“The one thing I can say is it would deal with the Chris Pine timeline.”

“Now, I still don’t quite understand – and J.J. can’t explain it to me, and my editor has tried to explain it to me and I still don’t get it… Something happened in the first movie that kind of wiped the slate clean? I don’t buy that. I don’t like it. I don’t appreciate it. I don’t… fuck that! Alright? I don’t like that.”

“I want the whole series to have happened, it just hasn’t happened yet.”

Above are three quotes that offer some confusion on the setting of the film. We can gather that the film will utilise the cast of the 2009 reboot and its sequels, but we don’t know if it will be set within the Kelvin timeline itself or simply use the Kelvin cast but have the film be set in the Prime timeline as a prequel to The Original Series. It seems that Tarantino would prefer the latter, mainly because he can’t seem to grasp just what the Kelvin timeline actually is. Does it matter? Not really. As a fan of the Kelvin movies I’d love for that series to continue and I think it would be easy enough to add the smallest crumbs of continuity to present the film as a sequel. But a TOS prequel can work too and while Trek nerds might care about such things, I doubt general moviegoers would. I’m sure the excitement for a Quentin Tarantino Star Trek film would far outweigh the confusion about which timeline it takes place in.

Now that I’ve written about it, I think maybe my concerns of Star Trek not being the right playground for Tarantino’s final film are misplaced. He has a great love not just for the original Star Trek series but that era of television in general. Just look at those self-indulgent sequences in Once Upon A Time in Hollywood in which he lovingly recreates shows from that era. Maybe it would be the perfect end point to his oeuvre, and instead of simply paying homage to the film and television he loves – an ongoing aspect of Tarantino’s films – it’s right for him to conclude his career as a director by going straight to the source and making a piece of that content himself. It’s perfect wish fulfilment and an idea felicitous (and arrogant) enough to make perfect sense for Tarantino. If the film goes ahead, I think it would undoubtably be a win for Star Trek. I think I’m coming around to the idea that it would be a win for Tarantino too, but whatever his 10th and final film turns out to be, I’ll be there to watch it.

What are your thoughts on Tarantino possibly directing a Star Trek film? Let me know in the comments and be sure to geek out with me about TV, movies and video-games on Twitter @kylebrrtt.

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