Quentin Tarantino's Star Trek Inspired By TNG Episode?

  • Science Fiction
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The Next Generation episode "Yesterday's Enterprise" probably inspired Quentin Tarantino's take on Star Trek. CBS Television Distribution

Quentin Tarantino has an idea for the next Star Trek movie and executive producer J.J. Abrams might run with it, assembling a writers room to turn Tarantino’s story into a script. It’s even possible, the Deadline exclusive says, Tarantino might direct the next Star Trek himself.

This is, of course, fantastically unlikely. Just as much a movie lover as a director, Tarantino has frequently toyed with franchise film ideas. At one time or another, Tarantino had toyed with both the Friday the 13th series and James Bond. The famously talkative director is known for contemplating multiple projects between each movie. Remember The Vega Brothers? So the prospect of Quentin Tarantino’s Star Trek remains remote.

But what’s this great idea he had?

We don’t know for sure, but there are two major clues that converge on a hazy, but definite outline of Tarantino’s likely plans for the Star Trek Beyond follow-up.

The first is the stalled Star Trek 4 story announced just before the release of Star Trek Beyond. The pitch would see Chris Hemsworth return as George Kirk, father to James Tiberius Kirk (Chris Pine). That means daddy issues, but also time travel, perhaps with Kirk and the Enterprise returning to the rift that split apart the so-called “Kelvin Timeline” (or Abramsverse) from the Star Trek: The Original Series timeline, as depicted at the very beginning of 2009’s Star Trek.

The second clue comes from episode #774 of the Nerdist Podcast, in which Tarantino riffs on his theoretical Star Trek movie. Here’s the relevant part:

“I would be more inclined to do a Star Trek thing, rather than a Star Wars,” Tarantino said. “I haven’t considered considered, as if I were going to do it, but I did webspin a little bit.”

Tarantino quickly reveals himself to be that most typical specimen in the nerd taxonomy: the continuity wonk. He was particularly bothered by Benedict Cumberbatch (or, as he called him, Benedict Cumberbung) as Khan Noonien Singh and the weird continuity coaxing done to erase Ricardo Montalban’s version of the character. He calls the whole alternate universe of the new Star Trek series, “a crappy lawyer loophole.”

Rather than contorted, new stories toying with Original Series characters, Tarantino at first proposes something even closer to a remake:

“You could take some of the great, classic Star Trek episodes and just easily expand them to 90 minutes or more and really do some amazing, amazing stuff. The obvious one would be ‘City on the Edge of Forever,’ which everyone would go to, but there’s a reason everyone would go that! It’s one of the classic stories of all time and a great time-travel story. However, thinking about that concept further, I think one of the best episodes of Star Trek ever written was for The Next Generation.”

Now we’re getting somewhere interesting. Tarantino’s casual 2015 Star Trek pitch would in some way relate to or remake “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” a landmark episode from the series’ third season.

The episode opens with the Enterprise encountering a rift in spacetime, as they have so many times before and will do again later. Just as they begin monitoring the anomaly, an older version of the Enterprise, the Enterprise-C, presumed destroyed decades earlier, emerges from the rift. This movement across the time barrier changes history, transforming the Enterprise and her crew into militarized, wartime versions of themselves. The Enterprise-C, now absent from its original timeline, has changed history and the Federation is now at war with the Klingons. Eventually, the Enterprise-C returns from whence it came, even knowing they’re destiny: to die honorably, impressing the Klingons and preventing war from ever breaking out.

You can’t really reskin “Yesterday’s Enterprise” and turn it into a Star Trek movie featuring the TOS crew, especially because the episode is a farewell of sorts for Tasha Yar (Denise Crosby), whose original death in the first season sucked so much ass they wrote her a better one here. Much of the power of “Yesterday’s Enterprise” comes from this construct, endangering the timeline to provide an underserved character a remarkable and heart-wrenching out. This, if anything, was the episode that transformed Tasha Yar from a bit of Season 1 trivia to an essential part of The Next Generation legacy.

That said, you can see a lot of themes in “Yesterday’s Enterprise” that would tempt Tarantino. For one, it redresses his dislike of the timeline hijinks between Star Trek: The Original Series and the reboot movies, confronting the paradoxes head-on and transforming a convenient excuse into a momentous and consequential galactic moment.

While there’s no way to know what elements Tarantino’s Star Trek 4 plot takes from “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” it’s almost certain Tarantino had it in mind while formulating his Star Trek pitch. In the podcast interview he calls the episode one of “the great space stories” that could “bear a two-hour treatment.”

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