Jendresen: Star Trek Needs Epic Adventure
Next year, it will be 40 years since Gene Roddenberry’s vision of “Star Trek” first came to life on the small screen.
Through those years, there’s been plenty of ups and downs for the millions of fans who have followed the adventures of Capt. James T. Kirk, Capt. Jean-Luc Picard, Capt. Benjamin Sisko, Capt. Kathryn Janeway, and even Capt. Jonathan Archer — whose time aboard “Star Trek: Enterprise” ends early this May on UPN.
With Star Trek not pulling in the viewers and the revenue as it once did, is Paramount still willing to keep the Roddenberry torch burning?
Erik Jendresen thinks so. Name doesn’t ring a bell? Soon it will, as he has been commissioned by Paramount to write the 11th Star Trek film. And for the first time in history, a new slate of characters, as well as a new cast, will be introduced on the big screen. But that’s just the beginning of the new Star Trek.
“I can certainly say that the story concept, the basic idea of this thing, is pretty damn big,” Jendresen recently told SyFy Portal’s Michael Hinman. “It’s a noble enterprise, pun intended.”
Jendresen — probably best known for his Emmy-award winning work as a producer and lead writer for HBO’s “Band of Brothers” — said he wasn’t too interested in stepping into science-fiction. And when Paramount officials first came to him about doing Star Trek, his answer was an immediate no.
“I was not a diehard Star Trek fan,” he said. “When they first approached me, I wasn’t really interested. But they said, ‘What if we could approach this as a blank slate, and here’s a notion.’ When I heard the notion, I realized that the people I was talking to were serious, and genuinely dedicated. I started to really think about it, and, ultimately to develop a story. And it’s a pretty good one.”
Reports of the next movie have it taking place after the events of “Star Trek: Enterprise” and before the adventures of James Kirk in the original “Star Trek” series. Jendresen confirmed that the movie would take place more than a century before Kirk, but acknowledged that it would not be an “Enterprise” spinoff.
Although he had only some passing knowledge of Star Trek in the past, Jendresen said he really started to look into the heart of Roddenberry’s vision to find the lost path of telling good science-fiction.
“I read an interesting piece online about the relevance of Star Trek,” Jendresen said. “It posed the idea that maybe it’s not relevant anymore. It was an impressive argument, but a fine story is always relevant, and I think solid storytelling that’s rooted in the absolute spirit of the original series is what it was all about to begin with.”
The original series you say?
“In the original series, there were big ideas, and they were delivered each week with a lot of verve,” Jendresen said. “The crew in particular, lead by a commanding officer who had a certain sense of timeless style, boldness and vision. He had a pioneering spirit, the spirit of all great explorers, that was captured by the original series.”
After the original series went off the air in the 1960s, Jendresen said a lot of that was lost, with a few exceptions. And now that four decades have passed, he said it’s time to find it again.
“‘Star Trek,’ the original series, borrowed in an often elegant way from classic mythology and great ancient storytelling,” he said. “There’s something kind of epic – almost mythic about the prequel (movie).”
Bringing in Jendresen was an attempt to go outside of the current realm of Star Trek, and focus more on an actual story, Jendresen said. It’s similar to what happened in the early 1980s when Nicholas Meyer came on board to create “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.” There was a realness about it, and moviewatchers had to stop and think.
But that’s something that doesn’t have to be relegated to the past.
“There’s an old tradition in space films, if you think about it, where war and conflict are very sterile,” Jendresen said. “Death doesn’t hurt, it’s not really ugly. You can get killed by a phaser and just Ö disintegrate.
“We’re going 160-odd years before Kirk is born. It’s an earlier time, and I think it would be really refreshing to feel something in the course of telling this tale, instead of being wowed by special effects, or presenting another crew in jeopardy where, in the end, the captain does something brilliant, and allís right with the world.î
And that means not everything will end with a chuckle, laugh and some smiles when this film is over.
“By the end of this story, everyone isn’t fine,” Jendresen said. “I can safely say as a storyteller with certain standardsÖmy intention is literally as a writer, as a storyteller, as a filmmaker, to go boldly where no one has gone before.”
With the cancellation of “Enterprise,” and reports of what actress Jolene Blalock (Cmdr. T’Pol) described as an “appalling” finale, Jendresen said he’s well aware that there’s a lot of anger out there. But he said he definitely is working on something that fans can look forward to.
“There is a lot of misinformation out there, negative speculation and ill-will,î Jendresen said. “Everybody just needs to just take a Romulan chill pill and have some faith. Everything that has gone down over the last few years has not been lost on the gentlemen involved in this effort. I think it would be wonderful to bring a whole new generation into this world.”
In the meantime, while “Star Trek XI” moves forward in the pre-production stage, Jendresen is staying busy with other projects. He recently wrote “Journey to thte Center of the Earth” for Twentieth Century Fox, and has worked on other screenplays for Paramount, Dreamworks, and even National Geographic Feature Films.
Reports have “Star Trek XI” being released sometime in 2007. No director and no cast has been brought in, but it is clear that characters from other Star Trek properties will not be included.
Jendresen: Star Trek Needs Epic Adventure