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Following the somewhat disturbing news that Paramount want the next installment of Star Trek, number three to be exact, to be more like Guardians of the Galaxy the latest development has Fast & Furious helmsman Justin Lin now sitting in the driver’s seat. There appears to be a story that J.J. Abrams replacement Roberto Orci walked after rumors that the studios got over excited at the relationship of Groot “I am Groot” and Rocket in the Marvel space picture. Apparently they looked at Scotty’s little hairy sidekick, Keenser and want to feature the “cutesy” little alien a lot more, “I am Keenser!”
All this apparent lack of understanding of what makes a Star Trek movie a Star Trek movie is reminiscent of an old story about the Godfather of science fiction and Star Trek writing legend Harlan Ellison. If anyone doubts Ellison’s legendary status, just attend a Trekker convention and see how long it takes to get a picture with the man or to have him sign books and posters. This tale about Ellison and his involvement in the first ever Star Trek film was repeated by the great man himself to Stephen King, who included it in what he termed the longest footnote in history. King also included another apocryphal version of the same incident from a different source in his 1981 non fiction book Danse Macabre.
The incident, that Ellison related, dealt with a Paramount executive asking all the assembled writers and creative types to come up with great Trek plot that was really big. Harlan comes up with his idea, one which would encompass all of space and time and contain ethical and moral quandaries. In his plot the crew of the Enterprise, along with Kirk, would go back to the beginning of time to save the future human race from being killed out by an alien lizard race.
The executive brought up that he had just read Chariots of the Gods and wanted Ellison to put in some Mayans. When Harlan protested that there were no Mayans at the beginning of time, the Paramount producer replied that no one would know the difference and if the writer wanted to script the film he should include the Mayans. As told to King, Harlan states that he stood up, and told the executive that he knew the difference. “I’m a writer,” says Mr. Ellison, “I don’t know what the f*** you are,” as he storms out of the first Star Trek film brainstorming project.
While this little anecdote goes a long way to show why Harlan Ellison is legend, apart from his City on the Edge of Forever script which he still maintains that Gene Roddenberry changed beyond all recognition, it also shows that the studios have always had a problem figuring out how to present Star Trek films. Having Justin Lin from Fast & Furious stepping in to make Star Trek three may be a good move.
Granted the former director Roberto Orci did feel like a good fit. After all he co wrote the first two Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto and Karl Urban versions of the Enterprise crew so he really should have been the perfect choice. Of course the whole idea of someone familiar with the new franchise being told to “Marvel” the film’s plot up, “I am Keenser” certainly seems to be the straw that broke that director’s back.
That is not to say that the little furry fella would not have gotten more screen time without the Guardians of the Galaxy guidance. Simon Pegg as Scotty the engineer and the alien are a pretty entertaining double act, “Get down from there!” Justin Lin may have no qualms in making Star Trek three a new Marvel-ous version of Fast & Furious but common sense says that the stars of the film may not be so accepting. Real Trek fans will be more excited about the chance of William Shatner showing up as the alternate version of Kirk. Hopefully Paramount will realise that Keenser is not Groot and vice versa.
By Michael Smith
Danse Macabre by Stephen King