Into Darkness writer defends his favorite moment to Trek purists

We all know fandoms can be fickle, and right now the Star Trek faithful are doing a bit of a dog pile on Star Trek Into Darkness, which drops on DVD and Blu-ray today. Despite making $462 million worldwide and getting overwhelmingly positive critical reviews, four months after its release fans voted the film dead last in a poll ranking all the Trek films and even got into a flame war online with co-writer Bob Orci.

[Spoilers ahead!]

A lot of the discontent stems from the alternate version of the Khan Singh storyline, and the flipped death scene featuring Chris Pine’s Kirk and Zachary Quinto’s Spock, which fans found to be a sacrosanct moment and unearned. It might surprise some then that co-writer Alex Kurtzman’s favorite scene in Into Darkness is that very death scene.

“It’s one of, if not the most iconic scenes ever in Trek canon,” he tells Blastr in an exclusive interview. “Knowing that we were going to be heading to that place but for totally different reasons and having the roles be completely reversed was this weird magnet we were drawn toward as we were writing. We knew we had to make that moment credible and believable. What made it work for us conceptually was the idea that Spock was unable to understand for the whole movie Kirk’s definition of friendship. He didn’t know what it meant. What Kirk was saying was 'The reason that I risked my life for you is because you’re my friend, and that’s what you do for each other.' Spock’s Vulcan mind just wasn’t able to process that, and it wasn’t until he experienced the loss of his friend that he finally came to understand what friendship meant as Kirk was defining it. In that moment, he was able to express emotion that he was not able to tap into. We got emotional writing that scene. The way it was done in The Wrath of Khan was so brilliant, and it’s so beloved, so knowing you are even stepping into that territory is so tricky, but I think we felt like we accomplished what we wanted. And when I watch it now I’m proud of what that moment represents.”

As for all of the recent backlash, Kurtzman says it’s nothing new for their writing team. “I think it’s par for the course. We certainly knew going into Star Trek we weren’t going to please everybody. We were very happy to see how many critics liked the movie, and the movie did well. At the end of the day, we are really proud of it. We knew we just weren’t going to please everybody, particularly when you’re taking on a Khan story, who is the most beloved of all villains. We felt ultimately very good about how it turned out, but everybody has the right to their opinion.”

Kurtzman is very happy their last two Trek films have been able to finally sway international audiences into being interested in the franchise like U.S. audiences. “We love our Star Trek and it has been until late a very American show and series of movies. It didn’t quite translate overseas. Part of why we ended up taking the time we took was because we had to go on a campaign abroad to educate people about Trek and show them it’s not necessarily what they thought it was, and show them why we love it. We’re super gratified that it worked, and now the overseas numbers have been phenomenal.”

The success of Star Trek Into Darkness also secured Kurtzman and Orci the job of writing the third installment in August, and he says they are just beginning the work of breaking that script, albeit in a new dynamic.

“Things have changed a little bit,” Kurtzman explains. “Damon [Lindelof] is working on other things now. J.J. [Abrams, who will only produce the next film] is obviously doing Star Wars but is still very involved in the process of Star Trek and making sure the story is going correctly. It’s his baby as well, and I know that he looks at it that way. So it will be different this time, but that’s OK, because we’re on the third movie now and it’s OK to shake things up.”

As for what the new installment, which formally begins this universe’s five-year mission for the U.S.S. Enterprise, will be about, Kurtzman says they’re not sure because there are a lot of choices. “It’s overwhelming and daunting, because every time we think we’ve narrowed down a passageway, we come out the other side and realize there are two trillion more out there. You want to choose the right ones. But we always imagined that we were creating an alternate timeline so we could play in harmony with canon. We can see things that were familiar, but also the events themselves might have minor differences, and sometimes major differences. I think that leaves us room to go either way and be unpredictable, which is the whole point of creating an alternate timeline. At the end of the day, because we give so much thought to what the stories are going to be and how to tell them, it’s ultimately about what feels right. Certainly our ears are open to what fans are saying about the show, the movies and our movies, so that all goes into the stew.”

Do you think a brand-new adventure should be at the heart of Star Trek 3, or do you want to see a tweaked classic story?