While Star Trek on TV is currently as lucrative as it’s ever been in the modern era, with two live-action series in production (Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Picard) and a third on the way (Star Trek: Strange New Worlds), plus a recently released animated show (Star Trek: Lower Decks) also drawing acclaim, Star Trek on the big screen is in a very nebulous place right now. After JJ Abrams successfully rebooted the franchise onscreen in 2009, sequels Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) and Star Trek Beyond (2016) both had diminishing box office returns. Since then production studio Paramount Pictures has seemingly not had a clue what to do next.
A proposed fourth Star Trek film, that would have brought back Chris Hemsworth’s dead George Kirk through time travel, fell apart reportedly over Hemsworth and star Chris Pine unable to finalize deals. Then there came an R-rated Star Trek movie pitch from Quentin Tarantino – which is a sentence nobody could ever have thought they would be writing one day – which just got stuck in limbo. Late last year though, it was revealed that Noah Hawley (Fargo, Legion) had been set to write/direct a new Trek film, and finally it looked like something was happening. Except its not.
As Deadline reports, Hawley’s film is now being placed on hold as well as Emma Watts, Paramount’s recently appointed President of the studio’s Motion Pictures Group, decides what to do with the franchise. This is apparently a “top priority” for Watts, but is yet another frustrating stumble for Trek fans around the world.
While no plot details have officially been revealed about Hawley’s film, it’s believed that the film would focus on a new cast who have to deal with a deadly viral outbreak that wipes out a large swathe of the galaxy. Given the current global pandemic, that may have given Paramount pause. It’s also believed that the Tarantino film – which was penned by The Revenant’s Mark L. Smith – was seemingly was based on the classic episode, A Piece of the Action, which was set on a gangster-ridden 1930s-like alternate Earth. Tarantino’s involvement seems unlikely right now but even if he were to direct, the film would instead be positioned as a standalone spinoff only once the core film series is back on track.
The same fate may befall Hawley’s film as well, so the best option to restart the franchise would be to go back to the negotiating table with Pine and Hemsworth. With their and the rest of the cast’s levels of star power, this is not going to be cheap but if the film can do a better job appealing to international audiences – which is where it has stumbled before – then this may work. But a decision needs to be made.
So where does this leave Star Trek right now? It seems to me like Paramount really needs another Lucille Ball. Fittingly, last week was the anniversary of the birthday of the beloved Golden Age Hollywood actress most famous for the 1950s hit sitcom I Love Lucy. Ball was a lot more than that though. In 1962, she became the first woman to ever run a major US television studio when she used her TV star fortune to start Desilu Productions. Eventually, Desilu would be sold to Paramount Pictures to become Paramount Television, but in its early days, it gave the world a pop culture icon. Thanks to her belief in a pitch from a young writer who had been turned down by other studios, twice personally vouching for and overruling her own board, and even offering to personally finance a pilot, Ball went against the advice of her peers and produced the show. The writer was Gene Roddenberry and the show was Star Trek.
There were many people involved in kickstarting the long-running sci-fi franchise, but without Ball’s singular, unwavering passion for it, Star Trek simply would not exist today. And now the franchise really needs that type of clear vision again or it will just be stuck going nowhere, boldly or not.
Last Updated: August 11, 2020