Talk of Quentin Tarantino heading to the Alpha Quadrant has swirled around for the past few years, largely focusing on how the iconic director’s take on Star Trek would’ve pushed the franchise into darker, more violent, and more curse-laden material. But new details about the cancelled film seem to suggest something much weirder than just Star Trek with swears and violence.
In the wake of this week’s news that Paramount is planning to bring back the cast of the “Kelvin Timeline” Star Trek movies for a long-awaited attempt at a fourth entry in the series, Variety has an interesting look back at what could’ve been had the long-in-the-works pitch from Tarantino gone ahead. Details about the project have emerged here and there since it was first rumored in 2017, including reported plans for the film to have been R-rated. Last year Tarantino’s collaborator on the project, Revenant screenwriter Mark L. Smith, told the podcast Bulletproof Screenwriting that the story would’ve featured Chris Pine’s Kirk in an earthbound plot. But perhaps to the chagrin of some fans, Tarantino and Smith’s idea would’ve had a very peculiar angle of Star Trek inspiration: the 1968 episode from the original Trek’s second season, “A Piece of the Action.”
“I would go hang out at his house one night and we would watch old gangster films. We were there for hours,” Smith said. “We were just kicking back watching gangster films, laughing at the bad dialogue, but talking about how it would bleed into what we wanted to do.”
That bleed would’ve apparently been inspired by “A Piece of the Action,” where Kirk, Spock, and McCoy beam down to the planet Sigma Iotia II, home to a a pre-Warp culture that was, even in the 23rd century, only technologically and culturally approximate to 1920s America. The plans for Tarantino and Smith’s film seem a little different, and instead of a planet that happened to just be culturally locked into the aesthetic of a classic mob movie, it would’ve involved time-travel elements to thrust Kirk directly into 1930s America.
It’s the sort of idea that might work as a one-off episode in the style of classic Star Trek, but building a whole movie around it, on top of the hard tonal break from the prior Kelvin-era films? It’s easy to see why the project burned out.
This latest attempt, Tarantino or otherwise, is far from the first run on a Star Trek 4. Plans for a post-Beyond movie have swirled for years, with one original idea potentially seeing Abrams return to the series for a story that would’ve somehow involved the return of Chris Hemsworth—who briefly appeared pre-Thor in the 2009 Trek reboot—as Captain Kirk’s father George Kirk, who perished in the skirmish with time-travelling Romulan Nero that created the forked timeline of the Kelvin movies. Plans for that version of the film seemingly died when the careers of both Chrises involved, Hemsworth and Pine, took a turn for the superheroic, and deals for a return broke down.
Aside from Tarantino’s own pitch, multiple other Trek movie projects have swirled in the ether for the past few years. Star Trek: Discovery writer Kalinda Vasquez was tapped to pen an “original” Trek film last year, separate to what we now know is Star Trek 4, and Legion and Alien scribe Noah Hawley was also working on another potential film—one that Hawley himself said was not connected to known characters, and would’ve revolved around a mysterious virus wiping out most of the universe. Probably easy to see why that one in particular didn’t go forward recently, either!
At least for now, after a few years wandering, Star Trek’s future on the big screen seems as secure as its current future in streaming TV. Fingers crossed we’ll be back in the theater with the Kelvin crew for good sometime in the next few years.
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