Thursday, December 20, 2007

How to Get Shatner Into Star Trek XI

by William S. Kowinski

Once again, Star Trek XI writer Roberto Orci is saying that a part for William Shatner in the new Paramount Trek movie is still possible, if they can only figure out how to get around the death of Captain Kirk in Star Trek Generations. (Though the interview quoted on the Sci-Fi Wire was in November, Orci apparently confirmed to Trek Movie Report this week that it's still true.)

"From my point of view, it's a very long shoot, and things change. It's just whether we can figure it out," Orci said. He's been saying this for a long time, and I haven't found it entirely credible, but let's take him at his word. I know this is going to be presumptuous because it's their movie and I don't know what the movie's story is anyway, but at this point, maybe it's worth thinking this through.

With some of the movie already shot, and a lot of it locked in by the writers strike, it's obvious that making Captain Kirk a major character is no longer possible. The best that could be done now, probably, is a brief appearance, probably at the end of the story.

So given that Kirk was killed on Veridian 3 after leaving the Nexus to help Captain Picard defeat Soren, what are the options? His presence would have to be simple to explain quickly: it's too late for a story involving, for instance, Q bringing him from a parallel universe to help Spock solve some galactic conundrum.

So last night I sat down to think about it and came up with several ideas, based on two possibilities. One is the Nexus. In Generations, Guinan is on the Enterprise when she explains to Picard she had been in the Nexus, but had been ripped out of it by the Enterprise B, in the event that saw Kirk lost (presumed killed, but actually swept into the Nexus energy ribbon.) But later, when Picard is in the Nexus, Guinan is there. She says she is an "echo" of the Guinan he knows on the Enterprise. There are several possible interpretations of what this "echo" person is.

The most direct exploitation of the "echo" Kirk might go like this:

1. 24th century Spock is returning from his adventure when he spots a ribbon in the sky, swooping towards him. It's the Nexus, which Kirk's "echo" has learned to "pilot," and because of the knowledge of the universe he has within the Nexus, he knows of Spock's mission. So he takes the Nexus to Spock to pepper him with questions about how the mission went, what happened, what was it like. He's gotten tired of living the Nexus possibilities of his life, including seeing his grandchildren born, which is what he was doing when he realized Spock was nearby. This gives us the excitable, impetuous, resourceful and conflicted Kirk--with an unbreakable bond with Spock-- that only Shatner can play.

The other obvious possibility is a holographic Kirk. (I believe this was considered for how to bring Kirk and Picard together in the movie that became Generations.) The most basic way this could work might be:

2. Having revisited the past and seen the very young Kirk again, back in the 24th century Spock desires closure that he never got, since he wasn't there for Kirk's death, and perhaps didn't even hear about it until weeks later. So he programs a holographic Kirk, makes him an age that is the human equivalent of his own age, and converses with him. Spock of course would realize the illogic of talking with a hologram as it it were alive, of conversing with a simulation when it cannot be the real Kirk. And yet, he feels compelled to do it. The holographic Kirk teases him about it, holds his feet to the fire over it, and ultimately they do achieve closure--on this mission and its purpose, on their dedication to Starfleet and the ideals of the Federation, and on their lives--their triumphs, mistakes, what they learned, and their legacy.

Those are the basic ideas. I also came up with two ways to combine the Nexus option with the hologram.

3. At the conclusion of this mission, 24th century Spock finally visits Kirk's grave on Veridan 3. While there, gazing on a monument that has since been erected, he is startled to hear Kirk's voice. Then he sees the memorial pavilion, and inside it is a holographic "interactive Kirk," programmed to answer questions about himself from visitors, especially schoolchildren. When Spock enters, Kirk recognizes him. He says that the Nexus passed just close enough at the time of his death that "an echo" of himself was preserved here. He has inhabited his own simulation, waiting for Spock to arrive. They talk about Spock's mission, and everything described above.

Then there's a variation with a familiar but perhaps still effective twist:

4. Aboard his returning ship, 24th century Spock is visited by a holographic image of Kirk. He says that he's found a way to transmit a hologram outside the Nexus, but only for a few minutes. They converse, as above. Finally Spock says, it is not logical that you can do this. Kirk smiles--the Nexus is a very strange place. It isn't limited by logic--or technology. But you're right--I didn't get a transdimensional hologram emitter for Christmas. Still, there's no power in the universe like the power of the mind, and the heart. I may not be able to get myself into your time and space, but I am already in your mind, and your heart. So it was easier to go directly there--to your dreams." Spock wakes up--and wonders, was it only a dream, or was it really Kirk?

Those are possibilities for Shatner as Captain Kirk. But there are also more ambiguous possibilities. For example:

5. Aboard a 24th century starship, Spock is returning from his mission when he is confronted by an officer he doesn't know--and yet seems shockingly familiar. The officer is very eager to know how his mission went, what was it like, and he asks about Captain Kirk--did he see him, is Kirk's legacy secure? All this time Spock is about as freaked out as a Vulcan can be, because the officer is the image of Jim Kirk, although years older than Kirk was when he "died." Finally, Spock says, "You seem to know a great deal about Captain Kirk, Commander--" "Commander Crane, sir." Spock seems finally to believe Commander Crane is a strange coincidence, but the twinkle in Shatner's eye tells us maybe, somehow...

These may be totally impractical and ineffective suggestions, though I don't think they are uninteresting. And I may be wrong that they demonstrate that it's possible to get William Shatner "as" Captain Kirk into this movie, if it really is a priority.


Joel said...

Or Spock could let his human side take over, warn Kirk in the 23rd century about Soren. Right before the closing credits, as Spock walks into a ready room or bridge, we see Kirk. Fade to black. Credits role. The Fans are happy.

Anonymous said...

Isn't there also an obvious answer: have Shatner play Kirk's father?