Rumors regarding Star Trek 3 (working title) are starting to fly around as of late. It has already been confirmed that Roberto Orci will direct Star Trek 3, since J.J. Abrams is directing Star Wars Episode VII. While I've already expressed my distaste for Orci's (and Kurtzman's) scripts for the new Star Trek movies, this new movie is also going to feature new writers J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay. Hopefully, these two can put together a more coherent script than Orci and Kurtzman did for Into Darkness.
A new rumor that surfaced in the past few weeks is that director Roberto Orci may have contacted William Shatner about reprising his role as James T. Kirk in the new movie. Shatner has supposedly said that he would love to be included, but Orci has not confirmed whether or not Shatner will actually appear in the movie. According to the rumors, Orci has written a special scene for the movie in which Shatner and Leonard Nimoy would reprise their roles as Kirk and Spock on-screen one last time, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the premiere of the Original Series.
While there is merit in such a tribute, I really don't think it's necessary, and there is plenty of reasons for fans to be worried about such an inclusion.
Shatner may return for one last
Star Trek adventure.
First and foremost, Nimoy already handed off the baton in the 2009 reboot. His presence in Into Darkness was completely unnecessary and contrived. We don't need a similar scene in the next movie, too!
The whole point of these new movies is to go to new places and do new things with new characters. Not constantly bring back old characters and events that have already been done.
This news about Shatner really deflates any excitement that I may have had about other recent rumors stating that the new movie is going to take place in deep space as part of the Enterprise's five-year-mission of exploration. It was starting to sound like the series was finally going to go back to exploring strange new worlds, seeking out new civilizations, and boldly going where no one had gone before - which had been promised in the outro monologues of both previous movies. But now it sounds like the new movie is going to rely on the nostalgia factor as a story-telling crutch yet again, which is (as I've already stated when Khan was rumored to appear in the previous movie) antithetical to Abrams' states purpose for the reboot to begin with:
"One of the reasons we wanted to break with the original Star Trek timeline was it felt restrictive"
- J.J. Abrams
Well, J.J. and Roberto, stopping the plot at the climax to speed-dial Spock Prime and ask how he dealt with the problem is also very restrictive! Can't these characters solve their own damn problems without the help of their original counterparts?
The Original Series will be celebrating its 50th anniversary when the next movie is released.
Roberto Orci and his writers think re-uniting Shatner and Nimoy on screen is an appropriate tribute.
"Integral" to the plot?
The rumors have also stated that the use of Shatner and Nimoy is going to be integral to the movie's plot (rather than a simple fan service cameo), which means that these characters will likely appear alongside their younger counterparts and be required to solve some problem in order to progress the plot. So what are the narrative possibilities, and why would they be stupid?
Just like the original continuity's Spock is present in the new movies, Kirk could somehow show up too. The plot could either involve contact between the two realities, or Kirk could just be deposited in the new reality (perhaps a side effect of his visit to the Nexus in Generations). I really don't want to see another time-travel or dimension-hopping plot. Been there, done that. So the idea of including Shatner and Nimoy as representatives of themselves in the original continuity would be boring.
Instead of a literal time travel plot, Shatner and Nimoy could appear in some kind of "flash-forward" scene that shows the characters' [possible] futures. I don't like this either because it establishes that Kirk and Spock survive and remain colleagues and friends well into old age, which would shatter any tension that the audience may have for the well-being of those characters. It would also back future movie-writers into a contradictory corner if they decided to kill off one character or the other or change the dynamic of their relationship.
The only way that I could see an option like this working is if we see an explicit "possible" future. For example, I could maybe imagine a scenario involving Chris Pine and Zach Quinto's Kirk and Spock observing the future through the Guardian of Forever, and there being a short clip of Shatner and Nimoy.
The Guardian of Forever could act as a gateway to the characters' future selves.
But then, their presence wouldn't really be "integral" to the plot, now would it? In fact, Shatner and Nimoy wouldn't even be needed on-set, as stock footage from the show or movies could just be used instead. The only way for their presence to be "integral" would be if their actions in the future have some effect on the past. Think about the Next Generation or Voyager finales, which leads us to...
I also really don't want to see another time travel plot. While the Guardian of Forever could have been a useful and fun tool for initiating the rebooted series back in 2009, I'm sick of time travel, and I'd prefer not to see it show up in the new movie. So I really hope that Shatner and Nimoy are not supposed to represent the rebooted characters in the future somehow interacting with their past selves. While time travel has been handled well in Trek's past (like in TOS: City on the Edge of Forever, Star Trek IV, and TNG: All Good Things), it has a very shaky recent track record. Voyager's End Game finale was complete garbage, and Enterprise rode time travel like a crutch and got itself canceled! Even the [possibly unjustifiably] beloved First Contact movie was nonsensical and damaging to the franchise.
Time travel was already a part of the 2009 reboot, and so we don't need to see it again. I really want Star Trek to go back to being about exploring space; not time. The point is to show the audience the awe and wonder that comes from exploring the cosmos around us, and why it is worth the potential risks. Jumping around in time just takes away from that sense of discovery.
Kirk, Spock, and McCoy were rapidly aged in the
Original Series episode "The Deadly Years".
The last possibility that I can think of (and the one that seems the least offensive) is the idea of somehow rapidly aging the crew (or at least Kirk and Spock). This wouldn't exactly be original, since it's been done in the Original Series episode The Deadly Years, but at least it wouldn't be about time travel or parallel dimensions, and wouldn't necessitate the new crew relying on the old characters as crutches to resolve their problems. The new crew would be in a situation in which they'd have to solve an environmental threat on their own while exploring deep space. It could work, and it would provide a reasonable excuse for including Shatner and Nimoy in an "integral" role in the movie's plot.
But I really don't see this carrying an entire movie's plot - particularly not a "general audiences" blockbuster action movie's plot.
But it looks like it's happening anyway...
In any case, it sounds like Orci already has a script in mind that is going to require Shatner and / or Nimoy. I have very little confidence in Orci's script-writing abilities or his respect for the Star Trek source material, and so I suspect that this new movie will turn into a colossal disaster just as Into Darkness and Amazing Spider-Man 2 did.
I don't get the feeling that including Shatner is a genuine attempt to pay tribute to the 50 year history of the series. To me, it seems more like a desperate attempt to sell tickets to original fans who want to see Shatner's "final hurrah!". It won't work on me.
And even if tribute is the genuine intent here, then a much better tribute to the Original Series than a cheap nostalgia trip would be to actually make a good movie that stays true to the science fiction roots of the series.