Once upon a time, before Rings of Power showrunners J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay made the most expensive show on television, they were tapped to write another blockbuster script: Star Trek 4.
Now, we don’t blame you if you somehow forgot that a Hollywood-sized Star Trek franchise existed until as recently as 2016. (You know, a lot has happened since then.) We’re talking about Star Trek, Star Trek Into Darkness, and Star Trek Beyond, which served as a reintroduction to the USS Enterprise crew, starring Chris Pine as James T. Kirk. The films had varying levels of success, both critically and financially, but the franchise did enough to briefly greenlight a fourth film. Back in 2018, plans fell through for Star Trek 4 to see the return of Chris Hemsworth as Kirk’s father, whom he previously played in 2009’s Star Trek. Last we heard of the film, director Matt Shakman left the project, going on to take up Fantastic Four duties. Even Pine seems in the dark.
Patrick McKay: The conceit was that through a cosmic quirk in the Star Trek world, [Pine and Hemsworth’s characters] were the same age. It was going to be a grand father-son space adventure—think Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade in space. We were really thrilled about it. We had an original villain and a really cool 2001: A Space Odyssey-esque sci-fi idea at the core. We worked on it for two and half years with Lindsey Weber, our non-writing executive producer on Rings of Power, and an amazing director, S.J. Clarkson. The movie eventually fell apart and it really was a heartbreak for us. It’s part of what led us here, because it got us thinking, “Gosh, with a big IP title, big movie stars, and a story that we all felt had the chance to be terrific, it couldn’t come together.” We felt the winds were shifting against big movies, which is part of what made us start taking TV seriously. That led us to Rings of Power. But we would have loved to make that movie. I want to spoil a piece of it that’s exciting—how they end up together. Can we do that, JD?
J.D. Payne: Sure, why not? There’s an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation called “Relics” where they find Scotty, who’s been trapped a transporter for a couple of decades, and they’re able to have cool adventure with him. Our conceit was, “What if right before the Kelvin impacted with that huge mining ship, George Kirk had tried to beam himself over to his wife’s shuttle where his son, Jim Kirk, had just been born? And what if the ship hadn’t completely exploded—what if it left some space junk?” Think about when you send a text message and you’ve typed it out, but you haven’t quite hit send. On the other side, they see those three little dots that someone has typed. It’s like the transporter had absorbed his pattern up into the pattern buffer, but hadn’t spit him out on the other side. It was actually a saved copy of him that was in the computer.
PM: So the adventure is that Chris Pine and the crew of the Enterprise have to seek out the wreckage of the ship that his father died on because of a mystery and a new villain. In the ship, they stumble across his father’s pattern. They beam him out and he has no idea that no time has passed at all, and that he’s looking at his son. Then the adventure goes from there.
Pretty exciting stuff, isn’t it? Chris Pine, Matt Shakman, hell, even William Shatner—if you’re reading this, can we get this film made? Please and thank you.