Quentin Tarantino might be making a Star Trek movie. You can file that under Sentences One Never Expects to be Writing, but that doesn’t make it any less of a possibility. News broke earlier this week that the famed director’s Star Trek pitch had been received positively by J.J. Abrams, and that the story Tarantino had outlined would soon be on its way to a writers’ room at Paramount. There, the story will be workshopped and, if all goes according to plan, Tarantino could end up directing the film, with Abrams pegged to produce.
For diehard Star Trek fans, the news likely comes as a massive surprise. After all, Tarantino isn’t known to take on projects in established properties. He has dabbled in television, having directed episodes of CSI and ER, but those are the exceptions to the rule. For the most part, Tarantino falls squarely into the auteur camp; he pens his own scripts and directs the resulting films with very little oversight. That the outspoken director would break away from his comfort zone to take on such a massive studio project in one of the biggest science fiction franchises of all time is staggering — but he might be just what Star Trek needs.
At its core, Star Trek is an allegorical show. When Gene Roddenberry first pitched the series back in 1964, he did so with the idea that each episode would be a mix of spacefaring adventure and a morality tale — a Medieval storytelling genre in which protagonists are often convinced to walk a righteous path by characters who are the personification of moral elements. Roddenberry’s goals for Star Trek were timely. The ‘60s were fraught with conflict, and as a result some of America’s greatest cultural fears made their way onto the show. In creating a vast, wholly unique spacefaring mythology, Roddenberry made a playground in which his characters could apply their idealistic values to simulated scenarios that touched on everything from the Civil Rights movement and second-wave feminism, to the threat of nuclear annihilation from afar.
Tarantino’s films have always had a similar moral backbone, tinged with genre-bending adventure. Django Unchained combined the aesthetics of a Spaghetti Western with the horrors of slavery in the Antebellum South. Kill Bill is a revenge story about a capable woman tracking down the man who betrayed and abused her. Tarantino’s Grindhouse entry, “Death Proof,” is a take on B-movies that’s actually about the perils of toxic masculinity. Inglorious Basterds is an empowering war movie adaptation designed to take the wind out of modern-day Nazis, though it predates the current wave of alt-right regressivism. In each of these films, the characters at the fore are the downtrodden; unlikely heroes who rarely get their time to shine as protagonists in American media — a former slave, women on a mission, a band of Jewish soldiers.
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