Writers Talk "Star Trek: Countdown"

Arguably the most-highly anticipated movie for the geek-set in 2009 is the J.J. Abrams' helmed "Star Trek" re-launch.

With a targeted stardate of May 9, Trekkies and even non-Trekkies have been clamoring for story details and plot threads for the first Trek film since "Star Trek: Nemesis" was released in 2002.

What we do know is "Star Trek" will feature James T. Kirk, Spock and the rest of the original Enterprise crew, as opposed to Captain Jean-Luc Picard's and his make-it-soers, albeit new (and much younger) actors have been cast to fill the iconic roles. The re-imagined adventure will begin at the Starfleet Academy circa 2250, around the time Kirk arrives on campus. Actor Leonard Nimoy, who originated the role, will make at least a cameo in the new film as "old" Spock.

IDW Publishing has joined forces with Paramount Pictures, Abrams' Bad Robot Productions, Kurtzman/Orci Productions and CBS Consumer Products to publish a four-issue miniseries entitled "Star Trek: Countdown." Illustrated by David Messina, the comic book bridges the gap between "Star Trek: Nemesis" - which featured the Picard-led Next Generation crew -- and the paradoxically latest/earliest voyage of the Starship Enterprise.

The creators of the comic, writers Mike Johnson and Tim Jones, and the film's executive producer and co-writer Roberto Orci, have revealed to CBR News that the primary function of the series is delivering a back-story for the lead villain of "Star Trek," Nero, a Romulan played by Eric Bana. Captain Picard plays a significant role, as well.

We sat down Johnson, Jones and Orci to learn more about "Star Trek: Countdown," which debuts in January.

CBR: First off, Mike and Tim, you both work for Kurtzman/Orci Productions, so have you had your fair share of sneak peaks at the "Star Trek" movie?

Tim Jones: The trailer rules and the movie totally lives up to it.

Mike Johnson: The movie will be just like the trailer, only longer and more awesome.

How did this comic project come about?

Roberto Orci: Anthony [Pascale] at www.trekmovie.com kept asking what bone can you throw the Next Generation guys as a kind of a passing of the baton, so we finally arrived at doing a [prelude] comic.

TJ: We kind of worked backwards from the Kurtzman/Orci script to figure out Nero's back-story and find out what's going on in the Next Generation world.

What role have J.J. Abrams, Bob and Alex had in "Star Trek: Countdown's" development?

TJ: They gave us the direction in which to go, and Bob has basically supervised the project over here at K/O.

MJ: They are the holy trinity that is guiding Star Trek into the future, so they have creative oversight and final approval.

TJ: There will one a month starting in January and going to April, and the TPB comes out in May with the movie. I think. I still wish it started with #4 and counted down to #1, but what can you do?

MJ: As you'll see in the comic, there are still more stories that can be spun off from the miniseries, so we'll see where it all leads.

In the initial release about the project, Bob [Orci] is quoted as saying, "'Star Trek: Countdown' lays the groundwork for what happens in the movie.' So is this story pre-Academy?

TJ: No it isn't, but thanks for playing.

MJ: This is one of those questions that could lead to our summary execution if we say too much.

What can you share about the story both in "Star Trek: Countdown" #1 and moving forward?

TJ: It's a very poignant character piece tracing the steps of Nero, who descends from a proud Romulan patriot to a murderous arch villain.

MJ: I think fans are going to be pleasantly surprised by the story that starts in #1 and how we introduce Nero. "Star Trek: Countdown" #1 is the issue that sets the stage, and after that the action and drama will steadily increase throughout the series, culminating in a cliffhanger that can only be resolved by a big fat summer blockbuster movie.

Who are the players? Do we get everybody: Kirk, Spock, Bones, Sulu, Chekov, Uhura and Scotty? Old Spock?

TJ: Spoiler alert here. Old Spock is the only character out of your list that appears in the comic.

MJ: Although "appears" is a word with multiple meanings.

Who have you enjoyed writing the most in "Star Trek: Countdown?"

TJ: I think Nero is the most exciting, because it's the most inventive.

MJ: I'd have to go Nero, too. The bad guy is always the most fun, and it's a blast helping to create the back-story for him. But it's a thrill to write all of the characters that we've loved for so long.

Bob Orci also said in the announcement, "It's our way of passing the baton from the Next Generation characters and their movies to the new film." Is he talking thematically, or do the TNG characters literally play into the story?

TJ: TNG characters literally play into the story.

MJ: Both thematically and literally. Well, not literally that there's actually a little baton that Picard hands over to the new guys - a little silver baton with the Starfleet logo, although that would be awesome. I want one. But literally, it is in the sense that the comic is the missing part of the story between the end of "Star Trek: Nemesis" and the new film.

What can you say about the art of David Messina?

TJ: So far, I love it.

MJ: David's fantastic. We haven't met him yet because he's in Rome and we're in L.A., but we email back and forth to discuss story and design. He has a really unique style that captures both the look of well-known characters and the feel of the Star Trek universe.

"Star Trek: Countdown" #1 goes on sale in January from IDW Publishing.

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