Yes, I know about the episode “A Piece Of The Action”. One of the Jake & Leon cast was named in honor of it. I know about Dixon Hill. That doesn’t mean that Quentin Tarantino’s plans to do a Star Trek gangster story is a good idea. Apparently that’s what he planned.
Tarantino isn’t to my taste but he’s not a bad director by any stretch. That doesn’t mean he is the right guy for every project however, and Star Trek is one of those properties. He’s talking retirement and thankfully this isn’t the movie he wants to go out on so we may never get to see this movie, and that’s a good thing. If you think J.J. Abrams and Alex Kurtzman are getting the franchise wrong, wait until you hear what screenwriter Mark L. Smith was planning alongside him. In a recent podcast Smith discussed what Tarantino’s plan was for his supposed Star Trek movie and while it actually does sound like an interesting plot, it’s not a good Star Trek plot. There is a difference.
On the Bulletproof Screenwriting podcast, Smith went over his initial meeting with Tarantino. This is the important part of the various sites quoting this memory.
“Then just we started working. I would go hang out at his house one night and we would watch old gangster films. We were there for hours … We were just kicking back watching gangster films, laughing at the bad dialogue, but talking about how it would bleed into what we wanted to do. Kirk’s in it, we’ve got him. All the characters are there. It would be those guys. I guess you would look at it like all the episodes of the show didn’t really connect. So this would be almost its own episode. A very cool episode. There’s a little time travel stuff going on. There’s all this other…it’s really wild.”
A story about time travelers having to be part of prohibition-era bootlegging to come up with the parts to build a time machine, the intended plot of Tarantino Trek, actually does sound like an interesting premise. However, Star Trek has nothing in common with the likes of Pulp Fiction and this was once described as “Pulp Fiction in space”. Except it’s not in space, it’s a time travel story. Yes, I know the franchise has done time travel before as well as stories involving gangsters but somehow I don’t see this working even as well as Star Trek VI: The Voyage Home. This sounds like it’s the bridge crew becoming mobsters in the past and something about that doesn’t sit right with me.
Now as an original project even I might check it out, and maybe an episode could work with the plot (I kind of doubt it), but as a movie this is not a good plot. While the show was episodic with no connecting arc, the movies have led into each other since Star Trek II and even the Kelvin timeline sequels are affected by the previous movie and affect the next one, for good and for ill. I’m not sure I want to see the crew becoming moonshiners and having mob wars for the length of the movie. It’s not the same as hunting for whales to save the future or trying to protect history from knowledge of the future. Tarantino’s tone also doesn’t typically match good Trek so I don’t see that working either, given the problems classic fans have with the Bad Robot and Secret Hideout interpretations of the franchise. (I’d love to know what Les Moonves did that allowed Kurtzman to extend his license, continuing the middle finger wagging at Shari Redstone.)
In “A Piece Of The Action” the crew finds a race that is very imitative and somehow the area (or probably the whole planet, given how science fiction works–where a whole planet shares a culture and a central government unless the plot demands otherwise) goes all 1920s Chicago because a previous explorer left a fictional novel set in that period there. It’s a silly premise but it led to a fun story. Dixon Hill was a fictional universe created for The Next Generation that Picard turned into a holodeck game (the closest thing to video games Star Trek usually has). To me this sounds more like Tarantino wanted to do a gangster movie with time travelers and thought Star Trek would be the easiest way to make it happen. Frankly, making it a Doctor Who story sounds closer, though with a hopefully different reason to help the bootleggers since I doubt you could repair the TARDIS from parts found in the 1920s. Even “The City On The Edge Of Forever” was about keeping history on track.
I just can’t help but think we dodged a bullet on this one. Or maybe a phaser.