Since J.J. Abrams is currently ensconced in a galaxy far, far away as the director of Star Wars: Episode VII, his Star Trek reboot co-writer and producer Roberto Orci has taken over directing duties on what we at this point know only as Star Trek 3, which is aiming for a 2016 release date to coincide with the franchise’s 50th anniversary.

Both Star Trek and its sequel Star Trek Into Darkness were financially successfully, enough so that further adventures set within the reset Trek universe go without saying. Yet, with longtime fan ire over the direction the new movies series has gone still an issue, where will the next chapter in the saga take the starship Enterprise?

Since Orci has stated his intention to “explore new worlds” in our Screen Rant Underground Podcast interview with him, hardcore Trek fans have allowed themselves to expect a movie that finally takes place within the five-year mission teased at the end of Into Darkness, which was also the setting of the original Star Trek television series.

During a podcast interview for Humans From Earth with former Hero Complex writer Geoff Boucher (via Bad Ass Digest), Orci has evidently confirmed that the next film will be set in “deep space,” saying:

In [Into Darkness] they set out finally where the original series started. The first two films – especially the 2009 [Star Trek] – was an origin story. It was about them coming together. So they weren’t the characters they were in the original series. They were growing into them and that continues on in the second movie. So in this movie they are closer than they are to the original series characters that you have ever seen. They have set off on their five-year mission. So their adventure is going to be in deep space.

While a Star Trek prequel film spent gathering the staple characters of Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto), Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Dr. McCoy (Karl Urban), Sulu (John Cho) Scotty (Simon Pegg) and Chekov (Anton Yelchin) into one crew was expected, a second film re-treading much of the same territory seemed unnecessary.

Still, despite his lecturing fans online who criticized Into Darkness, Orci appears to understand these things, noting that Captain Kirk is now “an adult.” Since its inception, the Star Trek franchise has devoted its focus (as much as the various TV series’ budget allowed) to going where no one has gone before, and the life forms which await.

Given the retconned fate of the planet Vulcan – which must affect age-old Federation foes the Romulans – a whole new set of alien races must statistically be out there for Kirk and company to meet. Given their all-too-brief introduction during Into Darkness, fans have been expecting some renewed tensions between the Klingons and the Federation to perhaps take center stage in Star Trek 3. When pressed for details, however, Roberto Orci only said:

The Horta is actually the villain in the next one – no – they are in deep space now, so lets see what’s out there.

Orci is teasing here – the Horta is a species featured in the original series episode ‘The Devil in the Dark,’ and while the episode explored intriguing issues of the effects of colonization on non-humanoid alien species, they’re unlikely to play a huge part in a feature film. Orci displays his command of Star Trek lore here, while deftly avoiding the question.

The original Trek series is still remembered for its relatively progressive nature – the first interracial kiss on American television was between William Shatner and Nichelle Nichols, after all – but the rebooted films basically play it safe (which is an ultimately defensible position, business-wise). Still, when asked if the rebooted Star Trek films might eventually feature a homosexual character (perhaps referencing original Sulu George Takei, who has been out and proud for years), Orci said:

It can be part of a character and not be the whole shebang…It doesn’t have to be like ‘South Park,’ like ‘what have we learned today.’ It can be so normalized that it just exists. I agree it can’t be shoe-horned in. And it is not necessary for it to be the whole point of the thing. It is an ensemble and there is lots of people to represent so no one point of view should hog it.

So don’t hold your breath, but it should be noted that creator Gene Roddenberry intended to add gay characters to Star Trek: The Next Generation but was denied, even though the show would go on to explore issues of gender androgyny.

Orci is a veteran of popular successes among both film and TV (TransformersFringe) and it stands to reason that Paramount would not entrust a first-time feature film director with an important, lucrative franchise without knowing precisely what they’re doing.

Still, as many fans have pointed out in the wake of the blockbuster reboot films, Star Trek is about more than big-budget CGI spaceship battles and pretty actors.

Stay tuned for more details on Star Trek 3 as they become available.

Star Trek 3 is currently expected to open in theaters in 2016.

Source: Humans from Earth [via Bad Ass Digest]