Paramount’s new Star Trek universe may have divided long-time fans of the franchise, but both the 2009 reboot and its 2013 sequel Star Trek Into Darkness – both directed by J.J. Abrams – proved big hits in the U.S. – and even more so overseas. Naturally, our attention has turned to the mooted Star Trek 3 and just who will helm the next big-screen adventure of the starship Enterprise, now that Abrams is deep into his duties on Star Wars: Episode VII.

Two of the main creative minds behind the property’s relaunch, Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman, are about to sever their big-screen writing partnership after more than a decade of success both in the movies and on television, having shepherded lucrative franchises like TransformersFringeThe Amazing Spider-Man 2 (along with the Venom spin-off), Alias, and Sleepy Hollow

This news was quickly followed by reports that Abrams’ Bad Robot shingle, which is still producing Star Trek 3 alongside Skydance Productions, has been pushing Roberto Orci into the frontrunner position for the job. Several different names were batted around in the past half-year, with Attack the Block director Joe Cornish the most recent – but it turns out the frontrunner may end up with the job after all.

Deadline reports that Robert Orci is “in talks” to direct Star Trek 3, with both Bad Robot and Skydance now lobbying Paramount to sign off on Orci taking the captain’s chair.

Robert Orci (left) with Alex Kurtzman

Orci’s co-writing credits on the last two Star Trek films and his long track record of franchise successes certainly give him an edge, and while this would be his feature debut as a director, it wouldn’t be the first time Paramount handed a major franchise to a first-time director: J.J. Abrams jump-started his feature directing career with 2006’s Mission: Impossible III.

This development definitely points toward Paramount’s intention to continue developing their rebooted Star Trek continuity, with Orci co-writing alongside Boilerplate scribes Patrick McKay and J.D. Payne. Whether or not this also means that a 2016 release will happen is as-yet unknown.

Die-hard Trekkies remain ambivalent about the rebooted universe, with the first film’s destruction of Vulcan and the sequel’s controversial – and arguably botched – introduction of the classic villain Khan sticking in the craw of longtime fans. The promise of fresh blood on the creative team gives rise to plenty of questions: will Star Trek 3 once again attempt to please hardcore fans with plots lifted from the original series or even – dare we to even dream it? – Star Trek: The Next Generation?

And what about the persistent rumor of Orci meeting with CBS for a potential Trek TV series? Fans have been vocal about their desire to see Star Trek return to television, as the classic themes which make Trek‘s future of humanity iconic are better suited to a long-form, episodic rendering. Plus, let’s face it, the idea of a Captain Worf show is still awesome. Fans shouldn’t hold their breath, though – as long as the reboot films continue to draw big profits, the exploits of the U.S.S. Enterprise will remain bid-budget, 3-D CGI popcorn flicks, despite the potential for a cross-platform universe.

Trek fans remain somewhat bitter about Orci’s ill-advised online tirade against fans who had legitimate problems with the way Into Darkness seemed to betray the core of what their beloved franchise is all about. With Orci already attuned to what the studio wants from this franchise, expect confirmation of a release date relatively soon, along with plot detail rumors to surface once Orci is confirmed for the job.

Star Trek 3 is currently expected to release in 2016.

Source: Deadline