The news that Paramount greenlit Quentin Tarantino's proposed Star Trek film provoked a huge response from the Star Trek fan community, with many expressing concern that a director as fond of violence, sex, blood, and swearing could shepherd something as precious as a Star Trek project. But the perception that Tarantino is a bad fit for the franchise ignores some pretty solid reasons not to dismiss its potential just yet.
When Star Trek IV stalled due to contract dispute and star Chris Hemsworth's reported dissatisfaction with the script, Tarantino's project had a clear chance hadn't felt like a real possibility before. Now that it's officially a go, fans are confronting what this could mean for Star Trek and an already cantankerous fandom hasn't been afraid to share their thoughts. The opinions range from cautious curiosity to abject rejection, which has become somewhat the norm for most of the news coming out of Star Trek since Star Trek: Discovery premiered. The addition of Michael Burnham to canon as the half-sister who was raised with Spock, but one he'd never alluded to in 50 years of previous canon remains a source of contention for Star Trek: Discovery haters, and there are countless other vehement objections to everything from the design to its placement behind a paywall. To these very vocal people, Tarantino's film (and it's R-Rating) represents the potential for what they would consider another project that would irrevocably damage and change the Star Trek brand. But it's also not just them.
More evenhanded members of the Star Trek community are also questioning Tarantino's ability to make a film that serves the franchise and not his own sensibilities, which is a fair question when we're talking about a director who's used to having artistic freedom. Many are convinced there's no way Tarantino would or could sacrifice his distinct style enough to fit seamlessly into their perception of Star Trek. That said, this isn't completely unjustified fan fears, it's a valid concern from those who've seen the franchise aggressively reborn in recent years, and at times, questionably executed.
But even that justified concern doesn't invalidate the reasons a Tarantino Star Trek could just be a fun spectacle. Tarantino isn't the director we want for the rest of the franchise, and probably never again after this film, but we can make a case for there being a place for him just this once.
What Star Trek Can Do For Quentin Tarantino
One of the many things that distinguishes Star Trek films from the films Tarantino makes is that a Star Trek movie would be based on existing work. Tarantino's well-known for writing his own scripts and solely working with original properties, except in the case of Jackie Brown. Jackie Brown was an adaptation of the Elmore Leonard novel Rum Punch, and while the 1997 film flopped at the box office, it's grown into a popular Tarantino deep cut that's still lauded by critics for many reasons, including Tarantino's ability to pay homage to the blaxploitation films it intended to serve.
Jackie Brown proves Tarantino can genre-match. To work within the relatively tight boundaries of Star Trek's values, Tarantino would probably have to clip his artistic wings considerably, but he's certainly capable of harnessing someone else's vision. And because of his literacy in different genres, we can trust he's good at honoring what made that genre or property perennially popular. Just because he's never made anything even close to how sanitized Star Trek is doesn't mean he can't. But all that said, he can totally reproduce vintage Star Trek, but he's not going to. And that could turn out to be such a good thing.
What Quentin Tarantino Can Bring To Star Trek
One of the reasons Star Trek fans get so bent out of shape about canon and style amendments is that they're a significant part of Star Trek's appeal. Its age combined with its ability to maintain a consistent values system for over 50 years - not to mention consistent canon - has turned Star Trek fans into people who view the series as a lifelong companion and love it like family. There are definitely sections that just don't like change and object to any new Trek project, but there are also fans who care so deeply about preserving the integrity of Roddenberry's progressive ideals and humanist values, that the idea of someone distorting them is deeply upsetting and understandably so.
That said, it's possible to maintain those values and still leave room for some Tarantino flare, and that mashup has the potential to be an exciting alt-view of the Star Trek we know so well. We're not looking for a space opera and we're not daydreaming about Picard and Kirk blowing away Klingons with uzis, but Star Trek could stick to its roots and still let Tarantino make a daydream for us - those roots are dug deep and some blood, swearing, sex, and probably cocaine isn't going to erase 50 years of history or tarnish Star Trek forever. But taking such a huge risk could promise very positive returns if it turns out to be a success.
Tarantino's a bombastic filmmaker who works on a grand scale in nearly every capacity. Star Trek is one of the most well-known properties in entertainment history. Them mashing-up could produce something truly unique and precious, and potentially make Star Trek culturally and cinematically relevant in an unprecedented way. This film represents a bold experiment and Star Trek is nothing if not an example of how changes in format and style can evolve concepts in positive ways. Deep Space Nine is a perfect example of how fans immediately rejected the series' drastic differences with The Next Generation, but it was those differences that have allowed the series to endure for as long as it has. It's entirely possible the mad scientist combo of Star Trek and Tarantino could produce something of significant artistic value.
But just the one time, please.
Why Quentin Tarantino’s Star Trek Shouldn’t Start A New Franchise
We're excited at the idea of a Tarantino Star Trek, but just one Tarantino Star Trek. Experiments in form and style like these can produce fun, joyful spectacles, but spectacles are fun in part because they're not the norm. Sure, it's fun to imagine a Dr. Beverly Crusher going on a Kill Bill rampage after Jack's death, but if it were actually the story it would be ridiculous. There's no way Tarantino doesn't produce something that's distinctly Tarantino, and while we've commented on the potential good such a risk could do, we want this film to stay a one-off.
This is ultimately a very premature time to be saying something like this, but it's hard to imagine Tarantino producing any Star Trek movie without testing some boundries. If he makes more than one or if that style starts to govern Star Trek's cinematic arm, it will do just what fans are afraid it will do and move disappointingly further afield from Gene Roddenberry's original mission. That presents a bit of a catch-22 given we're essentially wishing the movie to be good, but also not be something to replicate. William Shatner might not mind profanity, but we still think that and Tarantino's greater sensibility would make for good seasoning, but not an entire meal.