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Tarantino Star Trek Film Finds Its Writer in Mark L. Smith, Maintaining a Masculine Hold on Trek Films

image: Paramount/Bad Robot Chris Pine Captain James T. Kirk "Star Trek"

I already had mixed feelings about the Star Trek film in development being produced by J.J. Abrams and directed by Quentin Tarantino. Well, Paramount and Bad Robot have set a writer for the project. Now? My feelings are in a goddamn blender.

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The team has chosen Mark L. Smith, who co-wrote the Oscar-nominated film The Revenant with Alejandro G. Iñárritu, to pen the project. Paramount and Bad Robot selected him after loving his work on the upcoming film Overlord, a WWII Nazi zombie horror film Abrams is producing and is due to drop in October of next year.

As reported by Deadline Hollywood, this means that a screenwriter on one of “the most celebrated spare dialogue films of recent years” and also, um, a movie about zombie Nazis, “will team with Tarantino, a writer/director whose own scripts have run run 165 pages or more, full of dialogue.” Also, Paramount has promised Tarantino that this Star Trek film will be allowed to carry an R-rating like all his other films. Huh.

Again, I love Tarantino’s work, I love Abrams, and I love Star Trek, but the more elements that keep getting added to this particular version of Trek, the more unsure I am about it, and I’m sure that’s probably a large part of the point. Tarantino seems determined to shake things up even as he tries to deliver a Star Trek that focuses on the parts of the original series that resonate with him as a fan.

Still, the R-rating kinda concerns me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about sex, violence, and cursing (in films, people. In films. Only two of those things IRL), which is why I’m a Tarantino fan in the first place. One of the great things about Star Trek, though, is that it’s always been a mature, adult vision of optimistic sci-fi while still being appropriate for a whole family to watch. Being “family friendly” has never made it saccharine or dumbed-down. There’s always been sex, violence, and other adult themes on Star Trek, but it’s never needed to become more “adult” to prove a point.

I mean, would we necessarily want an R-rated Star Wars film? Or R-rated Doctor Who? There’s something about this endeavor that, while I’m curious, it makes me a little sad. It’s as if these people think that a Tarantino-style R-rating is what Star Trek needs to keep it “relevant.”

THEN AGAIN, if Star Trek: Discovery has taught me anything, it’s that a well-placed F-bomb can lead to one of the most charming and optimistic moments on Star Trek ever:

image: CBS All Access Mary Wiseman as Cadet Sylvia Tilly on "Star Trek: Discovery"

Then again, that particular episode of Discovery, “Into the Forest I Go,” was co-written by two women, Bo Yeon Kim and Erika Lippoldt, on a show with a female co-showrunner. What does gender have to do with it? It can’t be denied that Tarantino has a “macho” take on the world. Yes, he’s written some pretty awesome female characters, and several amazing films in which women get to take revenge on the people and societies that oppress them. However, it’s very definitely women (and the world) through a hyper-masculine lens.

What I was hoping for this film, as I expressed in my first write-up about it, was that they’d hire a writer to counterbalance the almost exclusively cis, white, straight male (and exclusively male, as the one director of color the franchise has had so far is also a dude) point of view that Star Trek films have had throughout their history. The hyper-masculine take on Kirk and Co. that Tarantino is almost certain to deliver, but that isn’t entirely true to the original series.

Obviously, this is all speculation. I have no idea what this team is going to come up with. I only have their previous, hyper-masculine, fanboy-centric work to go on. And I wish that, just once, a female voice would be part of the creation of a Star Trek film.

Thank the Prophets there’s Discovery. The lone bastion of femininity in Star Trek right now. As for this new film? Well, we’ll just see how it goes.

(image: Paramount)

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Teresa Jusino
Teresa Jusino (she/her) is a native New Yorker and a proud Puerto Rican, Jewish, bisexual woman with ADHD. She's been writing professionally since 2010 and was a former TMS assistant editor from 2015-18. Now, she's back as a contributing writer. When not writing about pop culture, she's writing screenplays and is the creator of your future favorite genre show. Teresa lives in L.A. with her brilliant wife. Her other great loves include: Star Trek, The Last of Us, anything by Brian K. Vaughan, and her Level 5 android Paladin named Lal.

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