Star Trek writers offer up a few sequel details

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

Remember a couple of weeks ago when Star Trek's Zoe Saldana told SCI FI Wire that she believed the script for a second movie was about halfway done?

That is apparently news to screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, who told us on Thursday that they feel complimented that Saldana thinks they are so productive.

"She's so generous," Orci said in a group interview at the Television Critics Association summer press tour in Pasadena, Calif., where he and Kurtzman were promoting Fox's Fringe. "She thinks so much and so highly of us. We had about a 15- [to] 30-minute discussion with the whole gang and went our separate ways. We're still in the re-reading and taking-it-all-in phase before we actually sit down and start designing it."

Developing a worthy sequel to this year's generally acclaimed and certainly lucrative Trek reboot will take much more time, Kurtzman said. They have to exhaust every possible idea to find the best ones.

"We take nothing for granted at this point," Kurtzman said. "We're only going to do it when it's really right."

The discussions include brainstorming classic Trek missions, which could be revisited with a new timeline established thanks to Spock and Nero's time travel. Even generating new ideas brings up past Trek episodes, Orci said.

"Even when you pitch stuff, sometimes someone will be like, 'Wow, that's like that one episode,'" Orci said. "So even in trying to stay away from it, you can crash back in there."

With so many Trek ideas in play, the writers have toyed with possibilities of multiple sequels, though they are not ready to announce a multi-picture commitment. "It was more the fact that we talked about the minute you start seeing how much Star Trek there is and how many ideas everyone's having, you could have enough material," Orci said. "There's been 43 years of material, so that's all that we meant by that. It has to cross your mind. But we're not leaning one way or the other yet."

At the same time, the writers want to make sure any follow-up is not too Trek-heavy, so as not to confuse the new fans who were brought into the fold by director J.J. Abrams' movie. "A lot of what makes die-hard Trekkers really focused on Trek are those details that can sometimes be alienating to people who are not on the inside," Kurtzman said. "That leads us back to what are the big themes, the emotional ideas? That's a language everybody speaks."

One thing Orci does want to do is get more classic catchphrases into the sequel. Memorable moments in Abrams' Trek included Spock Prime's "Live long and prosper" and young Bones' saying, "Dammit, Jim, I'm a doctor, not a ... ." An example of a possible catchphrase to come? Bones has yet to say "He's dead, Jim."

"I noted that," Orci admitted. "I was watching cable the other night, watching Star Trek. It's been on rotation, the original series. He said, 'He's dead, Jim.' I was like, 'Oh, that has to go [in the script].'"

Abrams' childhood friend, Heroes star Greg Grunberg, has appeared in some form or other in most of Abrams' projects: In Trek, he was the voice of Kirk's stepfather on the car phone. Grunberg has begun telling reporters that he wants to play Harry Mudd in a future Star Trek and most recently said it on Wednesday at the TCA summer press tour. Orci agreed to consider Grunberg's proposal. "It's a good idea," Orci said.

Orci went on to detail the collaboration between himself and Kurtzman, director Abrams and producers Damon Lindelof and Bryan Burk. "We're going to come up with the story together, obviously, in consultation with J.J. and Bryan," Orci said. "Then we're going to write it up together, the story. Also Damon, and then Alex and I will go write the script."

Lindelof won't be available for day-to-day writing work, as he runs the final season of Lost. "That's the thing, exactly," Orci said. "He's got this other little thing going on right now."