Star Trek 4 was almost a reinvention of a classic TNG episode

Star Trek 4's script writers, who went on to co-create Rings of Power, have spilled the beans on their original script for the Star Trek movie.

Star Trek 4 delay: Chris Pine as Kirk

The plot details for an early version of the Star Trek 4 script have been shared by the writers. Star Trek 4 has been in development hell for years now. The movie has struggled to find the right script and the right director, and there have also been difficulties in tying down the core cast.

The movie has gone through countless different versions (at one point, Tarantino was attached to write and direct), and one of those was written by J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay. If you’re familiar with those names, it’s because they ended up being the creators and showrunners for the new fantasy series, Rings of Power.

The two writers eventually left the project in order to shift to the TV series, and their script was abandoned. In the years since their time working on the science fiction movie ended, there have been reports that the movie intended to bring back Chris Hemsworth. Other details have been sparse.

However, the silence has been broken. Speaking to Esquire, the two writers have spilled the beans on their script after Star Trek 4’s latest delay. They revealed that the movie would have had a new, original villain, and will have taken inspiration from a classic TNG episode. Patrick McKay described the movie as “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade in space”, before J.D. Payne elaborated on the details of the plot.

Payne said “There’s an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation called “Relics” where they find Scotty, who’s been trapped a transporter for a couple of decades, and they’re able to have cool adventure with him. Our conceit was, “What if right before the Kelvin impacted with that huge mining ship, George Kirk had tried to beam himself over to his wife’s shuttle where his son, Jim Kirk, had just been born?”

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He continued to flesh out the idea, saying “And what if the ship hadn’t completely exploded—what if it left some space junk?” Think about when you send a text message and you’ve typed it out, but you haven’t quite hit send. On the other side, they see those three little dots that someone has typed. It’s like the transporter had absorbed his pattern up into the pattern buffer, but hadn’t spit him out on the other side. It was actually a saved copy of him that was in the computer.”

McKay then summarised the plot that would have been attached to the idea, saying “So the adventure is that Chris Pine and the crew of the Enterprise have to seek out the wreckage of the ship that his father died on because of a mystery and a new villain. In the ship, they stumble across his father’s pattern. They beam him out and he has no idea that no time has passed at all, and that he’s looking at his son. Then the adventure goes from there.”

Well, there you have it. Sounds like a lot of fun, if you ask me. Certainly, a lot of Star Trek fans will feel like there is a lot of lost potential in the abandoned script. The idea of taking inspiration from classic a Star Trek series but using it to create an original Star Trek movie with all new characters is an exciting one.

The episode that the writers reference, Relics, is widely regarded as a TNG classic, combining big ideas about a Dyson Sphere with a personal story about aging, and redundancy. The idea about a person being stored in pattern buffers has also been followed up in Strange New Worlds, proving that there’s lots of stories that can be told using that conceit. But, it looks like any prospect of that Star Trek movie is now long gone.

For more Star Trek fun, check out our guide to the Star Trek captains ranked.