What Did Leonard Nimoy Really Think About J.J. Abrams’s ‘Star Trek’ Movie?

Leonard Nimoy at the "Star Trek" 2009 premiere

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Perhaps more than any other person, Alex Kurtzman embodies “New Trek.” He was instrumental in rebooting the franchise in 2009 along with J.J. Abrams, and he’s currently the showrunner of the “Star Trek” universe on Paramount+.

He’s served as both a writer and producer for all of the modern “Star Trek” media except for “Star Trek: Beyond.” Currently, he’s a writer and producer for “Star Trek: Discovery,” “Star Trek: Short Treks,” “Star Trek: Picard,” and “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.” Though he’s not a writer for “Star Trek: Lower Decks” or “Star Trek: Prodigy,” he serves as an executive producer on both shows. At this point, he’s arguably contributed as much to the franchise as its previous showrunner, Rick Berman.

During a recent appearance on the official “Star Trek” podcast, “The Pod Directive,” Kurtzman talked about what it was like to bring “Star Trek” back to life. He also revealed exactly what Trek legend Leonard Nimoy thought of Kurtzman’s first “Star Trek” movie.

Pitching Nimoy

Kurtzman told hosts Tawny Newsome and Paul F. Tompkins that the pressure of rebooting such a popular franchise was immense. Each of the writers and producers knew what a difficult task they had in front of them and the consequences of getting it wrong.

We knew when we came up with the story… we all had extremely different relationships with ‘Star Trek.’ Some of us diehard. I was not at the time. Others casual watchers and others, actually very objectively, ‘I’m not a Star Trek fan but I’m curious.’ And that was kind of a weird, perfect Supreme Court of people because there were so many different points of view on what it was, and yet we all wanted it to be the same one thing. 

Kurtzman explained that the team knew that their story was going to fundamentally change a lot of things about the “Star Trek” universe. To do that, they needed the blessing of one of “Star Trek’s” most iconic actors.

“It was all about Leonard, all about Leonard Nimoy. When we came upon the idea of… we need to create a new timeline… we have to change everybody’s fate and once you change everyone’s fate anything can happen. And you can’t predict what’s coming. And that led us to the destruction of Vulcan. And then we were like if we do that the only way that’s gonna work is if it’s blessed by Leonard Nimoy. It’s the only way…

Kurtzman then recounted the nerve-wracking experience of pitching the movie to Nimoy himself.

He came into the office and there were very little pleasantries. It was like ‘Hey, hi, so nice to meet you!’ And he kind of was like, ‘What have you got?’ And we were like ‘Okay, we have to pitch for our lives here.’ And so we sat down and we pitched everything. And he was totally stone-faced. And we finished and we were like, “Okay so what do you think?’ And he didn’t say anything. And my first thought was ‘We’ve totally screwed it up. He’s out. We just pitched him oh we’re going to destroy your whole planet.'”

Luckily, Kurtzman’s first thought was completely off-base. Kurtzman explained that, in reality, Nimoy was so touched by the story that he had trouble talking about it.

“He said, ‘You must understand, this is very emotional for me.’ And I heard this thing in his voice, and in that moment I was like ‘We got him.’ And we got him because I think he understood. He came in, as he should have, incredibly skeptical… And I think what he saw was that we were genuine fans who just wanted to do right by it.”

Then and there, Nimoy gave the new movie his blessing and agreed to play the elder version of Spock.

Bringing ‘Star Trek’ to a New Generation

Kurtzman went on to discuss the philosophy that’s driven his additions to the “Star Trek” universe.

“What has always been so amazing about ‘Star Trek’… is that the fans keep it alive again and again and again. But it has to go through a process of rebirth every, I don’t know, 10, 12, 15 years by whatever the next generation of storytellers is. Because ‘Star Trek’ has always been this amazing reflection of the time that we live in and the only way that that works is if people who are coming up behind and behind and behind keep telling new stories.

Kurtzman sees himself as just one of the new storytellers bringing “Star Trek” to the next generation of Trekkers. He emphasized that if “Star Trek” didn’t continue to tell new stories that are relatable to the current generation, there could be a time when there are no new Trekkers out there.

Kurtzman is committed to not letting that happen.

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