New ‘Star Trek 3′ Co-Writer J.D. Payne Talks ‘Trek,’ Bad Robot, and Writing Partner Patrick McKay

Last December it was announced that writing partners J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay would be joining Roberto Orci as the lead writers on 2016's Star Trek 3, the next installment in J.J. Abrams' reimagined Star Trek movie series.

Aside from their rather empty IMDB listings, there's been virtually no information available on either of these newcomers -- but two new interviews with Payne have surfaced on a pair of Mormon-centric websites, and the writer talks about not only his initial collaboration with McKay, but his entry into the world of Star Trek as well.

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From LDS Living:

So what’s in store for Star Trek fans?

I can’t really talk about much... at its core, "Star Trek" has always been about adventure, exploration and wonder, with an optimistic sense of the future, and all its possibilities. It’s a massive playground; we’re so excited to be diving in on it.”

"Star Trek" is unique in that it often grapples with complex ethical and moral dilemmas - we’d love to create a situation like that where you really could be a person of any background, and come down on both sides of how you should respond. Where you can walk out and say, ‘You know, I really don’t know what I would do. What would you do? What’s right to do?‘ And get the audience to really engage.

mckay-payne-thumbPatrick McKay and J.D. Payne. (Image via Mormon Artist)

From Mormon Artist

Patrick McKay is your longtime writing partner—how did that association begin? What is it like to have a writing partner?

Patrick and I met in high school and started collaborating creatively when we directed a short play together for the school’s One Act Festival. We quickly found that the things I was lousy at, Patrick was great at, and vice-versa. We continued working together throughout high school and into college.

Since then, Patrick and I have written something like seventeen scripts together. Each one is a journey, and there’s no one in the world I’d rather have at the helm with me than Patrick. The work itself is a joy, but engaging in it day in and day out with a partner who’s also my best friend takes that joy to an entirely different level.

There has been quite a bit written about the fact that the upcoming "Star Trek" will be your first produced script. However, you are pretty seasoned—how many screenplays have you written in total?

"Star Trek" will be our 17th script from the first one we wrote when we were in college; our tenth from the time we got agency representation (though only seven of those have officially been in development at a production company and studio). I’ve read that the industry average is thirteen scripts in development for every one that ends up getting produced. I’m definitely still bullish that several of our other projects will make it to the silver screen, so we’ll see how that ratio ends up working out with our slate.

How did you first become involved with Bad Robot? What was it like to work with J. J. Abrams and the group involved with the film?

We had a great initial general meeting at Bad Robot, after which we pursued a project that came to be known as "Boilerplate." From there, things took on a life of their own. We feel like we share a creative sensibility and point of view with J. J. and his team. They’ve been fantastic to work with every step of the way on each of the projects we’ve developed together. It’s a relationship we feel very fortunate to have stumbled into.

I could go into more detail about the nuts and bolts of the collaboration, but I should probably leave it at that. People think Edward Snowden got exiled from the country for the NSA Wikileaks scandal; in actuality, I heard his real crime was leaking a super-secret pizza recipe from the kitchen at Bad Robot’s offices.

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  • Ahmed

    Not sure about having a religious Mormon writing the script. He is a fan & all that but it is clear that his religion is influencing his writing. He wrote a script “Goliath” based on a Biblical story & is working on a project for his church called “The Last Days of Mormon”!

    • Chris915

      So, the issue isn’t that he’s a Mormon, etc. but rather that it’ll influence the story?

      • Ahmed

        I don’t have a problem that he’s a Mormon. My only concern that his previous works show signs that it is influencing his writing. I hope this will not be the case with Star Trek XIII.

        • Chris915

          Ah, ok.

        • hypnotoad72

          proselytizing being the key word, I agree. Many religious folks will try to force their views on others, in one way or another, out of hubris (ironic but true). Those that don’t more or less let others decide for themselves if that path is a fit or not. Just don’t look up some of the creators of those religions’ lives because they’re often sexpests, perverts, turncoats, or too cowardly to practice their own creation before dying, turning back to what they were indoctrinated into as children. Or, best of all, those on record saying “The way to make a million dollars is to start a religion.” Which might include Star Trek, LOL…

    • milojthatch

      You do know that Galaxy Quest and the original Battlestar Galactica were written by devout Mormons, right?

      • Ahmed

        Yes & Larson injected themes from the Mormon theology in the old BSG show.
        Check this out https://home.comcast.net/~billotto/Mormon_N_BSG.html
        Having a devout Mormon writing Star Trek is something to be concerned about a little.

        • milojthatch

          Yes, I actually do know that. Just like I know that I’ve friends with the guy that wrote Galaxy Quest and that I myself am Mormon. So, my next question is, are you a bigot? Careful how you answer that one friend….

          • Ahmed

            No need to be careful, like I said in the other comment I don’t have a problem at all that he is a Mormon. My only concern that, I simply don’t want any writer, regardless of his/her religion, to inject themes from that religion in the movie. That is my only concern, hope this answer your question.

          • milojthatch

            So what if the writer is Jewish, or Muslum, or Baptist? Or even, dare I say it, Atheist? Then you would be ok with it and not concerned? Sounds a lot like bigotry to me…

          • Ahmed

            Did you read my previous comment ? You clearly made up your mind & feel offended by my view. Not going to spend all night repeating myself here.

          • fidelio

            Dude…he said ‘REGARDLESS OF HIS/HER’ Religion!’
            Learn to read! And actually, the concern would OF COURSE not be present, if an Atheist would write it. Simply because he is NOT RELIGIOUS!
            Please use your God given brain!

        • Justin Olson

          Since only one of these two new writers is a devout Mormon and they are both working under the guiding hand of Roberto Orci, I would be more concerned about seeing further thinly veiled, truther/conspiracy type material in the third movie, as with the second.

          Though, having read both Mormon articles in full, it is now required of me as a Star Trek fan to offer the good-natured observation that I think Mr. Payne is doing a little too much LDS. ;)

          • Ahmed

            Orci is super busy with other major movies, The Mummy & The Amazing Spider-Man 3 among them, that he will have little time to try that again, I hope!

          • Platitude

            During the free-speech movement at Berkley :p

          • firephasers

            hahahaha, that is funny!

          • shanebroughton

            Was he was a member of the Free Speech Movement at Berkeley?

        • hypnotoad72

          Then maybe they can write for Star Wars – which is more religious-themed. Trek has always been about the human condition first, characters next, pretty explosions third, and religion at the tail end because even Shatner Kirk seemed almost sardonic when he told “Apollo” that the one god is good enough (“Who Mourns for Adonis”, 1967…)

          One god, many gods, goddesses, curse of the goddess… I don’t care. Trek is about the human condition, which is far wider than limitations imposed by religions – regardless of how entrenched or spun into reality that they are in order to find followers (including myself).

    • Mike C.

      I share the concern. However, the Superman origin was influenced by Catholicism, and that’s seemed to never really become an issue.
      Paramount did not hire them because of this, I imagine. I wonder if Paramount is unhappy if this turns into a damaging situation.
      Hopefully they will write a great script.

      • Justin Olson

        Siegel and Shuster were both Jewish, so looking for Catholic influences in Superman’s origin is probably barking up the wrong tree. :)

        • Mike C.

          Yes, I know that. And you don’t know Superman.

          • Justin Olson

            That’s true; never met him.

      • hypnotoad72

        The Christopher Reeve era, George Reeves, Smallville, that 1990s show “Lois and Clark”, or that new flick of recent that kinda takes a leak on the concept of Superman and the roots (American way, whatever that is nowadays, not standing by to let people die… there was a review on that new flick that was scathing, despite the special effects… rightly so…)

      • Matt_Cardiff_UK

        Yeah – gotta 2nd Justin on this – Superman is Jewish. A modern day Samson.

    • Guest

      So it’s okay for Star Trek to have homosexual propaganda, but not Mormon influence?

      • Ahmed

        Please don’t twist my words. I don’t go to Star Trek to watch propaganda of any type, just to enjoy watching a good science fiction story.

      • hypnotoad72

        Star Trek has been about the human condition, which is more encompassing than any religion ever devised and people created religion, as they did science, to try to explain and/or understand things.

        Plenty of religions for everyone here to cherrypick and I’m increasingly unkind to them all because their followers rarely do the actual empathizing, compassion, sharing, being mindful of others, thinking, and other actions that are mandated. Only blaming the unbelievers and not thinking.

        Signed, a not heterosexual fan of Battlestar Galactica – both incarnations – and the religious influence is pretty obvious (Mormon, in fact…)

    • Platitude

      I’m LDS/Mormon and a big Trekkie, I don’t see how that combination should be a problem. The only concern fans should have is whether he can write or not…that should be the only thing that matters here.

      • http://corylea.com/ Corylea

        Brandon Sanderson has proved that someone can be a Mormon and also an excellent author. Orson Scott Card has proved that a certain kind of jerk can use Mormonism as an excuse for prejudice and vitriolic hatred. I think Mr. Card’s activities may be the reason for why we see people looking askance at having a Mormon write science fiction.

        • hypnotoad72

          Not all Mormons act like that jerk, thankfully.

          Still, lots of religions, lots of writers, lots of religions’ creators being homophobic or racist or anything else and they all get a free pass by their practitioners…

      • hypnotoad72

        People may believe what they want. Trek’s history is replete with examples of eschewing religion as a generalization. Mormon, Catholic, Muslim, Wicca, agnostic, atheist, who bloody cares. Keep true to the spirit of the franchise and keep the self-gratifying proselytizing out of it. Period. It’s not that hard to do. What was the number… 97% or so of humans believe in some form off deity or multiples thereof (agnostics or religions with actual names applied), which may or may not make them right or wrong or anything in between but many of them are capable of tolerance and keeping a line drawn…

    • OphidianJaguar

      Agreed.

  • Rana Rahman

    Ditch these two unqualified douche bags and get Ron Moore to write it.

    • James

      I like Ron Moore as well, but sometimes fresh blood can be a good thing.

      • Blue Thunder

        Ron Moore would just screw it up like he did Battlestar Galactica.

        • James

          sarcasm?

    • firephasers

      I’m not opposed to fresh blood, but I also think that Ron Moore has a proven track record as a great story teller who puts out a good product. I would love to see another movie and/or TV show from him.

      • hypnotoad72

        Anyone can put out a product. Moore is above mere manufactured flapdoodle for mere consumption.

        The TNG flicks were lightweight as well and felt more like cast reunion parties where they forgot to bring in the audience. That’s still better than the 2009 and 2013 nostalgia cash-grabs that bring in the audience but put little into the core of the storytelling, but 1979-1991 are the truest to Trek lore on the big screen (and they had plot problems as well, but at least had elements and depth that made up for it. Give me Star Trek 3 over 5, 8, 10, 11, and 12 any day of the week.)

    • http://corylea.com/ Corylea

      No need to call the new guys names! We can talk about their lack of a track record without getting personal about it.

      • Rana Rahman

        I think they’ve been briefed for a battering from the passionate Trek core ;) or they’ll have to get used to it! Lol

        • hypnotoad72

          Or they don’t care.

          Writers have had critics since day 01. And it’s harder to actually create than to play into nostalgia… I’d rather people be true to a franchise or create something of value, as opposed to digging up dead properties and doing cash grabs. 2009 and 2013’s movies have moments, but they have nothing memorable or valuable.

    • hypnotoad72

      I’m upset over these lightweights as well, but the namecalling is uncalled for.

      And Ronald Moore is a genius, but would he want to do it again? That’s the only real question, apart from him being asked to begin with.

      Fresh blood can be a good thing – as long as the writers remain conscious and true to the franchise’s core values. So far I’ve read a lot parroting Trek’s values, but TOS and TNG never did “magic blood” a la NuKhan, much less “USS Vengeance”, since TOS spoke AGAINST vengeance and revenge all the time. No starship would ever be given such a name…

      • Rana Rahman

        Ah come on, douche bag is hardly name calling!! No need to get ya knickers in a twist!

      • kadajawi

        In a recent interview Ron Moore said:

        “I’d love to do Star Trek again, in all honesty, but I also don’t have a great new Star Trek
        idea. I’m not saying I know exactly how to do a new [Star Trek] TV show
        – I don’t. Maybe I shouldn’t do it until I have that great epiphany!”

        So hell yes, he’d be interested! (Though I guess more in a TV show.)

  • http://corylea.com/ Corylea

    I like what he has to say in this interview; some of the best TOS scripts had interesting moral questions, and I’d love to see some actual intellectual content in the new script and not just explosions. Please, Mr. Payne, don’t let Mr. Abrams talk you into another empty “mystery box” script.

    • kadajawi

      Actually Orci and Kurtzman I believe were looking forward to do a “real” Star Trek movie… about exploration and stuff, for the 3rd one. They had to do the first two first.

      I think the new guy is going overboard with his Mormonism in the interview (it seems to be really important to him, which is fine, but it also seems to influence his writing a lot, trying to preach and stuff), but at least he should make those Star Trek should be optimistic guys happy.

      • http://corylea.com/ Corylea

        Well, he IS talking with a Mormon-oriented publication; I’d expect him to emphasize his religion when talking with the religious press. If he emphasizes his religion when talking with the MAINSTREAM press, that will be a different matter.

        • kadajawi

          Fair enough. To be honest, what he says doesn’t matter too much to me, but I’m worried that the movie will be rather preachy. He certainly sounds that way.

  • milojthatch

    Totally expecting a thumbs down, but I may actually give this last JJ-Trek the time of day with these guys on. There may be hope that they “get it.”

    • Platitude

      His description being about Star Trek being about exploration and wonder is a definitely a good sign.

      • OphidianJaguar

        Agreed, but Orci and Kurtzman said the same thing. The only proof is in the pudding.

      • hypnotoad72

        Which applies to the other Trek-based films.

        He’s just parroting what Trek is supposed to be. “Into Darkness” doesn’t really match the catchphrase, regardless of chow entertaining it was. It had some wonder, but was limited to 2 or 3 scenes…

  • Lee Rilea

    The whole Abrams universe sucks.

    • Supervisor194

      Very nice to know there are others who feel that way. And a place to be able to state it.

      • XS

        Copy that. We need a re-reboot so we all can forget those two horrible Transformer Spinof films.

  • Rob

    i am hoping that this project sucks as much as it promises to. maybe then the entire abrams crapfest will finally be accepted by all as the idiotic, franchise-raping idea it’s been from the very beginning. hopefully, after this bad idea finally crashes and burns we’ll see some real star trek again.

    • KH

      And if it turns out to be the “Citizen Kane” of “Star Trek” movies I hope you and all the other fanboys who’ve done nothing but whine and moan about every little thing will finally shut the *blank* up. Of course, we all know that will never happen.

      • Rob

        “the ‘citizen kane’ of ‘star trek’ movies” – ? you’re kidding, right? if you seriously think that jar-jar & co are capable even of crapping out an “ISHTAR” of “star trek” movies, you are in desperate, desperate need of counseling. good luck.

        • KH

          I’ll give so-called fans like you one thing… you’re consistent.

          • KH

            Seriously, though? Seems to me if anyone is in “desperate, desperate need of counseling” it would be folks like you who experience so much misery over a movie.

        • hypnotoad72

          Law of probability – which is more likely going to happen?

          Wait and see.

    • firephasers

      It was interesting when the first movie came out simply because it was a different take. But I kind of doubt that the Bad Robot Trek version will be looked at the same in 30 years the way Wrath of Khan is looked upon today, one of the best Trek films ever.

    • OphidianJaguar

      I am glad that they kept Star Trek going, but I do hope this is the last JJ Trek, its a catch 22.

  • Huffy

    So much hate around here. Not very Star Trek like folks. Better to have Star Trek still in the mainstream rather than not at all I say.

    • Saquist

      People don’t like it when you purposely ruin a good thing.

      • OphidianJaguar

        No, you’re right, lets let Star Trek drift into obscurity and go years, decades without anything. There is nothing wrong with Star Trek going mainstream to keep it current, viable and continuing. It will never change the quality of what has come before like TNG, that is set in stone. Like there hasn’t been a shitty Star Trek movie or episode before 2009, give me a break.

        • Saquist

          Yes, I know a lot of people like you. For you bad Trek is better than no Trek. But that sort of desperation will not motivate them to produce better Trek. His movies have already been forgotten, they’ve made they’re money and that was there sole purpose.

          • hypnotoad72

            *ding* *ding* *ding*

            We have a winner!

            Still, TOS and TNG (and its spinoffs) were made for money as well.

            The difference is, they were continuations – not reboots – and more originality had been applied to both. The 2009 and 2013 flicks more or less regurgitate and make people feel warm and fuzzy over nostalgia.

            I liked “Into Darkness” but the Wrath of Khan and Space Seed still feel more memorable. Lazy writing such as the magic blood Khan had did not help matters, or when Khan was getting chummy with NuKirk and NuSpock, with Old Spock phoning home from wherever to remind the audience and NuSpock that Khan is supposed to be a threat. The whole, prolonged space space where NuKirk and NuKhan fly to the Vengeance (really, “Vengeance”? How very Trek in terms of optimism… NOT!!!) was as much hack as “red matter” and the other lightweight garbage foisted on audiences in 2009.

        • hypnotoad72

          “Casablanca” has drifted into obscurity and it’s known as one of the best films ever. Nobody’s wanted to remake it, change premise or characters, for the sake of an intellectually braindead audience that prefers explosions, magic blood, and special effects over actual plot and actual character. And it’s hard to feel for a bunch of alternate timeline folks who are not like the originals (via character archetypes).

          • Saquist

            I’m not going to compare old trek to itself. It proved successful but didn’t grow. That’s not the problem here.
            -I’ve never seen Casablanca and I still know “Here’s looking at you kid.” You’re comparing a series to a singular film.
            -I’m more concerned with the plot itself. 2009 created a tremendous plot holes in his own film. It was extremely incompetent and unbelievable. 2013 had far less plot problems but it was ripping off another film to make it’s money and the Box Office should that no one fell for it and he’s losing his audience. (It didn’t make more or close to the previous)

            Trek deserves the treatment Nolan gave to Batman or Joss Weedon’s Avengers or even Ironman. Not this trash. Trek has been here and we know where this road will lead.

    • James

      Couldn’t agree with you more. Star Trek is viable and creditable again, I can’t wait to see the next movie and I’m hoping that with the success of these movies there will be a possibility of a new TV show.

      • hypnotoad72

        I’ll wait for a TV show and judge it on how it keeps true to the TREK lore.

        These movies are nostalgia cash grabs, though “Into Darkness” was respectable (even though a lot of people found it to be disappointing compared to the 2009 joke of a flick…)

    • hypnotoad72

      Better to keep true to the concept than to change it around for the sake of empty ratings.

      Otherwise you have a different franchise and show.

  • firephasers

    It’s good to see that some news is out there. It’s also unfortunate that trekmovie has dropped off so badly…thank goodness for TrekCore.

    • OphidianJaguar

      Yea no doubt, trekmovie is falling behind big time, it was my goto trek site, but trekcore has taken up that mantle a long time ago.

    • Ahmed

      The main problem that Anthony Pascale, the owner of Trekmovie, went AWOL a year ago & no one heard back from him since then. Only two people are running trekmovie now, Matt Wright & Kayla Iacovino, and both of them have day job unlike the case with Anthony.

  • James

    Some of the comments on here are merely diatribes.

    Sad.

    Anyway, I’ve enjoyed all the Trek movies – even Nemesis. I like what these guys are saying and hope that we can get a Star Trek film about exploring strange new worlds and new civilisations – something that we really haven’t seen much of in any of the Trek films.

    • OphidianJaguar

      BINGO! None of the trek films have been about exploration per say and people use that as an argument against JJ’s Trek.

      The new movies are also not the first of bad trek movies, and people seem to forget this. For all their faults, I like and enjoy all the movies. I love TMP cuz of the 70’s retro feel (we unfortunately never had a 70’s trek series) and TUC is still my favourite of all time because it was the richest, the one with the most substance.

  • senlav

    Good, maybe we will have a story that has depth and subtance,.

  • Rana Rahman

    Trek doesn’t work best on the big screen. JJ has simply bastardised the franchise. I hope one day Trek returns to its TV roots intelligently.

    • Matt_Cardiff_UK

      I disagree – Trek II, IV, VI and VIII were epic – and extremely well received. Even the re-booted bastardised first Trek wasn’t that bad compared to the past 3 Star Wars movies.

      I hope that when Trek does come back on TV, it’s better written and executed than Enterprise.

  • Jon1701

    *cough* Meerson/Krikes *cough*

  • hypnotoad72

    Is this the same “optimistic sense” that has Starfleet ships christened “USS Vengeance”?

    These guys are just spewing canned lines and are hoping nobody pays attention, apart from salivating on cue for 2016.

  • alfredodedarc

    Anyone else here worried? Yes, I know we need new blood, but these guys are inexperienced to an extreme level. When I think ‘new blood’, I think Straczinski, or Kevin Smith, or Manny Coto, who proved his chops brilliantly with the final season of Enterprise.
    I am quite worried about taking this path.

  • alfredodedarc

    I want the next Star Trek to actually be Star Trek, not a bastardized Star Wars clone.

  • Sykes

    Seems a bit early to rag on these guys. Surely we should give them the benefit of the doubt? It’d be hard for them to do worse than Orci-Kurtz-Lind.