Check This: ‘Star Trek’ Writers On Planting Easter Eggs With Tribbles and Khans

The story dictates the hunt for "Wrath of Khan" allusions in "Star Trek Into Darkness," writers-producers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto "Bob" Orci say. Sure the writing partners, who first teamed on TV's "Hercules," have their Trekkie creds and endless "Star Trek" facts in their reference arsenal. But, to quote Bob, "Have the Easter eggs in the back of your mind. Don't chase them."

Here's how the Easter egg hunt came together according to Bob and Alex:

Bob: Let's start with basic fun ones like the line, "Mr. Scott, you're a miracle worker." If you know Scotty was a miracle worker in the past, great. But if you don't know "Star Trek," it doesn't matter. If the story presented us with a place, we'd pop in an Easter egg. Not the other way around. Chasing an Easter egg is dangerous, right Alex?

Alex: Yes, Bob, that is correct. Here's another example: Kirk and Spock and Uhura have to go down to Vulcan to find somebody. [EDITOR'S NOTE – Actually, they visit Kronos. These Starfleet planets can be hard to tell apart, even to the writers!] If they arrive in a Federation ship, they risk war. So they arrive in disguise. They take a confiscated smuggler's trade ship and in that way the Federation would be protected. In the original series, Harry Mudd was a smuggler, so we knew we could refer to the Mudd incident and employ the confiscated smuggler's ship. And that's how they get to Vulcan in the movie.

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Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci
Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci


This is another example where the story dictates the terms. Mudd, with that weird mustache, was a rogue element in "Star Trek" and a fan favorite. As Alex said, this was a case where we needed something. We could not have a Federal shuttle going down to Vulcan, and suddenly we knew we could use Mudd's shuttle because the crew had been in space for a year. You keep these references in the back of your mind to use them as you need them.

Alex: Another obvious example was the use of the Tribbles. That was probably the most famous and remembered characters from the original series. The key would be: how do you integrate them into the storytelling without going for the cheap reference. The Tribble plays a pivotal role in the outcome as opposed to something you throw into a scene for a laugh. We wanted to have our collection of eggs at the back of the fridge and pull them out one at a time as needed.

Bob: Alex, I like that.

Alex: You can have it, Bob. We've also been asked why Dr. Marcus and Kirk don't hook up in this movie. After all, they have a love child in "The Wrath of Khan.” We wanted to do things differently. You don't want to go where people expect. Part of the continuity of this universe is to change things up. It doesn't preclude them ultimately connecting. But Kirk and Spock and Bones and Uhura and Scotty are still in the beginning stages of where they are going. We don't want to just jump to where you know it's going to end up.

Bob: The biggest addition was Benedict Cumberbatch. He was so compelling on the set that the other actors brought extra energy and extra attention to their roles. He was a force of nature. In terms of his character, we wanted to make sure that the audience did not need any previous knowledge to understand him. So the big debate was: should he or shouldn't he be Khan?

Alex: We agreed he can be Khan as long as the audience doesn't have to know that backstory. Our challenge was to define a story that doesn't rely on previous knowledge, or love of Khan or "Star Trek 2." We thought if we can do that, then we can think of using that great character Khan.

Bob: Once we had that standalone story, we wondered: are there details from Khan's history that fit? We returned to our Easter eggs at the back of the fridge: there were those seventy-two torpedoes that happened to house his crew. If we can use the details of Khan's backstory given our structure to make the movie more specific and more relevant, then that works.

Alex: We couldn't use Khan just as a gimmick, as an excuse to get fans into the theaters. Once we developed the story, suddenly the details of Khan's life became an even better way to tell it. Only when we decided that Khan really does fit here - and the fans know that Khan is to the series what The Joker is to "Batman" - that's when we decided we earned it.

Bob: And that's when we went for it. Khan is the ultimate Easter egg.
Alex: No doubt.

Bob: Khan is the Cadbury Easter egg of “Star Trek.” He is the richest, most delicious, ridiculously sweet Easter egg.

Alex: In our humble opinion.

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