Unless you’re a Star Trek superfan — or one of millions of people who enjoyed HBO’s “Band of Brothers” — Erik Jendresen may not necessarily be a name you immediately recognize.
But for a short time in 2005, Jendresen was the biggest name Star Trek had to offer. It was back then Jendresen was paired with producer Jordan Kerner to write what was supposed to be the one last shot to resurrect Star Trek from the disaster that was 2002’s “Nemesis.”
Yet, Jendresen wasn’t a Star Trek fan. He wasn’t even a science-fiction fan. And here he was, sitting with Gene Roddenberry’s creation in his hands, ready to mold it into something bold and new. But he would never get that chance.
No sooner did Jendresen finish the first draft of “Star Trek: The Beginning,” but the man who hired him — Donald De Line — was fired from his job as studio head at Paramount. The new guard, under the leadership of Gail Berman, wanted a completely different direction — they wanted Star Trek to be dead. And it would take a producer known more for his television work than anything else to bring the franchise back.
“What happens in Hollywood — and it does sort of make sense, it’s tragic — then there is a regime change at a studio or network, the incoming executive or president essentially wipes the shelf clean,” Jendresen recently told Alpha Waves Radio host Michael Hinman. “It’s a tabula rasa, because they will very rarely pursue developing something that their predecessors developed, because if it’s a success, they can’t really take credit for it. But if it’s a failure, they look like idiots.”
Berman had Jendresen’s script in hand, but she wasn’t going to take that risk. Not with Jendresen. Not with anyone, it seemed.
“There was never a second draft done,” Jendresen said of his script. “It was literally the first draft delivered the same week that the (Paramount) hierarchy left. Gail Berman came in as president and essentially, I think, decided they were going to end the franchise and not pursue a franchise at all. And then J.J. stepped up with his idea.”
J.J., of course, as in J.J. Abrams.
Jendresen’s story would have focused on a progenitor of James T. Kirk — Tiberius Chase — right after a fleet of Romulan ships arrive at Earth, looking to rid the planet — and the rest of the galaxy — of Vulcans. Chase is able to take out a mother ship leading the drone army, and then ends up on an experimental ship on his way to Romulus, to attack the empire at its very heart.
Even with nothing more than a first draft done, Jendresen did map out some of what he would expect to do in a second movie. But didn’t think too much about the third, because he simply never got the chance.
Yet, even though “The Beginning” was meant of the silver screen of more than a decade ago, there are many aspects of Jendresen’s story that might work well on another medium — television. And CBS seems to be looking to mine Star Trek ideas from just about anywhere. Maybe even all the way back to, well, “The Beginning.”
“All writers in Hollywood, working in Hollywood, have a sock drawer filled with usually very honed scripts, that often been through multiple drafts and hopefully good development,” Jendresen said. For his story, “it’s a whole world. They are the progenitors of many characters.” And there would be a lot of great stories to tell — especially on the slow journey back from Romulus to Earth, which was supposed to embody the second film in the trilogy.
Jendresen said he would even come back to the franchise and work on such a television adaptation if he were asked. “It would be very gratifying to come back with it at some point and take part in it,” he said. “I must say that by the time I was through the process and delivered the script, I had turned myself into a fan.”
But there is a problem. CBS is making television shows, but if they even wanted to consider Jendresen’s story, they would have to acquire it from Paramount — now part of a completely separate company following the Viacom split of 2006. Paramount may have never made “The Beginning” into a film, but they still own Jendresen’s work, and it might not be the right time to pick it up.
The Earth-Romulan War has been part of the Star Trek mythos almost from the very beginning, going all the way back to the original series. Yet, Jendresen describes that part of canon as the “G” volume in a set of Encyclopedia Brittanica that was never opened.
“As far as I’m concerned, the only annoying thing about it to me — and it happens to all writers, and all writers/producers in television — is that the story of the Earth-Romulan War hasn’t been told,” Jendresen said. “It’s still out there to be told at some point.”
Hear the full interview with Erik Jendresen right now on Alpha Waves Radio, the weekly podcast hosted by Michael Hinman, that airs for free Tuesdays at 7 p.m. ET on Odyssey, and can be streamed anytime at the radio show’s Patreon page.