Robert Orci—co-producer and co-writer of many movies, including Star Trek: Into Darkness—recently broke the unspoken rule of maintaining positive relations with Star Trek fans by yelling at some of them on a widely read Star Trek fan site. Come on, you can’t go off on Trekkers when you’re part of the Trek universe unless you’re William Shatner in a classic Saturday Night Live sketch. Everybody knows that.
A regretful Orci realizes it now, too. The Daily Dot has broken down the problematic exchanges that took place when Orci decided to boldly go into the comments section on a Trekmovie.com piece titled “Star Trek is broken—Here are ideas on how to fix it.” In his first response to the piece, he held himself in check, writing simply:
No problem there. But once he revealed he was on the thread, readers started lobbing their comments directly at him. (For the record, The Daily Dot confirmed via Trekmovie.com’s moderator that commenter boborci is, in fact, Bob Orci.) Those comments prompted a more detailed response from Orci:
“I think the article above is akin to a child acting out against his parents. Makes it tough for some to listen, but since I am a loving parent, I read these comments without anger or resentment, no matter how misguided.
Having said that, two biggest Star Treks in a row with best reviews is hardly a description of ‘broken.’ And frankly, your tone and attidude make it hard for me to listen to what might otherwise be decent notions to pursue in the future. As I love to say, there is a reason why I get to write the movies, and you don’t.
Respect all opinions, always, nonetheless.”
Shortly thereafter, Orci stopped respecting all opinions.
“Ahmed, I wish you knew what you were talking about,” he said, addressing an Into Darkness critic. “I listened more than any other person behind the Trek franchise has EVER listened. And guess what? Glad I did because it lead to 2 biggest Trek’s ever.”
And regarding comparisons made between Into Darkness and Raiders Of The Lost Ark—whose opening scenes share common DNA—Orci really let it fly.
“STID has infinetly more social commentary than Raiders in every Universe, and I say that with Harrison Ford being a friend. You lose credibility big time when you don’t honestly engage with the FUCKING WRITER OF THE MOVIE ASKING YOU AN HONEST QUESTION. You prove the cliche of shitty fans. And rude in the process. So, as Simon Pegg would say: FUCK OFF!”
Somewhere, Simon Pegg is saying: “Bloody hell, why’d you drag me into this?”
Eventually, Orci apologized in a subsequent typo-filled comment:
“don’ take me too seriously. if you’ve been on this board for the lar 5 years (as I have beeb) you know that twice a year I explode at the morons. today, there seemed to be a congregation, so it seemed like a good time.
you are the most listened to fans ever. That doesn’t mean you will get is to do what you want. just means what I said: I listened. Then we decided, having heard as many opinions as possible. To paraphrase of one of my great and beloved heroes, George W. Bush, “we’re the deciders….”
He then expressed additional regret on Twitter:
@masteractor not my finest moment. agreed. what can I say? i'm more than half human.— roberto orci (@boborci) September 6, 2013
As Orci noted, this is not entirely surprising behavior from him. On his Twitter feed, for example, he’s prone to going off on all sorts of tirades, which is his right, because freedom of speech. But it’s unwise to do that in a public fan forum, where you’re not only representing yourself, but also an entire team of people who worked on the Star Trek reboot. Orci may be right that he, J.J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman, and Damon Lindelof are, in fact, the deciders. But it’s probably best not to state that in such confrontational, us-vs.-you language, especially considering that the Bad Robot crew has been so adept at galvanizing fan bases in the past.
Orci did something anyone who creates things—movies, books, Tumblr posts—is tempted to do on the Internet: He responded to the haters who inevitably feel emboldened to say nasty things because it’s the Internet and freedom of speech. As a writer, I actually don’t subscribe to the “Don’t Read Comments” philosophy. It can be useful to scan comments and see what others have to say about your work. Sometimes, it can even be productive and enriching to comment back. But you have to know the line. If you feel your blood pressure rising, your stance leaning toward the ultra-defensive, or your fingers typing f-bomby quotes and attributing them to the star of The World’s End, it’s time to step back.
Not everyone is good at knowing their limits in this regard, and clearly that’s true of Orci.
Some people should read and engage with commenters, and some shouldn’t. Bob Orci falls in category two. His motto should be, “Read, but keep your mouth shut and your hands away from the keyboard.” It’s really the only way to live long and prosper as a creator in the Trek universe or, for that matter, any universe with passionate, opinionated fans.