Spielberg and the Star Trek connection

Spielberg and the Star Trek connection April 14, 2008

We all know that Steven Spielberg and the Star Wars franchise go back a long ways. A tiny R2-D2 model was even affixed to the alien mother ship in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), which came to theatres only six or seven months after the original Star Wars itself. (See below for more details.) And after the kids in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) played with Greedo action figures and dressed up as Yoda for Halloween, George Lucas returned the favour by giving E.T. and his buddies a seat in the Galactic Senate in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999).

But is Spielberg interested in Star Trek, too? I ask for two reasons.

One, I recently watched Close Encounters for the first time in decades — more on that later — and I noticed that the Richard Dreyfuss character has a toy Enterprise and a toy Klingon warship dangling from the ceiling above his train set. (You can see the toy Enterprise on the right-hand side of the screen capture above.) This, remember, would have been at a time when there were no Star Trek movies and no “next generation” spin-offs — just the original series and its short-lived animated follow-up.

Two, SlashFilm reports that it was Spielberg who persuaded J.J. Abrams to direct the new Star Trek film coming out next year — and Spielberg may have even helped Abrams direct a scene.

Are there any other clues I may have missed over the years?

Side note: I get a kick out of the way that SlashFilm report feels obliged to mention that “The USS Enterprise will be assembled in space, although parts of it will be assembled on Earth.” Believe it or not, there was a bit of a controversy over the location of the Enterprise‘s construction when the first teaser for the new film appeared three months ago and seemed to situate it on Earth.

Finally, re: that R2-D2 cameo in Close Encounters. You can see him here in the film, upside-down and lit from behind:

And apparently he’s still affixed to the original model, which is now on display at the National Air and Space Museum in Virginia:

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