——Frustrated with the lack of data (yes, puns all around) out there on the Star Trek movie that never was, a decade and a half ago I dove into whatever sources I could find and compiled this article for the interwebs. With a dearth of new data available, I have updated it for the modern age. As Star Trek: Discovery takes the visual cues for its starship design from this era of Trek pre-production, it seemed a fitting topic to tackle.
“A curious tale with overtly Von Daniken (Chariots of the Gods) ideas that Man’s early evolution had been influenced by ancient astronauts. The ancient astronauts being the crew of the Enterprise who have plunged through a black hole and arrived at Earth in the time of Cro-Magnon man!”
—TV Zone Special #6
It’s 1975. Star Trek, despite being canceled six years earlier, is more popular than ever. The Animated Series, which reunited the original cast as voice actors and was run primarily by Gene Roddenberry and DC Fontana themselves, has won an Emmy for children’s programming.
It’s 1976 and due to a pouring in of over 400,000 requests, NASA changes the space shuttle Constitution’s name to Enterprise. Paramount uses this as a cue to excite Star Trek fans: they announce that not only will the space shuttle Enterprise be soaring soon, but the Starship Enterprise would take flight as well, in a new-fangled motion picture.
It’s 1977, and the first Star Trek film is in pre-production, entitled Star Trek: Planet of the Titans.
Planet of the what? Haven’t heard much about it? It’s no big surprise. This Trek was never taken, but like V’GER in the motion picture that did make it to the silver screen four years later, you can now ‘collect all data possible, learn all that is learnable’ about this lost feature.
The Discovery teaser trailer recreated the look of the asteroid concept art from Planet of the Titans. A similar asteroid design also appeared in the Enterprise Mirror Mirror episode.Ironically, the TOS ship sitting in the asteroid base here is the USSS Defiant, and this base is in the Mirror, Mirror universe–an important plot thread left over from Star Trek: Enterprise being picked up in the second half of Discovery’s first season. The USS Discovery shown in these asteroid shots is not the final design of the ship, but an earlier, more cumbersome incarnation.
I started researching Star Trek: Planet of the Titans two decades ago. Tracking down any actual script has proven impossible, no script reseller I have found carries it, and few are even aware it exists. Frustrated by the apparent lack of information about this project, I sought out to collect and compile what little knowledge there was available in long out of print Star Trek books, both fan produced and official (the most comprehensive of which being The Making of Star Trek the Motion Picture by Susan Sackett and Gene Roddenberry). I can only hope that a script will eventually surface for this interesting piece of unfilmed history so that a complete analysis can be performed as a follow up in a future essay. I’ve extrapolated as much as possible from the limited data provided to present as coherent a view of the feature.
THE BRYANT AND SCOTT SCREENPLAY
At the end of its five-year mission, the Enterprise under Captain James T. Kirk responds to a distress call from the USS Da Vinci, a Federation Starship in dire jeopardy. By the time they arrive, the Enterprise is too late, and the Da Vinci has disappeared, in all probability swallowed up by a black hole in the sector. As Kirk and crew race to pick up the survivors, the Captain is struck with a magnetic pulse wave that disrupts the electrochemical impulses in his brain, causing him to behave erratically. Kirk steals a shuttlecraft and pilots it towards an area near the black hole. Spock tries to stop the Captain, but it is too late, and the shuttle simply disappears. Spock theorizes that Kirk did not disappear into the black hole, but rather that there is a planet hidden near the stellar anomaly, invisible to all forms of electromagnetic radiation (essentially a cloaked planet). After mounting search missions for this phantom planet to no avail, Spock is forced to abandon Kirk, ordering the Enterprise home.
Three years later, the Enterprise has just undergone a refit and received many new crew members, including her new commanding officer, Captain Gregory Westlake. Westlake is ordered to take the Enterprise to the black hole where Kirk disappeared… apparently, it has increased in size, and begun affecting the invisible planet that Spock theorized about. It exists and is partially visible due to the pull of the black hole on its energies. Long range scans have indicated that this could be the ‘mythical planet of the Titans’, home to a race of technologically superior beings who visited earth and other planets millennia ago. The pull of the black hole is increasing and will consume the planet soon, destroying the Titans and their technological secrets. The Klingons are also aware of the situation, and the benefits of an alliance with the Titans and/or use of their technology. The Enterprise must rescue the Titans before the Klingons get their hands on that technology – whoever succeeds will ‘have the power to control the destiny of the known galaxy’.
On their way to the Titans’ planet, the Enterprise makes a stop at Vulcan to attempt to persuade Mr. Spock to go with them. Spock had made correct predictions about the Titans’ planet three years ago and his expertise is needed now. Resigned from Star Fleet in disgrace after losing his Captain and best friend, Spock is attempting a Vulcan ritual that will release him of the burden of his human side, and allow him to quiet the emotions raging within him forever. Spock refuses to go back with the Enterprise, until a Vulcan psionic and precognitive test he undergoes shows him his own death, and indicates that he must go with the Enterprise to ‘fulfill his own destiny’.
The Enterprise arrives at the planet of the Titans, finding it partially visible. They attempt to orbit the planet, encountering the Klingons and becoming caught in the hidden world’s force fields. Trapped, Enterprise is pulled into its atmosphere! In order to avoid destruction, Westlake orders the saucer section detached, and the stardrive breaks away from the planet. Westlake, Spock, and the rest of the bridge crew are left on the saucer as it performs a controlled crash into the planet’s surface, while the stardrive waits at a safe distance (possibly facing off against the Klingons).
Once on the planet’s surface, the Enterprise crew discovers a bizarre untamed landscape, wild and inhospitable, and dotted with strange cities surrounded by walls of flame. Westlake has the crew begin repairs to lift the saucer up, and away teams fan out to search the planet. Kirk is discovered alive, having lived as a wild man these past three years along with other beings who were driven mad and crashed upon the surface of the planet. Spock is able to restore Kirk’s sanity (perhaps through a mind meld?), and they make their way to the ‘Superbrain Stonehenge’ where they discover the rulers of this planet: not the benevolent Titans, but a dangerous and corrupt lesser race called the Cygnans, who claim to have destroyed the Titans long ago. Realizing that these malignant entities will destroy the Federation if they are given the means to escape the planet, Kirk forcibly shuts down the planet’s force fields and the Enterprise crew races back to the saucer section, hoping to escape and leave the Cygnans to their own doom. They are, however, unsuccessful, as several Cygnans stow away upon the saucer as it takes off and reunites with the stardrive.
In an attempt to kill the Cygnans discovered aboard his ship, Kirk orders the Enterprise into the black hole with the Klingons in hot pursuit. The Federation Starship is badly damaged by the journey through the collapsed star, and the Cygnans, along with the Klingon ship, are destroyed. The Enterprise emerges from the black hole oddly enough in Earth orbit, and the Enterprise crew beam down to the surface, only to discover they are in Cro-Magnon times, and Kirk, Spock, McCoy and the others are in fact the Titans of legend; the fire they bring being caused by a phaser blast. This is the gift our heroes, these technological travelers that are the crew of the Enterprise, give to mankind.
BRYANT AND SCOTT ANALYSIS
Well. With the limited information available here, it’s basically impossible to make a competent judgment call on this film. This story could be exciting, but there are large holes in it, too many things glossed over, too much left unsaid. How is the seemingly inevitable Westlake/Kirk conflict resolved? You can’t have two Captains. Does Spock in fact die? How did the Cygnans get trapped on the planet of the Titans in the first place, and why do they think they killed the Titans if the Titans are in fact the Enterprise crew? What purpose do the Klingons have here? How exciting is their actual involvement in deterring the Enterprise crew from their goal? Three years is a long time to be living as a ‘wild man’ on the surface of the Titans’ planet. How did the experience change Kirk? Did it make him more savage, less likely to follow Starfleet orders? Would Starfleet just let him command a ship again after all that?
And then there is the question of why the ‘Titans’ didn’t save themselves from the Cygnans, being so technologically superior as stated early in the script. It’s a serious plot point that isn’t brought up. Obviously, we know at the end who they are specifically, but why wasn’t Starfleet or at least the Enterprise crew curious about this small fact? They didn’t know they themselves were, in fact, the Titans…
All that being said, the treatment is more action-oriented than the motion picture that did get made—the crew is doing a little bit more than stare in awe at the view screen on the bridge.
THE KAUFMAN REWRITE
In deep space towards the end of its five-year mission, the Enterprise is busy rescuing planetary survivors from a black hole consuming their system. Amongst the survivors are two highly logical aquatic aliens who take a liking to Spock. They talk to him telepathically, imprinting feeling of serenity and a wish to return to their homeworld to meet their maker. The Enterprise rescues as many people as possible and then attempts to flee the system, only to be ambushed by a fleet of Klingon ships.
Kirk’s superior tactics win the day, as the Enterprise destroys all but the lead Klingon vessel, which is lost in the black hole. When their shields go down, Kirk has the Klingon Commander beamed aboard the Enterprise before his ship is sucked in. As he is put in the brig, the commander shows respect for Kirk’s battle tactics but has nothing but disdain for Spock.
This close to the black hole, the crew begins to see into their own futures. Kirk suddenly orders the Enterprise into the black hole, and Spock violently wrests command of the ship from him, killing a crewman who tries to stop him and locking the Enterprise on a course home. They all lose consciousness, and the crew recovers later with no memory of the events.
Spock himself awakens at Starbase, under the medical care of a Dr. Riva. Riva is able to enter one’s dreams, a form of psychic therapy. Spock finds himself having erotic fantasies about her, and the two are drawn closer together. Riva suspects that the Enterprise crew suffered some kind of space madness. As nothing was determined to be wrong with them, they were all released upon return—only Spock was held because he had killed a fellow crew member. Feeling guilty for his actions, Spock wishes to leave Starfleet and return home to Vulcan. Riva uses her authority to release him but orders him to assist her and her alien partner Shoonashoo in their investigation before resigning. They begin to discover evidence that an evil dwells in the black hole, and that the forces of the stellar anomaly could bend time itself—allowing those close to it to either perceive the future or the past as well as travel to it.
Meanwhile, the Enterprise herself is undergoing a refit in an asteroid base. Former Enterprise engineering officers who were part of the crew when she encountered the black hole are now working on the refit. They are making profound leaps in technological levels with her upgrades—as if they are aware of sciences and techniques that are decades in advance of Starfleet. Spock discovers complex data within the ship’s biocomputer, and he alone is able to decipher it—it is a detailed navigation map that is designed to take a starship directly through the black hole.
Riva, Spock, and Shoonashoo visit the Klingon Commander in captivity and attempt to question him about his experience with the black hole just before he was beamed away by the Enterprise. He is reluctant to speak but wants to stay with Spock. He had a vision that an evil lives within the black hole and that Spock would lead him to it. He believes his fleet was lured into the attack on the Enterprise by the creature, and he wants revenge for their destruction.
A prison transfer is arranged for the Klingon Commander, and he and Spock travel to Vulcan where Spock undergoes Kolinahr to purge himself of residual emotions. It is soon revealed that the black hole has been sweeping through the galaxy, consuming planets, and is now on its way to earth. Strangely, Riva and Shoonashoo, along with Kirk and the other Enterprise crew—all having gone their separate ways since the end of the five-year mission—find themselves drawn to Stonehenge. Riva wonders if myths involving the Titans could somehow be connected to the black hole and the Enterprise’s experience with it.
Kirk and the crew resume command of the Enterprise, and with Riva and Soonshashoo in tow, they head to Vulcan to retrieve Spock before heading off to confront the stellar anomaly. Fascinated by the Black Hole’s movements, Spock agrees to join the crew and reluctantly brings the Klingon commander along with.
Riva and McCoy together create headbands that will prevent the black hole form interfering with the minds of the crew. In a gripping action sequence, they confront the quantum singularity—sending it warning signals in case it is under intelligent control, and even firing barrages f photo torpedoes in an effort to alter its course. Doomed to failure, the Enterprise is ultimately pulled in an absorbed by the black hole.
The black hole acts more like a wormhole, however, sending them on a journey with a dazzling display to rival the interior of V’Ger. They are deposited in a far future in orbit around a devastated earth. Losing power, the Enterprise is on a collision course with the planet. Separating the saucer gives the stardrive the push it needs to keep in orbit, although it is a spiraling orbital decay that will eventually see it crash into the surface as well. The saucer manages to land amidst the wreckage of many Starfleet ships, all far more advanced than the Enterprise.
On the surface, Kirk and crew witness ape creatures in the distance and begin to suffer hallucinations and crippling pain. They are soon chased through the forest by a large part energy and part flesh spider creature. A group of wild men attacks the spider to save the crew. Apparently, under the beast’s control, the Enterprise crew begins defending the spider. Finally, one of the wild men pierce the creature’s heart with a spear and they are freed from its mind control. The Stardrive informs Kirk that they pull on the ship has also been released, and they have achieved standard orbit.
The old man leading the group is revealed to be the future son of James T. Kirk, also of the same name. Jr. explains how in his timeline, Kirk Sr. had gone back into space after he was born, and was never heard of again. While the elder Kirk is dubious, they join forces with Kirk Jr.’s group. Jr. reveals that the headbands they wear are the only things keeping the planet’s spider creatures from devolving them—if they remove them they will slowly be transformed into the mindless ape creatures the crew encountered when they left the saucer.
Spock and Riva discover a central control center for the spider creatures at Stonehenge and are soon captured by a group of time travelers called the Keepers. These Keepers were sent there to protect the now sole remaining—and massive—spider beast. Shoonashoo alerts Kirk and crew that Spock and Riva are missing, and the two Kirks lead their groups to rescue them. At what the production called the Superbrain Stonehenge, Spock and Riva discover the truth about the creature, that it is in actuality the Last Man on Earth—the victim of countless generations of genetic manipulation in an attempt to expand humanity past their physical limitations. The Enterprise crew and their allies fight the Keepers and the Last Man to regain Spock and Riva, and the Klingon commander manages to wound the huge spider beast. Sadly, Kirk Jr. is killed in the fray. At Spock’s urging, Captain Kirk removes his headband and realizes the truth about the spider beast’s origins. He soon orders a cease-fire.
The Last Man, it turns out, knew that in the far future, humanity needed to be rebuilt. He psychically reached out back in time through the black hole to call men from the past to repopulate the earth. The spider beast utilized genetic manipulation on any people he managed to lure to the future, attempting to modify them to repopulate the world. Unfortunately, these experiments resulted in bizarre half man/half creature amalgams reminiscent of the beasts of mythology. Realizing he needed a man and a woman to give rebirth to the race sexually, he began searching for beings with the proper genes to complete the work and give rebirth to mankind.
KAUFMAN ANALYSIS: AN IDEA-MAN PLOT
By the time Planet of the Titans reached the Kaufman rewrite, there were way too many concepts at play jammed into one two hour movie. If TV had been handled back in the 70s like it is now, it might have made for a great prolonged story arc over a 13 episode season, but as a movie, it just seems off as too many ideas jammed into the same story with very little payoff or explanation.
Unlike the Bryant and Scott version, I can find no resolution to this storyline past the revelation that the Last Man on Earth was simply trying to repopulate the species. How the Enterprise crew plays into that is unknown, but I can only assume that Spock and Riva were intended to be the Adam and Eve of the future. It would be the best reason for their intimacy and romance throughout the story—but is ultimately odd because neither was fully human. This only works really if mankind is being reborn, however, not if the future is somehow the past, as would be indicated by the genetic aberrations that resemble mythological creatures. If the future would simply continue to move on with a new crop of humanity and not be indicative of a time loop, mankind would now become more than the sum of its parts—evolving into a new race, not unlike what ultimately occurs at the end of The Motion Picture with Decker and the Ilia probe.
Both screenplays, oddly enough, don’t seem to keen on getting the Enterprise and her crew back to their own time—leaving them stranded in the future/past.
Captain James T. Kirk (Sr.) – Kirk would have had much to do in this, going insane, stealing a shuttle, living as a wild man, and then coming back to be the legendary leader that Star Trek fans have come to love and respect. The electromagnetic pulse that struck the Captain was probably sent by the Cygnans, possibly in an attempt to get a ship to come close enough so that they might escape. Unfortunately, the madness the pulses cause seem to only cause passing ships to crash to the surface (as Kirk did in his shuttlecraft). In some ways there appear to be similarities here to William Shatner’s own failed Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, wherein a god-like being (or in the case of the Cygnans, beings) is trapped on the surface of a planet, and it (they) wants to escape to spread evil across the cosmos. In Star Trek V, it is Spock’s half-brother Sybok who hears the ‘siren call’ of the trapped being, and in Star Trek: Planet of the Titans, it is Kirk who is affected, although in a much more severe way. At any rate, in both cases, it is a story of beings misinterpreted as gods, and Kirk’s decision to destroy and or trap the evil entities on the planet they came from.
Captain Gregory Westlake – Appearing only in the Bryant and Scott drafts, Westlake was obviously planned as Kirk’s replacement. The story outlines and plot summaries I have been privy to mention only this much about him, and strangely omit the character for the rest of the plot. Westlake was probably a precursor to the concept of William Decker, a young Captain familiar with the Enterprise’s redesign, who would have to coach Kirk through the differences incurred during his time away from command (in this case, running as a wild man on the Titan’s planet for three years, instead of having a desk job as an Admiral for two and a half years in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. When Kirk was located, what kind of conflicts would have occurred between the two captains? Would Westlake simply step down and let Kirk assume command? What’s probably more likely is that Westlake would have remained in charge of the Enterprise, while Kirk might have been in command of the mission, something not uncommon in Star Fleet tradition, as Kirk has found himself subordinate to other mission commanders during the original five-year mission. How this would have played out, and who would be in command of the Enterprise by the screenplay’s end, would have been important in judging its strengths and weaknesses.
Commander Spock – ironically, Spock’s inclusion in Planet of the Titans is similar to his appearance in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. After being forced to deal with the loss of Captain Kirk, Spock resigns from Star Fleet and pursues a Vulcan discipline of pure logic (just like Kholinar) that was to rid him of his human emotions forever. Spock rejoins the new Enterprise on their mission to the Planet of the Titans because he sees premonitions that his fate lies with the Enterprise, and in fact, he sees his own death amongst them. Spock’s struggle to deal with his emotions would have to be at an all-time high in this screenplay, with him feeling responsible for the loss of Captain Kirk, attempting to rid himself of his human side forever, inevitably feeling joy at the discovery that Kirk is alive and well, and preparing himself of his death that he knows will be coming… Exactly what that death would have entailed is unknown at this time, as it is not mentioned any more than this in the source materials I have unearthed. It will be interesting to see if the screenplay ever does turn up if Spock does, in fact, die, perhaps a hook to reel Nimoy back into playing the character he had grown to hate (as was the case with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn).
Dr. Riva — An alien psychiatrist able to project herself into people’s dreams, Riva becomes intimately involved with Spock during her investigation of the last mission of the Enterprise. In Planet of the Titans, Spock gets the girl, Kirk doesn’t—although a future relationship for him with Uhura is implied.
Shooonashoo — An alien companion to Dr. Riva, Shooonashoo is not very much developed in the Kaufman screenplay, serving only to pass information on the Enterprise crew about Spock and Riva’s location.
James T. Kirk Jr. — Taking the wildman role intended for Kirk himself in the Bryant and Scott draft, Kirk’s son from a possible future is the result of a union between the captain and Uhura. Giving Kirk an adult son, like many other elements presented in the Titans screenplays, will obviously come into play for future Treks.
The Klingons – Ever the villains as of this point in Trek lore, the Klingons were something that Gene was never really satisfied with as villains in the old series. For Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1979, Robert Fletcher designed a much more alien looking Klingon then what was finally filmed (the filmed version still being different than the design that appeared in the TV series), and one cannot help but wonder if the Klingons were scheduled for such a ‘refit’ here as well. Character-wise, they play out only as the black hats, causing problems for the crew of the Enterprise in a selfish bid to come out ahead of the game against the Federation.
Klingon Commander — Appearing in the Kaufman draft, the unnamed Klingon Commander was certainly no Kor or Kang. Originally completely distasteful of Spock, the commander becomes obsessed with him, practically forcing himself on the Vulcan as a roommate. At one point, he is so insistent that Spock nerve pinches him just to shut him up. He seems to be around only to cause trouble and then is left out of any resolution. Any payoff the character might have achieved is stripped from him when it is revealed that his lost ship never survived the journey through the black hole. Basically, he is there for nothing other than to be the annoying guy you wish you left at home. The idea that Kaufman had Toshiro Mifune in mind as Spock’s “Klingon nemesis” is baffling, as he doesn’t come off with any strength in the screenplay. “My idea was to make it less “cult-ish”, and more of an adult movie, dealing with sexuality and wonders rather than oddness;” said Kaufman, “a big science fiction movie, filled with all kinds of questions, particularly about the nature of Spock’s [duality]—exploring his humanity and what humanness was. To have Spock and Mifune’s character tripping out in outer space. I’m sure the fans would have been upset, but I felt it could really open up a new type of science fiction.”
The Cygnans – In the Bryant and Scott screenplay, the Cygnans are an alien race that is known as the ‘destroyers of the Titans’, the Cygnans are a despicable race who seek only to destroy and dominate others. These creatures are the true villains of this screenplay, being so horrible that Kirk is willing to risk taking the Enterprise through a black hole to keep them from polluting the galaxy with their hatred. For the Kaufman rewrite, they were merged with the Titans into the Last Men on Earth.
The Last Men on Earth — Electro-energy spider beasts that are the result of genetic manipulation, these creatures are what is physically left of mankind in the far future. Most humans have evolved into sentient clouds and made their way into the universe to explore. The Last Men were hunted and exterminated, leaving only a few alive. The Last Man is a much larger and grotesque version of the others, determined to give rebirth to the human race. People lured through the black hole to the future earth he inhabits have mistaken him for an evil presence because of his deformities—and the human mind equates ugly with evil—a nice little Trek look at the human condition.
The Keepers — A group of male time travelers who show up in the third act to protect the Last man on Earth, the Keepers to me are indicative of Planet of the Titans going off the rails.
The Titans – What can be said of the Titans? The mysterious beings that gave mankind fire, and were, therefore, the progenitors of our civilization, turn out to be none other than the crew of the Enterprise themselves. An exciting twist, and one that is indicative of sci-fi of the 1960s-70s, wherein the characters spend all this time trying to figure out something and it’s the act of what they are doing to discover it that causes what they were trying to figure out in the first place (my head hurts). Planet of the Apes had a similar twist of a darker nature, with Taylor pondering how on earth there could be a place where apes evolved from men until he discovers that he is indeed on earth, and man-caused its own downfall through nuclear annihilation, paving the way for apes to civilize. As Planet of the Apes was the best selling sci-fi series ever at this time, it’s possible that the writers were looking to it as for what makes motion picture science fiction work (even the title, Planet of the Titans, is indicative of Planet of the Apes).
The USS Enterprise – Ever a character in her own right, the Enterprise design for this film is the one that was eventually revisited as the USS Discovery—giving that ship an instant Trek legacy. The two study models for this design were put to use in Star Trek III and The Next Generation as background ships, so the design even has precedent in the pre-Discovery established Trek canon. At the start of Star Trek: Planet of the Titans, the Enterprise has yet to go into refit, implying that it is still the ship we remember and love from The Original Series. It’s possible that they even intended to use that original model for the opening scenes, and use the new improved Ralph Mcquarrie design for the later refit. The refit’s wedge-shaped hull helps the ship look good without its saucer, which was important to all iterations of Star Trek: Planet of the Titans, as the saucer separates from the main hull at a critical point in both screenplays.
The Planet of the Titans Enterprise study model makes its camera-shy film appearance—back and to the left.
WHAT WENT WRONG
TO KIRK OR NOT TO KIRK
Bryant and Scott had an interesting dilemma to deal with when translating Star Trek to the big screen: the loss of Captain Kirk (and not to a falling bridge as in Generations). William Shatner was renegotiating his contract with Paramount when they began working on it, and they were told to write a screenplay that did not include Captain Kirk. Later, as the first draft was completed, Shatner had a new contract with Paramount, and the writers had to find a way to insert the good captain back into a movie that shouldn’t have been written without him in the first place.
TOO MANY KIRKS IN THE KITCHEN
So many people had input on the script, that in the end, it bore no resemblance to the initial story outline. According to Alan Scott, “Without any ill feelings on anyone’s part, it became clear to [Chris Bryant and me] that there was a divergence of view as to how the movie should be made between Gene [Roddenberry] and Phil [Kaufman]. I think Gene was quite right in sticking by not so much the specifics of Star Trek, but the general ethics of it. I think Phil was more interested in exploring a wider range of science fiction stories, and yet nonetheless staying faithful to Star Trek. There was definitely a tugging on the two sides between them. One of the reasons it took us so long to come up with a story was because things would change. If we came up with some aspects that pleased Gene, they often didn’t please Phil and vice versa.” [TREK: THE LOST YEARS]
Susan Sackett commented “It was a script by committee and therein lay its trouble. A few weeks after it was handed in, the studio turned thumbs down… the fate of Star Trek: The Motion Picture was again in limbo.”
IT’S NOT STAR TREK
Jon Povil, who was Roddenberry’s and Isenberg’s assistant on this Star Trek project (and went on to work on the aborted Star Trek Phase II TV Series and on Star Trek: The Motion Picture), claimed that the film would have had audiences going to see it, but its just as well it wasn’t made, because it wasn’t really Star Trek. Of course, it can be argued that Star Trek: The Motion Picture is really only half of the Star Trek equation, being bereft of the adventure and characterization that made the series popular in the first place. As a result of this script, Star Trek would be shelved as a feature film, re-conceptualized as a TV series again (Star Trek: Phase II), and then reworked into a motion picture yet again, finally to be released, and still not yet fully capturing the essence of The Original Series. It’s clear that during the ‘70s, Paramount, and even Trek’s creator himself, didn’t know the answer to the question, “just what IS Star Trek?”
THE CREATIVE TEAM
Chris Bryant and Allan Scott —Two talented British writers more known for their comedy writing than science fiction, Bryant and Scott came into the project without a bit of Trek knowledge, but with impressive film credits, such as The Petersburg-Cannes Express, Don’t Look Now, and Joseph Andrews. Although their script was rejected by Paramount and Planet of the Titans was scrapped, the two left the project in good spirits, happy to have been part of the Star Trek family even for a short time. Allan Scott himself is known to have commented that the screenplay wasn’t what it should have been.
Gene Roddenberry—The creator of Star Trek and ‘Great Bird of the Galaxy’ himself, Roddenberry acted as more of an overseer on this project, leading Allan and Chris in directions that director Phil Kaufman didn’t want them to go in. It was Gene’s unwillingness to ‘play nice’ with other creators in his own backyard that eventually landed him in trouble with Paramount (hence his near noninvolvement with Trek films from Star Trek II until his untimely death in ‘91.)
Jerry Isenberg— One of the youngest and most active producers in Hollywood at the time, Jerry Isenberg put his all into making Planet of the Titans a reality, generating enthusiasm amongst Paramount officials and breathing life back into what was considered a stale project until he came aboard.
Phil Kaufman— Known in sci-fi circles as the director of the Invasion of the Body Snatchers remake, Kaufman was new to Star Trek, and like writers Bryant and Scott, he was given a listing of the “Best Trek” to watch. The director wanted to not only make a film true to the Star Trek mythos but expand Star Trek to cover other science fiction ideas as well. He and Gene rarely saw eye-to-eye on the script, and when he handed in the screenplay that was rejected by Paramount, Gene took it upon himself to perform a last-minute salvage job in order to save the project. Unfortunately, his rewrite was reportedly worse than the two covered here.
Ralph Mcquarrie – Fresh off his stint as designer for the then yet to be released Star Wars, Ralph was hired to bring his unique vision to Star Trek. The most intriguing creation he brought to the table was that of the refit Enterprise, as represented in the front and rear view paintings included here. Looking somewhat like a Star Destroyer with warp engine pylons and a saucer attached, it certainly would have revolutionized Starfleet design esthetics for all time. I for one am glad that Star Trek Discovery picked up this lost design thread and is exploiting it to it’s fullest.
Ken Adam – Star Trek: Planet of the Titans’ production designer, Ken was responsible for the villainous sets in most of the James Bond movies, making him a natural at what would be complex sci-fi designs. Ken supplied many sketches for sets, including a concept for the interior of the new Enterprise shuttle bay, several sketches of the Enterprise herself based on Ralph Mcquarrie’s designs, and other key locations for the Planet of the Titans script, including the ‘Superbrain Stonehenge’.
In 1977, Bantam Books released the Star Trek novel called Planet of Judgement by Joe Haldeman, which involved a rogue planet orbited by a black hole. The Enterprise suffers severe technological failures and the crew faces off against the godlike beings of immeasurable power that rule the planet. A strangely familiar premise, indeed—and conceived in the same timeframe as the aborted film project. For years, I was certain that this was a novelization of the Titans screenplay—but that appears to not be the case.
From the back cover:
Never before had the Enterprise been betrayed by its own technology. Never before had their systems, instruments, and weapons failed to respond. And never before had Kirk, Spock, McCoy and the rest of the crew faced a total breakdown of science and sanity…until they stumbled on the mysterious world that couldn’t exist…
A world orbited by a black hole and ruled by chaos – where man was a helpless plaything for a race of beings more powerful than the laws of the universe.
Andrew E. C. Gaska
The Making of Star Trek the Motion Picture by Susan Sackett and Gene Roddenberry (1980)
The Art of Star Trek by Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens (1995)
Star Trek Phase II: The Lost Series by Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens (1997)
Star Trek: Where no Man has Gone Before: A History In Pictures by J.M. Dillard (1994)
Trek: The Making of the Movies by James Van Hise (1992)
Trek: The Lost Years by Edward Gross (1989)
Memory Alpha Wikia, Star Trek Planet of the Titans
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION AND IMAGERY:
STARLOG Magazine issue #136 by O’QUINN STUDIOS, INC. (November 1988)
USS ENTERPRISE Heavy Cruiser Evolution Blueprints by Starfleet Department of Graphic Design (fan-produced)
USS ENTERPRISE OFFICER’S MANUAL by The Starfleet Publications Office (fan-produced)
Definitive Trek: Gene Roddenberry’s A-list of Trek episodes, said to epitomize the core of what Star Trek represents. One day I’ll expand this list to all the other Trek series, but for now you know what classic episodes to use to get your friends to watch Star Trek with you, instead of finally getting that cosplayer you‘ve had a crush on to agree to view an episode or two only to scar him or her for life with winners like “Spock’s Brain” or “Catspaw”…
City on the Edge of Forever
Devil in the Dark
Journey to Babel
The Trouble with Tribbles
The Enemy Within
The Corbomite Maneuver
This Side of Paradise
A Piece of the Action
The USS Discovery boldly goes where the McQuarrie Enterprise nearly went before.
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