Last year Star Trek celebrated its 50th anniversary and the latest entry in the rebooted film franchise premiered while later this year we’ll see the premiere of a new Trek TV series. The franchise seems to have been bolding forging forward since its launch in 1966. But has it?
Star Trek wasn’t always the global phenomena we all know and love today. Back in 1969 the show faced its own final frontier in the form of cancellation, and it’s only through the dedication of the fans that the crew of the Starship Enterprise returned to our screens.
Along the way though, there were many attempts to revive the show and even once Star Trek returned, many different formats where discussed. With 13 movies and six separate TV series (with a seventh on its way), you’d be forgiven for thinking that no idea has been left behind. But they have been a whole host of potential Star Trek shows that never made it into production. Let’s take a look at.
Titans and Phase II
The cancellation of the original Star Trek series has been described as one of the biggest blunders in television history. So it comes as little surprise that Paramount considered bringing the show back as early as 1975. A successful animated show (which first aired in 1973) had only whetted the appetite of the fans, and numerous attempts where underway to restart the series. A movie, tentatively called Star Trek: Planet Of The Titans was being developed by showrunner Gene Rodenberry and would have seen Kirk travelling back in time to introduce to concept of fire to primitive man. Despite some really cool spaceship designs and some interesting ideas, the project lost momentum and Paramount pulled the plug, fearing that the market was crowded with sci-fi movies.
Instead, the focus was on a new TV show. Serious work on Phase II began in 1977, and the idea was to mesh the existing Enterprise crew with a younger cast. Leonard Nimoy had declined to be in this new show, as the character of Spock had been reduced to a supporting role.
Instead, a new full-blooded Vulcan, called Xon was to be added. Much of the character ideas would be later used to develop Data in the Next Generation.
In addition, we would see a new First Officer called Will Decker and a mysteriously intelligent Deltan called Ilia.
Despite the scripts being written and the actors being cast, the success of an indie feature called Star Wars meant that Paramount had returned to the idea of a movie. This is why we get both Ilia and Will in Star Trek The Motion Picture. The two-hour pilot for Phase II is pretty much the plot of the movie, with added Spock and no Xon.
With the success of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the studio wanted more. Roddenberry, irked that the writing of The Motion Picture had been taken out of his hands and largely designed by committee, was determined the next movie would be his Trek: his script; his vision.
What was that vision? It was a time travel tale involving the Klingons travelling back to 1963 and preventing the assassination of John F Kennedy. So, of course, Kirk and co have to reset the timeline. “The climactic moments of the film,” William Shatner once revealed, “would find Spock standing on a grassy knoll in Dallas, firing that infamous ‘phantom shot’… thereby guaranteeing a brighter future for all of mankind.”
The studio, thankfully, rejected this idea, and all Roddenberry received was an honorary producer credit on Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan.
That didn’t stop Roddenberry submitting the idea – slightly revised each time – for both Star Trek III and Star Trek IV. Allegedly he was especially miffed when The Voyage Home did turn out to be a time travel film… just not his.
1987 saw the launch of Star Trek The Next Generation, and suddenly Star Trek was a hot property again. There was still plenty of interest in movies and also the cast of the original series. However, none of the original crew where that young anymore. One suggestion was to create a series of prequel movies, detailing the early years of Spock, Kirk and so on. This movie (also called Star Trek: The First Adventure) was the first in a planned sequence. Alas, Roddenberry hated the idea as did much of the cast of the original series, and the idea was shelved.
History tends to repeat itself. Following the movies, the Star Trek franchise enjoyed a fantastic run of spin-off shows, including The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. This run of luck ended with Star Trek: Enterprise. The other shows ran and ran, but Enterprise, which was set before the foundation of the Federation, floundered and was cancelled in its fourth series.
Plans to continue the story of Star Trek: Enterprise came in the form of Star Trek: The Beginning. It would have featured the founding of the Federation and a massive war between Earth and the Federation. The crew of the Enterprise would be all new characters, which put the studio off the idea. Producer Rick Berman and veteran writer Erik Jendresen got as far as a fully developed script before the plug was pulled and JJ Abrams was instead called in to create 2009’s movie, Star Trek.
Given the popularity of the animated show, it’s a surprise it hasn’t been revived, given the popularity of animated shows. One attempt has been made. Star Trek: Final Frontier was a proposed animated web series set in a dark future in which much of the Federation is shattered following a war with the Romulans (those guys again). A similar idea, called Star Trek: Federation would have seen a young crew try to revive a complacent and declining Federation. Developed by Bryan Singer, it was a gentler show with a darker take on the Ferengi as its focus. Alas, both concepts were pretty much shelved when the JJ Abrams movie began development.
Given that Star Trek shows no sign of stopping, we are sure that they are many more abandoned projects to come.
Article by Ed Fortune