Star Trek Phase II (1975-1978)

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Star Trek Phase II (1975-1978)

Post  BoG on Thu Apr 15, 2010 10:37 pm

STAR TREK - PHASE II
This refers to the Star Trek TV series that never was - The Lost Series - which, if it had been produced, would have ran episodes starting in early 1978.
<Gene Roddenberry, back at it!

Contrary to popular belief, the initial plan by Paramount and Roddenberry, in 1975, was to produce a Star Trek film, not a new TV series. Roddenberry began to work on the script, The God Thing, in May of '75. The plan was to start principal photography in mid-1976 (later moved to the start of 1977), with a budget of $5 million. At the time, a story which questioned the nature of God was not deemed good box office and the development deal ended in August, 1975. Star Trek was once more in limbo.

Roddenberry did retain an office at Paramount and hired several writers to come up with new treatments. These were all rejected by Paramount until the one for Star Trek: Planet of Titans, from writers Chris Bryant & Allan Scott, was accepted on October 6, 1976. The budget was set at $7.5 million and Philip Kaufman was hired as director. The story involved Starfleet and Klingons fighting over a planet, with a black hole and time travel back to Earth's prehistory thrown in during the last half. The full script, however, completed in March of 1977, was rejected next month by Paramount. Kaufman did a rewrite but his version was also rejected in May. The proposed film, now budgeted at $10 million, was canceled before pre-production began. Why? Star Wars. Star Wars - Star Wars - Star Wars - Star Wars - Star Wars
Star Wars was a surprise monster hit in theaters in May of 1977. Paramount executives including head Michael Eisner, using a logic which would make a Vulcan weep, decided that Star Wars was a one-time fluke. In their minds, all the sci-fi fans out there had spent their money on this new science fiction film and their needs had all been met. There was no need or it was too late for Star Trek, another sci-fi film; why would all these fans spend money again on science fiction? Then arrived Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind.

OK, even the Paramount execs were not that dense - there was a continuing market for quality science fiction in theaters. But, Close Encounters arrived over 6 months after Star Wars. Before then, in June of 1977, Paramount announced plans for a 4th television network (the three at that time were ABC, NBC and CBS). Star Trek Phase II was now a go. The new plan: a 2-hour Star Trek TV movie was to air first in February of 1978, to be followed by new one-hour episodes each week, in the 8 - 9 PM time slot, followed by an original made-for-TV Paramount movie in the 9 - 11 PM slot. The pilot was budgeted at the then-high-for-TV sum of $3 million.
Roddenberry began to put together his team for production and, for a few months, it was like a seventies retread of the early production days for TOS, circa 1965. As for the TOS regular actors, all were offered 'pay or play' deals and all were slated to return, except one: Leonard Nimoy. Roddenberry offered some kind of a weird deal to Nimoy where the actor would appear in the pilot and then only 2 out of 11 episodes. Nimoy had earlier arguments with Roddenberry & Paramount over marketing his likeness, so that may have influenced the strange offer. Nimoy refused it; he also had commitments to the stageplay Equus at this time. Thus, the character of Xon was created.
As conceptualized, Lt. Xon was a very young full-blooded Vulcan (see the progression? Spock - Xon - Data), a genius even by Vulcan standards. Also, Shatner's high salary influenced the creation of another character, commander Will Decker. Shatner was signed for only 13 episodes and if the show continued, Kirk may have soon been relegated to cameo appearances or even get killed off and Decker would then take over (Decker > Riker, see?). The 3rd new character was originally conceived as simply a young female Yeoman. Roddenberry soon re-thought this to go along with the 'more sexual equality' angle; eventually, this new thinking evolved into the character of the Deltan female navigator, Ilia (Ilia > Troi).

Of the regular characters from TOS, Uhura and Sulu would now be Lt. Commanders, Chekov would be a Lieutenant and chief of security, while Chapel would be a doctor, not just a nurse. Janice Rand would also return, for at least a few episodes. Scotty would continue as before, as Chief Engineer.

Costuming would follow TOS styles and William Theiss even pulled out old patterns and dug around for old costumes in storage. However, there would be more variation, with casual dress for leisure times. New aluminum phasers were built with strobe lights and detachable battery packs. A new Enterprise was designed and being built; Matt Jeffries, credited as technical adviser, drew up the 'new' ship; Joe Jennings was the Art Director. The starship would stay largely the same in shape, with the same crew complement, but now half of the personnel were female. The Viewer (formerly the viewing screen) would be a holographic image within an oval framework.
In the last week of July, 1977, the first writing deals were set. Alan Dean Foster was assigned to write a story based on a premise which Roddenberry had written for his non-produced sci-fi series, Genesis II, called "Robot's Return." Foster's version was called "In Thy Image." As many know by now, this story was similar to TOS episode The Changeling and would morph into Star Trek the Motion Picture. At this point, it was selected as the pilot episode. Here's where it gets tricky. And sneaky.




ABOVE: Enterprise designs by Matt Jeffries; for more of these, click here:


A meeting with Paramount's bigwigs was held on August 3, 1977. The intent was to sell to them the "In Thy Image" story as the right one for the pilot episode and get the go-ahead for a full script. Unknown to Roddenberry and his team, Eisner had already made a decision to switch to a theatrical feature and this "In Thy Image" story was just right for the planned film. What happened was this: Paramount had been meeting with advertisers for its 4th network and determined that there was no way to make money. The plan for the network died; ST:Phase II was dead with it - but only select executives knew. However, with half-a-million dollars already spent, Paramount also decided to go ahead with the 2-hour TV pilot movie. They would not speak of a theatrical film just yet, continuing with pre-production on Phase II while the complex paperwork & deal-making would proceed on the secret Eisner film. Of course, there were alternate future plans in the backs of executives' minds. If, after the theatrical film, Star Trek would return to TV, all the new TV scripts, for example, might be used then.

But, speaking of finished scripts, Harold Livingston, the show's assigned producer, refused to give Foster the assignment to finish "In Thy Image." Livingston's 1st & 2nd choices as writers then became unavailable. Livingston determined that a finished script was required by October 1st, to meet the supposed deadline of November 1st - the first day of principal photography. He made the unusual choice to write it himself, a 2 or 3-week project, with Roddenberry then to rewrite it as a finished product.


David Gautreaux was a young actor without an agent, but he was dating a woman who worked for one. She told him about the role of Xon and set up the first try at it. He read for the just-signed director, Robert Collins, and was invited back. This time, he was filmed in make-up (eyebrows altered, with eartips) for his screen test; there were 8 other actors under consideration. On Sept. 26, 1977, Gautreaux was cast as Xon, a deal which included $15,000 for the pilot and a pay-or-play commitment for 13 episodes.
He, like most all of the production crew, was unknowingly involved in a project that was never meant to be completed at this point. This also resulted in a schizophrenic atmosphere - everyone working on Phase II was missing deadlines due to the complications of such an endeavor, but there was no pressure from Paramount bigwigs. Obviously, we now know that the execs didn't need to apply pressure to the production team for a TV series which would never be made. Gautreaux encountered a glitch quickly before he signed a contract. Majel Barrett, whose Nurse Chapel character had a crush on Spock on TOS, felt that such a young Vulcan character wouldn't work well with hers in the new Trek series. She requested that an older British actor be tested for the role. Gautreaux returned to test again; the elder Brit did not test well and Gautreaux was finally confirmed in mid-October. Livingston, meanwhile, didn't deliver a script until October 21. On October 27, actress Persis Khambatta tested for the role of Ilia; she was cast the next day. By this time, however, they were casting for a theatrical film, not a TV pilot.


If the new Star Trek TV series had actually been produced as planned, the credits might have been something like this
(at least, for the pilot episode):
STAR TREK - the New Mission
starring WILLIAM SHATNER as Captain Kirk
also starring DeFOREST KELLEY as Dr. McCoy - STEPHEN COLLINS* as Commander Decker
co-starring
JAMES DOOHAN as Cmdr. Scott - GEORGE TAKEI as Lt. Cmdr. Sulu
________ NICHELLE NICHOLS as Lt. Cmdr. Uhura - WALTER KOENIG as Lt. Chekov
MAJEL BARRETT as Dr. Chapel - DAVID GAUTREAUX as Lt. Xon - GRACE LEE WHITNEY as Rand
and
PERSIS KHAMBATTA as Lt. Ilia
Story by
ALAN DEAN FOSTER Written by HAROLD LIVINGSTON Executive Producer GENE RODDENBERRY
Directed by ROBERT COLLINS


*STEPHEN COLLINS, of course, was not cast until later; I included his name for lack of anything else available

As happens, word of what was actually going on seeped through to many of those involved in production. They now knew they were actually working towards the goal of creating a motion picture. Even Gautreaux was informed by the producers in late October. Columnist Rona Barrett spilled the beans to everyone else in December. Paramount and everyone involved in production denied this; they insisted that the new TV network would still start in the fall of 1978 and that Phase II would air 15 to 22 episodes (liar, liar, pants on fire).

Meanwhile, work on the script continued. Roddenberry had re-written Livingston's version, but this new version was deemed inferior by Eisner - too talky for one thing and more of a TV film (the goal now was a theatrical film). Roddenberry was reportedly crushed. Director Robert Collins attempted to blend the 2 versions and this pleased no one. Story editor Jon Povill was instrumental in trying to keep the quality high; he pointed out, for example, how, even in this latest version, Decker was petulant for the 1st two-thirds of the story and then abruptly mellows into a team player. More, Povill questioned why V'Ger did not attack the Enterprise immediately as it did other vessels and also opined that the ending was very anti-climactic, with V'Ger simply leaving for parts unknown. These story points would remain key through the production of the motion picture. It's telling that the story was still flawed (dull) for the completed film.


With the switch to a theatrical film, several key personnel fell off the ship. Livingston left on his own in late December, having escalating arguments with Roddenberry over everything. He went to work on Fantasy Island. With the new plan a $15 million-budgeted film, TV director Robert Collins was no longer trusted to carry the ball. He got $10,000 for his re-write and a director fee, but didn't direct. Robert Wise was the chosen one. The budget went up to $18 million (eventually this would reach $44 million - included in this figure were all the costs of Phase II). What new director Wise was told and everyone knew was that Spock had to be in this.

Nimoy was approached while acting in the play Equus; a deal was made, the long disagreement between Nimoy and Paramount resolved with a big check. Nimoy now became the latest collaborator in re-writing "In Thy Image" - replacing Xon with Spock. Gautreaux was not all the way out; as a small consolation, he played a small role as a doomed Starfleet officer in the eventual film. As late as April, 1978, the script still had many problems. Livingston even came back to help, at Roddenberry's request, and they had more arguments. Livingston threatened to leave a few more times and they never worked together again after this project. The other main issue was that much, if not all, of the construction (models, props) had to be rebuilt from scratch to work well on a big screen.

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Star Trek Phase II episodes

Post  BoG on Thu Apr 15, 2010 11:06 pm

STAR TREK PHASE II Episodes:

Probably the last ones to find out that there no longer existed a Phase II TV series project were the various writers of the purchased stories/planned episodes. They continued to turn in drafts and re-writes until the theatrical film was officially announced. And, they left us, as a kind of a legacy, the 13 unfilmed episodes:

"Tomorrow and the Stars" by Larry Alexander: a time travel tale - during a transporter mishap, Kirk ends up in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, 12/06/41, in a transparent state, as if he were a ghost. He does solidify later and falls in love with local married (!) woman Elsa, just before the infamous attack.

"Cassandra" by Theodore Sturgeon: a whimsical comedy - involves a small creature, the entity of the title, which repeats phrases that will be spoken about 5 minutes later, a clumsy Yeoman and two races on the brink of war who covet 'the Sacred Monitor' which foretells the future.

"Kitumba, parts 1 & 2" by John Meredyth Lucas: a complex, plot-heavy thriller involving a special mission into the heart of the Klingon Empire; Kirk has to convince the young Klingon ruler to oppose his own warlord, who plans a galactic war. NOTE: this would have presented a slightly different take on Klingon culture; here we would learn that "Klingon" is a name for the warrior ruling class, who are served by "Technos" (scientists) and the Subjects. Above these are the Warlord and the Kitumba, a near-godlike king. The structure here sounds similar to that of the Roman Empire at its height.

"Practice in Waking" by Richard Bach: the Enterprise comes across a sleeper ship, launched in 2004, but only one of 40 sleeping caskets aboard is occupied. Decker, Scotty & Sulu accidentally get shunted into the dream world of the lone sleeper, a female commander, a world which resembles 16th-century Scotland.
NOTE: a variation on the much-used holodeck of the TNG series, though this involves directed dreaming. Bach is known for his book, Jonathan Livingston Seagull.

"Deadlock" by David Ambrose: the Enterprise crew is instructed by Starfleet admiralty to participate in psychological testing at a Starbase but the source of these games are a couple of chameleonic aliens who attempt to turn Starfleet personnel against each other.

"Savage Syndrome" by Margaret Armen & Alfred Harris: while Decker, McCoy and Ilia investigate a damaged ship and a dead crew, a space mine detonates, turning the rest of the Enterprise crew into violent savages. The 3 remaining civilized officers must find a cure before the ship blows up.

"Are Unheard Memories Sweet?" by Worley Thorne: the Enterprise crew arrive at a planet in search of the lost ship the St. Louis; they encounter inhabitants who live lives of illusion to cope with the memory of a near-genocidal war. Decker reverts to his cadet days and endangers the ship's orbit.

"Devil's Due" by William Douglas Lansford: the Enterprise arrives at a planet whose population is enjoying a thousand years of peace due to a contract with an entity known as Komether, a deal which is scheduled to end in 20 days, upon which Komether will lay waste to the planet. NOTE: this story was redone as a TNG episode.

"Lord Bobby's Obsession" by Shimon Wincelberg: on their way to aid a Federation colony, the Enterprise crew investigate a derelict Klingon ship; on board is Lord Bobby, a being who claims to be an English lord, taken from Earth in year 1900 and who now wishes to return.

"To Attain the All" by Norman Spinrad: arriving at a star orbited by a series of lifeless planets, the Enterprise crew are ensnared by an ancient group mind which plans to use their bodies to spread itself throughout the galaxy.

"The War to End All Wars" by Arthur Bernard Lewis: the Enterprise arrives at the planet Shadir, which had begun industrialization a couple of centuries prior; the crew finds wrecked ships in orbit and an apparently lifeless planet. They soon find out that a conflict continues on the planet, fought by androids which are shells/avatars used by the real inhabitants, who now live underground and need the intense stimulus of such battles for their entertainment.

"The Child" by Jaron Summers & Jon Povill: the Enterprise passes through what looks like a nebula; a being of light impregnates Lt. Ilia, who gives birth in 3 days to a baby girl. The child grows at a rate of one year per day but also has a leukemia-type condition and McCoy opines that it will die in a week. NOTE: this story was reworked into a TNG episode.
So how well would these episodes have turned out if filmed? Some of these are almost blatantly derivative of TOS episodes and that's not good. As examples, "Tomorrow and the Stars" is The City on the Edge of Forever - light; "Savage Syndrome" is a more severe version of Day of the Dove; and "Lord Bobby's Obsession" has similarities to The Squire of Gothos & Space Seed.

Some of these episodes probably could not be filmed as written: "The War to End All Wars" contained space battles, android armies, war ruins, special buildings with detention centers, tanks and then an entire underground civilization. It probably would've needed to be a 2-parter, besides the budget problems it presented.

In the opinion of those familiar with the show and the Star Trek franchise, if this unfilmed series had been actually produced, there probably would not have been any Star Trek films, no TNG series and, therefore, none of the subsequent shows. However, it's tantalizing to imagine a TV history where-in a 2nd Star Trek series existed, if just for 2 or 3 seasons, with Captain Kirk and his crew. We would then have another set of 50 or 75 episodes with TOS characters, perhaps approaching the quality and entertainment value of the original show. In some parallel universe...?

btw, much of the information above was gleaned from the following tome (in case you're interested), published in 1997:

The cover is a painting by Mike Minor from 1977.
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