Weekly Trek – March 21-27, 2016

The original Star Trek television series was cancelled in 1969, returned to television as an animated series in 1973, and then made the jump to movies with 1979’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  That wasn’t the original plan, though.

After Star Trek was cancelled, it became a huge success in syndication.  That’s how I first discovered my love for the show.  I was aware of the films, but my real introduction to Star Trek was the episodes that I watched at 5PM every day after school when I was in 7th grade.

Due to this success, Paramount Studios, which owned Star Trek after purchasing the studio that made the series, Desilu Studios, in the late 1960s, was looking to bring Star Trek back to television as the flagship series for their planned Paramount Television Service TV network, which they hoped to get on the air in 1978 (If any of this sounds familiar, it is possibly because Paramount used Star Trek: Voyager in the exact same way when they launched the United Paramount Network in 1995.).

Paramount gave Gene Roddenberry the go-ahead to develop the new series, which was to be called Star Trek : Phase II.  The show would include most of the original cast, except for Leonard Nimoy, who declined to return as Spock.  Taking his place as Science Officer would be Lieutenant Xon, a full Vulcan, to be played by David Gautreaux.  Spock was also the USS Enterprise’s first officer, but in the new series, that particular job would be filled by Commander Will Decker (No relation).  Also joining the crew would be Lieutenant Ilia, a Deltan, to be played by Persis Khambatta.

The series got fairly far into the development process.  Thirteen episodes were scripted, sets were built, and, as mentioned above, actors were cast for Xon and Ilia.  All of the effort almost went to waste when Paramount decided not to move forward with their planned television network. 

Fortunately for Star Trek, though, the films Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind made so much money that Paramount decided to promote Star Trek to the big screen.  The pilot script for Star Trek: Phase II, an episode titled “In Thy Image,” was revamped into a movie screenplay, and Leonard Nimoy decided to return for the film.  Decker, who was eventually played by Stephen Collins, and Ilia, still played by Khambatta, were included in the movie, but Xon did not appear.  His actor, David Gautreaux, did however have a small part as a space station commander.

The resulting film, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, became the first in a series of successful films which led to Star Trek’s actual return to television in 1987 with the premiere of Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Two of the Phase II scripts, “The Child” and “Devil’s Due” were eventually adapted for use in that series.  The Star Trek: Phase II name was also used by a fan film series made in upstate New York that is making new episodes of the original Star Trek.  They now call themselves Star Trek: New Voyages, and they have made a version of “The Child” as well as the Star Trek: Phase II script, “Kitumba.”

- Alan Decker

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