The latest attempts to get a Star Trek movie off the ground all seem to be stalling – and threaten to join a long list of unmade Trek films.
2020 might have been a mess in many ways, but one thing that has helped take the edge off it – for Star Trek fans, at least – has been the immense comfort provided by not one but three new seasons of Star Trek that have aired. It’s as good a time as ever to be a Star Trek fan, with Picard, Lower Decks and Discovery ongoing and Prodigy, Strange New Worlds and Section 31 in the works.
However, it wasn’t always so easy to get a Star Trek project off the ground. Here are some that failed to achieve warp speed…
Star Trek: Planet Of The Titans (1975)
The first decent attempt at a Star Trek movie, Planet Of The Titans was a mid-70s production that planned to capitalise on the syndication of the original series. The plot saw the Federation and Klingon Empire attempting to claim the home planet of the Titans, a mythical advanced race – eventually revealed to be Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise, having been thrown back in time where they influenced the rise of humanity by giving them fire. This treatment, by UK writers Chris Bryant and Allan Scott (the latter still active, recently writing Netflix’s The Queen’s ‘Gambit’) was ultimately killed just weeks before the release of Star Wars.
Planet Of The Titans does have a place in Star Trek history, however – in the design of the USS Discovery from the similarly-named Star Trek series closely resembles a proposed redesign of the USS Enterprise produced for the movie production. And, as one final aside, that design was created by none other than Ralph McQuarrie – perhaps best known as the concept artist for Star Wars.
Star Trek: Phase II (1978)
Perhaps the most famous unmade Star Trek show, Phase II reached the point of having multiple scripts completed and new Enterprise sets built before it was killed. The original cast were even set to return, less Leonard Nimoy, who at the time had ongoing disputes with Paramount and Gene Roddenberry. The project was halted when the new Paramount TV network it had planned to headline was itself put on hold, but the pilot script ‘In Thy Image’ later formed the basis for Star Trek: The Motion Picture, which also re-used some of the sets that had been produced. Matt Jeffries’ Enterprise redesign also made it to The Motion Picture all but intact.
Parts of the series bible for Phase II also influenced Star Trek: TNG – new characters Decker, Xon and Ilia were developed into Riker, Data and Troi respectively. Two TNG episodes – Season 2’s ‘The Child’ and Season 4’s ‘Devil’s Due’ – were also adapted from scripts written for Phase II.
Star Trek: The First Adventure (1991)
Originally planned to follow up Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, this project was a movie intended to show how Kirk, Bones and Spock met at Starfleet Academy. Planned as a 25th anniversary feature, the plot saw the assembly of the Enterprise crew in a story first mooted by Roddenberry during production of the original series, and later realised as JJ Abrams’ 2009 Star Trek reboot movie. Although the idea was kicked around for a year, it was later abandoned in favour of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, although its concept designs for the original Enterprise – one preceding Kirk’s – show no small resemblance to the NX-01 of Star Trek: Enterprise, proving that no idea is truly gone when it comes to Star Trek.
Captain Sulu (1990s)
George Takei’s appearance as captain of the Excelsior in Star Trek VI led fans to publicly lobby for the creation of a series featuring Sulu as the lead. Some original audio dramas followed, and Takei eventually reprised the role of Sulu in the 1996 Star Trek Voyager episode ‘Flashback’. Although some TV movies were briefly considered, the only one that came close to satisfying fan demand was a 2003 CG animated series going by the name Star Trek: Lions Of The Night, which would have placed Sulu as captain of the Enterprise B fighting off an invasion by the Kzinti – the cat-like race seen in Star Trek: The Animated Series. It never reached production, and despite appearing in several fan-productions, Sulu’s official return never quite materialised.
Star Trek: Federation (2005)
After the cancellation of Star Trek: Enterprise, Bryan Singer, Christopher McQuarrie and Robert Meyer Burnett developed a series concept set in the year 3000 in which the Federation – stagnant and collapsing – would be revived by the crew of a new USS Enterprise. Featuring a descendent of the Kirk family (“Alexander Kirk”) the show would have seen many TNG-era races building their own empires after leaving the Federation, as well as a reunified Vulcan/Romulan race and a calmer, more mystical Klingon society. However, as the pitch was nearing completion Paramount announced the first JJ Abrams reboot movie, and the proposal never even reached the studio. That said, the idea of a future Federation losing both power and influence has been explored in recent TV shows, including TNG revival Star Trek: Picard and the third season of Star Trek: Discovery.
The latest movies
Three different Star Trek films more recently have been in various stages of development, all of which have now been put on pause. There’s the fourth film featuring the Kelvin timeline crew – led by Chris Pine and Zachary Quino – that appears to have collapsed in development. It reportedly would have seen a return for Chris Hemsworth as Captain Kirk’s father, but both he and Pine ultimately turned the project down. Hemsworth told Variety in 2019 that the script hadn’t passed muster. S J Clarkson had been set to direct this one.
Quentin Tarantino then came up with a Trek project that, bluntly, didn’t sound too Star Trek. Paramount was keen to sign him up, and Mark L Smith had the job of turning Tarantino’s idea into a screenplay. This would have likely been R-rated, and less likely in the end that Tarantino would direct it himself.
Finally, and most recently, Noah Hawley (Fargo) had been working on a Star Trek film detached from all the others. It didn’t seem likely that the Kelvin crew would be back, but Hawley was working on the film as recently as this year. Paramount, though, is now believed to have put all Star Trek films on hold. That the future of the series is said to be on the small screen, not the big one.
With CBS reportedly planning Star Trek shows through 2027, it seems there’s plenty more Star Trek ahead though. With its message of peace, empathy and understanding more relevant than ever, let’s hope the show continues to live long and prosper.
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