THE MOTION PICTURES

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Phase II

In the few years after being canceled, Star Trek found tremendous popularity in syndication. This success excited executives at Paramount, who now viewed the series as one of its more valuable properties. Gene Roddenberry and Paramount engaged in discussions about a Star Trek film  in the early 1970s. By 1975, Roddenberry had been offered a contract to produce the film. However, Roddenberry's draft, called Star Trek: The God Thing, was rejected by the studio. Shortly after, the release of Star Wars (1976) prompted concerns at Paramount that fans would not respond with the same enthusiasm to a second, big-budget science fiction film released so soon after. The Star Trek film project was scrapped, but Paramount had another plan in mind.

 

In he 1960s and 70s, three television networks dominated airwaves in the United States - CBS, NBC and ABC. Paramount intended to enter the market with a fourth network, the Paramount Television Service. As with the big three, local TV stations that became affiliates of the Paramount network would receive Paramount television series for broadcast. They hoped that Star Trek could be a signature program in their lineup.

 

Roddenberry, still scarred from his experience with NBC, agreed to the project, which Paramount promised to be a "first-class" production. The creator was given complete control over the series, Star Trek: Phase II (sometimes referred to as Star Trek II), and Roddenberry was encouraged by the opportunity to transcend the limits of his original series with updated ships, sets, and even the potential for scenes set on 23rd Century Earth. 

 

Below is some of the concept art created for Phase II, including a redesigned bridge, sick bay, living quarters, and an interactive envoironment called the "recreation deck." Fans of future Star Trek series will recognize many elements that later appeared in future productions.

Phase II would reunite the cast of the original series while adding several new characters to the mix. Though most of the original cast expressed interest in the project, Leonard Nimoy passed on the idea due to his interest in pursuing opportunities outside of television, including his successful run on Broadway in Equus. Roddenberry decided the new show would have to go on without Mr. Spock. He cast actor David Gautreaux as a young Vulcan named Xon. Unlike Spock, the new science officer would have been a full-blooded Vulcan lacking any understanding of human emotions.

Xon
Xon

Screen test with actor David Gautreaux

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Ilia
Ilia

Screen test with actress Persis Khamba

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Will Decker
Will Decker

As played by Stephen Collins in Star Trek: The Motion Picture

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Roddenberry also hoped to included more women characters than had been possible on the original NBC series. Lt. Uhura would receive a promotion to Lt. Commander, and former Nurse Christine Chapel would now be Dr. Chapel. At the helm, Roddenberry conceived of a woman from planet 114-Delta V who could sense images in the minds of others. She was completely hairless and would struggle, the creator said, to balance the sexual nature of her Deltan culture while serving with this mostly human crew. She is said to have had a past relationship with the Enterprise's new first officer, William Decker. Both characters would later appear in The Motion Picture and serve as the inspiration for a future first officer/counselor duo.

The pilot episode for Star Trek: Phase II, titled "In Thy Image" was written by Alan Dean Foster, and based on a TV movie/pilot Roddenberry produced in 1973 called Genesis II. The story told of a spaceship that returned to earth in search of its creator. When the Paramount TV series was canceled, "In Thy Image" became the basis for Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

 

It's no secret that ST:TMP was a disappointment to audiences who had waited a decade to see Kirk, Spock and crew back in action. However, some see the situation differently. With a big budget and creative control, it can be argued that the first Star Trek film was a true picture of Roddenberry's concept for the series. Complaints about the lack of action and slow-moving scenes, the characters, the plot, etc. could have been a rejection of Roddenberry's vision by the very fans who had been supporting the series so vehemently since 1969. 

 

As you explore the film, consider this question for yourself. Was Star Trek: The Motion Picture simply a poor translation of the series to the big screen? Or was this a pure version of the Star Trek that never was?

 

In this Away Mission you will explore the Star Trek of Harve Bennett, the man chosen by Paramount to produce better films than Roddenberry's troubled attempt. As you can imagine, this move prompted much concern as fans worried that Bennett would scrap Roddenberry's vision in favor of more action-oriented space adventures in the image of Star Wars. Their fears increased when rumors circulated that Spock might die in Star Trek II

 

Bennett, however, turned out to be the right producer at the right time. Embracing Star Trek as a concept, he took great care to familiarize himself with the original television series, and carefully translated elements from the show into a big-screen sequel to the episode, Space Seed, starring Ricardo Montalban once again in the role of Khan. Of course, 

Star Trek II was a major hit with fans and critics, leading to an ongoing film francise. This success earned Harve Bennett the title, "the man who saved Star Trek."

How does Harve Bennet's Star Trek compare to Gene Roddenberry's original series? Are there differences between the two visions? What do they have in common? Do you believe Bennett's take on Trek was the right one for the time? What might have happened if Gene Roddenberry was made producer for a second film? Would you have done anything differently if you were asked to make Star Trek II?

After The Wrath of Khan, Bennett followed with a film that further highlights the central role of Spock in the Star Trek universe. Leonard Nimoy himself would direct the films, which takes us to Vulcan while exploring the uniqueness of the popular character and his relationship with his Captain and human shipmates. In many ways, Star Trek II and 

Star Trek III can be seen as a two-part story. When compared with The Menagerie, the only other two-parter in the original Star Trek, there are some interesting similarities. 

View Star Trek II and III, and then screen The Menagerie. You will recall this two-part episode was created from the footage of the first pilot, The Cage. As you compare the two stories - both focused on Spock - do you see a relationship between these two, two-parters?

The Voyage Home was Leonard Nimoy's second turn in the dirctor's chair, and this time the position came with much more creative control. Nimoy and Bennett chose a story with an environmental theme that would show a more lighthearted and approachable side of Star Trek. In the era of Back to the Future, Star Trek IV would go back to its roots with a time-travel story that delighted audiencs with commentary on life in the 1980s as only Star Trek could deliver it. Unlike previous Trek movies, Star Trek IV has very little space adventure, no real villian... and it's quite funny, too.

 

Fans embraced the film, as many recognized the comedic elements of The Original Series seen in classic episodes like The Trouble with Tribbles or A Piece of the ActionCritics enjoyed the movie as well, and praised Star Trek for expanding its reach beyond the limits of its original concept.

Technically, there are a lot of problems with Star Trek IV. Leonard Nimoy's directing was criticized, as was the plot concept. And from a Star Trek perspective, a fan has to ask... What about the Prime Directive? In spite of all this, why is The Voyage Home beloved as it is?

Treknology: Transparent Aluminum

In Star Trek IV, Scotty famously trades the 24th Century formula for "Transparent Aluminum" for the Plexiglass needed to transport a whale aboard the Enterprise. At the time, this concept was considered purely fictional. However, in the decades since, real-world versions of this material have been realized. One, called magnesium aluminate, was created by the US Naval Laboratory for use where a strong but lightweight material is needed -- the same purpose for the transparent aluminum aboard the Enterprise. Another version, called aluminium oxynitride, or ALON, is even stronger and more closely resembles the Star Trek concept. These materials may soon appear in modern-day ships, aircraft, and electronics.

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Magnesium Aluminate
Magnesium Aluminate

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Aluminum Oxinate
Aluminum Oxinate

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No Tribble At All...

Available for a Limited Time

The commemorative #TrekClass Space Furball™ is still available, but not for long -- these little ones are selling out quickly, and they don't multiply! 

 

Each one is hand-made and includes a commemorative Trek Class tag. They're available in three colors -- Brown, Blonde, or Speckled -- or buy two and get the third FREE!

 

By purchasing a #TrekClass Space Furrball™  you will support this course and others like it. This item is hand-made by a local artist and fellow student. 

Order in the #TrekClass Store

After completing Mission 04, don't forget to share your thoughts and research with the class in our online community.

 

You may choose to complete some or all of this unit, but we want to hear your insights on the questions above, or anything else you've noticed in the episodes assigned.

 

If you've viewed other episodes not included in the Mission, please feel free to discuss those as well.

 

Tip: Try sharing your question responses individually, rather than responding to the entire unit in one post. We've found this makes for easier discussion.