They Might Have All Been in Star Trek: The Motion Picture
After the original Star Trek series was canceled in 1969, creator Gene Roddenberry was apparently not keen on continuing to develop Star Trek ideas. And so during the 70s, he pursued a variety of other projects. In 1971, he wrote a sexploitation film called Pretty Maids All In a Row for MGM, and in 1972 – 73 he sold a series of four sci-fi series ideas to the networks. They were The Questor Tapes (An android searches for meaning), Genesis II (set on a post-apocalyptic Earth) Planet Earth (a reworking of the Genesis II concept) and MAGNA I (an underwater sci-fi series.)
None of those series made it past the pilot stage. So, in 1975, when Paramount began considering a Star Trek movie, they moved Roddenberry back into his office on the lot. And, according to a piece by the Hollywood reporter, his first Star Trek scripts featured some pretty out there material. This included Captain Kirk facing off against Jesus, Scotty wreaking wholesale destruction, and time-travel that changes, among other historical events, the Kennedy Assassination.
This information is all part of the recently released The Fifty-Year Mission: The Complete Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of Star Trek – The First 25 Years, a book by Edward Gross and Mark Altman. (There’s a sequel coming out on August 30th that covers the next 25 years.)
The Abandoned First Star Trek Scripts
In the book, it was revealed that Roddenberry’s original scripting, referred to as The God Thing, “focuses on Admiral Kirk reassembling his crew to stop an entity on course for Earth that claims to be God. It turns out to be a living computer programmed by a race that was “cast out” of its own dimension and into ours.”
According to Richard Colla, who directed The Questor Tapes pilot for Roddenberry, “Gene showed me that treatment, which was much more daring than Star Trek: The Motion Picture would be.” And while some elements from the treatment did make it into Star Trek: The Motion Picture, most of it was abandoned.
Coming Up With A New Idea
After Paramount rejected the script, Roddenberry approached Star Trek producer Jon Povill about working on another idea. Povill and Roddenberry developed a story where the erstwhile Scotty was responsible for destroying both Earth and the Federation. The Enterprise is also destroyed by a black hole, but Scotty and Spock, who are aboard smaller research vessels, manage to escape the devastation. Scotty, desperate to set things right, attempts to go back in time to save the Enterprise. However, he miscalculates and ends up in 1937, setting off a chain of alternate historical events.
According to Povill, “His efforts to stop the snowball only make things worse for his original time period, though they do make things considerably better between 1937 and 1964. World War II is avoided, Kennedy is not assassinated, medical science advances substantially and a whole bunch of other boons make it impossible for world leaders to agree to help Kirk set things right for the future by plunging the 20th century back into the horrors stored in the Enterprise’s history records. Kennedy, however, recognizes the greater good and helps Kirk destroy his world to create the better one.”
Oh, and apparently, there’s also a bit where Einstein, Churchill, Kennedy and Hitler (!) tour the Enterprise.
Attempting to Novelize The God Thing
But wait, that’s not all. Over the years, The God Thing refused to die, and many attempts were made to novelize the treatment. Author Michael Jan Friedman came the closest. When he was asked to take on the project, he jumped at the chance. Roddenberry had already passed away, and this offered Friedman a unique chance to collaborate with one of his self-professed heroes.
“But when I read the material, I was dismayed. I hadn’t seen other samples of Gene’s unvarnished writing, but what I saw this time could not possibly have been his best work. It was disjointed — scenes didn’t work together, didn’t build toward anything meaningful. Kirk, Spock and McCoy didn’t seem anything like themselves. There was some mildly erotic, midlife-crisis stuff in there that didn’t serve any real purpose. In the climactic scene, Kirk had a fistfight with an alien who had assumed the image of Jesus Christ.
So Kirk was slugging it out on the bridge. With Jesus.”
Wow. So there you have it. The first Star Trek scripts had Captain Kirk fist fighting Jesus, Scotty destroying everything, and Kennedy helping set the timeline straight. And some, or all of it might have been if, well, Paramount weren’t looking for something a little more conventional.
So, what do you think of the abandoned first Star Trek scripts? Would you like to have seen on of these versions of the movie? Or is it probably for the best that Paramount pulled the plug? Also, if you’ve never heard the story, take a moment to read about Gene Roddenberry’s true-life heroics when a PanAm flight he was onboard crashed in the Middle Eastern deserts. It’s a pretty incredible story.
Featured Image: Paramount