Star Trek was a show loved by many the world over. So following its cancellation by NBC in 1969 and the subsequent cancellation of its animated spin-off series, fans of the franchise had little to hope for. The letter writing campaign saved it for a third season but failed to keep it on the air completely. It really started to seem as if the beloved series would never return to continue exploring strange new worlds or to seek out new life and new civilizations. However, it was yet to boldly go where no show had gone before.
Production limbo on yet another spin-off.
In the mid to late 1970s not one but two Star Trek projects almost got off the ground before ultimately becoming Star Trek: The Motion Picture, it's follow up sequels and eventually Star Trek: The Next Generation and so on. The first was a motion picture concept to be directed by Philip Kaufman called Star Trek: Planet of the Titans, which would have reunited the entire original series cast for an adventure into a black hole while searching for the mythical Titans and ultimately traveling back in time to teach primitive man about fire.
Gene Roddenberry was not attached to the Planet of the Titans project. His Trek film concept, The God Thing, was not picked up by Paramount. Kaufman's film made it through the script and production art phases before ultimately having the plug pulled. This would lead into Paramount rehiring Roddenberry to begin pre-production on what would seem to be an almost sure thing for fans to be excited about.
Join us once again as Fifty Years in the Final Frontier forges on to explore the story of the little spin-off that could...and almost did...Star Trek: Phase II.
Star Trek: Phase II was to be a television series about a second five year mission of the USS Enterprise that, like Planet of the Titans, was to reunite most of the original cast (Leonard Nimoy was offered to reprise his role of Spock for only a couple of episodes but declined because he felt such an offer was unfair to both himself and the fans). One of the major story elements from the ill fated Titans film was the refit of the Enterprise.
Production artist, Ralph McQuarrie (whom genre fans might have heard of as the artist who produced the original production art for a low budget sci-fi film from Fox, called Star Wars) to design the new Enterprise (as seen above). This concept was kept for Phase II – and would ultimately play a major role in the plot of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, as well – and original production artist, Matt Jefferies (namesake of the famous Jefferies Tubes – the access tunnels that connect the decks of the Enterprise) to redesign McQuarrie's sketch to be more reminiscent of the original series design.
The new series was also going to introduce new main characters and alien species to interact with the returning original crew. Among them were new first officer, William Decker, and the Deltan female, Ilia. Decker was to be a young, hot shot officer playing counterpart to older and more seasoned Captain Kirk (William Shatner). Likewise, Ilia was to fill more of a role being left emptied by the lack of Spock in that her race, the Deltans, were a sexually driven race and she would have to suppress those aspects of her personality in order to work so close with the more inhibited human race. As a result she doesn't feel too comfortable with her position on the ship and must come to terms with it.
Like the refit of the Enterprise, the characters of Decker and Ilia would go on to be featured prominently in The Motion Picture, as played by Stephen Collins and Persis Khambatta, respectively. The personality traits of those characters and their past relationship history would also be integrated into the characters of William Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) when Star Trek: The Next Generation would come around some ten years later.
An entire 13 episode first season was written, costumes were designed, set pieces and props were built and as production was set to begin on the pilot episode, In Thy Image, the proverbial plug was once again pulled. Once again, a new Star Trek project was not to be. However, following the massive success of Star Wars, soon after, many of the characters and story elements – as previously noted – were recycled and in 1979 the world was given Star Trek: The Motion Picture which, unlike the proposed plans for Phase II, also brought back Spock (played once again by Leonard Nimoy).
Likewise, some of the already written scripts for Phase II would later be used in Star Trek: The Next Generation, most notably the episode entitled The Child, wherein Ilia is impregnated by a mysterious space fairing entity and gives a quick birth to a rapidly aging child. The story would become the season two premier of the sequel series and would replace Ilia with that of her TNG counterpart, Deanna Troi. The rest remaining mostly the same.
Years later, most of the constructed sets and props would be purchased in the Christie's Auction – detailed in the 40th anniversary documentary, Star Trek: Beyond the Final Frontier – by James Cawley and can now be seen in the fan made web series Star Trek: New Voyages (aka Star Trek: Phase II).
And that's the story of Star Trek: Phase II. While it would have been nice, I'm sure, to have seen at the time, one can't help but wonder what the future of Star Trek would have looked like had it happened. Would there ever have been a film franchise? What would it have been like had there not been The Next Generation? It's all speculation. However, I feel like the franchise got the better part of the deal in the fifty year long run.
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