(written from a Production point of view)
Star Trek: Planet of the Titans (alternatively called Star Trek: Planet of Titans) was to have been the first motion picture based on Star Trek: The Original Series. It was one of several early attempts to bring Star Trek back after the series had been canceled.
As written by Chris Bryant and Allan Scott, the film was set after the five-year mission depicted in the series, and involved Starfleet competing with the Klingons for claim to the supposed homeworld of the mythical Titans, a technologically advanced race, long thought extinct. As the planet was pulled into a black hole, the USS Enterprise must also face off against the Cygnans, the alien race responsible for the disappearance of the Titans. Ultimately, Captain Kirk was forced to take the Enterprise into the black hole to defeat the Cygnans, a decision that sent the starship and its crew backwards in time thousands of years and into orbit around Earth. After introducing fire to the primitive Humans living at the time, Kirk and his crew were revealed to be the legendary Titans. (The Making of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, pp. 32-33) In the words of author Allan Asherman, "The script concerned the disappearance of Captain Kirk, the resignation of Mr. Spock, and the discovery of an invisible 'Planet of the Titans'." (The Star Trek Compendium, 4th ed., p. 151)
When the story was rewritten by Philip Kaufman, the plot began with the Enterprise in deep space, rescuing survivors from the planets of a solar system that was being destroyed by a black hole. Spock communicated with two of the newcomers – a pair of aquatic aliens who, despite being known as highly logical lifeforms, wanted to be returned to their homeworld, so they could be surrendered to "the one who calls." Due to Spock's contact with the duo, strange images had imprinted themselves on his mind which he couldn't decipher but which gave him a feeling of serene finality. With the ship filled to capacity, the Enterprise began heading to Starbase, having concluded its five-year mission. Meanwhile, Spock planned to leave Starfleet and return to Vulcan.
A fleet of Klingon vessels suddenly approached and a battle ensued. Though the Enterprise was at a severe disadvantage, the ship managed to destroy the Klingon vessels, with all but the lead craft destroyed in the black hole, and took aboard a Klingon commander who had survived the conflict and had no respect for Spock but was impressed by Kirk. The captain and his crew were dazed by what seemed to be glimpses into their own future. Kirk and Spock violently fought each other, the former insistent that the Enterprise steer into the black hole, whereas Spock was adamant that the ship proceed away from it. After assaulting Kirk, Spock killed one of his fellow crew members and locked the craft on a journey home. However, he ended up unconscious in the computer room, with none of the crew members retaining any memory of these odd events.
Spock sensuously dreamt of a woman he met when he thereafter awoke at Starbase: Dr. Riva, a Starfleet medical officer who could project herself into the dreams of others (a technique similar to a Vulcan mind meld). Having been assigned to investigate the mystery, she questioned Spock, who had no memory of the fight but came to accept, by replaying records from the Enterprise, that he was personally to blame for his recent transgressions, though Riva had a feeling that something else was the cause. Spock and Riva were baffled by mutual feelings of intimacy towards each other, despite the two having never met. Riva related this mystery to her constant companion, the alien Shoonashoo, while they walked together, through the paradisaical surroundings on Earth. Riva had suspected the Enterprise crew of having some type of space madness but had been unable to detain them for any further questions, though Spock was being held by the authorities. Riva released him, but, despite knowing of his eagerness to return to Vulcan (which was now increased due to the guilt he felt), she firstly ordered him to help her with her investigation. Growing closer during that assignment, they began to suspect that something evil lurked in the black hole. Spock explained that, according to theory, black holes could be used as a method of time travel, though both he and Riva were skeptical that this was the case and that the black hole itself had drawn the Enterprise crew to it.
More strange events had recently been occurring on the Enterprise, while the ship had been undergoing refit on an asteroid. Technical officers from among the ship's crew somehow knew technical data which was decades in advance of their present, all of which was being used in the ship's refit. Spock alone was able to understand information he extracted from the vessel's bio-computers, deciphering it as a complex flight plan that would allow the ship to navigate through the black hole; the highly improbable instructions had been input into the bio-computers in much the same way as the crew members had been given their data. Riva questioned the Klingon commander, who resisted speaking to her but now wanted to stay with Spock, as the Klingon had dreamt their destinies would be intertwined. The Klingon was convinced an evil beast was in the black hole and vowed vengeance on it, having had a premonition that Spock would lead him to the creature. Spock, followed by the Klingon, finally returned to Vulcan, feeling deeply ashamed, despite Starfleet having dismissed murder charges against him. Wanting to exorcise his Human half, he participated in a Vulcan ritual, wherein the Elders of Vulcan mind melded with him.
As the black hole started to move towards Earth, Riva and Shoonashoo felt themselves strangely compelled to head to Stonehenge together, as did Kirk and his crew, although they had separated after the Enterprise's five-year mission. Riva learned that rumors abounded about the mysterious Stonehenge, one of which stated that a highly advanced race of Titans had lived there long before modern-day Humans, and had become their progenitor. After the reassembled Enterprise crew gathered in the area, Kirk declared that Starfleet would send them back into space again, in response to an emergency that Riva knew nothing of and was therefore skeptical about. She confronted Kirk with her suspicions, but he then received a call ordering him to immediately report to Starfleet due to an emergency. Kirk, followed by Riva, returned to the Enterprise, where she persuaded the captain to have both Spock and herself aboard the vessel when it left on its forthcoming mission to the black hole.
On Vulcan, Spock was trying to undertake a tortuous test for himself when he and the Klingon got into an argument with each other over the specifics of the test. The Klingon wouldn't leave unless Spock promised to allow the Klingon to accompany him when he was taken on a mission to the black hole. However, Spock was doubtful that anyone would come for him and eventually rendered the Klingon unconscious with a Vulcan nerve pinch. Contrary to Spock's expectations, however, Kirk, Riva, and McCoy beamed down to meet with him. Kirk explained the black hole had reportedly been moving, a highly unusual event that fascinated Spock to the point where he wanted to leave with the group, though he also brought the Klingon as well.
Next, the Enterprise crew prepared for battle, fashioning a type of headband that would shield their minds from being possessed again. In their efforts to stop the black hole, they unsuccessfully attempted to contact it, probe it, warn it, and divert it from course using photon blasts. The black hole instead, somehow, managed to engulf the ship.
Following a spectacular journey through the black hole – in which a huge silvery ball, emitting light-beams, was visible – the Enterprise emerged into "a suddenly placid universe" where there was no reply from Starbase. Kirk and his crew, upon regaining consciousness, found their vessel was being steadily and slowly pulled towards a devastated Earth without their control. In a desperate effort to keep at least part of the ship aloft, Kirk ordered a saucer separation, leaving some members of the crew in the stardrive section. The saucer section landed, without too much damage, in a graveyard of other spaceships, where many gigantic Starfleet vessels, all of them more highly advanced than those from the Enterprise's era, had previously crash-landed. The fact that the Enterprise's stardrive section would, in time, likewise crash to Earth added pressure on Kirk.
Moments after some fearful ape-like creatures were glimpsed and the crash-landed crew members exited the saucer section, the officers suddenly experienced hallucinatory fear and paranoia, then excrutiating pain. Running through the forest, they found a huge spider-like being, which appeared to be part animal, part electrical, and part plant. The creature was being attacked by a group of men, and whenever it was struck, the Enterprise crew experienced cerebral pain. Unexpectedly, they began to quarrel with the attackers, defending the creature. However, the beast's heart was pierced with a spear that one of the strangers lunged into the creature, killing it. The Enterprise officers were released from its influence on their minds, and the gravitational pull on the stardrive section suddenly eased.
The strangers were led by an old man, whose name was also James T. Kirk; he was actually the son of Kirk and one of the female officers from the Enterprise (whom Kaufman suggested might be Uhura). The old man cried tears of happiness to see his father again and explained his own backstory. After Kirk had had a son, he had gone back out to space, never to be heard from again, though the son had always been faithful that the father would someday come back. Captain Kirk didn't recognize the old man, but even so, the Enterprise crew quickly went on to form an alliance with the son's group. The Enterprise officers were instructed to wear their headbands at all times. The son himself related that the monstrous spider-like creatures had clearly taken over the planet Earth and sent their own thoughts through time in order to lure men, from various time periods, here. However, most men from the future had come to think of the headbands as unnecessary, superstitious gear, and their rejection of the mindscreen shields had caused their intelligence to be wiped by the creatures, turning these men into the Neanderthal ape-like forms seen earlier.
The son's band told the newcomers more about the creatures, saying that all the spacemen (including aliens too) had been attracted there by a black hole and that there were many of the spider-like beasts, apparently linked telepathically. The newly killed creature had been thought to be the one responsible for the crash-landings, a hypothesis confirmed by the freeing of the stardrive section. Some of the beasts had pleaded that they had been trying to "remake man," which led Spock to wonder if any of them could have been spared for questioning, but the Klingon argued that the son's group had been right to kill the creatures. The Klingon then asked if his people had arrived there, but no-one had seen them, and most who tried to traverse the black hole died in the attempt. Those who had succumbed to the monsters' mind control had ended up deformed, explaining the images of strange humanoid lifeforms in Earth mythology.
Working with Dr. Riva again, Spock deduced that there was a central brain center somewhere that was connected to all the spider-beasts and was in control of the black hole. Riva intuited that the control center was at Stonehenge, so she went there with Spock at night. There, they found the stones arranged into a huge structure, archway built upon archway, and electronic apparatuses operating underneath, with a huge silvery ball at the top, the same one from inside the black hole. Spock realized this was the beasts' control center, though he and Riva were then taken prisoner by a group of male time-travellers called the Keepers. They led Spock and Riva before the massive spider-beast, far bigger and more terrifying than any seen before, then ripped off their headbands. Kirk and his officers were alerted by Shoonashoo to the disappearance of Riva and Spock, who felt deep sadness and tried to strengthen their minds by uniting in a mind meld. Kirk and his subordinates attacked the Keepers, who fought fiercely to protect the beast. In the fray, Kirk's son was fatally wounded. Spock and Riva tried to make Kirk and his companions stop their assault, though the Klingon struck the beast with a sharp blade before Spock could render himself unconscious with another nerve pinch, and the other attackers believed both Spock and Riva were under the beasts' mind control. Finally, at Spock's imploring, Kirk removed his own headband, and consequently realized that the attack needed to cease. In fact, he even ordered McCoy to tend to the injured creature.
As the Enterprise crew learned, the "beast" was really the Last Man on Earth, a result of faulty genetic mutation experiments which, in the far, far future, Humans had carried out, eager to explore all possibilities of mankind and allow Human brains freedom from its narrow confines so it could explore all things. For eons, it had lived with other men on Earth, who had become interested in seeking Nirvana and had ultimately left the planet in the form of non-corporeal sentient clouds. Apart from the Last Man, the Earth had been abandoned. Ages passed. The Last Man knew how to communicate through time, though he was restrained to Earth and was incapable of time travel. Even when he began attempting to summon men from the past in an attempt to rebuild Humankind (the Enterprise crew having been the earliest ones capable of making the journey), they denied the thoughts he stimulated in them and mistakenly deemed him "evil," unable to accept this monstrosity as mankind's future. As a result of the deformities they had accidentally created, the Last Men had decided they couldn't rely on genetic manipulation to propagate the species; all new Humans had to be created via sexual procreation, so the Last Men started to search for a man and a woman to repopulate the species. Since then, all the other Last Men had unfortunately been tracked down and exterminated.
With the popularity of Star Trek conventions, as well as re-runs of Star Trek: The Original Series, a revival of the franchise remained up in the air during the mid-1970s. Gene Roddenberry favored Star Trek returning in the televised form of "several movies-of-the-week each season." (TV Showpeople, June 1975) However, around this time, mid-1975, Paramount Pictures announced they would be producing a Star Trek movie for theatrical release, so work began on attempting to find a plot for the forthcoming film. Many efforts were made to devise a usable story, which included the writing of multiple stories by Roddenberry – including The God Thing – and the writing of The Billion Year Voyage by Robert Silverberg. Though Paramount (in early 1976) briefly scheduled the planned production as a television movie, they later (in April 1976) changed it back to a theatrical feature film. (The Star Trek Compendium, 4th ed., p. 151)
In his book Star Trek Creator: The Authorized Biography of Gene Roddenberry (p. 429), David Alexander wrote that the film was budgeted for US$7.5-9 million. Susan Sackett reported, in her book The Making of Star Trek: The Motion Picture (pp. 23 & 27), that the project's budget was raised, in July 1976, from between three and five million US dollars to between six and eight million US dollars. According to Star Trek Movie Memories by William Shatner and Chris Kreski (hardcover ed., p. 40), the film had a proposed budget of about US$11 million when it was greenlighted, at which time hiring of key staff members began.
In April 1976, Paramount assigned Gene Roddenberry as the film's producer. (The Star Trek Compendium, 4th ed., p. 151) In July, the studio decided to assign an executive producer. Jerry Isenberg was chosen for the job, and wasted no time in attempting to secure qualified writers for the movie, which now had the working title Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Meanwhile, Jon Povill was hired as Gene Roddenberry's assistant, and was given his first task: to compile a list of screenwriters who might be able to write the script. At about the same time, he was also called upon to compile a list of potentially suitable directors. (The Making of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, pp. 27 & 29)
Jon Povill responded to the latter request in a memo to Gene Roddenberry, dated 22 June 1976. There, Povill remarked, "I would guess that the following people on the list will be unavailable, though they would be good for the project." He then listed seven directors: Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Robert Wise, William Friedkin, George Roy Hill, and Norman Jewison. (The Making of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, p. 29)
In a memo dated 1 July 1976, Jon Povill sent the requested list of possible screenwriters to Gene Roddenberry, commenting, "I have listed a number of people whose credits seem a very far cry from science fiction but who in some way struck me that they might be able to do the job anyhow – perhaps if given the story to work with (which we don't have to give yet, of course)." Povill then listed thirty-four candidates, including Edward Anhalt, Robert Towne, James Goldman, Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, Gene Roddenberry, Ernest Lehman, Robert Bloch, Lorenzo Semple, Jr., Paddy Chayefsky, Peter Benchley, as well as Roddenberry and Povill themselves. (The Making of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, pp. 23 & 27-28)
The second issue of Starlog magazine (p. 13) reported, "According to Susan Sackett, Roddenberry's secretary (and an accomplished writer herself), Gene is now deciding on just one writer – a skillful and highly experienced screenwriter – who will develop what will be the film's screenplay – just in case Paramount decides not to use Gene's latest treatment."
All the names of screenwriters that Jon Povill had recommended were rejected in favor of two young, English writers: Chris Bryant and Allan Scott. (The Making of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, p. 28) They were specifically sought by Jerry Isenberg, so impressed was he by their work on Don't Look Now, a film Gene Roddenberry liked too. (Starlog, issue 7, p. 32) Neither Bryant nor Scott had ever written any science fiction before, but their enthusiasm and eagerness to learn made up for their lack of knowledge about the genre. (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 83) The writing pair moved from their respective homes in England and Scotland to Los Angeles. (The Making of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, p. 28) Their change in surroundings was so they could work more closely with Roddenberry and Isenberg. (Starlog, issue 3, p. 8) Scott and Bryant were hired by late July 1976 and were to start their work on the film on 16 August 1976. Their outline was planned to be eight to ten pages in length, for which they would be paid US$12,500, plus more for the first draft script and revisions. (Star Trek Creator: The Authorized Biography of Gene Roddenberry, p. 429) Bryant and Scott arrived at Paramount Studios in September 1976. (Starlog, issue 7, p. 32)
Jon Povill turned out to be right to have thought none of the directors he had suggested would be available, at least not for the amount of script money they could make by taking part in this medium-sized film project. (The Making of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, pp. 28 & 29) Jerry Isenberg and Gene Roddenberry ultimately decided to hire Philip Kaufman to direct the film, which was to be produced in England. By this time, the start of production on the film was postponed to the spring of 1978. (Starlog, issue 3, pp. 8 & 12) However, the plan to film the movie in England would reduce costs by several million dollars. (The Making of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, p. 32)
Alan Scott, Chris Bryant, and Philip Kaufman were given a quick round of Star Trek screenings to study, beginning with the ten episodes Gene Roddenberry deemed the most representative of the show and also the ones regarded as the best and most popular with audiences. These were "The City on the Edge of Forever", "The Devil in the Dark", "Amok Time", "Journey to Babel", "Shore Leave", "The Trouble with Tribbles", "The Enemy Within", "The Corbomite Maneuver", "This Side of Paradise", and "A Piece of the Action". Along with these episodes, the group additionally watched many science fiction films, such as 2001: A Space Odyssey and Robinson Crusoe on Mars. (The Making of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, p. 30)
Writing an initial story outline for the movie, Alan Scott and Chris Bryant shared an office, using typewriters on a pair of desks positioned back-to-back. (The Making of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, p. 28) In her book The Making of Star Trek: The Motion Picture (p. 28), Susan Sackett recalled, "Often during a strained writing session, the air would suddenly explode with raucous laughter, their door would burst open, and Allan, the more outgoing of the two, would charge out, his blue eyes dancing with mischief, to tell his latest joke or pun – he was very big on puns – to anyone within earshot. To relieve the tensions of the constant writing pressures, they played with toys, did magic tricks, and wrote funny memos [...] [that] often jokingly used other people's names [as the sender]." Fears were raised among the creative personnel, however, that the movie's tale might be riddled with plot holes and errors in story logic. (Star Trek Creator: The Authorized Biography of Gene Roddenberry, p. 431)
The film project was given a boost, from Paramount's perspective, with the unveiling of the space shuttle Enterprise on 17 September 1976. Realizing they could take advantage of this event to promote the forthcoming movie, Paramount released a full-page ad in the New York Times on 21 September, which proclaimed, "Starship Enterprise will be joining the Space Shuttle Enterprise in its space travels very soon. Early next year, Paramount Pictures begins filming an extraordinary motion picture adventure – Star Trek. Now we can look forward to two great space adventures." Ironically, neither of them would ultimately launch. (The Making of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, p. 30)
A magazine article printed in late 1976 purported that the new film was being planned to feature ten cameo roles. However, the same article made no mention of a proposed story, despite saying there was talk about a sequel if the movie was successful. (Star Trek Creator: The Authorized Biography of Gene Roddenberry, p. 429)
Chris Bryant and Allan Scott finished their initial outline on 8 October 1976. (The Making of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, p. 31) It was fifteen pages long. (Star Trek Creator: The Authorized Biography of Gene Roddenberry, p. 431) The treatment was accepted by Paramount, the first story that the studio had approved for the film project, and the writing duo immediately set to work on writing the script version of it. Although Gene Roddenberry was meanwhile in London, Jerry Isenberg and Phil Kaufman sent a telegram to the hotel where he was staying, asking him to return. The message stated, "Paramount has ordered screenplay. Full support and excitement. Congratulations. Please come home. Love, Jerry and Phil." Roddenberry caught the earliest flight back to the States. (The Making of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, p. 31) On 26 October, he sent a memo of story notes to Bryant and Scott, voicing his thoughts on their story to date. He forwarded the memo to Isenberg and Kaufman but to no-one else, as it contained what Roddenberry called "writer talk." He wanted to feel free to...
"...make every question or criticism, large or small, that comes into my mind. While we understand this level of early story communication, I don't want it in the hands of those who might read more problems into it than really exist. You two writers are almost too good! Your fifteen page story was styled so excitingly that the holes and discrepancies which worried you and us were hardly visible. Many of them are fixable in script, of course. But a great number of them, at least in my opinion, are not and the time to tackle them is now. If some of what follows sounds silly or picky-ish, I know you will accept it in the spirit of my simply wanting to get everything discussed. I know that neither you nor Phil will have any hesitation about coming back to me where it appears my opinions are too much influenced by 'television Star Trek' concepts." (Star Trek Creator: The Authorized Biography of Gene Roddenberry, pp. 430-431)
Roddenberry's memo proceeded with nine and a half pages of detailed analysis of the treatment Scott and Bryant had written. The story notes asked questions and attempted to solve problems as well as potential problems. (Star Trek Creator: The Authorized Biography of Gene Roddenberry, p. 431)
Following the news that the story treatment for a new Star Trek film had been approved, Star Trek fandom went crazy. Letters from ecstatic fans swamped Bryant, Scott, Kaufman, and Isenberg, while invitations to conventions also poured in. One such event that Bryant and Scott were requested to attend was a Star Trek convention in San Francisco on 12-13 February 1977, about which the writers dispatched a humorous memo to Roddenberry (dated 13 December 1976), asking for advice about what he didn't want them to say in regard to the movie. Roddenberry replied in a similarly light-hearted manner (in a memo dated 15 December 1976). (The Making of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, p. 31) As well as the reactions of jubilation, there was also a sense of public confusion over the revival of Star Trek. Adding to this were often contradictory newspaper articles or seemingly out-of-context announcements. On 15 February 1977, for instance, an article in the Washington Post reported that Paramount had declared Philip Kaufman would start filming this Star Trek movie by summer, with a budget of US$8 million, though the article also quoted Harlan Ellison as having asserted that Star Trek "is dead." (Star Trek Creator: The Authorized Biography of Gene Roddenberry, p. 435)
The storyline of Planet of the Titans was tweaked, rewritten, and obsessed over by Chris Bryant, Allan Scott, Jerry Isenberg, Philip Kaufman, and Gene Roddenberry to the point where none of them were completely pleased with it. Eventually, as deadlines neared ever more ominously, Bryant and Scott hid from the others, retired to a hotel room, locking the door, and pounded out their story. After allowing Roddenberry and Kaufman to recommend changes, they finally surrendered it to Paramount. (Star Trek Movie Memories, hardcover ed., p. 42)
The film's first draft screenplay wasn't submitted to Paramount until 1 March 1977. By then, expenses were mounting, so the studio was forced into either making the film on the basis of this story or scrapping it altogether. Jerry Isenberg initiated preproduction, he and others having been checking on facilities for producing the film in England, and Ken Adam, of James Bond fame, had already been hired as the film's production designer. (The Making of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, p. 32) He sketched new concepts for the starship Enterprise, featuring a flattened, triangular engineering hull. Artist Ralph McQuarrie, of Star Wars fame, was hired to do conceptual drawing and paintings, featuring variations on Ken Adam's Enterprise. (The Art of Ralph McQuarrie) According to the book The Art of Ralph McQuarrie, many of McQuarrie's illustrations for the project were speculative images not based on the then-unfinished script, such as images of the starship approaching an inhabited asteroid. According to Susan Sackett's account in The Making of Star Trek: The Motion Picture (p. 32), however, McQuarrie wasn't hired until after the first draft of the screenplay was submitted and his illustrations were "based on the Scott-Bryant script." That situation seems validated in the seventh issue of Starlog (pp. 30 & 51), as it mentioned the hiring of McQuarrie as a recent development as well as referencing Scott and Bryant as having left the project.
Make-up artist Rick Baker was in discussions to work on the film's make-up. "They talked to me about doing some aliens for that," he revealed. (Enterprise Special #3, 1976, p. 34)
In light of the fact that an earlier proposed screenplay had similarly featured the Enterprise emerging millions of years in the future, Bryant and Scott sent a humorous memo to Gene Roddenberry, under the guise of Gulf and Western's chairman, Charles Bluhdorn. The document stated, "It is my policy not to interfere in creative decision processes and this is merely to record my enthusiasm for the story which I read last week. May I, however, ask that in the final sequence when the Enterprise arrives at Earth several millions of years in the future there be some indication that the solar system is principally owned by Gulf and Western. Nothing ostentatious, mind you, but just the subtlest of hints to this effect. Keep up the good work." (The Making of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, p. 33)
According to the fifth issue of Starlog (p. 39), due to script issues, contracts had to be renegotiated because the start date was delayed until June 1977:
"One of the major difficulties with the script has been including enough background material about the Federation, Vulcan, etc. to explain the universe of Star Trek to those who are not familiar with the show – without boring hard core Trekkers to tears. NBC is reportedly footing the bill for part of the production budget which is now said to be in the neighborhood of eight to twelve million dollars. Part of the deal (if the film is successful) calls for two ninety-minute specials to be made for TV. Roddenberry has said he would produce no more than six Star Trek episodes a year, if asked. Design work on sets and props is in full swing at Paramount's Stage 15, which has five times the area of the old Stage 9 used for the TV series."
On 17 March 1977, a surprise party was thrown to celebrate the departure of Chris Bryant and Allan Scott. The next day, taped to the door of Gene Roddenberry's office, was their final memo, addressed to "all on Star Trek." It mused, "Giving birth takes nine months. We've only been gestating for seven. So there's no baby. But there's an embryo. Look after it." (The Making of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, p. 33; Starlog, issue 7, p. 30)
In an interview printed in the seventh issue of Starlog (pp. 32 & 33), Allan Scott spoke about the problems which had been encountered in the development of Planet of the Titans, observing that one difficulty had been in defining the "difference between what is television and what is movie." He confirmed that all the TOS main characters would return in the film, along with a few new ones to "augment and supplement" the existing parts. (Star Trek Creator: The Authorized Biography of Gene Roddenberry, p. 429)
By the time the actual script was issued in first-draft format, it had received input from so many of the collaborators – Isenberg, Kaufman, and Roddenberry, in addition to the two writers – that it hardly seemed anything like the story that had been approved in October of the previous year. A few weeks after it was submitted to the studio, Paramount rejected the script. (The Making of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, p. 33) Their refusal of the screenplay specifically happened in April 1977. (citation needed • edit)
Around that time, Kaufman took on the task of writing the script, in which he wanted to focus on Spock and a Klingon character he envisioned being played by legendary Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune. Kaufman later revealed his vision for the project as being different from what was perceived by the audiences of The Original Series; "My version was really built around Leonard Nimoy as Spock and Toshiro Mifune as his Klingon nemesis.... My idea was to make it less 'cult-ish', and more of an adult movie, dealing with sexuality and wonders rather than oddness; a big science fiction movie, filled with all kinds of questions, particularly about the nature of Spock's [duality] – exploring his humanity and what humanness was. To have Spock and Mifune's character tripping out in outer space. I'm sure the fans would have been upset, but I felt it could really open up a new type of science fiction."  That Kaufman was able to envision a different spin on Star Trek as was hitherto commonplace was due to the fact that the studio had, for the first time in the franchise's history, completely and intentionally kept Roddenberry utterly out of the loop, he being considered a nuisance to work with by the studio. Still, Roddenberry confederate Assistant Producer Jon Povill kept him, against the wishes of the studio, abreast of the production by continuously consulting with him. (Star Trek Phase II: The Lost Series, p. 17; The Making of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, p. 27)
On 18 April 1977, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that the film had been aborted to make way for a new Star Trek television series, apparently scheduled to premiere in April 1978. On 28 April 1977, the Los Angeles Times suggested that the movie was still being written by Bryant and Scott but required a "significant overhaul" and was being postponed again, though the basic plot of the film would remain essentially intact. Roddenberry was quoted as remarking, "If it had just been another sci-fi film, it could have been done immediately." As the article went on, Roddenberry talked more in favor of a series of ninety-minute or two-hour specials, expecting they could come out of a successful film, and be more likely to not disappoint the audience. (Star Trek Creator: The Authorized Biography of Gene Roddenberry, p. 435)
Kaufman's script was never completed, as Paramount pulled the plug that May, just weeks before the release of Star Wars. Initially budgeted at US$7.5 million, the film had an estimated budget of US$10 million at the time the project was halted. Planet of the Titans was shelved and never revisited. Paramount, reluctantly bringing Roddenberry back into the fold, next moved ahead with a proposed TV series called Star Trek: Phase II, which eventually became Star Trek: The Motion Picture. (citation needed • edit) Publicly, the final word on Planet of the Titans seemed to come on 7 June 1977, when its cancellation – following nine months of preparation and a total expenditure of US$500,000 – was reported by The San Francisco Chronicle. The decision to abort the film shocked Kaufman. (Star Trek Creator: The Authorized Biography of Gene Roddenberry, p. 436)
- For a more detailed breakdown of the production history, please see: Star Trek: The Motion Picture production history
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Several small study models of the Enterprise designs were created during the project's short life, of which two at least made an appearance in later Star Trek productions. Stored away for the better part of a decade, they have been stated to have appeared in the "starship graveyard" scene in the aftermath of the Battle of Wolf 359 in TNG: "The Best of Both Worlds, Part II" (The Art of Star Trek, p. 56), though their presence there has not been confirmed.  One of the models is partially visible behind the interior hub of the spacedock in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, when the Enterprise enters.
The other model was present as B-24-CLN at Surplus Depot Z15, in TNG: "Unification I". Both models therefore became canon, albeit without class designations or names. The B-24-CLN study model – constructed out of wood and plastic, detailed with hand-applied tape and ink and measuring 15" × 8" – eventually turned up on 8 August 2010, as Lot #12 in Propworx's "Star Trek Prop and Costume Auction", estimated at US$1,000-$2,000, where it sold for US$3,500.
The concept models were featured in a series of concept paintings by Ralph McQuarrie, including some that featured the designs at an asteroid spacedock. Rick Sternbach recalled, "In early 1978, I held that McQuarrie asteroid painting in my very own hands, as it had been stored in the art department over Stages 8/9 during the aborted first attempts to make a Trek movie. There were rolls of prints of Ken Adam's stuff, and a couple of other McQuarrie renderings. The models of the triangular greebled Enterprise were there. The TOS set model was there. I could have walked off with the asteroid painting; it was such a little gem. So one weekend, I promised myself I would study all that material more closely come Monday morning. And it had all been spirited away. Well, some of it surfaced again some years later, and I seem to recall that Ralph got his little paintings back." (X) McQuarrie's concept of the asteroid spacedock later became the primary inspiration for Doug Drexler's Tholian asteroid dock, featured in the Star Trek: Enterprise season four episodes "In a Mirror, Darkly" and "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II". "I've always loved the idea of this, and was fascinated by Ralph McQuarrie's TMP [sic.] asteroid base painting," Drexler stated. (X)
- Ken Adam - Production Designer
- Jordan Belson† - Visual Effects/Opticals
- Chris Bryant - Teleplay
- Jerry Isenberg - Executive Producer
- Philip Kaufman - Director
- Ralph McQuarrie - Production/Concept Illustrator
- Derek Meddings† - Miniatures/Studio Models
- Jon Povill - Associate Producer
- Allan Scott - Teleplay
|Undeveloped Star Trek projects|
|Films: The God Thing • Star Trek: Planet of the Titans • Star Trek III • Star Trek: The First Adventure • Star Trek: IMAX • Star Trek: The Beginning|
|Series: Assignment: Earth • Star Trek: Phase II • Star Trek: Re-Boot the Universe • Star Trek: Federation • Star Trek: Final Frontier|
|Episodes: TOS • TAS • TNG • DS9 • VOY • ENT • DIS||Novels and reference books|