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Star Trek: Planet of the Titans

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Real World article
(written from a Production point of view)
USS Enterprise, Planet of the Titans, aft

USS Enterprise concept painting by Ralph McQuarrie

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.

SummaryEdit

Set after the five-year mission depicted in the series, the film 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 is pulled into a black hole, the USS Enterprise must also face off against the Cygnans, the alien race responsible for the Titans' disappearance. Ultimately, Captain Kirk is forced to take the Enterprise into the black hole to defeat the Cygnans, a decision that sends 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 are revealed to be the legendary Titans. (The Making of Star Trek: The Motion Picture)

BuildupEdit

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. While no network had approached Gene Roddenberry to support a new Star Trek series, Roddenberry says he doubts it would be wise to start again in any case. "The old hour shows seem to have become larger than life, and it's pretty hard to fight a legend. The best way to bring Star Trek back on television now would be to do it as several movies-of-the-week each season. There we would have the time and the budget to make it better than before." (TV Showpeople, June 1975) Around this time, mid-1975, Paramount Pictures had announced they would be producing a Star Trek movie for theatrical release.

It would later be revealed in the premiere issue of Starlog (vol. 1, no. 1, August 1976, p. 25-26) that plans for the first feature film were already in the works: "The movie (title undecided) is to be written and produced by Gene Roddenberry—as soon as he finishes another movie, Magna I, a 20th Century Fox production about life under the sea, set in the year 2111." It was noted that "a number of story outlines have been prepared and are under consideration."

While Roddenberry's MAGNA I project would eventually be scrapped, little progress was also made with his Star Trek film project. The second issue of Starlog (vol. 1, no. 2, November 1976, p. 13) reported that the still "untitled, unwritten, and uncast" Star Trek movie had been an on-again, off-again project, which had already missed the original announced filming date of 15 July 1976. It was reported that:

When Paramount Pictures announced they would be producing a Star Trek movie for theatrical release– nearly a year and a half ago– Gene Roddenberry immediately began work on possible screenplay ideas. His first was one concerning the formative years of the characters– their days at the Space Academy, their first assignments, their coming together to man the Starship Enterprise, and the construction and launching of the UFP Starfleet.

This idea never made it to the submittal stage. The first script Roddenberry completed was on a different subject– and was rejected.

"The first script," Roddenberry recently explained, "was a story that dealt with the meaning of God. What I think bothered Paramount was that I had a little sequence on Vulcan in which the Vulcan masters, the people Spock studied under, were saying: 'We have never really understood your Earth legends of gods. Particularly in that so many of your gods have said, "You have to bow down on your bellies every seven days and worship me." This seems to us like they are very insecure gods.' "

The film's largest problem at this point is that Paramount still has not approved any of the screenplays or outlines that have been written. Both Robert Silverberg and Chris Knopf have written full screenplays; and Harlan Ellison, Dick Simmons, and Theodore Sturgeon have written outlines. All of them have been rejected by Paramount.

In an attempt to get the production off the ground, Roddenberry has completed yet another story treatment which will soon be shown to Paramount executives. Aside from the fact that this new story takes place five years after the Enterprise's "five-year mission to seek out and explore..." no information is available concerning plot.

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.

Some of the production considerations for the film at that time included:

The film– budgeted at a big $5,000,000– is now to start shooting in January.

The television series had special effects that were quite good for its time, but there were unfortunate limitations both in budget and the small-screen format. The movie version will show considerable improvement in the effects department– due to the large production budget and a new process called Magicam.

The original settings created for the television show, incidentally, have been destroyed. New Enterprise settings will be built and will be designed in much greater detail than was needed for TV.

All of the Star Trek original cast will be back to make the feature film, if all are available and if all will agree to the contracts Paramount offers them. At this point, negotiations are still in progress to secure the services of William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy.

Roddenberry told STARLOG that he wants to use not only the original actors but the production people as well.

"I'd like to use all of the original production people on the film. People like Fred Phillips with makeup, Matt Jefferies with set design, Bill Theiss with clothes design, and all the others. I thought they were the best when we were first doing Star Trek, and I still do now. I think the story with them is the same as it is with the actors. If available, they'd all like to do the film."

Roddenberry will be producing the Star Trek movie under executive producer Jerry Isenberg, a man who has spent many years working in television.

It was later announced in "log entries" in Star Log (vol. 2, no. 3, January 1977, p. 60) that Roddenberry was adapting his first script treatment, which had been rejected by Paramount, into novel form for Bantam Books. He summarized the storyline as follows:

Generally, the situation is that the five year mission is over and that it has been over for some time. Most of the regular crew have been promoted and, for the most part, are pretty unhappy with shuffling papers and other administrative jobs. Scotty has become an alcoholic, and McCoy has given up treating human patients to become a veterinarian, loudly proclaiming animals as the only sensible patients he has ever had. It gives us kind of a fun look at these people's strengths and weaknesses. In the story, there is a threat that brings them all back together again.

In the same "log entry", Star Log noted that "Gene said that the main thrust of the story deals with the meaning of God and whether or not God is much more and further beyond merely some entity that visited the Garden of Eden." Adding, "Though confident of publication in the near future, Roddenberry wasn't exactly sure when he would complete the book." Ultimately the novel was never completed.

HistoryEdit

B-24-CLN

USS Enterprise study model designed by Adam and McQuarrie for Planet of the Titans, ultimately seen in "Unification I" as the "B-24-CLN"

The film was to be produced in England, with Jerry Isenberg serving as executive producer. Together with Roddenberry, who was to serve as line producer, the two hired Philip Kaufman to direct the film. By this time, the starting production for the film was again pushed back, this time to the spring of 1978. (Star Log, vol. 2, no. 3, January 1977, p. 8 & 12)

Ken Adam of James Bond fame was hired to be the film's production designer. Adam 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 Adam's Enterprise, many of which were speculative images not based on the then-unfinished script, such as images of the starship approaching an inhabited asteroid. (The Art of Ralph McQuarrie)

British writers Chris Bryant and Allan Scott were selected to write the initial fifteen-to-twenty page treatment. They moved from England to Los Angeles to allow them to work more closely with Roddenberry and Isenberg. (Star Log, vol. 2, no. 3, January 1977, p. 8 & 12) Upon the acceptance of the initial outline by Paramount Pictures, it was turned into a screenplay, which was submitted on 1 March 1977. The following month, the script was rejected by Paramount.

According to the fifth issue of Starlog (vol. 2, no. 5, May 1977, p. 39), because of script issues, contracts had to be renegotiated due to the delay in the start date 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.

Around time, Kaufman had taken 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." [1] 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)

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 project was halted. Planet of the Titans was shelved and never revisited. Paramount, reluctantly bringing back Roddenberry into the fold, next moved ahead with a proposed Star Trek: Phase II TV series, which eventually became Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

Study modelsEdit

USS Enterprise study model B-24-CLN study model
USS Enterprise study model
B-24-CLN study model
USS Enterprise study model in Space dock Surplus Depot Z-15
...in Earth Spacedock
...at Surplus Depot Z15 (bottom)

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, page 56), though their presence there has not been confirmed. [2] One of the models was partially visible behind the 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 the 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 the Propworx's "Star Trek Prop and Costume Auction", estimated at US$1,000-$2,000, where it sold for US$3,500.

Pre-production staffEdit

† - as identified by former Cinefex reference author Kevin H. Martin [X]wbm

External linkEdit

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