Abandon ShipSeptember 9, 2008
Star Trek: Planet of the Titans. Coming soon to a theatre near you. Well no, it won’t. But it might have.
Planet of the Titans was to be the first Star Trek motion picture. Several years after The Original Series was cancelled, Paramount began to take note of the series’ growing fan base. As syndication spread the word, a new generation of fans was joining existing Trekkies. Conventions sprung up. The Mego toys were selling well. Kirk and Spock were more popular than ever – and, aside from the short-lived animated series, they hadn’t been on TV in years.
Things got started when Gene Roddenberry wrote a screenplay called The God Thing, a Trek revival that bore elements of what would later become TMP and The Final Frontier. But Roddenberry’s script wasn’t even seriously considered, and he wasn’t part of the team that started putting together the planned movie.
By 1976 there was a script. It would see the original crew, perhaps with a few new characters, led by Capt. Gregory Westlake in the search for a long-missing lunatic renegade named Jim Kirk. This would lead the Enterprise into an adventure involving Klingons, a super-planet and the titans of old – the original Greek gods – culminating in a time-travel expedition to Earth’s distant past, where the crew would play a pivotal, and paradoxical, role in advancing the rise of man, becoming said titans themselves.
Even now, this sounds like it could have been pretty good. If handled well, it may have jump-started Trek’s resurgence a few years earlier. There were even plans for a new Enterprise, design models for which later showed up as background wreckage at Wolf 359.
I remember this movie very, very vaguely. Without any kind of Internet, we 70s kids got our geekery where we could; there were occasional mentions of Planet of the Titans in newspapers and magazines, but nothing like we have today.
Still, the buzz built among my little tribe of Spocks and Kirks. We were right stoked for new Trek.
But it never happened. Director Philip Kaufman, producer Jerry Isenburg and writers Chris Bryant and Allan Scott were told the film wasn’t going to happen. Ralph McQuarrie’s Enterprise redesigns were dumped. The rebirth of Star Trek was over before it began. ‘Science fiction is dead,’ some Paramount honcho told Isenburg.
And then came Star Wars.
That kick in the ass jolted Paramount so hard that plans for a new Trek series were underway probably before Obi-Wan Kenobi’s empty cloak hit the floor. You’ve likely heard of Star Trek: Phase II, the aborted series that somehow became The Motion Picture and set Trek back on its flightpath to the future. All of that happened in the couple of years after Star Wars changed the landscape.
These days, as we fans wait for the new movie with a mix of excitement (that Trek is back) and concern (that it will be a revisionist piece of prequel shit), it’s nice to know that whatever J.J. Abrams does, he can’t possibly top the stupidity of the Paramount exec who said sci-fi was dead in 1976.