Welcome to Delayed Perspective the blog about Film and TV and other random things I tenuously argue are related to the subject. The mission of Delayed Perspective is a self-defeating attempt to share with you my thoughts on the films and TV shows that have been out for a while and I have only just caught onto or caught up with.
Often I will take a sideways look at a subject or sometimes I may do a straight up review, depending on what takes my fancy.
This week’s DP is about the Star Trek franchise and gives you a worrying insight into my mind, and is sure to leave you wondering if I have spent a little too long thinking about Star Trek. This post is a tribute to the mirror universe episodes of Trek, mixing fiction with real life events to imagine how the Trek franchise would have looked if things had worked out differently for the Phase II TV project;
Mirror Mirror On The Wall
READING about the recently released Star Trek Into Darkness got me wondering about what the Trek franchise would look like today if the original crew had taken the road less travelled and Phase II had made it to the small screen and the motion picture never got made.
The history of Phase II is well known, it had finished scripts, deals made to bring back some of the original crew, new characters created, sets built and test footage shot.
Let me take you on a journey into the Mirror Universe and let’s see what might have been, watch out for Emperor Tiberius.
Principal photography begins on the eagerly anticipated Star Trek Phase II in May, all the original actors are signed on, apart from Leonard Nimoy, who is still in dispute with Paramount over the marketing of his image as the Spock character. Despite this the mood is optimistic and even Paramount Televison Services’ financial difficulties are solved when a mysterious wealthy Trek fan (rumours that this backer is Q, up to his usual mischief, are unconfirmed) agrees to fund the Phase II project.
Star Trek Phase II debuts to great viewing figures and stellar reviews, garnering praise for its philosophical concepts and keeping in touch with the spirit of the original show. Special credit is given to James Doohan, who fans and critics alike see as the unlikely star of the show, displaying deft comic timing. A second season of 22 episodes is commissioned.
Rumours begin to circulate that Shatner and Doohan are not getting along due to Shatner being unhappy at Doohan’s high profile.
William Shatner shocks the acting world by announcing his departure from Star Trek, citing artistic differences and deciding to look for edgier roles.
The show runners, now faced with the void left by Captain Kirk leaving the bridge for good, come up with the stroke of genius that proves to have a lasting influence on the history of Hollywood.
For season two producers and writers decide to take a gamble on the popularity of the Scotty character and make him captain of the Enterprise, managing to persuade Leonard Nimoy to return as Spock.
After some delay due to re-writes following Shatner’s untimely resignation, the second season of Phase II kicks off and is a massive success, the viewing figures are immense and the critics love the show’s new dynamic, more of which later.
George Lucas, long an admirer of Shatner, offers him the part of Lando Calrissian in his upcoming feature Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back. Shatner, feeling the part is not big enough, politely declines the offer and Billy Dee Williams is cast instead. Shatner pours his energy into his charity work, biding his time before his stunning come back as Hamlet, which opens to outstanding reviews and packed audiences at Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on Broadway.
Star Trek: Phase II returns with Season Three. After appearing in only part of Season Two, Season Three marks the full time return of Spock and sees Leonard Nimoy write and direct several of the episodes. The relationship between Scotty and Spock provides the show’s spark and the actors revel in their characters’ comic banter and this spills over into real life as Nimoy and Doohan are regularly booked to appear together on talk shows promoting the show and they prove to be an engaging comic duo.
Expertly supported by the warm humour of DeForrest Kelley, the show has three real stars at its heart and Paramount move quickly to tie the stars into two more seasons. Dee Kelley is contracted for season four and five but Nimoy and Doohan only agree to season four initially not wanting to be typecast.
William Shatner receives a script for a new sci-fi project from up and coming director James Cameron, who feels that his unique vocal delivery may be perfect for the part of a cyborg killer from the future. William Shatner loves the script and its dark post-apocalyptic themes and he agrees a deal to appear in the as yet untitled movie.
Season Four of Phase II begins and due to Doohan’s more comedic style and the easy banter between Doohan and Nimoy the producers decide to take season four in a more overtly comic direction.
Halfway through Season 4, Nimoy and Doohan are pitched an idea for a movie that would play to their comedic talents by young director Ivan Reitman, who feels that the script’s combination of comedy and scientifically tinged supernatural elements would be ideal for the pair.
Ghostbusters is released starring James Doohan as Dr Peter Venkman, Leonard Nimoy as Dr Egon Spengler and Saturday Night Live Alumni Dan Ackroyd as Dr Ray Spenz. The film is also scripted by Ackroyd and Harold Ramis, who also appears in the film as Winstone Eddemore. It goes on to be the second biggest grossing film of 1984 and the most successful comedy film of the 1980’s. By the end of 1984 Nimoy and Doohan are officially comedy gold.
The Terminator, starring William Shatner in the title role, Micheal Biehn and Linda Hamilton is released and is a huge success.
Despite Paramount being initially hopeful of retaining the massively popular Doohan and Nimoy for Season 5, the pair, with the success of Ghostbusters under their belts, decide to quit the show, leaving the producers another metaphorical black hole to fill.
Season 5 begins after significant new casting and re-writes. With Paramount Television Service struggling financially and with viewing figures on the wane, it is announced to be the final season. After leaving the show in Season 2, following the return of Spock, David Gautreaux returns as Xon to give a much needed Vulcan presence aboard the Enterprise. Spock and Scotty’s characters are written out of the show but in a way that allows the possibility for a return.
The ever dependable Chekov is promoted to Captain and the narrative focus of the show is shifted to DeForest Kelley’s Dr. McCoy. The show also returns to a more serious style. Memorable highlights of Season 5 include the critically acclaimed fan favourite episode “The Wild Frontier”. The episode sees McCoy and Chekov travelling back in time to the old American West, where it is revealed that McCoy’s ancester is “Doc” Holliday and they end up playing a key role in the Gunfight at the O.K Corral. Also introduced for Season five is an innovative new character, the android Commander Data played by British Stage Actor Patrick Stewart. Although it is known that this will be the final season the plot lines for the main characters are left open-ended leading to rumours that a film spin-off is planned.
Season five also sees the departure of Star Trek stalwarts George Takei and Nichel Nicholls. Feeling they have taken the characters as far as they can go, they decline to renew their contracts and are written out of the show. Takei and Nicholls form their own very successful fringe theatre company and Takei goes on to make cameos in several TV shows as well as starting his own fencing academy, giving free tuition to underprivileged sections of the community. Nicholls, a gifted comedian takes up Bill Cosby’s offer to play his wife in his upcoming sitcom The Cosby Show and she stars in it for its entire 20 year run.
Star Trek Phase II ends with very little fanfare and despite Season 5 being a real return to form, it is felt it has run its natural course. DeForest Kelley settles into happy retirement and the convention circuit.
James Cameron’s sequel to Ridley Scott’s Alien is released. Aliens, starring William Shatner as Corporal Hicks, goes on to become an iconic film.
Twins – Starring James Doohan and Leonard Nimoy as unlikely Twins is a massive hit for the undoubted comedy stars of Hollywood.
Ghostbusters 2 is released and does sufficiently well at the box office for a third instalment to be put into production.
Ghostbusters 3 – “Werewolves and Presidents” is released. Doohan and Nimoy reprise their roles from the first two films and the plot sees the ghostbusting crew slung back in time by an evil spirit hell-bent on altering history. The Ghostbusters take on werewolves in Paris, during the French Resistance and are ably assisted by the ghost of Abraham Lincoln. This unlikely time travel tale prooves to be a massive success and Ghostbusters 4 is quickly agreed.
Terminator 2 – Judgement Day is released, William Shatner wins rave reviews as he reprises his role as the Terminator and cements his creative relationship with James Cameron.
Star Trek is becoming a distant memory with the non-trek success of so many of its stars. However the execs at Paramount have other ideas and they dust off an old script from Gene Roddenberry that sees the original crew travel back in time and become involved with the plot to assassinate JFK. Seeing the current trend for time travel movies, including Ghostbusters 3, Terminator and the Back to The Future Trilogy, the powers that be are convinced that what is needed to invigorate the Trek Franchise is a time travelling themed Star Trek film, with TOS crew reunited. James Cameron is decided to have the best credentials for bringing the project to life and is duly signed up to direct this big screen outing. Cameron also adapts the original Roddenberry script to give the premise a more populist slant. Rather than Spock, Kirk and co ensuring the assassination of JFK as Roddenberry originally envisioned, they prevent it. Leading to significant ramifications for the future of mankind. All the original cast members are approached and readily agree to take part, having long ago let bygones be bygones with relation to past artistic conflicts.
Ghostbusters 4 – “I Ain’t Afraid Of No Ghost”, is released and features an amusing cameo from Eddie Murphy. The film is significant as it sees Leonard Nimoy take the helm for the first time on a feature film.
Star Trek – “A President’s Destiny”, is released. The film is a dark and spectacular affair with its menacing themes and post apocalyptic ending not to everyone’s taste.
The ending divides opinion. JFK is saved but by altering the past a bleak alternative timeline is created and it leaves many unanswered questions. This effects laden epic makes a solid return at the box office and despite the mixed fan response Paramount commission a sequel. However despite the studio’s keenness none of the original actors want to take part as they all feel their character’s stories have been fully told.
And to the present day;
William Shatner continues to work with James Cameron and his other notable hits include a comedic turn in the action packed True Lies. Leonard Nimoy and James Doohan keep on making comedy hits but to decreasing returns. Nimoy increasingly works behind the camera but occasionally hints at a Ghostbusters 5, which at the time of writing languishes in development hell. Doohan begins to take quirkier roles such as playing a washed up actor in Lost In Translation, for which he is Oscar nominated. DeForest Kelley returns happily to retirement but makes many popular appearances at conventions across the world, often reciting his poetry. All plans for a Trek Sequel are shelved and the franchise seems to end.
After a number of years away from our screens, Paramount remembers something called Star Trek and feels a re-boot of the whole Trek franchise may work. They hire JJ Abrams to boldly go for a new feel and direction for the franchise. I leave you to ponder how this film would look?…..
Next week on Delayed Perspective I will have had a long rest and I promise no more borderline insane posts about fictional worlds starring Star Trek actors. (I have my eye on a Buffy The Vampire box-set and I will try my best to just review it)