This year marks the momentous 50th Anniversary of the Star Trek franchise, which started in 1966 with creator Gene Roddenberry's beloved TV series. The franchise celebration will include a new big screen movie Star Trek Beyond, along with a 50th Anniversary convention in New York City later this year. Last week, a new book was published entitled The Fifty-Year Mission: The Complete Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of Star Trek - The First 25 Years from Thomas Dunne Books, with the second volume, covering the last 25 years, debuting August 30. This book by journalist Edward Gross and television writer/producer Mark A. Altman features amazing new information about plot details that didn't quite make it into the first Star Trek movie, 1979's Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
The original TV series only ran for three seasons between 1966 and 1969 before it was canceled, but reruns in syndication were bringing in huge ratings, which lead Paramount to consider the idea of bringing this franchise back on the big screen. Original series creator Gene Roddenberry wrote a script in 1975 for a Star Trek movie, that went on to be known as The God Thing, although it was rejected by Paramount's Barry Diller, who was a devout Catholic. The Hollywood Reporter posted an excerpt from this new book, where author Michael Jan Friedman, who was brought on to write a novelization of The God Thing that never came to be, revealed that Kirk and his crew were essentially fighting God in this story.
"Gene had written a script for the first Star Trek movie. Certain elements showed up in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, but most did not. So there was this mysterious script floating around that people talked about as if it were the Dead Sea Scrolls. After I had written several successful Trek novels, Trek editor Dave Stern asked me to turn Gene's efforts into a novel called The God Thing. To the best of my recollection, I received both the script and a short narrative version of it. Naturally I jumped at the chance to translate and expand it. Gene was - and still is - one of my heroes, for God's sake, no pun intended. As he had already left the land of the living, this was a unique opportunity to collaborate with him. But when I read the material, I was dismayed. I hadn't seen other samples of Gene's unvarnished writing, but what I saw this time could not possibly have been his best work. It was disjointed - scenes didn't work together, didn't build toward anything meaningful. Kirk, Spock and McCoy didn't seem anything like themselves. There was some mildly erotic, midlife-crisis stuff in there that didn't serve any real purpose. In the climactic scene, Kirk had a fistfight with an alien who had assumed the image of Jesus Christ. So Kirk was slugging it out on the bridge. With Jesus."
This excerpt from the book also features an interesting story from Star Trek star William Shatner. The actor was shooting the series Barbary Coast at the Paramount lot, and just happened to run into Gene Roddenberry, while he was writing the script for The God Thing on the same stage they shot the Star Trek TV series. Here's what the actor had to say about his chat with Gene Roddenberry on the Paramount lot.
"He was sitting in a corner, typing. I hadn't seen him in five years. I said, 'Gene, the series has been canceled!' He said, 'I know, I know the series has been canceled. I'm writing the movie!' So I said, 'There's gonna be a movie? What's it gonna be about?' He said, 'First of all, we have to explain how you guys got older. So what we have to do is move everybody up in a rank. You become an admiral, and the rest of the cast become Starfleet commanders. One day a force comes toward Earth - might be God, might be the Devil - breaking everything in its path, except the minds of the starship commanders. So we gotta find all the original crewmen for the starship Enterprise, but first - where is Spock? He's back on Vulcan, doing R & R; five-year mission, seven years of R & R. He swam back upstream. So we gotta go get him.' So we get Spock, do battle, and it was a great story."
Gene Roddenberry passed away in 1991, and it isn't known if there is still a copy of his script for The God Thing in existence. Four years after Gene Roddenberry wrote that script, Star Trek: The Motion Picture was released, which was written by Harold Livingston, based on the characters created by Gene Roddenberry. We'll never know what would have happened if Paramount had moved forward with The God Thing as the first Star Trek movie, but hopefully one day the full script will surface for all to see.