Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Star Trek The Billion Year Voyage : The Unproduced Scripts for Trek Movies in the 1970s

According to the book Lost Voyages of Trek and The Next Generation by Edward Gross and Mark A Altman, after rejecting initial treatments developed by Gene Roddenberry, Paramount studio's search for the proper vehicle to launch the first STAR TREK film began The writers approached included science fiction veteran Robert Silverberg; famed author Harlan Ellison, whose sole contribution to the show had been its most popular episode, 'City on the Edge of Forever;' and John D.F. Black, who had served as story editor of the original show's first season and penned 'The Naked Time,' (and who later wrote the story for the 'Justice' episode of THE NEXT GENERATION.)

John D.F. Black describes the storyline he pitched with a good-natured shrug. Something in his voice conveys the feeling that he still can't believe the way the studio handled the proposed film. 'I came up with a story concept involving a black hole,' recounts Black, 'and this was before Disney's film. The black hole had been used by several planets in a given constellation as a garbage dump. But with a black hole there's a point of equality. In other words, when enough positive matter comes into contact with an equal amount of negative matter, the damn thing blows up. Well, if that ever occurs with a black hole, it's the end of the universe--it'll swallow everything. The Enterprise discovered what's happened with this particular black hole, and they try to stop these planets from unloading into it. The planets won't do it. It comes to war in some areas and, as a result, the black hole comes to balance and blows up. At that point, it would continue to chew up matter. In one hundred and six years Earth would be swallowed by this black hole, and the Enterprise is trying to beat the end of the world. There were at least twenty sequels in that story because the jeopardy keeps growing more intense.'

Paramount rejected the idea. 'They said it wasn't big enough,' Black notes wryly.

In his excellent nonfiction assessment of horror and science fiction, DANSE MACABRE, Stephen King reported the rumor that Harlan Ellison went to Paramount with the idea of the Enterprise breaking through the end of the universe and confronting God himself. And that wasn't big enough either. Removing tongue from cheek, the author explained the real story to King: 'It involved going to the end of the known universe to slip back through time to the Pleistocene period when man first emerged,' he said. 'I postulated an alien intelligence from a far galaxy where the snakes had become the dominant life form, and a snake-creature who had come to Earth in the STAR TREK future, had seen its ancestors wiped out, and who had gone back into the far past of Earth to set up distortions in the time-flow so the reptiles could beat the humans. The Enterprise goes back to set time right, finds the snake-alien, and the human crew is confronted with the moral dilemma of whether it had the right to wipe out an entire life form just to insure its own territorial imperative in our present and future. The story, in short, spanned all of time and all of space, with a moral and ethical problem.'

Paramount executive Barry Trabulus 'listened to all this and sat silently for a few minutes,' Ellison elaborated. 'Then he said, 'You know, I was reading this book by a guy named Von Daniken, and he proved that the Mayan calendar was exactly like ours, so it must have come from aliens. Could you put in some Mayans?'' The writer pointed out that there were no Mayans at the dawn of time, but the executive brushed this off, pointing out that no one would know the difference. ''I'm to know the difference,'' he exploded. ''It's a dumb suggestion.' So Trabulus got very uptight and said he liked Mayans a lot and why didn't I do it if I wanted to write this picture. So I said, 'I'm a writer. I don't know what the fuck you are!' And I got up and walked out. And that was the end of my association with the STAR TREK movie.'

The Robert Silverberg story, entitled THE BILLION YEAR VOYAGE, was more of an intellectual foray as the Enterprise crew discover the ruins of an ancient but far more advanced civilization, and battle aliens in order to take possession of the wondrous gifts left behind, gifts which would surely benefit mankind some day in the future when he is ready to accept that responsibility.

Silverberg's effort for this apparent revolving door at Paramount was entitled The Billion Year Voyage, a 51 page treatment that begins with the Enterprise having just completed a mission on Persis, a world where the inhabitants are telepathically linked together to form a single "super-entity."

Staring into space, Kirk comments to Spock on the vastness of space, adding that the distance between galaxies cannot compare to that which separates one being from another. "We are each alone," Silverberg notes, "isolated, prisoners of our skulls, doing our best to reach the souls of others, and our best," the captain says, "is never good enough. Can we ever truly know another person? Can we ever actually trust anyone? Can we really touch som­one else?"

As McCoy joins in on the conversation, Spock states, "The captain is troubled by the loneliness of the human condition, doctor." Kirk admits the sociological structure of Persis is not what he has in mind, but he does wish that there were a way to truly reach someone; to achieve a communion of a kind. Spock, he considers, with the Vulcan mind-meld has actually achieved that which he finds himself seeking. Spock is uncomfortable with this whole line of conversation, and it takes McCoy to make Kirk recognize this.

As the treatment notes, "This opening interchange establishes Kirk (romantic, impulsive, sensitive, struggling in an almost inarticulate way to transcend his limitations); Spock (coldly logical, repressing all show of emotion, yet clearly subject to turbulent flows of humanity deep within himself which he feels he must keep in check); and McCoy (flippant, sardonic, but wise and perceptive). The scene also establishes one of the central themes to be resolved at the climax of the movie: the spiritual isolation of a non-telepathic species, each mind locked away from all others by impenetrable barriers."

At that moment, Uhura picks up an emergency from a group of archeologists on Aurora V, who have been excavating a Great Ones occupation site. Silverberg detailed some background information on the Great Ones sites. Thus far there have been 23 discovered over the past 12 years over a thousand lightyears. Each of these sites follow a particular pattern: they are seemingly outposts as opposed to settlements; similar artifacts are found at every site-intricate, baffling objects of gold and plastic, their craftsmanship being superb; and dating techniques have determined them to be anywhere from 850 million to one billion years. "Which means," he wrote, "the Great Ones had developed a galactic civilization at a time when nothing more than complex trilobites had evolved on Earth, and that their culture had changed very little during a span of at least a quarter of a billion years-implying a rigid, conservative civilization enduring for a period of time beyond human comprehension. Archeological teams are searching the galaxy for the Great Ones' homeworld.

Uhura reports that the team is threatened by so-called invisible enemies. A skeptical Kirk wants her to have a smaller ship in that quadrant investigate, but Spock argues-passionately-that they should investigate. McCoy suggests they investigate, pointing out privately that Spock has become extremely fascinated by the Great Ones. As they are on a routine patrol, Kirk agrees and has the Enterprise alter course for Aurora V.

Once there, Spock, Chekov and yeoman Baker (an American-Indian woman) beam down and meet with the archeologists, including leaders Dr. Henry Justinian, Dr. Hrkk of Fff and Pilazool of Shilamak, "a walking, talking machine man with nothing much left that's organic except his brain."

Spock requests that they be taken to the Great Ones site immediately, without even mentioning the distress signal. It is Chekov who brings it up, to which archeologist Kelley responds that things have mysteriously disappeared and they have heard ghostly footsteps. They fear that the site is haunted. Spock, naturally, is skeptical. "Gifted," Kelley claims she can detect a psychic aura from the intruder telepathically. The presence of others she detects have overtones of cruelty, treachery and unscrupulousness. Spock muses that she must be talking about Klingons, to which Kelley agrees. It is possible, she points out, that the Klingons may have discovered Great Ones sites as well. It isher feeling that the Klingons may have discovered a Great Ones device to render them invisible and that they may be hovering around the site at this moment.

When Kelley is called away, Spock, Chekov and Baker start exploring the site. Baker is abruptly grabbed by an invisible hand and carried away. A moment tater, Chekov notices she ismissing and informs Spock. Both men are attacked. Using his acute hearing, Spock is able to detect the location of their opponents and wards them off. Kelley and other members of the archeologist team arrive. Spock contacts the Enterprise to tell Kirk that there are indeed invisible beings lurking there. It ishis suggestion that the captain send down a search party with thermal sensors so that their heat-energy can be detected. Kirk agrees.

Kirk beams down with a landing party, and there is an instant romantic attraction between him and Kelley. The search begins, and as day becomes night they find Baker, battered but okay. They retire for the night, and the next day two things become obvious: Spock is growing obsessed over the Great Ones, and Kirk is completely infatuated with Kelley, while the excavation of the site continues.

Days pass and all is quiet, until one of the invisible beings lifts a pickax and is about to bring it down on Spock's skull while the Vulcan studies a metal globe that he has found. Kirk and Kelley see this and Kirk fires his phaser. The "invisible" transforms into a dead Klingon. Suddenly they are attacked by a whole group of invisible Klingons. It is a savage battle, but our people are ultimately victorious and the prisoners are beamed up to the Enterprise.

When everything settles down, the group examines the globe found by Spock. It is accidentally dropped and comes to life. "A strange blue light comes from slits along its surface; the field of light widens and grows more dense until it becomes a globe of dense colour, large enough to encompass the entire group. A 360­degree holographic projection can be seen, totally surrounding everyone; they are inside it, watching bizarre images take form, pictures congealing out of blue fog. For a long dreamlike moment, no one moves. Then Pilazool, the machine-man, is seen crouching over the globe, frowning, touching the control stud. The images vanish instantly. He touches it again: the globe starts to project. He shuts it off. Excitement."

The images they see are of the Great Ones, six-limbed humanoids described as having a reptilian ancestry; then of their cities; and, finally, "a cave interior, walls encrusted with glistening crystals. The camera looks through the transparent floor of the cave to see colossal machines throb­bing and hammering in an underground chamber: huge green pistons pumping endlessly, sleek black conveyor belts, spinning turbines."

The globe is shut off and it is obvious that the watchers are awed by what they have seen. Later, McCoy beams down just in time to see a new image being projected by the globe. They see a Great Ones ship moving through space, orbiting a very distinctive asteroid and releasing a series of robots which carve-out of the asteroid-a vault, in which one robot is left behind. When the images are over, Kirk muses over the possibility of a Great One robot being somewhere on this planet in a vault. Spock believes, given the obvious durability of the race's technology, that is indeed a possibility. If the Klingons are staking out Great Ones sites, Kirk reasons, it isvital that the Federation stay one jump ahead of them. They will seek out this asteroid.

The archeologist team joins Kirk and the others as they beam back aboard the Enterprise. Feeding all known information into the ship's computers, they come to the conclusion that the asteroid they seek is in their own galaxy. Utilizing computer simulation of the galaxy as it looked a billion years ago, Spock is able to discern the proper star pattern they need. The locale is Gamma 1443, and that iswhere they are headed.

According to the treatment, "what Kirk doesn't know is that several invisible Klingons have stowed away on the Enterprise. Their presence is made known to the audience, but not to any member of Kirk's command. Kelley's telepathic powers are of no value in detecting these stowaways, since she is picking up Klingon aura anyway from the prisoners in the brig and has no way of knowing that additional Klingons are prowling the ship."

They reach Gamma 1443, which is supposedly so close to death that it emits only a trickle of light. The star's temperature is 980 degrees, too hot for a landing but far too feeble to sustain a solar system. Enterprise locks into orbit around an asteroid belt and begins the search for the right one. After much searching, the proper asteroid is found. Kirk leads a landing party to the vault. The door is opened and one of the scientists, Dr. Hrkkk, rushes in, but is incinerated by a blinding yellow light. The Great Ones machinery is still operating, obviously, and remains guarded by the robot which has survived the passage of time.

Kirk has the globe beamed down and turns it on, its images flooding the vault. The robot responds, standing to its full height of 12-feet, and takes the globe from Kirk. The robot turns the globe on, watches the vault construction scene and points to the pattern of pro­jected stars, indicating the very different present-day pattern.

"It's telling us it knows a lot of time has passed," says McCoy.

From there, the robot beckons them to follow it into the vault. The incinerator turned off, they agree. The robot shows them "a kind of travelogue of the Great Ones' civilization."

Notes McCoy, "They make our accomplishments look like the doings of monkeys in a tree."

"And yet," Kirk counters, "monkeys though we are, we've managed to find our way across the universe to this place and set their robot free. Not bad . . . for monkeys."

's computers are able to translate the robot's language, and the robot, in turn, begins speaking in English. We leam that the robot-who they've nicknamed Ozymandias, is awaiting the return of the Great Ones. When asked about the homeworld of the Great Ones, Ozymandias, fearing for the safety of its creators, stops talking and retreats to the vault, switching the defensive field back on.

Kelley claims that the robot has a mind, and it is her thought that she could make herself a conduit between Kirk and the robot, "to set up a telepathic patch linking them so that Ozymandias can perceive Kirk's mind and reassure itself about the Captain's intentions. Kirk is immediately enthusiastic."

There are drawbacks, she notes. Primary among them is that if there is an imbalance, Kirk's mind could be bumed out, though this does not seem a likely possibility. After Spock and McCoy voice their protests, Kirk asks her whether or not there would be anyway to avoid such a reaction. Kelley muses that she could possibly link two minds to the robot so that there would be enough "mental energy" to handle any kind of a sudden surge. McCoy agrees to take part in this. Kelley begins, but Kirk passes out and we learn that Spock, sensing that the mind-link was too strong even for the combination of Kirk-McCoy, took their place. Moments later, Spock comes out of it and Ozymandias agrees to show them the homeworld of its creators.

Orymandias peers into space and appears as confused as a robot can appear to be. He claims that the proper star is not there. It is gone. The robot asks them to help it by bringing it to a nearby solar system where the Great Ones had established a large colony.

Everyone boards the Enterprise and makes way for McBurney'ss Star at warp factor three. Enroute, Kelley informs Kirk that she has received a mental message from her brother. Science Command wants her back on Aurora V. Kirk refers to Spock and McCoy. The Vulcan states that he should obey the orders, while the doctor argues that Kirk should do what is right for the Enterprise and Starfleet. Since he is not under Science Command's jurisdiction, Kellley wants to stay aboard, so the starship continues on its journey.

On McBurney IV, sensors detect a living city in terms of machinery, but there are no organic lifeforms down there. Ozymandias contacts fellow robots on the planet's surface, and at that moment all power drains from the Enterprise, the starship snared by the planet's gravity. Kirk is about to give the abandon ship order, when Scotty announces that the Enterprise "doesn't seem to be accelerating as it hurtles planetward. It is drifting down, floating, feather-light-as though in the grip of some titanic force. It violates all the laws of physics. The atmospheric molecules themselves are opening before the starship to provide it with a friction­free vacuum chute." Enterprise touches down, gently.

The robots which gather around them are fascinated, as they've never seen living beings before. They are machines which were created by machines. Shortly thereafter, Ozymandias announces that the Great Ones perished some 84,005,675 years earlier, leaving only their machines behind. It adds that the homeworld does exist but it is part of a Dyson sphere.

Silverberg details, "Dyson spheres were conceived by the 20th Century physicist Freeman Dyson, who observed that a solar system is a terribly wasteful thing. The central sun throws most of its energy into space; only air action is intercepted and used by the planets that surround it. A truly thrifty civilization would demolish one large uninhabited planet and use its mass to build a shell enclosing the sun at a distance of several hundred million miles. This would intercept every photon of energy the sun emitted. The builders would leave their native planet and take up residence on the inner surface of the artificial sphere. Not only would every point on that surface have constant access to sunlight, but the surface area of the sphere would be a billion times greater than the area of Earth, supporting an immensely expanded population with no energy problems whatsoever. A Dyson sphere, of course, would not show up on optical telescopes, since all of the sun's light output is trapped within the sphere. Which is why Ozymandias was unable to find it with an optical scan. It would however radiate its surplus heat in the infrared wavelengths, and could easily be detected that way."

proceeds back to the homeworld of the Great Ones. Enroute, it starts to become apparent that something mysterious is happening on board the Enterprise, though no one suspects invisible Klingons. Shortly thereafter, the ship is in orbit around the shell of the homeworld. While Ozymandias attempts to contact its creators, three Klingon battlecruisers launch an attack while, simultaneously, the invisible Klingons enter the Enterprise's phaser room, overpower the crew and disable the ship's weapon systems.

As Enterprise shields are buffeted, Spock and Kelley are able to launch an attack against the invisible Klingons. Ozymandias proceeds to the bridge and offers assistance. At first Kirk is reluctant to trust a machine, but he realizes it may be the only solution. Ozymandias hooks itself up to the ship's computer, and provides Enterprise with the edge it needs to prove victorious in this battle. The battle over, Ozymandias makes contact and a portion of the sphere opens to allow Enterprise to enter. As the vessel approaches a landing area, Ozymandias tells Kirk that 4,852 Great Ones still survive.

The landing party meets with a Great One, with life support equipment hooked up to various parts of its body. The being is described as "hideously old. Its body is wrinkled and pouchy; its scales no longer overlap, but spread apart to reveal folds of soft grayish skin. The eyes are dull, the expression slack. It does not move. It shows no sign that it is aware of them. It seems barely alive."

Ozymandias explains that they are all like that and will more than likely remain that way. It is Kirk's feeling that they should move on, that "it" deserves some privacy. As they walk off, they find a variety of Great One artifacts, including a thought amplifier, which permits communication from one mind to another. Kirk is intrigued with the notion of trying the device, but Spock is put off by the idea. The Vulcan mind-meld is a highly personal joining of the mind and is used only under the most extreme circumstances. Otherwise it is an invasion of privacy.

As the group steps into the corridor, Ozymandias announces that he must meet with his creators. While the Enterprise personnel await his return, Kirk is knocked down by an invisible foe, and the battle begins anew between our people and the Klingons, who have somehow escaped from the brig. Kelley, under great strain, begins picking up the Klingon auras and points them out for the others. But it proves too much for her. Kelley collapses, and the Klingons start to gain the upper hand. Out of desperation, Kirk places the Great Ones thought amplifier on his head, resulting in "an electric effect. He reacts as though a spike has been jammed into his skull. But only for a moment. The pain and surprise recede. Kirk is having a transcendental experience. He is touching other minds."

A smile crosses his lips as he reads the thoughts of McCoy, Scotty and Spock. Additionally, he is able to read the Klingons as well. With hardly any effort, he locates the Klingons, pulls them away from the others and phasers them. The dead Klingons materialize. Everyone is shocked at what he was able to do, and he tries to reassure them, ecstatic at being able to touch the minds of others. Only then does he remember that Kelley had collapsed.

: In sickbay, McCoy tells Kirk that Kelley will be okay. Her eyes open shortly thereafter, and Kirk tells her that everything will be alright, though he issaddened by the realization that she will be heading back to Earth and they will probably never see each other again.

As Kirk leaves sickbay, he finds Spock in the corridor, holding a Great Ones thought amplifier in his hands. He is concerned over the impact that this device, as well as others from the Great Ones, will have on a civilization as relatively primitive as ours. It's his suggestion that it would be more logical to declare the Great Ones' homeworld off limits to all beings, and that vessels be posted to guard the planet. Kirk says he will report to Starfleet and let them make the final decision. "What do you think will happen?" McCoy asks.

"I imagine," muses Kirk, "we'll make use of whatever we can handle at this stage of our development, and put the rest away until the proper time. At least, that's what I hope they'll do."

Whatever they decide, Kirk has had a brief taste of the communal mind, and feels that he'll never be the same again. With that, the Enterprise departs the Great Ones' homeworld to begin its next adventure.

This trio of stories were fascinating attempts at reviving the show, and it seems unimaginable that all of them were turned down. The revival game was destined to continue for some time to come.

For more on unproduced Star Trek from the 1970s, read our articles on Star Trek Phase II, The God Thing and Planet of Titans.