STAR TREK ACADEMY - TOP GUN IN SPACE (PART TWO)
 



 

Reviewing the script for Ain't It Cool in 2006, 'Merrick' described the Star Trek Academy script as "surprisingly solid" . . .

"Frequently, it's extremely involving ... [with] tremendous heart and soul. It's even genuinely moving on a few occasions. The characters and 'vibe' of the original series are unequivocally nailed here," he adds. "It's in the way the characters speak, in the cadence of their dialogue, and the flow of the story." Structurally, he says, Star Trek: The Academy Years most closely resembles Top Gun: "Brash young loose cannon (Kirk) goes to the Academy, meets a girl, gets into trouble, whips up a few shenanigans, is pressed into unexpected action, and proves his value to the system via trial by fire." Despite such conceits, he continues, "this is very much a 'true' Star Trek script, throwing the hard core series philosophy into settings we've never seen fully realised before. Indeed, The Academy Years is about Star Trek becoming Star Trek, and heroes becoming the heroes they don't consider themselves to be."

Back in the late 1980s however, Star Trek fans were increasingly antagonistic towards the Starfleet Academy concept. Gently yet decisively encouraged by several of the original Star Trek actors, who had a vested interest in continuing to play the characters which had allowed them to live long and prosper, they began writing letters to Paramount, decrying the proposal as heresy. "We were really caught off guard and surprised by the fans who reacted so negatively to the idea of this movie," said Loughery. The negative response may have been due to rumour-mongering that the proposed film would be some kind of Police Academy-style Star Trek spoof, rather than a serious new direction for, and celebration of, the Star Trek franchise. Paramount executives were perplexed; if Star Trek could re-invent itself with an entirely new cast of characters on television, something The Next Generation had successfully achieved, why would the fans not accept a new cast of actors in their favourite roles - particularly after the low point of Star Trek V?

"Not blue-skinned furries with horns, but truly repulsive sewer-dwelling worms!"

In the meantime, alarmed at the Academy concept - which of course would not involve him playing Chekov - actor Walter Koenig decided to take matters into his own hands, boldly going to Frank Mancuso with a script outline for a sixth Star Trek film, subtitled In Flanders Fields. Koenig's story began with the Romulans joining the Federation, leading to all-out war with the Klingons; all Starfleet personnel are given statutory fitness tests and, when all of the Enterprise crew - with the exception of the physically and mentally superior Spock - fail, the ship is handed over to a younger crew. When the Enterprise subsequently disappears, Kirk and his former crew members are reassembled and despatched to search for the missing ship, eventually finding that its youthful crew has been kidnapped, along with Spock, by a race bent on draining their life forces for its own survival.

An epic rescue from these creatures - as Koenig puts it, "not stunt guys in suits, not blue-skinned furries with horns, but truly repulsive sewer-dwelling worms of slime and putrefaction ... things that the monsters in Aliens evolved from" is attempted, during which Kirk, Scotty, Sulu, Chekov and Uhura all fall on the battlefield, leaving McCoy and Spock as the only survivors from the original crew. As McCoy walks among his dead comrades, he recalls each of them in a poignant flashback (Koenig suggests several possible scenes from the television series), and ultimately rescues a weakened Spock from his captors. "In this loneliest, most desolate of moments, Spock [permits] himself the one expression of friendship that he has never before admitted to: his need of Leonard McCoy. Spock leans against the doctor for support, and the two men - adversaries in a thousand arguments over the years - walk off together."

Whether or not Mancuso ever considered Koenig's treatment, the Star Trek: The Academy Years idea was not pursued, although echoes of Loughery's script did turn up in future incarnations of the franchise, notably Star Trek: First Contact (experimental warp jumps), a pre-Kirk Enterprise in the eponymous series starring Scott Bakula, Erik Jendresen's Star Trek: The Beginning and, of course, J. J. Abrams' subsequent reinvention of the franchise with the eleventh Trek feature.
 

Editor’s note: If you regularly check out scifimoviepage.com’s Upcoming Movies section, then you would definitely want to check out Hughes’ book which looks at several science fiction movies projects that never made it to the big screen such as Kevin Smith’s Six Million Dollar Man, Steven Spielberg’s Night Skies and Stanley Kubrick’s Childhood’s End. It is highly recommended! Thanks to the publishers for permission to reproduce this excerpt for The Greatest Sci-Fi Movies Never Made.
 


 





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