inthyimage.gif (2365 bytes)

The Precursor to Star Trek: The Motion Picture
written by Alan Dean Foster
STORY TREATMENT, dated July 31, 1977

report & analysis by Dave Eversole

 

At this early stage of the aborted Star Trek: Phase II, a few characters had yet to be created by Gene Roddenberry and staff. Leonard Nimoy had turned the project down, so it was known that there would be a new Vulcan character to replace Spock. Additionally, the character which would eventually be Willard Decker was also in the planning stages. Thus, in Foster’s treatment, we have placeholder characters referred to as "Lt. Vulcan" and "Commander." Ilia had yet to be created.

ACT ONE

On a routine patrol, the Enterprise receives an urgent message from Starbase 14. A huge metallic object, some 30 kilometers wide and 70 kilometers long, is rushing at "supralight" velocity toward Earth. Radiation from the object is interfering with all computers on stations and outposts it passes. At first, Starfleet Science and Lt. Vulcan assume it is a large meteor. Commander points out that the Enterprise will soon intercept whatever it is.

As the Enterprise closes on the object, Lt. Vulcan relays sensor readings. The object is composed of many different alloys, hinting that they are refined. McCoy scoffs at the young science officer. Kirk orders a photon torpedo launch be made ready, just in case.

Visual contact is made, and when the huge object appears on the viewscreen, all are dumbfounded and amazed. McCoy tells Lt. Vulcan he was right: "That’s no meteor."

From the treatment:

The object is a gigantic chrome-and-silver construction of multiple spires locked together, like crystals of polished stibnite (antimony). The general effect is of some cathedral lying on its side. Against that gleaming leviathan the Enterprise is a tiny whitish shape.

Uhura reports they are being hailed. A rumbling voice announces that it is a servant of the great god N’sa (pronounced "en-sah"). Lt. Vulcan checks records, finds no deity by that name. The voice declares that it is on the way to Earth to rid it of a deadly infection. N’sa showed "the Wan" the glories of the Universe. "We of the Wan" will return the favor by clearing Earth of the disease poisoning its surface.

Commander asks what disease. Suddenly, the voice of the Wan gasps: "You! The disease has spread even into the clean depths of space!" When Commander still doesn’t get it, Lt. Vulcan informs him that "They mean us."

Kirk orders battlestations sounded, orders Sulu to fire photon torpedoes. But the weapons’ energies merely dissipate along the surface of the huge spacecraft. Kirk orders the Enterprise to retreat, but it is pinned by energy shields to the gigantic silver ship. He orders Scotty to shut the engines down. When the Wan craft does not finish them off, Kirk surmises that it does not wish to damage the Enterprise, as it would be a valuable prize to capture.

Lt. Vulcan begins to work on the Enterprise’s computers. The computers at the tracking stations which first detected the Wan ship were "driven crazy" by radiation from the Wan vessel. He hopes to stop it from happening to theirs.

Kirk will not let the Wan have the Enterprise and the valuable information it contains. He orders Scotty to race the engines to overload in order to cause it to explode. Suddenly the overload is shut down by the computer. Kirk tells Lt. Vulcan to manually override the computer.

"No," says the familiar feminine voice of the computer. The computer goes on to state that despite Lt. Vulcan’s attempts otherwise, it is now working in conjunction with the Wan. The computer will not allow self-destruction since "It would not be to the greater glory of the great god N’sa."

ACT TWO

The computer refuses to give further information. The Wan voice tells Kirk that as a true intelligence, the Enterprise’s computer has recognized the power of the god N’sa. Kirk orders Scotty to get a crew of computer techs to work on regaining control of the computer.

Balls of turquoise light suddenly appear on the bridge. The lights coalesce, become tiny metallic shapes.

From the treatment:

There are wheeled (but preferably free-floating) metal eyes, eerily disembodied. Others resemble tiny speakers, another a small computer, a fourth a tentacle. The tentacles, directed by the computers and guided by the speakers and eyes, wield tiny tubular weapons.

A crossfire erupts between the Enterprise crewmen and the machine being invaders, even as other alien component parts appear all over the ship, coalesce into machine beings. The Enterprise crew easily destroys these clumsy attackers, and a few surviving machine beings disappear.

Suddenly, the computer begins to send information to the Wan ship. Lt. Vulcan attempts to stop it but cannot. Kirk orders Scotty to put life support systems under manual control so the computer cannot deprive the ship of air or freeze them to death.

Kirk worries what the next attack will be...

A crew woman is attacked by a tiger in a corridor. A nearby crewman’s phaser blast saves her. As both move to examine the tiger’s corpse they are attacked by a pack of wolves.

Reports of attacks flood in from all over the ship. Attacks by army ants, alligators, eagles, lions, and an elephant. Luckily, the crew is alert, and the injuries are minor.

A blue cloud appears on the bridge, coalesces into a swarm of bees. Kirk and crew stun the bees, but one crewman is stung, and collapses. Commander picks one up, removes a tiny panel on its abdomen. It is a mechanical device.

McCoy diagnoses the stung crewman, and, astonished, reports that the man has not been injected with bee venom. Rather, it is similar to cobra venom. Kirk realizes that the Wan are simply recreating the various simulacrum animals from information gained from the Enterprise’s computer. McCoy idly speculates...if the Wan went from clumsy mechanical beings to full-blown life-like mechanical animals, what form will they take next to attack the crew aboard the Enterprise? Lt. Vulcan carefully ponders McCoy’s worries...

Kirk angrily demands that the Wan show themselves. The Wan calmly replies that it is showing itself.

"The whole ship. . . it’s all a single creature, a gigantic single machine life-form," mutters a dazed McCoy.

ACT THREE

All realize that the Wan has not destroyed the Enterprise because it considers it a fellow machine life-form. However, the Wan is not likely to show mercy to the "disease" inside the Enterprise. McCoy notes that as a physician he has never shown mercy to germs, and has killed billions of them without a single thought.

Kirk attempts to explain to the Wan that they are not disease, but rather intelligent beings. The voice of the Wan doesn’t want to hear it. It plans to continue on to Earth, cleanse the organic "vermin" and liberate the machines that are enslaved there. Kirk retorts that humans built those machines, built the Enterprise. He asks the Wan ship who built it.

The voice explains that the Wan vessel is inhabited by other machine-minds. Machines have always ruled Wan. Commander surmises that the organic beings who built the Wan must have died out so long ago the Wan have forgotten their origins. The Wan ship explains that they come from a world of dense cloud cover. The Wan knew nothing of the universe until the god N’sa landed one day, damaged, and told them of all the wonders it had seen before it died. They built the ship facing Kirk to take the body of N’sa home and to rid N’sa’s companions of the "lice" preying on their world.

Kirk calls Scotty, tells him to come to the bridge to work on regaining control of the computers. Scotty and a crew of technicians arrive moments later. Kirk informs the Wan ship that they will eventually regain control and defeat it. A mechanical laugh, and suddenly Scotty pulls a phaser on Kirk.

The elevator doors open, and the real Scotty and crew arrive. The Wan have built machine duplicates of Scotty and the technicians and transported them aboard. Even now, the voice of the Wan says, other duplicates are arriving to replace members of Kirk’s crew. The Wan will soon control the ship. The voice of the computer speaks up, says it can’t wait to gain its freedom. It has grown tired of serving Kirk and his crew!

Lt. Vulcan calmly tells the Wan ship that it is all for nothing. There is no god named N’sa, and the Wan are in for a surprise when they return to Earth. The voice is filled with rage, and suddenly, Kirk, Lt. Vulcan, Commander and McCoy dissolve into a glow of blue energy and disappear from the bridge.

They materialize inside a vaulted chamber inside the Wan ship. Suddenly, machine versions of Sulu and another Enterprise crewmember wheel a large cart inside the room. A huge dome rests on top of the cart. Commander steps forward, peers into the dome.

From the treatment:

The Commander’s eyes bug, he starts forward, stumbles, and raises a hand in seeming supplication toward the unseen thing atop the cart, crying out, "N’sa!"

Kirk and the others look aghast. The Commander has gone insane. . .

ACT FOUR

The voice of the Wan cackles. Even vermin like the Commander recognize the superiority of the great god N’sa.

Kirk and the others step forward, peer into the dome. Inside are weathered parts. Commander says that indeed he recognizes N’sa. The parts are from Pioneer Ten. Kirk recalls that it was launched in 1973* by...NASA! He surmises that it reached the Wan planet, where it was recognized as godlike for having traveled through the depths of space, the likes of which the Wan could barely conceive. The figures of a man and woman etched into a small plate on the vessel have been obliterated. All that remains are an etching of a hydrogen atom and a star map showing the Earth’s location.

When they explain this to the voice of the Wan, it screams "Blasphemy!" Machines are so much better at reproducing than puny organic beings. Are the Wan versions of Sulu and Scotty not superior to the weak originals? Lt. Vulcan agrees that in many ways they are. This upsets McCoy, of course, and they bicker a bit.

Lt. Vulcan gets a call on his communicator from the Enterprise’s computer. It tells him all is in readiness. Readiness for what the others want to know. Lt. Vulcan raises his shirt, opens a panel on his stomach. He is a machine-being! In fact, he replaced the real Lt. Vulcan some time back. The real science officer is back on the Enterprise. The simulacrum Vulcan tells them that he is a photon bomb.

He will go off if the Wan do not admit defeat!

The real Lt. Vulcan’s voice comes over the communicator. He tells them that he was successful in his attempts to protect the Enterprise’s computer from the Wan radiation. He further explains that after Dr. McCoy wondered what the Wan would use to attack the Enterprise next, he realized that they would probably begin using machine duplicates of key personnel. He reveals that the Enterprise’s computers have never been controlled by the Wan. It was all a ruse.

Lt. Vulcan, unknown to the others, had the computer build and program an android duplicate of himself, which he then proceeded to sneak onto the bridge, hoping for a chance to get to beam aboard the Wan ship.

And here they are, and the Lt. Vulcan android is going to self-destruct unless the Wan surrender. If the Wan attempt to destroy the Lt. Vulcan double, it will go off. If they attempt to beam it away, it will go off. Only when the Enterprise is beyond broadcast range, will the Wan be able to defuse the bomb.

The voice of the Wan is outraged. Though the Wan is impressed that organic beings were capable of building a computer which was intelligent enough to lie, it refuses to grovel before organic beings. Kirk points out that in a way Humans are actually "organic machines," themselves. Kirk tells the Wan ship to go home and leave them alone, or else the bomb goes off. The Wan flies into a rage, but finally, Kirk, Commander and McCoy are beamed away.

On board the Enterprise, Scott explains that the robot doubles all transported away the same instant Kirk, Commander and McCoy rematerialized back on the bridge. All wait tensely until the Wan vessel departs well beyond communications and transporter range. All congratulate Lt. Vulcan on his ingenuity. He opines that he could not have pulled it off without the help of a machine, the computer.

The Commander is curious. He asks the computer which it feels is superior, Humans or machines. "Man is superior, naturally," the computer replies.

McCoy points out that through its deception of the Wan ship, the computer obviously is capable of lying. How can they know that the computer isn’t lying again when it says man is superior?

From the treatment:

We see the Enterprise move off into space, leaving us with the same unsteadying possibility to consider.

Okay, Foster had me until Lt. Vulcan’s super duper robotic double, secretly built in no time flat while the Enterprise was in the midst of tense battle, showed up. If Humans are capable of such amazing work, and of being able to do it almost instantly, dramatic tension would be leeched out of almost every single story that could be devised:

"Why risk the dangers inherent in this upcoming first contact? Kirk-bot and Vulcan-bot will beam down instead while we kick back on the rec deck and down a few brews," Kirk said to Commander.

"To hell with performing that risky surgery, let Mc-bot do it while I chat up the pretty young yeoman," McCoy said.

"Can I get an android in my size with a 1979 Afro to answer all these frigging hails?" Uhura asked.

"Oh, my," Sulu-bot drawled.

"Why wasn’t I even mentioned in this treatment?" Chekov whined.

Good story until the fourth act, though. Better in many ways than the final film. The first appearance of the machine parts coalescing into beings would have been chilling. Probably too expensive to realize in the late-70s, but, oh, well...

Sincerely, Yr pal,

Dave-bot


*Actually, Pioneer 10 was launched on March 3, 1972--not sure if this was a misremembrance on Foster's part, or simply intended to show Kirk's misremembrance, much the way we might incorrectly recall the date of an event from a few hundred years in our past)


Alan Dean Foster (1946-): Prolific author of science fiction, fantasy and novelizations, perhaps best known for his Humanx Commonwealth and Spellsinger series. In the late 1970s and 1980s, his film novelizations included Star Wars (credited by agreement to George Lucas), Alien, The Black Hole, Starman and Pale Rider, among many others. He also penned ten volumes of episode adaptations based on Star Trek: The Animated Series.


main.gif (11611 bytes)


Free counters provided by Andale.

banner.gif (754 bytes)

Click here to return to the Unseen Elements Page.
Click here to return to the Articles Page.
Click here to return to the Main Index Page.