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written George Clayton Johnson
UNPRODUCED STORY OUTLINE, 1966

report & analysis by Dave Eversole

TEASER

The Enterprise hurtles through space toward the planet Minerva to pick up two ruthless criminals who have been sentenced to a hospital planet for the criminally deranged. Several people have been wounded apprehending the two, and a starship doctor is urgently needed.

Suddenly there is a glowing speck, swift, radiant, heading directly at the ship. Evasive action fails, phasers don’t affect it. All brace for impact. The ship rocks violently as the small speck of matter hits it.

At the communications console, a switch flips open of its own accord. All onboard react as a strange sound reverberates throughout the ship--the sound of a squalling baby.

ACT ONE

A search of the Enterprise fails to turn up an actual baby. The evidence seems to suggest that the ship is now alive. The speck of matter was an entity, or perhaps a soul, attempting to be born. It has found a host in the ship and has integrated itself thoroughly throughout the vessel’s circuitry. There is also evidence that the “baby” is growing at an accelerated rate. In the first five minutes the ship has aged the equivalent of one Human infant year. It is beginning to become aware of itself, opens doors, reroutes elevators, tampers about with the propulsion system. Kirk orders Spock and Scotty to isolate the exact circuitry where the entity is located.

The ship’s crying is getting to everyone. How to quiet a crying baby? Uhura sings “Rock-a-bye-baby in the treetop” to it. The crying softens, the baby falls “asleep.” A crewman drops a wrench in engineering. The baby wakes, cries louder. Kirk orders silence on the ship.

Spock and Scotty discover the “awareness” of the baby. It is located in the most complex circuitry of the ship’s main computer. They dare not turn this section of the computer off or tamper with it as it controls the life support systems, warp drive, helm, navigation, etc.

The baby sleeps, absorbs information from the ship’s computers even in this state. Spock wonders what it will be like when it wakes.

The Enterprise approaches Minerva. The baby wakes, sees Minerva’s sun. “Pretty, pretty,” says the baby. It takes control of the ship, heads straight for the sun similar to the way a Human infant might crawl toward a bright shiny toy.

The Enterprise is doomed if control cannot be wrested from the baby.

“Pretty, pretty,” says the baby again as the ship dives toward the sun.

ACT TWO

Kirk, in a frantic effort to regain control of the Enterprise, orders the circuits connecting the computer with the drive cut. Torches cut through the wires, but they reattach themselves. The ship rocks back and forth in a “tantrum” as Kirk fights for control. The heat is rising, unbearable, crewmen faint. All seems lost.

Kirk ponders how one teaches a baby not to play with fire. His answer: “Once burned, twice shy.” Kirk orders high tension lines connected to the vessel’s outer hull. A surge of current causes the ship to flinch and cry out. Another, stronger, shock and the ship veers away from the sun, believing that it was what caused the pain.

Spock idly mentions that as the captain of the ship, Kirk is logically the ship’s father.

“What is a father?” asks the baby. The ship is now a five-year-old and everything begins with “why.” Why am I different? Why do the crewmen call me a monster? Why doesn’t Uhura sing to me anymore? Why is Kirk mad when I call him father?

The Enterprise enters into orbit about Minerva. Kirk and McCoy prepare to transport down, but the transporter will not work.

“Don’t leave me alone. Don’t go away, Father,” says the baby.

ACT THREE

Kirk patiently explains to the “six-year-old” that he must beam down to help people who have been hurt. He gives a simple explanation of the concepts of duty and responsibility. The ship, acting like a brave little lad, says it understands.

Kirk and McCoy transport down. There they take charge of the two psycho-killers, Nolan Russeii and his sidekick Ray Francis. We learn that the native Minervans (called by the epithet “crocs” because of their resemblance to Earth crocodiles) are a peaceful race who had no defenses against any acts of aggression, who did not know of the concepts of causing pain or inflicting injury upon another. Fortunately, a group of Human colonists also lived there, and it was they who captured Russeii and Francis. Unfortunately, about a dozen Humans were injured capturing them.

McCoy immediately sets up an aid station, and Kirk returns to the Enterprise with the two prisoners. Onboard, he has them placed in the brig.

In the brig the two prisoners explore their cell, look for a means of escape.

“Who are you? What are you doing here?” asks the ship, now a young, idealistic teenager.

The two criminals con the teenager with a sob story. They were innocent, they hurt no one, they don’t understand why Kirk is treating them so badly. They fear Kirk will have them executed.

The teenager buys their story, unlocks the door, sets them free.

Russeii and Francis rush down a corridor, jump a crewman, and take his phaser. Russeii brandishes the phaser. “Wait till I get my hands on Captain Kirk. I’ll kill him like a croc.”

ACT FOUR

Kirk prepares to beam back down to Minerva. Suddenly, the two killers burst into the transporter room. He tries to resist them, but is clubbed down. Russeii puts the phaser against Kirk’s head, is about to press the trigger. Francis points out that they can use Kirk to get to the bridge. Once there, they can take over the ship and force the crew to take them to any planet of their choosing. Russeii wants to kill Kirk badly, but finally agrees to this plan.

“What’s wrong with Father,” asks the ship as Russeii and Francis drag him out of the transporter room.

They tell the ship that Kirk is sick, and that they are taking him to the bridge so his friends can help him. The ship assists them to the bridge where they get the jump on all the officers and demand to be taken to another planet. Spock, realizing the danger, orders Sulu to set a course away from Minerva.

As Kirk regains consciousness, the ship, now a young man, realizes its mistake and tell Kirk it is sorry. It wants to know what it can do to atone for its errors. There is apparently nothing it can do.

But then ship recalls Kirk’s earlier talk about responsibility and duty. It must take action to set things right.

The ship takes control of the helm, alters course and dives toward the Minervan sun.

"Surrender," the ship tells Russeii and Francis. "Give your weapons to father, or you will be burned up."

The criminals attempt to regain control of the ship. But as happened earlier, if they cut wires, the wires magically heal themselves. Despite their efforts the ship continues on course, directly toward the sun. The heat becomes unbearable. Only Spock is able to function in this inferno. The viewscreen is a solid sheet of white-hot flame.

At last the criminals surrender.

But it is too late. The ship is caught in the grip of the sun’s gravity, is unable to pull free.

“I’m sorry, Father,” cries the ship.

With his final bit of energy, Kirk rises, calls out to the ship. “It’s up to you.”

The ship uses every last erg of energy, even activates the phasers to add thrust as it breaks free of the sun. Circuits overload and burn out, consoles explode, lights blink on and off.

“Good boy,” Kirk yells as the ship breaks away from the sun.

And then there is a scream. The voice of the ship is weak. “Did I do well, Father? Are you proud of me?”

“Very proud,” Kirk says.

A whisper, “Goodbye, Father.”

Kirk shouts, “Hold on! Fight!”

Faintly, “Goodbye.”

“Dead,” says Spock.

On the surface of Minerva, Dr. McCoy, unaware of what has transpired above, is delivering the child of a young pregnant woman who was shot by Russeii and Francis.

As the ship above whispers goodbye and dies, the baby is born below. It cries lustily.

And only we know that the newborn’s cries are identical to those heard when the entity was born in the Enterprise’s circuitry.

***

In his career retrospective collection All of Us Are Dying and Other Stories, George Clayton Johnson reveals that Gene Roddenberry purchased this story, but when Gene Coon came onboard as the line producer, he did not like it, did not like the concept of humanizing the ship and its computers, and killed it.

Too bad. Though it reads as somewhat more akin to a good Twilight Zone episode than a Star Trek story, I like it. It’s hokey and trite in places and the ending is pure shaggy dog, but it is a helluva lot better than about twenty-five episodes that did make it to air.

Johnson goes onto to state that in the late-1980s he allowed a friend to reshape the story and submit it to Star Trek: The Next Generation. The producers there passed on it as well, but interestingly enough there are a few similarities between this story outline and the episode "Emergence" by Brannon Braga and Joe Menosky.

Finally, for the trivial-minded, like me, the name of the lead killer, Nolan Russeii, is surely a wink at Johnson’s good friends Ray Bradbury and Logan’s Run collaborator, William F(rancis) Nolan as is the name of his associate, Ray Francis.


GEORGE CLAYTON JOHNSON (1929- ): Science Fiction author best known as the cowriter (with William F. Nolan) of the classic 1967 science fiction novel Logan's Run (filmed rather loosely in 1976). He has a number of television and film credits, most notably four classic episodes of The Twilight Zone, an episode of Kung Fu, and the original story that was filmed as Ocean's 11. For Star Trek, he wrote "The Man Trap" and this story outline.


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