Before there was Star Trek: The Motion Picture, there was Star Trek: Phase II. And before there was Phase II, there was Planet of the Titans — a Star Trek film written by Chris Bryant and Allan G. Scott. Their script was rejected and Paramount president Barry Diller suggested to Gene Roddenberry that it was time to take Star Trek back to its original context: a television series, which is how Phase II was born.
Roddenberry had originally liked Bryant’s and Scott’s take on the character of James Kirk and they wrote a treatment for a story called “Planet of the Titans” which was delivered in October 1976. As they begun working on the script, Philip Kaufman was hired to direct and Bryant and Scott found themselves caught between Roddenberry’s and Kaufman’s conflicting ideas of what the film should be, with the studios uncertain what it wanted. Feeling it was impossible to produce a script that satisfied all parties, they left the project by mutual consent in April 1977 when Kaufman took over to write the script.
“My version was really built around Leonard Nimoy as Spock and Toshiro Mifune as his Klingon nemesis,” said Kaufman. “My idea was to make it less ‘cult-ish,’ and more of an adult movie, dealing with sexuality and wonders rather than oddness; a big science fiction movie, filled with all kinds of questions, particularly about the nature of Spock’s [duality] — exploring his humanity and what humanness was. To have Spock and Mifune’s character tripping out in outer space. I’m sure the fans would have been upset but I felt it could really open up a new type of science fiction.”
Bryant’s and Scott’s treatment opened with the Enterprise racing to rescue a Federation starship in distress called the Da Vinci. The Enterprise arrives too late — the Da Vinci has vanished but survivors are picked up. During the rescue Kirk is subjected to an electrochemical shock to his brain which brings on erratic behavior culminating in his commandeering a shuttle craft toward an invisible planet. He vanishes without a trace and Spock orders the Enterprise home.
Three years later, the Enterprise, refitted, has a new crew. Spock has resigned from Starfleet in disgrace and is on Vulcan purging himself of his human half. The Enterprise, under command of one Captain Gregory Westlake, is ordered to the place where Kirk disappeared. Just as Spock theorized, a planet has been discovered, one that promises to be the mythical “Planet of the Titans,” the home of a lost race with super technology. However, the planet is about to be destroyed by a black hole. Whoever rescues the Titans will control the destiny of the universe.
The Enterprise makes a detour to Vulcan to pick up Spock, who at first refuses to go. During his tests on Vulcan, however, Spock has his own death revealed to him, indicating that he must go with the Enterprise in order to fulfill his destiny. The ship arrives at the now partially visible planet and is trapped by the force fields surrounding it. Facing certain destruction, the Enterprise saucer separates from the rest of the ship, allowing the engineering hull to get free, while the saucer crash lands on the planet. The crew find the surface of the planet to be a wild and inhospitable with cities encased in walls of fire. Spock is reunited with Kirk, who has existed as a wild man with other trapped beings. When the landing party finally reaches the rulers of this world they discover them to be no benevolent Titans, but a lower and incredibly dangerous life form called the Cygnans. The Titans have long disappeared.
In the attempt to escape from the Cygnans, who have transported on board before the saucer lifted off to rejoin with the ship, Kirk plunges the Enterprise into the black hole to save the Federation from the Cygnans. During the trip through the black hole, the Cygnans are destroyed and the Enterprise emerges back in orbit around Earth. But it is Earth at the dawn of time and it is revealed that the ancient Titans were in fact the crew of the Enterprise!
The film was to be produced in England under Jerry Isenberg as exectuve producer. Ken Adam of James Bond fame was hired as production designer while Ralph McQuarrie, who had just before worked on Star Wars, was attracted to design the new Enterprise. Many of his conceptual drawings were speculative images, not based on any script, including depictions of the Enterprise approaching an inhabited astroid.
After Paramount canceled the project in May 1977, the Adam and McQuarrie designs remained unused and Matt Jefferies was approached to upgrade the Enterprise.