Ralph McQuarrie Enterprise

Planet of the Titans: The Film That Wasn’t

Ralph McQuarrie Enterprise
A Ralph McQuarrie drawing of the new Enterprise, based on Ken Adam’s design

Before there was Star Trek: The Motion Picture, there was Phase II. And before there was Phase II, there was Planet of the Titans.

This Star Trek film, written by Chris Bryant and Allan G. Scott, was rejected and Paramount president Barry Diller suggested to Gene Roddenberry that he ought to take Star Trek back to its original context: a television series, which is how Phase II was born.

Roddenberry had 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 studio not sure 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. 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.

Finding the Titans

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 shuttlecraft toward an invisible planet. He vanishes without a trace and Spock orders the Enterprise home.

Ralph McQuarrie Enterprise
Ralph McQuarrie’s redesign of the Enterprise

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 there, 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. Then during his tests on Vulcan, Spock has his own death revealed to him, indicating that he must go with the Enterprise in order to fulfill his destiny.

Enterprise saucer by Ralph McQuarrie
“I had devised a concept for the end of the film. Some alien form has designed a way to use the power of a black hole’s gravity to form a spherical shroud around the black hole. If you have a dense enough material, gravity cannot penetrate it. There are two openings in the shroud that they would use to pull ships in. The saucer of the Enterprise (which was detachable) ends up in the shroud. They meet the aliens and had a dramatic finale. These images are of the Enterprise saucer in the shroud” – Ralph McQuarrie

The ship arrives at the now partially visible planet and is trapped by a forcefield surrounding it. Facing certain destruction, the saucer of the Enterprise 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 this hostile species. 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!

Unused redesigns

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. 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 for Phase II.

8 thoughts on “Planet of the Titans: The Film That Wasn’t

  1. “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!”

    Kinda like…Battlestar Galactica?

  2. Actually I wonder if they used this plot for a DS9 episode, where the crew was trying to escape the gravity of the planet then to find a colony of their descendants living there after they accidentally traveled 200 years in the past.

  3. It’s a good thing the ancient Titans came from the Enterprise and not, say, from a space ark that was filled up with hairdressers and phone sanitizers.

  4. Anyone notice how similar the Enterprise concept art is to the new Discovery federation ship in the new Star Trek Discovery series trailer?

      1. I wonder if Paramount requested that the new show be differentiated from the films to the extent that CBS had to plunder the archives for new ship designs? When I first saw the concept art a few years ago I was glad that they didn’t use it, I just think it looks awkward personally!

        1. The producers of the new show recently suggested that the Discovery may not look as it does in the teaser trailer. They mentioned that the design was not final, and that they were unsure of the legality of using the design we saw in that trailer. Very peculiar and hopeful at the same time that they will drastically improve upon this less than stellar design.

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