After Star Trek: Enterprise finally lurched into its grave, everybody had ideas for restoring Star Trek to its former television glory. And, as Jonathan Frakes mentioned a while back, both William Shatner and Bryan Singer pitched TV shows.
So what would Shatner and Singer's TV shows have been about? Here's what we've been able to find out.
Top image: U.S.S. Enterprise by Georg Angelakis, via Foundation 3D.
At a 2005 Creation Convention in Pasadena, CA, Shatner revealed that he had pitched a new Star Trek series to Paramount the year before. According to Trek Today, it would have been a series called The Academy, featuring adolescent versions of Kirk, Spock and McCoy. Shatner explained that he put together the pitch with his regular book collaborators Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens, who'd been staff writers on the final season of Enterprise. And Shatner pitched the idea directly to Paramount chief Sumner Redstone, without going through then-Trek producer Rick Berman.
Shatner thought it could be a replacement for the struggling Enterprise, which wound up staying on the air for two more years after he made his pitch.
What would the theme of the series have been? Shatner told the Toronto Star:
The troubled adolescence of Spock and Kirk lead them to a series of adventures that make us conclude that they will become the wonderful people that they did become.
After Paramount shot down the idea, Shatner and the Reeves-Stevenses turned it into a two-book series. Or at least, the first book, Star Trek Academy: The Collision was published in 2007 — but as far as I know, no further books in the series have been published. Rumor has it that Shatner was angry that Pocket Books didn't promote the first book well enough.
So what do we learn about the troubled adolescence of Kirk and Spock in Star Trek: The Academy? You can read the book for yourself and find out. As TrekWeb said in its review:
The pretty cover does not illustrate the travesty of prose that is to follow... So how does Shatner depict the first meeting of Kirk and Spock? Kirk, hiding in a strip club after stealing a Starfleet vehicle and then trying to hide from the authorities, trips Spock, who was selling a stolen Vulcan artifact in the same club. Yes, you read that right.
Among other details — Kirk decides to give Spock the nickname "Stretch." Yes, like Stretch Armstrong. And Kirk has to save a beautiful cadet who's accused of Dilithium-smuggling, but he only makes matters worse for her. And the novel changes the name of Kirk's father halfway through, apparently because nobody proofread the thing.
Also, the reason Kirk and Spock both join the Academy is because they're told they'll be sent to a penal colony otherwise. No, really.
The book is on Google Books, and you can read snippets of it there. Including the bit where Kirk and Spock have this immortal conversation:
"Et tu, Stretch?"
"Gesundheit," Spock said.
Kirk grimaced. "Oh, we've really got to work on your sense of humor. I don't think I can take two more years of this."
So meanwhile, what was Bryan Singer's pitch for a new Star Trek show? Since Frakes made his vague remarks, a lot more details have surfaced online. First Ain'tItCoolNews and then TrekMovie have posted a ton of details.
In a nutshell, X-Men director Bryan Singer was having dinner at an L.A. sushi restaurant in late 2005 with Christopher McQuarrie (writer of The Usual Suspects and The Wolverine) and Robert Meyer Burnett (director of Free Enterprise and episodes of Cinemax's new series Femme Fatales). And the three of them started to spitball ideas for what a new Star Trek series should be like. What if, instead of going back to the past like Enterprise had, a new show went forward in time, past the 30th century?
The TrekMovie writeup includes a ton of details of the Star Trek: Federation pitch, including some pretty lengthy excerpts from the document which Burnett wrote up after that dinner with his friend Geoffrey Thorne. And a logo which Trek designer Mike Okuda created.
In a nutshell, in the far future, the Federation has become complacent and much more human-centric, mostly focused on incremental exploration and colonization and celebrating human values. Humans have become "fat and happy," and the Federation hasn't had a flagship in 200 years. Meanwhile, the Vulcans have withdrawn from the Federation and reunified with the Romulans. The Ferengi have become a power in the galaxy, instead of the joke they once were. And the Klingons are now warrior-mystics, once again expanding via conquest.
The Federation needs a new Enterprise and a new Kirk to inspire it to greatness once again. And in this milieu, we meet Lt. Commander Alexander Kirk, the survivor of the U.S.S Sojourner, a ship which had a deadly encounter with a mysterious threat called the Scourge. As the document says:
Lieutenant Commander Alexander Kirk is the only survivor of the "Sojourner Incident," as it's come to be known in the press. And he has no clear memory of the events themselves. Attempts to "help" him remember cause him to become irrational and violent. All he has is images of carnage and death and a hidden malevolent presence lurking behind it all. When called before his superiors, he paints a picture of the enemy that is scarcely believed and which, if true, might tip the already fracturing Federation Alliance into true collapse.
A huge new Enterprise is commissioned, under the command of Captain Alden Montgomery, the perfect Starfleet officer. Kirk has left Starfleet and doesn't want to join the Enterprise crew, but since he's the only officer with experience of the Scourge, Montgomery "shanghais" him. And then Montgomery unfortunately dies early on — leaving room for Kirk to take command. It's well worth reading the whole summary over at TrekMovie.
We asked Burnett about this pitch, and he stressed that this was a first draft, and it never even got as far as being shown to anyone at Paramount, because J.J. Abrams' movie was announced. Says Burnett:
As the article points out, Geoff and did this FIRST DRAFT pitch doc based on one Sake-fueled dinner. It was meant to be a jumping off point for further discussion...NOT to ever be sent anywhere, certainly not to any network. We finished the doc at the end of January and sent it off to Bryan. He was extremely busy on SUPERMAN RETURNS at the time. We never had a chance to go over it...and then JJ announced his involvement with Trek and that was that. ...
There are things in the pitch I quite like still, others I'd like to see refined. But, it was certainly an interesting jumping off point. I read A LOT of Sci-Fi and I wanted to see more hard Sci Fi concepts addressed directly in Trek.