Star Trek fans were excited when a long lost original Star Trek episode by Norman Spinrad was discovered a few weeks ago. They were even more excited when the fan project Star Trek: New Voyages Phase II announced they would produce the long-lost script in the coming months.
Turns out that won’t happen after all.
The New York Times reports that CBS has declared it owns the script and has decide to block the fan production.
The script, titled “He Walked Among Us” was written by Spinrad for the Trek production team run by Gene Coon. The story included a dramatic role written for Milton Burle that found Kirk and company going up against a tyrant who was violating the Prime Directive. Spinrad said that Coon and script editor D.C. Fontanta re-wrote the script and that he wasn’t pleased with the results. He withdrew the script and it’s been in his archives ever since.
It was re-discovered earlier this year when Spinrad donated the archives to California State University, Fullerton.
Phase II picked up the script earlier this year and intended to make it as part of their on-going, fan-based web series of continuing adventures of the original crew. Paramount used to allow the fan based productions based on classic Trek as long as the parties involved didn’t show a profit from the production.
That appears to have changed now with CBS in the picture.
The network said it was now “considering opportunities to offer licensed copies of the work.”
“We fully appreciate and respect the passion and creativity of the Star Trek fan and creative communities,” CBS said in a statement. “This is simply a case of protecting our copyrighted material and the situation has been amicably resolved.”
Phase II producer James Cawley says he received a cease and desist letter when he announced plans to adapt, star in and direct the script later this year.
“I can understand their legal rights,” said Erik Pless, a lawyer in Green Bay, WI, “but it strikes me as heavy-handed. No one is profiting on this.”
Other fans pointed out that Phase II has already produced an unused script, by David Gerrold, the author of the humorous 1967 Star Trek episode “The Trouble With Tribbles.” In 1987 his “Blood and Fire” was shelved by Star Trek: The Next Generation; he reworked and directed it for Phase II in 2007 and never heard any objections.
“I don’t understand CBS’s thinking on this at all,” Mr. Gerrold said. “They didn’t care then. Why do they care now?”
Mr. Gerrold predicted a Trekkie backlash. “Star Trek fans,” he said, “are not a sleeping dragon that you want to poke.”