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Old March 17 2013, 05:41 PM   #9
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Re: Existing sci-fi stories adapted into Star Trek?

Christopher wrote: View Post
CorporalCaptain wrote: View Post
Similarly, The Motion Picture was apparently inspired by TOS: The Changeling, although John Meredyth Lucas received no screen credit and the screenplay was actually a direct adaptation of Phase II: In Thy Image. To be honest, I'm unclear on the development lineage there, and why Lucas got no credit.
Similarity does not prove adaptation. Different people end up accidentally telling the same story all the time; indeed, the most common reason why freelance episode pitches get rejected in TV is "We're already doing that one."

Personally I find that TMP bears a striking resemblance to the animated episode "One of Our Planets is Missing." A cosmic cloud entity of proven destructive potential is heading for an inhabited planet, the Enterprise enters the cloud to try to stop it, it deals with the cloud's defenses, it determines the entity is intelligent and makes its way to the brain center, Kirk orders Scotty to ready the ship for self-destruct if necessary, Spock mind-melds with the entity to communicate, and the understanding he gains leads to the solution, with the entity heading off to other realms. And given that Alan Dean Foster, who adapted TAS for prose, also wrote "In Thy Image," the original story outline that TMP was based on, for decades I assumed that he'd been influenced by "One of Our Planets." But when I finally read "In Thy Image," I discovered that it bore far less resemblance to the TAS episode -- that most of the similarities had been added when Harold Livingston, a writer with no TAS connections, had turned it into a screenplay. So what I thought was direct influence was apparently just coincidence.

If TMP had been intentionally based on "The Changeling," credit would have been given. If not, Lucas could've sued. He lived for 23 years after TMP came out, so he would've had plenty of time to sue for, and earn, credit. The fact that he didn't suggests that either the similarities were coincidental, or the influence was indirect enough that it didn't qualify as an adaptation. ("In Thy Image" was itself inspired by "Robots Return," an unused story idea from Roddenberry's failed Genesis II series premise. It's possible that Roddenberry drew on "The Changeling," consciously or otherwise, in conceiving of "Robots Return," but Foster and Livingston may have had no knowledge of that. In any case, it's an indirect enough line of influence that it doesn't qualify as an adaptation.)

If one wants to broaden the criteria, there are episodes that are clearly beat-for-beat adaptations of other stories, that are not science fiction, at least in cases when no credit was assigned. The foremost example here is probably TOS: Balance of Terror, obviously (and allegedly admittedly) adapted from The Enemy Below.
Again, it's an abuse of the word "adaptation" to use it in that context. That is an homage or a pastiche. It's telling a distinct story inspired by an earlier work. It's only an adaptation if you actually pay for the rights to retell the same story.

Every work of fiction is influenced by earlier fiction or real-life events. If you broaden the definition of "adaptation" to any and all influences, then everything would be an adaptation, and that renders the label useless.
Well, I never claimed that TMP was an adaptation of The Changeling. All I said was that it was "apparently inspired by" The Changeling, and "directly adapted" from In Thy Image. I got the words "apparently inspired by", by way of the word "inspiration", from

Memory Alpha wrote:
Although never credited, this episode–which depicted an Earth-launched space probe that acquires almost unimaginable powers in the course of the search for its "Creator"–became the inspiration behind the first Star Trek film. (It also inspired "The Questor Tapes", a 1974 series pilot written by Gene Roddenberry and Gene L. Coon which also featured a robot with a damaged memory who searched for its creator.) For this reason, some fans have appended to Star Trek: The Motion Picture the punning subtitle "Where Nomad Has Gone Before." (Star Trek: The Original Series 365, p. 188)
I brought it up to find out why, despite its extensive similarity to the earlier episode (just as in the case of The Naked Time/Now), it wasn't considered an adaptation, assuming the attribution of inspiration was in fact accurate. Perhaps my transition from discussing The Naked Now could have been more clearly made. Of course, if the attribution of inspiration is unfounded, then Memory Alpha needs to be corrected.

Naturally, even though TMP was an adaptation of In Thy Image, in the fullest, legal sense, the Phase II episode was never produced, so that doesn't count for the purposes of this thread. Ditto for TNG: The Child.

In the case of Balance of Terror, using the word adaptation was not my idea, either. From

Memory Alpha wrote:
  • The plot of this episode is based on the 1957 movie The Enemy Below, with the Enterprise taking the part of the American destroyer and the Bird-of-Prey with its cloaking device taking the part of the submarine. (The Star Trek Compendium 4th ed., p. 40) Director Vincent McEveety had seen the film but only noticed the differences later, when this was pointed out to him. He commented, "Obviously, it's the same story." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 34)
  • According to Harlan Ellison, when Paul Schneider told him he had adapted "The Enemy Below" for television, Harlan then refused to speak to him. (citation needed • edit)
  • Star Trek: The Original Series 365 suggests that Schneider may have also been inspired by another submarine film, Run Silent, Run Deep. The authors note that the film contains a similar plot thread of an officer longing for vengeance, as well as the tactic of releasing wreckage and bodies from a damaged vessel in order to mislead the opposing ship. (p. 063). The Star Trek Compendium also mentions this film as the inspiration along with The Enemy Below. (5th edition, p. 40)
There's no citation for the anecdote involving Harlan Ellison. I recall reading it elsewhere, but I'm not going to go hunt that down now.

In any case, if the anecdote is accurate, then Schneider applied the word "adapted" himself, and in that case, I wouldn't say that the word adaptation had been abused. On the contrary, I think that would be evidence of plagiarism, and I suppose that could explain why Ellison refused to speak to him.

On the other hand, if it's inaccurate, then obviously Memory Alpha needs to be corrected.

The similarities are obvious, though. When I first saw The Enemy Below, I didn't know anything about it. But as the movie unfolded, it became blatantly obvious to me that Balance of Terror was a beat-for-beat retelling of it.
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Last edited by CorporalCaptain; March 17 2013 at 06:27 PM. Reason: grrr, correction
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