IMO making Decker the presumptive-Enterprise Captain was excellent change because it opened up the possibilities of more conflict between him and Kirk and made him a more fully fleshed-out character. In the Phase II draft he's not even an Enterprise crewmember but is actually an Executive Officer on Earth awaiting assignment to his first command elsewhere (the USS Boston), who Kirk shanghais into becoming the Enterprise XO due to him happening to be both qualified and available. The final version, eliminating the Boston and just making Decker the Enterprise captain-in-waiting, is much cleaner.
I agree with this. After all, it only makes sense that Enterprise
would have a new captain with Kirk tied to the admiralty, and who better than a young officer who's not all that different from Kirk when he took command of the Enterprise
before the five-year mission? That Kirk would regain the ship at Decker's expense creates all kinds of story possibilities.
One thing I'd have enjoyed seeing more of is an element that Christopher includes in Ex Machina
- how the rest of the crew reacts to Kirk pushing Decker aside. Most of the Enterprise
crew was hand-picked by Decker and expected to serve under him. But all of that changed when Kirk returned and Decker left with V'Ger. Only Ensign Zaand stood up for his captain in the actual film.
(I like the way the Phase II version gives us just a little insight into exactly what Kirk's job is in the Admiralty. His duties seem to involve the actual planning behind the deployment of officers, and he's instinctively able to tell Nogura which officers are assigned to which ships when asked. It's a nice little glimpse into the proceedural aspects of Starfleet Command which were likewise lost in the subsequent rewrites.)
I like this, too. It's hinted at in TMP when Kirk asks about Sonak's appointment to Enterprise
and manages to get McCoy drafted back into service. But both of these things could have been accomplished by Kirk as captain of the Enterprise
, so it would have been interesting to learn more about what he was doing for more than two years while the ship was being refitted.