They were clearly exploiting
prior Trek. Not necessarily in a nasty or unfair way I'll grant you, but that isn't strictly required. The attempt at cleverness involves in large part how similar the two scenes are and the original work was
made by someone else
. I agree that "rip-off" is a harsh sounding term. But I don't see a show stopper, even if we restrict ourselves to less "hep" and "with-it" definition sources.
However I am not sure why you object to the TheFreeDictionary meaning. A number of posters seem to accept that the term "rip-off" can be applied to stories etc. The main difficulty seems to be appreciating how it can be used within a franchise and that has been covered.
I thought that I explained clearly what I found objectionable about TheFreeDictionary definition, but I'll try again. The problem area is (I've omitted the part that isn't problematic):
Something [...] that is clearly imitative of or based on something else.
The problem is that that covers anything at all that is imitative. For example, it would, if taken literally at face value, require us to categorize all cover versions of a song as rip-offs. That's simply wrong.
Dictionary definitions, especially terse ones, rarely suffice to precisely nail the meaning of a word, and that goes for M-W, too. OED is something that I generally find to be better (i.e. more accurate) than M-W, but OED is behind a paywall, and I don't even have my copy where I am.
Often, representative examples can go a long way to filling the gap.
Here are three examples from film or TV, each of which that I consider either to be a rip-off or
to be closer to being a rip-off than Kirk's death scene in STID.
1. The Terminators
. Woe to those thinking that they are about to watch the chapter that they never heard of in that other franchise. The Asylum? 'Nuff said. Rip-off.
This example illustrates the meaning of the criterion that the imitation is being done by someone else.
The mode of exploitation is to infringe,
something that is decidedly absent
in the STID/TWOK situation.
2. TOS: "Balance of Terror"
. It's virtually a beat-for-beat adaptation of The Enemy Below.
Rip-off? Probably depends on who you ask. I think that the accusation of it being a rip-off has a pretty strong case, and the defense is not helped by the fact that no credit was assigned for the original story. Of course, the defense might argue that no credit was assigned because the story was not lifted. However, if you believe the widely disseminated allegation that Paul Schneider confessed to Harlan Ellison what he'd done, then it's really open and shut, although in rebuttal the defense might ask why no case was ever brought.
3. Star Wars
(1977) uses dialog adapted from The Dam Busters
(1955). First of all, the tactics of the Death Star trench run parallel those employed in the real world attacks of Operation Chastise
. Here is a clip of the first attack in the 1955 film. The lifted dialog occurs at about 0:18.
"How many guns do you think there are, Trevor?"
"I say there's about ten guns. Some in the fields and some in the towers."
Rip-off? No, it's homage. Again, no infringement is intended. However, it is lifted from another source.
It's also worth noting that in rip-offs there are different sets of victims. Sometimes it's the consumer being ripped-off, others it's inventors/authors who are denied royalties, and in some cases it's both. It's really hard for me to see how consumers are being harmed in examples 2 and 3, unless they are being robbed of information that might be beneficial to their consumption or that might influence their decision to consume.