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Old March 16 2013, 02:56 AM   #1
Lance
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Could they have picked up "Phase II" again at any time?

As we all know, 13 full storylines were commissioned, scripted and completed (or, at least, reached 'early draft' status). Only three of those stories ever reached the screen, although the Phase II bible was clearly a launching point for The Next Generation.

My question is in regards to the early TOS movie era. Do we think that Phase II would have been a viable option, if The Motion Picture hadn't been financially successful enough to warrant a movie sequel? Or do we think that TMP (hypothetically) being a failure would have simply torpedoed Star Trek's chances of coming back to TV?

I've seen it suggested that even as late as The Wrath Of Khan, Paramount still had their eyes on the possibility of pitching Star Trek for TV again using the Phase II scripts. This is why, the theory goes, we got David Marcus and Lt. Savvik as possible series' leads in the potential absence of William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy (as Shatner was probably less inclined to commit to television Star Trek in 1982 than he had been in 1977; while Nimoy hadn't been willing to commit to Phase II at all). Not sure how that works, as David Marcus clearly isn't a Starfleet, so would not be a viable replacement for either Will Decker or James T. Kirk in the unproduced Phase II scripts. But I can definitely see Savvik in the role of Starship Commander. Maybe Marcus could have been the Spock replacement?

I don't think Phase II would have been on the radar for subsequent movies. I think the success of TWOK secured Star Trek on movie screens, and the possibility of resurrecting Phase II wouldn't have even come up in the planning stages of instalments III through VI.
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Old March 16 2013, 04:16 AM   #2
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Re: Could they have picked up "Phase II" again at any time?

In the post Star Wars world of the late seventies, a Star Trek series was a possibility. However, if TMP had total bombed in the theaters, a series at that point would have been extremely unlikely.

If TMP had done the same money wise, a series instead of a movie sequel could have happened.

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Old March 16 2013, 09:54 PM   #3
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Re: Could they have picked up "Phase II" again at any time?

Of the Phase II scripts I've seen, I think that the two-parter Kitumba would have made a good basis for one of the TOS movies. It might have needed a bit of tweaking to make it fit into what the films had established (fortunately, they still hadn't given us too much info about the the klingon's society yet), but I think it would have been doable.
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Old March 16 2013, 11:12 PM   #4
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Re: Could they have picked up "Phase II" again at any time?

Yes. In fact in retrospect I think it would have been more successful than TNG. The established actors would not have had to prove themselves. It took 3 seasons for TNG to really get going. The downside of a Phase II is the budget aspects. Sure, they had models and standing sets, but in the early 80s that motion control was still very expensive and that's what sank Galactica. Shatner started TJ Hooker around the time Khan came out, and he wasn't about to do two shows at once (although Heather Locklear did, with Dynasty) so that kind of closed the book on it if nothing else.

By the time Trek IV was done, the crew were primed and loaded for a series, though, and Shatner could have ended TJ Hooker to do it, but that's around the time the TNG idea was bubbling up.

A big part of TNG had to do with the electronic compositing system and the direct-editing of negatives rather than conforming prints. These cost-saving measures really allowed the show to proceed and that stuff just wasn't around years earlier.
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Old March 17 2013, 03:55 AM   #5
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Re: Could they have picked up "Phase II" again at any time?

Clearly William Shatner was still willing to do TV as was evidenced by TJ Hooker but I wonder what his per episode salary for that series and if Phase II could've offered something similar?

I purchased the book published about Phase II in 1997 and, IIRC, they had to prepare for the possibility that William Shatner might not have stuck around. If Phase II went forward, it could've just as easily have eventually become about Decker and Xon.

I'm a bit surprised that more of the Phase II scripts weren't recycled for TNG's second season to give them even more of a head start. At the very least, using one more Phase II script at the beginning would've done away with the need for having a clip show like "Shades of Gray" at the end.
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Old March 17 2013, 11:17 AM   #6
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Re: Could they have picked up "Phase II" again at any time?

But the reason for clip shows tend to be more about saving budget then having scripts. I'd imagine the rate for hiring a script writer to update a script written for totally different characters wouldn't be that too dissimilar to one writing a clip show.
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Old March 17 2013, 11:44 AM   #7
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Re: Could they have picked up "Phase II" again at any time?

One of Phase II's shipboard shows could have been adapted as a 'bottle episode' for TNG, though. I mean, I suppose "The Child" basically is a bottle episode, except for the special effects of course.

I suspect that the true reason more Phase II scripts were never adapted for TNG was because of the cost factor. I assume the original writers/creators of the scripts from 1977 were entitled to some kind of payment for the reuse of their story? Would it ultimately be cheaper to just get the writing staff to come up with a new story? There were obvious reasons for why they did "The Child" (writer's strike), but it always surprised me that they followed it up a few seasons later by adapting "Devil's Due" as well. Unless Piller or somebody had been reading all the old Phase II scripts, and simply decided he liked that one?
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Old March 17 2013, 05:22 PM   #8
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Re: Could they have picked up "Phase II" again at any time?

If it had been picked up in mid-1980, you'd be having to deal with the fact (presuming you want this thing to run at least five years) that your returning actors are all a decade older than the characters they're playing. (They just barely got away with that in TMP.) You'd be right back to the budget limits of sci-fi network television, which would fly in the face of TMP's visual FX standard. James Doohan suffered a major heart attack around that time (if I recall right), which would have disrupted production further.

If mid-1982, it would've definitely been "no Shatner, no deal." They still would have had to recast Saavik (thanks to Kirstie Alley's blockheaded agent demanding too much). George Takei would be grumbling about wanting to be captain of his own ship (relegating his role to an occasional guest appearance). And again, you'd be having to try to put out TMP/TWOK-quality visual effects on a Battlestar Galactica-sized budget (at best).
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Old March 17 2013, 05:42 PM   #9
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Re: Could they have picked up "Phase II" again at any time?

I think the middle-ground would have been TV-movies, kind of like what they eventually did with things like the Perry Mason reunions. A series of movie-length stories with larger budgets than individual episodes and fewer total stories per year, therefore cheaper than a series overall. So you get more of an epic sweep, and more than just a movie every couple of years. The 80s were definitely the decade for miniseries and things of that nature. Stuff like The Thorn Birds and Winds of War were not cheap to produce, but highly successful, and the original Battlestar Galactica pilot was very highly rated.
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Old March 17 2013, 06:41 PM   #10
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Re: Could they have picked up "Phase II" again at any time?

mos6507 wrote: View Post
The downside of a Phase II is the budget aspects. Sure, they had models and standing sets, but in the early 80s that motion control was still very expensive and that's what sank Galactica.
Well, what sank Galactica was that it wasn't very well-written and ratings fell off swiftly after the pilot. I think it was doomed by the quartet of lame, directionless standalone episodes they did after "Lost Planet of the Gods" -- two of which were just pastiches of old Westerns, and most of which created huge, unaddressed conceptual problems. (If the Cylons wanted to wipe out all humans, why were all these human colonies-of-the-week left alone? Conversely, if those colonies were safe from the Cylons, why didn't the fleet just settle there?) The series somewhat found its voice later on, but by that point it was too late; I think those weak early episodes caused too many viewers to lose interest.

And yes, the high budget was a problem, but that wasn't entirely due to the VFX. Apparently Glen Larson wasn't very good at keeping within a manageable budget. The Galactica 1980 sequel series was deliberately designed to be as inexpensive as possible (Earthbound settings, cheaper cast, reuse of existing sets, props, costumes, stock footage, etc.), and yet Larson consistently went so far over budget that it ended up costing as much as the original show.


Lord Garth wrote: View Post
I'm a bit surprised that more of the Phase II scripts weren't recycled for TNG's second season to give them even more of a head start. At the very least, using one more Phase II script at the beginning would've done away with the need for having a clip show like "Shades of Gray" at the end.
As NightJim said, those have nothing to do with each other. Clip shows don't happen because a show runs out of scripts -- usually any show has more scripts in development than it actually ends up using -- but because it runs out of money. When they run over budget for the season, as TNG did in season 2, and can't afford to shoot an entire episode, they shoot half an episode and fill in the rest with stock footage.
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Old March 18 2013, 09:15 AM   #11
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Re: Could they have picked up "Phase II" again at any time?

BSG was expensive because it had big sets with associated studio fees tied to the number of stages required, a fairly large regular cast, lots of practical effects, plus the VFX work. If the producers couldn't control those elements well they'd run into overages all over the place.
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Old March 18 2013, 09:24 AM   #12
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Re: Could they have picked up "Phase II" again at any time?

If "Phase II" had actually been made, it would have been very unlikely we would have gotten TNG. Glad "Phase II" was shelved and TOS cast ended up doing the big budget movies like they deserved and we got TNG on television.

Very glad TNG never really had many budget problems.

There were the couple of bottle episodes every season.

Also there was the writer's strike that resulted in the slashed number of episodes in Season two and the clip episode.

The final season also focused a little too much on problems aboard the ship, likely because the cast was being paid so much by that point.
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Old March 18 2013, 10:44 AM   #13
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Re: Could they have picked up "Phase II" again at any time?

Christopher wrote: View Post
Well, what sank Galactica was that it wasn't very well-written and ratings fell off swiftly after the pilot.
Even had the rating kept up, I don't think you could keep producing a show at that level. Look at all the stock footage they had to keep recycling. Buck Rogers had the same problem. The technology just wasn't ready to make that stuff affordable.

People talk about how expensive CG is, but at the time it was introduced in SF with stuff like B5, it was a very effective cost-saving measure.

Christopher wrote: View Post
And yes, the high budget was a problem, but that wasn't entirely due to the VFX. Apparently Glen Larson wasn't very good at keeping within a manageable budget.
Then where did the money wind up going?
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Old March 18 2013, 03:20 PM   #14
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Re: Could they have picked up "Phase II" again at any time?

Maurice wrote: View Post
BSG was expensive because it had big sets with associated studio fees tied to the number of stages required, a fairly large regular cast, lots of practical effects, plus the VFX work. If the producers couldn't control those elements well they'd run into overages all over the place.
Exactly. The show's budget overruns were a key factor in its cancellation, or so I gather.



Dream wrote: View Post
Also there was the writer's strike that resulted in the slashed number of episodes in Season two and the clip episode.
One more time: the writers' strike had nothing whatsoever to do with the clip episode. The writers' strike affected the end of the first season and the beginning of the second. "We'll Always Have Paris" had a weak conclusion because the strike was underway during shooting and the problems with the ending couldn't be revised except through improvisation; and "The Neutral Zone" was a weak episode overall because it was shot from an unpolished first draft. And the beginning of the second season was delayed for a month, with the total number of episodes reduced by four. But the strike was long over by the time "Shades of Gray" came along.

Director Rob Bowman explained the genesis of "Shades of Gray" thusly in the book Captain's Log: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages:

"It was Paramount saying, 'We gave you more money for "Elementary, Dear Data" and the Borg show. Now do us a favor and give us a three-day show.' So that's what you do. It's an accepted part of the medium."
http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Shad...de)#Production

In other words, "Dear Data" and "Q Who" cost more than usual to make, so in order to give those shows more money, they had to take money away from another episode and do something they could film in half the time. As Bowman said, it was a pretty routine practice, which is why many shows have clip episodes. The strike had nothing to do with it; that's a fan myth that's arisen because they occurred close together, a post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy.



mos6507 wrote: View Post
Christopher wrote: View Post
Well, what sank Galactica was that it wasn't very well-written and ratings fell off swiftly after the pilot.
Even had the rating kept up, I don't think you could keep producing a show at that level. Look at all the stock footage they had to keep recycling. Buck Rogers had the same problem. The technology just wasn't ready to make that stuff affordable.
I think you're judging it by today's standards, though. Lots of shows back then relied heavily on reusing stock FX footage. Heck, TNG itself recycled Enterprise footage constantly. When they hired ILM to shoot miniature FX for the pilot, they specifically asked them to shoot more and longer sequences than were needed for the pilot alone, so that they'd have a library of ship shots they could then reuse throughout the series. Heck, in the entire seven years the show was on the air, every single shot we ever saw of the ship going to warp was recycled from the pilot and the main titles, because the stretching effect was so hard to do. (The one exception being the full-profile warp acceleration shot from "Where No One Has Gone Before," which was an easier distortion to create because it was 2-dimensional.)

You have to realize how much the state of the art has improved in just a few decades. I saw Galactica in first run; I was a preteen at the time. And believe me, for 1979-80, its special effects were extremely impressive, even with the heavy recycling, which wasn't atypical for the day. Yes, sure, it was an expensive show, and would've been even if Larson had managed the budget better. But if the ratings had been strong enough, and thus the profits high enough, to balance out the expense, then the show could've continued to be made with a higher budget. It's always about both factors, the balance of ratings (profit) and budget (overhead), not just one or the other. BSG had both a high budget and deteriorating ratings, and it was the mix of both factors that killed it.


People talk about how expensive CG is, but at the time it was introduced in SF with stuff like B5, it was a very effective cost-saving measure.
You don't have to tell me that. Like I said, this is all something I lived through firsthand. I remember how revolutionary the Video Toaster (the CGI software that Foundation Imaging used for B5 and later shows) was when it came along. It completely changed the landscape for SFTV, made it possible to do far more ambitious things visually than a TV show could ever have afforded before. Which is exactly why it's unwise to judge a pre-B5 SF show by modern expectations. What looks crude and limited by today's standards was still most impressive by pre-B5 standards.


Christopher wrote: View Post
And yes, the high budget was a problem, but that wasn't entirely due to the VFX. Apparently Glen Larson wasn't very good at keeping within a manageable budget.
Then where did the money wind up going?
All I know is what I read on the Battlestar Wiki. But there are plenty of ways that producers can squander money if they're not good at spending it efficiently. Indeed, that seems to be an endemic problem in Hollywood these days, which is why so many shows are shot in less expensive locations like Vancouver, Toronto, and Portland.
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Old March 18 2013, 04:56 PM   #15
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Re: Could they have picked up "Phase II" again at any time?

Dream wrote: View Post
If "Phase II" had actually been made, it would have been very unlikely we would have gotten TNG. Glad "Phase II" was shelved and TOS cast ended up doing the big budget movies like they deserved and we got TNG on television.
I agree.

Phase II would have failed at any point and Trek would have been dead. At the least we may have gotten some recasted movies in the '80s or '90s.
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