Existing sci-fi stories adapted into Star Trek?

Discussion in 'General Trek Discussion' started by CaptainMurdock, Mar 17, 2013.

  1. CaptainMurdock

    CaptainMurdock Captain Captain

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    Here's something I've been curious about. How many pre-existing Science Fiction stories have been adapted into Star Trek episodes? Also, what stories would you have liked to be adapted into Star Trek? (All Series are welcome.)

    I personally think a re adaptation of Fantastic Voyages would have made a pretty cool TOS episode. It came out around that era but it would have fit well into TOS. Heck even Immunity Syndrome had exploration into a single cell organism so it's not to far off. :)

    Thoughts?
     
  2. teacake

    teacake Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Babylon 5.

    :guffaw:
     
  3. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    TOS: "Arena" was nominally adapted from Fredric Brown's story of the same name, although it's a bit more complicated than that; Gene L. Coon wrote the episode without realizing he'd been subconsciously influenced by Brown's story, and once the researchers pointed that out to him, the production contacted Brown and bought the rights to the story. So that's a borderline case.

    TAS: "The Slaver Weapon" was adapted by Larry Niven from his Known Space novella "The Soft Weapon." It's an extremely faithful adaptation of the original.

    TNG: "Tin Man" was adopted from the SF novel Tin Woodman by its authors, Dennis Bailey and David Bischoff, with an uncredited Lisa Putman. (Well, semi-credited; the rules at the time only allowed two credited writers on a team, so Bailey had himself billed as Dennis Putman Bailey even though his real middle name is Russell.)

    Those are the only ones adapted from pre-existing, published original SF stories, as far as I recall. However, TNG: "Where No One Has Gone Before" was very loosely based on Diane Duane's TOS novel The Wounded Sky -- at least Duane and Michael Reaves's first draft was, but the producers rewrote it to the point of having very little in common with the novel beyond the basic situation.


    Adapting other film or television tales? That would never work, because there's direct competition there. I don't see why any movie producer would agree to let a TV show adapt the plot of their movie and risk losing revenue to a competitor. Sure, you could do a pastiche, as long as it weren't close enough to get you sued. Kenneth Johnson did this a lot; the villain in his The Bionic Woman episode "Doomsday is Tomorrow" was a knockoff of HAL from 2001, while his "Prometheus" for The Incredible Hulk borrows considerably from The Andromeda Strain. But actual adaptation? It would have to be from prose sources.
     
  4. Sir Rhosis

    Sir Rhosis Commodore Commodore

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    Robert Bloch loosely adapted his story "Broomstick Ride" as "Catspaw." Jerome Bixby has stated he started "Mirror, Mirror" with his own story "One Way Street" in mind.

    See the Origins link in my signature.

    Sir Rhosis
     
  5. Tosk

    Tosk Vice Admiral Admiral

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    How "official" an adaptation does it have to be to count? Like that ENT episode that played out very Enemy Mine? Or that TNG that ended up having to credit Laurel K. Hamilton due to...ahem, similarities? (Although her book wasn't sci-fi, but still.) :)
     
  6. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    Since we're scraping the bottom of the barrel here, what about TNG: The Naked Now? John D. F. Black in fact gets story credit, for TOS: The Naked Time.

    I know, I know, it's adapted from a previously aired Star Trek episode, not a previously published story, but, at least from a certain point of view [/Obi-Wan], it's a "preexisting science fiction story". Right? :ouch:

    ---

    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.

    Additionally, according to Memory Alpha [http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/The_Changeling_(episode)#Background_Information]:

    However, they provide no citation, and I haven't seen that Outer Limits episode, so I'm not saying it's true. In any event, no screen credit was given in that case either.

    ---

    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.

    ---

    What TNG episode in connection with Laurell K. Hamilton are you referring to?

    The ENT episode you're referring to is ENT: Dawn, right? Memory Alpha doesn't mention Enemy Mine in the main article, because it would count as original research; someone on the talk page brings up the similarity of Dawn to both Enemy Mine and Hell in the Pacific, and the reason all that doesn't go on the main page is explained. But, if their policy rules out mention of those two films on the main page, I don't see why it would allow mention of TNG: The Enemy or TNG: Darmok.

    Frankly, TNG: The Enemy always reminded me of UFO: Survival. It's not a beat-for-beat adaptation, but a very similar idea.

    And I guess that's the thing. There will always be similar ideas cropping up over and over, but that doesn't necessarily count as rip-off.
     
  7. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I'm not sure adaptation is the correct word there, though. Bloch borrowed certain details from "Broomstick Ride," like the name Pyris for the planet and the use of a pendant effigy for a spaceship, but the actual plot was different. And the only thing "One Way Street" has in common with "Mirror, Mirror" is the basic idea of a protagonist finding himself in a parallel timeline. So those are instances of drawing on inspirations rather than direct adaptations.



    Telling a broadly similar story is not an adaptation, more just an homage or pastiche. An adaptation is taking a specific work, with permission and with credit given, and reinterpreting it into a different form. If the credits explicitly say that it was based on a pre-existing work, then it's an adaptation. Otherwise it's just drawing on an influence, something that all fiction does to one degree or another.


    There is no TNG episode that credits Laurell K. Hamilton for anything; indeed, Hamilton didn't start to become a prominent writer until around the time TNG ended. Hamilton's only connection to TNG is writing the tie-in novel Nightshade before she became famous. That was actually her first novel, unless you count a fix-up of several short stories which came out in the same year.

    I have heard that "Sub Rosa" is often compared to Anne Rice's The Witching Hour, but no credit was ever given to Rice (and both works are influenced by The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, so I gather).


    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.)


    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.
     
  8. Tosk

    Tosk Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Sorry, meant to say (as Christopher notes) Anne Rice. Sorry about that.

    Yes, it's not my day today, that's for sure. What I was half-remembering was the claim that "Jeanna F. Gallo" is a pseudonym for Anne Rice by way of avoiding a lawsuit. It seems that this single-credit person has never surfaced elsewhere in a verifiable fashion. [Edit: Three for three, there's just enough Gallo out there on the web even after all these years that I'd say she probably is real and not just a made up name. *Sigh* Maybe everything I write tomorrow will be correct to balance it out. ;) ]

    My apologies for the mess. And all for something that wasn't a sci-fi tale to begin with! :)
     
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2013
  9. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    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 http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/The_Changeling_(episode)#Background_Information:

    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 http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Balance_of_Terror_(episode)#Story_and_Script:

    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.
     
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2013
  10. scotpens

    scotpens Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Aside from that loose general idea, Star Trek's "The Changeling" has nothing in common with the Outer Limits episode "The Probe." In the OL episode, survivors of a plane crash at sea find themselves inside a gigantic automated alien probe.

    And if Janos Prohaska's creature suit seems "Horta-like," that's because it was later re-used, with modifications, as the Horta in "The Devil in the Dark".
     
  11. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    ^Right. In fact, it was Prohaska who inspired Gene Coon to write "The Devil in the Dark" by coming into his office in the creature costume from "The Probe," whereupon Coon was fascinated and decided to build an episode around it.
     
  12. Metryq

    Metryq Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    "Adapted"? No. However...

    I had thought that "The Doomsday Machine" was inspired by Saberhagen's BERSERKER stories. Although in an interview, Spinrad said he was thinking more along the lines of MOBY DICK.

    David Gerrold has denied any knowledge of Robert Heinlein's THE ROLLING STONES when he wrote "The Trouble With Tribbles," which makes the similarities an incredible coincidence. (Heinlein was one of the biggest names in sci-fi at the time, and STONES was published more than 10 years earlier. Other episodes bearing some likeness to Heinlein's works include ORPHANS OF THE SKY as "For The World Is Hollow And I Have Touched The Sky" and THE PUPPET MASTERS as "Operation Annihilate!")

    One other allusion to existing stories is Rayna Kapec from "Requiem for Methuselah" after Karel Čapek, author of R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots). The "robots" in the original were organic constructs that sometimes went crazy for lack of emotions as a safety valve. (And Rayna died of her exposure.)
     
  13. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Incredible? I wouldn't say that. It's actually commonplace for different people to come up with the same idea independently. Like I said before, it's the number one reason why pitches to TV shows get rejected.

    Anyway, the ST legal department noted the similarity and gave Heinlein a heads-up. His response, according to Gerrold's making-of book "The Trouble With Tribbles", was, "Let me add that I felt that the analogy to my flat cats was mild enough to be of no importance -- and we both owe something to Ellis Parker Butler . . . and possibly to Noah." Butler had written a story called "Pigs is Pigs" about a similar overpopulation problem with guinea pigs. Heinlein believed it may have been an inspiration for "The Rolling Stones," but if he'd read it, it had been so long before that he couldn't remember.

    Which just illustrates why it isn't at all incredible if two writers independently come up with the same idea. Every story is built on prior influences, and any two people in the same society and within a generation or so of each other will be influenced, consciously or otherwise, by a lot of the same things, whether it's famous movies or books or news events or just pervasive memes.
     
  14. Admiral Buzzkill

    Admiral Buzzkill Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Speaking of Run Silent, Run Deep, one can scarcely watch it now without noting the extrarodinary similarity of the conflict and relationships between Burt Lancaster and Clark Gable's characters to the characters of Kirk and Decker in ST:TMP.

    Robert Wise happened to direct both movies. ;)
     
  15. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    FWIW the script's original title was "The Planet Eater".
     
  16. xortex

    xortex Commodore

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    Sometimes the same idea is so big that it gets used again and again from different perspectives like Voyager's holodeck stories etc. but if GR wrote The Robot's Return before Lucas wrote The Changeling then who is stealing from who? All Good Things to me was not a homage but a rip off. that's it. If Vonnegut was still alive he probably wrote have sued for it's similarity to Slaughter House Five and would have been justified. Unconscious stealing from some memo is still stealing evidenced by RDM's Tapestry.
     
  17. Relayer1

    Relayer1 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Forbidden Planet. It was almost a TOS episode anyway...
     
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2013
  18. Sir Rhosis

    Sir Rhosis Commodore Commodore

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    If memory serves, "Robot's Return" was a story premise for GENESIS II, written around 1973, several years after Lucas' "The Changeling."

    Sir Rhosis, who has no dog in the CHANGELING/TMP debate
     
  19. CaptainMurdock

    CaptainMurdock Captain Captain

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    Wasn't the Voyager episode "Blink of an Eye" based on an existing science fiction story?
     
  20. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    Which, by the transitive property, means that Shakespeare's "The Tempest" inspired STAR TREK. :)

    (And, seriously, Trek's "Requiem for Methuselah" owes more to FORBIDDEN PLANET than R.U.R.)