Fact-Checking Inside Star Trek: The Real Story

Discussion in 'Star Trek - The Original & Animated Series' started by Harvey, Jun 7, 2013.

  1. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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  2. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Interesting... the fact that Roddenberry suggested this as a "story kernel" suggests that maybe he only intended the title "Spock's Brain" as a placeholder, with the expectation that a better title could be devised later on. Maybe it never got a better title because GR stepped back from overseeing the writing.

    In any case, as with several third-season episodes, the original story outline sounds like it would've been a considerably better episode than what we got -- though maybe not as much goofy fun.
     
  3. davejames

    davejames Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Hmm, maybe it wasn't intended as a comedy, but I can't help but read a little bit of contempt and sarcasm in that memo from Roddenberry (which we saw plenty of in other interoffice memos from the show). As if he didn't really care anymore and was just tossing off the stupidest ideas possible to appease NBC or fulfill a contract or something.

    And Coon's teaser reads like he was just going through the motions as well.

    I have to think that's what we're seeing here, because otherwise I just have a really hard time believing either of them would think this was a good story idea.
     
  4. Melakon

    Melakon Admiral Admiral

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    I'd never heard of the intended-as-comedy story before. I saw it in first run, and it was simply a sign of how much production values had fallen in the series. At 17, I thought it was awful.
     
  5. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I don't know... as Roddenberry said, Christiaan Barnard's breakthrough of the first human heart transplant was big news at the time, so the idea that the science could be extrapolated to other organs, even including the brain, would not have seemed stupid at the time. When a new technology comes along, there's often an excitement around it, a sense that its possibilities are limitless. You see this all the time in science fiction -- early stories portray a technology as capable of amazing wonders that seem absurd to people in later decades who are more aware of the technology's limitations. See the portrayal of electricity in Frankenstein movies; the portrayal of radiation and mutation in '50s B-movies and Marvel Comics; the portrayal of oracular computers in much '50s and '60s SF; and the portrayal of all-powerful nanotechnology in the '80s and '90s (and to this day in TV shows like Revolution).

    So we shouldn't assume that something was intended to be stupid just because it looks stupid in retrospect. Science fiction has a long habit of being either too optimistic or too conservative about the potentials of new technologies.


    What's most interesting to me is that Roddenberry did more of these story kernel memos. We know about the story kernels that were part of the original 1964 pitch document, but I've never seen any other such memos from GR. Harvey, if you have access to more of those memos, I'd love to see a column on them.

    (Come to think of it, I shouldn't be surprised; I'm aware he came up with similar story kernels for Genesis II, including "Robots' Return," the idea that ultimately developed into ST:TMP.)
     
  6. jpv2000

    jpv2000 Captain Captain

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    I would as well.
     
  7. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    It's a solid science fiction idea for a story and one that's been done in some form or other in science fiction literature as well as television.

    A few years ago there was a short lived SF television series called Now And Again which was basically a modern take on The Six Million Dollar Man. This time around, though, a man is hit by a subway train and the only thing that could be salvaged was his brain which was transferred into a bio-engineered body.

    Ann McCafferey's The Ship Who Sang is a classic of a woman's brain being put into a spaceship, and being published in 1961 this predates TOS' "Spock's Brain." Other authors have just used the method of downloading the mind into a computer to operate a spaceship or for some other purpose.

    So there is absolutely nothing wrong with the idea. The flaw came from it not being properly thought through and a number of bad decisions story wise. The title itself is just stupid as hell. Even calling it something as simple as "The Controller" would have been a lot better. Having the Eymorg women being total airheads was just idiotic. Having Spock walk around as some remote controlled zombie was also ill-conceived. And the last bloody straw was having Spock talk McCoy through the rest of the operation---a serious :wtf:

    Fixing a few things in this episode could have worked wonders for what was at heart an interesting story idea.
     
  8. davejames

    davejames Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Well it's all that stuff which kinda makes me think they weren't taking the idea very seriously at all. Maybe a smart and interesting story could have been created from that idea, but by that point I get the sense the two Genes just weren't really emotionally invested enough to come up with one.

    Although I guess to be fair.... we did get the equally ridiculous Cat's Paw in the second season, so who knows, maybe they were just having another off day. Lol
     
  9. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Follow my link in post #162. The original outline is profoundly different from the final episode. No Morgs and Eymorgs, no remote-controlled Spock body, no Great Teacher, no Spock kibitzing his own surgery. The people of the planet Nefel, who are diminutive but otherwise ordinary humanoids, take Spock's brain to run their planetary life-support system without which they'll all die, and the tension between Spock's right to survive and theirs drives much of the story. Once Kirk delivers an ultimatum and Spock devises an alternative control system, the finest Nefelese surgeons assist McCoy in restoring Spock's brain.

    It's unclear who was in charge of the writing during the third season. It's been reported that Roddenberry washed his hands of the process and didn't rewrite scripts the way he had in the first two seasons. This article from 1982 suggests that Fred Freiberger generally delegated the writing to freelancers, though one would assume that script consultant Arthur H. Singer would've had a hand in the revisions. But whoever was doing the rewrites didn't understand ST or science fiction all that well, and so a lot of ideas that were promising in outline got all sorts of nonsense accreted on by the final episode. (For instance, in the outline for "The Mark of Gideon" there was no duplicate Enterprise.)
     
  10. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    The letter to Schlosser includes five other story kernels, as well as a proposal for a tie-in documentary special about the future, although it isn't clear to me if they are Roddenberry's story ideas or if he's drawing on other writers.

    The most interesting bit of the letter, however, doesn't have anything to do with these kernels. It has to do with Roddenberry line producing season three. More on that at a later date.
     
  11. jpv2000

    jpv2000 Captain Captain

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    I sincerely wish that had been the version we saw.
     
  12. davejames

    davejames Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Eh, still seems awfully silly to me. The idea of aliens wanting to use Spock's powerful brain to power their life-support systems is a perfectly good one, but having them actually pluck it out of his head-- and then having it re-implanted later like the whole thing never happened-- just seems inherently ridiculous to me no matter how it's done.

    The story could have worked perfectly well if they had just kidnapped his entire body and plugged it into some Borg-like alcove to power their system. The same issues and dilemmas could have applied, and you would have avoided having such a silly and ridiculous plot contrivance as that.
     
  13. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I don't see why you're so adamant about that. Before Barnaard's transplant, moving a human heart from one body to another would've seemed ridiculous. Once that was successfully achieved, it was easy enough to imagine that any kind of transplant could be possible with sufficiently advanced technology. As Warped9 said, many serious and respectable works of science fiction have used the idea of human brains being transplanted into artificial bodies or computer networks. For instance, I've just been reading Alastair Reynolds's Revelation Space trilogy, and a number of the Conjoiner characters (basically humans who've made themselves into Borg, but with individuality and free will retained) have had their heads or brains placed in robotic bodies or artificial life-support systems. A main antagonist in books 2 & 3 suffers devastating damage to her body and thus has her head severed and connected to a life-support system that can optionally be plugged into a robot body; later, between books, she has a clone of her original body grown and her head reattached to it.

    So there's plenty of precedent for such things in science fiction; it just requires presuming that advanced enough medical knowledge exists. And the original "Spock's Brain" outline didn't treat the brain surgery as casual, any more than the final episode did; it drove home that it was an immensely difficult, all but impossible thing to do, and even with the help of the finest Nefelese surgeons, McCoy still made some mistakes that affected Spock's motor functions, so that his body would need time to adapt and recover (a nice prediction of how neuroplasticity is now known to work, however accidentally).
     
  14. alchemist

    alchemist Commander Red Shirt

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    FWIW, the first draft script of "Spock's Brain," dated 6/11/68, is virtually the same as the revised final draft script dated 7/1/68 (with change pages to 7/5/68, the Friday before the Monday filming). Major differences between the two versions include:

    1. Spock's body remains behind in sick bay.
    2. In the first draft, Kara states that the use of Spock's brain was preordained. In Act IV, while she holds the phaser on Kirk, McCoy, and Scotty, she says:


    KARA
    Twenty generations ago the moulding of the
    controller was begun.
    His time of birth was determined. His body
    was only the vessel of germination.
    Now he is ready for us.



    Additional dialogue follows after this between Kirk and Kara where they discuss the "ancients" and the commandments.

    3. The pain belt bands in the revised final draft are pain headbands in the first draft.
    4. The scope of what Spock's brain was controlling was made clear with this scene in the first draft:


    POV - WHAT THEY SEE (MATTE)

    A huge incredibly complex mass of vast machinery of alien design, filling a cavern which might reach for miles.

    SCOTT
    Incredible design, Captain.
    But I recognize some of it. Air recirculation, heater,
    hydroponics regulators... all life support...
    the work of genius.

    Their eyes come to rest on the black box atop its pedestal. Light rays stream from it to all sections of the great panel.


    Interestingly, this scene survived in the revised final draft but was truncated substantially. However, it wasn't filmed.

    5. The surgery to reinstall Spock's brain is done in sickbay on the Enterprise.
    6. The tag, which takes place on the bridge, includes not only more jokes about McCoy's surgical errors but also this sidesplitting exchange:


    KIRK
    I am not given to predictions, gentlemen, but I venture one now.
    That conflict on the surface will be a very short one.

    SPOCK
    I fail to see what facts you base that upon, Captain.

    KIRK
    Long, cold winter nights, Mr. Spock...
    and the fact that cuddling is much warmer
    than sitting in front of a fire.

    SPOCK
    Cuddling, sir?

    McCOY
    A human habit, Spock. We don't expect you to know about it.

    SPOCK
    Of course not, doctor... since it is a well known fact we
    Vulcans propagate our race by mail.


    ;)
     
  15. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Interesting... I wonder why so much changed between the outline and the first draft, and what the process was that led to the changes. I mean, presumably Coon wrote at least the first draft, so he was a participant in the reworking of the story, but was he following instructions from Freiberger and Singer? It would be nice if there were some surviving memos that could illuminate the question.
     
  16. jpv2000

    jpv2000 Captain Captain

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    I absolutely love this exchange. I can picture McCoy's expression when Spock delivered that last line. ;)

    Much better then what was aired.
     
  17. Praetor

    Praetor Vice Admiral Admiral

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    The fine line between continuity and fanwank.
    You know, the original outline almost reads as a good episode. Decent, at any rate. It's funny how the brain theft almost predicts the creepy urban legends about stolen kidneys and the like.

    I can't help but feel that part of the problem was that the danger to Spock wasn't played up to the fullest extent - and having a remote control Spock walking around didn't help much.
     
  18. Cap'n Claus

    Cap'n Claus Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I think he finds it ridiculous that it was "re-implanted later like the whole thing never happened." No scars, not a hair out of place and joking around seconds later.

    As for the cheesy title, I always figured it was a take on "Donovan's Brain." Maybe it was meant to be changed later, but not all of Star Trek's titles were amazing.
     
  19. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    But it's clearly not like that in the original outline, so I don't know why he finds the outline's version to be just as stupid.
     
  20. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    Maybe we'll learn a few more nuggets in the final volume of These Are The Voyages. Here's hoping.