One of the most oft-repeated criticisms of Star Trek Into Darkness is that “it’s a remake of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.” I don’t actually agree with that assessment. Now, no spoilers for the three or four of you who haven’t yet seen the film, but while one scene in particular is pretty much a rewrite of its counterpart in the earlier movie, that’s really as far as the comparison truly goes.
Despite this “misstep,” the film was successful enough that a third installment in J.J. Abrams’ re-imagined Star Trek universe will soon be forthcoming, likely in time to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the original series’ premiere in 1966.
Strictly as an exercise in goofy fun, I posited the idea that rather than taking bits or pieces from previous series or films to fill out the storyline for a new movie, that we should compile a list of episodes which all but beg for a wholesale remake. Fans for years have speculated what extravagant do-overs of the most memorable episodes from the original series in particular might look like on the big screen. So, I figured, “What the heck?” Why not engage in a little fanboy wish-listing?
The idea here was to select episodes from any of the Star Trek television series. For this, I compiled a preliminary list, and then polled readers of my Facebook page to suggest their own worthy candidates, with the understanding that their selections would face varying degrees of retooling in order for the story’s basic premise to work with the current incarnation of Kirk and the gang.
Unless otherwise noted, the episodes we settled on for this thought exercise are all from the original Star Trek series. However, we did find a few from the other series which have great potential for adaptation. Is this list definitive? Of course not, and I’m hoping readers will add their own suggestions in the comments section.
Presented here in alphabetical order, the results of our little online experiment:
“Balance of Terror,” suggested by Joseph Berenato on my Facebook page – Virtually nothing is known about the Romulans in the “alternate reality” created by the Abrams Star Trek films. Just as the original episode introduced us to the enigmatic alien race, so too could a reworked and expanded version of the story. With room to breathe a bit, there would be more time for character interplay, including the fleshing out of back story for the Romulans and their culture. The scope of the film also could be opened up, with scenes set away from the Enterprise and the Romulan ship, such as at one of the destroyed outposts or a new planet-based location. Would Kirk and the Romulan Commander battle each other face to face, or would the ship-based aspects of the original tale still rule the day?
“Chain of Command” (Star Trek: The Next Generation) – One of the series’ most powerful episodes seems like an ideal candidate for a mixture of compelling character study and high-octane action, both on the ground and in space. Kirk instead of Picard, of course, at the mercy of an unrelenting captor, be it a Cardassian or someone like Kor, or a new character created for the film. Meanwhile, Spock and the rest of the crew are forced to deal with a new captain, who’s got his own agenda as tensions with the Cardassians (or whoever) continue to escalate. Transitioning the story to film likely would require upping the action on both fronts, with Kirk either making his own escape or benefiting from a daring rescue raid while the Enterprise faces off against adversaries in space. How many lights do you see?
“The City on the Edge of Forever,” suggested by Joseph Berenato on my Facebook page – Widely regarded as one of Star Trek’s finest hours—if not the finest hour—what would it take to update and expand this story to feature film length and scope? To be honest, I don’t have the first clue, and maybe it should never be attempted, but if a decision is ever made to revisit this classic tale, then there really is only one person suited to the task: the episode’s original writer, the incomparable Harlan Ellison. Perhaps the answer lies not with the televised episode, but within Ellison’s original screenplay, the development of which is worth a book all its own...so much so that Ellison himself already wrote it! Somewhere within the different versions of the story may well lay the seeds for a new take on Captain Kirk’s ultimate tragic romance.
“The Doomsday Machine” – Are you kidding? One of the most iconic episodes from any of the Star Trek series is just screaming for a big-budget revamping. This is an absolute no-brainer for me. Just think of what an expanded storyline could do to give us more background on Commodore Matt Decker and his crew, before and during their fateful encounter with the mammoth alien machine. We could even get some insight into the beings who built the thing (just so long as they don’t turn out to be evolved hamsters, or something). And of course it’s just the kind of story that lends itself to the eye-popping space scenes that drive summer blockbusters. Besides, who doesn’t want to see Karl Urban’s Doctor McCoy give Crazy Matt the business? The great Norman Spinrad’s still around, so I say let him have first crack at updating and enhancing his original tale.
“Errand of Mercy” – If Star Trek Into Darkness showed us anything, it’s that a Federation confrontation with the Klingons is likely, if not inevitable. Somebody’s already drooling at the prospect of the massive, all-out Star Wars-style battle sequences which are sure to litter a tale like this. With that in mind, let’s be sure to have a nice balance of action in space and some of that great character work Star Trek can do when it’s firing on all cylinders. Give Chris Pine’s Captain Kirk a worthy adversary in the form of Commander Kor, who can be a thorn in his side for many years to come. This also is the kind of story which could be fleshed out so as to include plenty of good material for the rest of the cast while Kirk and Spock are dealing with Kor. As for the Organians? Well, Star Trek never really followed up on what the original episode established, so it’s pretty much a blank page so far as what these omnipotent super beings might do, given the chance.
“In A Mirror, Darkly” (Star Trek: Enterprise) – In truth, I figure any movie featuring the Mirror Universe also would take cues from original Star Trek episodes “Mirror Mirror” and “The Tholian Web.” If the filmmakers wanted to use this conceit as a means of showcasing the “old school” U.S.S. Defiant and the original series aesthetic in order to represent the original timeline, I’d be game. Maybe part of an expanded story using elements from the various episodes could be used to show how Mirror Spock deals with his Captain Kirk. I wonder what Zachary Quinto would look like in a beard? Or, maybe they tweak the idea enough so that Leonard Nimoy could be Mirror Spock. Also, is Trek fandom ready for “Empress Nyota?” I think we could handle it.
“Kitumba” (Star Trek: Phase II) – This was one of thirteen stories developed for the planned 1970s TV follow-up to the original Star Trek series, before those ideas were shelved and Star Trek: The Motion Picture went into full-blown production. “Kitumba” would have presented an in-depth look at the Klingon Empire, far beyond what had been established on the original show and—as it turns out—much different than what subsequently was established in the later films and television series. Much like “Errand of Mercy,” this story might well thrive in the films’ “new timeline” and accompanying clean slate, with familiar alien races like the Klingons able to be recreated and fleshed out in all manner of new and fascinating ways.
“Mudd’s Women”/”I, Mudd” or “The Trouble With Tribbles,” suggested by Melissa Nickerson and John Ordover on my Facebook page – During the discussion we had about this topic over on Facebook, friend and former Pocket Books Star Trek fiction editor John Ordover made the point that after the fairly intense storylines which have dominated the last few films, it might well be time to lighten things up a bit. Just as Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home was a definite change of pace following the first three movies, so too could a fresh take on a lovable rogue adversary like Harry Mudd or Cyrano Jones. Tackling a more whimsical tale would depend in large part on the actor chosen for the pivotal role of the scoundrel du jour. For my money, I can see Alan Tudyk (Wash from Firefly) as Mudd, but what about Jones? Hmmm?
“Unification” (Star Trek: The Next Generation) – There’s interesting potential for a story like this to thrive in the new films’ setting. With their home world destroyed, would the Vulcans—now an endangered species—appeal to their ancestral siblings, the Romulans, in a bid to preserve something of their devastated civilization? Naturally, the idea would have its supporters and detractors, and would the Romulan Empire see this is as an opportunity for reconciliation, or final destruction of their age-old rivals? What role would “Spock Prime” play in a retooled version of this story? Should the Romulans pose a threat to New Vulcan, you just know Kirk and the Enterprise would be at the front of any defensive action.
“Year of Hell” (Star Trek: Voyager), suggested by Chuck Lemoine on my Facebook page – A madman with a weapon that can make time itself kick your ass? Count me in! I get all tingly imagining the different timelines that’d be used to tease us as Kirk and the gang, along with an increasingly hammered Enterprise, battle the super weapon through time. I can see Spock and Chekov trapped on the time ship, dealing with whoever ends up being the film’s villain, and what would be driving that person? We’ve certainly had enough “vengeance stories” to last us a while, but the original episode’s premise of Annorax descending into utter desperation as he (or she!) struggles to restore a timeline gone horribly wrong works for me.
Okay, that’s our ten. As I said, this isn’t mean to be the “The List,” so if we didn’t mention an episode you think makes for good movie remake fodder, feel free to offer it and your reasons in the comments.
“Ten for Ward” Backlist: http://www.startrek.com/news_articles/blogger/Dayton+Ward+
Dayton Ward is the author or co-author of numerous novels and short stories, including a whole bunch of stuff set in the Star Trek universe, and often working with friend and co-writer Kevin Dilmore. He’s also written (or co-written) for Star Trek Communicator, Star Trek Magazine, Syfy.com, and Tor.com, and is a monthly contributor to the Novel Spaces writers blog. As he is still a big ol’ geek at heart, Dayton is known to wax nostalgic about all manner of Star Trek topics over on his own blog, The Fog of Ward: http://daytonward.wordpress.com.