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Star Trek: The Next Generation celebrated its 30th anniversary last month on September 28th. While it is now a beloved part of Star Trek fandom, at the time it was considered a controversial risk. Some vocal fans hated the new characters and the lack of connections to the original series. Launching in syndication was an expensive experiment for a show featuring a cast of unknown actors. Sci-fi franchises were in a lull, with Star Wars failing to be revitalized a few years later by the Heir to the Empire series. There was one more element that weighed on the launch that fans didn’t know much about until many years later; there was a sequel series called Star Trek: Phase II that failed to materialize on television screens in the 1970s.
The success of the original series in syndication made Paramount executives consider using Star Trek to launch a fourth network in 1977. There were only three broadcast networks at the time. Star Trek’s surprising popularity made it a good choice as a flagship program. Pre-production began and a pilot episode “In Thy Image” was commissioned. Several other scripts were created as well, though only the pilot truly came close to production. Spock was to be replaced by a young Vulcan named Xon because Leonard Nimoy was not interested in reprising his role as Spock. Other new characters, like a young commander and exotic alien beauty, rounded out the cast.
There were two major factors that prevented the launch Star Trek: Phase II. A corporate takeover by Gulf+Western scuttled the idea of launching a fourth network. A flagship launch series was no longer needed when the boardroom decided there was not a network to launch. The other was the success of Star Wars. The sudden blockbuster nature of science fiction showed that there might be more money to be made in bringing Star Trek to the big screen.
Elements from this projects have trickled into reality. Many elements from the commissioned pilot script were reused in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. The young commander and alien empath are often cited as the basis for Commander Riker and Deanna Troi. The Troi-precursor was also at the center of a script originally written for the lost series called “The Child”.
A book called Star Trek Phase II: The Lost Series, published in the mid-90s, collected the episode pitches, scripts and pre-production art into a tantalizing view of what could have been. GMs running sci-fi inspired games such as Star Trek Adventures who can track down a copy of this book, or even scan the episode summaries online, might find some great inspiration for adventures in their own games.
Featured image: Paramount
Image Credits: Paramount, CBS
Rob Wieland is an author, game designer and professional nerd. He writes about kaiju, Jedi, gangsters, elves and is a writer for the Star Trek Adventures RPG line. His blog is here, where he is currently reviewing classic Star Wars RPG adventures. His Twitter is here. His meat body can be found in scenic Milwaukee, WI.