Thursday, November 14, 2013

Unseen Trek, Supplemental: 'Sister in Space'

Still from 'The Doomsday Machine' (1967)
Last month I announced an ongoing partnership with Orion Press to help complete that site's "Unseen Elements of the Original Series" page.  I am pleased to announce that the earliest fruits of that collaboration can now be found on this blog as well as on the Orion Press site, including Dave Eversole's reviews of Robert Sheckley's 'Sister in Space' and Ben Masselink's 'The Surrender of Planet X,' neither of which was produced.

In conjunction with these reviews, I will occasionally post "supplemental" content such as this, which will provide some behind-the-scenes context explaining why certain stories ultimately went unproduced.


Robert Sheckley's 'Sister in Space' (not 'Sisters in Space,' as it is repeatedly identified in Marc Cushman's These Are The Voyages) was the writer's second submission for Star Trek. His first, 'Rites of Fertility,' was delivered on May 6, 1966, but cut off at the story stage due to its estimated cost. Nonetheless, Roddenberry liked Sheckley enough that he bought another story from the writer less than a month later. Sheckley delivered his story outline on June 12, 1966, and attached the following for Roddenberry:
Here is the outline of “SISTER IN SPACE,” the working title I've given to the derelict-in-space story we discussed last week. I think that the character of Lieutenant Poole is an interesting one, and capable of generating a good deal of excitement and conflict. Do let me know what you think.
Three days after the submission was received, on June 15, 1966, John D.F. Black sent a memo to Gene Roddenberry weighing the pros and cons of going forward with the story.

Like many early submissions (including 'Rites of Fertility') Black felt the script was "too expensive," in addition to being "[out of] sync with our mechanical concepts." It was also too short by half, without a role for Spock (Black suggested he take Scotty's role), and made the mistake of giving the climactic action to the guest star rather than Captain Kirk. In Black's view, this was "integral to human drama but un-Star Trek."

On the other hand, "it was a monster tale," which meant that it would please NBC. It was also set aboard ship, which meant the production could "utilize existing sets and make it feasible to have a monster." Black also liked the general premise of a "drifting Enterprise-class space vessel...when it has a monster aboard," but he was unsure if Sheckley was the appropriate writer for the material. Black may have been worried by Sheckley's lack of television experience. Although the short story writer had seen a few of his stories adapted to television by this time, his only produced teleplay was an episode of Armchair Theatre broadcast in 1961.

Black closed his memo to Roddenberry with the phrase, "Let's talk." Although the content of that conversation is unknown, the result is not. On June 24, 1966, the production exercised story cut-off on 'Sister in Space.' Although Sheckley never had anything produced on Star Trek (a third, untitled attempt by Sheckley which may have been written even earlier was also rejected) he did end up writing a Star Trek: Deep Space Nine tie-in novel called 'The Laertian Gamble' in 1995, almost thirty years later.

Image courtesy of Trek Core.


Star Trek: Deep Space Nine #12 -- The Laertian Gamble (Robert Sheckley, 1995)

These Are The Voyages: TOS, Season One (Marc Cushman with Susan Osborn, 2013)

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