Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Unseen Trek: "The Corbomite Manuever" (FINAL DRAFT)

Still from "The Corbomite Maneuver" (1966)
Written by Jerry Sohl
FINAL DRAFT, dated May 3, 1966
Report and Analysis by David Eversole
Originally posted at Orion Press

If any of you are interested in seeing how a competent, workmanlike, but somewhat bland teleplay that is just another "first contact" story, no better than the thousand first contact stories that came before it, becomes an excellent episode filled with nice touches and character moments, then buy a copy of this script and compare it to the show. 

This teleplay is full of "babbling." Everything is discussed, everything is stated in very obvious terms, there is no room for the actors to actually act. Here's a sample of an unshot scene in the script:


Taking one of Kirk's uniforms off its hanger is JANICE, the Captain's yeoman. The sound of the o. s. door opening causes her to turn toward it.


coming in, unwinding the towel from about his neck, tossing it on the bed as he joins Janice, CAMERA GOING WITH him.

                                       Turn on the screen... Get the bridge.

                                       It is on, Captain.


Janice EXITS.


Kirk moves INTO FRAME, flicks a switch on the panel to talk to Spock, who is seen on the screen, though his back is to us.

                                       Mister Spock.

Spock turns, sees Kirk in his own monitor viewer.


as Spock talks to Kirk in the o. s. viewer.

                                                        KIRK'S VOICE 
                                       Any change?

                                       Negative, Captain. The cube is
                                       right where it was. 

                                                        KIRK'S VOICE 
                                       Is it monitoring us? 

                                       It has an elementary sensor
                                       beam, pulsating type. Emanates
                                       from the cube edges. 

                                                        KIRK'S VOICE 
                                       Any sign of life?

At this stage there was no Uhura. Dave Bailey is the Communications Officer, Lieutenant Ken Easton the Navigator. Their dialogue was combined and given mostly to the Dave Bailey we see in the episode. Uhura got a line or two of it, but nothing of importance. 

There are so many small moments that are not present in the script. No flypaper, no adrenaline gland, no coffee zapped by a phaser, no green leaves, no curiosity by Spock to gain Balok's image (Balok initiates visual communications with the Enterprise in the script), no comparison of Balok to Spock's father, no pity from Scotty for Spock's mother, no chess and poker analogies (Kirk just suddenly decides to bluff, no setup, nothing). 

Most significantly, there is no subplot with Bailey flipping out. In the script, Bailey shouts something like, "What does he expect us to do?" Kirk gives him a stern look and says, "He expects us to lose our heads. We're not going to do that are we, Mr. Bailey?" Bailey bucks up, says "No, sir," and that is that. 

To Sohl's credit, he did write the famous "I never say that" bits for McCoy. 

Someone pruned and reshaped the dialogue masterfully for the aired episode. 

Now, about the babbling. The final seventeen pages of Sohl's script play out in about six or seven minutes. When Kirk decides to answer the distress call Balok sends out, Sohl writes pages and pages of everybody, even Spock, vehemently disagreeing with him, questioning his decision. It is bad. In the episode, Kirk gets a couple of surprised looks, and the characters professionally do as told, and we know they disagree somewhat with him, but we don't need to be lectured on how and why. A raised eyebrow, a slight pause from the actors tells us all we need to know. 

The final scene on Balok's ship is pretty much as written, except Bailey does not accompany Kirk and McCoy over, so there's no leaving behind of a Federation representative to get to know Balok and the First Federation. 

Balok mentions the name of the planet where he intends to intern the Enterprise crew. It is called Carpi.

JERRY SOHL (Gerald Allen Sohl, Sr., 1913-2002): American Science Fiction writer, best known for his novels The Haploids and Costigan's Needle. For television, he first ghost-wrote episodes of The Twilight Zone for Charles Beaumont (when the latter was suffering from Alzheimer's), nine episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, then later wrote for The Outer Limits and The Invaders. For Star Trek he wrote "The Corbomite Maneuver," provided the story for "This Side of Paradise" (under his pseudonym Nathan Butler), and co-wrote the story for "Whom Gods Destroy." Sohl also served on The Committee of science fiction writers hired by Desilu to evaluate the original pilot of Star Trek and make improvements.

Editor's Note: The "someone" who pruned and reshaped Jerry Sohl's dialogue into the shooting script was Gene Roddenberry, according to Herb Solow and Bob Justman's Inside Star Trek: The Real Story (1996).

Image courtesy of Trek Core.

This article was originally published by Orion Press and is reprinted by permission of publisher Randall Landers. All rights revert to the original authors.

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