Sunday, May 15, 2016

D.C. Fontana’s Story Outlines for “The Enterprise Incident”

Still from "The Enterprise Incident" (September 27, 1968)
In These Are The Voyages — TOS: Season Three, authors Marc Cushman and Susan Osborn make a number of claims about the story outlines D.C. Fontana wrote for “The Enterprise Incident” in early 1968. For the purposes of this piece, I am focusing on the following passage:
“Ears” was one of four assignments Roddenberry had given Fontana on March 29. The others – “Joanna,” “Survival,” and “Van Vogt’s Robots” -- were not tied to a breaking news event, therefore less time urgent.
NBC had no problem with Star Trek exploiting a real life news story for a higher Nielsen share as long as the approach was pro-American, and so the network representatives agreed the script should be developed quickly. All haste was recommended -- the Pueblo crisis was already into its third month.
Fontana made the necessary changes and sent in her revision, dated April 19. Sarek was out and Spock was now the one negotiating with the Romulan commander (still a male), looking to buy time and distract the enemy long enough to allow Kirk to complete the covert mission.
It was now clear from the get-go that Kirk was up to something in letting the Enterprise enter the Neutral Zone. Many aspects of the story structure were in fact now very much like the episode to be produced. And, with network permission to parallel “The Pueblo Incident,” as the news services were now calling it, the title of Fontana’s story was changed to the more obvious “The Enterprise Incident.” 
Three days later, on April 22, at Freiberger’s request, Fontana created a 2nd Revised Outline, establishing that the Romulans now use Klingon-made ships.
--Marc Cushman with Susan Osborn, These Are The Voyages — TOS: Season Three (eBook Edition, April 2015)
Almost immediately, Cushman and Osborn misrepresent the details here. To start with, Fontana’s third season story assignments were handed out on February 21, 1968 — not March 29. For the latter date to be correct, it would mean that Fontana pitched and sold four stories to Star Trek, then turned around and wrote and submitted a sixteen page outline for "The Enterprise Incident," all in a single work day. Not only does the paperwork not support such a rushed timeline (a third season writers report1 indicates the February 21 date), but Cushman and Osborn contradict themselves when discussing “That Which Survives” in a subsequent chapter:
During a February 21, 1968 pitch session, four of D.C. Fontana’s ideas interested Gene Roddenberry for Star Trek ’s third season. “Van Vogt’s Robots” was jettisoned early on, with nothing being written. “Survival,” “Ears,” and “Joanna,” however, made it to story outline, with “Survival” chosen to be developed first.
--Marc Cushman with Susan Osborn, These Are The Voyages — TOS: Season Three (eBook Edition, April 2015)
If the other three stories were viewed as less urgent than “Ears,” Fontana had a strange way of showing it. As Cushman and Osborn point out in their later chapter, the show files at UCLA indicate Fontana turned in the story outline for “Survival” first, on March 9, 1968, more than three weeks before the initial outline for “The Enterprise Incident” was delivered to the studio.

Regarding NBC’s attitude towards the story and its contemporary political parallels, there’s no record of their position in the show files at UCLA. What the authors present in that regard is pure speculation. As to whether or not the network wanted the episode developed quickly, there is an April 3, 1967 memo from Roddenberry to Freiberger, which asks:
We should check out with Stan Robertson of NBC whether or not this has promotion possibilities, too, and if so, should we lay it in early in our schedule to get Dorothy to work on it before other scripts?2
NBC's reply to Roddenberry's inquiry is not recorded in the show files, but the episode did become the first one Fontana took to teleplay for the third season, and it was slated to film fourth, early in the season.

It is true that Sarek had been featured in Fontana's first draft story outline for the episode, dated March 29, 1968:
Sarek appears in D.C. Fontana's first draft story for "The Enterprise Incident" (March 28, 1968)
It is also true that Sarek was dropped from the story after this draft. However, it is not true that Fontana's first draft story outline was titled "Ears." That had been her title when the story outline was assigned on February 21, 1968, but by the time Fontana delivered her first draft on March 29, 1968, the title had been changed to "The Enterprise Incident." This can be seen on the outline's cover page (which also indicates "Ears" as an earlier title, in pen):
Cover page of D.C. Fontana's first draft story for "The Enterprise Incident" (March 28, 1968)
It is true that the Romulan Commander was still male at this stage in the story's development; the character wouldn't become female until the episode went to teleplay, as this page from Fontana's final draft of the story outline shows:
Detail from page 3 of D.C. Fontana's second draft story for "The Enterprise Incident" (April 22, 1968)
However, it is absolutely untrue that Fontana wrote a revised draft of the script on April 22 at Fred Freiberger's request. The April 22nd "draft" did not establish "that the Romulans now use Klingon-made ships," either:
Comparison showing April 19 and April 22, 1968 "drafts" in fact have identical text
I use the word "draft" in quotes because it's clear, after comparing the two documents, that their text is in fact identical — they are the exact same draft. What appears to have happened is that Fontana completed her story outline on April 19 (a Friday) and sent it to the studio, where it was delivered on April 22 (the following Monday). In fact, you can see that delivery date stamped on the cover page of the April 19 version below:
Cover page of D.C. Fontana's 2nd draft outline of "The Enterprise Incident" (April 19, 1968)
As was often the case, upon receipt, Fontana's draft was re-typed in a standardized format. Apparently, when Cushman and/or Osborn read these story outlines, they did so without paying any attention to detail. The result is a chapter that provides incorrect dates, a wrong title, and invents details that are not supported by the archival record. These types of lapses are, frankly, inexcusable, especially from a pair of authors who want to be taken seriously as archival television historians.

Top image courtesy of Trek Core.

Update: The original version of this post included a photograph of Fontana's April 22, 1968 story outline that did not identify the Romulan Commander's gender, despite my text to the contrary. This has been corrected. Thanks to author Christopher L. Bennett for pointing out this error.


1 Writers Report, March 29, 1968, Gene Roddenberry Star Trek Television Series Collection, Box 35, Folder 15

2 Memo from Gene Roddenberry to Fred Freiberger, April 3, 1967, Gene Roddenberry Star Trek Television Series Collection, Box 21, Folder 7

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