After the success of Star Trek: The Motion Picture at the box office, Gene Roddenberry immediately got to work on a sequel. Little did he know that Paramount was in the process of sidelining him into a consulting producer role and his story for Star Trek II would never be made. However, we have details of his concept and it just may surprise you. Kirk meets JFK? Spock is the man on the grassy knoll?
Gene Roddenberry put together a sixty-page treatment for a sequel to Star Trek: The Motion Picture in the Spring of 1980, according to The 50 Year Mission by Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman. Despite TMP making $139 million worldwide, with $82.2 of its gross being made domestically, Roddenberry was stung by criticism of his first outing on the silver screen.
Roddenberry’s Idea for Star Trek II
Roddenberry decided to write a sequel that got back to the elements that had made Star Trek so popular: the Klingons, time travel, the Guardian of Forever, and Sarek and Amanda. In the story, the Enterprise returns to Earth to find bodies floating in space. They eventually discover that history has been changed by the Klingons and the Federation no longer exists. As to why the Enterprise still exists when the Federation does not, well the answer is that anyone traveling at warp speed when the change in the timeline occurred is immune.
With the Federation never having existed, Earth is populated with a savage race of protohumans. The crew learns that the Klingons used the Guardian of Forever to go back in time and change history. When more Klingons arrive at Earth, the Enterprise hides behind the moon to evade detection.
In San Francisco near the site of what would have been Starfleet Headquarters, Amanda is brutally raped by the Klingons and Sarek sacrifices his life to save Kirk and Spock. The crew returns to the planet where the Guardian is located to go back in time and reverse the damage that the Klingons had done.
When a Klingon ship attempts to block a much larger Guardian portal, the Enterprise crashes through the Guardian and ends up crashing in Canada in the 1960s. A U-2 spy plane mistakes the crashed Enterprise for an alien spacecraft, which causes U.S. President John F. Kennedy to cancel his trip to Dallas in November 1963. This prevents JFK from being assassinated, thus altering the timeline.
Realizing that they were the ones who altered the timeline, Captain Kirk visits JFK in the Oval Office. However, Kirk is not forced to ask the President to sacrifice himself to correct the timeline. Instead, the crew repair the timeline (mysteriously) that the Klingons disrupted and return to the 23rd century. To their surprise, Dr. McCoy returns to a wife due to the changes the Enterprise crew had made in the past.
Eddie Egan, the unit publicist on Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, stated that there was a revision that made the events of Roddenberry’s Star Trek II similar to the classic Original Series episode “The City on the Edge of Forever.” In order for history to be restored, Kennedy had to die. In this version, Spock appeared behind a fence and fired the fatal gunshot that assassinated JFK. This proposal reportedly horrified Paramount.
Fans even began a letter-writing campaign based on rumors that Spock would be the shooter on the grassy knoll. These angry letters basically said “if Spock is the shooter on he grassy knoll, I will never watch again.”
Paramount Grows Tired of Gene
Roddenberry was promoted by Paramount in the early 1980s to the role of Executive Consultant, essentially cutting him out of creative input in the Star Trek film franchise. According to long-time assistant Susan Sackett, Paramount was looking for a scapegoat for their failure to hold back costs in the production of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and they wanted anyone else but Roddenberry. TMP had run $10 million over budget, which Sackett contends was Paramount’s fault. Sackett, for her part, felt that Gene’s JFK story was “damn good,” and she does not know why they never did it.
The Wrath of Paramount
As a result of TMP’s budgetary issues, Paramount Pictures turned to Harve Bennett, the head of Paramount’s television division, in 1980 to produce the sequel to TMP. Bennett and Roddenberry reportedly clashed intensely during the production of The Wrath of Khan, even to the point where Bennett had Roddenberry thrown off the set after a particularly bitter dispute one day.
For this story, and many others from the history of making Star Trek, check out Mark A. Altman and Edward Gross’s two-volume history, “The Fifty Year Mission.”