Almost exactly 30 years ago, the producers of Star Trek: The Next Generation were working on getting Leonard Nimoy to reprise his role as Spock for the second season premiere. Tasked with coming up with an idea for Spock’s return, Tracy Tormé developed the story for “Return to Forever,” which was a follow-up to the classic Star Trek: The Original Series episode “City on the Edge of Forever.” Today for the first time, the outline of that story was posted online.
Two Spocks meet in “Return to Forever”
Leonard Nimoy possibly appearing in the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation for an episode titled “Return to Forever” was revealed in the 1990s in both Starlog and Cinefantastique magazines. Tormé revealed more in the 2016 book The Fifty-Year Mission: The Next 25 Years: From The Next Generation to J. J. Abrams by Mark Altman and Edward Gross, where the writer explains that he was asked to come up with something that “would be really cool” for Nimoy. Tormé’s cool idea was to use a classic element from the TOS era to get the 24th century Spock to interact with his 23rd century counterpart:
They were going to go back to what was now the most forbidden place in the galaxy, which was that time portal, and they were going to have to actually violate the rules about non-interference, and it was going to create a Pandora’s box with a whole terrible, unforeseen thing which only the Spocks from the two different time periods coming together could actually fix.
Today we can now read the actual story outline from August 1988, thanks to our friends at the @trekdocs Twitter account, which regularly reveals genuine documents from Star Trek history.
Today we're posting a four-page outline for "Return to Forever" by Tracy Torme (writer of season one's "The Big Goodbye" and creator of Sliders). Originally a two-parter that would bring back the Guardian and Spock. Double Spock! August 25, 1988.
— trekdocs (@trekdocs) September 16, 2018
Below are all four pages of the Tormé outline for “Return to Forever”:
The story calls for the 24th century Spock to join the crew of the USS Enterprise-D to travel to the Guardian planet, where they encounter Spock from the 23rd century emerging from the Guardian of Forever. Doing the math, the Spock that was “78 years younger” would be the Spock from around the time of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, which was the most recent TOS era film at the time this outline was written. So, for this episode it looks like Leonard Nimoy would likely have played both Spocks, likely with aging make-up for the older 24th century Spock from the TNG era.
Things never progressed any further than this outline due to talks with Nimoy breaking down. In The Fifty-Year Mission: The Next 25 Years. Tormé discusses how his involvement with writing an episode for Nimoy’s return unfolded:
I was very excited about that and got going on it and was off to a very fast start. I was really looking forward to showing it to everybody, and then the word got back to me that the deal with Leonard fell out, he’s not going to be doing it. I was very crestfallen, because I thought that would be a really interesting show.
Spock did come back, and met young Spock too
Nimoy eventually did a two-part episode in 1991 for the 5th season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, with “Unification.” That story focused on the TNG-era Spock trying to bring the Romulans and Vulcans back together and didn’t involve The Guardian, time-travel or any extra Spocks.
Spock later did some time-traveling, although without the help of the Guardian of Forever. In 2009’s Star Trek, Leonard Nimoy again played Spock, which featured him going back in time to an alternate 23rd century thanks to a black hole. While there he did interact with his younger self, played by Zachary Quinto. The two Spocks also interacted in the next film, 2013’s Star Trek: Into Darkness.
Check out more articles about Star Trek history here at TrekMovie.com.