Star Trek: The Academy Years

AKA: ‘Star Trek: The First Adventure’

For the past 10 years, yes, 10 friggin years! I have been trying to get my hands on this script. Still have not been able to find it. There was someone I knew who had a hard copy of this script and lost it while moving (insert Anime style fall over). Since then there has been little found on this script except through interviews and a review on AICN.

So where to start? At the very beginning. Harve Bennett, producer of Star Trek II, III, IV & V had a pitch for Star Trek VI which he got from producer Ralph Winter. The script was written by The Final Frontier screenwriter David Loughery. The story, a Prequel featuring Spock and Kirk in a coming of age adventure as they both enter the Academy at the ages of 17.

It opens in the 2280s/90s after ‘Kirk Vs God’  with Dr Leonard McCoy addressing cadets at the academy and reminiscing about the time when he first met Kirk and Spock which takes us back to 2315 with Jim Kirk crashing a futuristic crop duster biplane in Iowa much to the dismay of his brother and Mother.

2315 is not the Federation we have conceived in our minds. Racism, slavery, economic woes are still evident on other planets which in turn reaches earth as cadets from all over the galaxy join starfleet with their own preconceived ideas.

Some other interesting pieces of new continuity we could have snug up to in Harve Bennett’s movie would have been….

-John Malkovich and Ethan Hawke were rumored for Kirk and Spock.
– Warp is still in it’s early stages and Dilithium is being experimented with to take it to the next level.
– Kirk’s father “disappeared” during the first Dilithium-fueled Warp jump on a ship named ‘Bonaenture’ and thus Kirk grew up without him.
– The Villain Kalibar is also an Academy Cadet, he is a prince from another world that has an economy founded on slavery. He is kicked out of Starfleet after he beats up Spock in a racist attack on the first Vulcan in Starfleet.
– Kirk’s room mate is Bones who is a few years ahead of him in the Academy.
– There is another USS Enterprise. An older, Warship Enterprise that came before the Constitution class and it’s Captain is a man named Geoffrey Thorpe.
– Kirk and Scotty steal a prototype Warp ship ‘Bonaventure II’ with dilithium to save the Enterprise and thus conduct it’s first successful test.                                                      – Washington and Lee University was selected to be Starfleet Academy for the production.

At the climax of the movie there’s an exciting battle among the rings of a planet with ships fighting between rocks and chunks of ice. It would have been a very visual treat. The enemy too is outwitted in classic Star Trek style with Kirk using the dilitium crystals to give him an unforeseen advantage in battle.

I like the idea behind this script, I like how Spock and Kirk actually get time to deal with their own flawed youth and the trouble they get themselves into rather than brushing over this period quickly and sticking them on a ship.

Some negative points; again Kirk is brash and something of a rebel which seems like the fully formed character we already know and love. I’d like to have seen a far more different character who was unsure of himself. The 2009 film has the same problem, basically making young Kirk that same one we know and love from the original series. The problem with this is that the character has little room for growth and development which has been one of the problems with Chris Pine’s Kirk in the recent movies.

What I like about Star Trek the Academy Years idea is that this was an old School script, this was a prequel movie in the hands of the people who gave us the original series cast movies, from Khan to the Voyage Home. Secondly, it’s not a reboot, it invents continuity rather than trying to conform to it or wipe it away completely. It fulfills an area of Trek history that had been unexplored for years up until the 2009 movie. It’s an idea that has been banded about even before there were any Trek movies around with Gene Roddenberry saying at a World Science Fiction Convention way back in 1968 that a prequel movie might be the way to go…

Again in the early 2000s William Shatner came to Paramount with a Pitch for an Academy TV series before turning into a Novel.

Harve Bennett came back with the same concept again and proposed it to Paramount while ‘Enterprise’ was still on air also.It wasn’t until 2006 though that we got some semblance of the idea with  Abrams taking on the idea. But what the 2009 movie did was to quickly brush over the academy years and get on with putting the characters in the setting we grew up with, thus taking a lot of the originality out of the concept and not been tied to the original continuity also took away the interest of seeing how these characters truly came together.

Unfortunately many things were against this movie. There was a regime change at Paramount, most of the original cast who were not in it beyond Shatner, Nimoy and Kelley were openly again the film and the fans who got wind of the film and the untrue rumor that it was going to be a comedy like Police Academy, finally a number of vocal fans wrote in their numbers against it when news about it came out. Because of the film not taking off and the short time Paramount gave Bennett to come up with something else before the 25th Anniversary he decided to wipe his hands of the whole thing. Here’s what he had to say in an open farewell letter.

My only regret is that I was unable to bring to the screen the STAR TREK I believe could have been our best. Our final draft script was called STAR TREK: THE FIRST ADVENTURE, and it dealt with Kirk’s return to the Academy and his memories of life, love, and how it all began. It was a beautiful story. It had nothing to do with the”Police Academy” trash tag that unknowing people labeled it with. My only disappointment after ten years of proving my abilities to you all is that there were some of you who engaged in a letter campaign to destroy a work of art on hearsay evidence. I think I deserved more trust than that.”


Favorite Quote: ”It’s called Pon Far” – Spock (when trying to pick up a chick)

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