Concept art of the Enterprise in drydock

In Thy Image

Concept art of the Enterprise in drydock
Concept art of the Enterprise in drydock

In early August of 1977, science fiction author Alan Dean Foster submitted a treatment for what was designed to have been the two-hour premiere episode of the Star Trek II television series. That treatment opened with the Enterprise on a routine patrol and receiving a Starfleet communication detailing the appearance of an enormous metallic shape moving through space on a direct heading for Earth. Kirk is given the task of intercepting whatever it might be, and altering its course. Information provided includes the fact that the shape is thirty kilometers across and seventy in length and that it emits a radiation that causes automatic monitors to go “crazy.”

As the Enterprise approaches, Lt. Vulcan (known from this point on as Xon — as this is who the character would have been if this version of “In Thy Image” had gone to script) comes to the conclusion that this is no meteor, but rather some sort of vessel. They pull up close to it and “the general effect is some monstrous cathedral lying on its side. Against that gleaming leviathan, theEnterprise is a tiny shape.”

The intruder attempts communication and Uhura puts it on speaker. Apparently the vessel is the servant of the God known as N’sa (pronounced “en-sah”). Xon checks with the computer and finds that there is no reference to a god named N’sa. The metallic voice explains that it is on its way to Earth, the home world of its god. According to the treatment, “N’sa showed the chosen people, we of the Wan, the existence and magnificence of the universe. In re­tum, we of the Wan wish to return this gift by clearing N’sa’s world of the festering disease N’sa indicated was poisoning its surface.”

The Commander (now refened to as Decker) is confused by this and questions the other vessel. Suddenly the metallic voice refers to him and the others as infestations. Before anything else can happen, Kirk orders photon torpedoes to be fired but the energy proves to be harmless. Failing at this, he orders the ship to escape at warp speed, to no avail. The Enterprise is being held in a tractor beam of enormous strength.

Concept art of space offices
Concept art of space offices

Decker is trying to figure out why the Wan has not destroyed them even though it clearly has the power to do so. Kirk deduces that it only wants to kill the crew but save the ship, probably as a means of informing them of the Federation and its capabilities. Feeling that the loss of this information would become too great a threat, Kirk orders Scotty to overload the Enterprise‘s engines on his command so that the vessel will self destruct before the information can be obtained. With no choice, he gives the order — but nothing happens! Incredibly, the computer has refused a direct order. “I have been ordered,” the computer relates, “not to allow self destruction because it would not be to the greater glory of the great god N’sa.”

Shortly thereafter, probes of light appear on the Enterprise, examining various aspects of the ship and, quite obviously, exploring the vessel, and then transmitting the information back to the Wan. A battle ensues, with the probes eventually leaving the ship. At that moment, the computer begins to feed information to the Wan and ignores override commands. “They’re hunting for a weakness,” warns Decker.

As the bridge crew ponders the true essence of their opponents, elsewhere on the ship there are reports of a tiger, a pack of wolves, an army of ants, alligators, eagles and elephants and lions. A swarm of bees materializes on the bridge but most of those are disposed of via phaser fire. Xon picks up one of the “dead” bees and discovers that it is actually a mechanical device, as are all the creatures that suddenly appeared on board.

They attempt communication with the alien ship’s crew and are shocked to realize that the ship is actually a single machine life form. Bearing this in mind, Xon comes to the conclusion that theEnterprise was not destroyed because Wan considers it a smaller version of itself and the crew a disease known as organic life.

Concept art of a shuttle leaving the space offices
Concept art of a shuttle leaving the space offices

Kirk does his best to convince the Wan that they are all intelligert creatures but it wants no part of this. The alien ship will continue on its path to Earth and cleanse it of the parasitic units. The Wan explains that “they knew nothing of the universe beyond until one day the god N’sa came down to them. N’sa told them of the universe beyond and the world it came from. So this great vessel was built to retum the body of N’sa to its home and to exterminate the organic life that enslaved N’sa’s companions.”

Then, Kirk, Xon, Decker and McCoy are transported aboard the alien spacecraft and appear in a huge vaulted chamber. Robot reproductions of Sulu and another crewmember wheel a mobile cart into the room with a clear dome cover. They are shocked to learn that the great god N’sa is actually a Pioneer Ten space probe launched by NASA in 1973. Apparently the Wan accepted the probe as god and misinterpreted the information within it.

Through pleading for man as a species, and a plan in which the Enterprise crew had constructed a robot version of Xon equipped with a photon bomb, the Wan admits defeat. The bomb, it points out, is not the reason, but rather the fact that the superiority of intelligent life has been proved. The real crewmembers are transported back aboard the Enterprise, where they settle into their normal positions, and continue their mission.

Out of curiosity, Decker asks the ship’s computer whether man or machine is superior. “Man is superior, naturally,” the computer responds, much to Decker’s relief.

“Don’t be too sure of yourself, Commander,” says McCoy. “We’ll always have to keep one eye on our machines.”

“What do you mean?” Decker asks, “you just heard it admit that we’re its superiors.”

“That’s what it said,” smiles McCoy, “but how do we know for sure that it isn’t lying?” With that said, the Enterprise warps into space.

Mike Minor's dramatic preproduction sketch of the Enterprise in drydock (Starlog)
Mike Minor's dramatic preproduction sketch of the Enterprise in drydock (Starlog)

Upon reading Foster’s treatment, Gene Roddenberry issued a total of six pages of comments, noting that the “principle problem … is certainly not lack of imagination. Rather, I believe most of my comments will bear upon control and selective use of imagination … Most of our story problem seems to boil down to getting to know our alien characters better … it should then be much easier to build a tale which rises steadily in excitement and jeopardies (to the starship and to Earth) to a very exciting and satisfying climax.”

Series producer Harold Livingston was quite pleased with the treatment although he agreed with many of Roddenberry’s criticisms. He wrote that he thought they had a “very, very workable story and, assuming the writer shares our enthusiasm, I do believe we’ll come out with a very good script.”

“When they were thinking of reviving Star Trek,” Alan Dean Foster related, “a number of writers were called in to submit treatments for hour long episodes. Roddenberry had gotten in touch with me because of the Star Trek Log series. He felt I was comfortable with the Star Trek universe and familiar with the characters. So I submitted three story ideas. I can describe one of the other two, but I forget the third.”

Roddenberry gave me a page and a half outline for ‘Robot’s Return.’ He thought that could be developed and wanted to see what I could do with it. So that was one of the three things I took home and developed into story ideas, which ran about five or six pages each. One of them, which I would still like to do, involved the Enterprise arriving at a planet which was the 1860s South, only the white folks were the slaves and the black folks were the ruling class.

“Anyway,” he continued, “Roddenberry told me to develop the story for ‘In Thy Image’ into a full scale treatment. After my treatment was turned in based on Roddenbeny’s page, it was decided to open the series with a two hour movie for TV, which is fairly standard procedure when they can manage it. It was decided that of the treatments they had at hand, mine was the best suited to cany two hours. So I went home and developed a thirty-seven page outline.”

Impression of the Klingon battle cruisers drawn by Robert T. McCall for The Motion Picture
Impression of the Klingon battle cruisers drawn by Robert T. McCall for The Motion Picture

The revised treatment, dated August 12, 1977, differed primarily in the way it opened. After the destruction of the Klingon vessels, we move to Starfleet Headquarters where Admiral Kirk is reviewing a tape which details information on the refitting of the Enterprise. Captain “Adams,” who is to command the ship, enters the room and suggests that the admiral join him for the final pre-commissioning tour. As they leave the room, they arecalled to an emergency meeting.

It seems that Starfleet has detected a large metallic object on a direct heading for Earth. Enterprise is assigned the task of deflecting the object, but Adams is concerned that the starship is not quite ready. However, the Enterprise is the only vessel capable of accomplishing this mission because of all the new equipment that has been installed on board.

Adams requests that Kirk assume command of the vessel, as a “newly refitted cruiser he could handle, a shakedown cruise he could manage … but to handle both of those in conjunction with a crisis of this magnitude is something he’s not prepared for.” Finally, and after much reluctance, Kirk agrees.

Kirk is able to reunite his original core crew, with the exception of Spock, who is now president of the Vulcan Academy of Sciences. His replacement is Lieutenant Xon, twenty-two year old Vulcan science officer. Kirk, and many others, are concerned about his age but are told by Starfleet that he is the most qualified.

Despite minor mishaps, Enterprise finally meets with the metallic object, discovering that it is actually a vessel of some sort (as described in the synopsis of the first draft).

The rest of the draft is pretty much like the original in terms of story structure, though most events are expanded upon. The primary exception is the reason the alien vessel decides to spare Earth and the crew. Kirk’s demonstration of human creativity touches something in the alien, which is going to take word of this creativity thing back to Wan; new information that requires much study. Perhaps if machines have helped man to achieve such creations, one day man might help the Wan to do likewise — it is a relationship which can benefit both ways.”

Leave a Reply