Planet Of The Titans Is The Star Trek Movie We Need

By Chris Snellgrove | Published

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Believe it or not, there were multiple attempts to create a Star Trek film well before the release of the 1979 blockbuster Star Trek: The Motion Picture. One of those films that was planned but never made was named Planet of the Titans, and it would have had our favorite characters from The Original Series intersecting with Greek mythology and even making contact with primitive man. The film never got made, of course, but the more we learn about it, the more we’re convinced it could have been far better than most of the films in this famous franchise.

Searching For The Titans

planet of the titans

What would this unreleased Star Trek film have actually been about, though? In Planet of the Titans, Captain Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise investigate the titular world. The crew believes its inhabitants to be an extinct, technologically advanced, race.

Things go off course (literally and figuratively) when the ship enters a black hole and finds itself in orbit around Earth during the primitive days of humanity.

Originally, Kirk enters the black hole to thwart the Cygnans, aliens believed to be responsible for either the death or disappearance of the Titans. The last thing he expected to do was make first contact with primitive Earthlings. However, that’s exactly what happens, and after Kirk teaches early man how to make fire, he eventually realizes that he and his crew have become the legendary Titans they came to investigate.

Kaufman Makes Things… More Complex

star trek klingons

That was the story in the earliest drafts of Planet of the Titans, but when Philip Kaufman rewrote the script, he added some surprising wrinkles. For example, the ship has to rescue survivors from a solar system somehow being attacked by a black hole, and Spock gets some weird psychic images from two survivors who are obsessed with returning to “the one who calls.” Speaking of Spock, now that the ship has wrapped up its original five-year mission, he was planning to retire from Starfleet and return to Vulcan.

Before that could happen, though, this version of Planet of the Titans had the Klingons attack, and Kirk’s crew narrowly prevails. Afterward, the crew gets strange visions of their future, and Kirk and Spock begin to fight over whether they should return to the black hole or steer away from it. Nobody has any memories of this fight, but things look bad for Spock when ship records show that he ended up killing a fellow officer in his zeal to get the Enterprise away from the black hole.

Spock Falls In Love With A Medical Professional… Shocker!

planet of the titans

In Planet of the Titans, Spock gets a love interest in the form of Dr. Riva, an attractive medic who can project herself into dreams and who tries to help the Vulcan get to the bottom of this strange mystery. The black hole actually moves closer to Earth–even as Spock and his new companion begin to suspect something evil lurking within the black hole, the Vulcan deciphers instructions that are somehow planted into the ship explaining how to navigate the Enterprise safely into the singularity.

In a strange Planet of the Titans twist, a captured Klingon commander agrees something evil is inside the black hole–despite this, Spock returns to Vulcan to excise his humanity, and Kirk and his crew find themselves mysteriously drawn to Stonehenge. There, they discuss the rumors that Titans had lived on Earth before humanity, and Kirk eventually takes the ship on a mission to the black hole after first retrieving Spock and the Klingon that had accompanied him to Vulcan.

Kruge Doesn’t Get To Kill This One

With the black hole moving ever closer, Kirk takes the ship to investigate it and it suddenly engulfs them, leaving the crew in a new universe where Earth is ruined and, after a saucer separation (!!!), they land amid a graveyard filled with advanced Starfleet ships. Believe it or not, this is when Planet of the Titans gets really crazy. The crew tangles with an ape-like creature that can control their minds before encountering an elderly man who is actually the son of James T. Kirk.

Kirk’s son explains how spider-like aliens had taken Earth over and sent their malevolent thoughts through the black hole to lure more victims from different time periods to this apocalypse. Some of the survivors had been deformed into monstrous shapes, and this was meant to explain some of the stranger ideas in Earth’s mythology. Everything in Planet of the Titans comes to a head as the crew plans to attack a beast who is supposed to be the one controlling all these creepy spiders.

In fine Star Trek tradition, the “beast” ends up being the so-called Last Man on Earth, and he was a product of genetic manipulation that was stuck on the planet after humanity (who had ascended into weird, cloud-like creatures) abandoned Earth altogether. He had been calling people through the black hole (“the one who calls”) in a strange attempt to rebuild humanity, but it soon becomes clear that, as in the Bible, the only way to truly repopulate the Earth would be for one lucky man and woman to stay behind and start getting busy. On this weirdly tantalizing note, the Kaufman script disappointingly ends.

Bits And Pieces Live On

As a Star Trek fan, what struck me most about Planet of the Titans is how many of the ideas in this unused film popped up elsewhere in the franchise. Kirk having a surprise son, for example, was a major part of The Wrath of Khan, and Spock’s desire to return to Vulcan and cleanse himself of his humanity became part of The Motion Picture. Heck, even the idea of trying to get to the bottom of Earth’s various mythologies and religions became a main part of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.

What If?

If this really had been the first Trek film, we’re sure the rest of the franchise would have been dramatically different. However, we can’t help but love Planet of the Titans for all its quirks, including what would have been our earliest glimpse at saucer separation. Next time we belly up to the Guardian of Forever, we’ll have to ask it very nicely if we could visit the world where Planet of the Titans was made and discover just how different our favorite franchise ended up being.