Anyone who has been to a science fiction convention knows that fans can sometimes be annoying or a little overly enthusiastic when meeting their heroes. Sometimes, though, such meetings can bring about total awesomeness, like a long-lost, unproduced Star Trek teleplay. Norman Spinrad thought the script he wrote in 1967 called “He Walked Among Us” had been lost to time, until it showed up with an autograph-seeking fan at a convention. The fan scanned the faded script and emailed it to Spinrad, who has published it as an e-book.
By Spinrad’s own account, the screenplay was a victim of a sometimes terrible but integral part of big- and small-screen productions: the rewrite. Roddenberry originally commissioned a dramatic script from Spinrad that would feature Milton Berle (and an “overgrown backlot village set” Roddenberry was apparently fond of). Berle — who was commonly referred to as “Mr. Television” — is arguably the biggest television star in the medium’s history and was mostly known for comedy. The Star Trek line producer wasn’t aware that Berle could also do drama, though, and rewrote Spinrad’s script into “an unfunny comedy.” Spinrad was so disgusted and ashamed of the rewrite that he campaigned against its production: “This is so lousy, Gene [Roddenberry], that you should kill it!” I told him. “You can’t, you shouldn’t, shoot this thing! Read it and weep!”
His pleas paid off and the script was never filmed — but that also meant he never received any of the residuals that would have gone along with a produced, syndicated episode. Thanks to that fan, Spinard now has the chance to make at least a little money off his work. And fans get a glimpse of an episode that almost was.