Its ongoing mission to seek out new life and new civilizations that do not conform to intellectual property laws and destroy them, CBS has put a stop to plans to adapt Norman Spinrad’s long-lost original Star Trek script “He Walked Among Us,” which the author had been preparing to film with the fan group Star Trek: New Voyages, some 45 years after last laying eyes on it. As previously reported, Spinrad hoped to bring his original, abandoned screenplay to life as part of the popular web series Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II, and in the meantime had begun selling digital copies of his story about the Enterprise crew’s encounter with a self-proclaimed messiah. But after news of Spinrad’s discovery spread rapidly around the Internet, CBS set its phasers to “meddling threats of litigation,” sending a cease-and-desist letter to Spinrad that demanded he remove the script from the web and immediately scrap all plans to adapt it, given that it still legally belongs to the studio.
Spinrad complied and has said little on the matter since, other than posting a clearly lawyer-prepared statement noting that he is not allowed to comment further and that CBS is now “considering opportunities to offer licensed copies of the work”—but not, however, considering allowing Phase II to go ahead with producing it, even if it’s had little problem with the group’s not-for-profit homages before. As the New York Times notes, Phase II has even been allowed to adapt another shelved Star Trek screenplay in the past (David Gerrold’s “Blood And Fire”), leaving Spinrad to drop some pretty strong hints that much of CBS’s recent change of heart has to do with pressure from J.J. Abrams to not allow the production of any Star Trek material that could possibly interfere with his own.
For what it’s worth, Spinrad only makes this connection indirectly—responding to a fan’s assertion that “maybe J.J. isn’t to blame after all” with “I didn’t say that,” then continuing, “But I am not legally bound not to say that I found J.J. Abrams' first Star Trek film quite inferior to the Phase II videos and his cavalier attitude towards the decades-long legacy of what Star Trek has come to mean to the general culture quite reprehensible, and indeed artistically counterproductive.” So, that definitely seems sort of telling.
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