Star Trek: The Motion Picture will always be divisive among Trekkies. The movie sacrificed a lot of the wit and charm of the original TV series in favor of a more methodical approach to science fiction, in the same vein as Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. But as nebulous and confounding as some of the movie's ideas are, apparently series creator Gene Roddenberry had an even more outlandish premise planned for the franchise's big screen debut.
Over on The Hollywood Reporter, there's an excerpt from the book The Fifty-Year Mission: The Complete Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of Star Trek—The First 25 Years, where it's revealed that Roddenberry's first stab at a Trek movie script featured the crew of the Enterprise coming face-to-face with God—or, at the very least, an alien claiming to be God.
Appearing in front of the crew in the familiar form of Jesus, it wouldn't be long before Captain Kirk engaged in some old-fashioned fisticuffs with this intergalactic messiah, much to the horror of Paramount execs (although William Shatner seemed to love it). If that sounds a little too "out there" for a Trek movie, you're not alone.
Years after Paramount shelved the script due to fears over the controversy it would cause, author Michael Jan Friedman was hired to turn the original treatment into a novel. However, Friedman didn't exactly give the story a glowing endorsement after he actually looked over the unedited drafts:
" I hadn’t seen other samples of Gene’s unvarnished writing, but what I saw this time could not possibly have been his best work. It was disjointed—scenes didn’t work together, didn’t build toward anything meaningful. Kirk, Spock, and McCoy didn’t seem anything like themselves. There was some mildly erotic, midlife-crisis stuff in there that didn’t serve any real purpose. In the climactic scene, Kirk had a fistfight with an alien who had assumed the image of Jesus Christ. "So Kirk was slugging it out on the bridge. With Jesus."
The version of Star Trek: The Motion Picture that actually did land on screens had a screenplay by Harold Livingston and a story credit go to Alan Dean Foster. However, some of Roddenberry's godly script ideas actually did live on in both The Motion Picture and Star Trek V.
So if a space Jesus decides to show up in Star Trek Beyond when it hits theaters on July 22, Trek fans will know who to blame.