09 April 2016

Asshole of the Day

The Columbia Broadcast System:
For “Star Trek” fans it was like finding a lost Shakespeare play — only to have it snatched away by the playwright’s heirs.

Last fall an unused script for the cult 1960s television show turned up after being forgotten for years. Its author, the science-fiction writer Norman Spinrad, announced that it would become an episode of a popular Web series, “Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II,” which features amateur actors in the classic roles of Capt. James T. Kirk, Mr. Spock and other crew members of the starship Enterprise.

But then another player stepped in: CBS, which said it owned the script and blocked a planned Web production of it. Trekkies were appalled. “These executives should be phasered on heavy stun,” said Harmon Fields of Manhattan, who called himself “a ‘Star Trek’ fan of galactic proportions.”


The story begins in 1967, after Mr. Spinrad wrote an acclaimed episode of the original series, “The Doomsday Machine.” “I did ‘The Doomsday Machine’ fast,” Mr. Spinrad, 71, said by phone from his home in Greenwich Village, “and then they said: ‘We’re in a hole. Can you write something in four days?’ ”

The result was “He Walked Among Us,” which the producers envisioned as a dramatic vehicle for the comedian Milton Berle. His character is a well-meaning but messianic sociologist whose conduct threatens to destroy the planet Jugal. The crew of the Enterprise must remove him without disrupting the normal development of the culture.


Mr. Spinrad soon donated his sole copy of “He Walked Among Us” and other papers to California State University, Fullerton. With several other drafts of the script, it lay in the archives for decades. Sharon Perry, the university’s archivist and special collections librarian, said she had received only one inquiry about “He Walked Among Us” in her 27 years there.

But in October, at the annual New York City Collectible Paperback and Pulp Fiction Expo, a man seeking Mr. Spinrad’s autograph showed up with a copy of the script, which he said he found at another convention. A few months later Mr. Spinrad began selling the script on Amazon and Barnesandnoble.com, and the producers of “Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II” learned of it.

Based in Ticonderoga, N.Y., “Phase II” is one of numerous fan-generated “Star Trek” Internet series, this one named for “Star Trek Phase II,” Mr. Roddenberry’s failed 1977 attempt to revive his creation for television. This Web series is distinguished by its fidelity to the original’s sets, costumes, props, music and other elements, as well as appearances by some original cast members and new stories by writers like Ms. Fontana.

Over the years CBS gained the television, online and merchandising rights to “Star Trek.” But because the “Phase II” cast and crew make no money from their work, the network usually allows them to indulge their hobby.

Around the time Mr. Spinrad offered “He Walked Among Us” online (confusingly he published an unrelated novel with the same title in 2010) he arranged with the “Phase II” senior executive producer, James Cawley, who also portrays Captain Kirk, to film it. The writer said he was “blown away” by the series and planned to direct the episode himself next fall.

But this month, Mr. Cawley said, CBS asked him in an e-mail to cease and desist. CBS also contacted Mr. Spinrad, who withdrew “He Walked Among Us” from the Internet.

The network said it was now “considering opportunities to offer licensed copies of the work.”
F%$# CBS.

Without lube.


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