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While wandering through a Star Trek rabbit hole, I came across this tidbit on the Wikipedia page for T'Pol; bold emphasis is mine:

“Series producer Rick Berman said they originally intended that a younger version of T'Pau would be the Vulcan officer serving on the titular starship in Star Trek: Enterprise. Instead, after determining there were legal difficulties in using the original series character, the producers created T'Pol. Brannon Braga also said the idea was dropped to avoid having to deal with any legal issues, and also that T'Pol was simply easier to pronounce.”

What the heck were those legal problems that prevented T'Pau from being used in Star Trek: Enterprise?

Did it have something to do with Theodore Sturgeon who wrote the script for the original series episode T'Pau was featured in, “Amok Time?”

Whatever the issues were, they seem to have been cleared up by the time the Star Trek: Enterprise episode “Awakening” (S04E08) was filmed since that episode does indeed feature T'Pau.

Stop Spock!

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    Note that T'Pau does appear in Enterprise, albeit obviously not as a main character, so whatever those legal difficulties were they must have been resolved by season 4. Jan 6 at 4:00
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    I've read its because of having to pay the Sturgeon estate for the rights to use the character name, but not seen any 'official' acknowledgement. Jan 6 at 8:29
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    @blobbymcblobby Presumably for the same reason they created the Tom Paris character for Voyager, even though he was Nick Locarno in all but name (including the same actor). It is well documented that they did this to avoid paying royalties to the writer(s) of The First Duty for every episode of Voyager.
    – Darren
    Jan 6 at 19:31

2 Answers 2

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This might be of interest as it also gets a bit of debate in forums from time to time:

Sturgeon wrote the screenplay for Amok Time. It was originally announced that T'Pau was going to be on Enterprise, but the Sturgeon Estate owns the character. This is the same reason T'Pau did not appear in the Yesteryear episode of the Animated Series.

It requires those running his estate to be sticklers, and generally speaking you kinda have to be a stickler if you're not going to see the estate be diminished by people taking advantage of it.

Harlan Ellison successfully sued Paramount in 2009 over use of material from City on the Edge of Forever in licensed novels (he sued for a 1$ plus expenses).

So yes, if you're going to use material which you don't own, you're going to have to negotiate with the owners over the worth of the material and while you're doing that any plans you have revolving around the material have to be put on hold and possibly won't come to fruition.

Now T'Pau is a relatively minor character in the original series but in ST:ENT she would have been a major, recurring character--second in command of the mission. It doesn't matter how minor she was in the episode, an estate would have to be insane or incredibly generous not to want a significant chunk of the profit from the use of the character. But let's be kind to the Sturgeon estate and say they may have been completely willing to be so generous. You still have that unless Paramount approaches them on the matter, they won't know and the easiest thing to do, because there is no inherent reason the tale of the first Enterprise has to have T'Pau as a character, is to simply choose another name for the character.

Nobody has said the Sturgeon estate were bastards. There may never have been negotiations over use of the character. But that does not mean that royalties to the Sturgeon estate were not a factor in the consideration of the naming of the character.

Source: https://forum.rpg.net/index.php?threads/wiw-star-trek-the-original-series.532768/page-30

The intention was for the Enterprise character T’Pol to be T’Pau, but that would have required paying a fee to Theodore Sturgeon’s estate for every use of the character.

Source: https://www.tor.com/2015/11/10/star-trek-the-original-series-rewatch-amok-time/

James Van Hise mentions Jerome Bixby and the Mirror Universe. In that situation, Bixby's loss had more to do with the way the Writers Guild of America (WGA) factored royalties--the Mirror Universe was a concept, not a character, and thus not something he could claim royalties for. On the flipside, Ted Sturgeon's estate would have received royalties for T'Pau had she been a regular character on Star Trek: Enterprise (as had been planned), which led the producers to simply rename the character T'Pol. Same character, different name, no royalty payments.

Source: https://www.peterdavid.net/archives/004740.html


Regarding legalities of character ownership and WGA contract specifics:

freelance writers' contracts specify that royalties are owed if the guest characters are used in future episodes or movies. Up and till now, that didn't include their use in licensed tie-ins, but Harlan Elison has now decided to challenge previous interpretations in the courts.

T'Pau/T'Pol problem, where royalties were owed to the estate of freelance writer, Theodore Sturgeon.

Paramount owns the characters and can use them as they see fit. But they also have to pay the creators of the characters for their use. It's spelled out in the Writers Guild minimum basic agreement.

Source: https://www.trekbbs.com/threads/tom-paris-nick-locarno-question.99456/


Also of interest; but not answering the question:

Excerpt from "The Writing of 'Amok Time'

…delving into the Vulcan culture that nobody had ever seen before -- the ceremony, the formality, this woman who was head of the council, T’Pau -- that was all basically Sturgeon. But we made it more Star Trek.

Source: http://www.thesearethevoyagesbooks.com/the-writing-of-ldquoamok-timerdquo.html


And finally of interest is Theodore Sturgeon’s script copy for Gene Roddenberry.

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Theodore Sturgeon created the character of T'Pau when writing Amok Time and owned the rights to the character.

So when Star Trek: Enterprise was preparing for production, producers thought a younger version of the Vulcan would work perfectly for the series. So T’Pau was the name used in casting calls. In fact, at one time, Babylon 5 actress, Marjorie Monoghan was being considered for the role of Sub-Commander T’Pau.

But as Theodore Sturgeon owned the rights to the character he created, that raised legal issues for the producers. So they decided to go with a new character, T’Pol, although, at one time, the producers did think about making T’Pau T’Pol’s sister to unite the two women in history, though that was dropped as well. The Enterprise did end up using T’Pau as a character, though, as she was an extremist who demanded the government return to Surak’s teaching.

Source

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    "producers thought a younger version of the Vulcan would work perfectly for the series" - I know you're just quoting, bit am I the only one baffled by such statements? I for one couldn't imagine a Vulcan science officer serving as the liaison to humans on Earth's first warp 5 ship (and thereby naturally growing closer to humans and starting to understand their ways - that's what always happens in Hollywood logic ;) ) that would later transform into a high priestess who can barely conceal her contempt of anything non-Vulcan. Jan 6 at 10:31
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    What better way to develop intense contempt for humans than spending a few years with us in a work environment? Jan 6 at 11:35
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    "Legal problems" seems to be an euphemism for "we'd have to pay someone money "
    – Andrew
    Jan 6 at 13:09
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    @Giacomo1968 - i think i read that it was like that, more to do with the WGA (For CBS? Paramount came later IIRC), and that Sturgeon was already a well-known writer of some standing. Jan 6 at 16:49
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    @Giacomo1968 It seems to be common in Star Trek. For example, they would have had to pay the writer to use the character Nick Locarno in Voyager, instead of Tom Paris. I think there's something to the writers agreements that they have to pay royalties to them if they reuse their characters, same as they do if they air their episode.
    – trlkly
    Jan 6 at 23:56

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