Many people think alike – so much so that there was a need to patent one’s ideas and copyright them.
In the entertainment industry, scripts were safely guarded for this purpose; on occasions, it did go out of hand once in a while,
It did in the case of Fantastic Voyage and I Dream of Jeannie.
People who have watched the show ‘I Dream of Jeannie’ in the mid-’60s and at a later stage would recall a particular episode, ‘The Moving Finger’ (watch the episode) – in which a movie production approaches Major Nelson, an astronaut to consult on a science-fiction movie.
The plot goes this way: *“An American astronaut, shrunken to the size of a pinhead, is injected into the bloodstream of a Soviet astronaut, works his way to the brain and retrieves information vital to the defense of the country.”
While the concept is indeed mind-boggling and exciting, none of it happened in that episode. It remained just a scene and nothing more. A few months later, in 1966, a movie that had its plot based on the above idea was released. However, Fantastic Voyage as an idea was made on the screen based on a story by Otto Klement and Jerome Bixby much before the episode of ‘I Dream of Jeannie’ aired.
HOW IT ALL BEGAN
The story’s screenplay included few details that would add drama, and what better than ‘the Cold War’ angle. This time the battle between the United States and the Soviet Union was not on ‘outer space’ but ‘inner space.’
Movie on this idea was on, and Bantam books had bought the rights to novelise the screenplay at that time. Enter Issac Asimov, the science fiction expert, who was approached to write the novel based on the script. There was hesitation on his part before being offered complete freedom in writing the story.
As it turned out, he quickly drafted the idea and completed the novel by the end of July 1965.
The hardcover edition was published in March 1966 with Otto Klement entitled to royalties as it was his script in the first place irrespective of the fact it was Asimov who pushed for the ‘hardcover’ edition. It was a happy conclusion at the end of it all when Klement managed to serialise the story for ‘The Saturday Evening Post’ and the payment of which was agreed to split into two between Asimov and Klement.
Bantam Books, which had the rights only for the paperback edition, released the book coinciding with the film’s release.
IT WAS ASIMOV’S GAIN
There were delays in completing the movie on time due to various production issues, and all this only ensured Issac Asimov to be the biggest gainer at the end of it all. The public was aware of the novel authored by Asimov before the movie was released. This contributed to believing that Asimov is the ‘genius’ behind the idea of the film.
It doesn’t matter who was behind what; the movie was well appreciated and incorporated the special effects inside the human body – a place where no human has ever been to. Fantastic Voyage is indeed ‘fantastic,’ and apart from the outdated on-screen special effects, concept-wise, it is an evergreen classic!