5 Things You Might Not Know About 'Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan'

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by Oliver Lyttelton
June 4, 2012 11:02 AM
7 Comments
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3. Director Nicholas Meyer rewrote the script in only 12 days.
With no workable script, and a release date already targeted, Paramount were in dire straits until executive Karen Moore suggested writer-director Nicholas Meyer, who'd had a recent success with time travel picture "Time After Time." Meyer had never seen an episode of "Star Trek" (later saying that "the chief contribution I brought [to the film] was a healthy disrespect... I tried through irreverence to make them more human and a little less wooden"), but was keen on the idea of tackling the film. He went on to compile a list of highlights from previous drafts, and went on to blast through a new draft in the twelve days needed before work on the effects had to begin, for no pay. Among his most lasting contributions were a more Naval take on Starfleet, inspired by the "Hornblower" novels by C. S. Forester, with redesigned ships and uniforms. Roddenberry didn't approve, but he was way out of the loop at this point. Meyer also turned Spock's protege Saavik into a female character, and, while his first choice was Kim Cattrall (who Meyer would eventually cast on his return to the franchise for "Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country"), future "Cheers" star Kirstie Alley wound up in the role.

4. Rumors of Spock's demise led to Leonard Nimoy getting death threats.
Killing off the ever-popular Spock was on the cards from the very beginning: Leonard Nimoy was reluctant to return to the role, and only did so on the condition that his character wouldn't survive the film. In early drafts, Spock was actually killed in the first act (in a move Bennett said was inspired by the death of Janet Leigh in "Psycho"). But despite secrecy, word of the move leaked early, causing a fan outcry: one group of Trekkers paid for an advert in Variety decrying the idea, and Nimoy even got death threats from particularly fervent fans. Nevertheless, the prouduction moved ahead with the plan, albeit moving Spock's demise to the end of the film. However, as production went on, Nimoy found himself enjoying the experience more than he expected, and pressed for the door to be left open for him to return. When the ending tested poorly, it was settled, and the scene where Spock's casket lands on the newly formed planet of Genesis was added, despite objections from Meyer, and plans started to form for a third installment, "The Search for Spock," which Nimoy would direct.

5. The film features the first all CGI-sequence in film history, created by the company that would eventually become Pixar.
Despite the innovations of "Star Wars," computerized special effects were still in their infancy, with models and other techniques still making up the bulk of effects work at ILM, who were the main house working on 'Wrath of Khan.' For instance, the nebula was created with a latex rubber and ammonia mixture being injected into a cloud tank full of fresh and salt water, and shot at two frames per second. But the film did serve as a pioneer by featuring the first entirely CGI sequence -- where the effects of the Genesis Device on a barren planet are developed. LucasFilm's Computer Graphics group were brought on, hoping that it would become a showcase for their work (see the featurette below). They would go on to create the Stained Glass Knight scene in "Young Sherlock Holmes," before Lucas sold the group to Steve Jobs in 1986, when it was renamed... Pixar.

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7 Comments

  • Amanda Sowards | October 25, 2012 4:05 PMReply

    I must contest your understanding of the history of STII:TWoK. Having spent months reading pages as they printed out of the dot matrix printer beside my father's desk, I can assure you that the story Jack B. Sowards wrote was (save for the fabulous additions from Nicholas Meyer, like the Melville references) the movie that was seen onscreen. So much so, in fact, that a WGA panel awarded my father sole screenplay credit during and arbitration with Harve Bennett. Sam Peeples, a long-time friend of my father, worked on iterations of the script prior to my father's hiring, not after. The writers' strike only ended shortly before the beginning of principle photography. If Mr. Peeples had worked on the script after my father, he would have been doing so during the strike, and that would have made him a scab (which he most definitely was not). Thanks for letting me set the record straight.

  • jock123 | September 8, 2012 7:43 PMReply

    The supposed “huge budget” for “ST: The Motion Picture” was nothing to do with the movie itself - that was made for comparatively little money, and on time, meeting a release date from which the studio would not budge; the apparently large sum was arrived at by adding the cost of the movie to the development costs of “Star Trek: Phase II”, which was a reunion movie, then a TV series, then a movie again, then a TV series again, ad nauseam…
    Sets, costumes, scripts were developed, and casting took place at considerable cost to Paramount, who then shuffled this onto the eventual feature film budget - but as little if any of the stuff for “Phase II” made it into the Robert Wise film, it can’t really have been a surprise that it didn’t end up being profitable.

  • sundae | June 17, 2012 8:51 PMReply

    Nimoy didn't insist that Spock die, Harve Bennnet brought it up when they were discussing Nimoy's being in the film.

  • HarryBalszak | June 12, 2012 11:05 PMReply

    I saw this film on opening day. Had a blast. Still get choked up near the end.
    Hard to believe it's been thirty years.

  • Jim | June 4, 2012 9:26 PMReply

    Straight from Wikipedia, but thanks for remembering the film at least.

  • Brandt Hardin | June 4, 2012 6:35 PMReply

    The long-enduring debate of which Enterprise Captain would win in every fan’s epic showdown has spilled over with guts and gore. See the battle of the Zombie Captains as Kirk and Picard go head to head on the Zombie Walk of Fame at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2012/04/star-trek-zombies-from-zombie-walk-of.html

  • Tom | June 4, 2012 1:52 PMReply

    Good article. I wasn't aware that Roddenberry was practically forced out.

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