In another low blow for Star Trek fandom, as well as fans of '70s television, producer Harve Bennett has died at the age of 84. His work includes four Star Trek movies (II, III, IV, and V), The Bionic Woman, The Six Million Dollar Man and two sci-fi one-season wonders: The Invisible Man and Gemini Man.
Famously, Bennett was responsible for reviving Khan as a villain for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. It was Bennett who watched all 79 classic Star Trek episodes and found that "Space Seed" provided a seed of inspiration.
But that wasn't his only success with Star Trek. That would be convincing Leonard Nimoy to return to the role of Spock. As he told StarTrek.com,
When I first took the Star Trek assignment, one of the problems was that Leonard Nimoy had already written his book I Am Not Spock. He had publically put it out there that he'd never do Spock again. And one of my first challenges was to convince Leonard that he should come back, because it wouldn't be Star Trek without him. I finally convinced him with a very simple, actor-proof argument. I said, "Leonard, if you come back, I'm going to give you the greatest death scene since Janet Leigh in Psycho. One third of the way into the picture, we're going to kill you. The audience will be shocked. It will be the end of your problems with Spock and we will go on to complete the story." He said, "That's good. I like that." So he signed on.
For a variety of reasons, including Gene (Roddenberry) and the 100,000 letters the studio received from fans after it got out that we were going to kill off Spock, we couldn't do it the way we planned. Hence a rewrite and when Nick Meyer, God bless him, came on board we found a way to extend Spock's role. And it was much better, because I think Wrath of Khan might have been a failure if Spock had died one third of the way through it. So we got Wrath of Khan done, Nick Meyer was brilliant, and the rest is history.
Bennett had meant for Spock to die during the Kobayashi Maru scene, the no-win test where a captain has to make a death-or-death decision. In that scene, Spock walks away, and we learn that a young Jim Kirk had cheated and passed the test.
In addition, Bennett had plans for a Star Trek movie, Academy Days, about the academy days of young Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock and Dr. McCoy, starring younger actors in the starring roles (although William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelly would have provided bookend commentary). Bennett told TrekToday that he was given a green light—and a 19-month deadline. Knowing it was impossible to produce a special-effects-laden film in less than two years, he walked away.
The idea of Academy Days as a television show was revived ... around the same time Star Trek: Enterprise was being produced. Paramount Pictures' producer Sherry Lansing's proposal was shot down.
In the end, Star Trek was rebooted in 2009, and part of it takes place at Starfleet Academy. And we get to see Kirk casually beat the Kobayashi Maru test.
Thanks, Harve, for your good work.