It's the sad duty of StarTrek.com to report the passing of another towering Star Trek figure, Harve Bennett. The veteran writer and producer passed away on Wednesday, February 25, at the age of 84, two days before the death of Leonard Nimoy, with whom his career intersected -- to the everlasting benefit of both men and Trek fans worldwide. He'd retired to Oregon years ago and died there following a long illness.
Bennett, of course, produced and co-wrote the story for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, which was a success financially, critically and with Trek fans and is widely credited with saving the franchise, as Paramount Pictures had serious doubts about Star Trek as a viable entity following the costly Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Bennett subsequently produced and co-wrote the stories for The Search for Spock, The Voyage Home and The Final Frontier. He also made a memorable cameo appearance in The Final Frontier, playing Starfleet Chief of Staff Admiral Robert Bennett.
Bennett turned down the opportunity to produce Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country because he favored a prequel script he'd written called Star Trek: The Academy Years. He "had an eye on" John Cusack for Spock and thought Ethan Hawke could have been Kirk, and there would have been roles for all the Original Series actors as well. "All the possibilities were open, the script was beautiful, and the love story was haunting," Bennett told StarTrek.com in 2010. "But it didn't happen."
The Chicago-born Bennett was already a successful writer-producer by the time he beamed into the Star Trek universe. Among his credits were Mod Squad, The Invisible Man (1975 version), Rich Man, Poor Man, The Gemini Man, The Six Million Dollar Man, The Bionic Woman and Salvage 1. During and after his run with Trek, Bennett wrote and/or produced A Woman Called Golda (with Leonard Nimoy co-starring opposite Ingrid Berman), The Jesse Owens Story, Time Trax and Invasion America.
StarTrek.com, in a 2010 interview with Bennett, asked him what he thought his most significant contributions to the franchise were. He replied candidly and in detail, saying. "I resurrected the franchise (at the time). That would be my contribution. There might not have been another Star Trek and certainly there would not have been spinoffs had not Star Trek II been such a very viable hit.
"The Motion Picture was like a last memorial to a great franchise, but it was not the kind of a thing that would stimulate people to come back and see more of the same," he continued "My friends say I have something called the Lazarus syndrome because of the number of times I’ve brought someone or something back from the dead. It started with The Bionic Woman. We killed off Lindsay Wagner, but Six Million Dollar Man fans wanted Steve Austin and Jaime Sommers together. Because it was science fiction, and you can do a lot of weird things in science fiction, we put her in cryogenic freeze and then brought her back for a series of her own. So, Lindsay was my first back from the dead. And then there was a fellow named Spock…"
He continued, "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 publicly 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."
Please join StarTrek.com in offering our condolences to Bennett's family, friends and colleagues.
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