During April of 1986, I (John) was getting ready for final exams and couldn’t accompany my parents on a vacation they were taking to California. Little did I know my voluntary absence from that year’s family vacation meant I missed an opportunity to watch the filming of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. By luck, my parents—Vincent and Josephine—happened to visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium on April 29, 1986. With a 1980s behemoth video camera in tow, my parents forwent their planned tour, and stayed all day to film William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and Catherine Hicks as they rehearsed and filmed the important exposition scene where the plight of whales is explained. In the era before the ubiquity of camera phones and social media, there were no restrictions on the audience filming the action. When my parents returned from their vacation, they surprised me with almost an hour's worth of footage of the filming of the next Trek adventure. I couldn’t understand why Kirk and Spock were walking around a modern-day aquarium, but that footage – watched again and again – gave me a lifelong appreciation for the hard work that the actors and behind-the-scenes crew undertake to shoot a Star Trek movie.
That footage also inspired a desire to learn all there was about the making of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Here are some of the favorite fun facts about the making of the film that we have learned while researching the behind-the-scenes memos, scripts, and production information available at the University of Iowa Library’s “Papers of Nicholas Meyer Collection.”
What’s in a Name?
- Admiral Lance Cartwright (played by Brock Peters) was originally the character of Admiral Harry Morrow (played by Robert Hooks) in the first several versions of the script. Morrow was the Admiral who fans were familiar with from Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, who ordered the decommissioning of the U.S.S. Enterprise and forbade Admiral Kirk from going to the Genesis Planet.
- Gillian Taylor’s character was for a time named Shelley Clarke.
- George and Gracie were originally named the more Biblically inspired monikers of Adam and Evie.
- The real name of the whale museum, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, could not be used because the script required the action to take place in Sausalito, closer to San Francisco.
- The October 18, 1985, Revised First Act draft of the script by Harve Bennett listed the name of the film as Star Trek IV: The Adventure Continues
Could Have Beens:
- In a scene that has not yet appeared as a bonus feature on home video, the October 18, 1985, version of the script has a scene where Commander Christine Chapel greets Ambassador Sarek as he arrived uninvited to the Federation Council’s meeting about the fate of Admiral Kirk and crew. A Federation Guard will not allow Sarek into the meeting because he does not have the proper entry medallion credentials. Chapel puts the guard in his place, telling him that “This man is Ambassador Sarek of Vulcan, as any school child would know.” The scene is interesting because it implies that Sarek may have been called to Earth by Chapel to testify and not at the request of the Council, and it is also appropriate that Chapel—whose love for Spock is documented in the original show—would stand up for Sarek in his attempt to help his son and Chapel’s former crew mates. The Official Star Trek Communicator Magazine (the publication of the Official Star Trek Fan Club by Dan Madsen) included a picture from the scene at the time.
- Saavik was indeed pregnant with Spock’s child in the early versions of the script. During Spock and his mother Amanda’s conversation, the script has Amanda trying to tell her son the news, but she hesitates and does not. Kirk and Saavik discuss the situation, with Saavik eventually not telling Spock. Had this scene been included as written, it would have meant that Saavik and Spock’s situation very likely would have had to have been dealt with in a future film. As is, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home was Saavik’s last on-screen appearance (although the character of Valeris was originally written as Saavik in drafts of the Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country script).
What date does the crew arrive in 1986 San Francisco?
This is a difficult question to answer. One of the scripts (again the October 18, 1985, Revised First Act version) lists the date as December 19, 1985 for the crew’s arrival back in time. However, a careful look at the newspaper the crew reads upon first landing appears to reveal the date to be Thursday, December 18, 1986. If that is the date, then the audiences on opening night in the United States was doing a bit of time traveling themselves, watching events unfolding several weeks after the actual date of the premiere of the film! Complicating December 18th being the official date of the crew’s arrival in San Francisco is a prop that was on display at Star Trek: The Experience. The prop was the pawn store ticket given to Admiral Kirk when he sold his glasses for cash. The date on the ticket is August 19, 1986, four months before the newspaper date the crew looks at a few moments earlier (however, the ticket is not visible on screen directly). By the way, the name of the pawn store according to the prop ticket is Feinberg’s Loan & Pawn. It appears that Kirk gave the pawn store owner the alias name of Sydney Carton and the fake telephone number of... wait for it... 555-1701!
I never did get a chance to see the filming of a Star Trek film. But, by missing my chance in 1986, I learned two important lessons. First, I got to experience another great example of why my Dad and Mom were such great parents, sacrificing a good portion of their day to film something only because their son was a fan. Second, I learned that there are many talented people required to make a Star Trek film. When the credits roll, we continue to marvel at the contributions of the men, women, and whales, that helped make The Voyage Home so incredibly special.
Special thanks to: The University of Iowa Libraries, Memory Alpha, Nicholas Meyer, Dan Madsen, and Vincent and Josephine Tenuto.
Maria Jose and John Tenuto are both sociology professors at the College of Lake County in Grayslake, Illinois, specializing in popular culture and subculture studies. The Tenutos have conducted extensive research on the history of Star Trek, and have presented at venues such as Creation Conventions and the St. Louis Science Center. They have written for the official Star Trek Magazine and their extensive collection of Star Trek items has been featured in SFX Magazine. Their theory about the “20-Year Nostalgia Cycle” and research on Star Trek fans has been featured on WGN News, BBC Radio, and in the documentary The Force Among Us. They recently researched all known paperwork from the making of the classic episode "Space Seed" and are excited to be sharing some previously unreported information about Khan's first adventure with fellow fans. Contact the Tenutos at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.