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EXCERPT: Nicholas Meyer's Wrath of Khan Interview in Star Trek: Genesis Trilogy Anniversary Special

Read the full interview with the famed writer and director, and more in the Anniversary Special, on sale tomorrow!

Nicholas Meyer against a blue background.

In celebration of the 40th anniversary of the release of Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, Titan Magazines is releasing a special edition hardcover, Star Trek: The Genesis Trilogy Anniversary Special. The special in-depth book celebrates the classic trilogy of Star Trek II - IV films, The Wrath of Khan, The Search for Spock, and The Voyage Home. With classic interviews, behind-the-scenes features, and rare imagery, relive the thrills and excitement of these unforgettable movies.

The Wrath of Khan, The Search for Spock, and The Voyage Home – the Genesis Trilogy of Star Trek movies has a firm place in the hearts of Trek fans of all ages. Taking us from a deadly villain, a tragedy on the Enterprise, and to a heart-warming reunion, this special book explores the making of the classic saga. Featuring classic interviews, in-depth features and amazing imagery.

Star Trek Genesis Trilogy Anniversary Special - Titan Magazines - Cover

Titan Magazines

Star Trek: The Genesis Trilogy Anniversary Special is on-sale on August 2. You can grab a copy from Amazon or Forbidden Planet.

Thanks to our friends at Titan Magazines, we have an exclusive excerpt with Nicholas Meyer below!

Nicholas Meyer enjoys telling stories, as anyone who’s read his autobiography A View From The Bridge will know. The famed writer and director of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Star Trek IV: The Undiscovered Country; and co-writer of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, cut his directorial teeth on the H.G. Wells vs. Jack the Ripper tale Time After Time, before being brought on board by Harve Bennett for The Wrath of Khan. His TV movie The Day After was the most watched in American TV history, and he continues to write and direct. Over a long lunch in Los Angeles, he reminisced about his time in the 23rd Century…

Nicholas Meyer

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Star Trek Magazine: When you were presented with the five different script versions of Star Trek II, was there any stage where you thought, “This could work with a few changes,” or were you always cherry-picking sections?

Nicholas Meyer: You are talking about events that happened many years ago and one has to resist the temptation, even an unconscious temptation, to engage in mythopoesis. To the best of my recollection, I was not taken with any of these drafts. I do not think I would have gone to the place I went if I had seen possibilities. Nobody said anything to me – they had all basically thrown in the towel. And that is not illusory. It was done.

Star Trek Magazine: Why did you reuse Khan, rather than create someone fresh?

Nicholas Meyer: You have to understand something about me temperamentally, and also in a way about Harve Bennett. I love recycling. I’m very big on older buildings that get redecorated: Ghirardelli Square and The Cannery in San Francisco won big architectural awards when they were refurbished. Also, you have to couple this with my abysmal ignorance of the world of Star Trek

Star Trek Magazine: Which was an advantage coming in at that stage?

Nicholas Meyer: It may have been, but whether it was an advantage or a disadvantage, it was a reality. And the reality was I didn’t even begin to know what the possibilities for villains was in this show. The kind of artist I am, I’m better at being a rag picker and a pillager of other people’s notions and ideas and saying, “This is awfully good but…” Handel was once accused of stealing someone’s tune and he said, “Yes, I stole it – that idiot didn’t know what to do with it and I showed him.” I’m not about to call anybody an idiot, but I think that Khan was ready-made.

Also, Harve Bennett, who I think in the book I credit with a very analytical temperament, a very analytical cast of mind which I do not possess, said, “This is a very good idea for a villain. He’s one dropped shoe – they left him some place. What’s going on? The actor’s still alive.”

Ricardo Montalban and Judson Scott in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)

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Star Trek Magazine: Had they approached Montalban at that stage?

Nicholas Meyer: They hadn’t approached anybody because we didn’t know what we were doing! They had nothing. The first time I ever met Bennett, he said, “Draft five is coming in,” so I went home and thought, “Great, they’ll send me draft five.” Then I woke up and it was something like three weeks later and I never heard from him. I called up and said, “What happened?” At which point he gave me his famous “My tit’s in a wringer” line. With the moribund arrival of draft five, the project was essentially dead. I speculate in the book that it was entirely possible, given how studios then worked – I don’t know if that’s how they work now, because all bets seem to be off – that they would have regrouped, gone on to another draft with another writer and tried again. It would have taken them another year, or whatever…

Star Trek Magazine: Was the world screaming for a second Star Trek movie at that point?

Nicholas Meyer: The funny thing is that the studio thought it was. They weren’t wrong. I don’t know what they would have done, or when they would have done it. But the fact that the first movie was a runaway production but nonetheless had made a substantial amount money, convinced them that even if they did it in a way that was then considered wrong, people would come out. They were very intent on trying to make another one, because they did believe there was a market; they just didn’t want to spend $45 million!

Ricardo Montalban in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)

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Star Trek Magazine: Ricardo Montalban dominates the screen as Khan – did you ever regret that there wasn’t a physical confrontation between Khan and Kirk in the movie?

Nicholas Meyer: No. I never gave it a thought. I know that Bill Shatner did. I thought it was cheesy. I can point to a number of films, and a number of real-life events, in which the protagonist and the antagonist never meet. It did not concern me over much. I guess I thought that that kind of confrontation with these two people, being gladiators, would be cheesy, stereotyped and familiar.

If there’s a regret I have – which I didn’t have for the first 20 years and then somebody pointed it out to me, and I thought, “There’s an interesting missed moment” – it’s that Khan never sees Kirk get away. He goes to his death believing that he succeeded. I wonder, if I’d thought of it, would I have?

I have some ambivalence about taking it away from him, but it’s very interesting that we didn’t even think of it. You play that moment earlier when he realizes that there is no override, and they can’t do anything about raising the shields. That look of consternation – how different would that have been from his look at the end? Other than the man who goes to his death believing that he’s avenged his wife.

Star Trek Magazine:When you were prepping The Wrath of Khan did you watch submarine movies?

Nicholas Meyer: You bet! I looked at The Enemy Below a lot. Robert Mitchum vs. Curt Jurgens – that’s a great flick. I looked at Run Silent, Run Deep.

Star Trek Magazine: For things to do, or things to avoid?

Nicholas Meyer: Things to do. These were movies that I loved and I wanted to see how they did it.

U.S.S. Enterprise in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)

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Star Trek Magazine: What about Khan’s original appearance in “Space Seed”?

Nicholas Meyer: Yes. That was also part of what had intrigued Harve and then he showed it to me. That was the first time that I went, “He’s a cool character,” so mysterious. For so much of it you didn’t know what the hell was going on with that guy, but you knew it wasn’t good.

Star Trek Magazine: Khan has become the gold standard for Star Trek movie villains. Did you have any idea that he would resonate for so long.

Nicholas Meyer: Truthfully, I can’t say that I predicted anything like his preeminence, or anything like the stature which has been accorded this movie as a total construct. Never. I did know as I was watching Montalban in his first scenes in the cargo bays that I was watching a very great actor, and I had had no idea. I remember thinking, as I watched him and he was breaking my heart, that he should play Lear. He made some self-deprecating comment about his accent, which I remember thinking was completely irrelevant. Notwithstanding any Hispanic inflection, his enunciation, his articulation was perfect. That’s as close as I came to realizing that Khan had a kind of Lear-like grandeur when played by this guy. The arrogance and the pain walked hand in hand.

Montalban was not typically an angry guy, not, as some actors, a “squawky bird.” He was a gentleman of a rather old-school cut. Humorous, generous, very smart in a kind of intuitive way.”

Read the full interview in Star Trek: The Genesis Trilogy Anniversary Special, on sale August 2, 2022, to read about Meyer’s experiences on Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, meeting Gene Roddenberry, and working with Christopher Plummer.

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