Harve Bennett was the producer for the golden age of Star Trek films back in the 1980s. After the lackluster performance of Star Trek V in 1989, Bennett (along with writer David Laurie) developed a script called ‘Star Trek: The Academy Years’ which was to reboot the franchise with younger actors playing Kirk and Spock at Starfleet Academy. In the end the studio decided to give the original cast one more go and Bennett left the franchise. Earlier this year when Variety broke the first news about Trek XI and used the word ‘Academy’ in their brief plot outline many thought that Bennett’s script was back. Even after J.J. Abrams called the Variety article ‘not entirely accurate’ many still speculated there was some link, including Mr. Bennett himself.
In an interview (conducted in June but just published on Starbase 972) Bennett states…
My assumption is that somebody thought it was a good thing to do and so they publicized it, and then somebody else said "don’t you realize that before you do that you’re going to have to make a deal with the people who brought the idea and made a script out of it?". Well, they weren’t ready to do that, I’m sure, so either they will do something else, or – I’ll get a phone call.
so should Bennett expect a call?…probably not
Bennett’s own description of his script revolves around teenage Kirk and Spock. According to TrekMovie sources the focus of Trek XI is on much a older Kirk and Spock on the Enterprise itself. One source has described a scene at the Academy but it is brief and Kirk and Spock do not even meet. In an online chat in August co-writer Roberto Orci was asked specifically if there was any link with Trek XI and the Bennett script, he made it clear that was not…
Have not seen any previous unproduced treatments from anyone that came before, but Alex and I have read much of the published books, and of course seen all the films and TV. (co-writer) Alex (Kurtzman) and I came into this with a pretty clear vision of what we would want to see, especially since, as longtime fans, we’ve had years tothink ahout it. Star Trek is actually the property that made me want to become a writer.
Kirk and Spock and the invention of the warp drive?
In the interview Bennett gives more detail on the academy years script. Apparently John Cusack was to be their Spock and Ethan Hawke was to be the young Kirk. (pretty good choices actually, this film would have followed Cusack’s ‘Say Anything’ and Hawke’s ‘Dead Poets Society’) There were also roles for Shatner and Nimoy bookending the movie, but in a post Trek V visit to the Academy. The story that Bennett describes sounds interesting but plays a bit fast and loose with Trek continuity…
we had told the origin of how they had met, of how had Kirk lost his only true love, and we leave them going off on separate missions, to be reunited later in the series, and we invented warp speed, which was the perfect place to put it in the chronology of StarTrek.
Perfect place?…I guess Bennett missed the Original Series episode which established that warp was developed well before Kirk was born. Ironically the 8th movie in the franchise ‘Star Trek: First Contact’ had the TNG crew go back in time and give Zefram Cochrane a hand inventing warp drive.
Interestingly Bennet says that the same year that First Contact was released Paramount again expressed interest in his script…
In 1996 I had a meeting with Sherry Lansing, who was then the president of Paramount, she read the script and said "why didn’t you…?", I said "Sherry, don’t ask". She said "we’re going to do this", I said "wonderful, wonderful". Three days later she called and said "I don’t know how to tell you this but the television department is working on a pilot called Enterprise, and it is a prequel, and they are objecting to our making the Academy Years."
The timing seems a little unlikely, in 96 the TNG films were still riding high and Enterprise was still 5 years away. It is more likely this happened in the post ‘Insurrection’ period as Voyager was winding down (around 99).
Check out Starbase 972 to read more including Bennett discussing why Star Trek V failed and his relationship with Gene Roddenberry.