Back in 1989 Harve Bennett (producer of Star Trek II, III, IV & V) proposed that the Star Trek franchise needed to be restarted with Kirk and Spock being recast for a move set at Starfleet Academy. Work began on the project, including a script, but Paramount decided to stick with the original crew for one more film. In a new interview, Bennett talks about "The Academy Years" film, and also gives his thoughts about JJ Abrams Star Trek.
Harve Bennett on the Academy Years script and Star Trek 2009
After the financial and critical disappointment of Star Trek V in 1989, producer Harve Bennett proposed that the next Star Trek film reboot the franchise with a prequel set at Starfleet Academy, called Star Trek: The Academy Years. In the end Paramount decided that the 25th Anniversary of the franchise should have one more swan song for the original crew and Bennett Walked away, leaving Ralph Winter and Leonard Nimoy to produce Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. In a new interview with the official Star Trek site, Bennett provides some more details on his Academy Years script:
It was the best script of all and it never got produced. It was at the end of my run. Ned Tanen, who was Paramount’s head of production, had green lighted it before he left. We even had location scouts and sent feelers out for the cast. I had an eye on John Cusack for Spock, which would have been great. Ethan Hawke could have been Kirk. There were so many possibilities. But basically it was a love story and it was a story of cadets, teenagers. And, in order to get Shatner and Nimoy in, we had a wraparound in which Kirk comes back to address the academy and the story spins off of his memory. At the end, Kirk and Spock are reunited and they beam back up to Enterprise, which would have left a new series potential, the academy, and a potential other story with the original Trek cast. All the possibilities were open, the script was beautiful, and the love story was haunting, but it didn’t happen.
Later, in the mid-90s, (then-Paramount head) Sherry Lansing called me and said, “Come on in and tell me about this script we didn’t do.” We had a meeting. She was enthused and so was I. Then a couple of weeks later she called to say they couldn’t go forward because the television department was going to do a pilot that was a prequel. That turned out to be Enterprise. That prequel had very little to do with The Academy Years, but it smashed the revival of the script.
On the surface, there appear to be some similarities between Bennett’s Academy idea and the 2009 Star Trek movie (being both are prequels that include scenes of Kirk and Spock at Starfleet Academy). In fact, back in 2007 Harve Bennett said he might contest the Orci/Kurtzman script to ensure that Paramount wasn’t taking any idea from the Academy script he and David Loughery wrote. However, in the end the 2009 Star Trek movie was not seen as taking ideas from the Academy script.
In the new interview Bennett did speak about the new JJ Abrams film, but it seems it wasn’t for him, saying:
I did see it. I’m not the audience for that. Rapid cuts. Explosions. Gore for the sake of gore. Either that makes me a dinosaur or there’s a generational problem, but that’s not J.J.’s fault.
Concept art of Kirk and Spock for the Academy film
Concept art of USS Enterprise for the Academy film
TrekMovie VIDEO chat with Ralph Winter (includes discussion of Bennett leaving and Winter staying with franchise after Star Trek V)
Memory Alpha article on Star Trek: The First Adventure (aka Star Trek: The Academy Years)