Harve Bennett Talks “Academy Years” Concept & JJ Abrams Star Trek

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.

Go to startrek.com to see the full interview (Part 1 & Part2) where Bennett talks Wrath of Khan, Voyage Home and his place in Star Trek history


Concept art of Kirk and Spock for the Academy film


Concept art of USS Enterprise for the Academy film

Related:

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)

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Seattle Trek Fan
August 25, 2010 2:04 pm

Wow, I had no idea that the NX-01 was dreamed up a decade before Enterprise premiered.

oogaboogawooga
August 25, 2010 2:06 pm

@1. Yeah, at first I thought that WAS the NX-01.

August 25, 2010 2:14 pm

Although I like the ship design, too bad it never made it in any of the actual productions. Though I find it could be useful for a full-fledged reboot of “Star Trek”, that is should a full-fledged reboot be considered in the future.

CmdrR
August 25, 2010 2:24 pm

Nevermind the NX-01. Check out the Vulcan mullet!

I’m SO glad V was not the last mission for the original crew. VI is a truly great Trek and I’m glad things went that way. Sorry, prequels make me queasy. It feels like repackaging stuff with less value than the original. I can’t have them unmake ST09, but I hope they got the whole “prequel” thing outta their systems. Let the next movie JUST BE A GREAT TREK! Don’t muddy it up with Hollywood-style processing. Please!

Also, “Gore for the sake of gore” ?? You mean the anal prolapse monster on Delta Vega? Otherwise, ST09 was pretty tame.

ensign joe
August 25, 2010 2:24 pm

I’m drawing a blank on the gore to which he speaks.. seems like the most violent scene was when the first Cap’n gets run through but we don’t actually see it..

Lore
August 25, 2010 2:24 pm

Harve Bennett must be a leaf eater because the new film was great.

Phaser Guy
August 25, 2010 2:25 pm

Where was the Gore in the new Trek movie? I don’t remember it.

Dunsel Report
August 25, 2010 2:30 pm

Star Trek II, with its “Alien” influence, burrowing eels, and disintegrating good guys, seems much more gory to me than the J.J. Abrams movie. But I’ll defer to him on quick cuts.

vjeko1701
August 25, 2010 2:31 pm

He is completely right. I’m not as old as him, I’m only 18 but I completely agree with him

Ran
August 25, 2010 2:31 pm

He meant the script….

StarFuryG7
August 25, 2010 2:39 pm

So once again, Berman and Braga affected a project that would have focused on the early days of the original characters.

One more reason to hate those two hacks.

Although I will say that Bennett’s choice of actors, John Cusack and Ethan Hawke, have me wondering if that project should have moved ahead at all. I’m not too keen on either of those picks, so it calls Bennett’s judgment somewhat into question in my view.

On a completely unrelated note …why wouldn’t my other posts on a couple of the other article Pages show up after I added a URL under my email address?

Anyone know?

August 25, 2010 2:40 pm

“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.”

Me no dinosaur, but me definitely agrees. Where as Harve got together a great team to put together something unique for the Trek cast, these guys took a lot of his work and made it into a summer action flick with all the modern techniques that make any old style action flick seem Alfred Hitchcock in comparison.

Markonian
August 25, 2010 2:41 pm

Too bad I can’t travel to parallel realities to see ALL other possible Star Trek installments made real. That’d be cool.

Bill
August 25, 2010 2:47 pm

Markonian

Does that include the idea about a Lwaxana sitcom that floated around in ’90?

miraclefan
August 25, 2010 2:49 pm

I’ve known about the ”Acadamy Enterprise” concept art for years now.

StarFuryG7
August 25, 2010 2:50 pm

12. Jeyl – August 25, 2010
“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.” -Harve Bennett

“Me no dinosaur, but me definitely agrees.”

I know, I was going to comment on that too, but decided to hold my tongue for the time being.

miraclefan
August 25, 2010 2:50 pm

#15 ”Academy” my bad.

Capt Mike of the Terran Empire
August 25, 2010 2:51 pm

I wish they would take that Script and make it inot a Miniseries or at least bring it out on a Novel so we can all read it. Maybe we can get James Cawley to do some stuff with it.

Wonderboy
August 25, 2010 2:57 pm

Turns out they were gonna do some sourt of alternet reality type Star Trek from the Start

John
August 25, 2010 2:59 pm

lol @ him hating on NuTrek with reasons that make 0 sense

Alientraveller
August 25, 2010 3:00 pm

I think what Bennett means by ‘gore’ is the more realistic bruises and cuts make-up we see in films and TV. Kirk getting beaten up in the bar was jarringly brutal (intentionally so as the point is that it stops being fun and shows that his life is in a real state).

Anyway, I disagree with Bennett, and I hope the Supreme Court isn’t too disheartened considering pretty much everyone else involved in Star Trek loved it, including Nicholas Meyer.

August 25, 2010 3:01 pm

Yeh, I don’t recall that much gore in Trek09. And I didn’t think it was overly explosive, compared to Trek movies under Bennett’s production. I think the fast-cut technique owes mostly to MTV-style videos from the 80’s, and it helps perpetuate short attention spans. I’m not a big fan of the fast cuts, but it’s pretty much everywhere these days.
I think there’s some animosity still smoldering inside Bennett, as well. He’s pretty much went silent after his involvement with Star Trek ended — a script for a tv movie, co-creator of the short-lived Time Trax, and an animated series. I think an argument could be made that the Star Trek movies burned him out, and he never really recovered. Apparently, he had serious issues with Leonard Nimoy during the making of TVH, and he really didn’t want to be involved with TFF, and the supporting cast fought him tooth and nail against The Academy Years, since it meant the end for them.
But we have to be grateful to Bennett that he brought us some of the best Trek ever, from TWOK through TVH, and made Star Trek the motion-picture franchise it is today.

August 25, 2010 3:05 pm

It wasn’t particularly gory…but everything is quicker cuts these days from CSI to TV movies to film. ST09 just felt a lot fresher than what we’ve seen in recent years. Any new film or tv project for Trek is going to have to adapt or it won’t survive.

Chain of Command
August 25, 2010 3:05 pm

He does have a point about the, “explosions” and “rapid cuts”. I liked the new movie, but I can’t really think of a scene where I really had “time” to just enjoy the view. That’s one thing I really miss about the older Star Trek films and older films in general.

I’m not saying that there is a need for another TMP Enterprise reveal. However, It would be nice to get away from the hand-held “in your face” shaky MTV/Bay cam that has taken over movies these days with jump cuts/ lens flares and extreme close-ups all over the place.

In other words: HOLD STILL LOL

philpot
August 25, 2010 3:07 pm

#13:

-TOS Season 4 & 5 (1970/71)

-Star Trek I: Planet of the Titans (1979)

-Bennetts ST: The First Adventure (May 1991 with TUC out Dec 91 )

-ST: Generations (1994) – the NCC 1701-A gets thrown into the 24th Century ‘Yesterdays Enterprise’ style – written/directed by Nicolas Meyer

-ST IX: TNG Mirror Universe (1998) – Geordies temporal vortex at the end of FC takes them into the MU

-Nemesis – directed by Frakes (2002) – Q returns to cause havoc with the Romulans

-ST XI: Crossovers (2005) – a TOS/TNG/DS9/VOY/ENT epic like Bring Back Kirk.com or maybe IDWs The Last Generation (which would have made a great final movie for TNG instead of or after Nemesis)

-Enterprise season 5 (2006) – start of the Romulan War, Shatner starring mirror universe 2 parter etc

-Bermans ST The Beginning (xmas 2008) – about the founding of the Federation – sequels to follow in 2011 and 2014

Phaser Guy
August 25, 2010 3:07 pm

Maybe he doesn’t remember the Klingon’s dying in Trek VI in zero g. That was pretty gory. Also the scene in Trek III, where Kruge kills the worm thing, or when his pet dies. Or in Trek II with the insects going into Chekov and Terrel’s ears?

philpot
August 25, 2010 3:17 pm

why didnt they just make the Academy movie and a sixth original cast movie back to back to celebrate the 25th Anniversary? (taking note of the BTTF sequels which had just been done) and released the Academy movie May 91 and TUC Decemeber 91

Bennent couldve directed ‘Star Trek: Starfleet Academy’ with cameos from the original cast at the end and Meyer couldve still done ‘TUC’

pity Trek V wasnt a Voyage Home style success as that mightve happened.

Young Kirk couldve been Sean Patrick Flanery (Young Indiana Jones – he always reminded me of a young Shatner). Spock – John Cusak or David Ducovney. Bones – Gary Sinese, Uhura – Halle Berry, Pike – H Ford or Christopher Reeve, Sarek – Jeremy Irons or Alan Rickman. Amanda – Kim Basinger.

Plus we would have seen characters like Carol Marcus, Gary Mitchell, Finney and Finnegan. Possibly even seen Kirk’s experience with the Tarsus IV massacre and his cloud Killer Farragut incident

August 25, 2010 3:22 pm

I think Mr. Bennett may have his facts slightly confused. It doesn’t sound likely that Enterprise was being developed in the mid-90’s. More likely some other prequel idea was being batted around, while DS9 and Voyager was on the air.

philpot
August 25, 2010 3:23 pm

heres an idea for someone to take note – why dosnt IDW do Bennetts Academy script as a graphic novel? All drawn with the original actors likeness – the closest theres been so far is the 1991 DC annual #2 (which im pretty sure was done to tie in with the lost Academy movie – like an alternate Trek VI adaptation) – it could serve as the ‘official’ Origin tale for the ‘Prime’ universe…although theres been countless origin novels and comics theres never been anything ‘official’ – like Countdown is the ‘official’ prequel to ST09 (or as official as one can get for something thats not deemed canon as its non screen). It wouldn’t come more official than more the writer/producer of the bulk of the original movies!

im pretty sure Harve Bennett wouldnt mind fans seeing what he had in mind for Trek VI…

Nemo
August 25, 2010 3:24 pm

Okay, no one else is saying anything, so I gotta……
Did you get a load of that righteous Vulcan mullet Spock is sportin’ in the concept art?? He needs to reconfigure the “live long and prosper” fingers to the extended index and pinky fingers, for the rare, elusive “live long and play some ‘Skynyrd!” greeting.

I’m just sayin’…

August 25, 2010 3:28 pm

The Academy era Enterprise is a puzzler, given the NCC-1701 would already be in service, under April and then Pike, while Kirk/Spock/McCoy were cadets.

Fans kicked up enough of a fuss as it was, when ENT debuted. Derriding the design as an upside down Akira-class and criticising how Kirk’s Enterprise was supposed to be the first and therefore, most historic.

Mind you, retconning this as Starfleet using a museum piece like Archer’s NX-01 as a training vessel, is an idea that appeals to me.

That One Guy
August 25, 2010 3:34 pm

Huh…. the Enterprise kind of looks like the NX-Class.

Quatlo
August 25, 2010 3:40 pm

John Cusack in anything is a downer.

Dr. Image
August 25, 2010 4:02 pm

Thank God it didn’t get made.
But though initially I liked TUC, now I realy hate aspects of it. It really is overrated.
I get more “entertainment value” now from TFF!

The NX-01 should have had those spiked nacelle caps.

August 25, 2010 4:21 pm

John Cusack as Spock? That would’ve been amazing.

But The Undiscovered Country remains my favourite Trek movie. So it’s a little bittersweet to read this.

Vultan
August 25, 2010 4:33 pm

I agree with Bennett about the rapid cuts. Hopefully, the ADD generation will come down from their sugar high some day and watch a few Hitchcock films.

Also, I generally liked Abrams’ direction, but some of the camera angles he used were a bit disorientating. Someone needs to reintroduce the tripod and the spirit level to Hollywood. Just sit the camera still and let the actors do the work. Forget the “artsy” angles. It’s Star Trek, not The Third Man; there could be only one Carol Reed.

Okay, rant over.

Dalek
August 25, 2010 4:37 pm

I was grateful for the rapid cuts and fast pace. For ONCE, and I mean ONCE none of my friends said to me “Another boring Trek flick”. All the unnecessary padding the TNG movies had, hurt its pacing. All the endless conference scenes or crew quarter scenes that took you out the action. Nemesis was about 3 action scenes, seperated by gruelling exposition scene after scene.

Please stick with the rapid cuts.

And I will never forgive JJ for his overuse of gore in Star Trek 2009. Bob Orci how can you sleep at night???

August 25, 2010 4:49 pm

Well, I AM a dinosaur, so I think Trek movies should focus on important contemporary issues like carnivore-herbivore relations, and it cheeses me the heck off when they include cavemen, because: no. Do your homework and I wouldn’t have to nitpick, m’kay?

Captain Otter
August 25, 2010 5:00 pm

I think things in Trekdom have worked out for the best, though mistakes were clearly made. So while I respect NM and love his flicks, I detect some sour grapes at work here.

@34

Which state with medical marijuana do you live in? Seriously, if you like TFF over TUC, then you have cleared mastered “puff puff” but forgot how to pass.

paustin
August 25, 2010 5:04 pm

“explosions?” He doesn’t like explosions in films? I’m pretty sure there are some kind of explosions in just about every trek film.

also…thank god he doesn’t have a problem with lens flares…..

JKP
August 25, 2010 5:07 pm

Would love to see that script as a novel. Sounds like it would have been great.

We all owe Harve for the success that Trek has become after he saved the franchise after TMP. He’s entitled to his views on JJ’s Trek.

Areli
August 25, 2010 5:11 pm

Well, we kinda got Bennett’s reality in the form of STXI. I think he is just bitter that the idea wasn’t accepted (well, accepted but not done) in the past then all of a sudden it works in 2009.

Honestly, I don’t see the appeal of the academy days. None of the original crew were together in their Academy days (from what I know) but I wouldn’t mind a comic of Bennett’s script. :D

August 25, 2010 5:12 pm

Harve Bennett’s “Academy Years” sounded great. I’m not sure about the Actors he selected. However it may have been a good miniseries to properly tell Kirk @ Spock’s story there is a lot to tell from Carol to Finnigan lest we forget Laila Kalomi. Then there is all the guy and school stuff, pranks growing up Kobiashi marue. Properly balanced with character drive developement,science and action. James Cauley is undertaking this project I hope he will due it justice. Its a tale way overdue in telling. And I must confess I’m a dinasaur and meaningless violence would not be nessary. Justified *ction needed in given situations. But tell a solid story. Keep it. Family friendly . I would love to see it come alive! For now I hope Cauley comes through on this.

Kent Butabi
August 25, 2010 5:13 pm

#33 – HOT. TUB. TIME. MACHINE.

Rent it now.

Vultan
August 25, 2010 5:15 pm

#41

Agreed. Many kudos to Bennett for his work in Trek. I mean, this is the guy who watched every episode of TOS to get ideas for a sequel to TMP. Thank God he didn’t skip over “Space Seed!”

ensign joe
August 25, 2010 5:19 pm

” I can’t really think of a scene where I really had “time” to just enjoy the view”

Tru dat yo.. think its time to pop in my Blu-Ray TMP Director’s Cut.. well I would if THEY WOULD EVER PUT IT OUT!!!!!

*sigh*

August 25, 2010 5:19 pm

Have to say I think Bennet’s idea was more of the way to go. The original show eluded to, so many times, of what the Academy was to their development as Star Fleet members.
… “Back in the academy…..”
….”Yes, Spock, I’m familiar with that….it was required reading at the Academy.”
….”He was my professor back at the Academy”
….”He was in the Academy with me”

And all we really got from the movie was, “3 years later”…and they’d graduated and I got no real sense they were any more educated or changed from their experience. At least not what TOS always suggested it was.

Seems to be another lost opportunity (much like I think Phase II would have been – which in a lot of ways I would have rather seen than the movies….or Assignment: Earth) that’s we’ll never know about.
@13…yes would be interesting.

And I’m more in line with Bennett on his assessment of the movie too.

RenderedToast
August 25, 2010 5:25 pm

I’m so glad Harve was ignored so thoroughly.

jarok
August 25, 2010 5:38 pm

I think that some of the movies that Mr Bennett had been involved with were some of the best Trek ever put on film. And I have to agree that some of the JJ style of movie making does not add to the quality of a film. The lens flare is my biggest gripe in this area. When I studied photography, I was told to avoid lens flare at all cost. Now he adds them in on purpose. I don’t get how this is artistic. But the great thing about JJ’s Trek is that it was a major hit and brought in new fans. And that is what was needed in order for Trek to survive.

August 25, 2010 5:41 pm

Bennett made a great contribution to Trek from Space Seed on Khan will be immortam however its sad that he was basicaly snubbed . By the Paramount bigwigs. That is sad. He was a good solid story teller. I wish they gave him chance on this. They also could have developed Ent. Project too. There was room for both, when you consider the nature let alone the 100 year gap dividing the trek tales. Hoever all I can say is Thanks Harve for all that you did for Star Trek. Your work was great!

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