Last Saturday Harve Bennett, producer of four Star Trek films, did a Q&A at a screening of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home in Ashland Oregon, where he talked about his time on Trek, his never-produced Starfleet Academy movie, and he offered a critical opinion of JJ Abrams 2009 Star Trek movie. Excerpts and video below.
Bennett critiques Star Trek 2009 & talks ‘Starfleet Academy’
Harve Bennett, producer of Star Trek II, III, IV & V, appeared at a screening of Star Trek IV at the Varsity Theater in Ashland on Saturday as part of the Southern Oregon Film and Television Filmmaker series. Bennett spoke about his career in TV and film, and working on Star Trek.
At one point Bennett volunteered an opinion of the 2009 Star Trek movie, mixing his comments into a discussion of his his Starfleet Academy idea (which was rejected to make Star Trek VI):
Did you all see Star Trek recently? Does anyone want to know what I think of it? You now now know enough about me to know I honor tradition, that may make me a conservative film maker. They lost me when they put the Grand Canyon in Iowa.
I must add my bias. The last thing I did at Paramount before I left – wasn’t fired, I just said "no more." We had a script called The Academy Years – it was a prequel. It was Kirk and Spock aged seventeen entering Starfleet Academy. Kirk falls in love for the only time in his life. The cadets save the world. The premise of the film was racial tension. Spock becomes the first green-blood to enter the Academy, which is a red-blooded organization, and he is discriminated against. And there was a planetary cabal against green-bloods and the cadets at the Academy are the ones that save the day. Kirk’s love is killed heroically saving the planet from the ship. We had a great script and we had a location. If you are going to shoot Starfleet Academy in the 23rd century what should it look like? You may disagree with my choice, but the choice that we made and negotiated for was Washington and Lee University in the Shenandoah Valley. An ivy-covered Harvard on a river, and our logic was Harvard, MIT, Stanford – these are universities that have been there for hundreds of years. You can always build a laboratory building, a space hanger, stuff that brings it into the space age. But academically, we wanted it to be forever. Something that will always be there.
And the first sequence of that movie was Jim Kirk in a crop duster biplane, stunting about while his brother and his mother are "Jim, you wild ass – set down!" And he finally ends up crashing into a haystack. And it starts Iowa 2315. This picture starts in Iowa 2315, and then it becomes a crazy futuristic motorcycle thing and a dive into the Grand Canyon, and so that is my response to that movie.
When you blow up Vulcan and kill Spock’s mother, you are making a movie that I would never make, but it did make huge business and it created Star Trek for a new generation that likes big action and special effects and ‘bang bang’. So I think JJ Abrams succeeded in what he was trying to do
If you are wondering, here is what Washington and Lee University looks like:
Bennett’s vision of Starfleet Academy
Bennett talk covered many more issues, including William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, special effects, Wrath of Khan continuity and more. Here is full video broken into 10 segments:
(Video via BurtonDeppHBCfan on YouTube)