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Shuttle Pod: The TrekMovie.com Podcast Episode 8 – How Harve Bennett Saved Star Trek

Producer of the “Holy Trilogy” of Star Trek films (The Wrath of Khan, The Search For Spock, and The Voyage Home) in addition to The Final Frontier, Harve Bennett is arguably the reason that Star Trek is the strong franchise it is today. His passing earlier this year was overshadowed by the death of Leonard Nimoy who passed away just days before Bennett. This week on Shuttle Pod, we take a look back at Harve Bennett’s career and his impossible-to-overstate influence on the Star Trek franchise.

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Shuttle Pod: Episode 8 – How Harve Bennett Saved Star Trek

Tidbits from this week’s podcast:

 


 

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He was like Kermit in “The Muppets Take Manhattan” movie, someone with horse sense, who could see things from the outside.

I hope there’s a starship Bennett in the new movie. Actually, there’s a fleet of worthy honorees just waiting to be acknowledged.

I met Mr. Bennett back in the mid 80’s. Very straight-forward guy. He called them the way he saw them.

“Harve Bennett is arguably the reason that Star Trek is the strong franchise it is today.”

Is that so? First of all, Star Trek is NOT a strong franchise these days. The reboots, which have been strongly inspired by TWOK, have changed the franchise in a way that has alienated a lot of its die-hard fans.

Now, don’t get me wrong, TWOK is a great movie, and it was the right answer to Star Wars back in the day, but is has been copied far too often and it is not the main direction I want Star Trek to go.

The truth is: Gene Roddenberry did an awesome job at returning Trek to its roots with the earlier season of NextGen and THAT is the era of Star Trek I miss the most.

I love Star Wars, I love TWOK, I even love ST09, but it should not be the way to go. Trek should be different from Wars, it should uphold that utopian vision that was the early Next Gen.

Harve Bennet’s biggest achievement was Trek IV, the only Trek movie to date that did well without any violence whatsoever but still told a worthwhile story. But TWOK somewhat infused Trek with a virus it is still struggling to control. That’s why the best “Star Trek” movies to date are actually not Star Trek movies but Avatar and Forbidden Planet… Give me that sense of wonder, and I’d welcome any action sequences along the way…

I’ve come to look forward to these “Shuttle Pods”. Keep them coming!

#4 Smike
I highly suspect your wish will be granted in the upcoming series.

HB was the JJ Abrams of that era in terms of bringing Trek back…a great man!

You’re not going to find a bigger Harve Bennett fan than me.

He did some remarkable things including deciding to make a “Star Trek” feature film based on “Space Seed”, which in the 70’s when “Star Trek” fandom was at its peak, “Space Seed” was never mentioned as one of the more memorable episodes of the series.
But Harve saw the potential for a sequel and he did see that the great, late Ricardo Montalban could again be an interesting counterpart to Bill Shatner’s Captain Kirk.
His guiding hand would play a major role in the films that followed.
I would say another man who deserves a lot of credit for “Star Trek” being alive and well now is of course, Rick Berman.
Rick Berman took control of the Next Generation from Mr. Roddenberry when Gene’s health began to fail and as Rick’s impact began to take hold, “TNG” really found itself in year 3 and continued to be strong into its 7th and final season (93-94). What he did leed to other sequals and other feature films which were for the most part successful but kept the franchise alive for sure.

Don’t diss LadyHawke. Yes, the music sucks. For that matter, Matthew Broderick’s accent is unforgiveable. But, if you get past that, you get a pretty good story, a yummy Michelle Pfeiffer, a dashing Rutger Hauer, and a curmudgeonly Leo McKern. I absolutely take your point, however, that classical (and to my mind, more important: organic) music is essential for large stories. Khan, CE3K, 2001, etc.. While I liked ST 2009, I was not nor have I become a Beastie Boys fan and the newest trailer is distressing on that point. Likewise, The Martian weighs down with its love of 70’s rock. I’m 53. I grew up with that music. I just flat out don’t believe it will play a prominent role in the 2030’s exploration of Mars. See also Vangelis music in Blade Runner — just instantly dates it as a 1980’s movie (well, that and the incredibly dull Computer 101 tutorial.) New, orchestral pieces just work well in grand stories of derring-do. Someone needs to retrack LadyHawke (and loop a better voice over Matthew Broderick’s part.)

Rip George Clayton

#8 glad to hear someone else liking berman, yeah he made mistakes, so did gene, but you can he never gave up, voyager maybe but they was no way of saving that shit sorry ship
Bennett did what he thought was the best, I guess, I am not the biggest fan of 2 ,3 feel more like trek and 4 feel like trek I feel trek 5 is he closer to trek, the script needed more work or more of what the shat wanted

Jj started off good and lost it, judging from the new trailer they not got it,I will wait for the second trailer to drop

Bennett help keep trek alive with low budget films (not his fault paramount wouldn’t spend more ) and did a fine job, no gene,saying that I don’t think gene could of cope with the budget as he was always overspending on the tv episodes ,which he did prove to be right.

I’d like to remind everyone of this interview of Harve by Michelle Erica Green
Posted at Trek Nation on February 28, 2006 – 5:37 PM GMT:

http://www.trektoday.com/interviews/harve_bennett_2006.shtml

In 2003, he was at Paramount promoting his vision for STAR TREK:

“I’ll tell you how recently it was. Before Sherry Lansing left [Paramount Pictures] last year, we had a meeting, about two years ago, in which I proposed that now was the time to do Starfleet Academy. And she loved it. We would have made it. But then she said the television department had asked her not to do it, because Enterprise was being produced and they thought that should be the prequel. Therefore, we did not do that. Could we make it now [2006]? If somebody wants to, I’m there. Technically, I’m retired, and non-technically but actually, I’m writing my own book. I’m considerably happy not to go into downtown Los Angeles every day.” — Harve Bennett

And 3 years later, he was at the Farpoint Convention in Hunt Valley, Maryland on February 18th giving that Trek Nation interview.

From THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER Martin Grove column’s FILMAKER FLASHBACK segment: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/originals-not-sequels-will-drive-136087 ”From June 8, 1989’s column: “Paramount’s ‘Star Trek V: The Final Frontier’ got an enthusiastic reception with applause and appropriate laughter at its Tuesday media screening at Mann’s Village Theatre in Westwood. The film’s warm welcome was in sharp contrast to what local gossips have been predicting for months based on one early research screening of a work-in-progress print of the film. “At the screening of ‘Trek,’ which was directed by William Shatner, produced by Harve Bennett and executive produced by Ralph Winter, insiders took special notice of one scene involving the distinguished Starfleet chief of staff. That role is played by Bennett, who joined the ‘Trek’ family in 1980 as executive producer of ‘Trek II’ and has served as producer/writer of the series’ subsequent films. “Bennett, who was my guest recently on The Hollywood Reporter’s weekly Movietime cable network series, notes, ‘It was the first scene we filmed. It’s the first feature picture Bill Shatner has directed and I’m saying, ‘This is wonderful. I’ll do that. That’s a simple part to do.’ But it was not simple because it was done in a heavy complex of beam-splitting images and I had to be perfectly rigid. It took five hours.’ “How did Bennett … become involved with ‘Star Trek?’ ‘The irony is that the reason I’m doing ‘Star Trek’ goes back to the fact that I had just gone to Paramount,’ he replies. ‘I was courting a lady and… Read more »

I absolutely loved the music in the movies and TV shows, made so emotional for me, why I love Star Trek STNG II and III where the best, I have the CD’s I love steeling of the Enterprise in III, puts you on the edge of your seat music don’t make them like that anymore.

From BaltiCon of 2007 a podcast interview of Harve. It starts 7 minutes in. He’s asked one question and then you get to hear the tale in his own words:

http://balticonpodcast.org/Podcasts/BC40.38Bennett.mp3

There appears to be an interesting disparity between Harve’s two stories of being a Trekkie’s boyfriend and his knowing nothing about Star Trek going into TWOK. However, we should note he did admit to being familiar with the main characters.

The one constant between the STARLOG story regarding his girlfriend and the BaltiCon podcast is he did know enough to feel he didn’t understand what made the show tick, which is why he needed the marathon 16mm block feed of the shows. I wonder how things might have turned out if he had as$sumed he knew enough because of his relationship with his girlfriend?

It’s funny that Harve supposedly said that he thought the original series was “boring”. As a kid in the 70’s, I always felt that his main program “Six Million Dollar Man” was trying to be an earthbound “Star Trek”…heck they even got William Shatner into an episode. It was a fun show for kids, but the original “Star Trek” plays so well on so many levels.
Rewatching TOS now, you can enjoy it again and there are very good performances in the good episodes. I think Harve probably didn’t have that good of a knowledge of “Star Trek” and I assume when he finally did see it, he likely picked up on the remarkable chemistry of Shatner, Nimoy and De Kelley. The fact that Bennett & Meyer focused on “the trinity” in “Star Trek II” reinforces that idea.
I’m hoping that a Harve Bennett type plays a role in “Star Trek’s” return to TV.

Anyone ignoring or underestimating Bennett’ contribution to Trek is more or less in denial. Trek, as a franchise, was a beached whale after TMP. Paramount had to be pursuaded to even make one more Trek feature, and then only on a shoestring budget. Bennett got Trek back to its roots as a somewhat serialized drama/adventure and inadvertently created a great trilogy in his three-movie arc. Remember, too, that Wrath of Khan was supposed to be it for movie Trek; only when preview screenings clued the studio that it hit paydirt did the notion of more Trek come into play. And that kind of Trek sensibility was because Bennett cared enough to “get it.” He didn’t just put a ship out there with guys named Kirk and Spock, he made the mythos real again. Trek V was rightfully pegged as a flop, but that was more due to Shatner’ doomed-from-the-start screenplay than anything Bennett did. Heck, I get the impression Shatner had his Trrk V movie idea in his hip pocket for some time, and Bennett wan’t going to change or fix it. Pity, too, because Trek never had so much momentum as it did after the smashing success of Trek IV, and Trek V just killed it. Trek needs to get back to its TOS storytelling roots, with maybe a hint of TNG for good measure. TNG was flawed for its too-perfect exposition of this utopian Roddenberryverse where people are barely even allowed to have unique thoughts, let alone outright… Read more »
#17. soonerdave – December 25, 2015 “Anyone ignoring or underestimating Bennett’ contribution to Trek is more or less in denial. ” — soonerdave I’m not sure who is doing that, but there is some evidence that some sort of television development was always on the backburner, and the thing Bennett definitely saved was the corporate idea of STAR TREK as a motion picture franchise. “Paramount had to be pursuaded to even make one more Trek feature, and then only on a shoestring budget.” — soonerdave And who did that persuading? According to Harve’s own words in this podcast: http://balticonpodcast.org/Podcasts/BC40.38Bennett.mp3 He didn’t persuade anyone. Charlie asked Harve if he could make a STAR TREK movie and Harve didn’t have a clue what was on the table until Bluhdorn told Harve that he, Bennett, was making the next Trek movie. “…only when preview screenings clued the studio that it hit paydirt did the notion of more Trek come into play.” — soonerdave This is inconsistent with what I’ve heard both Harve [see:BaltiCon podcast] and Meyer say about the first preview screenings where both note the audiences hated it and both fingered the original ending as the reason. “Trek needs to get back to its TOS storytelling roots, with maybe a hint of TNG for good measure.” — soonerdave Makes sense to me. However, I would add the proviso that it needs to aim higher than the best tale it has told to date. “…sans Harve Bennett, we’re probably not here talking about… Read more »
Excerpt from AMERICAN CINEMATOGRAPHER magazine July 1989 – interview with Bran Ferren by Ron Magid which has its cover pictured here: ?oh=4335b7eafa13c6042a59fe98a02916ca&oe=57109B9D ”The spectacular visuals of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier span the gamut of special effects, employing the diverse talents of effects supervisor Bran Ferren, makeup artist Kenny Myers, mechanical effects supervisor Mike Wood, motion control expert Peter WaIlach, and modelmaker Greg Jein to create images no man has seen before. It’s difficult to imagine that a film like Trek V could experience a budget crunch, but from the outset, it was plagued by shortages of funds in nearly every department that would have shocked even the most hardened of low budget filmmakers. In order to save time and conserve the already strained budget, producer Ralph Winter and executive producer Harve Bennett decided to leave the safe harbor of Industrial Light and Magic and venture into a different effects facility – breaking the tradition established with Star Trek II. It seemed the best way to handle the effects on their limited budget was to do as much live onstage as possible. As a test, they challenged ILM and four other effects houses to design the film’s climactic “Undisclosed Wonder” without resorting to opticals. According to Winter: “Bran Ferren’s company, Associates and Ferren, produced the most creative result… I wanted the problem solved in-camera, on-stage. That was the challenge. We were on a fast train to get the picture in the theater, so we felt it would be wonderful… Read more »
Excerpt from AMERICAN CINEMATOGRAPHER magazine July 1989 – interview with Bran Ferren by Ron Magid which has its cover pictured here: ?oh=4335b7eafa13c6042a59fe98a02916ca&oe=57109B9D ”The spectacular visuals of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier span the gamut of special effects, employing the diverse talents of effects supervisor Bran Ferren, makeup artist Kenny Myers, mechanical effects supervisor Mike Wood, motion control expert Peter WaIlach, and modelmaker Greg Jein to create images no man has seen before. It’s difficult to imagine that a film like Trek V could experience a budget crunch, but from the outset, it was plagued by shortages of funds in nearly every department that would have shocked even the most hardened of low budget filmmakers. In order to save time and conserve the already strained budget, producer Ralph Winter and executive producer Harve Bennett decided to leave the safe harbor of Industrial Light and Magic and venture into a different effects facility – breaking the tradition established with Star Trek II. It seemed the best way to handle the effects on their limited budget was to do as much live onstage as possible. As a test, they challenged ILM and four other effects houses to design the film’s climactic “Undisclosed Wonder” without resorting to opticals. According to Winter: “Bran Ferren’s company, As$ociates and Ferren, produced the most creative result… I wanted the problem solved in-camera, on-stage. That was the challenge. We were on a fast train to get the picture in the theater, so we felt it would be wonderful… Read more »

Enjoyed this podcast!

“The Six-Million Dollar Man” was my favorite show when I was 5.

But I can’t hear the intro now without thinking of the Family Guy parody: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EoKwX5fLJ5E

We can rebuild him… We have the technology… But I don’t want to spend a lot of money. . . .

18dis, I talked to Wood for issue 44, but the comments about TFF weren’t in there because it was a story about ALWAYS. Cinefex did cover TREK5, but it was in issue 42 (and it is told much more from the vfx-folks’ point of view, though even more bad goofs on their end are revealed in it, like the fact they must not have read CINEFEX 1 and wasted a ton of time making the same mistakes on the warp drive streak that happened on TMP.) The AC article you quote from is very good also, and there is relevant stuff in that Shatner book on trek 5 called CAPTAIN’S LOG as well, though that book was apparently rewritten from scratch when the author he originally hired delivered a book that was too honest and unflattering. That’s coming from a TMP expert I used to know on trekbbs who actually tracked the woman who was the original writer down about 15 years back. She still couldn’t say anything about the original manuscript and apparently didn’t even possess a copy. Have a feeling it was more about Paramount issues than Shatner issues, given how they interfere with and censor other honest reporting (the original TMP DVD was delayed for many months because Paramount ordered the ‘making of’ extra tossed and re-edited – again from same source I knew, but this also explains how they went from a January 7 2001 issue date 1-7-0-1 to something that was around September of same… Read more »

# 23. kmart – December 26, 2015

” I talked to Wood for issue 44, but the comments about TFF weren’t in there because it was a story about ALWAYS. ” — kmart

Thanks for fleshing that out.

I supplied the trekmovie link for the source. The issue 44 link was just to establish your bona fides that you had indeed talked to Wood as there seems to be a regularly replenished source of lost souls that manage to pop up from somewhere to challenge such things.

So no christmas this year ?

@24 Disinvited Coming out of TMP, there was no guarantee of a sequel. Roddenberry wrote his timeline-change story that prevented the assassination of Kennedy, but Paramount was tossing him to the “exec consultant” role. Production of a sequel was going to Paramount’s TV division with the thought of making it a TV movie, hence the idea of bringing in Bennett, a TV guy. That he said he could make something like five movies for TMP’s budget kept the production in the movie ballpark, under Bennett. So the idea of a *theatrical* movie sequel was anything but a given. It wasn’t that (nor did I assert) Bennett did the convincing. He convinced them he could make *this* movie under a TV production mindset. My comment re WoK test screenings was overstated. The initial screenings were negative, but the negativity was related to screenings that showed Spock dying. It led to Bennett concluding that they “couldn’t kill Spock” and he broached with Nimoy a way to make his death scene somewhat ambiguous – hence the “remember” scene. As I recall, that change (to which Meyer objected) was to change Nimoy’s line from “Remember me” to just “Remember.” At some point, some of those screenings *eventually* suggested they got it right. No, I don’t have chapter-and-verse quotes to cite, but they did eventually realize they had a chance to be very successful with WofK when Spock’s death was no longer a certainty. Yes, Bennett was alien to Trek, but he cared enough to… Read more »

#26 soonerdave “And as is often the case, it was wretched before the first frame was exposed – it was doomed by its story,”

And from where I stand, I felt Trek 5 was the closest in spirit to a TOS story, in fact, embracing the very call from so many, for Trek to not feature a typical mustache-twirling villain. And it was wasn’t a story about Kirk and crew search for God…it was a hijacking by a religious fanatic cult-leader, who was mad and HE was searching for the ultimate answer. And I honestly don’t mind this common complaint from fans as long as they can commit and admit to disliking similar plots they often played out in TOS episodes like Wink of and Eye, By any Other Name…or even WHo Mourns for Adonis. Trek 5 was closest in spirit also where it really counted, in the relationship of Kirk, Spock and McCoy. Sure thre are misfires, continuity gaffes etc…but those are everywhere in Trek, including the original series, you simply look past them. If your definition of Star Trek is the adventures of Kirk, Spock and McCoy and how they face the imaginitive but often deadly perils of the unknown, which is my definition, by the way…based on the original 79 episodes…then there is some very good Star Trek in that movie….and, incidently, what I believe to be the best musical score for Star Trek since TMP.

@27 johndoc

Fair points. I surely have no problem acknowledging TOS’ bad episodes. I will grant that aspects of V ring true, and surely the music was one if its true strengths. The value of that score, sadly, was lost in the broader failure of the film. I really think the movie was a search for “god,” but an attempt to dismiss His existence as a rock monster. That was consistent with Roddenberry’s own distaste for religion in general.

# 26. soonerdave – December 28, 2015 “Appreciate the discussion.” Me too. ” Coming out of TMP, there was no guarantee of a sequel. Roddenberry wrote his timeline-change story that prevented the as$as$ination of Kennedy, but Paramount was tossing him to the “exec consultant” role. Production of a sequel was going to Paramount’s TV division with the thought of making it a TV movie, hence the idea of bringing in Bennett, a TV guy. That he said he could make something like five movies for TMP’s budget kept the production in the movie ballpark, under Bennett.” — soonerdave Again, I remind you what Bennett said here: http://balticonpodcast.org/Podcasts/BC40.38Bennett.mp3 which wasthe same story he’s repeated several times. 1. Bennett was asked to Barry Diller’s office for reasons unknown to Harve. 2. Harve was introduced there to Charles George Bluhdorn, the founder of Gulf & Western, Inc. and owner of Paramount, who Bennett did not recognize on sight. 3. Bluhdorn asked Bennett what he thought of STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE and then asked if Harve could make a better picture – not whether he could make a better TV show, TV movie, TV mini-series or TV anything. 4. Harve says he left that meeting with a mandate to make a major motion picture, his dream. Harve did not sell a STAR TREK sequel motion picture in any way shape or form to Bludhorn. The idea was in the owner of Paramount’s head before Bennett had a clue what was going on in… Read more »
Disinvited In looking at our discussion, I actually think we’re closer than it seems. I make no pretense Bennett sold a Trek movie sequel to Par…Par was going to make a sequel, possibly TV only, handed it to a TV guy, and Par had enough confidence in Bennett to keep the production a theatrical project. My whole point is that the vision that laid the groundwork going forward was Bennett’s willingness to get “into” Trek once he had been handed the ball. He found a young director equally willing to learn Trek without being bound to. its minutiae, and that style flowed through three successful films. Bennett could force Meyer’s hand in a way that he could not over Shatner because Meyer was expendible. Shatner got the reins on V because he wanted, effectively, the same chance Nimoy got, although I don’t think Shatner was ever a real threat to leave the fold as it were in the way Nimoy was or had. Bennett’s failed last hurrah, the Starfleet Academy idea, ironically ended up being at least a shadow of what Abrams has done in the Rebootiverse, but the idea at the time was dumped, and Paramount was pushing TNG and not TOS – hence we got the end-of-the-cold-war Klingon story as a sendoff. Good enough. Not spectacular, but good and more than credible. I thought Warner was great as the Klingon Chancellor. As an aside, I aleays thought Meyer had a great deftness in knowing how to get the… Read more »

Bennet could do what he wanted with TWOK at that point because the director had had his by-law directorial cuts and at that point it is the producer’s to control … even Shat admits this (I think in his TFF book.)

Yes, kmart’s bona fides are bona fide. I’ve known him for 36 or 37 years, and he speaks the truth. I drove us down to LA for his TNG pitch meeting, while I was off visiting with a (now deceased) elderly actress friend of mine to shoot a couple of scenes in her condo for one of my sci-fi short films. I mean, every super 8 sound sci-fi film needs a scary mean evil dragon lady type, right? ;)

Speaking of saving Star Trek, it looks like indie-Trek production outfit Axanar is in need of saving. Major news development here: http://tinyurl.com/z9ho65m

As the pitch to investors put it, “While some may call it a ‘fan film’ as we are not licensed by CBS, Axanar has professionals working in front and behind the camera, with a fully-professional crew — many of whom have worked on Star Trek itself — who ensure Axanar will be the quality of Star Trek that all fans want to see.”

Paramount and CBS see a violation of their intellectual property.

“The Axanar Works infringe Plaintiffs’ works by using innumerable copyrighted elements of Star Trek, including its settings, characters, species, and themes,” states the complaint.

Nice to see thoughtful, level-headed discussion in this thread. Hope you all are enjoying the podcast. Any ideas you might have for it are welcome.

As for Axanar – we’re going to write it up today. I’m just trying to get a little more background info before proceeding.

#33. Cygnus-X1 – December 30, 2015

This is fascinating. It doesn’t pas$ the sniff test. There’s something else going on here that CBS has convinced Paramount to foot half the legal bill. Or maybe it’s the other way around?

From a purely selfish desire to have more info on just what is the nature of Paramount and CBS’ business relationship in regard to STAR TREK, I hope Peters ties them up in knots challenging the pair as to just whose rights are being infringed. The way I see it, he can force the two corporations into a position to do something they’ve been hesitant to do to date: reveal just exactly what is the nature of their business relationship in regards to STAR TREK.

If I understand the setting of Axanar correctly, he should have grounds for having Paramount ejected from the lawsuit as it simply doesn’t impinge on the movies in their library or the alternate universe of their current narrative in any way. Make the film studio show it has some rights to the characters beyond that, and watch CBS’ reaction.

Divide an conquer.

Fascinating:

https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/2660454/Startreklawsuit.txt

That filing has CBS/Paramount referring to AXANAR as “Axanar Motion Picture” which seems to be the sole basis for getting Paramount onboard. Google shows no hits from the production calling itself that.

Fascinating:

https://tinyurl.com/Startreklawsuit

That filing has CBS/Paramount referring to AXANAR as “Axanar Motion Picture” which seems to be the sole basis for getting Paramount onboard. Google shows no hits from the production calling itself that.

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