Nick Meyer Talks Trek II

Our friends at TwitchGuru sat down with ST:II (& ST:VI) director Nick Meyer to talk a little Khan. Although the interview doesn’t get around to JJ Abrams or Star Trek XI, there are some interesting comments from the last guy to save the Star Trek franchise. On the issue of Trek’s sacred continuity Meyer draws a parallel with the work of Arthur Conan Doyle who often ‘forgot’ various details between his various Holmes stories.

I suppose my attitude towards fidelity to the Star Trek material as if it were holy writ is similarly: "Alright, we’re in the ballpark but we don’t have to be 100%."

Meyer of course is very familiar with Doyle, having written a Holmes pastiche ‘The Seven Percent Solution’. He also notes how important it is to leave somethings up to the imagination of the audience. For example he points out that they never explained why Khan wore only one glove…and the explanation for the glove?

You’re not gonna get it from me because I don’t believe that artists should be treated like equations at the back of the math book. How do you get the audience involved? You’ve got to give them something to do.

If you look at the Wrath of Khan it has a lot of things going against it. It was totally different in look and feel from previous Trek works (and lets face it..Trekkies don’t like change). It also had the lowest budget for effects and its own share of continuity errors. Yet with all that it is still considered by many (including Trek XI producer JJ Abrams) to be their favorite. The reason is simple: it is a compelling and exciting story that focuses on the characters. Abrams often talks about the importance of drama and character over action and exposition, so it appears these two have a similiar approach. Let’s hope that Abrams Trek XI can do for the franchise what Meyer’s Wrath of Khan did 26 years earlier.     

read the rest of the interview at TwitchGuru

Related Story: Is Abrams the New Roddenberry or the new Meyer?

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I love Khan but I’m not thrilled on some of Meyer’s ideas & his stearing the Enterprise to be more like a military submarine. His complete change to those red brown unforms where you had to look real hard to see the Enterprise symbol on their chest. Roddenberrys Star Trek was about space exploration not space war.


I agree. I was quite surprised about the beefing up of the military aspect, the retro touches (e.g. fire extinguishers) and Kirk losing his super-hero status. But I also remember it was very exciting the first time I saw it. At the time I thought it was an improvement over TMP.

With that said I don’t think it really holds up over time. The more I watch it the bigger the plot holes grow. For instance, Khan was going to leave Kirk and co. marooned? What, no one at Star Fleet would think to look for them inside the moon after Star Fleet spent six months tunneling it out? There were no communication tools in the G-cave?

Kahn is not a “film,” it’s an overblown TV show made by the Paramount TV division. But I think that’s what it was supposed to be.

The only “film” in the series is The Motion Picture and it’s still my favorite. (Check the Director’s cut. Huge improvement.) That’s because I really love the utopian-esque aspect of the future GR gave us. Think about it, it’s the only popular science fiction where the future doesn’t suck. I have always liked that aspect and thought it very important.

With that said, TNG is much closer to GR’s vision than any of the TOS movies because he lost control of those movies (and we all know who took over.)

I wish they’d just move the whole whole thing 80 years into the future from TNG, combining the best of TMP and TNG. I wish they’d give us a new captain and a new crew. If they want to incorporate stuff from TOS, or from the TNG era, do a little time travel. Hell, people love it. (I actually have a story line that could bring together all the eras.)

PS Funny thing, the most exciting TNG film is First Contact and that’s chock full of plot holes also.

Meyer started character development of an aged Enterprise crew. That was his most important contribution to Star Trek! Well, I agree that the TNG uniforms had smaller symbols, but it still worked. Meyer also did Trek VI and thats one of my favorite movies. To reduce his work to military substitute of a former exploration is as unfair as it is wrong.

Well that’s the problem with trying to satisfy Trek fans — they don’t agree.

Meyer, IMO, was a genius. He was a genius because he went character first; he was a genius because he didn’t try to disguise the aging of the stars; he was a genius because he “got” original Trek.

He didn’t make it “militaristic” — he simply didn’t hide from the fact that Star Fleet WAS a military organization, no matter what GR said. And for all the worshipping of GR that goes on, Trek suffered significantly when Gene Coon left and I really believe that Coon was the true force behind TOS’s greatness.

Meyer also wasn’t afraid to explore real issues, which is something you can’t say about any of the Berman stuff.

And I’ve seen the Director’s Cut of TMP…and I still think it’s bad. Obviously we’re all entitled to opinions, but…wow, your favorite? Really? I just don’t get it. You can say that Khan wasn’t a “film” (which is a silly thing to say), but if anything TMP feels far more like a TV show padded out to 2+ hours.

Trekmaster: I agree…and Meyer also wrote (for the most part) Trek IV too (and of course he wrote II and co-wrote VI). II/IV/VI were the best films by far IMO…and the only three Meyer was involved in. Coincidence?

Trek as a submarine movie had been done in “Balance of Terror” and TWOK consciously or unconsciously strikes a lot of the same notes. Meyer was on the right track but I think he pushes some of his “earthy” ideas too hard, such as insisting there be “no smoking” signs on the Enterprise, for example. Given how smoking has declined and been increasingly banished in just a couple decades since TWOK was made, it seems even more unlikely anybody would be doing it in the 23rd Century, especially on a spaceship.

Starfleet. Starfleet Command. USS Enterprise. Naval rank structure. Boatswain’s pipes. General Orders. Guns. Big friggin guns. Starbases. Heavy Cruiser class.

Exactly how many more “hints” does the Church of Roddenberry (Reformed) need to understand that Star Trek was modelled on the US Navy? The only obvious difference is the braid pattern which is more like pre-WWII England’s pattern than Cold War era Navy. Heck, “GR” even took the US officer’s star device for the “command” insignia!

For all you bitty-boppers: before C4I, being a Navy Man was not unlike what was depicted on Star Trek. Or at least that’s what my ten-years-in-the-naval-service-with-two-carrier-and-one-destroyer/escort-tours father tells me. Limited communications. Skipper=God. Chain of command. UCMJ. Super-highly-trained men. Even more highly trained officers. 9-month deployments. Different ports of call each time. Weeks, months at sea. Occassional “hot” skirmishes — or more. Men lost all the time.

Heck, if you go back a mere 100 years, all navies were “explorers” for the simple reason we didn’t have satellite imagery.

Trek fails when it tries to be “nerds in space” — and it succeeds when it sticks to drama. Military service (which includes exploration as part of the job description), is as dramatic as the science lab is sterile. And that’s that!

The number of good Trek episodes where the military and specifically the “naval” aspect of the show mattered a great deal were few and far between.

There’s nothing emotionally “sterile” about science — if you understand it. And that’s that.

i dont know why anyone would argue that pre-meyers star fleet was not a navy. I obviously was. But I can’t believe what I’me hearing SanFranMan! STII not good over time? Plot holes? Too militant? Sacrilage! And what I’ve been arguing for 10 years now. You’re absolutely right, its not a very good film and we should hold it up as much as we do. Not to mention Kirk and Kahn never meet face to face. Kind of a let down. I did a plot problem section in wikipedia for this film and the fanboys destroyed it with bad rationalizations and then I think they just deleted it. I dont have the energy to keep fixing it.

BTW I’m in SF too.

I think there are good points and good opinions to go around. I don’t get the plot hole of Khan supposivley stranding Kirk… He never intended to let him live. He was going to destroy Enterprise and go back later and have a little fun at his leisure. Eh. Well, I both loved and hated those uniforms… we did get stuck with for the rest of the TOS films, though. I tried to love STMP, even bought the Director’s Cut, but although it is good on it’s own terms, it’s too damn overblown and languid to be enjoyable. Nick Meyer didn’t single handed save Star Trek, but he did give it a good jumpstart.

Well I think that Gene Roddenberry would laugh at all of this, even with the future of Trek in limbo. He even said that people in the future would do
Trek better than himself. We are very lucky to have enough Trek to have more than one opinion over. At some point the utopian future that Roddenberry told his stories in will come back into “fasion”.

In my opinion GR’s trek always is in fashion. That was the secret of the first successful 28 years. You can produce a trek series ever you want, but at least the characters need to be both utopic and realstic as they’ve been on DS9. I guess DS9 was the border line to what might be able on trek beside Gene Roddenberrie’s pure vision.

About a year ago, I saw TWOK at a screening in NYC and it stands as the single most enjoyable theater experience I’ve had in my life.

Everyone at the screening has seen KHAN dozens of times, you could tell just by looking at the crowd. And even then, all the lines got laughs, cheers and when Spock died, there was complete silence.

TWOK made Star Trek enjoyable again because it embraced the characters. The “militaristic” overtones, etc. are all garnish. The movie has all the thematic elements of GR’s Trek as well- the Genesis device, the moral implications of science over nature, the bonds of friendship among the crew, etc. If you can hate on TWOK, then there is no pleasing you.

Roddenberry’s utopian Trek was pompous, dramatically dull and the characters uninteresting ciphers. Like it or not, perfection is boring to most people!

Nick Meyer understood Trek better than probably anyone before. I loved the Trek he created. The Napoleonic-era-styled uniforms were superb and believably clothes rather than costumes.

He took the core concepts of what Trek was on TV (gunboat diplomacy and a great trio of lead characters!) and expanded it to operatic levels. Trek had to change for the cinema and TWOK was a step in the correct direction.

A lot of people treat ‘Roddenberry’s vision’ with some sort of quasi-religious awe. Roddenberry was a good ideas man, but he was a poor writer with little talent for creating interesting characters. Gene Coon was almost certainly the major force in making Trek work. Certainly, he was the one who developed the dynamics of the Kirk/Spock/McCoy relationship which was the core of TOS, rather than the abstract concepts, such as ‘the Prime Directive,’ which interests nerdier fans.

Roddenberry’s big flaw in later life was that he was more interested in the structure of the Trek universe: things, rather than people. As time has gone by, TOS has been reassessed and has been recognised for the truly great series that it is. TNG looks horribly dated now, filled with 80s stereotypes spouting 80s therapy-speak. TOS had archetypes who are as relevant today as they were in 1966.

My big regret is that Roddenberry was used to make TNG. I’d rather have seen a TNG-equivalent created by Harve Bennett and Nick Meyer. That would have been awesome!

Hmm, I don’t agree with that. TNG was GR’s perfect vision of star trek. I guess, he tried it before with Captain Pike’s crew in “The Cage” but the audience was to “wild” (-> western movies/ series)/ dumb to understand that almost intellectually affected kind of entertainment. So GR had to alter the series that it fits to the spirit of time of the sixties. But TNG is the ultimate vision of Star Trek. You can’t top the idealistic and superior characters of Picard & co as they were shown during the series (the films are another thing…). Any series after TNG had to mess with these characters or at least with the TOS characters, but that’s impossible! You can only create copies of these known characters, but especially this makes a new trek series “old” or “not new”. Doing this star trek will survive itself and exactly that’s what happened in 2005 when ENT was cancelled. GR was a great visionary but he wasn’t a good story teller, neither were Berman and Braga – they even haven’t been visionaries…DS9 worked, because other people hade made the creative work. TNG worked, because somone hust had to finish a good concept and to continue drawing a straight line to the series final. The big mistakes came with the TNG movies, VOY and ENT – good concepts, but bad productions and partially boring stories. TOS, TNG and DS9 had never been boring. TOS/ TNG had the best trek characters ever, and all the classic films except TMP had been full of drama.

Dom, YOU DA MAN! so to speak.

IIRC, Gene Coon was a Marine Corps veteran of the island hopping campaign. There is something palpably different about men who have faced death in the eye and survived. I know because I see it in certain friends who are Army combat veterans. While not a veteran myself, I too have faced mortal danger and know the change worked in my own life. This is the “militarism” that scares the geeks into the science lab where life is controlled, predictable, and above all else, CONTAINED.

Saith Teddy the Great, is his speech, CITIZENSHIP IN A REPUBLIC, The Sorbonne, April 23, 1910:

[quote] It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. [/quote]

(I apologize in advance if the tags don’t work as intended, but since we can’t edit this page there is only one way to find out!)

Funnily enough, reading all these post earlier nudged me into rewatching TMP:DE. I like the film, even if it is insufferably cold and pompous. With the passage of time, it is a good film, but, as the start to a movie series, it sucks! It’s as well that the film was horribly over-budget and Paramount wanted to get some use out of the sets they’d spent a fortune on, meaning TWOK got the go-ahead.

What sticks out more than anything, watching TMP, is Roddenberry’s bloody-mindedness. TMP didn’t work on an intellectual or a dramatic level, but Roddenberry was so pee-ed off about getting the boot from the movies, he turned TMP into TNG.

Cold, distant Captain Kirk becomes cold, distant Captain Picard (name sounds like Pike!)

Cold, unemotional Spock becomes cold, emotionless Data.

Lots of silly, coloured uniforms – fine in the 60s, weird and dull in the 70s, idiotic in the 80s and 90s, but Roddenberry had his way again. At least the zips are on the front of the uniforms this time!

Beige walls, beige carpets . . . beige, beige, beige everywhere. TMP and TNG . . . snap!

Boring, silly games played by ‘higher being’ crewmembers. TMP and TNG . . . snap!

Bland, pompous, prettyboy Exec, Decker, in TMP becomes bland, pompous, prettyboy Number One, Riker, in TNG.

Bland, pompous, prettyboy Exec used to boink alien hottie with a funny accent, then ditched her (TMP)

Bland, pompous, prettyboy Number One used to boink alien hottie with a funny accent, then ditched her (TNG)

Roddenberry was persisent, if nothing else! I bet that if he’d had the budget, the crew would have travelled back to 1963 and Data would have shot President Kennedy!

The thing is, Gene Roddenberry had the idea for Trek, but it ultimately worked because of the involvement of a lot of other people: Gene Coon, John Meredyth Lucas, the cast, Robert Justman . . . the list is endless.
When Roddenberry was in control, Trek was bland. After Roddenberry’s demise, a lot of what made TNG work was Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner, Whoopi Goldberg and Jonathan Frakes. Their performances were excellent for television, albeit sucky in the cinema.

TNG is indeed Roddenberry’s ultimate version of Star Trek. But that’s only Roddenberry’s preferred version and, I’m afraid to say, Roddenberry wasn’t Star Trek

He was merely one of many people who helped the show along. But real TOS Star Trek was many people’s vision. That’s why it is such a rich concept and that’s why people will return to see more adventures of Kirk and Spock! In the end, outsiders like Harve Bennett and Nick Meyer and insiders like Leonard Nimoy ‘got’ Star Trek better than Roddenberry did.

TNG was an interesting experiment and captured the minds of a lot of people at the time. But it has no lasting worth. TMP ends claiming the human adventure is only just beginning, yet the crew are so sanitised and ‘evolved’ there’s no spirit of adventure there. There’s nothing in it that captured the breathless exitement of being in outer space: the excitement that inspired so many people to go and work for NASA. in the 60s and 70s. TNG was more of the same. It merely implies that people have to cease to be human in order to ‘evolve’.

Nick Meyer saw a future human race trying to better itself, but struggling, as it always would. Meyer’s Trek is full of life. It is red-blooded (and green-blooded and pink-blooded!) exciting and adventurous, full of great characters who face challenges with charm, a sense of perspective and a sense of humour. It isn’t full of ciphers who talk like they’ve run everything they say through the Encarta dictionary, along with a Microsoft spelling and grammar checker!

Sorry this has been a bit of a rambling post, but I love these discussions!!

To see just how off-kilter Roddenberry’s vision was by 1979, I dare anyone to read the novelization of “Star Trek: The Motion Picture.” It reads like something from L. Ron Hubbard. Couple that with the excellent “Phase II” book on the aborted series, and take a look at this page on his ludicrous ideas for the story that became V’ger: “Star Trek: The God Thing.”

TMP’s ambitions are inspiring, true, expressed in the Jerry Goldsmith score and great SFX, but the movie is terribly flawed. Just look at the grisly transporter accident near the beginning of the film, which seems to have no relation to the plot.

Roddenberry’s novel has all this crazy stuff in it about Federation mind implants and free love. It rejects the original show in favor of the strange conceit that TOS wasn’t a true depiction of the 23rd century, and this was going to be how the future was going to be, in a cold, New Age ’70s vein…

I mean, it was getting to the point where with Phase II, their idea of a good Trek script wassomething by “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” scribe Richard Bach.

Nick Meyer was just what they needed to restore good writing and real adventure to Trek, and after IV the series simply never reached his level of wit and craft.

Roddenberry, I think, went a bit bonkers in his later years. ‘Gene’s vision’ scares me and I certainly don’t think TOS contained any of what that became.

‘Gene’s vision’ is the sort of vision that leads to Khan Singh, not to peace and understanding!

Dom & Dunsel:

Yeah, I often wonder if Roddenberry had more than a little pharmacological assistance if you know-what-I-mean. I am thankful he wasn’t in a position of authority with his proclivities, but by the writings of many of the younger fans of TNG etal, I think he did quite a lot of damage to the national character as it is.

Since we are all harranguing tonight….

I have never been a huge Roddenberry fan. I agree completely that Gene Coon was the one who brought the spark to Star Trek. The sterile and flaccid pilot The Cage stands as a testament to the little Rodeenberry actually had up his sleeve right from the beginning. It was little more than a concept in search of depth and characterization.

And TNG, which is still my favorite, would have died on the vine right with the pilot had not Dorothy Fontanna save that script and had others come along to give depth and color to the bland outline created by GR. For all the credit he receives, I give GR the highest marks for his ability to cast the right actors but lowest marks for his skill at the typewriter.

Can we all at least agree that William Shatner, as fine a Kirk as anyone could ever have made, should never ever be allowed to direct himself in a movie again?

Can we all at least agree that William Shatner, as fine a Kirk as anyone could ever have made, should never ever be allowed to direct himself in a movie again?

Ohh yeah, I don’t think anyone would disagree with that.

@trekmaster: It always bothers me when the defense for something’s failure is that the audience was too “dumb” to understand it.

When you then say that the same concept was reborn as TNG…well, now you’re just being silly. IMO the single largest problem with TNG was that it was Trek dumbed down.

I enjoyed a lot of TNG, but there’s no doubt in my mind that it was written for 14 year olds (whereas TOS seemed aimed at college-age students). TNG rarely dealt with serious issues in anything more than a superficial fashion, and too often played the Deux Ex Machina game. When TNG was good, it was very good, but when it wasn’t we ended up with the Particle Du Jour(tm) or Klingons howling at the heavens to warn them a new soul is approaching — and did nobody notice that Native Americans were doing this first?

It isn’t about the “concept.” The concept was and is very simple. GR always said it was Wagon Train to the stars, but that’s only part of it. Drama requires conflict, and GR seemed rather allergic to conflict — thus, in TNG, somehow we end up with no money and no fighting and perfect people. Riiiight.

@Magic_Al: focusing on the No Smoking signs is focusing on a trivial, meaningless detail. Focus on the elimination of the pajamas or vaseline on the camera lenses or the fact that suddenly we admitted that Trek characters AGE.

@Captain Dunsel: THANK YOU for bringing up the TMP novelization. I read it years ago, and I agree…it’s awful. Just awful. And to read it is to understand just how much Roddenberry was out of his mind. To compare it to L. Ron Hubbard only begins to scratch the surface of its nuttiness.

@Dom: I agree…TOS was the result of many people, not just GR’s vision, and IMO Gene Coon and others had a lot more to do with what it ultimately became.

TNG was made for 14 years olds and TOS for college students!? You must have seen a different series…My god, as a trekkie I thought the world isn’t just black and white!

trekmaster, you aren’t a Trekker: you’re a worshipper of The Church of Roddenberry, which is something else entirely! ;)

Meyer is right on the notion of “getting around the ballpark” because to tell an effective story main issues that have been come to known in canon can be addressed, but not everything has to. Much of the time if it is not, the story leaves enough space that allows for a fan to be open to assume what they wish of canon to maintain itself and what they do not wish to acknowledge. That is what Meyer did so well with constructing his films, the confronted realities of the characters (ie. Kirk slept with alot of women = thus the odds are there he will have a child eventually) but also expanded upon them (ie. kirk may have fooled around with alot of women because of the emotion impact laid upon him after the effort he placed into an early failed relationship with Carol Marcus.)

The best Star Trek stories are when they are about the characters, and the characters are at their best when they are human. They do not, nor should they be, dark depictions of humanity but they should also be allowed to make mistakes as every human does. The race has done so for thousands of years already and we will not change 100% in the 250 yrs that Star Trek depicts. What is different though, and what seems to be what Roddenberry was showing, is that we do reach a point of co-existence and a point to where people are more open to confronting their faults sooner than burying them for years on end.

“The best Star Trek stories are when they are about the characters, and the characters are at their best when they are human.”

That’s why I think STIV:TVH is the best film of the entire movie series. For me, the real litmus test of whether ST characters really work as characters is when they are stripped of their ST trappings.

And STIV:TVH is a perfect example of that: Only a quarter of the film takes place in outer space. For most of the movie, there’s no space, no Starship Enterprise, it’s not even the future. And as a result, the richness of the characters really takes center stage.

Can you imagine the TNG, DS9, VOY, or ENT characters in STIV:TVH? Do you think the film would still be as engaging and exhilarating with them in it?

I hate the whole were too old bit in the movies. By todays standards Kirk & co. don’t look to old in the first few movies.

Sanfranman, “That’s because I really love the utopian-esque aspect of the future GR gave us. Think about it, it’s the only popular science fiction where the future doesn’t suck. I have always liked that aspect and thought it very important. ” I agre that has been lost. Berman hated it thats the reason for DS9 which I HATED. & that Section 31 which had Roddenberry rolling in his grave!

After reading this thread I would add, if you think Roddenberry is so overrated I suggest you get copies of his never picked up 70s TV pilots that were years a head of their time. Questor Tapes, Genesis II, Planet Earth & Spectre. I’m sorry but the man was ahead of his time. But now that I think of it they will most likely get trashed by the anti-Roddenberry revisionists in here anyway.

The Studio chose the half season wonder Planet of the Apes TV show over Genesis II.

Actually norm, i think that many of the other producers other than Berman deserve much credit for losing the concept of Star Trek’s future, Ira Steven Behr especially. Now I am not going to say Roddenberry was perfect by any sense, but i do feel that his vision for Star Trek was ahead of its time. You could almost argue that with his ideas and the molding of his original partners, such as Gene Coon, the entire concept of Star Trek borders on genius. Now the only probably here then is that genius is a very limited attribute among many, especially for many in a Hollywood setting. I once read that what seperates a genius from someone who is simply smart or well above average is that those who fall into the latter can look at an idea or objective and see it for what it is fully. A genius on the other hand can look at the same idea or objective and see the other possiblities and how something could be better than what is already there.

After seeing interviews with Berman and Behr you soon see that, though they do have creativity, they are not in the genius level. It was easy to see that they had issues buying into Roddenberry’s future because they did not have the capability of creatively crossing the juncture to see it. They only saw the world as dark and subverted, and this carried through to TNG, DS9, VOYAGER, and ENTERPRISE (and if u dont believe me go back and watch all trek’s pre-1991 and see how the story telling begins to move away from the characters and more towards sci-fi gimmicks.) Behr even admits to not enjoying TNG because of how he personally saw technology as an evil and not benefit.

Now some may not see the issue with this, but look at it from the realization that though Berman and Behr and others may feel uncertain and disdain about today’s society, those feelings mean nothing in the context of a future society. The fears of the past can not be attributed to the fears of a “present future” which Star Trek presents by having its episodes. Those fears can only be attributed to a “possible future” that has yet to be defined. Star Trek was defined, though it be in fiction, it was still defined by both Roddenberry, Coon, and others. They found an image add established it. It just that the those with lesser abilities have managed to dislodge it now.

JJ Abrams is going to bury the Trek franchise. A silly stupid “recasting” of Kirks first mission. What a joke! There is NO interest in seeing that piece of trash.

Abrams script for his “Superman movie” was a complete joke.