Interview With Nicholas Meyer

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. The film is considered by many (including J.J. Abrams) to be the best of the 10 film series and the benchmark by which other films are compared. The film was directed (and written) by Nicholas Meyer, who went on to co-write Star Trek IV and VI (which he also directed. Meyer recently appeared at the screening of the film (part of Geek Magazine’s ‘1982 Geekiest Year Ever’ Series). I had a moment to talk to Mr. Meyer at the event about his views on the film so many years later, if he would make any CGI changes, why he isn’t credited as a writer and his views of the franchise going forward. (Interview below)

TREKMOVIE.COM: Can you sit back and enjoy the film like an audience member, or do you still see it as a film maker and worry about all little details?

NICK MEYER: It is interesting that you ask right now, because I was just watching and I was aware of the hairs rising on the back of my neck. I was genuinely thrilled as the Enterprise leaves spacedock. I was very excited and had a bag of popcorn in my hand and I don’t think my reaction was different than anyone else’s.

TREKMOVIE.COM: But you probably weren’t so relaxed on opening night?

NICK MEYER: All works of art, good bad or indifferent, time does something to clarify what they are. When Stravinsky’s “Le Sacre du Printemps” was premiered there was a riot in the theater and Stravinsky had to sneak out of Paris, but fifty years later it is the soundtrack to Fantasia and no one thinks anything of it. Artists tend to be ahead of the curve and everybody else has to sort of catch up. That doesn’t mean that the artist is wildly conformable or secure with what they are doing…at least not for me. You go with your gut.

TREKMOVIE.COM: When you got the job for Khan, how much freedom did you have? What was your mandate from Paramount?

NICK MEYER: Barry Diller said to me that one of his most wrenching moments as head of Paramount, was seeing lines around the block for Star Trek The Motion Picture and knowing that in his opinion the movie didn’t deliver. The movie made a profit not withstanding that it was a runaway production at the time…it went up to $45million in 1979. So my mandate was to make a movie for a lot less money. That was the only mandate that I had.

TREKMOVIE.COM: You made a lot of changes from the original film in both the characters and the production design…Did you have in mind that you were setting a new tone for the franchise?

NICK MEYER: No absolutely not. All I was doing was making a movie they way I thought it should be made. Because all the studio cared about was that we weren’t breaking the bank. People read the script when I turned it in and they were very pleased.

TREKMOVIE.COM: You have told the story about how you were originally only going to direct the film, but you had to write the script because you and Harve Bennett didn’t like any of the five previous attempts at a script. So why are you are not credited as the writer?

NICK MEYER: It is long silly story. Basically when I made the suggestion that I take all the things we liked from the other scripts and put them together in a new script Harve Bennett and Bob Salin, said that ILM said that if we don’t have a script in twelve days they cannot guarantee delivery of the shots in time for the opening. I said ‘I can do this in twelve days lets get on with it.’ And they said ‘we couldn’t make your deal in twelve days’ and I said ‘forget my deal, forget the credit, forget the money…I am here as the director, but if I am not here as the writer right now there is not going to be any movie.’ So I just wrote it and they put somebody’s name on it. In fact I think they put Harve’s name on it first, but he later told me he lost the arbitration.

TREKMOVIE.COM: One of the recent trends is to go back to original work and to add new CGI effects. Lucas did it, CBS is doing it with the Original Series, Robert Wise did it with the first movie. Paramount will get around to re-releasing your Trek movies in HD…what do you think of the trend of adding new effects and is that something you would be interested in?

NICK MEYER: The only reason I would do it is to control what was being done, but I don’t really believe in it. It is like saying ‘there are synthesizers now, we should take Beethoven’s Fifth and re-orchestrate it for synthesizer’ I think works of art ought to have some kind of integrity where you don’t sort of fuck with it.

TREKMOVIE.COM: In the case of the first film, Robert Wise felt that he never got a chance to finish the film the way he wanted to. With his ‘Director’s Edition’ there were things he could do digitally that he wished he could have done originally…

NICK MEYER: Did it make it better?

TREKMOVIE.COM: Many would say ‘yes’…especially with the final scenes do now fit more with the original plans

NICK MEYER: The only scene I would tinker with is there is a wide angle scene with them on the planet that is very hokey. We didn’t have the money to do it right so if their stuff could improve it I would say OK, but I really think some of the charm about pieces of art is that they are from a certain time. It is like colorizing black and white movies. I don’t want black and white movies colored, I think it is an insult. And it is rewriting history finally…rewriting history is very dangerous. Are we now going to take out anti-semetic references in this movie or anti-black references in that movie because it unpalatable now. We have the technology we can make them say something else. I don’t think so.

TREKMOVIE.COM: Do you know JJ Abrams?

NICK MEYER: Yes I was at his bar mitzvah. He is the son of my friend Jerry [Gerald Abrams]

TREKMOVIE.COM: Did you know Star Trek II is his favorite Trek movie

NICK MEYER: No I didn’t but I am glad he likes it.

TREKMOVIE.COM: Some have said that this moment is like when came in with a new team 25 years ago, even calling Abrams ‘the new Nick Meyer.’ So do you have any advice for young JJ?

NICK MEYER: Go with your gut.

TREKMOVIE.COM: Apparently the plan is for them to get back to basics and return to the Original Series. What do you think are the basics of Trek…what is at the heart of Trek?

NICK MEYER: Gosh…men against the universe…a Howard Hawksian idea. I don’t know, I am not a very analytical person. I am more intuitive, that is why I say ‘go with your gut.’ I have never been able to account for the success of this. I think its optimism, its belief calls to us. The notion that people can work together and that at the end of the day everybody is human. Whether that is true or not is another question, but I think that it’s a pleasant daydream. But beyond that I can’t presume to give him advice [laughs] He is very successful.


VIDEO: Watch One Hour of Nick Meyer talking Star Trek and much more have put up videos of the post film chat between Nick Meyer and Trek geeks (and Free Enterpise creators) Mark Altman  and Robert Meyer  Burnett. The chat was very entertaining and  informative and MUST SEE TREK TV for any fan of Meyer’s work.

The videos are in three 20 minute parts

Part 1
what changes if any he would make, Time After Time, working with limited budgets, working with Trek egos, writing the STII script  

Part 2
working with Montalban, directing Shatner, why didn’t Khan & Kirk meet in person, STII’s place in the Trek franchise, the death/resurrection of Spock

Part 3
the future of the Trek franchise, the music of Star Trek VI, the differences between his vision and Gene Roddenberry’s vision of the future, and the naming of Trek movies

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Interesting to a small degree. One would think that would Meyers tremendous contribution to the Star Trek world of films and so on
then or perhaps maybe Paramount might allow him to have some
sort of input on the NEW film. How much could that hurt anyone?

TWOK is IMHO the best Trek movie hands down. I still get chills when watching Kirk burst into engineering after Spock makes his sacrifice:

Kirk: “He’ll die”
Scotty: “He’s dead already”
McCoy: “It’s too late.”

Hopefully Abrams can find his own version of the magic that made this such a spectacular and emotional film.

Nick Meyer is THE man! TWoK is the best of the movies — without question! I wish he’d direct the new one.

Personally I’ve always felt that ST VI was the best of theatrical films strictly on its merits as cinema, though it’s even conceptually further from Gene Roddenberry’s original concept than TWOK. But there’s no getting around the enormous literary and thematic contributions Nick Meyer brought to the table, and everyone who loves this franchise owes him a debt.

I favor IV as a piece of entertainment but clearly Nick Meyer did fantastic work and deserves far more credit, imo, than Roddenberry for ST’s enduring legacy. I agree he should be consulted for the new movie. He has a wonderful insight into what works.

I’ll keep this simple.

Trek II is my favourite movie of all time.

God bless you Nick Meyer.

I like that he considers changing movies as rewriting history, I wish someone would tell George Lucas that.

Nick Meyer is a wonderful writer. His involvements with Trek made for the best outings of the movie series!!! Any fans of Sherlock Holmes and Mr. Meyers work should read his Holmes Novels, The Seven Percent Solution, West End Terror and The Canary Singer (Holmes Vs. The Phantom of the Opera!!) I understand he is currently collaborating with Martin Scorssese on a Teddy Roosevelt film. The real tragedy is that he hasn’t been given the opportunity to direct more films, everything he directed were great successes. P.S. Time After Time was also great

Awesome interview(s). Hearing him describe how the final script came together, its amazing it wasn’t a pile of crap. Usually a movie with a writing process like that ends up a barely watchable mess, not one that came to be regarded as a sci-fi classic.

Some of Meyer’s naval stuff got a little over the top for my taste, but both his Treks are rip-roaring adventures that capture the spirit of the series better than the other films. I hope JJ has him over for dinner to look at the dailies at some point! Not that he won’t do fine without ol’ Uncle Nick, but still, if he’s a friend of the family…

I like his naval stuff. I see new aspects of it each time I watch TWOK and especially STVI. (Rocking decks, anyone?) For him to recognize (was it before or after someone told him?) that Kirk was Horatio Hornblower was marvelous. Barrett says that was Roddenberry’s take on the character all along. And why not? It doesn’t get in the way of the optimistic heart of Star Trek, while it does manage to bring the action adventure into sharper focus than most modern bang-boom-bang flicks.
(Likewise, Time After Time could have been just plain dumb had it not been for the focus on character and the excellent casting… and The Day After still makes me sad all these years later, because the characters are real.)
Thank you, Nicholas Meyer for some of my all-time favorite movies.

JJ Abrams hasn’t directed anything comparable to TWOK yet, so, I’d say that comparisons with Nick Meyer are premature, at best.

Meyer managed to get the very best out of his actors, Shat and Montalban in particular:

KIRK: Khan, you bloodsucker. You’re gonna have to do your own dirty work now, do you hear me? Do you?

KHAN: Kirk. You’re still alive, old friend…

KIRK: Still… “OLD…FRIEND…” You’ve managed to kill everyone else, but like a poor marksman, you KEEP…MISSING…THE TARGET.

KHAN: Perhaps I no longer need to try, Admiral.
[beams the Genesis device away]

KIRK: Khan… Khan, you’ve got Genesis, but you don’t have me. You were going to kill me, Khan. You’re gonna have to come down here. You’re gonna have to come down here!

KHAN: I’ve done far worse than kill you, Admiral. I’ve hurt you. And I wish to go on…hurting you. I shall leave you as you left me…as you left her… marooned, for all eternity, in the center of a dead planet…buried alive… Buried alive.


Nicholas Meyer is one of those genius writer/director people who hasn’t done more work with Hollywood probably because he can’t stand the bullshit mentality prevalent in that town. When you really think about it, there aren’t many great movies coming out of Tinsletown. Hell, there should be one a month being produced for our enjoyment!

I’ve always respected Nick Meyer for his intelligence and quiet confidence. Despite objections from some, his changes made Star Trek better and many of them have endured to this very day.

It’s no wonder that when other filmmakers describe improving a franchise, they invariably reference “Wrath of Khan.”

This was a great little interview. I’m insanely jealous that you had the chance to speak with him, Anthony.

Great Interview… now someone please tell me… what’s up with khan’s right hand glove? I still don’t get it completely! thanks!

Anthony, I’d love to watch those videos, but, my anachronistic computer can’t handle them. (yes, I know, I need to buy a new computer.)

Do you know of any way to download, and convert, those Google Video files to a format that my clunker can handle, and play on Windows Media Player?

Cygnus – Do you have a consistent broadband connection? If so, try Firefox 2 before giving up the ship on the on-line videos. It may not be the codec or your processor; it may be the connection speed or the explorer browser being flaky.

— On message,

I was interested to hear Meyer comment that Roddenberry had issues with VI because of the less than subtle racism toward Klingons.-

In Classic TV Trek hadn’t we seen in both “Errand of Mercy” and “Day of the Dove” exactly that? In both of those eps it took a superbeing in the picture to demonstrate the error in the humans’ ways.

In VI, the humans managed (after a struggle) to figure it out for themselves.

Perhaps Roddenberry and Meyer are not so far apart about a more positive /enlightened outcome for our heroes; where they differ seems to be in how they get there.

The Gene Roddenberry of 1966 was a very different man than the Gene Roddenberry of 1986 and later, and not for the better in my own humble opinion, but only in my own humble opinion. Gene “went Hollywood” and started to believe his own press, as some kind of visionary guru of the Next Wave, and his opinions about the perfectability of the human race which underpinned (and some say nearly paralyzed) NextGen and later shows reflects that change. I personally prefer the vision of the Gene Roddenberry who was a little closer in time to his military service and his days as a police officer, who was well acquainted with the uglier side of mankind, but who also believed that overcoming that ugly side was possible through will, determination and morality. As I’ve gotten older, I have ceased to buy (assuming I ever did in the first place) the pie-in-the-sky utopia populated by mostly perfect people of NextGen, but that’s where Gene was in the 80s when Nick Meyer was working his magic on The Franchise. I assume that Nick would have had a lot more in common with the Gene of 1964 or ’65 than he did with the Gene of 1982 or 1990.

Remember that the last Trek movie compared to Wrath of Khan was Nemesis. My only hope is that Abrams can make something at least as good as Undiscovered Country.

The Undiscovered Movie was way too preachy….I thought I was in church!
IF the next film follows in the vein of that movies or the others then we’re all
just doomed. They need a good story that tells centers around the characters to hold the rest of the movie together otherwise its a pointless endeavor.

Man, if you thought VI was too preachy IV must have been torture for you.

The story of the whales and the probe (once again) killed that movie quick!

Instead of Scotty proclaiming : There be whales….he should of said: Their be snores! – Looking out in the theater audience.

IV is my least favorite Trek movie. Frankly, I want to see Trek movies be about the future, not the present. Yeah, yeah, Undiscovered Country was a metaphor for the Cold War. Whatever. It was still an excellent movie and a hell of a high note for the original cast to go out with.

Steve 623, you called it.

I admit (hiding my head in shame) that, back in ’79 as a newly minted teenager, I READ the Motion Picture Novelization.

In it. Admiral Kirk, in many exposition scenes found nowhere else, reflects on all the changes in Humanity since his return – humans were all to be connected via some sort of device/implant if memory serves- Some sort of primitive “hive mind” if you will. Kirk was against it.

I think that, in the ’70’s Majel and Gene had gone to a lot of EST/Eselin institute type seminars, and , “grokked the night away”.

I think Phase II was to be the same deal. Ilea as a “feeling” counselor, etc.

Also the Deltans themselves were to be a VERY randy race, practicing polygamy/polyandry and empathic bonding.

I’m getting waaay off topic, but yeah, clearly Roddenberry had changed.

Shame on him not noticing that in VI, Nimoy made an effort by all the references to Khittoimer to tie both generations together.

Hell, even in Next Gen Worf is still the ONLY Klingon,

So, back on topic, I really liked II, but my only beef with Meyer’s claims is that the only reason he came in so low and on/under budget, was that everything had already been built for him, and new costumes are relatively cheap. (but they did look good),

I also think that Star Trek I looks more “advanced” than II, if that makes any sense at all. – Example- the Photon Torpedo loading protocol. Does it look like an old Galleon/Ship of the line? sure. Does it make sense? No.

I forgive him all this, and more – cause the story just rocked.


I am using Firefox 2. Some of those Flash Player videos are just too much for my clunker. That last Shatnervision one gave me a hard time to. I was able to make it through, but, with the video pausing every 2 seconds. Very annoying.

This Meyer interview, though, is too much. I waited ten minutes to get through the first minute of the interview. I couldn’t even take it in, it was so chopped up.

Any suggestions????

somewhat unfortunate that the audience appeared to be looking for laughs and humour in what Nick was saying- when he wasn’t!
You would have thought that they would have payed better attention, i mean, ITS NICK MEYER FOR GODS SAKE!

Star Trek 6: The Undiscovered Country is by far my favorite film. Star Trek 2 is second. Meyer is a GOD in the Trek universe!

Avid Trekkie that I am, I have found reasons to like ALL of the TOS movies. The only TNG film I liked was FC.
ST-TMP: the director’s cut helped make it a better, tighter film (IMO), but I always liked it for the “deep space adventure into the unknown” quality, something none of the other films ever did.
TWOK is certainly a spectacular movie. What else can I say about this one that hasn’t already been said?
TSFS was a fun movie, in spite of its darker tone. The middle section where McCoy is trying to find a way to Genesis, and then the crew’s stealing of the Enterprise is priceless ST for me.
TVH this was another fun movie, and this time light-hearted fun. I loved the opening sequences, and the earth sequence.
TFF is great for its picture, the grand, expansive shots, and a sense of being closer to the characters. I’m still disappointed that Paramount wouldn’t give Shatner the opportunity to “remake” for a director’s cut.
TUC is, I agree with others, the most cinematic of the films. The message of growing beyond predjudice is more pertintent today than ever before.
We owe Mr Meyer a real debt of gratitude for taking ST seriously enough in the first place… where other directors could have turned it into a comic book, Nick Meyer made ST believable and legitimate.

The most successful films in the franchise have been II, IV, and VI. Nick Meyer was involved with all three. The man understands what Trek is about.

If (God forbid) JJ got hit by a bus tomorrow, I can’t think of a better man to helm Star Trek XI than Nick Meyer. But he’d never do it… like the poster above said, he doesn’t play the Hollywood game anymore.

Although he *does* seem to enjoy the TWOK retrospectives that occur at five-year intervals… hmm… Maybe with some not-so-subtle prodding he could be convinced to direct Star Trek XII!

Love the WOK, but I still feel a touch of dissappointment with TUC VI though. There are scenes like the crossing the Klingon border with all the translation books out, etc. that just keep the film from being as good as the WOK was to me. Also if they had had Saavik be one of the traitors that would of given the story more power. I have always felt that it was odd to me that some of the same creative force that made WOK so good was a bit off base with TUC. Of course I felt STAR TREKS IV-VI really were off base with the forced humor and such. But that is only my opinion. I still really enjoy the original series stuff the most. I just wish for me they had gone out on an even higher note. Still to me Nicholas Meyer is a damn fine film maker and I wish he was doing much more work!

I WOULD watch those videos, but they have poor audio.

anyway, Nick Meyer is amazing. I hope he gets a chance to write and/or direct trek again. but then, it depends on if the studio wants to keep kurtzman&orci, and abbrams.

I’m keeping an eye on his IMDB from now on. If he wrote and directed Khan that well, I’d love to see what else he can do.

I’ve grown to consider TMP the best of the movies really. It was higher concept than the others, and although the characters were not quite themselves…by the end, they had found their stride together once more. I really would have loved seeing another movie in the same visual style of The Motion Picture. The Enterprise was absolutely gorgeous and looked real…in the later films…ILM just kept washing the model out more and more. It never looked as good as it did in TMP.

The Wrath of Khan benefited from the story threads that came before it. It was just so rich, that it couldn’t really fail. I like it…as pure entertainment…but I really feel it was a step backwards from TMP on many levels.

It would be nice if these 3 videos could be made available as Quicktime, would love to download instead of watching on the computer. But I understand possible need to control the copyrights.

I saw Nick Meyer a few years at a signing and talk when the DVD came out. He signed my DVD and did a very nice talk and Q@A.

Opps, meant to say download onto an iPod for example.

That’s a very intelligent and well-read guy. I vcould listen to him talk about this stuff all day long.


Kirk had a standard “senseiver” device implanted in his brain, which was customary starfleet practise at the time. It alerted him to the Vejur crisis to report back to the Admiralty. The Vejur incident was only the second time the device had been used for it’s intended purpose.

What Kirk objected to was the “new human” movement, groups increasingly involved in a group consciousness emphasizing less their individualty.

Decker had exposure at a young age to the new human movement, which made his decision at the end of the film merely an extension of these higher order thoughts he had already flirted with as a child.

Kirk’s academy class was the first group selected on lesser intellectual agility, because a Vulcan study allegedly determined Starfleets requirements were too high, the crews going out would be seduced by higher cultures being encountered, mutiny, etc.


Thoguh as Kirk notes, the lower intellectual agility classification would hardly stand up given his achievements and molding by the 23rd century media into a modern Ulysses figure.

To me when the films were still young Meyer made a marvelous contribution to Star Trek.I agree he is very intelligent and very articulate. Doesn’t go out of his way to insult his audience. His take was very nautical in its aesthetics and it shows more in TWOK.. Repeating that has been done and done poorly. The best parts of the film Master and Commander and Moby Dick can be seen In TWOK.

I remember his commentary with Robert Wise on the DVD commentary for “The Day the Earth Stood still” as much as they poked each other on TMP and TWOK respectively toward the end. And described what angle they were shooting for. Its a good interview commentary.

I like his take on Trek I really do but its a bit overblown…Hollywood needs intelligent writers like Meyer. And if their were more I would go out to the movies more and I feel I get something more for my buck.. unfortuantly we get writers who think of action and 80 minute exposition and no story and think that’s OK….

oh without a doubt, Nick Meyer, is the best writer/ director for all the Star Trek™ feature films. I do wish JJ Abrahms would consider him for script ideas for Star Trek XI


I agree with you about some of the bits of ST VI that seemed to be “off.” The part that always bugged me was the kitchen scene. Since when does the Enterprise have a kitchen? We saw replicators/food slots as early as TOS. Plus don’t get me started on why Chekov wouldn’t know that vaporizing the gravity boots would set off the alarms, never mind Valeris feeling the need to not only vaporize a kettle, but barely allowing some poor yeoman time to get out of the way before shooting. Wouldn’t it have been simpler to say “as you know, internal sensors would activate the alarm after detecting any unauthorized phaser discharge.”

Nitpicking aside, all of these things did not stop me from loving TUC. It’s still my second favorite of the films, followed by TMP, FC, TVH, TSFS, Generations, Nemesis, Insurrection and TFF.

The Day After is without doubt one of the landmarks of made for television movies, ever. I’ll never forget the night it was originally broadcast.
I’ll never forget the scene where Jason Robards ducks behind his dashboard as the first Atomic bomb goes off. Searing. My girlfriend had to leave the room because of the intensity!
You also couldn’t help feeling drawn in by the acting and the writing that helped bring the film to life, steered by the direction of Nick Meyer.
The Day After is an incredible accomplishment for Nick Meyer, who also along with Harve Bennett is responsible for the unforgettable arc of Trek II-III-IV.

# 6….

I’ll keep this simple.

Trek II is my favourite movie of all time.

God bless you Nick Meyer.

Hahaha spoken like a “true trekkie”!

I like Star Trek as much as much as the next poster here, but STII: TROK, or any other Trek film for that matter, is nowhere near my favorite movie of all time. Not even close!

For myself, only Star Trek II and IV came close to the feel and flavor of the original show. The rest of the Trek films are a mixed bag, some good, some ok, and a few downright terrible.

TROK is an excellent movie and argueably the best ot the Trek films. But don’t expect film historians in the future to consider it a classic, or in the same league of films such as Gone with the Wind and Citizen Kane. That ain’t going to happen!

Myers is a competent director and he’s responsible for much of the success of the TOS movies. Let’s all hope that JJ Abrahms can make a Trek film as good as TWOK, and hopefully even better.

Mike :o


Saavik was originally going to be the traitor, but Robin Curtis was unavailable (or didn’t want to do it, can’t remember) and they didn’t want to use yet another actress for the role, so they changed the character.

Maybe they should have asked Kirstie Alley– a phaser in one hand and a cheesecake in the other.


You out geeked me. I actually didn’t thin that was possible!

My memorieds of that novel are some ~27 years old, but that does jibe with Roddenberry’s changing viewpoint.

Its kinda ironic, that through the Kirk Character, in that novelization, he actually poo-poo’s some of the “new human” ideology that shows up later in Next Gen.

I’m not sure Roddenberry wrote the thing anyhow.

Dear James Cawley

Now I want to see some Phase II episodes:

Didn’t Nick Meyer want to bring back Kirstie Alley for STVI?

44 – twok IS a classic…its a SF classic and always pops up on top 10 & top 20 best SF film lists along with the likes of blade runner, aliens, starwars, empire, 2001 etc….plus its one of the greatest sequels….its certainly the most improved sequel ever….yea Meyer is a genius. Roddenberry wanted trek 2 tobe kirk & co saving JFK!

This is one of the most substantive interviews about TWOK I’ve seen in a long time. I wish Meyer had felt free enough to say some of these things on his DVD commentary.

Meyer’s attempts to de-technologize Trek were occasionally heavy-handed and overdone, but his ability to give us natural dialog from characters who’d been reciting cliches for a decade was real fresh air for the franchise.

Retconning is fun for nerds, but I want to see Trek done like any other non-sf series, with realistic behavior and everyday dialog. Trek needs to grow up, and I hope J.J. Abrams agrees.