VIDEO: Ralph Winter on Star Trek III, Trek v Wars, Bennett’s Trek exit, Singer’s Trek love, Abrams’ Trek film + more

On Saturday night the Simply 70(mm) Star Trek Summer movie series continued at the Royal Theater in West Los Angeles showing Star Trek III with guest associate producer Ralph Winter. Below are highlights and video of my chat with Winter, where he talks about saving money, differentiating Star Trek and Star Wars, how film making has changed, taking over after Harve Bennett’s fight with Paramount, Bryan Singer’s love for Trek and even JJ Abrams.


Ralph Winter Star Trek III screening Q&A

Ralph Winter began his career in Hollywood at Paramount as a post-proudction supervisor on Star Trek II and stayed with the franchise until he produced Star Trek VI, then going on to produce a number of other films, including four X-Men movies. For our Q&A we talked about his work on Star Trek III and the rest of the franchise and how the industry has changed, and more. Video of the event is below, here are some highlights

  • Says he got his start as producer because "Harve Bennett took a chance on me…I didn’t have any business to be in this business, I was a history major"
  • The way to keep costs down on the post-TMP movies was to shoot (almost) everything on sound stages
  • Of the early Trek films Winter notes "these films are of a different era, they are more adult in theme and less about running and spinning and jumping…" and therefore it was easier to shoot them on budget
  • On Bill Shatner being in costume when he helped put out the fire on the set during shooting "absolutely…never miss a moment"
  • As first Star Trek films were being made during the same era as first Star Wars films, both using ILM, they were differentiated with Trek being "more like opera, great galleons in space…[Star Wars] was tiny ships running around…in some way these shots [in Trek] were harder because they needed to look good over long distance, much harder to do than short shots [like Star Wars]"
  • Winter says that the early Star Trek films pioneered various tactics for maintaining movie secrets, including coding scripts, which also had secret codes in the Stardates (each script stardates were specific to who script was for), which worked except for one which was lost by Studio head Michael Eisner
  •  Winter drew sharp contrast between film making in the 80s vs. today, saying that the era ended with The Undiscovered Country (1991), before global box office became so important
  • Winter notes "styles change, the audience has shifted. Part of that is corporate relationship with the studios that has pushed for that blockbuster/tentpole mentality. I think [prior] there was just a love of these movies. I am pretty sure on [Star Trek III] Harve Bennett has the sole screenwriting credit, not ten guys. We did something old-fashioned, we wrote the script and we shot it"
  • On taking over as producer of Star Trek VI after Harve Bennett left (because he wanted to do a prequel instead of another film with TOS crew) "I do think it was painful, more so for Harve. He wanted me to walk with him and I didn’t…He drew a line in the sand and the studio wanted something they could market with the 25th anniversary and make it with the original cast."
  • On screening Star Trek VI for Gene Roddenberry shortly before his death "He always had some comments, something to fix…but he didn’t have much on [Star Trek VI]"
  • On if he had worked with X-Men director Bryan Singer on any pitch for Star Trek following Star Trek Nemesis "Bryan is a big Trek fan and we spent a lot of late nights and meals talking about Star Trek storylines and the features…but I wasn’t really really aware that he had written something up"
  • Winter on 2009 Star Trek and if would be interested in producing Star Trek after JJ Abrams is done "I think JJ did a great job with this last movie, I just had a couple of: some of the stuff with Spock and I wanted Chris Pine to give the send-off, instead of Leonard. I thought it was great, it was invigorating, it added new life and brings it up to date…I look forward to what JJ is going to do and I have my own adventures"

VIDEO (again thanks to bdbdb)

More 70MM Trek coming this summer

The summer series of 70 mm Trek films at the Laemmle Royal Theater (in conjunction with Ledjer Film & Theater services and continues over the next few weeks, here is the latest schedule.

Date Film Guest
July 10 STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME Nichelle Nichols
(Pavel Chekov)
(Hikaru Sulu)


What: Simply 70 Star Trek movie series

When: Saturdays at midnight in June and July (see above schedule)

Where: Laemmle’s Royal Theatre is located at 11523 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90025, (310) 478-3836 

Tickets: $10 for general admission. You can buy tickets at the box office or online at


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I had read about Bennett wanting to re-boot the series instead of making TUC, interesting stuff.

It wasn’t really a reboot. The script involved McCoy reminiscing about how he, Kirk and Spock met at the Academy. That whole let’s do Top Gun in space feel many at the time perhaps had an irrational fear of. It basically ended with a cameo from the old crew going off to their next voyage. So pretty much conceived as a one-off to take Star Trek back to its roots for the 25th Anniversary.

This week and last week were both great Q&As, I wanted to hear more of what the guests had to say!

1. After some digging, here’s all about the unmade Star Trek VI: The Academy Years picture…

Just read about The Academy Years, would have been incredible in JJ´s hands…bit too late now though :(

Yes and as he said Bennett was very serious about it, “either let me do it, or I walk” and he walked for sure. Would have been interesting either way.

I don’t understand why Nimoy and Shatner aren’t in this story. The way I read about the Academy movie, they were the bookend narrators, according to Shatner’s Star Trek Movie Memories if memory serves.

pity they hadnt have done the Academy movie for Trek V instead of Final Frontier

then still done TUC 2 years later

Wish they’d done both. Love TFF and glad we have it.

I’ve always found STIII to be an unfairly maligned movie. To me, it’s a perfect segue from STII and has even more of the character tone from TOS. I recently purchased the 2-disc soundtrack online (through the link in an article from this site), and it was wonderful! Brought the whole experience of the movie back to me. I remember eagerly ditching a day of high school to see it on opening day (along with my sister and our friends).
It was very worth playing hooky for! ; )

And I agree with #9 above; I’d wished they’d done the Academy movie, too. Star Trek 2009 (with it’s fascinating glimpses of ‘academy life’) is proof-of-concept that Harve Bennett knew what he was talking about. If Paramount had been particularly ambitious back then, they could have produced the movies back-to-back (ala “Back to the Future” and “Matrix”). However, I can’t complain too much, as the eventual Star Trek VI was one of my favorite TOS movies as well.

I feel for Harve Bennett (a very talented producer), but I also think Winter did one hell of a good job, too!

No questions about Kirstie Alley’s non-return? According to the Memory Alpha wiki, citing Nimoy, Alley’s agent demanded more money than DeForest Kelley and so Saavik was recast. I doubt Alley really wanted to choose Blind Date over The Search for Spock, so it seems like an unfortunate miscalculation by her agent if that’s all there is to the story. Robin Curtis played the role of a noble Vulcan very well but Kirstie Alley’s interpretation was edgier and more interesting. Also, what about Kirstie Alley as Saavik in Star Trek VI instead of Valeris? By then she was a star on Cheers and really could expect a big paycheck, but surely Paramount could have made something happen since it owned both shows.

Well to me there are quite a few “what could have beens” as far as Star Trek movies go (“Star Trek: The God Thing”, “Star Trek: Planet of Titans” and “Star Trek: The Academy Years” ect…), It worked out the way it did. And if the Academy years was actually made back then, we might not have Star Trek 09 to enjoy now and the upcoming sequel as well. So IMO it worked out for the best in the end.

Knowing how much of a good job he did on the first 2 X-Men movies, and the excellent job he did on Superman Returns, I wonder how Star Trek might go if Bryan Singer and J.J. Abrams collaborated.

Well, since no one has said anything about it yet, I think Christopher Lloyd’s performance as Kruge deserves a mention. Of course Kruge was no Khan, but the sheer force of Lloyd’s scenery-chewing renegade Klingon was and still is something worth seeing.

Also, let’s not forget the rest of the Klingons: Chocolate Maltz, Torg, Sexy Valkriss, and the wonderfully sadistic gunner who destroyed the Grissom–Mr. “Say-the-Wrong-Thing” Pricklepants (quite possibly the best “vaporization” of a character in science fiction).

The best Klingons ever were in ST3. Ever since then they’ve been something of an embarrassment. It started with their ambassador in Voyage Home, I think. I don’t know what they were thinking. Then Klaa – again, I have no idea what they were going for. Christopher Plummer was fantastic though. You can’t really go wrong with that guy.

Agreed about Plummer (and Klaa). Though I think the character of Worf was far from an embarrassment. The cloned Kahless on the other hand…

It has always ticked me off a bit that Star Trek III was lumped in with the whole “odd pictures are crap” curse. ST III had some of the best Trek moments in any Trek feature.

Sheldon, I agree with you completely. While ST3 has a story problem or two, it took big chances, has some terrific character moments and poignance that you won’t find in “First Contact” or even VI. You can’t beat the theft of the Enterprise or that moment when Kirk is coming to terms with blowing up the ship (whose successor ships were so casually junked in the TNG flicks!)

There are too many reasons why ST:III is one of the best stories ever told about Trek! I will elaborate soon……

Great read thanks…

So so pleased Star Trek 6 TUC was made.

Search for Spock. Did it have a colon? I can’t remember. But, I do remember:

Space dock
Vulcan nymphettes
Lt. Howard Hunter with the ultimate toy for his EATERS
Chekov and Sulu dressed like early 19th century rich kids
Uhura getting one good scene then being sidelined

I like this movie as being a middle-in-the-making. They made this work as part of a trilogy that happened, not one that’s so stretched out that the middle movie feels utterly unnecessary (I’m looking at YOU, Pirates movies.)

I agree that “tentpole” mentality is the death of what makes a movie special. Too many films are a collection of so-called special effects and explosions and preposterous plot points thunk up to fill a trailer, not to tell a story. I finally have learned to skip these movies unless I get some good word of mouth.

One nit to pick: I know it saved money, but ST:III’s use of ‘sets’ for planets really, really drags the film down. Too many of those parts of the Genesis Planet are just Earth-type environments and could easily have been shot on location and looked 1000 times better.

OK, two nits. Christopher Lloyd reset the mold for Klingon characters… and I’m not a fan. This is the birth of one-dimensional killing-machine Klingons. The template appears waaaaay too often. Klingons become space Nazis with as little differentiation as most movies give Nazis. I like my baddies to have brains, interesting quirks, and real motives. Instead, this type of Klingon is just permanently pissed. Michael Dorn (slowly) moves away from this in TNG. Christopher Plummer and a few of the other actors find a different route. But, as for Lloyd’s Kruge, I… had…had… enough…of….him… by the first reel.

Anyway… ST:III has great character moments for the big three, a good (albeit brief) space battle, and the loss of the E, which was and is a bigger emotional upset than the death of Spock in TWOK, because I KNEW Spock was coming back — almost everyone in TOS died and came back.

Anyway… great movie. Thanks!!!!

But the Enterprise came back NCC1701A the adventure is only just beginning…..

Now Harry. Elaborate now. Quit teasing.

glad to hear other Trek people enjoyed the last movie

As interesting as Harve Bennett’s Academy Film idea was it would have made no sense as the crew were never all at the Academy at the same time. And if they were it would have seem contrived to put them all there.

It be like if they did a TNG academy movie and somehow Picard and Riker were at the Academy together despite there being a 30 year age difference between the two characters.

I just never bought they were all at the academy together given their differences in age. It always made more sense that the majority of them met when they were assigned to the Enterprise. Starfleet officers have careers that build up.

Not promoted to their ranks as soon as they are out of the academy.

With JJ’s film I thought Oh no you cant have them all at the Academy at the same time, yet because the new movie is out of canon with the rest of Trek it actually doesn’t matter in the new film.

But I believe many officers had past assignments before Enterprise, now its straight to the Enterprise. It felt to me that the other Treks did respect the chain of command better.


Its a good film, I do like the new film despite my gripes with some changes. I just treat it as a separate entity now. Just I feel a lot of past Trek is still better over the new movie.

OK, Anthony. Look me up on Google. I know what I’m talking about here.

You, and only you HAVE to conduct a definitive set of interviews with key players from the world of TREK. The Ralph Winter interview, however welcome and fascinating, just left me wanting MORE, MORE, MORE.

You not only posses the wide ranging knowledge required to conduct these interviews, you have a respected reputation in the fan community and the people at Paramount know you.

These interviews need to be AT LEAST an hour in length.

There are so many people you can talk to fro across all series, but in particular I would like to see Harve Bennett and a huge great interview with Ralph Winter. Also production designers, composers (PLEASE TALK TO James Horner) and of course Nick Meyer. I know a lot of ground has been covered, especially with his book, but there have to be further question only you could ask.

Shoot them all HD and stick them on the site. It will be the ultimate archive of Star Trek interviews and will comprise a terrific archive of material.

Go on, off you go.

11 – yeah that wouldve been something to do TUC and the Academy movie back to back (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’ (maybe even dropped ‘star trek’ from the title? – although then maybe people wouldve thought it was a Police Adademy movie set in space!) with cameos from the original cast at the end and Meyer couldve still done ‘TUC’ (still called Trek VI although technically itd be Trek VII – unless theyd have chosen to drop the numerals and just called it Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country)

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 – Christopher Reeve, Sarek – Jeremy Irons or Alan Rickman.

#11, #19 – As I recall, STIII got very positive reviews when it was first released; if it had been as bad a movie as some people say, Leonard Nimoy’s career as a director would have died right then and there. It later got tagged as a “bad” movie in some circles to justify that idiotic notion of the odd-numbered curse.

Also, if you really want to dispel the odd-numbered thing, don’t forget that The Cage could technically qualify as the first Star Trek movie, further throwing the whole odd-even thing out of whack. you really feel he did an exellent job on Superman was a total rip of the Superman the Movie….only saving grace was Kevin Spacey as LL… of course he didn’t write the story…
but I do agree that he did a pretty good job on the XMen franchise…
maybe he would be a good choice to direct the next TREK!

I agree about TSFS was maligned….it’s the centerpiece between 2 really good movies..TWOK and TVH were te best TREK has done until TREK09…and i still think TWOK is the best ever done!….why not just get Leonard to direct…he said he was retiring from acting..did he say directing as well?

Search for Spock rocked. It had wonderful themes of friendship and sacrifice. Great moments for all of the cast (Even Nichelle Nichols – though it was a short scene she owned it). It truly embodied the whole essence of what TOS was.

Detractors would point out the obvious stage sets for the Genesis planet or complain about Kirstie Alley not returning as Saavik. It may have even been a little anti climactic since you always knew that eventually Spock would return – but the cost of that return – the ship and crew of the Grissom, Kirks career, David Marcus, the Enterprise – was some of the best drama Trek has seen.

FWIW, back in the late 80’s I was in the studio audience for a taping of Cheers. During some down time the comic working the audience trying to keep us from getting bored – was able to coax Kirstie Alley to come forward and take some questons. A lady asked her why she didn’t do Star Trek III and she said it was because of scheduling. Whatever.

In my opinion Star Trek III is one of the best of the odd numbered Star Trek films. Its a great film and showcases the bond with the whole crew.

Shatner gave a great performance in Trek III
Hi reaction to the death of his son is outstanding “You Klingon bastard!”
When he turns his back and McCoy bends over to comfort him- He pushed him away, he had to save his ship.
One of the most perfect Kirk moments on film.

i think Kirstie Ally did ‘Runaway’ instead of ST III?

they were out the same year so…

agree with those that say Trek III is one of the best – imo its the 2nd best movie (best to worst imo – II, III, XI, VIII, VI, IV, I, VII, V, X, IX)

and yes i remember it did get good reviews at the time (not as glowing as TWOK but still good) – later on it just got lumped in with the incorrect odd = bad/even = good rule in the mainstream press which emerged after about Trek V or VI and which gathered strengh with the TNG films (which is total BS now anyway as Nemesis was even and ST09 was odd)

Kirk (watching the Enterprise burn in the atmosphere): My God, Bones, what have I done?

McCoy: You did what you always do – turn death into a fighting chance to live.

Arguably the best – but definitely my favorite scene in all of Trek.

#37 Shatner’s line delivery was typical Ham.

Deforrest Kelly however, thats another story. The line was perfect and he delivered it with class.

24 – Yes, the E-A came back. But at the time that ST:III came out we’d seen most of the major characters die and return in TOS, plus TWOK show’s Spock’s torped-asket on the Genesis Planet, so we knew he was coming back. At that point, we’d never seen the E get destroyed. The trailer made me sweat it. The actual on-screen destruction was heart-breaking. IMGO. (in my geeky opinion)

-Kirstie hated doing Trek, so it’s not surprising she jumped ship.

-John LaRoquette has never had much nice to say about doing ST:III either.

No, it didn’t work out for the best. Had Harve Bennett been allowed to do his academy movie, it would have resided in the TOS canon, and we would have seen Carol Marcus, Gary Mitchell, and Finnegan. Possibly even some more info on Kirk’s experience with the Tarsus IV massacre.

Star Trek III was a great movie and I never bought into the whole odd number curse thing. I loved The Motion Picture and Star Trek (2009) was an obvious hit. The Final Frontier was one of the weaker films, and Insurrection was not a huge success with fans, yet neither was Nemesis. So the whole odd/even thing does not hold much water for me. (For the record, I loved all 11 films, though to varying degrees).

Lloyd played a great Klingon. I remember reading something at the time (maybe the novel) that he was considered cruel by even Klingon standards. Lloyd is a great actor. Only he could play Doc in Back the the Future and Kruge in Star Trek III and be equally convincing. I liked the way the Klingons evolved over the years. Their portrayal in TNG on gave them greater depth. They were not just killing machines, but a warrior culture who valued honor above all. Somehow, for me, that makes sense for Klingons.

I was glad they did not pursue an Academy movie for the original cast. I was always under the impression that the characters had lives before the Enterprise and the ages just did not fit with being at the Academy together. I always believed that Kirk and Spock did not meet until Kirk took command of the Enterprise. The back story (noted at times in the novels) had Kirk and McCoy knowing each other in the past and had Scotty as an engineer on the Enterprise when Pike was in command. I know it is not canon, but I see no reason to dispute it.

I’ve never found Kruge to be such a cruel “Space Nazi” as someone commented above. He was actually quite cunning and intelligent if you really think about it. I mean, he immediately sees through Kirk’s bluff that the battle-scarred Enterprise is capable of finishing off the BoP. “I trust my instincts.” Later, he’s the only one of the Klingons to recognize the self-destruct countdown. “Get out of there!!!” And all through the movie he wanted as many prisoners as possible to act as negotiating chips in his quest for Genesis. Of course his being a renegade warlord with a hatred for the Federation does firmly place him in the snarling baddy camp, but he wasn’t a total genocidal maniac (see Klaa, Nero, etc).


If you’re looking for typical Hamm, go see Toy Story 3. ;)
Another great one from Pixar btw.

you really can’t go wrong w/ PIXAR

i wonder if Orci and Kurtzman used the ADADEMY YEARS script as a base for ST09? would maek a lot of sense, as there are LOTS of parallels between the two.

the only things i would’ve changed about ACADEMY years are Geroge Kirk, Capt. Thorpe, and the end. i would’ve had George Kirk as first officer aboard an NX-#### craft with the dilithium warp drive, and replace Thorpe with Captain April, who is then replaced by Coomander Pike. then, at the very end, have Kirk depart for assignment on the Farragut and Spock to the Enterprise with Captain Pike.

as far as the original series movies go, I would say that it’s not a curse of odd numbers more then it’s a “any movie with Nicholas Myer not involved” curse. I mean look at it Star Trek II, IV, and VI all had script and or directorial impute from Myer in a huge way.

Then again, when you look at the Odd number Next Gen movies, it’s like “hmm, my theory kinda breaks down.”

Oh well.

maybe they could adapt the Academy script as a graphic novel? – 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…

I know theres been various tellings of the prime origin in comics and novels but nothing ‘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).

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

The SFX in ST:III puts CGI to shame.
The Spacedock approach, the stealing of the Enterprise…. destruction of the Enterprise… Beautiful.
Add to that a great soundtrack and you’ve got not oy a GREAT movie, but GREAT classic Star Trek.

In fact, I’m gonna go watch it now!!!!!

How many people attended this screening?

I’ve always admired Harve Bennett as the unsung hero of Star Trek continuity. TMP, as much as I love it, bore little resemblance to TOS. Once Harve was hired, he watched every episode of TOS before digging in, and it showed.

He brought back Khan in what turned out to be a genius decision. He wrote III, which brought back Sarek, showed us Vulcan rituals in a manner consistent with what we saw in Amok Time, recreated the Enterprise destruct sequence from TOS, and even gave a tribble a cameo. In IV, he wrote the 23rd century scenes which brought back Amanda and, in a nice nod to Journey to Babel, resolved Spock and Sarek’s decades old debate over Spock’s choice of career. Good for ol’ Harve, although I’ve also read that he could be rough, and clashed with some of the actors.

Can anyone verfiy whether an early idea for III was to have Harry Mudd be the one McCoy met at the bar? If so, I wonder why that didn’t work out.