Nicholas Meyer didn’t know anything about Star Trek before he was hired as the director for the second film in the franchise – which is still considered by most to be the best. TrekMovie talked to Meyer about taking on Star Trek II, his hopes for a director’s cut on Blu-ray, and what he though of the homage to Wrath of Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness.
Interview: Nicholas Meyer
Interview conduced at Destination Star Trek 3 – London
TrekMovie: Star Trek II was such a different film than ‘The Motion Picture.’ How much of a challenge was it for you to take on the role of director (and un-credited writer) of Wrath of Khan?
Nicholas Meyer: I was sort of free to do what I wanted because they didn’t know what was going to work after Star Trek: The Motion Picture. So in a funny way – aside from slashing the budget – they really left me to my own devices. And I was encouraged by the cast. And I think the biggest single thing was everybody really liked the script. And since they liked the script everybody was like "OK, do that." So that is what I did. Nobody was thinking about saving the franchise, we were just thinking about making a movie.
TrekMovie: We you aware of the impact that killing off Spock was going to have?
Nicholas Meyer: Well, there were a lot of rumors and yes I got threatening letters – "If Spock dies, you die" and that sort of thing. But I don’t think people know what they really want. Things that sound bad in theory, may not be so bad when you see them worked out in practice. And so the death of Spock was such a heroic act of self-sacrifice, I think a lot of people had no trouble buying into it.
TrekMovie: Do you know if there is there is a possibility of a Blu-ray release of the director’s cut of Wrath of Khan?
Nicholas Meyer: I don’t know is the short answer. I wish there were, because I like my version – the few changes that I made I think improve the movie, and I was disappointed when they didn’t release it in Blu-ray with my changes.
TrekMovie: Would you be open to talking to Paramount about releasing it on Blu-ray?
Nicholas Meyer: Oh, I am open to talking to Paramount. The question is, is Paramount open to talking to me?
TrekMovie: You have also talked in the past about ‘fixing’ things in the film and I know you are not particularly fond of the Star Wars fixes. But what about the Genesis cave scene in Star Trek II? You have mentioned in the past that you didn’t think it was done right.
Nicholas Meyer: Well, we didn’t have the money to do what we needed there. But no, I don’t really believe in re-writing movies. Movies are in some way part of the historical record. I think things get confused when you start futzing with them and changing them around. This [holds up book on the Hollywood Blacklist in the 1940s & 50s] is a book about the blacklist. Recently – and when I say recently I mean in the last 25 years – they’ve started restoring the names onto those blacklisted movies, which they really wrote. And I think that on the one hand, that is a very laudable thing to do. If you wrote Lawrence of Arabia, your name should be on it. On the other hand, if you restore those names with no explanation there, you are changing history and people will never know about that particularly shameful episode in American history and Hollywood history. So I am very leery. It’s as though you re-cut a Shirley Temple movie and you didn’t like how the black person is the shifty bulging-eyed maid because it is a racist stereotype, and it is, but we shouldn’t forget it. We shouldn’t forget that we did that – we had that. You cut it out and you are changing the record. I don’t want to change my movie with updated special effects is a long-winded answer to your question.
TrekMovie: Have you see seen the new JJ Abrams Star Trek movies and do you have an opinion on them?
Nicholas Meyer: Yes, I have. My biggest opinion is that I am having a hard time understanding them. I may be too old to understand them. But I don’t understand Spock going around slugging people. That doesn’t seem in character with Spock. And I sometimes don’t understand what they are about – what the theme is – other than making another Star Trek movie.
TrekMovie: How did you feel about the death scene between your ‘Wrath of Khan’ and the one in ‘Into Darkness?’ Some fans felt it was a bit of a rip-off of the scene in Star Trek II. Did you see it as an homage to Star Trek II? Did you feel privileged that the scene was recreated in such a way?
Nicholas Meyer: Well, you have to be flattered that somebody wants to sort of try and make your movie again. But the difference is between a rip-off and an homage is that you are supposed to add something.
Still more DST to come
Believe it or not, we still have more content from DST coming up, including Star Trek celebrities picking who they want to see reboot their characters and more.
…and our other coverage from DST 3
Top photo by Idil Sukan, taken at DST 3.
Ronan O’Flaherty is an Irish based, life-long Star Trek fan, software engineer and radio presenter. His site is currently under revamp at www.ronanoflaherty.ie.