Creative Genius Behind Trek’s “Holy Trilogy,” Harve Bennett Dies

HarveBennett

Trek has lost another of its shining stars: Harve Bennett, who died on February 25th in Medford, Oregon.

Notwithstanding that I probably use too many superlatives, I am confident saying that Star Trek as we know it today would not exist without Bennett. After the studio (quite rightly) booted Roddenberry out of the captain’s chair after The Motion Picture, it gave command to Bennett, who wrote and produced Trek’s “holy trilogy” of Wrath of Khan, Search for Spock, and Voyage Home.

Recognizing the creative input on the trilogy from many talented people (notably Nicholas Meyer, Jack Sowards, and – of course – Leonard Nimoy), Bennett’s leadership on these three films made them the enduring darlings they are to Trek fans today. In the broader public’s mind, that trilogy transitioned Star Trek from a campy 60s science fiction show for nerds into a smart, sophisticated franchise for the whole family.

Moreover, the immediate financial success of those three films gave Paramount the impetus to green light The Next Generation.

In an interesting division of labor on Voyage Home, Bennett wrote all the 23rd Century scenes and Meyer wrote everything on Earth. So we can’t credit Bennett with “double dumb-ass on you,” “colorful metaphors,” or “nuclear wessels.” But he did have exclusive writing credit on Search for Spock, so he can claim my personal favorite scene in all of Star Trek.

Seriously that “how many fingers am I holding up?” is genius.

Bennett also produced Final Frontier. Paramount wanted him to produce the next film, but he felt they couldn’t make a good movie in such a compressed time span (a little over a year from first draft to release), and decided it was time to leave.

Nor did he ever write, or even cameo in, an episode of the four modern series. The book Inside Star Trek: The Real Story suggests that Roddenberry had a longstanding dispute with Bennett, which might explain why he never joined the TNG crew.

At a Q and A with fans a few years ago, he gave his opinions on the reboot and says that he’d suggested doing a series on young Kirk and crew as far back as the 80s.

A pragmatic filmmaker, he once said: “When you go where no man has gone before, you have to build things and then it starts getting expensive.” (Maybe it explains why he set one of his movies in San Francisco.) For more on the behind the scenes of Treks 2, 3, and 4, I’d recommend the videos by SF Debris.

And seriously … if you haven’t re-watched Wrath of Khan yet this week, go do it right now.

 


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Felt the same thing when Star Trek composer Jerry Goldsmith died. But their work outlives them inspiring a lot of people to do their best.

Lt. Bailey

This is another sad day but he will be long remembered for these greatest films. God Bless his family at this time and thank you Mr Bennett for what you gave us all.

Paul

RIP.

Nice man & very talented producer he saved Trek from itself after STMP underperformed. Without Harve’s massive understated contribution in hiring the right people (Nick Meyer, Ralph Winter etc etc) & writing most of the screenplays the Trek franchise would never ever have lasted beyond the 1980’s in the way it did.

TNG was only given the go ahead after the TOS movies generated so much money which means every series/movie which followed TNG also owed its existence to the high quality Bennett insisted on with the 4 Trek movies he produced raising awarness in Trek as a high quality mainstream franchise.

Without Treks 2,3,4 there would never have been the massive Trek franchise there is today & Harve was a large reason why the trilogy of 2,3,4 worked the way it did & worked well.

Scott Gammans

It’s not an exxageration. If “Wrath of Khan” hadn’t been the blockbuster and critical success it was, Star Trek would have died in 1982. Thanks Mr. Bennett and RIP.

Chain of Command

So weird to lose these guys so closely in time. Strangely, and honestly enough, when I heard Leonard Nimoy had died on Friday I actually thought about Harve Bennett. Weird, but true. Sad to see that he has passed as well. He never gets enough credit in regards to his contributions to Star Trek. He is to the features what Gene L. Coon was the the series.

Shatner_Fan_Prime

I have always considered Bennett the patron saint of Star Trek continuity. Think about how different in look & feel TMP was from the series. Then Bennett, fresh off watching all of the original series episodes, brought back the fun & adventure. Among other things, he did the following: Brought back Khan. Brought back Sarek. Brought back Amanda. Used the Enterprise destruct sequence from TOS. Showed us a familiar looking planet Vulcan, complete with female leader. Reminded the audience that the crew knew how to time travel by slingshotting around the Sun. Heck, he even brought back the tribbles in a cameo. And he wrote what may be my all-time favorite scene in all of Star Trek – the happy ending/Kirk “demotion”/new Enterprise ending of TVH.

Harve “got” the appeal of TOS in a way that few writers or producers have since. And he was even ahead of his time in knowing that a reboot with young versions of the TOS crew was the future of the franchise. Thank you, sir, for all your good work which has been enjoyed by millions of fans for decades. May your katra rest in peace.

Buzz Cagney

What a terribly sad week its been.
However, Harve, as has been said above and elsewhere, undoubtedly saved Star Trek and that alone will immortalise him. Not to mention the terrific work he did elsewhere.
As I gave thanks for Leonard last week I also do now for Harve Bennett. I have some great and happy memories of his works. Thank you, sir.

Where would Trek be now without him I wonder.

Magic_Al

Harve Bennett watched all the episodes and thought the movie should be about Khan coming back. It was also Bennett’s instinct, right in the middle of filming Spock’s death scene, that saved it from being permanent: he asked Nimoy, who was having second thoughts about saying goodbye to Spock, if there was something he could do to hang a possible comeback on, and the “Remember” mind meld was made up on the spot. Bennett had gone through bringing the character of the bionic woman back from a seemingly permanent death on The Six Million Dollar Man, after fans demanded she live.

CDR Arch

I bet a lot of us watched Wrath of Khan again after hearing the news that Leonard Nimoy passed away. Best movie ever made, Thank You Mr. Bennett. RIP

Trekologist

RIP Sir.

Thank You for your work and vision.

Grift

Too many people think a producer is just about the business side of movimaking but a producer is almost as important as a writer or a director,

Thank you for your stellar contribution to ST Mr Bennett.

CmdrR

Thank you for the article. A lot of good people added to the Trek we love. Thank you, Harve Bennett.

Red Dead Ryan

Sad day (again) for sure, but I’ve heard and read nothing but good things about Mr. Bennett.

Paramount was right to push Gene Roddenberry aside and hire him as the producer for TWOK.

Kev-1

Very sad and a very talented man. See no need to pile on Roddenberry, though. Harve Bennett shines without having to mention anybody else. RIP

Disinvited

#5. Shatner_Fan_Prime – March 6, 2015 & 7. Magic_Al – March 6, 2015 That’s re-binge watched all 79 episodes. The reason he was the man for the job was that his girlfriend at the time was a Trekker. In his own words: “I have to backtrack a moment to explain all this. I live with a wonderful lady who’s been the joy of my life for years. She is a Trekker. She is, was, and always will be a Trekker. During our long time together, I’ve been force-fed Star Trek re-runs . . . literally. She’d be sitting there, in front of her TV set, and I’d be moaning ‘How many times do we have to see these things?’ She’d sit there like a stage mother, muttering, ‘Now watch. Spock is going to say this.’ She’d recite the dialogue with the characters. I’d say clever things like ‘Look! Why do you persist in watching this stuff when you know everything that’s going to happen?’ Her response was ‘Shhhhh.’ Since I always was being told to shut up during the 17th showing of ‘The Tholian Web,’ I finally gave in and started watching. I became hooked. I became fascinated by the show. You see, although I’d never watched it before, I’ve always had sort of a peripheral involvement with it. My first successful show was The Mod Squad. It competed with Trek one season. We even filmed on the same lot. I used to see Leonard walking by with his ears on but I never actually saw his work. I knew Roddenberry but had never worked with him. The times we met I liked him a lot. For some odd reason, I’ve always been drawn to paramilitary types. I’m a pilot. Gene was a pilot. One thing I’ve always perceived in… Read more »

Mad Mann

Treks 2, 3, and 4 are the best of them all. They truly get what Star Trek is about more so than any other production. My favorite scene in all of Star Trek is in Wrath of Khan between Kirk and Bones in Kirk’s apartment. That scene not only shows the friendship between those two, but also just how much the show reflects on the human condition. And it shows the character of Kirk most clearly: that he is and always will be most properly placed as captain of a starship in space. I also love the blocking of that scene, it is just two actors in a room with a static camera. I guess I sound like an old curmudgeon, but I can’t stand the current trend of “shakey-cam” as it always takes me out of the movie.

But I digress, Bennett knew the characters, the premise, and the appeal of Star Trek even better than Roddenberry. Yeah, I said it. RIP, Mr. Bennett, and thank you so much.

Shatner_Fan_Prime

#13 Disinvited…

Great quotes, thanks for posting! Imagine wanting to get back your ex, who is a Trekkie, and then winding up as the producer of Star Trek. :)

Vultan

13. Disinvited – March 6, 2015

Great post! Thanks.
And RIP, Mr. Bennett.

the dogfaced boy

So Disinvited (13), did Harve get the girl back?

We all really do owe this man a lot. Several of you above have said it better than I ever could.

Damn, we’re losing too many of them. I guess we really don’t live forever, despite Riker’s wishes.

ML11

In a sense… Bennett saved Star Trek for the future. He did say not only could he make a BETTER Trek movie that TMP but he would do it cheaper too. TWOK was certainly still the high water mark for the franchise. Would rather not mention the instantly forgettable TVH. Easily the worst movie of the franchise.

RIP Harv.

Anthony Thompson

He kept Trek alive. But it’s also true that 2, 3 and 4 lacked motion picture production values and had their hokey and cringe-inducing moments.

Anthony Thompson

And he didn’t reign in Shatner on 5.

Mike Thompson UK

Enjoyed the Six million dollar man and Women….

Fantastic job with 2,3 & 4 and training Leonard but I think working on 5 wore him out!

However, glad his Star Trek Academy thingy was ditched and we got the Undiscovered country.

RIP Harve Bennett.

Plum

Sadness :(

Paul

# 19 # 20
Paramount set the budgets not Harve he just did the best he could with the limited budget (most of it went to Shatner/Nimoy everytime) so blame them but I am struggling to see what is wrong about the motion picture production values on 2,3,4!!

As for ST5 its well known that Harve did not even want to produce it at all after he was upset about comments made by Leonard Nimoy on ST4 they had a power struggle & Bennett felt he was not part of the Trek family after all & even in control. he felt the lead actors had more power than him.

This was all written in the Trek 5 making off book by William Shatners daughter. If you read it Bennett says he really was not interested in making 5 at all & always disliked the storyline but Shatner had creative control on that so he did the best he could.

Blame Shatner for 5’s storyline & blame Paramount for refusing to put anymore money into fixing the VFX but still paying Shatner Nimoy, Kelley $14m of the $35m budget leaving $21m to pay all the other actors & make the actual movie! Nowhere near enough & they also had issues with scratched film which needed expensive reshoots, union sabotage & a Hollywood writers strike putting the movie back a year or so.

Way too little money for Shatner’s ambitions Harve did the best he could its still the most TOS like episode made since the 1960s!

Jack

” But it’s also true that 2, 3 and 4 lacked motion picture production values and had their hokey and cringe-inducing moments.”

I don’t know about that — sure, they weren’t Star Wars, but nothing else made then was either. Are you comparing it to movies then — or now? Because those movies hold up much better than a lot of bigger budget ’80s productions.

Harve Bennett helped Trek transition to ’80s movie-making.

Disinvited

#17. the dogfaced boy – March 6, 2015

“So Disinvited (13), did Harve get the girl back?” — the dogfaced boy

Was there any doubt? As he indicated in his first paragraph: yes he did!

Disinvited

In this exclusive startrek.com interview from September of last year:

http://www.startrek.com/article/exclusive-interview-part-iii-nicholas-meyer-on-todays-trek

”I can’t remember them [The other than his Trek films.] very well, but, I do remember thinking that… initially, I was totally flabbergasted by all the money that the other people got to spend and all the special effects and things I hadn’t had at my disposal. I was always playing with leftovers. Star Trek: The Motion Picture was $45 million in 1979, and Star Trek II was, I think, $11.2. Star Trek V was about 30 million bucks, and ultimately Star Trek VI was exactly the same price. Whereas typically, every Star Trek movie was 41 percent more expensive than its predecessor. So, I was always being shortchanged in the budget, costume, everything department, and I was deeply envious of these features that had all these toys to play with. But when I sort of got over that, I felt pretty content, I guess, with my own contributions to the series. And I do remember thinking, or addressing the question about, “Who is – which is the greatest Star Trek villain,” and I finally decided that the greatest Star Trek villain was in IV…

A-ha! A-ha! Man. Man is the villain.” — Nicholas Meyer

He also revealed he was offered the directing gig of STAR TREK V and turned it down based on the script they wanted him to direct which Paramount did not want him to write, before they offered it to Shatner. This is why he mentions its budget as one of the leftovers Paramount offered him.

Timncc1701

Harve was the one who saved the ship. Very hard week for TOS fans.

kmart

#23,
your numbers are way off with respect to salaries on TFF, much too high. Check the Kelley bio for a good idea about how he wasn’t making all that much till the last couple, but even so ….

Oddly enough, the final VFX numbers on TFF are actually higher than those on SFS and TVH, which just goes to show you don’t always get what you pay for (especially when you start off by trying to cheap out and wind up struggling to get even crap on screen.)

Captain, USS Northstar

Mr. Bennett:

Thank you for all of your fantastic contributions. You will always be remembered!

I Khan Believe it Ain't Butter

We mourn another passing. Rest your soul.

Never again will we witness Star Trek as it was, as it is remembered i our hearts.

It may not have been perfect.
It may not have had huge production values and budgets that blew the roof off, but it had spirit, ingenuity and a sense of purpose and direction in the classic story telling format which is so lacking in today’s productions.

I am not just talking about Star Trek here, but all the current crop of copy cat productions of action adventure, scifi and super hero’s.
They all all nothing but mind numbing idiocy candy coated with super laxative special effects.
In other words: crap.

I am still not looking forward to the foul embarrassment to intelligence that will be spattered on the screen next year for Star Treks 50th Anniversary tomb stone movie.

And yeah I will probably go see it…and be certain Star Trek is gone as the stars and writers who once made it so great.

On a brighter note there’s a break in the harsh winter weather next week!!!!

Paul

# 28
CFQ leaked the salary figures (via someone very close to the production & in the know!). Shatner & Nimoy got $5.5m each Kelley got $2m – $14m of the $35m budget according to that seemingly accurate at the time CFQ article May 1989 V19 #4……

Chain of Command

It’s sad and frustrating to lose these guys (Nimoy, and Bennett). They did SO MUCH for Star Trek. Harve Bennett never gets enough credit for what he did to turn the film franchise around after TMP. While I love the first film, the franchise would not have survived had it continued in that direction. Bennett is the Gene L. Coon of the film franchise.

Disinvited

#30. Paul – March 6, 2015

How then very sad for that article’s “seemingly accurate” numbers that in the base ten system which the dollar is based that 5.5 + 5.5 + 2 = 13 and NOT 14!

Pensive's Wetness

I find it funny in how a fair portion of the people working in Hollywood were WWII or Koerean War veterans. Considering the type of fair we get now, i wonder how many are veterans of the modern era? None the less, Thank you Mr Bennett. We have the conn, sir. *salutes*

Stanky McFibberich

Mr. Bennett did a nice job resurrecting Star Trek. Personally, to me Star Trek The Motion Picture is my favorite of all the movies, but I understand the more mass appeal of the Bennett productions. I was always bothered by the uniforms and other major differences from the series used in TMP and Bennett Trek, but the movies themselves were solid. Good job, Mr. Bennett.

Scott B. here.

Oddly enough, I’ve been watching my boxed set of “The Six Million Dollar Man,” lately, a show which Harve produced. It’s his voice in the opening sequence that says, “Steve Austin … astronaut … a man barely alive,” something I hadn’t known until watching these DVDs. He says in a lengthy interview in the Season One set that his favorite episode of that show is the one William Shatner guest-starred in (“Burning Bright”) about an astronaut (Shatner) who undergoes a transformation after a spacewalk that enables him to communicate with dolphins. His character then wants to take dolphins into space, thinking they might be able to communicate with other life in the universe. Sound familiar?

Harve expresses friendship with Bill Shatner in the interview, and says he’s a wonderful actor. “Stylized? Yes. But also brilliant.” I believe are his words.

Harve gave us some great entertainment, and I thank him for that. First star to the right, Harve, and straight on ’til morning.

Scott B. out.

Mike C.

Love his interview for TWOK special features. RIP, sir.

Stelios Arianoutsos

RIP…. He’s the one really give depth to Gene’s vision and everlasting life with Wrath Of Khan reboot.

B Kramer

RIP Harve, thanks for your great contributions to “The Six Million Dollar Man” as well as “Star Trek”.

Prodigal Son

RIP Have Bennett,

First Roddenberry, then Bennett, then Abrams…the triumvirate in terms of the creation and continuation of the great Star Trek franchise.

You will be missed, sir. THANKS!!!!!

Emperor Mike of the Terran Empire

RIP Harve Bennette. You may be gone but never forgotten.

Prodigal Son

@Paul

Wow, do we really have to drudge up that negative stuff today?

:-(

Phil

Hey, Paul, the admins cautioned on these remembrance threads for folks to stay on topic. It’s sound advice, wouldn’t you agree?

kmart

34,
Those figures were insanely way way off, Kelley didn’t even get a really good paycheck till the last couple, and nowhere near this figure, and the Nimoy/Shat numbers are way way high, CFQ totally missed or made that stuff up.

A guy I know did some research on the real numbers for the movies and oddly enough, TFF’s VFX cost more than SFS or TVH.

kmart

Sorry didn’t realize I already posted in this thread …

Marja

Harve Bennett’s contributions to Trek brought me into fandom in the early ’80s. Since 1967 I had watched Trek live toward the end of Season One, but didn’t join fandom until I went to the Hunt Valley, MD con the year WOK came out … fun weird fandom … watched WOK about 5 times in the convention’s viewing room.

Yes, Harve had a great understanding of what made Trek, Trek. I am very thankful for his considerable contributions and wish his katra Godspeed as it racúes for the stars.I p

Gary Makin

Seemed like a nice guy. RIP.