EXCLUSIVE: TrekMovie Talks to Nicholas Meyer About “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country”

For the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the release of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country this week, TrekMovie had the pleasure and honor of speaking with writer/director Nicholas Meyer about the film’s legacy, what he would have changed about the film, the possibility of a director’s cut, and the film’s position in the Star Trek franchise.

This interview was conducted in mid-September 2016. As per our agreement with CBS to interview Meyer, we were not allowed to ask any questions about Star Trek: Discovery.

Looking Back on Star Trek VI

Nicholas Meyer

TrekMovie: When is the last time you saw the film?

Nicholas Meyer: I think within the past five years. My memory of it is pretty vivid. It’s also true that one’s experience of a film is inevitably colored by the audience with whom you watch it, and when you are watching a film with an audience who is loving it, the film plays great. When you are watching a film, maybe a comedy, and there’s only three people there and suddenly it isn’t as funny. I’ve been fortunate to see The Undiscovered Country with an audience, and I remember once the Air Force showed it and I watched it with a whole bunch of [Airmen] and it played like gangbusters.

TM: Was that a USO event?

Meyer: I can’t remember. That was almost ten years ago. I think in a way The Undiscovered Country is a very odd film in the context of what you call “the franchise.” It is without a doubt, it is the grittiest and most realistic, and most realistically bound. This is just my opinion. It was inspired by the headlines, and it was inspired by a changing world that we were trying to keep up with it, and in some cases we not only kept up with it, but we were ahead of it. And in other cases, as time has passed, we were behind. We were wrong about things. We were absolutely right about the Soviet coup, in fact, when former Soviet Union leader [Mikhail] Gorbachev was abducted and no one knew whether he was dead or alive we were already in the cutting room. We’d already killed him in the movie. In that sense, we predicted the Soviet coup and we were ahead. But in terms of what happened afterwards, and the notion that we were all destined for a much better world than it was, as Francis Fukuyama suggested “the end of history,” and that people who tried to prevent that—the conspirators—were in a sense just scaredy-cats. As Kirk says, “people can be very frightened of change.” But, in fact, the change that came is a lot more awful than what was before, so in that sense the film has dated in a weird way. There are other things about it…I find the mind meld is kind of like waterboarding to me and it’s uncomfortable to watch.

TM: I remember that being described almost as an “erotic” scene in commentaries.

Meyer: Well never mind what it’s described as, when you watch it…is she in distress? Is this a form of enhanced interrogation? The two, by the way, are not mutually exclusive. It’s erotic, but also he’s trying to pry information out of her.


The Undiscovered Country – After the Cold War on Earth and in Space

TM: When you say that we’ve gone to a world that’s not better, I absolutely agree with you. Sometimes things seemed simpler with the Soviet Union compared to now with the different threats that we face.


Meyer: Yeah you had the illusion that there was an ability to control actors, by which I mean what we call good actors and bad actors, not as in performers but as in…

TM: Like state and non-state actors. I think what makes this particular anniversary really interesting is that, Star Trek VI when it was released in 1991, came at nearly the midpoint of the 50th anniversary. Looking back on the film yourself, is there anything you would like to have changed?

Meyer: Well, I’m not sure how to answer that question, or perhaps I’ve already answered it. In Hillary Clinton’s famous formulation, “knowing then what I know now,” I guess I wouldn’t have done the mind meld the way I did it. I would have tried to find another solution to that. I should insert here somewhere along the way that the artist, in this case me, is not the answer to a book of math equations at the back. I am merely another person speculating, and I have no authority. I have no definitive rights. The author loses all proprietary control over his work when it’s finished and out there. And so whatever I say now has to be understood as being just one other opinion, and maybe not the right one or the only one. I think when I look at the movie, and I listen to Kirk say “people can be very frightened of change,” I think there is, for my money, a kind of implicit smugness about those sentiments. We were so sure that it was all going to be a bed of roses. And looking back, the film is an interesting artifact of the time and circumstances surrounding its creation.

Art and Hollywood

Meyer: All art inevitably is a product of the time in which it was done. If I were to show you four movies that took place in 1776, and the first movie was made in 1923, and the second one was made in 1947, and the third was made in 1972, and so on, you would know within five years of watching a clip from any of these movies when they were made.

TM: Right. It’s sort of like looking at the original Manchurian Candidate versus the terrible remake that they did with Denzel Washington…

Meyer: I don’t even discuss any Manchurian Candidate but one. I will not discuss any Robin Hood but one. There are no others. I don’t even go there.

TM: Yeah I feel that Hollywood has really overdone themselves on remakes, and the lack of original content out there is really troubling.

Meyer: Well, if you think of movies as tubes of toothpaste, would it be easier to introduce a product called Crest, which people know…and you can say new, improved Crest, Crest 2, Crest 3, Crest 4, or…remember it all hinges now on an opening day…do you want to start with a new toothpaste called Max and take your chances? When a new tube of toothpaste costs $150 million to put out there, you might be real tempted to just go with Crest 3. It’s the death of the studio system, is what it is, and it just means that we’ll all be going to smaller, independent films…which is where I end up on the weekend.


Art Thrives on Restriction

TM: Right, and those tend to be the better films I think, by and large. They’re more original. They’re made on smaller budgets. They can be more successful to those independent studios because they’re made on smaller budgets if they do become breakout hits. That doesn’t mean they’re making half a billion dollars, but say the same amount as Star Trek II when it’s budget was so low. Related to that, you’ve mentioned a number of times in the past that art can really thrive on restriction, whether that be time or money. Can you point to any instances in the production of The Undiscovered Country where the film really throve due to the restrictions that were put on it, whether budgetary or time?

Meyer: The way that film made its way to the screen was such a hairy proposition. Everybody in terms of salary, and resources…we all had to take haircuts in order to get the movie made. The feature division had been having a string of flops, so they were tightening the screws all over the place. I think a lot of times when you would’ve said “let’s all go on location to Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico to shoot the mines where Kirk and Bones were on Rura Penthe.” Instead we said “let’s just go to Bronson Canyon.” And I think when we did the initial Starfleet meeting scene where Spock briefs the general staff about the Klingons wanting to make peace and all that, you may or may not notice that the room has no walls.

TM: Right. That was filmed in a church if I’m not mistaken. Is that correct?

Meyer: Yeah, something like that with a bunch of curtains. And, you know, Bronson Canyon is used for everything and it looked pretty spooky to me by the time we’d finished. And there are times when it backfired on us. I remember when the executives…I had wanted the pants of the officers to have pockets so the actors could have something to do with their hands.

Giving Star Trek VI The Wrath of Khan Treatment

TM: I remember you talking about that on the Star Trek II commentary from the director’s cut you just put out and I am just baffled at how much money that could possibly cost a production. You would know better than I.

Meyer: What I find in terms of dealing with people who are paying for things is that they tend to be pennywise and pound-foolish. My partner, Steve Jaffe, who produced The Undiscovered Country, also produced K-19 The Widowmaker for Kathryn Bigelow and when they made that movie, Steve looked around for a submarine. He went online: Russian submarines for sale and he found one and it was very reasonably priced, and he went back to whoever was financing the film and he said “look, we can do this,” and they said “Oh no no no,” and the end result is what they ended up paying for was exorbitantly more expensive. I think creative people, we’re not always the most responsible people in the world, but I am fascinated by, and it’s very important to me, to find ways to skin the cat. To be able to make limitations work for you. The movie that really inspired me and taught me this lesson was the Lawrence Olivier Henry V movie made during the middle of World War II. It cost about a buck seventy-five, but it looks like a gazillion dollars. By deciding to take the Book of Hours by the Duke de Berry as their inspiration and have these sets be all two-dimensional, medieval, and without perspective. They’re all sort of very flat. And then as the movie becomes more and more real, you go farther and farther into it, as the chorus has instructed you on your imaginary forces’ work. By the time you get to the Battle of Agincourt, it’s a full-fledged battle, and then the second half of the movie was gosh, just wonderful.

The Unfilmed “Roundup”

TM: Following up on that, I know that yourself and Denny Martin Flinn, my condolences on his loss.

Meyer: A terrible loss. A terrible loss. What a guy.

TM: Definitely before his time. It’s hard for me to speak about it because I didn’t know the man, but I would love to talk to him about this film and his experience on it and as a filmmaker and storyteller.

Meyer: He was an under-appreciated and underutilized talent who had tremendous gifts and tremendous abilities.

TM: A new book just came out that I’m reading, it’s actually a two-volume history of Star Trek, and in the Star Trek VI section it really talks about how you got the powers that be to include Flinn in the production. You said he had to be your writing partner and I think that was when he was diagnosed and you went out of your way to make sure, at least that’s the way it’s portrayed…

Meyer: I haven’t read the book, but that’s my recollection. He had been diagnosed and was having these treatments and I admired him so much as a writer and as an ideas-man, so I wasn’t doing him any favors. Maybe I was killing two birds with one stone by giving him a reason to get up every morning, but god damn I mean, his contributions to that script are enormous.

TM: They have many quotes from him in the book, and it really is clear how integral of a role he played in the film, and one of the things I wanted to ask you about is, and I think it was more his idea, but he put together this un-shot “roundup” at the beginning of the film that was supposed to bring the crew back together…

Meyer: It was a mutual idea, but I think he was the one who wrote it.

TM: Reflecting back on the film from 25 years ago, do you think that would have helped or hurt the flow of the film in the beginning had it been included?

Meyer: That’s almost asking someone to prove a negative. I have no idea whether it would’ve made it a better film, or a worse film. It inarguably would’ve made it a different film. It would’ve added a layer to it. But, you know, sometimes things, in that sense, work out for the best. I have opera recordings which boast of including material that [Giuseppi] Verdi or George Bizet cut out of the final score of the opera, and people say what they have uncovered were more pieces of the true cross. But it does not seem to occur to these people that whoever wrote it was always first-rate, and the reason they may have dispensed with it has to do with composer dissatisfaction. You know, not always…sometimes maybe it’s cut for other reasons, budget or whatever. But the end result may be simply better than every last note that Verdi wrote.

Meyer: It’s like when you go into director’s cuts of movies…I’m not sure, with the possible exception of Touch of Evil as reconstituted by Walter Murch. Touch of Evil is just better put back the way Wells intended it, but most of the time director’s cuts are longer…they’re certainly longer. That doesn’t mean that they’re typically better…

TM: Even in the case of The Wrath of Khan?

Meyer: Well The Wrath of Khan, I don’t think there is much of a director’s cut. You know, I lost a couple of moments, but calling it a director’s cut…

TM: Yeah, it’s not like Lord of the Rings when you’ve added a half an hour of cut footage…

Meyer: That’s exactly my point. I didn’t want them to call it “The Director’s Cut” anyway, because I didn’t really change much. I lost a couple of battles that I thought detracted from the coherence of the story in conversations with Paramount before the film was released, but to call it a director’s cut is really cynical, I think.

Will Future Releases Restore Additional Scenes?

Operation Retrieve

TM: That leads me to a trivial question, but I remember when I first got the film on VHS when it came out and it included some scenes, namely the plan for Operation Retrieve, a scene with Scotty in the torpedo bay, and the revelation that it’s actually Colonel West who’s the assassin. In the latest release of the film in 2009, those scenes were all gone. The DVD in the early 2000s had them, and also the film was restored back to its theatrical aspect ratio of 2.39:1. I’m wondering is the 2009 cut what you’d consider your version of the film?

Meyer: Gee I can’t remember the different cuts. I bet if I looked at it now, I’d have a whole different series of ideas. And some things just work better than others and somethings…you know…it was always important to me that the conspirators came from the both sides of the galaxy, if you like. That the Klingons and the Federation had teamed up, and the one serious cut that I really kicked myself for not including in the original version, and there was nobody stopping me…it just hadn’t occurred to me, was that when Valeris names the conspirators…

TM: Their images flash on the screen.

Meyer: Yeah! So we know who the hell she’s talking about. That I thought was important. I don’t know how I feel about the Operation Retrieve thing now…

TM: I tend to like it because Colonel West, being one of the conspirators, he puts this military plan in front of the Federation President. It basically implies that, should the assassination not go ahead, we can start a war with the Klingons, and you see the same exact thing happen with Azetbur and her generals….

Meyer: So is that in the 2009 version?

TM: The scene with Azetbur is, where they talk about going ahead and attacking the Federation immediately, which was always an undercurrent of the film, whether the Klingons would just come after the Federation because of their crisis. On the Federation side, the Operation Retrieve briefing is not in there.

Meyer: What do you know?

TM: That leads me to the question: you revisited Star Trek II for a few scenes that certainly added additional character to the film that had been taken out, would you consider revisiting Star Trek VI and doing a new scan—4K—, something like that?

Meyer: Sure. Never say never. At the same time, I think one has to be wary, I’m not sure why but, I think one has to be wary of constantly revisiting and revising things that are…I think that, if they’re successful…if they’re unsuccessful, I guess you can revisit things forever trying to make the plane take off. But if they were successful, then I’m wondering about the wisdom of continuing to monkey with them. Yes, if you can improve the picture and sound quality, but when you actually start rewriting them, I’m not sure you’re not, in a way, rewriting history.

TM: That’s a good point.

Meyer: Suppose you go back and you look at some movie where Stepin Fetchit is rolling his eyes, and you go “this is a pretty good movie, but it’s very awkward and has a disgusting treatment of African-Americans and maybe we should just cut this out.” Then you’re monkeying with the past. You’re censoring people’s minds, in a way, and their knowledge, and I’m not persuaded that that is a good idea. I think the mind meld may be troubling in the wake of waterboarding, but there it is.

TM: Yeah. You can’t exactly go back and shoot that scene again with all the same actors. It is what it is.

Meyer: What I’m saying is the temptation now is to say “oh gee, I don’t like the feelings that this produces and, therefore, I’m going to change it to a voiceover, or we’re not going to see it, or I’m going to find another way.” Well…it nonetheless reflects attitudes and beliefs of what was acceptable, what was virtuous, what was whatever at the time. And I think you change that stuff at some kind of cultural, psychological, or emotional peril.

Meyer’s Continuing Legacy in Star Trek


TM: That makes sense to me. I would be perfectly fine if it just was a rescan with better sound and better visuals, but it is the same film I saw in theatres. Moving on, I know that you have a special place in your heart for Sherlock Holmes. There are many great mythologies who have been crafted by just one man, whereas Star Trek has developed and flourished under numerous creative minds. You are famous for saying that there is something like a wine bottle that is the frame of Star Trek.

Meyer: Correct.

TM: And you can put a red in there, or a white, or something with a different flavor. Star Trek can be so many different things, but it still has to fit into that wine bottle. How do you view your legacy, and I realize and am happy about the fact that your legacy with Star Trek is not over…it’s continuing, but in terms of The Undiscovered Country, The Voyage Home, and The Wrath of Khan…how do you view your legacy within Star Trek? You’ve often called it a nice place to come home to when some of your other films perhaps don’t do as well.

Meyer: Well after Company Business, which was a big flop, it was very much a relief to come back to it even more so as Star Trek VI had revisited some of the material that I had failed to do justice to with the other movie. They both dealt with the collapse of the Soviet Union. I’m not in the best position to judge the legacy…even the term legacy has a sort of portentous, if not a pretentious sound to it. I’m somewhat reminded of an exchange that apparently took place between former U.S. National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger and former Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai when former U.S. President Richard Nixon went to China [in 1972]. Apparently, Kissinger said to Zhou “What do you think of the French revolution?” And Zhou said, “It’s too early to tell.”

TM: That’s a brilliant analogy. It might be something we have to revisit in 100 or 200 years.

Meyer: It’s an open question. Star Trek has endured for 50 years and that seems pretty remarkable in a culture where things tend to flash and burn. Andy Warhol said “we’ll all be famous for fifteen minutes.” Now it’s more like 45 seconds. There’s always something on YouTube that you watch that goes viral for two seconds, and then disappears. The idea that Star Trek has been around for as long as it has is not unimpressive, not unsuggestive, not unmeaningful. Having said all that, what my place is in it…What it means for me to speculate seems a) premature, and b) arguably presumptuous. I think it’s for other people to ask themselves, or ask each other, or debate what it is about the films I have made or [Discovery] that is or is not meaningful, good, helpful, terrible, whatever. I know the one thing I can say is that Bryan Fuller, who’s the mastermind of the television series, talks about Star Trek VI a lot. That’s a movie that seems to be important to him and his thinking and obviously, being as vain as the next man…maybe vainer…that pleases me enormously.

TM: I would say that with Star Trek II…yourself, Harve Bennett…you guys really saved the Trek franchise because we were at a precipice where if the film didn’t do well, I think that was going to be it, and you turned in a brilliant script and a wonderful film. So bravo.

Meyer: Well thank you.

TM: I’m a big fan of Bryan Fuller from his work on Hannibal, so when they announced him as the showrunner of the new series I had a sense of “okay, this is in the right hands.” And then they announced your involvement and I said, “okay, this is REALLY in the right hands.” I can go ahead and say with confidence that my feeling is that this is going to be good. I have the sense that the franchise is in the right hands.

Meyer: Well cross your fingers on those hands.

TM: They certainly are. Mr. Meyer, I thank you so much for your time. I wish you the best of luck on Discovery, and all I can say is that I trust that you’ll do your best and I look forward to it. Take care.

Meyer: I look forward to it as well. Thank you for your time and be well.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Seems like a very thorough interview.
Good job.

That helps explain the remarks about Trek VI a bit more. The speculation was a series taking place around that time frame. But Fuller’s appreciation of the film is less literal to Discovery, it seems. I suspect he wanted to capture the atmosphere of TUC, that claustrophobic militaristic feeling and probably the sense that the work the characters are doing is important in the world and a conveyance of modern times and issues.

Great interview! VI is my favorite of the original series movies.

Trek VI: The film that proved that Star Trek can be gritty, and dark and that it can all make for something very good. I loved how the Enterprise felt like a submarine and that the carpet was gone and there were scratches and worn edges on consoles.

I always saw TUC as a prelude to DS9 for some reason. Also interesting it was that show where Klingons and the Federation became enemies again, if only for a few years.

So, being an Iowa grad myself, was this interview conducted face-to-face in Iowa City, or was the photo at the top of the article just a photo you got to use here?

Suspected as much, but it’s a nice shot with the Old Capitol at the University of Iowa in the background.

For those of you who say it was better in the gold old days with that old devil the Soviet Union, I say bull. As a veteran of the US Navy, who served during the last few years of the cold war, feel a lot better about the times we’re in now then then.

In life there is always grey.

As a young man, I was pretty much expecting the nukes to be flying all through the 80s, but I do have to say right now that 2016 is the first year since then that I have felt the same level of dread. And like then, I still believe you can’t just expect the universe to sort itself out and proceed onward.


As a young man, I was pretty much expecting the nukes to be flying all through the 80s,

Watching Meyer’s “The Day After” was the scariest incident in my life up until that point (though, I was only 9 years old at the time). It was like a PSA in its importance—which is to say that it wasn’t mere entertainment—though obviously not in its style.

A couple years after THE DAY AFTER, I read an interview with Meyer in a book of SF-related interviews derived from OMNI that included a throwaway reference to the fact he simply accepted we weren’t going to make it out of the 20th century alive. That carried as much weight for me as the whole of THE DAY AFTER (actually, the most terrifying part of DAY AFTER for me was the discussion panel afterward.)

If you ever get the chance, try to find the NBC film SPECIAL BULLETIN with Ed Flanders. It aired around the time of DAY AFTER but I found it much more gripping — it presents a potential nuclear event as a mock network news report. I used to have it on VHS for 15 years, but the tape disintegrated (I watched it about 20 times.)

THE DAY AFTER seemed to have the impact Meyer had hoped for. Then-President Ronald Reagan was compelled to re-evaluate his nuclear weapons policy after viewing the film.

re: the mind meld scene “It’s erotic, but also he’s trying to pry information out of her.” No, it’s not erotic. It’s mind rape, pure and simple. It is a grotesque violation both in real world terms and within Trek’s established Vulcan morality. It was a violation of Spock as a character, as well, and just one of the many reasons I deeply loathe The Undiscovered Country.

Really? Loathe Undiscovered Country? Someone irrelevant said the same thing a while back about The Voyage Home. Wow. To me 2,4,and 6 are the best of the of the best of Trek movies.

@Harry Plinkett: I’ve never understood the love for TUC. To me, it’s a parody of Trek, twisting the characters into cartoons in order to make political comments and dumb jokes. (Uhura with the Klingon dictionary, Chekov saying “inalienable human rights”–an oxymoron that no 23rd Starfleet officer with his experience would say–and so on.) But I respect that my opinion is in the minority, and I have no desire to bash the film. Personally, I love TMP (especially the Director’s Cut), so plenty of folks think I’m fruity as a nutcake in my opinions. :)

The most cringe inducing moment of humor in Trek 6 was Uhura’s inability to speak Klingon. She was the communication’s officer, how could she not know Klingon ? Hell, why didn’t McCoy know Klingon anatomy ?

Ricardo Cantoral,

Re: Uhura’s inability to speak Klingon

Especially when Meyer could have so easily addressed it as having the Klingon speak some obscure Klingon tongue a la WW II’s Windtalkers. I might have even gone so far as to have Uhura mentioning earlier in her on screen introduction that she’s been trying to decipher some obscure Klingon dialect that no one in the Federation, i.e. the UT too, has ever heard spoken, but found documented in Klingon texts. Although, for the life of me, I sure don’t get the Klingon’s ability to tell the difference between a Universal Translator and an actual Klingon speaking but somehow can’t detect the difference between a live Klingon speaking and an Earther, Uhura, reading out of a book?

Yup, that’s the worst scene (Kirk vs Kirk is pretty bad too actually). Communications officer cant speak Klingon. The previously ubiquitous Universal Translater is now suddenly too obvious. Much better if, as they are requested the information, the others are nervous and Uhura simply rattles off some perfect Klingon. As they look at her in amazement she deadpans “What? I AM the communications officer…”

The audience would have taken it as something going in not being obvious but as soon as it happens they’d all be saying “yes, ofcourse she speaks Klingon.”

Personally, I’ve always seen the Kirk vs. Kirk part to be one of the highlights of the film. These films are meant to be “entertainment”….to make you laugh, to make you feel something. This was a great homage to the original series.

I thought it was less entertaining and more silly to be honest. Plus, if they had a species on the payroll who could so easily look like anyone, the easier plan was probably to have her replace the Federation President. Or replace someone close to him and take him out. Planting her in prison (or making a deal with her) to screw Kirk seems like a mis-use of her talent.

TUC is right up there with WoK as my favourite. And I dont see the twisting at all. The writers pushed characters to their limits to make points, I will grant that. But there was a self awareness to it. Plus, you cant take it out of context.

This wasnt a cold war. This crew had physically tangled with Klingons many times. They had felt death and destruction at their hands. And they were being forced to play diplomat when they wanted nothing to do with it.

Chekov’s line was actually great because it showed someone who said something with good intentions, but obviously to the other party it came across as racist. Chekov meant to say all other species deserved the same rights the gracious Humans would allow. It was arrogant. But not maliciously so.

Same with Kirk’s reply about Hitler (breathing room). He’s doing the same thing back, taking a statement that could have been harmless and interpreting it differently. That was the whole point of that dinner scene.

And also showing us these officers in a setting where they didnt really care about representing Starfleet. They, in their mind but probably not consciously, had earned the right to do and say what they wanted.

I agree on your description as “mind rape”. That’s exactly what it is. It is not torture, it is a violent violation.
If what Spock was going after was necessary to stop the assassination, then a case could be made that it was a necessary action for Spock, and I think it would add to his character.

But immediately after he goes deeper into her mind, while she cries out, he can’t find where the conference is. Then he breaks the meld and says to contact Sulu, he’ll have the location. So the latter half of the meld was COMPLETELY unnecessary.

You could say the first part is also, because, if Kirk doesn’t know who is involved, then what keeps him from beaming in and taking Red Foreman and Azetbur to safety anyway, as long as he knows where it is, and he already knows about the cloaked bird of prey which can fire.

Regardless of the necessity, much like in the pale moonlight, that scene humanize Trek. Sometimes people make terrible mistakes in order to do what they feel is right. Even in Gene’s perfect universe. To act like that wouldn’t have happened is more grotesque to me.

@Tekwardo: I’d see your point if there had been any aftermath to the mind-rape. Spock didn’t show regret, didn’t see himself as having made a terrible mistake. (unless I’m forgetting something) Without that growth, it’s not humanizing. It’s just brutalizing.

Spock had to exhaust all the resources at his disposal. It was his duty as a Starfleet officer to defend the Federation. Interrogation is perfectly acceptable in this situation, and given that a mind meld was an option, even more acceptable given the crisis state.

@Trump’s Tribble: Interrogation, yes. Mind rape, no. It violates basic human decency, established Vulcan morality, establish Starfleet and Federation ethics, and the basic idea of Star Trek that says we will rise above such behavior.

But TUC said no, we won’t. TUC is the first time Trek turned cynical and said the future won’t be any better, just the same old battles forever. TUC showed human Starfleet traitors and assassins, Spock mind raping Valeris, and endless stupidity by all of the core characters.

To me, that level of cynicism has no place in Star Trek. That’s why I also loathe all Section 31 garbage. Trek is supposed to be an optimistic “road less traveled,” not a cynical “same sh** different day.” At least, to some fans. Not to all, I realize. Different tastes.

(In the show 24, that level of mind-violating interrogation would be okay because it’s established within the morality of the characters and the institutions in that series. But not so in Star Trek, which makes TUC ring false and cynical to me no matter how I feel about real-world torture.)

Star Trek doesn’t posit a future where people are ‘better’, but one where people are trying to be better. If they were all completely perfect and never did anything wrong or questionable, ever, then where the hell would the drama come from? That wouldn’t be a show that most of would want to watch.
Hell, even Roddenberry wasn’t that transfixed by the idea of human perfectability in his drama. Bread and Circuses? The Omega Glory?
Pretty questionable behaviour from Starfleet officers in those two eps.

The Spock character isn’t always as moral as we like to think. When he deems it necessary he’ll go rogue. He takes away Kirk’s painful memories in Requiem for Methuselah without Kirk’s permission, turns an unconscious McCoy into a mental case in TWOK/TSFS, and there’s all those various times he disobeyed orders. He’s often more a renegade than Kirk.

What sets TUC apart is Kirk sanctioning the meld/violation.

@Spike: Well said. To me, with that mutual behavior in TUC, the characters are out of character, with Kirk and Spock behaving horribly to Valeris…but, as you point out, not without precedent. And not only do they violate her mind (a horrible crime to Vulcans), they do it on the bridge in front of everyone! No discretion, no decency…not the characters I know and love. (Well, except Spock’s history of rogue behavior that you rightly pointed out.)

I was just discussing the “shields up” regulation in STII where Saavik gets ignored by Kirk and directly shot down by Spock. My friend pointed out that I made a good case Spock was not acting like Spock. But as Spike points out Spock often does not act like the ideal Spock. I’ve thought for years that incident deserved some consequences. Given the range and targeting ability of ship phasers at the time that initial volley from the Reliant should have been less devastating had regulations been followed.

Its sort of the complexity of Spock. He can logically make the case for violating ones rights, and violating the rules. Realistically, its sort of like arguing the Patriot Act. Even if you hate it, you can probably see many reasons to utilize it “properly” but the argument against it will be its mis-use. For Spock, he can see the logic of breaking the rules sometimes…but not always. And because of who he is a character, we can trust his judgement.

The shields up scene from WoK always bugs me. Its such a failure on Kirk’s spot that resulted in people actually dying. The fact hes so able to compartmentalize deaths and mistakes is part of what makes him a great leader. But I do wish we had more of an exploration of Kirk’s mind-set when looking back over his career. We get that to a degree in Wrath but its still so early (to us) being only the second film.

Generations would have been better had it been a Kirk sort of struggling with his legacy and mistakes. Not goofing off in a kitchen and trying to nail some chick we never heard of. His speech to Picard about all the good you can do was fine, but lets see the other side…the mistakes, the deaths, the failings. Because Kirk struck me as someone who would have those things weigh on him and part of his desire and longing to stay out there was an unquenchable thirst to always try and keep those thoughts at bay, to do more good than bad. He strikes me as someone who, the last thing he’d want is to be alone with his thoughts.

TUP:Kirk struggling over his legacy is far too cynical. He’s a human but he’s also supposed to be the ideal Starfleet officer who wouldn’t regret what he did for the uniform. One of the fews things GENERATIONS did right was to confine his regrets to his personal life.

@Ricardo – I dont know. I think we got the personal regrets throughout the film series and it told us a lot about him. But if, at the end, we see a man who can look at his professional mistakes and see them for what they are…I mean, I dont want him upset or regretful, just…acknowledging it. Almost a survivals guilt that pushes him to keep trying to live up to his legacy to make the sacrifice of others worth it.

@TUP, fair enough. My favorite line of Kirk’s was when he said that his dedication to Starfleet ultimately got him “an empty house”. That was sad.

@Ricardo – very true. Shatner was very good at playing a sort of wounded hero. I find his comedy a bit over the top (kirk vs kirk etc) but his anger and sadness, regret and grief are usually spot on. The scene when David is killed and he collapses on the floor in front of his chair is tremendous. And ofcourse, moments later he turns that grief and anger into a crazy plan to cheat death once again – a true leader.

I didnt really like Kirk in Generations (once he was located by Picard). The empty house thing is too easy I think and it was just glazed over. Picard spends three minutes in the Nexus and realizes its not real. Kirk spends 75 years there…well I guess moments to him, but still it took Picard to show him it wasnt real and convince him to leave. Downplayed Kirk.

If he had realized the nexus wasnt real and it could be anything and any time he wanted, I’d have expected him to be more selfless – I can save all those that died, help all those that need, bring back all those I lost. Not get laid and ride horses.

And ofcourse between the two of them, they can appear anywhere and any time and choose literally the worst time to go back. Idiots.

@TUP- You echo my sentiments about GENERATIONS in general. I actually did sympathize with Kirk more than you did but the whole Nexus thing was stupid. Also, the film’s hype was centered around the Kirk and Process team up. All they end up doing is working together to punch a guy in the face and rescue a primitive civilization we don’t see or care about.

Meyer sees Starfleet as more of a military organization than Roddenberry did. That’s why David was concerned about Starfleet utilizing the Genesis technology for the sake of producing weapon.

This is why Meyer’s Trek movies are so entertaining. He is filming Horatio Hornblower in space… the Enterprise IS the only ship in the quadrant and the fate of the galaxy depends on the big E coming out victorious. Two wishes:
1) That Meyer got more Trek movies or even a series that he could explore the movie era he created more. Would be interesting to see his take on exploration – could he have created an entertaining Trek that combines space battles with exploration (aka the holy grail of Trek?!?); Klingons vs Starfleet where no one has gone before? He DOES in some way do this with the Genesis Device which is able to create planets/life while at the same time a doomsday weapon; great exploration there.
2) I LOVE Trek IV and VI but I sometimes think that Meyer was right that Spock had his death scene and it was time to add in next generation characters into trek (Saavik, David Marcus, etc). Imagine how awesome TNG would have been if it was movie era with some of these spin off characters developed in the movies? Also I think there was talk about the TOS crew going rouge post Star Trek III; that would have been awesome to explore. You read the DC comics at the time and you can see that universe was just so much more exciting than what came after Star Trek VI when it was Wagon train to the stars / Hornblower in space.. today’s humans, tomorrow’s challenges.

I appreciate Trek VI as a final curtain call for the original crew but the story left much to be desired. Political conspiracies just don’t work well in Star Trek.

Huh? TNG “Conspiracy,” “The Wounded,” “Ensign Ro,” and “The Pegasus”? DS9 “The Circle” and “Home Front”? ENT “Terra Prime”? All absolutely first-rate episodes about political conspiracies.

In fact, one of the reasons VOY was lackluster was precisely because the “marooned in the Delta Quadrant” theme made stories like those difficult. Even there, “Equinox” came closest.

You have a point. I think the mystery aspect of the plot didn’t work out so well. I think instead of Gorkon’s assassination, it should have been a series of terrorist attacks orchestrated by Chang and the rest.

I saw the movie 25 years ago and was delighted by it and still enjoy the film when I’ve seen it rerun on TV.
If there is any “complaint” about the film its that its so Klingon centric. What that means is …out of the 79 original episodes, the Klingons were featured in like 4 of them. I know they were considered the main villains of the TV series but they already played a key role in big screen Trek’s III and V and to a lesser extent in I and IV.
Mr Nimoy wanted a storyline to parallel recent events in our
lifetime so he used the Cold War storyline. It made sense then and still does…but in my opinion, it would have been nice to have a completely NEW story…like they seek out and explore a strange new world and something happens and the crew reacts and by the end we learn a lot but the crew is in a good place and then they can retire with their autographs on screen.

I wish it had been a voyage of discovery, too. Something more meaningful than a Cold War cliche.

Been nice if there had been SOME kind of genuine SF content, instead of just sf/fantasy trappings like shapeshifters, but then again there’s precious little of that in SFS either, and except for Genesis’ life-giving potential, pretty much nothing in TWOK either.

Using the Klingons made sense within the context of the other TOS films. And ofcourse, Kirk’s own self-examination centred on the fact he harboured a grudge because they killed his son.

i saw trek 6 (as well as 1 and 2 and 3 and 4) a few months ago in hollywood (for the 50th) and he was there along with bunch of other trek people… during the q&a he talked a good deal about the movie and other films… probably a lot of the same stories he’s told over the years… one thing stood out… it was kind of sad… he talked about roddenberry and how he treated him poorly towards the end of his life as he was making undiscovered country… it’s so obvious he still has deep regrets and he’s still haunted by his behavior… he didn’t get into details about exactly what he said or did but it was very clear he feels bad and that is was something an older self looking back at a cocky younger self would feel…

Meyer was in a very emotional state around the time of TUC … I didn’t find out about this for 15 years or so, but it turns out the day I had a (VERY brief and bad) phone interview with him was like the day after the film was finally greenlit, and he had been on an emotional rollercoaster with it being on again and off again for previous weeks and was in a rotten mood. I started off with an easy question and got ‘no shit sherlock’ back from him, and it got worse from there. Still has to be among the worst three interviews I’ve ever done.

I’d be upset too if you had some crazed messiah type upset that you aren’t boring and dumbing down your movie… because you are basically following HIS Wagon Train to the Stars rules (Enterprise is a heavy crusier, a phaser is a gun, Kirk is like a Vietnam warship Captain, Star Trek is Wagon train to the stars / Horatio Hornblower in space, our stories need to be exciting, action adventure stories, etc). I for one am glad Meyer stuck to his guns or Star Trek II, III, IV and VI would not have been as exciting as they ended up being. The Genesis Arc is probably the best Trek out there; and that’s with III being a giant cop out Meyer did not want to do. Would love to have seen what he would have done with Star Trek III given full creative control and with Spock’s death final.

I love the interviews with the folks involved with TOS. Given how busy Meyer is,I don’t know why they wouldn’t allow questions to be asked BUT to have the responses released at a later time.

I remember when VI came out, I was not happy over the fact that we didn’t get any 70mm prints in our DC market, whereas, all the prior films except TMP, we did. Those were events. Even V had a decent 6 track mag soundtrack even if the movie was disappointing.

Although Meyer speaks of not wishing to tinker anymore with VI, if I had an opportunity, I would change the last shot of the movie. I think it was the novelization where Spock speaks for Kirk, referencing the end of the Vger meld, for the ship to go (hand gestured upward) thataway. Instead of the Enterprise moving off into the sun, I would’ve done a beauty shot of the ship and have it warp out into space. That would’ve been a nice bookend to the TOS films.

JoeTrekFan, Because of a theater screwup where they advertised 70mm in in one cinema and 35mm in the other, we accidentally saw the 70mm version and it was much worse than I had even imagined (I avoided 70mm blowups of 35mm films like the plague – why try to watch something with more than twice the grain, and in the case of a Super35 film it is worse owing to it being essentially twice removed from the original.) The scene with Kirk and McCoy in their rure penthe bunks was just completely dark on screen, no image information at all. I assume they lost quality control on some 70mm prints, when I mentioned it to the film’s AP Brooke Breton she was horrified about it (to be fair, the then Syufy Century theaters in San Jose were from the late 70s onward always very underpowered in terms of projector brightness, but TUC was like watching at a drive-in right next to the highway, it was about that unwatchable.)

Sorry to hear that, K. Yes, the 70mm Trek films were blow ups and, yes, the grain is a detraction. On the other hand, as I posted, the multi track soundtracks give such depth of field compared to the 35mm presentations I remember from he 80s that, at least for me, they were memorably pleasant experiences.
For VI, the best we got was 35mm and THX at the now closed Union Station. At least the sound was very good. Ship whooshes, the Praxis sound wave explosion..Excelsior scene after were good.

You guys are lucky to be in CA. I’ve occasionally glanced at the theater sites such as the Cinematheque and the Aero to notice 70mm Trek this past Sept for the 50th anniversary. Not sure how good or bad the prints are given the age, but its seemed to be decent enough for exhibition. Perhaps, Paramount has archival seldom seen prints somewhere.

I’m in Oregon now, and we only got a very red pink print of TWOK about 10 years ago, haven’t seen any of the other films on big screen in ages, but sure would like to see a good print of TWOK and of TFF again.

And TMP most of all, just for the ship miniature shots.

Nick is right to be uncomfortable with the mind meld scene. I’ve always thought of it as a rape scene… Valeris doesn’t want to be melded, but Spock forced himself on her and she screams in pain. Mind melds aren’t supposed to be painful. But in her case it is, because she’s resisting it.

The Vulcan version of water boarding lol.


Re: The Vulcan version of water boarding lol.

Fictional or real, I don’t believe I see what’s funny about it? Did you read the interview? Meyer certainly doesn’t regard it as a laughing matter:

“I find the mind meld is kind of like waterboarding to me and it’s uncomfortable to watch.” — Nicholas Meyer

” I think the mind meld may be troubling in the wake of waterboarding, but there it is.” — Nicholas Meyer

I definitely agree. The scene is excellent in doing that which Star Trek has been known to do – foster discussion. At that point of the film, you couldnt slow down and have a moral debate but you can almost get the sense that Kirk, Spock & Bones would surely love to.

And I do wish it was Saavic although watching her fall would have been very difficult. Watching Spock confront her would have been heart-breaking.

Imagine if you will how it would have looked if it were Saavik instead of Valeris. Saavik was originally intended to be the conspirator/assassin.

Good Lord. It’s so troubling, yet he put it in the film. Get over it. How many people, assuming mind melding was real, would have taken a self-righteous moral stand in the middle of a crisis. Obviously Valeris didn’t want it, because she was a now fully-exposed criminal. She had no rights at that point, having subordinated hers in an attempt to start a war.

Trump’s Tribble

Re: She had no rights at that point

As the trials of James T. Kirk in IV and Spock in THE MENAGERIE aptly demonstrated, she did too have rights.

Trump’s Tribble,

Re: taken a self-righteous moral stand in the middle of a crisis

Forget about people, the character, Spock, has shown himself on numerous occasions to be able to do just that.

However, it is perhaps more interesting to observe that despite the fact that Spock finds mindmelding distasteful because it bares him to the other, in pursuit of knowledge he has no compunction about invoking a mindmeld without getting permission. He could have easily asked for permission from V’ger to mindmeld, but he did not. Heck, even when he was trying to to the moral thing in IV he clearly neglected to get permission to mindmeld with the humpback whales because neither he nor the UT knew the lingo to ask.

And his history of attempting to use it without permission against females at a distance, with the subtle implication being because they have weaker minds, counts the Kelvan and the Yang — which reminds me, why’d he even have to jump in the pool to meld with Gracie?

I did not mind it – who says Vulcan morals are going to exactly match up with ours. What does logic say he should do. The needs of the many out weigh the needs of the one. Here is to allowing some controversy.

The Undiscovered Country had some pretty irredeemable scenes, but ONE change would have made the movie 100% better… IT SHOULD’VE BEEN SAAVIK!!

I agree. Is there a stated reason they changed it from Saavik?


It may have just been PR puff for VI at the time, but I recall Meyer saying that Kim Cattrall was actually his choice over Alley to play Saavik in II but was unavailable. And something to the effect that Meyer changed the name in VI because he believed Kim was so good that she deserved a chance to shine without being confused with the two other actresses that played the roll of Saavik.

There’s some scuttlebutt that Roddenberry objected to making the character a bad guy but I discount it as he was notorious in being vociferously opposed to both II and VI and Meyer is on record for basically ignoring him unceremoniously for VI.

I remember the Catrrall for TWOK thing too, but Meyer’s recollections are pretty inconsistent. Pretty sure he told GR off about Saavik too, since she was HIS creation, not GR’s.

From other stories at the time of TUC’s release, Alley turned them down for TUC and Meyer didn’t want Robin Curtis. When SAavik was offered to Cattrall she refused to play a character that two other actors had played, so they agreed to change the name, which she herself thought up. Pretty sure most all of this is in the ST VI CFQ issue and the unauthorized MAKING OF THE TREK FILMS book.

Very interesting and sounds familiar now. Too bad. I liked Curtis and wish they had used her if Alley wasnt available.

The popular theory had Roddenberry objecting, but this seems unlikely; given his health situation at the time, he would have had little to do with the production.
The more likely explanation was simply that Meyer, having been keen to place Saavik in the picture for obvious dramatic effect, relented when it soon became clear that Kirsty Alley would be unavailable for a reprise (or, if you believe the rumours, that she refused to work with Shatner again). Evidently, Meyer wasn’t too keen on the Robin Curtis incarnation of the character and hence the character was nixed from the screenplay.

I don’t know, I liked Saavik as a character and this kept the door to her returning in future Trek; a shame that character was not used more….. I seem to recall a cool DC comic where Valaris and Saavik met up.

for me, best of the original films, yeah i have had a problem with that rape scene or be it mind rape scene for so long, i also not happy with them just firing on the klingon,they don’t try and disable it first,funny thing is, do not have a problem with the line “let them die” it’s a moment of weakest for kirk, one that has been building for so long,even before the death of his son,kirk’s line at the end “And you’ve restored my son’s” is a very powerful moment that show us kirk can forgive and move on. thanks for this wonderful interview

Really? The Enterprise gets the crap kicked out of it by a bloodthirsty klingon who is hellbent on murdering the entire crew, to help precipitate a war that will most likely kill hundreds of thousands (at least). And what-Kirk should be a nice guy and try to ensure he survives? Er, no. Blow that SOB straight to kingdom come. Nothing wrong with self-defence.
I agree with you about Kirk’s last line to Azetbur though. But I always felt that the attempted assassination scene came off as being a little corny and dare I say it, rather Scooby-Dooish. Still, overall a great movie.

Fantastic interview guys, congrats.

It saddens me to see Nick Meyer say that he’d do the Valeris/Spock mind meld scene differently if he had it to do over. That’s the most powerful scene in the movie, and brilliantly shot. The reaction shots of the crew totally sell the scene, as do the performances of Kim Cattrall and Leonard Nimoy. To see Meyer express regret like this, over such a great job as filming that scene, I can’t help but hope that it’s not because he’s feeling pressured to conform to the PC regime. In any case…

To Nick Meyer: Nick, it’s a fantastic scene—the best scene in the movie, and one of the best in the entire Trek movie franchise. Please don’t regret having done such a stellar job.