This weekend marks the 35th anniversary of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, a film most still consider to be the best in the franchise. TrekMovie had a chance to talk to director (and uncredited screenwriter) Nicholas Meyer about just why it has lasted the test of time, and more, including the latest 4K UHD transfer of the movie.
Why Wrath Of Khan was lightning in a bottle
We actually talked 10 years ago for the 25th anniversary and at the time you said you “have never been able to account for the success” of Star Trek II. So with another decade to reflect, and you have worked on Star Trek again with Discovery. So now do you have a better idea why Wrath of Khan endures and is considered by most to still embody the best of Star Trek?
I am not sure I am very clever about this. It seems to me to be a case of lighting in a bottle, and I’m not sure how it got there. I have said elsewhere that movies are like soufflés, they either rise or they don’t. And it is very hard for an amateur baker such as myself to explain why or why not that should be the case. It is miraculous and amazing to me that the movie has hit some kind of emotional sweet spot.
I can account intellectually up to a certain point. I understand that it was very well put together. It was built to last. I like to think that the things I work on are conceived with an idea that they are going to last and endure – at least over the short term. I am not referring to millennia, but the idea that they were at least well-constructed and well thought out and so forth.
I think that there is a certain balance that appeals to me enormously in certain works of art in which character and plot achieve a kind of balance where they are interlocked and interdependent and where one does not overpower the other. I think you can watch a play by Eugene O’Neill that is all character and very little plot and you can go to certain comic books and find that it is all plot and no character. But somewhere there is a sweet spot.
I was rewatching The Prisoner of Zenda, from 1937, and I thought it was a kind of perfect balance between character and plot. Maybe Hamlet is a perfect balance between character and plot. And maybe, and I don’t claim this was deliberate or intentional on my part, The Wrath of Khan balances character and plot pretty inextricably. And maybe that is part of it, but I don’t really know.
You were brought in somewhat late in the process and you had a short deadline. The studio gave you mostly a free hand except where it came to coming in with a dramatically lower budget than the first Star Trek film. So you took over the script and I think you once described yourself – in a good way – as a dictator in getting it done. Do you feel the combination of fewer cooks and a freer hand is part of the reason it worked? And could you imagine that working today in a franchise studio movie?
Well, I am not a businessman and I don’t know about franchises and studio films and I tend not to patronize them, to be candid. I go to little movies about people who are trying to figure out their shit and that is what interests me. It is not that I wouldn’t like to see those movies with bigger budgets and more bells and whistles, it is just that comic books don’t interest me, the exploding car doesn’t interest me, superheroes don’t interest me. Movies whose last name ends in “man” – that doesn’t interest me. The business part doesn’t interest me.
I think art is a dictatorship. It is maybe government by the consent of the governed in the sense that you don’t have to patronize it. You don’t have to watch it. You don’t have to read it or listen to it, but if you do it is going to have to be on the terms of the artist. So I think things are better that they are not done by committee.
I wasn’t brought in to The Wrath of Khan at the last minute, it should be understood. I was hired to direct the second movie and I was told that draft five of the script was imminent and I sat around waiting for that and then it was deemed to be not worth showing me and they were upset and they were under the gun because – and I didn’t know this either – the movie had already been booked into theaters.
When I was disappointed when they said they couldn’t show me the drafts I said, “Let me read it, let me read draft four, draft three and so forth.” And that is how I evolved into the de facto writer of what became the finished script, which was cobbled together from scraps and bits and pieces oddments of the previous five drafts. And then all the dialog and thematic material added by me. It was only last minute in the sense that things didn’t go the way they were supposed to.
A big budget Wrath of Khan?
I don’t know if you like to talk hypotheticals, but I’m going to try one anyway. Let’s say that Paramount gave you the same budget that Robert Wise had for The Motion Picture and even more time. How different of a film would you have made? Would it have been less of an intimate tale, much of which is set on two stages, which were actually the same stage just redressed?
I think that art thrives on restrictions that is for sure. One of my all-time favorite movies is the [Laurence] Olivier Henry V movie that was made in the midst of World War II with 75 cents. And they took a leaf out of the play in which it was based in which Shakespeare basically says to use your imagination, “On your imaginary forces work.”
And I think that art that leaves things to the imagination of the viewer or the audience or the reader tends to engage them more fully than art that leaves nothing to the imagination. We call that in the movie business “eye candy.” Everything is supplied by the filmmaker so the audience has nothing to do except to sit there and gape at images which are all amazing with no differentiation between an important or an unimportant image.
I think if I had more money on Star Trek II the one thing that would have been better would have been the Genesis planet [cave] which was a cut rate situation. It wouldn’t have taken a lot more money by the way to do what needed to be done. And again you prefaced this by saying this is a hypothetical, I don’t know that I’m that eager to spend money. I am much more eager to figure out ways to get audiences involved without assaulting them either visually or with huge noisy soundtracks. I have no objection to great visuals or a lot of noise, but neither is a steady diet. Nothing is a steady diet. Variety is the spice of life.
The difference between directing Shatner and directing Nimoy
One of your favorite stories to tell about directing the film was how you got William Shatner to give a more natural performance by sort of wearing him down with multiple takes, such as in the “here it comes” scene. Did he ever catch on to this trick during Khan or maybe with The Undiscovered Country?
If he caught on, he did not mention it. He did not allude to it.
Another big difference between the first Trek film and Wrath of Khan was Leonard Nimoy’s Spock. It is more personal, more emotional if you will. Can you talk about how you and Leonard worked together on his performance? Did you have any tricks for him like you did for Shatner?
I didn’t have any tricks for Leonard. Leonard really understood – the most revealing thing he said to me was, “I never played Spock as an unemotional person, I always played him as someone who was intent on keeping his emotions in check. Under wraps.” And I think this was a particularly subtle and telling distinction because it is more interesting to see an actor trying not revealing something than an actor attempting to kind of put it on display. Rather than seeing an actor crying but seen an actor trying not to cry is more interesting and more involving. Again it is about leaving things to the imagination and not laying it all out. And I think Leonard was very good at understanding this from the get-go. I didn’t really have to tell him much.
It is also true that the role as written in Star Trek II – as written by me – was very different in its conception than whatever it was that went on in the previous movie. I saw that movie once over 35 years ago and I don’t believe I have seen it since and I don’t believe I gave it a lot of thought while working on The Wrath of Khan. I don’t believe I gave anything a lot of thought while working on The Wrath of Khan, including the original series. And I am sure I made blunders as a result. I was just writing my submarine movie the way I wanted it to be and occasionally Nichelle Nichols or Walter Koenig or Shatner or someone would say “this isn’t the way my character talks” and I would have to learn a little bit how to backtrack and say what I wanted to say but in a slightly different format. But otherwise I didn’t pay attention to the other Star Trek stuff.
Doing Khan right in 4K
Can you talk about the 4K Ultra HD transfer for Wrath of Khan? Was it an easy process or was there a lot of cleaning up to do?
There is the usual cleaning up. This is a huge topic about film restoration and film transfer and film coloring. I was on the Directors Guild committee against the colorizing of black and white movies and my argument was you are basically rewriting history. And if you start then when do you stop? Do you say “these four bars of Beethoven’s Eroica I find rather boring” or these racial stereotypes from this Shirley Temple movie should be eliminated.
This stuff is very very dangerous stuff. On the other hand, if you can clean up the image, is that a good thing? I will give you a lengthy disposition on Technicolor. Technicolor was a three-strip process running through the camera and printing it was a form of lithography. The question is that found that they could never get those three strips of Technicolor to line up 100%. The good news was that it gave the movies that were made in Technicolor a kind of romantic fuzziness, I guess you could call it. That was great for romances and musical comedies and stuff like that. But when digital came along they found out that they could line up those three strips 100% and what was the result? The result was a lot of times you saw things that you were not meant to see. And that the people were so pleased with themselves – yes you can clean up scratches on film and correct for color and you can do amazing things – but you don’t want to see Judy Garland singing “Over the Rainbow” and notice she has acne. That is not a good transfer. That is not a good use of the capability.
So when you are transferring into digital and 4K and high def and Blu-ray and all of that stuff you have to be very careful that the end result does not exceed the original tolerances under which the film was made. So when I worked on the restoration of The African Queen which was shot in location in Africa, everything real, all that digital match-up of Technicolor worked to our advantage. You saw they were really in Africa. Bogart said to the cinematographer Jack Cardiff, “It’s taken a long time to get this face, don’t you pretty me up.” He wanted every ragged line of Charlie Allnut’s character to be there, and it is.
It is not simply a question of turning on the lights and running the thing through some kind of synthesizer and having it all come out the other way digitally perfect. You have to make judgement calls. For the first version of the DVD of Sunset Boulevard they erased all the shadows from Norma Desmond’s house and that didn’t seem right, because the whole point was it was a spooky place.
So when you work on Star Trek or any of these other movies that were not shot with those tolerances you have to adjust for them. You have to add diffusion. You don’t want to see duct tape sets and you don’t want to see makeup on actors. You have to be careful.
That is a long-winded answer and I can go on a lot longer.
Editor’s Note: For a nice visual walkthrough of film restoration, check out this video from Criteron.
So what you’re saying is there was work to be done with Wrath of Khan to keep it within your artistic vision as opposed to showing us every detail on that set.
Yeah. Progress ought to be that just because you can do something doesn’t mean that ought to do something. Just because we can blow the planet to smithereens doesn’t need to mean that we have to blow it to smithereens. And just because you can show things in excruciating detail doesn’t necessarily mean you should. Take a look at a Renoir and say, “This impressionistic painting is out of focus, let’s bring it into focus.” Is that what Monsieur Renoir had in mind when he painted it out of fucking focus to begin with?
Do you know when Paramount is planning on releasing Wrath of Khan in UltraHD? and if they are doing the other Trek films like your Star Trek VI?
I know they are all on [standard 1080p] Blu-ray now and I did work on a Japanese version of something that was an amazing high-def. But they don’t talk to me about what their plans are. I am sure it is all done by bean counters and computers.
The Log Lady and other unsung heroes of The Wrath of Khan
There is an interesting little Star Trek II connection to something else that is new again which is Twin Peaks. The late Catherine Coulson returned as ‘The Log Lady’ on the new show, and she worked with you and your Wrath of Khan DP Gayne Rescher. Do you have any memories of her on set or her contribution to the film?
My memories are extremely pleasant. She was a lovely women and she very good at her job. She was very much a team player and very encouraging to me. This was the second movie I directed and it was nice to be surrounded by people who weren’t judging you. She was not a judger and she was quite tireless. Making movies is quite long hours and she never lost her extremely good humor or her professionalism. I liked being around her very much and it is a real loss.
You are so personally associated with Wrath of Khan as a sort of auteur film in a way, even though it is a franchise film. And of course Nimoy, Montalban and Shatner and their performances are always highlighted. And Harve Bennett gets talked about. But your talking about Catherine makes we wonder are there any unsung heroes of Star Trek II? Is there one you feel doesn’t get noticed enough? Someone I am not calling to interview that I should be?
What an interesting question. You certainly come up with some interesting questions. I will really have to think about it. There is a whole host of people behind the scenes on any movie – Star Trek certainly included – who make vital and largely unheralded contributions to what the design or the final effect of the movie is.
It is very easy to say people like Joe Jennings or Bob Joseph – the people who design the costumes, the signage, or whatever – but I think you are asking something else and that is the thing I would have to think about. So we will have reconvene at some other point after I have put some thought into it.
Star Trek II 35th Anniversary Screenings In Los Angeles With Nicholas Meyer
In the coming weeks Nicholas Meyer will be attending two screenings of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan in the LA area to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the film. The first is on May 31st a the Ahrya Fine Arts Theatre in Beverly Hills, CA. Meyer will be on hand for a Q&A after the film. And on June 13th at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, CA there will be another screening with Meyer, this time joined by Nichelle Nichols, Ike Eisenmann (Peter Preston), and Alan Howarth (sound effects technician TMP-TUC). The Chinese Theatre screening is actually a “Khan” double bill starting off with the Star Trek episode “Space Seed.” The Q&A will be in between.
The right man for the right job. Whether or not you believe in God, pray that Meyer’s touch turns Discovery into gold.
His two films are easily the best in the entire franchise out of all 13. Clearly he was doing something right. Whether he’s still capable of producing great work is the question. He may have simply been at his creative peak in those years.
Also, he’s not the writer/director mastermind behind Discovery (as he was on TWOK and TUC), and is simply one contributor on a large team.
Shh! Let me dream.
But Meyer was the writer behind the old San Francisco scenes in STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME and that didn’t turn out too bad.
It’s funny when you read Mark Altman/Ed Gross’s “The First 25 Years” book and you read all of Gene Roddenberry’s comments prior to the first “Star Trek” movie, you hear all of this speculation about what the movie will be about.
You hear about ancient Mayans, the Assasination, and other larger than life, outlandish story plots. Not once did they have a plot line like ..gee, I wonder what became of Kirk or Spock after the 5 year mission ???
Nick Meyer’s film brought some of the light humor that worked so well on the old show and the chemistry of Kirk, Spock and Bones…adding to that some new ideas like the Genesis project, Carol Marcus and David Marcus and adding Khan combined an old foe who is now a new threat. The new FX, the new uniforms, James Horner’s score…all of this mixing of old and new made the film an instant smash hit.
What Nick Meyer, Harve Bennett and their team put together was a effective story that people could relate to. I don’t think Gene Roddenberry could have ever achieved a film like this even if he had been allowed to make 10 “Star Trek” movies on his own. No offense to Gene Roddenberry who was able to create 2 wonderful “Star Trek” series ..something that Harve Bennett and Nick Meyer may not have been able to do.
Meyer and his team managed to capture the chemistry of the characters and integrate it with a killer story. They captured the magic of Trek that Gene Coon and his team created with the best of the original series. The first movie really failed to do that.
Re: larger than life
You haven’t read enough adequately researched tomes if you think all that can be hung on Roddenberry.
The Paramount executive suite was responsible for the larger than life demands and the ancient Mayans specifically came from, again, Paramount’s Mark Trabulus, NOT Roddenberry.
As noted in Stephen King’s DANSE MACABRE, page 396, footnote and recounted by Harlan Ellison with the pertinent words emphasized in all CAPS:
“His [Gene Roddenberry] one idea, done six or seven times in the series and again in the feature film, is that the crew of the ‘Enterprise’ goes into deepest space, finds God, and God turns out to be insane, or a child, or both. I’d been called in twice, prior to 1975, to discuss the story. Other writers had also been milked. Paramount couldn’t make up their minds and had even kicked Gene off the project a few times, until he brought in lawyers. Then the palace guard changed at Paramount and Diller and Eisner came over from ABC and brought a cadre of their…buddies. One of them was an ex-set designer…named Mark Trabulus.
Roddenberry suggested me as the scenarist for the film with this Trabulus, the latest…of the know-nothing duds Paramount had assigned to the troublesome project. I had a talk with Gene…about a storyline [sic]. He told me they kept wanting BIGGER and BIGGER storylines [sic] and no matter what was suggested, it wasn’t BIG enough. I devised a storyline [sic] and Gene liked it, and set up a meeting with Trabulus for 11 December (1975). That meeting was cancelled…but we finally got together on 15 December. It was just Gene and Trabulus and me in Gene’s office on the Paramount lot.
I told them the story. It involved going to the end of the known universe to slip back through time to the Pleistocene period when Man first emerged. I postulated a parallel development of reptile life that might have developed into the dominant species on Earth had not mammals prevailed. I postulated an alien intelligence from a far galaxy where the snakes had become the dominant life form, and a snake-creature who had come to Earth in the Star Trek future, had seen its ancestors wiped out, and who had gone back into the far past of Earth to set up distortions in the time-flow so that the reptiles could beat the humans. The Enterprise goes back to set time right, finds the snake-alien, and the human crew is confronted with the moral dilemma of whether it had the right to wipe out an entire life form just to ensure its own territorial imperative in our present and future. The story, in short, spanned all of time and all of space, with a moral and ethical problem.
Trabulus listened to all this and sat silently for a few minutes. Then he said, ‘You know, I was reading this book by a guy named Von Daniken and he proved that the MAYA calendar was exactly like ours, so it must have come from aliens. Could you put in some MAYANS?’” — Harlan Ellison
Always weird to relive that period during the ’70s of bellbottoms, disco, and Gene Roddenberry and Harlan Ellison actually getting along with each other. That sure didn’t last.
Great interview. Sounds like ST2 & perhaps 6 are ready to go in 4K UHD just needs Paramount to toss us fans the bone!
TWOK is ready, TUC is not. Paramount hasn’t touched the other 5 movies since the early-to-mid 2000s.
TWOK was given a fresh restoration and 4k scan in 2016 for the creation of the Director’s Cut Blu-ray. According to Bill Hunt of The Digital Bits, when they did the scan of the film, they also did an HDR timing pass on it for a potential future UltraHD Blu-ray release, which Paramount doesn’t seem to be interested in releasing thus far :-/
What about the Japanese thing he mentions could that not be ST6 as 6 was always popular in Japan?!
He mentions making something in HD, not UHD. So it’s hard to say. It’s more likely some special edition the regional distributor whipped up. The local distributor for Japan does not have access to the Paramount film archives to make a new scan of the film. It would be up to Paramount corporate to strike a new 4k master.
At best, the local distributor found an old 35mm copy of the film and did a scan of it.
I can’t even find any listing for a Japanese release of TUC since the 2009 Blu-ray version.
It always good to hear from Nicholas Meyer. He always has smart spot-on answers.
Actually, I would like to hear him talk a lot longer about film restoration. Please, as he suggested, follow up with him but please do it sooner than another ten years.
If you read ‘The Making of Star Trek’, Roddenberry said he did not want to treat Star Trek like it was ‘science fiction’, just treat it like fiction. Nicholas Meyer has that same mindset, and The Wrath of Khan was the better for it. I wish that was the predominant mindset today, but it does not appear to be so.
Re: same mindset
Not to mention Harlan Ellison who likewise says he doesn’t write science-fiction. I believe he prefers “speculative fiction”.
Actually HE refers to himself as a fantasist, but more than anything as just a WRITER, in caps, no limiting genre qualifiers needed. (Though he does prefer “speculative fiction” to “science fiction” and absolutely loathes “sci-fi.”)
Well considering that Bryan Fuller, the brainchild of Discovery, is best known for Hannibal and Pushing Daisies (and American Gods which is super hot right now) I could argue we once again have someone laying the groundwork who treats all of his work as FICTION rather than strictly SCIENCE FICTION.
I know Fuller is no longer the show runner, but he wrote the pilot and mapped out the series and wrote the show’s bible, so hopefully that’s where the bulk of the show’s tone is coming from.
Whats funny is nearly every show runner, director or producer in Star Trek didn’t star their career in science fiction. Rick Berman was a documentary guy, you can’t get farther away from sci fi than that lol. I think Michael Piller did dramas. Harve Bennet produced mostly action fare and westerns IIRC.
My point is a lot of people who was responsible for a lot of Trek weren’t steeped into sci fi in their careers, so it was just another project for them still did a great job on it overall.
JJ Abrams and the writers of the first 09 film seem to be the only ones that had sci fi credits on their resume before running Trek.
Well, they need to be able to do fiction, but treat science fiction in the same way as any other fiction. Roddenberry observed that science fiction in the 50-60s was not treated as regular fiction. Unfortunately, I think we have regressed to that.
The writing in Star Trek over the past several years has gotten lazy and dumbed down. It started somewhat in TNG and really bad in Voyager and Enterprise, DS9 however was much better in terms of writing. And the Abrams movies etc. just jumped head first into bad writing. I am hoping this new series will be better but what I have seen so far is not giving me much hope.
What would really like to see is what was done with the Battlestar Galactica remake, and do that kind of treatment on Star Trek. Not in terms of a reboot, but bring some reality, some verisimilitude, some good storytelling, to it.
both ds9 and BSG involved ron d moore.
Of course, he was fired, or whatever, so his influence may have been thrown out as well.
I love II and VI, the best films in the franchise – in my opinion.
I get where he’s coming from regarding restoration. Nowadays, there is a tendency to colour-correct so that films have an orange or teal color. The Matrix was messed about with to make it greener than the original for example:
Whilst I loved the TNG remasters, I think that they over-saturated the colors of the uniforms. I also think that whilst the color correction was generally excellent for TNG, there are times where the directors vision was altered. Night terrors is an example, where the greenish tint is removed and the scenes are somewhat darkened, probably where the remaster reduces the contrast:
With TWOK, the recent blu-ray remaster is excellent, much less red than in the DVD. The previous blu-ray release has a blue tint to it.
What I like about this restoration is that Meyer was part of it. It’s his artistic vision, and he gets to decide if a change is made or not, and how the change is implemented.
I’ve been watching a lot of TOS and TNG in the zoom (cropped) mode on my TV lately, and I’m always amazed by how much better the tighter cropped vertical framing makes the episodes, and how much more interesting the wide aspect ratio is, without the need to reframe much. While I agree that this kind of modification can be an affront to a purist, I always thought that if the original directors can supervise such projects, the artistic integrity can be maintained. Kubrick famously changed his mind about some of his films, aspect ratio being one of them on THE SHINING. In that way, a director could say, ‘no I don’t want to do that’ and the episode would remain in its OAR; or they could say, ‘yes, I know exactly how I’d like to crop my work for widescreen’. Sadly, most of the original TOS directors were gone by the time the CBS started the remaster project, as well as some of the TNG episodes. And it’s not just aspect ratio, this applies to all kinds of changes, just as Meyer points out. Unfortunately, TV is such a producers medium, that CBS is not likely to ever spend the money to engage individual TV directors to undertake such endeavors, and might even necessitate bringing back the original producers as well.
I guess a lot of the original producers on TOS are no longer with us. I’m afraid that I’m a bit of a purist and am one of those nerds who want the original Star Wars remastered. So long as the original is preserved, I think the director can do what they like though, so I was a big fan of having the ability to switch between the original FX and the CG on the TOS blu-rays. Speaking of which, the CG has now dated much worse than the original FX!!
I think reframing a 4:3 show for 16:9 can be done nicely, rather than by arbitrarily lopping off the top and bottom of the frame. An example of a disaster is the HD remaster of Buffy that forgets to add filters, crops 4:3 really weirdly and has a ton of other issues:
Call me crazy but I think a larger budget would have done a great deal of good for Khan. TMP was so refreshing because it was Trek on an epic visual scale and the series was always larger than life within the confines of a TV budget.
I’m not sure a bigger budget would have helped TWOK much, except as Meyer suggests, and even then not much more. TWOK wasn’t really a huge scale film, it was, as he says an intimate submarine drama, like “Balance of Terror”. Imagine if TOS had a larger budget for that episode, not much would have changed. So really it’s much more about the needs of the story than merely having an arbitrarily large amount of money.
The Romulan ship was just a tiny little room and I understand that since the budget would not allow a larger set. I think a large set with dead bodies scattered around would have had a greater emotional impact IMO. Don’t get me wrong, I love the episode but I just imagine the possibilities when an imagination could run wild without the constraints of a limited amount of money for a TV show. That’s not to say that bigger is always better. Heaven forbid an Abrams remake of any classic Star Trek episode, blech !
Well, aside from making new “Leaving Drydock” footage and a few new “Enterprise at Warp” shots, instead of lifting those from ST:TMP, I’m not sure where else they could have spent the money. There really wasn’t a better way to do the Genesis Cave in that pre-CGI era. Maybe location filming for Ceti Alpha V like the Jordan filming in DSC?
Doing a real kick ass “simulation” of a Klingon battle instead of recycling old footage of TMP would have been nice. Ceti Alpha V shot in the desert would have been terrific and I think a larger sound stage combined with combined some outdoor shooting would have made the Genesis planet look a lot better.
I might have agreed with you in 1982 regarding the reuse of the Klingon footage, Ricardo Cantoral, but I don’t today. I think the point of the simulation wasn’t what we could see on the screen, but rather how Saavik reacted to the situation. It was a “test of character,” as someone once said, so the focus belonged right where it was: on the stage with the actors. Nick Meyer knew what he was doing.
As for Ceti Alpha V, I wouldn’t change a thing about the “exterior shots.” We’ve never seen that kind of a windswept planet before or since in Star Trek. It was blinding and frightening, just as intended. I think Meyer got that right, too.
@Edzo — While I totally agree with you, I think the point of it being a simulation that is supposed to test the metal of the cadets, also needs to be as realistic as possible for the cadets involved. ST09 didn’t really do much differently as I recall, and I think it was a mistake for all the participants to treat it so cavalierly … moreover, TWOK simulation was indeed supposed to trick the audience — we weren’t supposed to know this wasn’t really happening or a simulation (indeed that may have been a yet another mistake on the part of ST09). Given that, it might have been more interesting had the on-screen visuals been more interesting. But as you say, in retrospect, since we all know it’s a simulation now, we can absolutely say that Meyer did the right thing, whether he knew what he was doing or not.
Agreed on Ceti Alpha. How could it have been more visually interesting given the conditions? We have seen wind storms of this type since, though, ENT did it on at least two occasions I can recall. Not sure about its predecessors. Heck, the remake of FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX likewise had similar scenes, with a bigger budget, and those were no different.
I see your point about the simulation but I disagree about Ceti Alpha V. I think if you are going to take the audience to another planet, you should do it on a grand scale.
“I did work on a Japanese version of something that was an amazing high-def” could you elaborate please, Mr Meyer???
I have to imagine that it was just a UHD 8K master. Japan’s about the only place where a market for that exists …
its interesting because if JJ gave answers like that, I think we’d roast him. But the result is what counts. And part of what likely made Meyer so good for Trek was his lack of sentimentality to it. And yet, as one can see, he was open to being told when he got the “voices” of the characters wrong.
And I think thats important. He noted that he’d be told a character doesnt talk that way so he’d re-write the exact same point in a different way. So you’re both respecting the character and delivering your point.
He also brought something really important to Star Trek – a sense of what Starfleet is. a “submarine movie”. The look and style gave it atmosphere. Starfleet as a pseudo military organization.
And the whole point of the characters aging, not only gave us drama for that film, but set the tone for the bulk of the TOS films (and to an extent inspiration, if poorly realized, for the TNG films as well).
Also, remember Meyer didn’t write the script from scratch but rather patched it together from scraps written by people who did care about the STAR TREK and DID research its TV origins.
Very good point. I always recall stories of him watching every episode of TOS and settling on Khan. Is that story true, but with someone else?
It was Meyer, however, that sort of made some of the rules of Starfleet, wasnt it? That it was a navy in space, the more militaristic uniforms, submarine-like ships etc? Its no wonder his next Trek, TUC also maintained that claustrophobic and military-esque feeling aboard the ship. I enjoy that structure.
TUP, I believe it was Harve Bennett who reviewed all the TOS episodes and decided on “Space Seed” for the film sequel.
It was Harve Bennett, already familiar with STAR TREK from watching it with his Trekker girlfriend with an objective of wooing her at the time Bludhorn approached him, who knew enough from her that he needed to take a scholastic approach and thus reviewed all the episodes looking for some kind of movie hook:
Start reading from the third column on page 20.
He married the girl but the marriage eventually ended in divorce, possibly acrimoniously, as after, he started editing her out of his remembrances.
As for introducing more naval aspects to Starfleet, I know that Meyer employed “ship’s bells” on the Enterprise. You can hear them once in the corridors in TWOK and several times in TUC.
They told a compelling story with WOK. Came close with TVH, and Trek09. Everything else, not so much.
Great interview, Anthony. So grateful for your return to Trekmovie.com.
I haven’t been able to watch TWOK since Leonard Nimoy died. Seeing Spock die in the end, now that Mr. Nimoy is dead … I just can’t do that.
Are you serious?
Err… people die… that is life. You will die, I will die…
I mean, Carrie Fisher died, but I am sure I will still watch Star Wars, any of them!
So, Spock dying in TWOK with Nimoy actually having died… You don’t see that an already emotionally intense scene would be even more heartfelt? It’s called being human and having emotions, Mr. DataMat. Does that not compute?
Well, its more intense a scene, in that context.
Yes. Let Corylea have his/her moment.
You mean Merritt Butrick’s tragic death intensified Shatners’ Kirk-son death shock in THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK? Hmmm…at the time of his obit I think there was and odd almost Deja vu added saddness that I may recall experiencing viewing TSFS some time after that.
But Spock’s death was always powerfull for me. I don’t think Nimoy’s death changed it for me…probably because I think of the actor being alive when it was made but I think Spock’s funeral was made more poignant for me since?
Thank you for understanding, Silvereyes!
I have hero-worshiped not just Spock but also Leonard Nimoy, so his death affected me profoundly. Carrie Fisher did a nice job with Leia, but to me she’s just an actress, not a hero, role model, inspiration, and so on. There are people for whom Carrie Fisher WAS those things, and many of those people won’t watch be watching Star Wars for awhile.
I’ve read both of Mr. Nimoy’s biographies several times, I’ve seen a lot of his work in addition to Star Trek, and I’ve read and seen innumerable interviews with him. He didn’t just play intelligent, thoughtful, ethical, and principled on TV; he actually WAS intelligent, thoughtful, ethical, and principled. He was also a vibrantly creative man who gave so much of himself to creative projects, to causes he believed in, and to those of us who loved him. He wasn’t just a great actor; he was also a great human being, and I am still greatly saddened by his death, even two years later.
Leonard Nimoy mattered to me, deeply; losing him was like losing a favorite uncle. If he didn’t matter to you, then of course you don’t understand. But all of us are different, and we’re allowed to care about the things we care about. Star Trek was one of the things that taught me that. :-)
Corylea, when the time is right for you, you will absolutely love “For The Love Of Spock.” So heartfelt, a brilliant and touching documentary. Definitely not to be missed.
Actually, it’s Darfyn who can’t watch “For the Love of Spock” for awhile. I was a backer of it on Kickstarter, at a level where I got to see it at a special backers-only screening before it was released to the general public.
I had mixed feelings about FTLOS; I agreed with Adam’s ex-wife that there was too much of him in it. :-) (I can’t remember whether that was in the movie or if that was just something he told us in the talk he gave after the backers’ screening.)
I agree Corylea . Although I can still watch the TOS movies and be inspired by Leonard as Spock , it will be awhile before I will be able to watch the documentary ‘For The Love Of Spock’ .
I also have a Robin Williams and a Philip Seymour Hoffman Collection , and it’s still too painful to watch them again for awhile !
Looking forward to the 4K set , but my TNG remastered bluray series seems to be in 4:3 , and i’m wondering if it should have been in wide as well ?!
I disagree with Nick Meyer’s stand on colorization . As an example , I have watched Casablanca numerous times , and after so many viewings , I was seriously bored with seeing it in B&W .
Becoming aware of Ted Turners Colorized Classics , my viewing world as well as my interest was illuminated once again !
No, TNG was not remastered in 16:9 on BluRay yet. It has been said that a 16:9 version exists, specifically broadcast in Japan, but it has not made its way to the US yet, and I don’t think offered for downloads. The exterior effects shots were all mastered 16:9, and frankly, I’m a bit disappointed that they didn’t offer a hybrid product which expanded to 16:9 for those shots, but retained 4:3 for the live action portions.
Thanks for the reply , Curious !
You’re thinking of TOS-R
I don’t believe TNG was ever prepared for 16:9, they did sometimes work in 16:9 behind the scenes but the live action was always 4:3, unlike TOS-R. And the end result was always finished as 4:3.
TrekCore: I know we saw a few of the preview images from Season 1 which appeared to be in a widescreen aspect ratio. Do you render in widescreen?
Max Gabl: Yes, I render them in 16:9 widescreen HD. Even though we’re going to crop them on both sides to 4:3, it never hurts to have a little more to use, we can move left or right and do a little adjustment.
Thanks Matt, you’re right. And since the TNG space exteriors were mostly all real models, they would have been mastered in 4:3 as well, unlike the TOS digital exteriors completely rebuilt from scratch. While the passages you quoted pertained to the planet shots and some mattes, even though they were HD, they’d be limited by how the footage of the models was shot.
Regardless, live action TOS was obviously not shot for 16:9 and there exists a cropped version of that as well. I would have thought they would have done the same thing with TNG, especially since the BBC had already been showing TNG in 14:9. But it doesn’t sound like they would have had uniform exterior shots in native 16:9 except in some instances — unless his comment about the planets was meant to include all space shots? Either way, there’s still the limitation with the models. Regardless, I would still be surprised to learn that they do not have everything at least prepped to eventually offer a 16:9 edition depending on future market demand. Certainly at least much of the new CGI exists in this format.
i think that ‘khan’ needed that tv production ethos after TMP went over budget to focus the way it was filmed.
Re: over budget
Isn’t it obvious from the disinterested 3rd party recollection of Harlan Ellison:
from the footnote on page 396,
“I’d been called in twice, prior to 1975, to discuss the [motion picture] story. Other writers had also been milked. Paramount couldn’t make up their minds and had even kicked Gene [Roddenberry] off the project a few times, until he brought in lawyers. Then the palace guard changed at Paramount and Diller and Eisner came over from ABC and brought a cadre of their…buddies. One of them was an ex-set designer…named Mark Trabulus.
Roddenberry suggested me as the scenarist for the film with this Trabulus, the latest…of the know-nothing duds Paramount had assigned to the troublesome project. I had a talk with Gene…about a storyline [sic]. He told me they kept wanting bigger and bigger storylines [sic] and no matter what was suggested, it wasn’t big enough.” — Harlan Ellison
that TMP being “over budget” was just keyster-covering fiction from the Paramount executive suite created by them for the bilateral purpose of distracting Bludhorn from the millions of his funds wasted by them in waffling from motion picture production to TV series production to TV movie production, rinse and repeat, and scapegoating Roddenberry, who they found impossible to work with an eye towards maintaining those covered-keysters?
“… who they found impossible to work with an eye towards maintaining those covered-keysters?” should be “… who they found impossible with which to work with an eye towards keeping those keysters covered?”
my only problem with ‘khan’ is it became the blueprint for the franchise, a formula that is becoming so stale in the j j kelvin films.
another villain with a grudge and a superweapon!
at least meyer helped vary the tempo with ‘voyage home’.
there should be more ‘trek’ films like that.
This is true. And I don’t know WHY it ended up like this. Star Trek on TV had 700 episodes, sure a lot of episodes are based on others but generally they strive to tell as many varied stories as possible. And then yet in the films, we had four, FOUR of the last movies about a villain seeking revenge. Two of those films were of a personal nature with the villain targeting someone in the crew.
Its only been 13 films and yet a third of them had the same theme. They really do need to think bigger with the films and stop relaying on the same lazy villain tropes.
make ‘exploring strange new worlds’ as exciting as it was in ‘avatar’, ‘interstellar’ and ‘the martian’ would help.
the kelvin films treat them as throwaways in pre credit scenes.
Sadly I agree. I liked Beyond because it was the one film that was about exploration at least but then the story was reduced to another villain who wants to take the Federation down because they wronged him. I don’t understand why its so hard just to come up with a basic concept of actual exploration. I get they need a big villain to get the casual audience interested but why can’t it deal with finding a strange new world and fighting someone who isn’t connected to Starfleet or Kirk’s cousin and want to see the Federation burn over it?
Meyer stayed true to the basics of the characters and their relationships, but blew them up to proper movie epic size by making them more real and more their actual selves than they had ever been up to that point. And with Spock’s death the stakes were also more real than they had ever been. These aspects, including greater character growth, should have continued on in the subsequent films, but by STIV we’re back to where we started. No one else has really ever matched Meyer in this respect, which is why STII remains the best overall Trek film. Star Trek (2009) perhaps comes the closest.
I’m jealous. Why are these 35th anniversary gatherings only on the west coast? We east coast people would like to celebrate, too :P
On the other hand, it appears the screenings will be digital and not 70mm. I remember the 70mm version fondly and the interesting sound track and powerful James Horner score. Not too sure what the ‘experience’ will be like although I hear the TCL Chinese theater has state of the art projection and a huge screen. If the sound is strong, scenes like the Reliant-fish-out-water scene, the transporter surround sound fx should be really cool. I’m also thinking if there’s digital clean up, the grain from the 70mm blow up will probably also be gone.
I hope someone puts the Q&A on youtube.
what was really great about ‘khan’ was having a group of middle aged veterans up on screen as the heroes at a time when it was all about youth as far as hollywood was concerned.
‘you have to know how things work on a starship’