William Shatner Was Originally Against Going Back To ‘The Original Series’ For ‘Star Trek II’

In September Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is returning to theaters for two special 35th anniversary screenings which will also feature a new interview with star William Shatner. In a new interview with IGN promoting the event, Shatner talked about making what most consider the best film of the franchise.

Of course Star Trek II brought back the character of Khan Noonien Singh from the original Star Trek episode “Space Seed” but when asked about the development of the film, Shatner admitted that he was originally against the idea of tying the movie to an element from TOS, saying:

I recall that they began to talk about the second movie, and the talk began to be about what segment of the 79 [TV episodes] that we shot would be useful. And I kept saying, why do we want to go to a segment? Why don’t we invent something absolutely new? And the people in charge were much more aware than I was that the fans would be more sympathetic to… [it] would be a better vibration if it echoed a popular hour from the series, and make that, and then further the story as a film. And they were absolutely right that there was a ramification doing it that way, and the fact that the actor [Ricardo Montalban] was able to repeat his role was another singular advantage.

Shatner also acknowledged that Montalban’s Khan was a critical element in making Star Trek II work, including elevating his own character of Kirk:

…it’s a truism, that the more powerful the villain is the more powerful the hero. If the hero can overcome a powerful villain, look how much stronger that makes the hero. So the better the villain, the better the hero.

There is much more good stuff in the full IGN interview including Shatner talking about his acting process for key scenes like the death of Spock in Star Trek II and the death of his son in Star Trek III.

Star Trek II  is returning to theaters in September

Wrath of Khan back on the big screen

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan 35th anniversary screenings (including a new interview with William Shatner) will be showing  Sunday, September 10, and Wednesday, September 13, at 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. local time each day at 600 select movie theaters in the USA. Tickets can be purchased online by visiting www.FathomEvents.com or at participating theater box offices.

William Shatner being interviewed by Scott Mantz for the Fathom Events Star Trek II 35th anniversary screenings


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It’s okay, Bill. Star Trek V showed us that you didn’t really GET Star Trek. :-)

I think the basic plot of STV could have made a great film ( and their ARE some truly wonderfully played momemts such as when Sybok causes McCoy and Spock to experience their painful memories ).

Overall though, STV was a huge misstep – coming off the manistream acclaim of STIV, they should have capitalised on that momentum and really given us something great, but alas, I feel Shatner’s ego took over and that film in essence sounded the death of the orignal crew’s feature films ( hence them wanting to wrap things up with STVI ).

I dunno, STV is pretty close to some of the more absurd episodes of the original series. We just didn’t want that as a movie because we’d moved past that by then.

Yep it certainly felt close in tone to many TOS eps ( which I actually liked ), I just think Shatner should not have been given the reins after Nimoy.
I love Shat the Legend as much as anyone, and I do enjoy watching STV, but they could have done so much better. I remember at the time that this was all when he was formualting Jake Cardigan and ‘TEK WAR’.

Which episodes?

I think the issues are obvious and have nothing to do with Shatner. The writers strike, the effects etc. And I think people felt TVH was a formula for successful Star Trek and not just the nice change of pace that it was. So after the comedy film that TVH was, TFF was decidedly more Star Trek-like.

Trek V has some of the best moments of the entire franchise. Just correcting the SFX would improve it a lot. Though it certainly needed a few re-writes to get it just right.

paramount should never released the film in that condition.
needed a rewrite and better effects.

The characters interaction betweem Kirk, Spock and McCoy was the highlight of the film.

On the contrary, trek V had some of the best character moments. The movie makes for a great episode!

I think he got the relationship between the three main characters just fine and both Nimoy and McCoy had some good scenes. I think he helped to come up with an interesting villain; to people who say Shatner’s ego got the best of him, I’d remind them that the antagonist of the film was Spock’s brother, no someone related to Kirk.

I think the film was let down by Shatner’s lack of experience as a director, a studio that cheaped out on the production, and a story that really lacked focus.

It’s a very flawed film, easily the weakest of the TOS movies, but it still has some decent moments in it.

Shatner’s ego certainly got in the way on some level. I’m sure everyone has seen his interview about Kirk climbing the mountain in the film. It never (ever) gets old:


After awhile you kind of want to turn children away as he describes what he wants to do to that poor mountain.


As I recall, at the time, no one had done a freestyle climb of El Capitan before. That they now have, would seem to be an indication that whatever the reasons for expressing the idea in his art, his STAR TREK inspired someone to actually do something as TREK is wont to do.

That’s fine and understandable, its really just the way he goes on about it that makes it funny. Someone even made a song out of it lol.

According to Leonard Nimoy’s autobiography, Shatner’s original plan was to have Spock betray Kirk, and Shatner was extremely angry when Nimoy said that Spock would NEVER betray Kirk and refused to play the script as written. So the relationship among the three main characters is only right because Mr. Nimoy insisted on it.


I’ve been leary of Leonard Nimoy’s STAR TREK MEMORIES ever since he described in some detail on his television special of the same name how Spock employed the Vulcan deathgrip on Dr McCoy, which never happened. Spock used it on Kirk.

It’s understandable that his memories of 1966 might be a bit hazy by the time of Star Trek Memories. But his second autobiography — I Am Spock — was written only a few years after Star Trek V was made, so it seems likely that his memory for that time was still sharp.


Re: a few years?

Few? Paramount rushed V into production in 1988 and 64yo Nimoy finished editing I AM SPOCK in 1995.

The episode that featured the deathgrip was filmed in 1968 while LEONARD NIMOY’S STARTREK MEMORIES was filmed in 1982 by a 51yo Nimoy barely a decade and a half after.

I’m pushing 64, in excellent health, and I can’t recall events from 7 years ago as readily and clearly as I could memories from 14 years back when I was 51.

But a detail from a script is far less memorable than an argument with a co-worker that nearly derails the picture.


Re: But a detail from a script is far less memorable than an argument

Leaving the recall issue aside for the moment, Nimoy was notorious for determining the wrong person as being responsible for the reason for a row he threw during production while it was going on. For example, he blamed Fontana at the time and still did in the tv special of which we spoke, for the overly affectionate kissy-poo Spock in THIS SIDE OF PARADISE’s script, but it was Roddenberry who had added that. He remembers the arguments but not always that he wasn’t the master detective he thought he was at blaming the person he yelled at for being responsible for it.

Also, the death grip was more than a detail from a script but another physical bit that he created with Shatner.

Corlea – you are framing your position to take issue with William Shatner. And refusing to see any argument that takes exception to that.

TVH was great. But let’s not pretend it was amazing. Nimoy and Shatner are both talented.

You’re original post was that Shatner doesnt get Star Trek, which was ridiculous and clouded anything else you might say on the subject.

what a stupid thing to say Corylea. Trek V was the ipitomy of Star Trek. Its lack of success had nothing to do with Shatner not getting it. It had some of the best character moments. It created emotional scenes for the three leads while still giving depth to the supporting characters. It had a story with a message and tried to tackle religion.

That it fell short of greatness is no reflection of Shatner’s efforts.

Maybe if YOU got Trek, you’d see that.


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I couldn’t help but notice your pain…

On the contrary Trek 5 showed Bill did get TOS Star Trek very much. To this day its still the closest they ever came to recreating the TOS spirit between the main characters. Also it must be said Shatner had some grand budget breaking ideas which if Paramount had allowed him the budget to realise would have made the entire film a grand epic instead of a TV level double episode with limited resource. Only the unfinished VFX (they were unfinished as far as the producers were concerned). Paramount decided to release the film anyway instead of delay 6-9 months to reshot all the dodgy FX work.

I would have loved to have seen Kirk battle the rock creatures in the end. Shame the studio shorted the funds to get the effects done right.

Stay tuned, we talk Star Trek V in our upcoming Shuttle Pod podcast :-)

I’m gonna disagree with you a bit, Corylea…. Star Trek V, when God wasn’t stealing a starship, TOTALLY showed he understood what drove Star Trek: the friendship between Kirk, Spock, and Bones. That triumverate has never been as clearly portrayed, even in the all-revered “Wrath of Khan” as it is in “Final Frontier.” Yes, it’s a flawed film, but once you brush away the flaws, you have a beautiful portrait of friends who have survived life and death and life together.

Really? I think you all saw a different movie than I did.

Sorry, Trek V was closest to the original series in so many ways it’s not even funny. Of all the movies, that is the movie that feels like another TV episode, which is the highest compliment I could possibly give.

I’m taking my chick, who has never seen wrath of Khan, to this screening. I hope they don’t spoil the end of the film in that interview. I really envy her watching it on the big screen for her first time.

No screenings in Canada?

I just got my tickets. I can’t wait to see it on the big screen. I couldn’t see it when it was first in theatres, because I wasn’t born yet. Rewatching one of my favorite Trek movies should also be a good way to get me pumped up for the Discovery premier two weeks later.

Flawed film? Yes. Worst of the franchise? Bottom part for sure. But I loved the scenes with Kirk, Spock an McCoy. Had some amazing moments in it. Shatner wasn’t a great Director but it did read as a TOS episode and that’s not a bad thing. It was lacking in some areas but was still better than Nemesis.

It got watered down, as Harve Bennet said and tonight the star trek crew meat God

Who they “meat” is not God. This was Sybok’s arrogance….his vanity.

Actually, it’s a great message — albeit one already explored in “Way To Eden” — religious zealots driven by faith, and condone violence in their quest to justify their faith, driven by a charlatan who manipulates his followers with their own fears and insecurities, to pursue their agenda to their detriment and others, exposing the fallacy of their entire belief system. And it’s a strong message for today’s fragmented world.

Honestly I can always watch Star Trek V. Its so zippy and entertaining I’m never bored by it. Sue Shatner wasn’t a great director but there have been way worse films out there, other Star Trek included IMO.

All that said though, still….meeting God?

Slightly off-topic, but I would not waste money seeing this in one of the 600 United States venues next month. Fathom Events has an unfortunate history of using the lower-resolution advertising projector in the theaters where they do these events, as well as a highly-compressed satellite feed instead of a nice, clean, full-resolution hard disk for delivery of the content.

Believe me, I would love to see Star Trek II in a theater again, the way that it was meant to be seen, but this isn’t the way to see it. Picture quality is very important to me. I’m still holding out hope that we will get a 4K UHD Blu-ray release for the 35th anniversary.

The Hobbit trilogy looked fine via Fathom events, as did Interstellar. So did Jaws and Labyrinth. Anything booked via TCM seems to be a bust through. I’ve also seen crappy projections for both Thelma and Luise and Dirty Dancing. But Ferris Bueller looked fine.

There HAS to be some factor for predetermining which way any fathom event (such as STII in this case) will swing.

“Why don’t we invent something absolutely new?”

Funny and now 35 years later there is a rumor someone wants to make a TV show out of it. Sigh

I know, its probably just a silly rumor and nothing more but sadly whats old in Hollywood these days is new again…..just older.

It all depends on how you tell your story.
We shall see how Discovery works out.

You can see what Shatner was trying to do with V i guess all the problems just caused too much disruption I remember before it was released on dvd he asked Paramount for a few hundred $$$$ to complete and alter it but he didnt get it. I noticed Guardians of the galaxy 2 ripped parts of ST:V off for it’s movie so it had something.

I would love to see William Shatner play captain Kirk again!!He will always be my hero!!!!

@Jill — I really wish they had come up with a RED-type movie vehicle for Shatner, depicting him as a retired Starfleet officer, recalled for a special ops mission because he’s the only guy still alive who was there to consult, and then it all goes wrong, and he ends up being more than an adviser. Sadly, they really needed Nimoy to make that kind of film work, and now he’s gone. They could still pair Shatner with some young actor like Matt Damon, and find a way to make it work. But putting the old band back together for an age appropriate movie would have been great, especially because they could really sell the comedy like in RED, since Shatner really can’t really play a plausible entirely dramatic Kirk anymore.

While I kind of agree with Bill’s point of view that it would have been nice to take the show in a whole new direction for “Star Trek II”, I think fans liked the connection to the old show with Khan’s return, and the film sprinkling in some new ideas like Spock’s young protégé, Kirk’s still “undiscovered” Son, an old flame from Kirk’s past, a trip to Kirk’s home, among others.
When you think of it, the other films also paid homage to the shows roots with Trek III (Klingons return), Trek IV (time travel/humor return)…I think the failure of “Star Trek-TMP” since it was so different than the TV show is what made the series with Harve Bennett at the helm, make it so focused on using elements of the classic tv series.

and STV has some great one liners and scenes too.

‘captain, not in front of the Klingons!’

Eventhough it will never happen…it would be great if they recreated the effects for Star Trek V. They was a lot of good elements in the film….Shatner climbing that mountain in the opening of the movie was not one of them. Seriously….a middle age man free climbing and hanging off mountain was laugh out loud.

I think this was the film , that started the villain craze. I mean having a great villain with fantastic background is great. But why do films now always seem have to have a villain. Have we gone back to the 1920’s type of stereotype with the guy in the black hat and outfit waxing his long mustache? Not all good, or great stories need a villain. Maybe a McGuffin from time to time. Star Trek 4 didn’t have or need a villain , and did great numbers at the box office. It is just hard to find a story like that. I just hate these news bits about new movies coming out, where they point out that such and such project has found there villain. I mean how about such and such has great freakin script to make a movie with? Yes, I love a great interesting villain too, but can go back to just great story telling?

Can’t wait to see this on the big screen again!!! – Totally takes me back to when I originally saw it that way as a kid.