In the 1990s Star Trek’s Leonard Nimoy almost made franchise crossover history, but executives at FOX pulled the plug on plans to have him direct a Doctor Who movie… unless he agreed to play the villain.
Nimoy almost beamed to Gallifrey
In the mid-1990s there was an attempt to reinvigorate Doctor Who which went off the air in 1989. A television movie was planned as a backdoor pilot, which was being produced by Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment for broadcast on the FOX Network in the USA and the BBC in the UK. The film would introduce a new Doctor (the Eighth), played by Paul McGann. And the project came very close to having a sort of Star Trek connection with Leonard Nimoy. Following his feature film debut with Star Trek III in 1984 Nimoy began a successful career behind the camera, including the 1987 hit comedy Three Men and a Baby, he continued directing into the ’90s.
And according to Doctor Who movie producer Philip Segal, Nimoy had been selected to direct. Segal tells Radio Times:
I had several meetings with Leonard Nimoy who wanted to direct it. I met with him at Amblin [Entertainment], and we had wonderful conversations. He was genuinely excited about the possibility.
However, after getting closer to production, the US broadcaster stepped in the way:
FOX did not want him to do it. They were concerned it looked very kitsch to go, ‘Aren’t we clever? We’ve got Spock from Star Trek directing.’
According to the producer, FOX would only allow Nimoy to direct if he agreed to play the film’s villain The Master, The Doctor’s longtime adversary. Segal considered the idea “insulting” to Nimoy as that “wasn’t the object of the exercise.” In the end, the film was directed by Geoffrey Sax with the role of The Master going to Eric Roberts. The film did end up with a bit of a Trek connection with the casting of Daphne Ashbrook as The Doctor’s companion Grace Holloway. In 1993 Ashbrook guest starred as the titular “Melora” on Deep Space Nine.
In the end Doctor Who The Movie didn’t garner enough ratings to justify moving on to a series and the franchise remained dormant until 2005 when it was successfully revived on the BBC, still running to this day. As for Nimoy, his final feature film ended up being the 1994 comedy Holy Matrimony, followed up by directing an episode of the short-lived UPN sci-fi series Deadly Games in 1995.
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