Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is considered a sci-fi classic and it is often cited as the best film of the franchise, and the story of how the film came to is a fascinating one. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan – The Making of the Classic Film is a new book coming out this week from Titan that takes a deep dive into the making of The Wrath of Khan based on new research. This coffee table book features unpublished archival material, behind-the-scenes photography, production art, cut scenes, script extracts, and much more alongside new and exclusive interviews with the creatives, including director Nicholas Meyer. We have an exclusive preview and interview with book authors John and Maria Jose Tenuto.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan – The Making of the Classic Film
John Tenuto and Maria Jose Tenuto are academic-award-winning sociology professors with over two decades of deep expertise in pop culture and an even deeper love of Star Trek. (Their wedding song was the Star Trek: Voyager theme.) Their research and analysis has been featured in a number of TV, print, and online outlets (including TrekMovie.com) and on the Netflix TV show The Toys That Made Us and the History Channel’s The Center Seat: 55 Years of Star Trek docuseries. Speaking to TrekMovie via email, the Tenutos talked about their motivation to write a book about this movie that came out in 1982:
We wanted to help make the credits of the movie come alive for fellow fans so that the names could be associated with their contributions. The making of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is really the story of a group of artists and creatives who, despite challenges and limitations of budget, time, and technology, came together to create something unique and meaningful. It was a story worth telling. Because it has been more than 40 years, we have lost many of those who made the film and we thought of the book as a tribute to them. We dedicated the book to those we have lost.
Below are a couple of images from the book featuring group shots of the cast and crew taken on one of the few days that both William Shatner and Ricardo Montalban were on set at the same time because the two never acted with each other face-to-face. The Reliant set was a redress of the Enterprise set and filming was done at different times. Also, the second image has Spock’s coffin, the idea being that Leonard could not be there because Spock could not be there, which is why William Shatner is holding the picture of Leonard.
Of course, Star Trek II is a storied film that has been covered in other books and documentaries, but as such it has almost become mythological. The Tentos put their academic skills to work to find new stories and dispel some misconceptions:
Not only were there many new discoveries to make, such as what eventually happened to Khan’s wig, we really wanted to try to set straight many of the myths about the making of the film. For example, we discuss whether the film was ever going to be a movie of the week. Through memos and interviews, we were able to finally answer those questions.
The Tenutos also talked to TrekMovie about their research process:
We approached the book as sociologists and researchers. We relied heavily on interviews, archival interviews, production memos, and photographs. The resources at the University of Iowa, which feature the Nicholas Meyer Paper Collection, were invaluable. Nicholas Meyer, Ken Ralston, Judy Elkins, and Laura Banks gave us wonderful interviews and new information. A very special part of the book are the remembrances of Julie Nimoy and Anita Montalban Smith about their fathers, and we learned a great deal about Leonard and Ricardo’s dedication and preparation from their daughters.
Julie Nimoy wrote the foreward to the book, which includes a personal picture (below) of herself and her father from that time period.
Of course, after over 40 years, taking on a project like this isn’t easy, as John and Maria Jose Tenuto explained:
The most challenging problem was the passage of time itself. Resources were scattered, some items were among fan collections due to auctions, and we had lost such great actors and behind-the-scenes artists during those years.
In the end, it was all worth it. The authors explain why they feel the film deserves the attention:
We have always believed that The Wrath of Khan is the fulcrum movie upon which Star Trek turned. If TWOK had failed, we doubt Star Trek would have endured as it did. If TWOK had failed, no Search for Spock and Voyage Home, which may have meant no Next Generation. TWOK was really Star Trek’s proving ground. That Nicholas Meyer, Harve Bennett, Robert Sallin, ILM, and their teams were able to create such an amazing film under the constraints faced is as fascinating a story as the film itself. While the film means many things, for us, it is a story about parents and children. Everyone in the film has a real or symbolic child. Kirk and Carol have David, Spock has Saavik, Scotty has Peter Preston, Khan has his followers, and even the Enterprise has its cadets. Its about generations and what they can learn from each other, perhaps, most importantly, the dangers of hubris which Kirk and Khan both share in the film. Kirk learns his lesson because of the sacrifice of Spock. It is appropriate then that a film about generations has itself lasted generations and inspired generations.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan – The Making of the Classic Film arrives on Tuesday, September 5 from Titan Books. The 192-page hardcover book measures roughly 12 inches square. You can order it at Amazon for $45.00.
More spreads from the book…
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