Preview: ‘Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan – The Making Of The Classic Film’ With Authors Interview

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 This coffee table book features unpublished archival material, behind-the-scenes photography, production art, cut scenes, script extracts, and much more alongside new and exclusive interviews with the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 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.

Cover for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan – The Making of the Classic Film

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.

Publicity still of executive producer Harve Bennett and producer Robert Sallin (Titan)

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.

Julie and Leonard Nimoy (Photo: courtesy of Julie Nimoy and David Knight.)

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.

Publicity still of DeForest Kelley, William Shatner, and Leonard Nimoy (Titan)

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.

Authors John and Maria Jose Tenuto

Available Tuesday

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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That should be “Khhhhhhhaaaaaaaannnnnn!” :D

Yes, we ckhaaaaaan!

I Khan’t believe my schoolboy error.

Looking forward to this one!

The cast photo (the color one anyway) comes up on various Facebook pages from time to time, and there is a certain contingent of fans who swear the woman to the left of Walter Koenig is Nichelle Nichols. I don’t think it could possibly be her as he complexion is far too light, but that crowd says it is just a lighting effect.

What does everyone think?

It doesn’t even actually look like her to me.

Anyone that thinks that is Nichelle should immediately report to sickbay for an eye exam…

It’s not Ms. Nichols. It begs the question, who is she?

Is it Judy Leavitt, Koenig’s wife? Or might it be the lady who was the executive assistant on the film, whose name escapes me right now but had some tasty quotes in the Altman roundtable quote book about Trek’s first 25 years?

Uh-huh, a “lighting effect” that just happens to not affect the complexion of the other Black people in the crowd.

Definitely not Nichols.

Not Nichols. Perhaps the book will caption everyone.

Doesn’t look like her at all. Besides, she’s clearly just to the left of Shatner, Captain Kirk, wearing a checkered shirt.

It’s the Assistant to the Producers.

I had an opportunity to interview VFX guy Scott Farrar a couple years back and he wholly confirmed your account in the Altman book about the motion-control potato on Abel’s TMP. Would never have known to ask if I hadn’t read that, thanks! (and that’s coming from one of a handful of folks who has made it an ongoing concern to always bring up TMP when interviewing crew guys about other stuff … in so many ways it is a beautiful train wreck, at least when viewed from a distance and not having to live through it.)

First caption I read is wrong, indicating that is a frame from the finished film. That image is NOT in the movie. Too bad, as it would make for a very nice shot! Am more than a little dismayed, as I had heard from a friend in the know that these writers are tireless researchers who really know their subject.

Interesting that when trying to edit my comment above, the system won’t let me, saying I’m posting comments too quickly. Wanted to clarify that it was about the vfx image and that it probably was intended to go into the shots leading up to ‘phaser lock just blew’ line.

That edit glitch has been around for a while now.

Same here. I tried to fix a type but it said I was posting to quickly. Then after I waited a while it said it was too late to edit.

Next at BugFest 2023

I’ve seen that still a lot over the years. There’s also another publicity still of the Enterprise firing phasers with a nebula-like background but redder. Was on the VHS cover art. Would be interesting to know the backstory with those.

The Titan and Hero Collector making of books have been amazing, but I do catch the odd error in them here and there.

That other one has been described a few times as a promo composite, not an actual frame from the finished film. ILM made up some of those for each film they worked on back then, especially EMPIRE.

This one really looks like it could be a real shot that was dropped — the matching bluescreen element of Enterprise certainly supports this, though I’d guess the RELIANT element in the final is the bigger model, the lighting seems far too intricate to be the baby-size ship — but would have to look at a full spread of Mike Minor’s storyboards to confirm that.

I do recall that there was supposed to be another shot — at least it was boarded — in the near-miss sequence in mid-film when we see Reliant sliding just over Enterprise after the ‘here it comes’ bit, and it makes sense that some things drop out during editing no matter how well conceived. ILM certainly departed from Minor’s details on the genesis cave, which was supposed to be a series of volcanic bubbles instead of just one where our guys are at.

Some confirmation this shot was a promo image, in that it is part of Greg Jein’s collection of images up for auction: along with another oft-seen promo image not part of the finished film.

Book looks great! Have money, will buy.

I have literally lost track of how many times I’ve seen WOK, including how many times I saw it in theaters when it came out. Epic, and timeless. This would be a treat to read.

It has many, many flaws. A missed opportunity.

Your coverage of non-fiction books has been very spotty. I recall an article or two RE: the first volume of the definitive chronicling of TOS (These Are The Voyages), but nothing at all of the later books on Seasons 2 and 3 and the films. That, perhaps, because a few folks with axes to grind – such as kmart (Kevin Martin) loudly lobbied against the books. But a favored few, with ‘connections’ like Mr. Tenuto, get their books promoted. Which all boils down to the reality that visitors to this site aren’t allowed an opportunity to learn about and judge for themselves *all* the non-fiction offerings on Trek.

The site is not called TrekNonFictionBooks. I don’t think people come here expecting to read about every Trek book published.


The tagline for this site is: ‘Everything New In Trek’. I believe that includes books, homeboy. There are a few of us fans who are able to read and enjoy reading.

You’re welcome to start a rival website and run it in your spare time. Be warned that moderating pedantic and ungrateful naysayers in the comment section will be a thankless task.

Your rude insults indicate that further discussions with you are a waste of time.

Awwwww…I’m sorry you’re so sensitive. I apologize if you were offended.

Titan Books became the defacto nonfic home for TREK earlier this century though they were doing books in the 90s. I’m not a fan of theirs owing to various issues, but they have managed to glom onto some good authors in their mix. That sets them above some of the lesser forms.

I think the most astounding fact is that Kirsty Alley looked so great back then and somewhere along the way kept adding the tonnage.

That’s the most astounding fact?

She had a sad last couple of decades. She was a very fun actor in the 1980s and 1990s. Her comedic chops on Cheers were wonderful. She was like a character out of a classic screwball comedy from the 1930s.

Isn’t it terrible how most people get older and don’t maintain the same excellent physique they had when they were 25? What a disgrace! :-(

You have to love that Shatner is one of the only ones in costume/uniform. That’s so Shatner. :-)

I’m reminded of that story he tells about the time he got into his uniform at home and drove himself to the filming location out in the desert when it was still dark. (I presume this was Star Trek V.) A cop pulled him over and said, “Where do you think you’re going?” Shatner answered, “To my starship!” The cop gave him the Vulcan salute and let him go.

Eh, it looks like Kristi Alley is in costume as well. And having a little fun with it, too.

Koenig and Alley are in costume, Kelley is half in-costume and I think that’s Besch’s movie outfit as well.

Butrick too.

Paul Winfield, barely visible, is as well. Not sure about the guy who played Jedda, between Winfield and Alley.

All the cast who were involved in the Genesis Cave scenes are in costume. Kelley is not wearing his Monster Maroon coat but has a robe over his green uniform shirt.

this will pair very nicely w/ the La-La Land Records special edition soundtrack

I remember trying to collect those Pepsi cans of the characters from Phantom Menace in 1999. It looks like Tenutos got them all!

That made our day, @VZK!

I’m looking forward to this.

The book they did on the making of TMP was absolutely fantastic and filled with great pictures and content. This will likely be pricey but a nice Christmas present, if you’re listening, Santa! (Pretty please).

I love TMP. I’ll need to pick that one up too.

same publisher, different authors

Wasn’t that an art and visual effects and not making of. The actual making of is unofficial and they wouldn’t give the author the rights to have pictures in his book. By Preston Neal Jones. Called Return to Tomorrow. Out of print.

Ah, you’re right, TMP book was about the visual effects, I’d forgotten, but I did find it a great book and beautiful to leaf though.

Nice to see there must still be demand for it, reselling for between 50 and 250 bucks. I thought ahead and pre-bought two copies (wish I had bought more), as one copy disintegreated from reuse after the first couple years (same thing happened with both of my DS9 COMPANIONs.)

Still think somebody should put together an online image supplement to that book. I was looking at my copy of an old ART OF STAR TREK book proposal solicited by Pocket back in 92 (very little relation to the thing they wound up doing later, mine would have had accurate captions and a lot more text content and better imagery, all focused on the TOS era) and realized I had amassed a really good pile of imagery that went beyond the usual Starlog/CFQ/Cinefex sources, like model kit cover imagery and Syd Mead’s OBLAGON book. At this point, a group of dedicated TMPers could probably make a vid supplement for RETURN TO TOMORROW that would really do the thing justice (while also correcting the very few errors in the text, which are largely just misremembrances by interviewees, like confusing the names of screenwriters.)

There was a small Making of way back when II came out. Didn’t it have a picture of Regula and the Genesis planet on it? I remember the book was not as large, nor have the beautiful color section of production photographs that TMP had with Susan Sackett’s Making of TMP book. I still have that one and, unfortunately, the color pages are all loose and falling out but its still all there.

I’m definitely going to get this one.

Yeah, that was by Allan Asherman, who also did STAR TREK INTERVIEWS and the COMPENDIUM. Some very good interviews in that little book — that’s the only place that mentions how Jim Danforth was used by production to solicit the effects bids. It doesn’t explain why ILM got the job when Trumbull underbid them by something like 40%, but I guess we don’t want to get into that, even now …