It was thirty years ago, in 1986, that Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, one of the better-liked of the films featuring the cast of Star Trek: The Original Series, was released. Directed by series co-star Leonard Nimoy, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home was the most lighthearted of the six original Star Trek movies, and closed out the storyline begun in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and continued in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.
The film’s plot saw the crew of the USS Enterprise traveling back to the 1980s in order to prevent Earth from being destroyed in the 23rd century. The result was a fun fish-out-of-water story that played up the crew’s individual quirks.
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home proved to be a rousing success. The film’s modern day setting and humorous tone helped draw in audiences from outside of the hardcore Star Trek fandom. By the end of its theatrical run Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home was the highest-grossing Star Trek movie yet, and it remained so until J.J. Abrams rebooted the franchise in 2009.
While it seems almost everyone was happy with the end result, there was a lot of behind-the-scenes drama involved in the making of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Steve Meerson co-wrote the script for Star Trek IV with Peter Krikes, and he told The Hollywood Reporter about some of their early meetings with Nimoy and the film’s producers and crew.
"They knew they wanted to make a movie that would make a statement about the environment. They knew that they wanted it to include whales. They had a notion that time travel might enter into it. But it's basically all they had," Meerson recalls.
It took somewhere in the neighborhood of 7-10 drafts before everyone involved was more-or-less happy with the screenplay. The final draft even included a role for comedian Eddie Murphy, one of the biggest comedians of the 1980s.
"It was always the same story that approved, but the original draft included a part for Eddie Murphy. Eddie was on the lot at Paramount at the time and arguably was the biggest star in the word. They had told us he was a huge Star Trek fan," says Meerson.
Murphy would have played a Berkeley astrophysicist who came into contact with the time-traveling Enterprise crew. However, the deal fell through and Murphy’s character was replaced by Gillian Taylor, a marine biologist and love interest for Captain Kirk, played by Catherine Hicks.
"At the beginning of the process, it was actually a lot of fun. As the process progressed, it became less fun, because it became more political. And I don't say that with any bitterness. It's just the way things work in all businesses," says Meerson. "We began to feel like at a certain point that this was going to be taken away from us, which in fact, it was."
The script was passed along to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan writer Nicholas Meyer. Meyer is set to return to the Star Trek franchise as a writer on 2017’s Star Trek: Discovery CBS All Access series. In the end, Meerson maintains that little changed between what he and Krikes’ script and Meyers’ final draft.
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