Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is widely regarded as the best film in the Star Trek movie series, but it is also known for being a major turning point in the history of Star Trek as a franchise.
The film was directed by Nicholas Meyer, but perhaps more notable was that Harve Bennett took over as executive producer, replacing Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, who had executive produced Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Roddenberry was famously not pleased with the direction that Wrath of Khan took the Star Trek characters, and he was sure to let Meyer know it.
“When asked this question before about Gene Roddenberry, my recollection was that we didn’t have much interaction,” Meyer tells Trek Movie. “I was introduced to him and met him and that was it. He certainly had nothing to do with the actual filming or editing of the movie. However, some years ago I was back at my alma mater, the University of Iowa, which is the repository of my papers, and an exhibition was set up in which, to my astonishment, were displayed a series memoranda between myself and Gene Roddenberry that went on and on about the script and his many issues with it.
“This exchange, which in candor was not always entirely pleasant, had been completely erased from my memory until the material fact of it was brought to my attention,” Meyer continues. “I was very, very surprised. The Star Trek that Gene created became, I think, ultimately a bottle into which many people subsequently poured their own vintages. The bottle never changed, but the various writers and directors and so forth who contributed to what people call ‘the franchise’ – word I am leery of – they did their own thing with it. And I was perhaps the first person in that long line. And Gene was
In the end, Meyer believes he and Roddenberry had differing visions for Starfleet, Star Trek, and its characters.
“I was not at all averse to conflict,” Meyer recalls. “I did not, and do not, believe in the perfectibility of man. And although I think the Star Trek aspiration and inter-ethnicity are all for the good, I was still interested in people that to me were recognizably human, and that included being either petty or vain or having different kinds of emotional agendas as we have since the beginning of time. I think that Gene took very grave exception to that notion.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan returns to theaters in September to celebrate its 35th anniversary.