Thursday, May 27, 2004

By the time Star Trek II was ready to shoot, rumors about Spock's death in the film were already raising alarms in fandom. Meyer's shooting script plays with the expectation a bit by having Spock "killed" early in the film in what turns out to be a simulated battle during a training mission. But the film does end with Spock's death, after he's saved the ship, and his funeral, so movingly shot that bagpipes playing "Amazing Grace" have become just about standard for funerals ever since (including the funeral of Gene Roddenberry.)

But, says Bennett now, the first test audiences were completely devastated by the ending. There wasn't a sound in the theatre, and people left depressed. The studio smelled disaster. Something had to be done.

But the Spock death thread had already been stretched in various directions, beginning well before the film started shooting. Asherman's book begins with Leonard Nimoy in China, shooting a TV miniseries, when he is shocked to see on the front page of the Wall Street Journal a story headlined, "Does Mr. Spock Die in the Next Episode of 'Star Trek' Saga?"

Oddly, a clipping of this very article is the only artifact of the period that's survived in my Star Trek files about this movie. It is a long article, expressing the alarm of various fans, including "a ghetto youth in Pittsburgh" who claims "the character of Spock has inspired him to steer clear of drugs and street gangs." But much of it is, of course, about money: how much Paramount might lose if Spock's death keeps people away.

Asherman discusses some of this with Nimoy, who is upset by fans pre-judging an event in a film they haven't yet seen. What neither of them mentions, but what the article makes clear, is that some of this dissatisfaction was being stirred up by none other than Gene Roddenberry.

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