Thursday, May 27, 2004

Remember him? He was the guy who started it all, relegated now to the title of Executive Consultant. But this film was distancing itself from him as much as possible. It's clear even today: in so many ways, Star Trek II acts as if Star Trek I The Motion Picture doesn't exist, and never happened. There's nothing in this movie that evinces any direct continuity with the events of the first. In fact the movie starts where The Motion Picture starts: once again, Kirk is a desk-bound admiral, wasting away. Once again, he's full of self-doubt and has aging issues. Again a crisis puts him in command. He even rides over to the Enterprise in a shuttle, to many of the same shots created for TMP.

Well, they could ignore his movie if they wanted, but they weren't going to kill off the character that meant the most to him. In lobbying to save Spock, Roddenberry used the fans (as he always had, and became very good at doing), and he went right at Nimoy. "If, years ago, Basil Rathbone had said he was sick of playing Sherlock Holmes, would they have killed off Sherlock Holmes?...I can understand someone tiring of a role, but in science fiction there are ways of handling things like this to make it appear Spock is dead, but still leaving some future options. What if, five years from now, another talented actor wants to try the role or if Mr. Nimoy himself changes his mind? It's a bit unfair for someone to kill off a character I created."

Stern words, and as it turned out, highly prophetic. For it didn't take Nimoy five years to change his mind. Spock hadn't even died yet before he realized several things: he was having a good time making this movie, he felt closer to the character than he realized, and that the movie was turning out so well the franchise might really have a future. So when it came time to shoot the scene he didn't want to do it. (He was also reportedly dismayed by the extreme fan reaction against Spock's death, and against him for agreeing to it. Nimoy it seems got death threats for killing Spock! Harve Bennett quotes him as saying, "I did not sign on to be accused of murder.")

It may seem all a bit exaggerated now, but at the time its importance might be indicated by the reaction of the crew while the death scene was being filmed: they were moved, they were appalled. That all the actors were in tears is one thing. But so was the crew. That's how real Spock was.

By this time, says Bennett now, he'd sensed Nimoy's discomfort with his decision. He says they discussed it just before shooting the final sequence. Was there something Nimoy could do, Bennett wondered, that left the door open? It was Nimoy who came up with the idea of mind-melding with the unconscious McCoy ( because he'd just neck-pinched him, so it was a one-two Vulcan combination) and saying only the single suggestive word, "Remember."

This was the film that the test audiences saw. It was the only film, Meyer insisted, that he was going to make. But a couple of scenes were added that reinforced the idea that Spock might very well be back. One was a lovely shot of Spock's sleek black coffin in the intense greenery of the Genesis Planet---a sudden Eden of accelerated growth that the Genesis Device had created. Then there was some additional dialogue as Kirk and crew looked out at the planet. Kirk quotes Spock as saying 'there are always possibilities' and that they must visit this planet again.

Then the bow on the package of this film is tied up tight when someone asks how Kirk feels. Asked that question at the beginning of the movie, his answer was "I feel old." Asked it now, he replies, "I feel young."

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