Friday, March 06, 2015

Harve Bennett 1930-2015

It makes me sad indeed to be writing about the death of someone involved in Star Trek for the second week in a row.

Harve Bennett was the producer who rescued Star Trek after the first movie cost Paramount more money than it wanted to spend for the kind of box office it ultimately garnered. They asked Bennett if he could produce a cheaper, more profitable movie, and he gave them the best one: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. That was the movie that made Star Trek a viable film franchise, and without those movies, I think it's fair to say we might never have seen Star Trek: The Next Generation. Bennett went on and produced Treks III, IV and V, as well.

The reason Star Trek II works so damn well, of course, is the characters. Bennett went back to the original episodes and figured out what made the show work so well; he sized up its strengths and created movies that would play to them, honoring the characters and the tropes that made Star Trek what is was, rather than trying desperately to reinvent them for the Star Wars audience. The film's director, Nicholas Meyer, was anxious that Bennett wasn't always getting the credit he deserved for shaping the film, going back to the origins of the characters, and deciding to bring back Khan.

Bennett, Meyer, and Leonard Nimoy really had so much to do with creating the film's narrative. And it's one of the narratives that turned me into the Trek fan I am today and have been for damn near 30 years.

Jeez, I hope I'm not back here next Friday writing about Nicholas Meyer.

The Star Trek series... well, as much as I enjoy the JJ Abrams movies, I've said many times that I don't consider them actual Star Trek, but fun space adventure movies. They don't work as Star Trek. I think what the series really needs now is another Harve Bennett; someone who can go in and assess the strengths and figure out why it worked and what will make it work now, rather than just updating it and turning it into a series of action movies.

The work of someone like Harve Bennett is so easy to take for granted, but so integral. I thank him for what he did and for giving us Star Trek II.

1 comment:

Semaj said...

Damn, this bad news indeed.

Actually another Trek Producer died the same week as Nimoy. Maurice Hurley

Harve Bennett and Nimoy got along smoothly on ST3, but things got very heated during STIV. I read that they had i major falling out.

However, they patch things up on STV somewhat.

If you get a chance, read his Star Fleet Acad movie treatment.

Another side note, Gene and Harve had an not so nice encounter during the TOS run when he was very young. Gene treating him badly, but in turn Harve took over the franchise and Gene was demoted.