In the current era of electronic communications, social media, and scoop reporting, it seems that there’s not too much which can stay secret. Even the most wealthy and powerful company globally, Apple, can’t keep secrets from the public. Today, March 8, 2022, Apple announced its latest product offering — a new iPad, two new iPhones, a larger monitor, and a new desktop Mac computer. The truth is, for folks who wanted to know what today’s announcement was, all they had to do was look on a few Apple fan sites, like Macrumors.
This is all true for celebrities as well. Recently, Chris Pine, known to “Star Trek” fans everywhere as Captain Kirk in the Kelvin series of films, walked out of his house with a beard. This led to rampant speculation on why the actor has a beard and what the beard means.
Now, imagine that if an entire script to a major motion picture leaked like the news of Pine’s beard. That’s precisely what happened in 1982 when the team working on the sequel to “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” found that their story was no longer a secret.
Thanks to an article from Starlog Magazine’s December 1982 issue, fans can look back at a long and detailed summary of the progress of “Star Trek III.” The article also revealed how William Shatner helped save the Paramount lot from burning down completely when a fire broke out.
Fans know the story, which was produced by Bennett and directed by Leonard Nimoy. “The Search for Spock” featured a quest by Captain James Kirk (Shatner) to return the soul of Spock (Nimoy) into his regenerated body. That soul was living inside Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley), and Kirk had to steal the Enterprise to complete this mission.
A Fighting Chance to Live…
In a recent episode of the “Treksperts,” Burnett listed the myriad of reasons why “Star Trek III” was not up to the standard set by “The Wrath of Khan.” Among them were the decisions made by the characters, which seemed unnatural and not in line with their years on television or in previous movies.
“Why didn’t Kirk realize what was going on and take Sarek to see McCoy?” Burnett asked.
The New York Times’ review gave the film a passing grade, but not by much.
“For all the fancy effects and sprawling panoramas, the scale remains small,” wrote Janet Maslin in 1984. “The disadvantage to this — a certain visual blandness, even tackiness, to the story’s more grandiose settings — is well outweighed by the intimacy that exists among Enterprise crew members.”
Other fans defend “Star Trek III,” including Trek fan Randy Wilson, who said that the movie “suffers by comparison with the films that came before and after it.”
Some of those details were in the original plan for a third Trek film, but much of it was not. Today, fans can buy a copy of Bennett’s “Star Trek III: Return to Genesis” treatment for a couple of hundred dollars. However, thanks to writer David Eversole, who posted a summary of “Return to Genesis,” fans don’t need to spend the latinum to get the gist of the story.
This original version had the Romulans (not Klingons) as the villains fighting against to Kirk. Bennett wanted to cast someone “handsome” and “swarthy” to play the Romulan Commander. Bennett had the Romulans at the Genesis Planet from the start to mine dilithium, as the new world was rich in the substance. According to Memory Alpha, the Romulans were hunted by a “feral Spock.”
‘Balance of Terror’
Meanwhile, the Vulcans were angered that the Federation would create a device that could be used for such destructive power. The Vulcans decided to leave the Federation, and Kirk traveled to Vulcan to try to convince them otherwise.
The Enterprise crew would have done so in a stolen Romulan Bird of Prey, not a Klingon ship. This new ship was created by Industrial Light and Magic, but should not have been named the same thing as the Romulan vessel. As this Reddit article details, by “Star Trek V,” many production staff didn’t realize that there was any difference, and thus became part of official Trek canon.
Burnett told Gizmodo that the “Return to Genesis” film would have “been a more serious, ‘perilous’ and above all epic story” than what fans got. He also felt that having a “thoughtful villain” like the Romulan in the TOS episode “Balance of Terror,” would also have worked better. That Romulan Commander was portrayed by Mark Lenard, who also played Sarek, Spock’s father on television and on film.
Burnett told Gizmodo that the original plot and treatment “might have elevated the franchise to a new level.”