Why Did Kirstie Alley Leave ‘Star Trek?’

Kirstie Alley as Saavik

Paramount Kirstie Alley as Saavik

She made a name for herself in Hollywood and in the hearts of “Star Trek” fans the world over. Her performance as Saavik in “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” was one of many reasons why the film was so well-received by critics and moviegoers alike. 

If she was so great as the Vulcan understudy for Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy), why did Kirstie Alley leave the franchise?

To this day, Ms. Alley’s departure from “Star Trek” is hotly debated and controversial among fans. There are debates online over the better Saavik, Alley, or Robin Curtis, who replaced her for “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.” Some wonder who was the best female Vulcan in the film series, including Kim Cattrall in the mix. Cattrall took on the role of Valeris for “Star Trek IV: The Undiscovered Country.”

Alley Was Cast by ‘Wrath’ Director Nicholas Meyer

Star Trek II Enterprise Leaves SpacedockSpock allows Lt. Saavik to pilot Enterprise out of spacedock much to the dismay of Kirk and McCoy. This is one of my favorite scenes from The Wrath of Khan.2010-04-25T23:28:29Z

What is so special about Alley’s performance as Saavik in “Star Trek II” is that it was essentially her first paying gig in Hollywood. Director and screenwriter Nicholas Meyer cast Alley out of obscurity and gave her the role of a lifetime. 

“That was my first acting job,” Alley told The Chicago Tribune in 1996. “So I owe everything to that film, to Nick.”

“I remember every single, solitary second of the experience,” Alley said in the interview. “I was the happiest girl in the world because Nick gave me the biggest shot anyone could ever give an actress.”

Saavik Was Supposed to Be Spock’s Daughter

Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan Deleted ScenesFrom the Captain Kirk Page: Two discarded scenes from Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan, that are not on the DVD or ABC versions. It includes a scene where Saavik is revealed to be half-Romulan, and a scene where Kirk introduces Saavik to David Marcus.2006-07-14T04:11:45Z

Saavik’s genealogy was supposed to be half-Vulcan and half-Romulan. While this was never explained on “Star Trek II” or the subsequent appearances of Saavik, this is one of the facts that is written and remembered about the character

According to Forgotten Trek, Saavik was initially supposed to be the daughter of Spock. After encountering the Romulan operative known only as the “Romulan Commander,” Spock’s genetic material was used to spawn Saavik. This all was to have taken place after the TOS episode “The Enterprise Incident.”

This was all in one of the script treatments written by Samuel A. Peeples. Saavik’s heritage was discussed by Spock (Leonard Nimoy) and Kirk (William Shatner) in a deleted scene. Still, no mention was made of Saavik being Spock’s daughter. 

Nimoy Didn’t Want a Half-Romulan

STLV Interview : Robin CurtisEpisode #191 First coming to Star Trek as Kirstie Alley's replacement for Lieutenant Saavik, Robin Curtis brought a genuine warmth to the character that cared for Spock during our original gang's rescue of the Vulcan science officer before being left behind on Vulcan as they returned to Earth in the following movie. Robin is now…2019-08-17T00:31:49Z

Thanks to a two-part interview on StarTrek.com, fans can read precisely why Alley’s Saavik was so different from Curtis’s version. 

“Leonard felt that Saavik was Vulcan,” said Curtis in the interview. “That was his choice, and his choice was my choice. I played Saavik the way he asked me to play her. My job as the actress is to do what my director wants, and that’s what I did.“ 

Alley Left ‘Star Trek’ Over Money

Cheers – Rebecca Howe funny moments Part 1 HDClips of Kirstie Alley playing Rebecca Howe in Cheers Featuring Rebecca Howe, Sam Malone, Woody Boyd, Carla Tortelli, Cliff Clavin, Norm Peterson, Lilith Sternin and Frasier Crane. patreon.com/roxycakes2020-12-05T13:45:32Z

According to Kirk himself, Alley left the franchise over money. In his book “Star Trek Movie Memories,” Shatner wrote that Alley was given an offer that she could refuse.

“Paramount’s offer came in very, very low; it was less than they offered me for ‘Star Trek,’ so I figured they weren’t interested in me playing the part,” Alley told Shatner. 

Shatner also wrote that when Curtis took on the role of Saavik, she gave a “solid performance in a rather thankless role.”

Nimoy also went on the record with Shatner as to why Alley didn’t come back as Saavik.

“We just couldn’t afford her,” Nimoy said in “Star Trek Movie Memories.” Nimoy was both a star and the director of the film. “She’d been paid a decent sum for ‘Star Trek II’ for a beginner, and I think the studio was prepared to pay her more than twice that for ‘III.’”

Interestingly, Alley replaced another actress who left a successful show when she stepped into the television show “Cheers.” Alley replaced Shelley Long, who left “Cheers” to concentrate on a film career

READ NEXT: How Did Starfleet Officers Pay for Drinks at Quark’s Bar?

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EK Blackwell
EK Blackwell
1 year ago

A few things:
1- Yes, she left for money but not because they lowballed her. In Nimoy’s full interview on it, Alley wanted as much money as Nimoy and Shatner. The lowest she would go was slightly above DeForest Kelley. Nimoy even called her himself because he thought her agent might have miscommunicated or Paramont. But no, she said right to Nimoy that she’d better get more money than everyone else or she walked. Nimoy told her he would never disrespect the cast that had been with ST for decades as well as being his friends; he gave her one last chance and she refused.

2- Saavik being Spock’s daughter was for an instant because Roddenberry pointed out that she’s too old for it. She’d be a toddler. There was a line where David says i bet i’m looking at spock’s daughter and she immediately says no. To this day, Paramount she is in no way Spock’s family; both Vonda McIntrye and Carolyn Clowes both included this in their books.

3) Half-Romulan: here’s the funny thing. When fans heard about the cut scene, Nicholas Meyer said he cut the scene himself because it was ridiculous. He stated that he didn’t direct the character as anyone anything but Vulcan, that Alley didn’t play it as anything but Vulcan, and the person who wrote those lines was an idiot. Nowadays, he says he wrote the whole final script (he never said that before): that means HE wrote the lines that he said were ridiculous! Otherwise, the lines wouldn’t be in the script.

4) About VI: Meyers wanted Saavik to betray Spock. Roddenberry and Nimoy told him that would never happen. Nor should a third actress play the character. Meyers threw tantrum and Roddenbery, who was ill, knew this was the last time he would fight for keeping ST the way it should be. He’d be too sick very soon to do anything more. He wanted other things to change so they would fit ST, but he had to pick one thing. He picked Saavik. It took a lot to stand up, but he did it. He won with Saavik )and lost the rest, but left ST having fought one last good fight). It’s interesting: the first time Roddenberry dug his feet into the ground was for Spock. The last time was for Saavik. Thanks, Gene! But Meyers — even though he won a lot — had another tantrum proclaiming, “Well, then MY Saavik is going to better than YOUR Saavik.” He replaced Saavik’s name with Valeris’ and then added some lines. That’s why Valerissays she’s the first Vulcan to graduate top of her Academy class, that she’ll get the science officer’s position, something cadets usually don’t get etc. That means Saavik didn’t do those things which is weird that she’s Spock’s first officer in Khan and becomes science officer on a ship immediately after the training cruise. So it makes no sense for Valeris to say those things, but there you go. And of course, Valeris got to be Spock’s love interest instead of Saavik.

Brenna Taylor
Brenna Taylor
1 year ago

Note to Writer: Kim Cattrall was not in Star Trek IV. She was in Star Trek VI. You flipped the roman numerals.

J. Matthew Phipps
J. Matthew Phipps
1 year ago

So, Saavik got pregnant from the Genesis regenerated Spock-clone. That is a wild case of trekcest.

Brenna Taylor
Brenna Taylor
1 year ago

From what I’ve read it was to be the reason Saavik was left on Vulcan at the beginning of Star Trek IV. The scene mentioning it was eventually dropped.

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