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William Shatner believes Leonard Nimoy ‘cooked up’ Spock’s ‘Star Trek’ death for leverage

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 8/09/2017 Bryan Alexander
Admiral Kirk (William Shatner) and Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) in the emotional ending of 'Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.' © CBS Television Studios Admiral Kirk (William Shatner) and Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) in the emotional ending of 'Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.'

William Shatner has developed a cynical view of Mr. Spock’s (Leonard Nimoy) dramatic death in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

Shatner believes his longtime friend Nimoy, who died in 2015, plotted to dramatically kill off his beloved character in 1982's Wrath of Khan, only to have the half-Vulcan return in the next movie, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.

He suspects Nimoy schemed Spock's spectacular demise and return with producer Harve Bennett for leverage, allowing Nimoy to insist upon directing The Search for Spock.

“I believe it was all planned — I now believe (Nimoy) and Harve cooked this up,” says Shatner, who had this realization long after Wrath of Khan, which Fathom Events is bringing back to theaters on Sept. 10 and 13 for the movie's 35th anniversary.

      

“I suddenly realized that I, as well as many other people, had been taken in by the death of Spock," the actor says. "Leonard was so marvelous at working the territory that he got a directing job out of it.”

Shatner says he was "genuinely moved" filming the famed Wrath of Khan scene in which Spock, dying from radiation poisoning after saving the Enterprise from villain Khan (Ricardo Montalbán), says a final goodbye.

"I was thinking my good friend Nimoy is in essence saying goodbye to the whole part," Shatner says. "No one told me they were thinking otherwise."

The Captain Kirk actor, who himself later directed a Star Trek film (1989's Star Trek V: The Final Frontier), has no hard feelings about Nimoy's alleged maneuver.

“But I would have enjoyed being in on it,” he adds. “I get the secrecy. But it’s all great.”

Wrath of Khan director Nicholas Meyer stands by the historical account that Nimoy asked to have Spock killed off because he truly intended to leave the franchise and the character.

“Here’s what happened," Meyer says. "Leonard was very ambivalent about doing another Star Trek movie. And Harve Bennett lured him with the promise of a terrific death scene, which (Shatner) and he played so touchingly.”

But as Wrath of Khan came together, it was clear that Paramount had a hit on its hands. “And Leonard was starting to feel really good (about the movie) and was thinking whether he was making some kind of a mistake,” says Meyer. So the studio insisted on leaving the door open for a Spock return.

“I fought it," Meyer says. “I thought it was unforgivable to take people who were so wrapped up in this character and sort of dry hustle them and then say, ‘Oh, we were just kidding.' But in the end, it was a battle that I lost."

Meyer added key scenes, including one of the Enterprise shooting Spock’s coffin onto the regenerated planet Genesis among flourishing plant life, pointing to a possible return.

“We left dangling the prospect of hope. And Star Trek is about hope," says Meyer. "That’s the truth. It was not always planned that (Spock) was going to come back.”

Ultimately, Meyer is happy with how everything played out. Nimoy agreed to come back to the franchise if he could direct the third film.

“In retrospect," says Meyer, “they were right, and I was wrong.”


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