Friday, 13 March 2015

Space Operatics: Harve Bennett and the Movies

The passing of Leonard Nimoy stole sci-fi headlines across the globe last week and while we were also aware of the loss of Maurice Hurley, it took a few more days for new to filter that Harve Bennett had died on February 25th.

Bennett may never have been involved with Star Trek in its native small screen incarnations however he was more than key in its blossoming on the cinematic stage from the highs of The Wrath of Khan through to lows of The Final Frontier.

Bennett's influence on the franchise during that decade was hugely significant bringing Kirk and crew from the lengthy and some might argue, grey first motion picture into the more respected, pioneering and respected original series movies.

For me the memory I hold most strongly of Harve Bennett is from an interview he did for the 25th Anniversary Special in which he described Star Trek as "space opera".

For some reason this description has remained with me for a further two and a half decades and it's something I always associate with the Bennett-produced movie era which does belay a sense of musical grandiose and theatrical pomp on occasion. Think of all those scenes with a resounding James Horner or Jerry Goldsmith score pounding out of the speakers and tell me it's not verging on just what Bennett had described and envisaged.

Working both on production and on the scripts themselves,  Bennett was central to the development of the brilliant movie trilogy through II,  III and IV which are to this day some of the key moments in the history of Star Trek.

It's odd to think that within a two week period we lost two producers of Star Trek who were operating at the same time with very different outlooks on the franchise; Bennett on the movies and Maurice Hurley on TV. Bennett's vision is much larger and with some form of thread running between all four - there is continuity, a sense of arc and theme but also a much more militaristic style in the bug screen nature of his influence. 

Certainly on that larger budget, Bennett gave us spectacle, pace and a whole bucket-load of wonderful Star Trek moments over the course of seven years and four movies. Apparently thinking that the series was boring, he latched onto the key dynamic between Kirk, Spock and McCoy and helped bring Khan into the movies. Without Bennett's influence on the movies it could be suggested that Star Trek may well have gone the way of the dodo after its second outing and nothing more would have been said.

Instead, Bennett revamped the cinematic Star Trek and along with Nicholas Meyer and the rest is history. So good in fact that JJ Abrams borrowed some of it for Star Trek into Darkness. He even managed a cameo in The Final Frontier as "Admiral Bob" when Kirk returns to the Enterprise before travelling to Nimbus III. The classic cast movies are just that - classics of the franchise - and Bennett must be remembered for being instrumental in that journey.

What were your thoughts on Harve Bennett's contribution to the Star Trek universe?

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