The Unfettered Critic – April 2015

Two men with irrevocably intertwined lives passed away at the end of February: a world-famous actor, beloved by millions; and a highly successful producer, well known in Hollywood, less familiar to people outside of entertainment circles.

The actor was Leonard Nimoy. He entered the business in l951, performing onstage and onscreen, directing films, writing books of poetry, recording pop music albums, and creating startlingly original photography. Yet to many, Leonard always will be the iconic character that he created in 1966: Mr. Spock, the stoic Vulcan officer of Star Trek, and reprised in his final appearance, in 2013’s Star Trek Into Darkness.

The producer was Harve Bennett. Harve caught the show business bug at the age of ten, appearing 212 times over five years as a contestant on the nationally broadcast radio show Quiz Kids. A few decades later, Harve had graduated to producing hit shows: The Mod Squad, The Six Million Dollar Man, and television’s first mini-series, Rich Man, Poor Man.

Harve won an Emmy Award for producing 1982’s TV movie A Woman Called Golda. He’d cast Leonard Nimoy as Golda’s Meir’s husband, and the two men struck up a friendship—which came in handy not long after as Harve took on the task of creating the second Star Trek movie. Its predecessor, Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), was a hit at the box office, but not with the critics. That film was long on visual effects but short on action and character, both hallmarks of the original Star Trek television series. Even the fans expressed a desire for something more like the series they loved.

Harve studied all 79 episodes of the original show, analyzing the all-important character interplay. Inspired, he co-wrote: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. It became a financial success that everyone, critics and fans alike, loved. Which is why Harve often is credited as “the man who saved Star Trek”—an exaggeration perhaps, but not by much. With twelve motion pictures (and a new one on the way) and over 700 hours of televised Star Trek, the direction he set certainly has “lived long and prospered.”

Harve Bennett produced a total of four Star Trek films. It was the fourth, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, that pulled us, your humble Unfettered Critics, into the same orbit as Mssrs. Bennett and Nimoy.

Paramount Pictures hired Terry as the unit publicist on The Final Frontier, and Paula, coincidentally, found a position in the studio’s Licensing Department as the head of publishing product development. We relish our memories of interacting with both Harve and Leonard over the following years. Several decades later, we moved to Jacksonville, figuring that was the end of our alleged “wild Hollywood lifestyle.” But before long, Harve Bennett, too, slipped out of L.A to retire, landing in the Rogue Valley. He settled in Jacksonville, in a house on South Applegate Street. You may have walked next to him on California Street, or dined next to him at the Jacksonville Inn. We enjoyed a meal with the Harve at the Inn, a pleasant reunion where we reminisced about the work we’d done with Leonard and with him.

These two amazing men passed away the same week, Leonard Nimoy at his home in Los Angeles on February 27, Harve Bennett at Providence Medford Medical Center on February 25. We were tremendously fond of them both; they had a profound influence on our lives. There’s little doubt that Star Trek will go on forever, but two of the brightest stars in the Final Frontier are gone, and the universe is infinitely poorer.