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Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan Secrets Revealed

OK, I’m outing myself.  I thought I would keep it a secret.  And I did.  For years.

My husband produced the film, “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn.” There, I’ve said it. Wonder why I’ve kept it a secret all these years? Because of death threats!

Well now, the cat is out of the bag. CNET just posted an informative and accurate article about the making of the film, ‘Star Trek II producer talks Ceti Eel, J.J. Abrams, and more.’  And I have even more of the inside scoop because my husband and I lived it.

Robert Sallin, producer of Star Trek II The Wrath of Khan, and poster

Here’s his take on what the death of Spock meant to the film and to our family:

“To boldly go where no man has gone before…”  wasn’t in my game plan when I signed with Paramount to produce “Star Trek II – The Wrath of Khan.” I’d served both in the Marine Corps as a non-com and in the Air Force as an officer but had never really been in harm’s way. No, that didn’t happen until I was deep into scripting and pre-production on the second Trek feature and began getting multiple death threats on my answering machine, such as “You kill Spock and we’ll kill you!”

The weirdness began when we were working on early drafts of the script. It seemed that most of the original cast were on board with a sequel, most that is except Leonard Nimoy of Spock fame. I didn’t know Leonard but had admired his work on a number of television and feature projects. We met and I found him to be a genial, talented and extraordinarily intelligent man. There was only one tiny wrinkle: he didn’t want to play Spock anymore. Ever. In retrospect, I’m not certain whether it was a negotiating ploy on his part to garner a better deal with the studio, or that he was looking for broader dramatic horizons or whether, as he told me that “he simply didn’t want to put on the ears again.”

Regardless of motivation, his refusal to participate could be the iceberg that would sink the Star Trek Titanic, or at least put a major dent in its creative hull. The meetings were intense and frequent but Leonard remained firm until one of our writers, Jack Sowards suggested to Executive Producer, Harve Bennett that it would be enormously dramatic and a high (or low) theatrical point in the history of StarTrek. Harve sold it to Leonard and we were on our way. Sort of.

An individual who was close to Star Trek was given an early draft of the script and, like all of us, sworn to secrecy. However, she immediately went to a Trek convention in London and announced that we were going to kill Spock. Her betrayal hit most of the world’s newspapers starting with the Wall Street Journal. It was a fire storm with everyone at Paramount and our staff — but especially Leonard — going a bit berserk. Both Bennett and I felt that not only was the surprise element blown but that the entire structure of the film was compromised. There were many, many sleepless nights until we decided to defuse some of the outside fury with even greater heightened security: scripts were numbered before issuing, crew and cast members were severely cautioned about disclosure. James Doohan (Scotty) had unthinkingly disclosed Spock-related information to some of his personal representation staff and the word got back to Paramount. I was tasked with contacting him and telling, not asking, him to appear for a meeting with some of the top studio brass. In a percipient moment, prior to Jimmy’s appointment, I went up into the Administration Building and cautioned the Paramount executives to go lightly with Jimmy as he had recently had a heart attack! I argued that we had sufficient impending death around us with inflicting it on a thoroughly decent man whom we needed!

I could go on at considerable length about the angst and events surrounding the impending demise of Spock and how skillfully we all worked to keep the dramatics at a high level while salvaging the future of a key character.

And my personal death threats? They came fast and furious by mail and telephone for some time. In fact, the crazies kept it up until the premiere of the film. But, I can assure you that there were enhanced security guards around my home to protect my wife and children for many months. And all I wanted to do was make an entertaining motion picture. I almost re- enlisted in the Air Force.

 

Spock to die? article from the Wall Street Journal

 

 

All images appearing on Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan Secrets Revealed are the expressed property of Sandra Sallin. All rights reserved. In other words, don’t steal it!



  • Susan Cooper - That is quite a story. I loved to film. It just goes to show that there is never a straight line to any successful venture. This one was no exception.ReplyCancel

  • sandra - Hi Susan, You are exactly right! It’s just that you usually don’t have death threats!ReplyCancel

  • Roshni - Oh My God! This is such an exciting story and scary too….who knew that there were so many crazies amongst science fiction fans?! I watched the original series of Star Trek as a kid, so this is sooo awesome to know that your husband was embroiled (I think that’s an appropriate word here!) in the movie production!! I hoping you’ll give out some more inside stuff!!ReplyCancel

  • sandra - Hi Roshi, Do read that CNET article. More juicy stuff there. But, I must tell you for years we kept our involvement with Star Trek quiet. People are very involved with the series. The people we have met have been fascinating. Just a pleasure to speak with and so gracious.ReplyCancel

  • Tammy - The truth is out. Pretty funny stuff, if you count death threats humorous. How ridiculous people are! The problem is, you never know who might be that affected, right? I’ve had fans that adored me and one crazy fan that stalked and threatened me. I believe you…crazy people are no laughing matter. Unfortunately, we have no shortage of them. Fortunately, you can laugh about it now. Still … lock the doors, always look behind you and may the force be with you. Wait…that’s a different movie! Loved the read!ReplyCancel

    • sandra - That’s funny Tammy. But then again you’re one funny woman. We really were quiet about our involvement. You just don’t know who’s out there. I’ll take any force from any were if it will help.ReplyCancel

  • 30 Surprising Facts About STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN You May Not Have Known | The Real Nerd Herd - […] 6. Fans angry about the death of Spock sent death threats to members of the production right up until the premiere. Robert Sallin got messages on his answering machine like “You kill Spock and we’ll kill you!” […]ReplyCancel

  • LA CONTESSA - YOU are FULL of surprises……….I was not a STAR TREK FAN………..couldn’t stand it as a kid.BUT I find this ALL very EXCITING!
    MY neighbor who is in his 60’s is one of its BIGGEST FANS……………
    How terrifying for you and your husband……….DEATH THREATS…………people NEVER stop amazing ME!ReplyCancel

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