Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home is one of the franchise’s most loved films, but it almost didn’t end up that way
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home was a phenomenal hit for the franchise. Humor played a large part in it as did the time travel and the expansion of the use of normally peripheral characters. Overall, the plot was nearly flawless, and it showed in the movie receipts. But, if it had gone in its original direction, the movie could have revolved around Eddie Murphy who was the king of 1980s comedies at the time.
Murphy was a huge fan of Star Trek and had no problem letting the higher-ups know he wanted to take part in a movie. Leonard Nimoy and Harve Bennett pitched him an idea, and the star was in, ready for a script which was written rather swiftly as Murphy was one of the biggest stars at the time.
The plot involved Murphy playing a college professor who believed in all things paranormal and science fiction, though his students didn’t. His obsession ends up making him look like a fool and almost costs him his job. And that’s when he goes to the Super Bowl where he was one of 60,000 witnesses to the first appearance of the Klingon ship. But he was the only one who believed it actually happened. Other viewers considered it to be a man-made effect.
Though Murphy’s character tried to convince everyone that they’d seen a real alien ship, no one was buying it. But Kirk, Spock, and the crew beamed into his classroom, solidifying his beliefs. Turns out the professor was listening to whale songs which led the crew to him. They arrived to ask him where they could find whales, and after much excitement and adventure, Murphy would have gone with the Klingon bird of prey and its crew members back to the 23rd century where he would have joined Star Fleet.
Being as Murphy was such a big star during this time period, it’s evident his role would have been a substantial one, which means other stars would have had their scenes cut or not written at all. Even William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and DeForrest Kelly might have had smaller roles or have interacted more with Murphy than anyone else. While that might have made for a great Murphy comedy, it would ultimately have disappointed Star Trek fans who, after Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, were ready to spend more time with their favorite Star Trek characters.
Fortunately, Eddie Murphy turned down the role. And Catherine Hicks joined the cast of Star Trek IV as Dr. Gillian Taylor, a much smaller role than Murphy’s which allowed the focus to remain on the characters we know and love.