The Wrath of Khan was supposed to end Leonard Nimoy’s time as Spock.
It was the moment that broke a thousand little Trekkie hearts. A dying Spock reached out to James Kirk, and spoke one of the most powerful lines ever spoken in Star Trek history, “I have been, and always shall be, your friend.” That was the moment Spock died of radiation poisoning, having saved the Enterprise after the conflict with the villainous Khan Nooninen Singh.
It was the last moment Leonard Nimoy ever played Spock.
Well, at least it was supposed to be. We all know that Spock didn’t stay dead, and Nimoy didn’t stop portraying the character. He would do another four movies with the original crew, a guest spot on The Next Generation, and then would return for Star Trek 2009 and Star Trek: Into Darkness.
For a moment that was supposed to end an actor’s involvement with a character, it sure didn’t do its job.
Why didn’t Spock stay dead after Star Trek: Wrath of Khan?
There was a belief that when Wrath of Khan was made, that it would serve as the definitive end to Star Trek as a film series. Star Trek: Phase II had failed to make it to television and there were simply no new ideas for the franchise. The very notion of The Next Generation wasn’t even a glint in the eyes of the crew.
After the failure of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, another dud for the franchise at the box office would’ve spelled doom and gloom for the franchise as a whole. So Nimoy, assuming this could be Spock’s last hurrah, worked with producers to give his character an epic conclusion.
Nimoy loved working on Wrath of Khan, however, which wasn’t exactly the case for many on the set of the Motion Picture. The first Star Trek film was largely viewed as a nightmare to work on, and as it turns out the sequel was anything but. It seemed to give Nimoy back his desire to be Spock some more.
It was the love of the second film’s production that reawoke Nimoy’s desire, according to Harve Bennett. Bennett told William Shatner for Shatner’s book Star Trek Movie Memories, that the whole filming process and vibe was the reason that Nimoy rethought opting out. The crew believed Wrath of Khan was going to be huge.
That’s why certain changes, like Spock transferring his katra into Dr. ‘Bones’ McCoy and the coffin of Spock being seen on the planet Genesis’ in the conclusion of the film, were added; to give Nimoy a way back in.
The last dangling thread to get Nimoy back was a seat in the director’s chair. It was a concession that Paramount wasn’t stupid enough to dismiss. Nimoy would take the director’s chair for two of the most successful films of the series run.