Gene Roddenberry could’ve ruined Star Trek forever with his awful idea for Star Trek II.
Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan is considered by many to be the best the Star Trek films have had to offer. Across all 13 films, Star Trek II is the tentpole by which all other films are measured. Yet, had franchise creator Gene Roddenberry gotten his way, the film likely would’ve ruined the franchise for good, derailed his own reputation, and killed all future projects.
Before what we now know as the Wrath of Khan officially went into production, and before Roddenberry was relegated to an “executive consultant”, the sequel to Star Trek The Motion Picture would’ve seen the crew of the USS Enterprise going back to the past and somehow, undoing their own future. Using the power of movie magic, they would deduce that they need to go back to 1963 in order to set the timeline right by assassinating John F. Kennedy.
Of all the people in the crew to be the trigger man, it would end up being Spock who shot JFK behind the grassy knoll, re-setting history and restoring everything to its proper place in the world.
This failure of an idea, coupled with a substance abuse problem at the time, saw Roddenberry removed from Star Trek in everything but name only. So angry at his removal, fans saw him go around unprompted and start spoiling the ending of Wrath of Kahn for anyone he could find.
The heads of Paramount saved Gene Roddenberry’s legacy from himself
Had the film gone ahead as planned, it probably would’ve destroyed the rest of the franchise forever. The first Star Trek film had already been panned beyond belief and many thought the franchise was dead in the water. It made money, sure, but the reputation was shot. The studio didn’t think the film series could survive another “Motion Picture” level failure. Eventually, the property would reach a point of diminishing returns if fans weren’t satisfied with what they were getting.
Hence Roddenberry’s dismissal. He wouldn’t be gone forever though.
Roddenberry would return with The Next Generation, but it was Paramount who brought the show into existence, not Roddenberry. Though, fans still attribute Robbenderry to the series nonetheless. The Next Generation was going to happen with or without Roddenberry but right or wrong, the beloved nature of the show helped keep Roddenberry’s legacy intact.
Roddenberry’s post-TOS impact isn’t as large as many fans seem to think. The films were largely made without his input and when they did listen, it turned into a fight. It seemed he had lost his touch. The two years he was most involved in the Next Generation were arguably the two worst seasons in all of Star Trek’s long history and his hate for some of the best films in the franchise is stunningly petty.
He had lost that magic touch by the 80s and had he gotten his hands on Star Trek II, we may not be here talking about his legacy and wild ideas. We may be talking about the next season of Stargate or Battlestar Galactica instead.
It kind of makes the new era of Trek seems acceptable in comparison to some of Roddenberry’s previous ideas.