Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan remains one of the most popular Star Trek movies in the entire franchise.
Even over forty years later, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is a fan favorite movie. Both emotional and dramatic, the movie has been credited with keeping the Star Trek franchise going. The powerful death scene of Spock and the interaction with Captain Kirk as he watches his friend die has been on various lists of the most heartbreaking scenes in the franchise’s history, like this one from Whatculture.
Spock’s death scene was supposed to be Leonard Nimoy’s final outing as Mr. Spock, the ever-logical Vulcan who was Captain Kirk’s right hand aboard the Enterprise. And the movie was to have concluded with Admiral Kirk’s eulogy as the crew is gathered to watch the coffin as it is sent out into space.
"“Of all the souls I’ve encounterd in my travels, his was the most human.”"
Shortly after Kirk’s speech concluded, fans watched as the doors to the ship opened, and Spock’s casket was sent soaring, ending with a bright burst of light. And that was the original final scene that the fans who viewed the initial screening found so objectionable.
Spock’s death was leaked before the release of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
And that caused quite the controversy, with fans protesting and even taking out trade advertisements in an effort to convince Paramount to change their minds and even death threats. Of course, it was Nimoy’s mind that needed to be changed. And, fortunately, that did happen as Nimoy decided he wanted to return to the role in the future so the Genesis Project came in handy.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t a Genesis Project to retcon Captain Kirk’s death in Star Trek: Generations. Though William Shatner wrote of his character’s resurrection in a follow-up novel, it has yet to be shown onscreen, and like the death of Spock, it still resonates with the viewers to this day. Had Nimoy not decided to return, he would have gone out with a hero’s death. That is questionable for KIrk, and most fans want Shatner to return as Kirk, even if it’s just in voice, to right the absolute wrongness of Kirk’s death.