Harve Bennett's Farewell Open Letter
|Title:||Harve Bennett's Farewell Open Letter|
|Date(s):||June 29, 1990|
|Click here for related articles on Fanlore.|
The open letter was printed in Interstat #149 as Harve Bennett stepped down from his Star Trek duties after ten years.
Harve Bennett was produce, and sometimes writer, for four Star Trek films: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, and and Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.
Bennett was a very frequent con guest and quite open with information with Star Trek fans. He contributed often to the pages of Interstat via personal letters, hosted some fans on Star Trek's set, and was a very accessible Power That Be.
After producing four Trek movies, one of Harve Bennett's disappointments was the inability to go ahead with a Star Trek movie that happened pre-series. In a letter to Interstat, he suggested the project's failure was due to a letter writing campaign by fans.
Text of "Harve Bennett's Farewell Open Letter"
To All My Friends At Interstat: Today I leave Paramount, completing my ten year mission on STAR TREK. I wanted to thank you all for your support, your friendship, and your love during the decade we have shared. You. are without doubt the finest and most loyal audience a filmmaker could have. I am very proud of what we achieved while I was Chief of Staff of the feature division of Gene's Dream. I am particularly indebted to Nicholas Meyer, Ralph Winter, Leonard Nimoy, William Shatner and David Loughery, my comrades in close collaboration. My only regret is that I was unable to bring to the screen the STAR TREK I believe could have been our best. Our final draft script was called STAR TREK: THE FIRST ADVENTURE, and it dealt with Kirk's return to the Academy and his memories of life, love, and how it all began. It was a beautiful story. It had nothing to do with the"Police Academy" trash tag that unknowing people labeled it with. My only disappointment after ten years of proving my abilities to you all is that there were some of you who engaged in a letter campaign to destroy a work of art on hearsay evidence. I think I deserved more trust than that. To Dixie, my thanks for the accuracy of her clippings and the depth of her caring. To Rhea, my forever thanks for being first fan to write me a letter of support. And to Teri, who has been my friend 200% of the time, my gratitude always. Beam me out, Scotty.
Reactions and Reviews: Another Open LetterOne reaction was An Open Letter to Harve Bennett... In Fandom's Defense:
Dear Mr. Bennett: It is with regret that I learned of your departure from Paramount and severance of your association with STAR TREK. At both the conventions where I had the
Frankly, however, as a fandom that equated STAR TREK letter-writing campaigns with survival and preservation and not merely an amusing pastime, we just weren't used to respect from a studio that had teased and jerked us around emotionally with 10 years of broken promises. How were we supposed to recognize the one person who would be different...who would make a difference?
Besides, with all due respect, I've got to say that you have the darndest way of seeking to earn a trust! First you give us back true Classic TREK in STAR TREK II...only to take Spock from us. Then, you return Spock in STAR TREK III, only to take Enterprise from us. Understand, plot advancement or not, you don't much earn trust by killing off loved ones. The studio giveth and the studio taketh away; fan, remember your place.
And, remember that Paramount would never commit in advance to another STAR TREK film until the receipts were tallied. So, for all collective fan-dom knew, any one of these films might have been the last.
Then, along comes STAR TREK IV, and everyone Is waiting for the shoe to drop again....what are they going to take away from us this time? But you didn't take anything away, and the $$$ receipts were phenomenal! Uh-oh....
Now they're going to do STAR TREK V surely they'll get us this time around. But you didn't so, hey, maybe we can trust this Harve Bennett fellow after all. But the receipts were lousy (per studio standards) for whatever reasons, leaving Classic TREK where? Back, once again, to groveling to the studio for the survival of Classic TREK in yet another letter-writing campaign.
I don't know, whom do we trust? Whom do we listen to? I'm not a fool, but I sure can't figure this out. Fine, I'm willing to dismiss convention rumors and gossip in favor of giving you the benefit of the doubt and a certain measure of trust, but when you have cast members (George Takei, for one) spearheading a write-in campaign (and, let's face it, they've earned a measure of our trust, too), how is your average fan supposed to be aware of, much less know how to interpret studio politics???
I guess I've said enough. It's just that I'm so, so sorry to see you move on from STAR TREK with the feeling that fans you had gifted for 10 years had betrayed you. It's all history now, anyway, but I just wanted to go on record. Rest assured that your indelible imprint on STAR TREK will be forever appreciated. I thank you again for your many loving and innumerable gifts to STAR TREK and its fans (especially the dignity) and wish you well as your own adventure continues....WARP SPEED, SIR!!
Other Reactions and Reviews
In the last issue of INTERSTAT, Harve Bennett closed his farewell letter to fandom with "Beam me out, Scotty." I speak for many when I express the hope that you've beamed him to a far better place and with the highest of honors. His was a ten-year command deserving of both. If you would, Mr. Scott, please send to the same coordinates my fondest wishes and following sentiments. Tell him how much he will be missed and how sorry many of us are to lose him at the helm. Give him our thanks for the strength and vitality he brought back to Star Trek and for making its big screen years successful. Thank him for the passion and excellence in his writings, for keeping on course the character interplay so deeply loved by fans. Mention, too, the regard held for his professionalism and sense of fair play at his public appearances. Appreciated always were the acknowledgements and high praise he gave his peers when speaking from a convention stage. Remind him as well that he treated his fans with equal respect and often brought sunshine to their lives through his generosity, warmth and innate sense of humor. Star Trek's most able commander narrowed the chasm between fandom and the studio through his multi-faceted communication skills and willingness to share his time and knowledge with fans. I don't think there's another producer who would have personally given as much of himself as he did, as he does even now in his final letter to INTERSTAT, where again gratitude and respect for Star Trek's following is expressed. It calls to mind an earlier Bennett tribute which acknowledged fandom's interest and vast knowledge of the vehicle: "What a privilege for a filmmaker to have an audience that pays attention." 
I guess I got so used to having you around that I never expected to see those sad words: "Beam me out Scotty." 
I was deeply saddened and confused by Harve Bennett's letter. I had not heard anything about his leaving Paramount. I do not understand what he meant by the negative letter writing campaign. Were there actually fans who wrote in saying DO NOT make a Star Trek movie? I find that hard to believe. I mean, I'm not crazy about new actors playing old characters, but I'm not going to look a gift horse In the mouth. Surely Mr. Bennett did not leave because of these letters? Is he now disconnected entirely from Star Trek or can he still participate as an independent? Does this mean no more Star Trek movies or will the people he acknowledged in his letter carry on his work? I wish that his letter could have been elaborated on. 
How sad Harve Bennett is leaving Star Trek, and on such a petulant note. Perhaps he didn't intend his farewell letter (I#149) to come across so pouty, but it does imply since he couldn't play the way he wanted to, he'll take his marbles and go home. He has brought us some excellent Trek over the years, and I think we're all grateful to him for that. As to our failure to "trust" him and/or the Powers That Be to do the right thing, we've been given all too many samples of misdirected trust. I do wish Mr. Bennett had taken the time and effort to explain his plans for FIRST ADVENTURE rather than allow us to draw our own hysterical conclusions. In the past, Paramount has spit in fandom's face more than once. How were we to know this wasn't another spitball? Though I didn't participate in any "letter campaign" I felt as panicked as anyone about a "Police Academy" farce with all the crew members miraculously becoming the same age. After all, didn't we see a young blond Joachim in STII? A teenage Spock in Pon Farr when we knew he didn't experience It until a grown man? Myriad other little fubars we all worked to explain away in order to keep our Star Trek universe consistent? Paramount has shown contempt for fandom in such things too many times in the past, scorning fans and amateur writers and their opinions, while throttling the pro writers into tiny boxes stifling their storylines with restrictive guidelines. Ah, well, I hate it that Harve sang his swan song rather than get fandom on his side where he could produce his dream. We all lost out. 
Harve Bennett's and various fen remarks regarding the ST Academy story for ST6 leaves me thirsting for more information on the now rejected story. Too many fans reactions (including my own) to anything coming down the ST pike is negative, almost as if we are on automatic. Sometimes our minds are so closed, it's numbing. Mind you, there have been times when it was justified. 
If it's any consolation to Mr. Bennett, ST fen also do not hesitate to snap and snarl at Gene Roddenberry's heels when he does something to displease them, not to mention Paramount itself. Talk about biting the feeding hands! That doesn't make it any easier to say au revoir—but not goodbye, since the Admiral's loving admirers are going to follow him eagerly into whatever new area his entertainment career takes him. It is truly the end of a glorious era during which fans' love for TREK was respected and honored in all areas. Of course he DID kill Spock and blow up our beloved Enterprise, come to think of it, but it all came together satisfyingly in the end. Only Harve could have cleverly left a trail of clues that made one chapter blend seamlessly into another in spite of all the vicissitudes of contracts, scheduling and impossible opening dates that dogged his intrepid heels. We were lucky to fall into such skillful hands. So, vaya con Dios y con amor to him, and I look forward to starting a cheering section for his next project. 
Ah, Harve, reading your letter, and knowing you feel betrayed by some of fandom, truly aches my heart. You resurrected Star Trek when you did ST:TWOK, and you gave us 3 more good ST films following that one. I know that film is certainly a collaborative effort, and that many others (especially our favorite actors), helped to make those ST experiences as good as they were, but I still feel you were the vision and the driving force in bringing all of those enjoyable movies to the screen. Beyond that, you listened to fans, and for some of us (and I count myself one of those lucky ones), you showed a great deal of generosity and warmth. So I feel an extra sadness that you are leaving ST, for whatever reason, though of course I wish you all the best in whatever new adventures you pursue. As I've said before, I think it was really unfortunate that fandom in general did not know that the Academy movie was your idea all along. I first heard it as a "Paramount idea," with no mention of your involvement. While many fans would still have resisted the idea of no Kirk, Spock, and crew as we know and love them now, many others of us would trust you to give us the best possible ST, no matter what the format. And I'm very sorry that we won't be able to see your last ST idea on the screen. 
To our friend Harve Bennett. Your letter addressed to friends at INTERSTAT, along with the four fine Star Trek movies you produced and helped to write or edit, certainly expresses the caring you have had for the fans of the Star Trek world. Those fans who were disappointed with STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE, and felt they would never be given a Star Trek film more to their liking, have had four unique films to enjoy, discuss, critique, and love. The efforts you made to be true to Gene Roddenberry's creation (by spending days in viewing the 79 television episodes; writing, rewriting, and editing the scripts to Paramount's satisfaction, and overseeing every intricacy of the filming) contributed to the certainty that you were the Chief of Staff who certainly could and definitely did... Masterminding a film within the framework of another's "dream" has to be difficult. At times it must have been no small task keeping everybody involved happy while making sure each film was completed on schedule and within budget. All of which you accomplished. Had you been allowed to add a new dimension to the space opera as writer and director, I'll bet it would have been saluted enthusiastically by the Press and most of the fans. You are a world class story-teller.
I respect Harve Bennett's efforts on the ST movies, and I'm sorry he is bitter about the fan opposition to his Starfleet Academy/"First Adventure" Idea. It may well have been a good script, and possibly would have made a good film. However, I think the fans who opposed it had valid reasons for doing so. If nothing else, the timing is wrong. Many of us do want at least one more film with the original cast, which we hope will be more of an artistic and commercial success than ST V. And regardless of what Bennett has said, I think the decision to do "The First Adventure" very probably would have precluded another original-cast film. The clock is ticking, and two, three or four years from now after the release of 'The First Adventure," it might no longer be possible to reunite the original cast again, because of members' age, health and new career commitments. Moreover, if "The First Adventure" with a new cast appeared and was successful, there would be a strong incentive for Paramount to do another Trek movie with that cast, rather than the originals; while if "First Adventure" bombed, following the disappointment of ST V, Paramount would be more likely to scrap the Trek films altogether than make another one with the original cast. And I don't think those of us who supported TNG but opposed "The First Adventure" are being either inconsistent or "disloyal." When TNG went into production, the film series was still ongoing with the original cast; TNG did not shunt the originals aside, as "The First Adventure" would. And I think bringing in new actors to play familiar characters—actors who would have to physically resemble their predecessors while being talented in their own right—would be much more difficult and risky than casting new actors as new characters In TNG. 
Harve Bennett: If the Academy storyline didn't deserve the "trash tag that unknowing people labeled it with," can you prove that? It shouldn't be hard or expensive to do so if you're right. Here's how to exonerate the Academy story: publish it as a book! Not a novelization, but a script in book form. If Paramount thinks it would sell, they'd be sure to go for it. I'm sure lots of people would buy it, if only out of curiosity. I even might, and I vehemently opposed the movie, myself! If it's what you claim, reader approval will sell it. In any case, it would probably sell more than enough to repay printing expenses. What about it, Harve and Paramount? Are you game to prove what a beautiful story" it was? Here's your chance, guys! What are you waiting for? 
[Editor's personal comment:] It's unlikely Paramount Pictures will release for publication a script said to be still in a holding pattern. (Question, though, Eunice. Had you personally witnessed the trashing of THE FIRST ADVENTURE on the convention circuit, would you have shown the same boldness and suggested that the trashers substantiate their claims with proof, particularly the claim that the story was comparable to a POLICE ACADEMY spoof? (How's that for an effective "trash tag"?) Yes, the truth is in THE FIRST ADVENTURE'S final script, too bad its club-carrying critics didn't have personal copies (the proof) clutched tightly in their hands when airing disparaging remarks about it. Over the years I think many of us believed that Paramount would deal with the age issue by either shutting down the movie series or continuing it with our beloved original cast and introducing new characters to carry on (the latter was a favorite; same Starfleet years, same ship—1701-A). However, had the studio decided to first film and release THE FIRST ADVENTURE, I would have supported it without hesitation. It would have been a Harve Bennett film, and his track record is all the proof I need. 
As I read Harve Bennett's letter to all of us, I felt as if we let him down. He had a dream, too, and maybe we didn't give it a chance. It made me feel sad and miserable that he should be disappointed in his dream. 
I can only hope that Mr. Bennett's letter gave the readership of INTERSTAT pause for thought as to the dangers inherent in rumourmongering. Rumours are generated by those who don't know what they are talking about, wish they did and resent those who do. Rumours are spread by those who make no effort to learn the truth, or take the time to consider the consequences of disseminating hearsay as gospel. Little or no thought is given to those who might be hurt by their actions. Whether STAR TREK: THE FIRST ADVENTURE would have been a worthy film or not is now moot. The quidnuncs have made sure that the rest of us will never have the chance to decide for ourselves. Where I come from, we have a saying: a tale-bearer is worse than a thief; at least with a thief you knew what was stolen from you. Fandom has had something very precious taken from us, and I am not referring to the plot of a proposed film. 
To Harve Bennett: How do I say 'so long' to someone who has given so much to me? How do I say 'thank you' for the ten years of continuation of "Gene's Dream"? Are there words in the English language to express appreciation for such a gift? Star Trek seems a lesser place now that you have moved on. When you wrote to us for the first time (I#42), I was impressed by the respect and affection you showed not only to Star Trek but to fandom as well. You began that letter with the class and grace we grew to expect, and I quote: "For some months I have felt like a stranger in a strange land trying to learn the language and customs of a legendary people." It seemed we fans had been fighting the Powers That Be ever since Star Trek was cancelled and, as I read your letter, I felt that finally, at last, we had someone on our side. You said then you were ready to give us a Star Trek we could be proud of, and all you asked from us was our support and friendship. You maintained that level of class throughout your stay with us. You never dealt in negativity or unfairness when you made public appearances. It is a pity others in the business did not learn from your example and treat you with the same fairness andtruth. I am sorry that some fans had knee-jerk reactions to rumors and half-truths that were spread on the convention circuit. As I sit here writing this letter, so many beautiful, touching, warm, wonderful, exciting scenes from your films are playing through my mind. Thank you for what you have given us. I will always cherish your films and I will also cherish the memory of your time with us. In that first letter you wrote to us, you said, "It is my profound hope that I will not fail that incredible loyal group of people who have loved Star Trek longer, but no less, than I." Mr. Bennett, you did not. 
- from Teri Meyer in Interstat #150
- from Sherry Anne N in Interstat #150
- from Alicia G in Interstat #150
- from Anne M in Interstat #150
- from Pat K in Interstat #150
- from Dixie O in Interstat #150
- from Melissa M in Interstat #150
- from Rhea B in Interstat #150
- from Bill H in Interstat #150
- from Eunice R in Interstat #150
- from Teri Meyer in Interstat #150
- from Lorraine C in Interstat #150
- from Zaquira T in Interstat #150
- from Danni B in Interstat #150