20 Things You Didn't Know About Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan (1982)

16. Several Different Stories Were Considered For The Movie - And Then Compiled Into The Final Version

Khan Star Trek

In late August of 1981, Harve Bennett was facing a problem. The script for Star Trek II had gone through several writers and countless drafts, but none of them were shootable. In a matter of weeks, a shooting script had to be locked down—otherwise, ILM would not have enough time to deliver the film’s effects before it was due in theaters.

Harve Bennett had kicked off the writing process himself with a one-page proposal called “Star Trek II: The War of the Generations.” It featured a rebellion on a Federation colony, led by Kirk's son David, who turns out to be under the influence of Khan. Unsure if Leonard Nimoy would return, Spock is absent from this proposal.

Jack B. Sowards picked up the baton next, fleshing out Bennett’s proposal into an outline and then a script called “The Omega System.” In this version, Khan (and a very much alive Marla McGivers, his “beloved wife”) seeks control of a Federation weapon of mass destruction (the titular Omega System). The project is not run by Carol Marcus, but by Dr. Janet Wallace (from the original series episode “The Deadly Years”). Spock appears, but dies early on, and is replaced by Saavik (in this version, a male Vulcan). And, after years of exile, Khan has somehow been able to develop psychic powers, which he uses in a battle with Kirk.

Bennett wasn’t crazy about Sowards’ draft, however, and he hired original series writer Samuel A. Peeples to go in a new direction. Peeples obliged, turning in a story outline and then a script, in which he jettisoned the character of Khan and replaced him with a pair of godlike aliens named Sojin and Moray. Peeples also changed the character of Saavik into a woman. Bennett didn’t care for this version, either.

Luckily, Bennett had just hired a director who was also a writer with an innate ability to quickly turn around script pages. After reviewing the latest draft of the script, Nicholas Meyer asked to be sent every iteration of the script. He read them, and then had a meeting with Bennett and producer Robert Sallin, where they made a list of everything they liked from each version of the script. Said Meyer in a 2014 interview:

We picked Kirk and his son. We picked Khan. We picked Genesis. We picked Lt. Saavik. These were all the elements of these other scripts, which I cobbled together with my own dialogue and plotting. Spock may have died in the middle of one of those drafts. I honestly don't remember. It’s been many years. But I do know that I absolutely put him at the end. Then, there was a simulator sequence that I liked. That was in the middle of a draft, and so I put it at the beginning.

Meyer turned around his draft (called “The New Frontier” and then “The Undiscovered Country”) in a matter of weeks, and in November started shooting the movie. It was a swift end to a long and turbulent writing process, and Meyer didn’t even get screen credit—but if he hadn’t have done the rewrites when he did, it’s likely there would have been no Star Trek II for him to direct.


Michael is one of the founders of FACT TREK (www.facttrek.com), a project dedicated to untangling 50+ years of mythology about the original Star Trek and its place in TV history. He currently is the Director of Sales and Digital Commerce at Shout! Factory, where he has worked since 2014. From 2013-2018, he ran the popular Star Trek Fact Check blog (www.startrekfactcheck.blogspot.com).