For our Star Trek Movie Marathon, please enjoy this excerpt from The View From the Bridge by Nicholas Meyer, available now from Penguin Books. In this memoir, Meyer details his experiences working on the Star Trek films. Read more to discover how twelve days and a brilliant script overhaul saved The Wrath of Khan.
Star Trek vaguely reminded me of something, something for which I had great affection. It took me quite a while before I realized what it was. I remember waking with a start one night and saying it aloud:
When I was a teenager I had devoured a series of novels by the English author C. S. Forrester (author of The African Queen and Sink the Bismarck!, among other favorites), concerning an English sea captain, Horatio Hornblower, and his adventures during the Napoleonic wars. “Horatio” as a first name was the giveaway; Hornblower was clearly based on Lord Nelson, though I’ve recently learned his surname derived from that of Hollywood producer Arthur Hornblow, Jr., a friend of Forrester’s. There was also a beloved movie version, Raoul Walsh’s The Adventures of Captain Horatio Hornblower, starring Gregory Peck and Virginia Mayo. (In the picaresque film, Hornblower faces off with the malignant and memorable El Supremo. Watching the film later as an adult, I understood that El Supremo, the frothing megalomaniac, was a racist caricature, the more so as he was played by a Caucasian in “swarthy” face, the UK-born Alec Mango. Khan Noonian Singh, by contrast, was a genuine (if oddly named) superman, embodied by a superb actor who happened to be Hispanic. Khan was a cunning, remorseless, but witty adversary—his true triumph being that audiences adored his Lear-inflected villainy as much as they responded to Kirk’s enraged heroism.)