Thursday, March 5, 2015

So long, Harve Bennett: Don't forget this savior of Trek

This is unbelievable, but in the midst of already reflecting and mourning the loss of Leonard Nimoy comes word that 1980s Trek film producer Harve Bennett passed away quietly near his retirement town in Medford, Ore.—a couple days earlier, actually, on Feb. 25. With no immediate family nearby and his current wife ill as well, news of his passing and the exact date was delayed getting out until DeForest Kelley biographer Terry Rioux got local police to check on him, then worked with Nick Meyer to get the word out in L.A.

I and others have long noted that Harve—as the guy entrusted with the leaner, meaner comeback from the production bog-down of Star Trek—The Motion Picture, and the guy who brought Nick to the franchise through the films of the 80s that cemented all future Trek—has to be on any short list of The Guy Who Saved Star Trek, of which there at least four or five by now.

But it's personal now, as Harve as producer of his big-woop smash comeback charge, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, also jumped at the chance late in retirement to talk to me on camera for my documentary, The Con of Wrath, about the meltdown mega-show moment we both unwittingly shared back in Houston, Texas just after ST II premiered. Harve's agreement to take part in my doc was one of the early check-marks that had to happen before I knew it would be do-able at all.

That sit-down over Memorial Day weekend 2011—where we shared local beers, at his insistence—was later confided to me by his wife to be his last-ever interview, a sobering realization. The Harve on camera is still sharp as we talk about not only the "Ultimate Fantasy" story but others as well from his career—Trek and non-Trek—but his fatigue grows even as he tells me he's okay to go on and on, each time I ask his permission. It's been hard to stay in touch since then, and now I know why.

Harve's story throughout Trek, much less his years running TV's "Bionic Empire" and pioneering the art of the TV mini-series, is well chronicled. His Emmy and other awards attest to that—but we took time that day to talk of smaller and equally amazing stories, as well. I hope to share some of those as well at the right time, too.

For all you did for Trek, Harve—and for all you shared with me that day, for posterity... safe travels, Admiral Bob. This will not be the last time we speak of or hear from you in this space... We will not let your legacy be unknown to those whose are still coming to enjoy what you brought new life to.

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