Star Trek Guide

Star Trek: Why Leonard Nimoy Hated Generations

The late Leonard Nimoy didn't participate in Star Trek Generations because he hated the screenplay and, later, the finished film as well. Nimoy not only portrayed the Vulcan Mr. Spock in Star Trek: The Original Series but he evolved into one of the franchise's most celebrated directors after helming Star Trek III: The Search For Spock and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, which was the most financially successful TOS movie. Naturally, Nimoy was Paramount's first choice to direct Star Trek Generations, a job he turned down flat and ultimately went to Star Trek: The Next Generation director David Carson.

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Star Trek Generations was conceived as the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation's jump to the big screen as well as a passing of the torch by the TOS crew. Originally, Paramount wanted a team-up movie where the entire original cast would appear in the beginning, though only Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) would team-up with TNG's Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) at the conclusion of the film, which would end with Kirk's death. However, most of the original cast turned down what they felt were glorified cameo roles, including DeForrest Kelly and Nimoy. The TOS holdouts believed that appearing in Generations would besmirch how they gracefully bowed out with Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Only Shatner, James Doohan as Scotty, and Walter Koenig as Chekov signed onto Generations. Nimoy, ultimately, wanted nothing to do with Star Trek VII.

In the TNG oral history, The Fifty-Year Mission: The Next 25 Years by Mark A. Altman and Edward Gross, Star Trek Generations' filmmakers candidly revealed the behind-the-scenes turmoil involving Leonard Nimoy's cold reception to the film. Generations' co-writer Brannon Braga, who has his own regrets about how the film turned out, recalls, "[The] director... was initially Leonard Nimoy... Nimoy read the script and hated it and felt [the only interesting part] of the script was Data's emotion chip story. By the way, he probably wasn't wrong." TNG and Star Trek Generations producer Rick Berman actually had a falling out over Nimoy over his refusal to direct the film and, as Braga tells it, "they never spoke again. They were both p*ssed at each other."

Nimoy's anger stemmed, in part, from the fact that as the intended director, he wasn't allowed a chance to rewrite Star Trek Generations' screenplay to address his issues. Berman, Braga, and co-writer Ronald D. Moore collaborated on Generations' script and Paramount "loved it" because the writers fulfilled the studio's many edicts as to what needed to be in the film. Only then was it brought to Nimoy, who was not pleased with what he read. Berman diplomatically recalls, "When Leonard read it, he said, 'This needs a page-one rewrite'. I told him [no]... and we parted ways." Berman also admitted, "It was unusual for us to write a script with no director involved at all. Mr. Nimoy is right that he probably should have had a pass at the script."

Nimoy's beef with Star Trek Generations was about its story and characterizations. Nimoy compared Generations to William Shatner's problematic directorial debut, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, which he preferred: "Bill's picture... had its own built-in problems... which he was never going to be able to surmount. But Generations bothered me. My God, what are they doing? Why that scene? What's this scene about? Where are they going with this? That was the reason I wasn't involved in making it." In addition, Nimoy was dismayed at the way Spock was written in his intended cameo: "There was a character called Spock who had a dozen lines you could easily assign to anyone else, which they did."

Finally, Nimoy saw Star Trek Generations as less of a true film but more as a marketing gimmick by Paramount: "Star Trek seven was a media event. Generations... two captains meet at the Nexus. Okay. Something to sell. And they sold very hard on it... But I don't think the picture was very good." It's a bit shocking to understand the extent to which Nimoy disliked Star Trek Generations but he did return to the franchise to reprise Spock in J.J. Abrams' Star Trek 2009. As for Leonard Nimoy's final thoughts on Star Trek Generations, the late actor-director succinctly summed it up: "My feeling about Generations is very negative."