Star Trek Guide

Star Trek 6: Why Kirstie Alley's Saavik Didn't Return For Undiscovered Country

Lt. Saavik, the Vulcan character originated by Kirstie Alley, didn't return in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country due to budgetary reasons and concern about the film's story turning her into a traitor. Released in December 1991, Star Trek VI was the final time the original cast of Star Trekappeared together. In early drafts of the screenplay, this last reunion of the TOS crew was going to include Saavik, but instead, she was replaced by a new Vulcan, Lt. Valeris (Kim Cattrall).

Saavik debuted inStar Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Kirstie Alley's portrayal proved memorable, especially how she was able to convincingly play a Vulcan alongside Leonard Nimoy's Spock while also holding her own in scenes with William Shatner's Captain James T. Kirk. Saavik returned in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and Alley was supposed to reprise her role, but negotiations collapsed over the actress's salary. Instead, Saavik was recast with Robin Curtis donning the ears; Curtis returned briefly as Saavik in the opening scenes of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, but the Vulcan didn't appear in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, and the fate of Saavik was never resolved.

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The original plans for Saavik in Star Trek VI involved Kirstie Alley reprising her role once more. Nicholas Meyer, who directed Star Trek II, was also helming The Undiscovered Country and he wanted Alley back. Unfortunately, Kirstie Alley's asking price was beyond the means of Star Trek VI's $30-million budget; at the time, Alley was the star of Cheers on NBC and she was one of television's highest-paid actresses. Meyer wasn't a fan of Robin Curtis' portrayal of Saavik and the producers, including Leonard Nimoy, who had the creative vision for Star Trek VI, all agreed that it made no sense to recast Saavik for the third time.

There was also disagreement as to Saavik's role in Star Trek VI's story. One early idea that was dropped was for Kirk to fall in love with Saavik and they would have a child together — a half-human/half-Vulcan echoing Spock. Another inkling was that would be Spock who fell in love with Saavik. However, with Star Trek VI's main story revolving around the Klingons making peace with the United Federation of Planets, the final decision made was that Saavik would be a traitor siding with the conspirators who feared what peace with the Federation's greatest enemies would mean for the galaxy.

Star Trek's creator Gene Roddenberry, who was deathly ill by this point, felt that Saavik had achieved "beloved character" status and that fans would object to her betraying Kirk and Spock. Nicholas Meyer also came to the conclusion that the fans, who hadn't seen Saavik in years, would be upset to see her brought back as a traitor. Finally, the decision was made to jettison Saavik entirely and create a new Vulcan character, which was the wisest course of action all things considered.

For her part, Kim Cattrall was thrilled to not only join Star Trek but to also have the opportunity to create Valeris from whole cloth. Cattrell helped name her character and she even shaved the sides of her head to make her Vulcan ears more prominent. Thanks to her commitment to the part, Valeris became an instantly memorable and endearing character; this made her betrayal of the Federation even more of a gut-punch since she was initially so likable and Spock deemed her his successor. Meanwhile, Saavik actually appears in the novelization of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country; she is the recruiting officer who initially inspires Valeris to join Starfleet.

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