Harve Bennett, the producer who helped guide four of Paramount’s Star Trek movies in the 1980s and produced TV series Mod Squad, The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman, died Wednesday in Oregon. He was 84 and becomes the latest key figure lost from the seminal Star Trek franchise following Leonard Nimoy’s death February 27.
After executive stints at ABC and CBS and co-creating Mod Squad, Bennett had a hand in creating or producing some of the most iconic sci-fi series on TV including serving as exec producer on both The Six Million Dollar Man (he voiced the opening credits, according to Bennett in a 2008 Archive of American Television interview) and The Bionic Woman.
Bennett then moved to Columbia Pictures Television as a TV producer where his shows included Salvage 1, and for Paramount the miniseries The Jesse Owens Story and A Woman Called Golda — which was Ingrid Bergman’s final role and which co-starred Nimoy. Such creds led Bennett to the Star Trek movie franchise, eventually teaming with director Nicholas Meyer on the second movie in the series, Star Trek: The Wrath Of Khan — which featured the death of Nimoy’s character Spock — after cramming for the writing gig by watching every episode of the TV series. The pic’s success sealed the franchise’s place and led to Bennett producing Star Treks III, IV and V.
“He was a remarkable man and he was unpretentious and self-effacing. I don’t think there would be a Star Trek franchise without him. He rescued it. He’s endangered of being lost in the shuffle, but he’s the guy who figured it out,” said Meyer, who worked with Bennett on Wrath Of Khan and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.
“He watched all 79 of those original episodes and he was the one who plucked out Khan,” added Meyer. The fact that actor Ricardo Montalban, who originated the role of Khan, was in the spotlight at the time with ABC’s Fantasy Island also further fueled the return of the character to the Star Trek canon.
The 1986 The Voyage Home became the first Star Trek film to surpass the century mark at the domestic box office with $109.7M. The film centered around the Star Trek crew time-traveling to 20th century America to retrieve humpback whales which could communicate with an alien probe. The film resonated with its environmentalism themes. Bennett and Nimoy, who served as director and co-screenwriter on the film, hatched the story. Meyer and Peter Krikes also worked on the script.
The Chicago-born Bennett appeared frequently as a child on the radio game show Quiz Kids, and after graduating from UCLA’s film school he served in the Army in the Korean War. After he got out he became one of CBS’ youngest executives. Eventually moving to ABC, he shifted into programming, becoming VP Daytime Programming and eventually VP Programming under Leonard Goldberg.