An iconic Hollywood producer behind four "Star Trek" films and several classic science fiction television hits such as "The Six Million Dollar Man" died in Medford last week after living in the Rogue Valley for about six years.
Harve Bennett, who produced the Star Trek films "The Wrath of Khan," "The Search For Spock," "The Voyage Home" and "The Final Frontier," died Feb. 25 while at Providence Medford Medical Center, according to Emergency Communications of Southern Oregon. He was 84 years old, according to the Internet Movie Database. Leonard Nimoy, who played Spock in the series, died two days later at the age of 83.
IMDB says Bennett also produced "The Six Million Dollar Man," "The Bionic Woman" and "The Mod Squad."
"Star Trek" enthusiast, filmmaker and author Larry Nemecek, of Southern California, credits Bennett as being in a handful of producers and directors who kept the popular franchise alive after the original TV series concluded. He says Bennett came on board to produce "Wrath of Khan" after the first 'Trek' film, "The Motion Picture," was released in 1979. The first film did well financially, though Nemecek says it received mixed reviews from moviegoers.
"It was kind of unsatisfying in many ways and didn't light the world on fire," Nemecek says.
He says Bennett watched all 79 episodes of the original 1960s television series and was intrigued by the episode called "Space Seed," where the character of Khan was first introduced. Bennett's vision was to bring him back. "The Wrath of Khan" was released in 1982, and was a commercial and critical success.
“'Star Trek' would not be what it was without 'The Wrath of Khan,' and we wouldn’t have had 'Wrath of Khan' without Harve Bennett,” Nemecek says. "I say he may not be ‘the’ guy, but if there are four or five people who saved 'Star Trek,' he’s one of them.
"All through the '80s, he was basically the 'Star Trek' guy."
Bennett's last on-camera interview was with Nemecek in 2011 for his documentary, "The Con of Wrath."
Bennett moved to the Rogue Valley in either 2009 or 2010, living first in Ashland, then Jacksonville, according to Terry Erdmann of Jacksonville. Erdmann did publicity for "The Final Frontier" film and continues to write 'Star Trek' books — both fiction and non-fiction — with his wife, Paula Block, who used to work in the licensing department for Paramount Pictures. Both remember Bennett fondly.
“He was a really, really nice guy,” Erdmann says. “He was really, really a smart guy. Mind like a steel trap.”
"He was just very sweet," Block says. "It's pretty sad. It's the real passing of an era."
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