The Real Reason Kirstie Alley Left Star Trek After Wrath Of Khan
Before her passing, Kirstie Alley revealed she didn't return to the role of Saavik in Star Trek III because the studio lowballed her.
Long before her recent passing, actress Kirstie Alley had the privilege of making her first prominent screen role in 1982’s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, which many fans still consider to be among the best of the franchise’s films. She was replaced as the Vulcan officer Saavik in the follow-up by Robin Curtis, and Alley revealed that the studio tried to get her back for the sequel but she passed because they wanted more out of her, but they wanted it for less. According to Alley, even though her role in Star Trek III would’ve been bigger, Paramount offered her less than they did for Star Trek II.
When Kirstie Alley spoke to StarTrek.com in 2016, the Look Who’s Talking star expressed confusion at what happened. “And so that never made sense to me,” Alley said. “Like, ‘You’re not paying as much as the first one, and it’s a bigger role?’ It just didn’t make sense to me.”
She said her representation “queried it sort of gently, like, ‘Why would you offer someone less money for a bigger role?'” Regardless, Kirstie Alley never got a solid answer about getting lowballed off Star Trek III, though she said she “heard rumors” about someone being behind it all. It wasn’t until the 2021 docu-series The Center Seat: 55 Years of Star Trek that the actress was a little bit more candid about who she thought was behind the lackluster offer.
In the docu-series, Kirstie Alley said that Star Trek icon William Shatner didn’t enjoy working with her on Star Trek II, and went further to say he may have felt upstaged. It was Shatner, Alley believes, that pushed the producers to offer her less and therefore opened the door for Robin Curtis to take her place.
If what she believes is true, then Shatner arguably robbed Kirstie of a promising career in Star Trek. As the actress said — and as anyone who’s seen 1984’s Star Trek III: The Search for Spock can attest — her role in the movie series’ next chapter would have been bigger. Saavik shares an adventure with Kirk’s son David (Merritt Butrick) on the planet Genesis, gets captured by Klingons, and even briefly becomes the lover of the resurrected Spock in order to help him survive the intense Vulcan mating time of Pon farr.
Had she continued with the character, Kirstie Alley may have even appeared in 1986’s Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, and possibly even more films. As ScreenRant recalled in 2020, it was originally Robin Curtis’s Saavik — instead of Kim Catrall’s Lt. Valeris — who was going to betray the crew of the Enterprise in 1991’s Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. However, Trek creator Gene Roddenberry felt Saavik was too beloved by fans to reveal as a traitor, and so the new character Valeris was created.