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The Reason Kirstie Alley's Saavik Wasn't In Star Trek III: The Search For Spock

Before Kirstie Alley became a major star, she went to the stars as Saavik, a major new addition to the "Star Trek" franchise in "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan." Though the character was notably emotionless, Alley made a co-star furious in the controversial scene where she spontaneously shed a tear at Spock's (Leonard Nimoy) funeral, and there's no telling what she might have done in subsequent movies if it wasn't for the fact that she never returned to the role. "The Wrath of Khan" was Alley's only chance to explore the character, and Saavik was played by Robin Curtis in subsequent appearances. 

The reason Alley didn't end up returning is as simple as it is time-tested in the industry: Money disagreements. In a 2016 interview with StarTrek.com, Alley opened up about the situation and her reaction to it. According to her, the makers of "Star Trek III: The Search for Spock" attempted to reel her in with a lower paycheck — but with increased screen time. 

"It doesn't work," Alley said. "I'm not trying to sound ungrateful at all, because what they paid me when you did your first job is fine. But it wasn't like it was a massive amount of money, trust me. It just wasn't. And so that never made sense to me. 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. I don't think I said, 'Pass.' I know I wouldn't have gone just, 'Pass, forget it.' I feel like what I said was, 'Okay, I don't get this.' And when we queried it sort of gently, like, 'Why would you offer someone less money for a bigger role?'"

Leonard Nimoy felt Alley's agents got in the way

"Star Trek III: The Search for Spock" director Leonard Nimoy offered the production's side of the Saavik story in his autobiography, "I Am Spock," According to him, Kirstie Alley's agent was the one who got in the way of the deal, demanding far more money than was practical.

"We contacted her while the script was still in the works, and the salary we discussed was reasonable," Nimoy wrote. "It looked like everything would work out, so when the script was ready, we sent it along for Kirstie and her agent to read." This, however, is where things abruptly changed. "'Look, we didn't realize how large a role Saavik was going to have in this film. So we're withdrawing our earlier figure. Here's what we have to have now,'" he described the agent's sudden counter. 

According to Nimoy, the new figure was actually higher than what Dr. McCoy actor DeForest Kelley was paid, so suffice to say, there was no deal. However, Nimoy also cast some blame on the studio, feeling that Paramount should have made sure that Alley had a sequel and salary clause in her "The Wrath of Khan" contract. 

Alley loved her time as Saavik

Kirstie Alley wasn't just being polite when she said that she genuinely appreciated her role as Saavik, even though she didn't return for "Star Trek III: The Search for Spock." In fact, she was acutely aware that "Star Trek" changed the course of her career forever, and didn't hesitate to say so. "That was my first acting job," Alley told the Chicago Tribune in 1996. "So I owe everything to that film, to [director Nicholas Meyer]. I remember every single, solitary second of that experience. I was the happiest girl in the world because Nick gave me the biggest shot anyone could ever give an actress." 

Though the business side of things cut her time as Saavik short, Alley, who died in 2022, went on to do very well for herself on other fronts. She became a regular on the classic sitcom "Cheers," was one of the stars in the "Look Who's Talking" film series, starred in assorted shows including the sitcom "Veronica's Secrets" and the genre parody "Scream Queens," and won two Emmys over the course of her career.