Kirstie Alley Acted Unprofessionally On Star Trek II And She Knew It

Nicholas Meyer's 1982 sci-fi flick "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" was the first major acting gig for Kirstie Alley. Up to that point, Alley had only appeared on the sci-fi sitcom "Quark" as well as a few game shows like "Match Game." Alley wasn't even wholly devoted to acting at that stage, treating it more like a side-hustle than a career. It wouldn't be until she started auditioning for "Star Trek II" that she decided to focus on acting exclusively.

The circumstances surrounding Alley's audition are rather tragic, sadly. In the middle of the process, her mom was killed in a car accident and her father was left seriously injured. She stayed next to her father's bedside and Paramount, rather surprisingly, let her take all the time she needed. She spoke to her comatose father every day, telling him all about how she wanted to be an actor now, and even showed him headshots she had made. In a miraculous twist, Alley's father not only pulled through but called her from the hospital one night to say he was proud she was going to be an actor.

Alley completed the audition process and secured the role of Saavik, the half-Romulan, half-Vulcan helm officer on the U.S.S. Enterprise and protégé of Spock (Leonard Nimoy). She was over the moon.

But when the day came to report to the set, Alley suddenly realized that she was just an amateur. She was surrounded by Nimoy and William Shatner, two professionals who had been acting for decades. They always had their lines memorized and always hit their marks. Alley, on the other hand ... didn't always do that. She spoke with in 2016, revealing how unprofessional she was during shooting (and how embarrassed she was about it).

Kirstie Alley was 'unprepared' for Star Trek

The embarrassment didn't mean that Alley hated being there. Far from it. She enjoyed meeting her co-stars and acting across such an outsize personality as William Shatner. But acting with such pros highlighted how ill-prepared Alley was for performing professionally. In her own words:

"Well, I loved it. Bill is a mixed bag of tricks, which is funny. I think he thought at one point, 'Why the hell did they hire this girl, who's never done anything?' I wasn't so good at my lines, I will tell you. The repercussion for me never having acted before was that I wasn't the world's best at learning lines. And I was sort of irresponsible. I mean, if you want to know the honest truth, I would go out every night and celebrate that I got a job in a movie. So I would stay out too late, and then I would come in, let's call it 'unprepared.' That might be a polite way to say it."

While one can relate to Alley's impulse to have a celebratory cocktail every night (she landed a gig on "Star Trek" after all), it certainly wasn't a wise course of action for an actor who is playing a pretty large role in a major Hollywood production. Saavik was more than a mere supporting player, and Alley had many, many scenes. She learned the hard way that a time had to come to put down the cocktail shaker and actually delve into the script.

Alley's costars inspired her to step up her game

Luckily, Shatner, Nimoy, and the rest of the "Star Trek" cast had been playing their parts since the '60s, and their assurance inspired Alley to step up. As she put it:

"[T]hey were all such pros. They know what the hell they're doing. Bill ... he's Captain Kirk, for God's sake. And Leonard was Spock. So they knew exactly what they were doing. Everyone was professional, probably except me."

Alley availed herself incredibly well. Saavik returned in "Star Trek III: The Search for Spock" in 1984, but Alley was replaced by actor Robin Curtis. It seems that Alley was offered a chance to appear in "Star Trek III" but turned it down because Paramount offered her less money than she got for "Star Trek II." This was on top of the fact that Saavik's role was much larger in "Star Trek III." Alley didn't like the offer and walked away.

In 1983 and 1984, however, Alley's acting career took off in a big way. She appeared in films like "Champions," "Blind Date," and the sci-fi film "Runaways," while also securing a leading role on the short-lived TV series "Masquerade" and the miniseries "North and South." Then, 1987 saw her landing her sizable gig on the hit sitcom "Cheers," followed by her role in Amy Heckerling's mega-hit 1989 comedy "Look Who's Talking." She also worked with Carl Reiner, John Carpenter, and Woody Allen, and eventually produced her own hit TV series "Veronica's Closet." Alley had a wonderful career before passing away in 2022 at the age of 71.