Entry updated 26 October 2021. Tagged: Author, Film.
(1945- ) US screenwriter and sometime director, known especially for Time After Time (1979), for his work on the original-series phase of the Star Trek film cycle, and latterly for his screen adaptations of non-sf works by Philip Roth. Beginning as a publicist, in which capacity he wrote a making-of book for Love Story (1971), he made an amusing debut as a screenwriter on the exploitation feature Invasion of the Bee Girls (1973) before finding success as an accidental novelist with the Sherlock Holmes/Sigmund Freud mashup The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (1974), written during the 1973 screenwriters' strike and subsequently filmed from Meyer's screenplay (1976); he also shared writing credit on The Night that Panicked America (1975), about the 1938 broadcast of Orson Welles's War of the Worlds. This was followed by his first film as writer-director, the still more inventive and engaging Time After Time (1979), in which H G Wells builds a Time Machine and pursues Jack the Ripper to present-day New York.
After the vast expense and indifferent reception of Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), Meyer was commissioned to direct a sequel on half the budget; with no prior interest in the Star Trek universe, he abandoned the first film's cosmic ruminations for a reading of the franchise as quite overtly Hornblower in Space, and the result was Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), which would stand as the series' benchmark for the next thirty years, with J J Abrams' Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) a knowing remake in a branch of Alternate History. Meyer sat out the sequel Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984), being then in post-production on his nuclear Holocaust TV movie The Day After (1983) (see World War Three), but returned as writer of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986); the alternation continued with the Meyerless Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989) and the Meyer-directed Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991), whose Shakespearean subtitle had originally stood, somewhat more appropriately, as Meyer's choice for what became Wrath of Khan.
Though directorial work subsequently dried up, Meyer continued to script thoughtful, novelistic films, the best of which is the historical Identity drama Sommersby (1993). A notable unmade work from this period was his two-part television adaptation, originally for HBO, of Homer's Odyssey (screenplay written 1994-1995), of which a quite different and greatly inferior version was eventually filmed by Andrei Konchalovsky for NBC as The Odyssey (1997), with Meyer credited as executive producer but only the skeleton of his structure surviving. An essentially literary screenwriter with only an accidental interest in sf, he has nevertheless done most of his best work in the genre, and the original-cast Star Trek films in which he had no hand have generally been regarded as the weakest of that cycle. His memoir is The View from the Bridge: Memories of Star Trek and a Life in Hollywood (2009). [NL]
born New York: 24 December 1945
- The Seven-Per-Cent Solution: Being a Reprint from the Reminiscences of John H. Watson, M.D. (New York: E P Dutton, 1974) [Sherlock Holmes: hb/]
- The West End Horror: A Posthumous Memoir of John H. Watson, M.D (New York: E P Dutton, 1976) [Sherlock Holmes: hb/]
- The Canary Trainer: From the Memoirs of John H. Watson (New York: W W Norton, 1991) [Sherlock Holmes: hb/]
- The View from the Bridge: Memories of Star Trek and a Life in Hollywood (New York: Viking Adult, 2009) [nonfiction: hb/photographic]
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