(written from a Production point of view)
Jack B. Sowards (18 March 1929 – 8 July 2007; age 78) was an American screenwriter who co-wrote the story and screenplay for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. He later wrote the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Where Silence Has Lease".
Hailing from Texarkana, Arkansas, Sowards enlisted in the US Army following high school and participated in the Berlin Airlift during Soviet Russia's blockade of Berlin, Germany, in 1949. He later enlisted in the Navy and, three years after that, he began serving in the Air Force as a chief mechanic on F-86 fighter jets.
Following his years of military service, his exploits as field worker took him to Hollywood, where he worked as a furniture mover and photographer. Through his friendship with actor Dennis Hopper, Sowards won the role of Iago in a stage production of William Shakespeare's Othello opposite Hopper and Michael Forest, for which he won rave reviews. Shortly thereafter, Hollywood producer/writer/director Burt Topper cast Sowards in the films Hell Squad (1958) and Tank Commandos (1959). It was during this time that Sowards decided to become a Hollywood writer.
Sowards wrote primarily for television. In 1972, Sowards received a Writers Guild of America (WGA) Award nomination (shared with story writer Brett Huggins) for a 1971 episode of the television series The Bold Ones: The Lawyers entitled "The Invasion of Kevin Ireland". Among his other credits are eleven episodes of the classic NBC western series Bonanza (including "A Matter of Faith", which he wrote from a story by D.C. Fontana, and "Easy Come, Easy Go", directed by Joseph Pevney, and many directed by Herschel Daugherty), several episodes of NBC's The High Chaparral (starring Henry Darrow), and two episodes of Barnaby Jones (a CBS series starring Lee Meriwether).
Sowards was also a writer and story editor on the series The Streets of San Francisco, Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer, and B.L. Stryker. Among his other writing credits is an episode William Shatner's series T.J. Hooker entitled "A Child Is Missing" which featured series regular James Darren, recurring player Richard Herd, and High Chaparral star (and Star Trek: Voyager guest star) Henry Darrow.
In addition to his work on episodic television, Sowards also wrote a number of made-for-TV movies. Among these is the 1974 ABC Movies of the Week Cry Panic, directed by James Goldstone and featuring Jason Wingreen, and Death Cruise, directed by Ralph Senensky and starring Edward Laurence Albert.
Wrath of Khan
In late 1980, the executive producer of the second Star Trek film, Harve Bennett, hired Sowards – a self-confessed Star Trek fan – to turn Bennett's story outline into a script. Sowards had only a few months to complete his script before a writers' strike was called in April of 1981; he had a first draft completed by late February (followed by an updated draft delivered in early April).
It was Sowards' draft which convinced actor Leonard Nimoy to resume his role of Spock. Although Bennett's outline made no mention of Spock since Nimoy had already expressed disinterest in the project, Sowards persuaded Nimoy to sign on by having Spock die in the script. Although the final screenplay was a compilation of elements from various drafts as written by director Nicholas Meyer, many of Sowards contributions were retained in the final project, and indeed, he received sole screenwriting credit in the film.
Having been retired from screenwriting since the early 1990s, Sowards died in Valley Village, California from complications of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. He was 78 years old.
Star Trek award nominations
Sowards earned two award nominations for his writing for The Wrath of Khan, his first and only feature film credit.
- 1983 Hugo Award nomination in the category Best Dramatic Presentation, shared with Nicholas Meyer, Harve Bennett, and Samuel A. Peeples
- "Jack Sowards, The Man Who Killed Mr. Spock", Lee Goldberg, Starlog, issue 67, February 1983, pp. 22-25