King Daniel Into Darkness wrote:
They'd been thinking of recasting the TOS crew since 1977, when Paramount were concerned the TV actors weren't big enough to carry a big budget movie. It nearly happened again in 1993 with Harve Bennett's The Academy Years prequel movie.
I thought Bennett's prequel movie pitch, and the development work that occurred on it, were a bit earlier than that. As I recall, it was his pitch for Star Trek VI, prior to any development work on what we know today as TUC. That would put it around 1989 or so. By 1993, I'm fairly certain the wheels were solidly in motion for TNG to make the leap to the big screen.
Frankly, in retrospect, I wish they had gone with Bennett's plan. As much as I love TNG on TV, the TNG movies were, IMHO, nowhere near the quality of their TOS predecessors. Rather than kicking TNG to the big screen and changing the formula that made it work, I would have rather seen the silver screen adventures continue to be TOS-based with Bennett using his prequel plans. And I daresay that Bennett, who I think "gets" the core of Star Trek better than J.J. Abrams, would have produced better prequel films than Abrams has.
YMMV, of course.