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Born in 2243, West attended Starfleet Academy in the 2260s. While at the Academy he studied xenoanthropology, focusing on Klingon culture. After graduation he hoped to be assigned to starship duty, but was instead assigned to command to analyze the current situation with the Klingon Empire. His analysis came to the attention of the President of the United Federation of Planets, and West was invited to attend a meeting, but did not endear himself to the President or other senior officers.
West continued his career in Starfleet. By 2293 West was involved with other officers who opposed any thawing of relations between the Federation and the Empire. After the Klingon moon Praxis exploded, West joined the conspiracy to prevent peace between the two formerly hostile powers.
After Captain James T. Kirk and Doctor Leonard McCoy were arrested by General Chang for the assassination of Chancellor Gorkon, West put together a plan to send a task force in to rescue Kirk and McCoy. He presented the plan to President Ra-ghoratreii, but Ra-ghoratreii objected on the grounds it would cause a war.
West traveled to the the peace conference at the Klingon Camp Khitomer. There he disguised himself as a Klingon, and tried to assassinate President Ra-ghoratreii. Due to Captain Kirk's intervention, West failed to assassinate Ra-ghoratreii. West aimed his phaser rifle at Lt. Valeris, but Montgomery Scott burst in on him and fired his phaser at the apparently Klingon assassin.
West fell through the glass on to the floor below. When Colonel Worf observed that the blood pooling beneath was not Klingon blood, Admiral Smillie pulled the mask away, revealing the dead man as Colonel West.
West did not appear in the theatrical release of The Undiscovered Country as the scenes with him were removed. The scenes were restored for the VHS release of the movie.
René Auberjonois performed this role as a favor to director and personal friend Nick Meyer.
West was loosely based on the real life US Colonel Oliver North.
In The Autobiography of James T. Kirk West's first name was Oliver, and he was an associate of Admiral Cartwright.