The Godfather almost killed Captain Kirk. You read that correctly. According to a new story, the late Marlon Brando was considering the role of the lead antagonist of the 1994 film Star Trek: Generations. Along with being the first film to feature the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation, the movie gives us the final moments of William Shatner‘s iconic hero Captain James T. Kirk.
The story comes from SyFy, who interviewed Ronald D. Moore — a busy Star Trek producer of the TNG era, as well as one of the co-writers of Generations. While Moore was being interviewed for the 25th anniversary of Generations‘ follow-up — 1996’s Star Trek: First Contact — he let slip that Marlon Brando was looking at the role of Generations‘ villain Soran. He learned it from producer Rick Berman, who said Paramount had given him the news that Brando “might be interested” in the film. Moore said that he walked out of the room after hearing this, telling himself over and over that the casting would never happen.
Of course, Moore was right. While it’s almost a certainty that Paramount would have insisted on the casting had Marlon Brando ultimately wanted the role, he apparently gave it a pass. The same year Generations released, Brando appeared instead alongside Johnny Depp and Faye Dunaway in the romantic comedy Don Juan DeMarco. Meanwhile, Malcolm McDowell of A Clockwork Orange fame took on the role of Soran.
It’s interesting to consider what might have been if Marlon Brando had instead played Soran. In most likelihood, the part would have changed significantly. As he appears in the finished product, Soran is an El-Aurian — the race introduced by Whoopi Goldberg’s Guinan in TNG — who is obsessed with cheating death by finding his way back to a place called The Nexus, where time doesn’t move in a linear fashion. The part is a pretty physical one, with Soran getting in shootouts and fistfights with the heroes several times. By the mid-’90s, Brando was suffering wild weight fluctuations as well as dealing with type 2 diabetes along with other chronic conditions. A Soran played by Brando would probably needed to have been a more hands-off villain. On the other hand, knowing what we know now, it’s impossible to not imagine Brando in the voices of characters like Vito Corleone or Colonel Kurtz of Apocalypse Now reciting Soran lines like “Time is the fire in which we burn.”
Star Trek: Generations remains one of the most reviled films among the hardcore Trek fandom, and it isn’t clear if Marlon Brando’s inclusion would change anything about that. The dislike for the film stems largely from the reaction to the death of Captain Kirk. Rather than going out in a blaze of glory, Kirk’s manner of death borders on comical. While helping Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) in his fight against Soran, Kirk is caught on an unstable bridge which plummets to the ground far below. Kirk is stuck underneath the bridge, though he survives long enough to give Picard his final words. Many fans would argue that the lead of the original Star Trek series, The Animated Series, and six of the franchise’s feature films deserved something a bit more heroic.