William Shatner has a reputation among some circles as not being one of the nicest of people. The older he gets, the more curmudgeonly he becomes. But this story isn’t an age story, this one is about his years on the set of Star Trek, how he was perceived then and how he is perceived now by the people who shared the Enterprise bridge with him.
William Shatner made enemies out of some of his former Star Trek castmates. Some eventually became his friend, others held onto the grudge they bore against him until the day they died. Others continue to hold on to their hatred.
This is William Shatner vs. The Crew Of The Enterprise
SHATNER VS NIMOY
William Shatner’s relationship with Leonard Nimoy had more ups and downs than a playground teeter-totter. It all began when the two were hired on as Captain Kirk and his first officer Mr. Spock in the 1960’s series Star Trek. Even though it’s a phenomenon now, the original series only ran for three seasons in the ‘60s, from 1966-1969 before being cancelled. As for Shatner and Nimoy, as their popularity grew, so did the contention between them.
Their disagreement seems to be more ego-driven than anything else and mainly on Shatner’s part. He, being the Captain, felt his popularity should be more than any on the show. However, when Spock’s character was beginning to get more love, William Shatner became hell to deal with.
Shatner even admitted years later that he had feelings of jealousy over the attention Nimoy was getting (fan letters, a visit from the “Duke” John Wayne) and he didn’t handle it all too well. It is famously known that during this time of Spock rising popularity, Shatner would hide the bike that Leonard Nimoy used to get himself around the set as fast as possible. Very sophomoric. But it didn’t end there.
Shatner felt that, as the Captain of the Enterprise, his intellect should be greater than anyone on the show, even a Vulcan with superior knowledge. So, Bill Shatner began to steal Nimoy’s lines in order to make his character to sound smarter. This did not sit well with Nimoy.
There was also that time Shatner refused to let a photographer, who was there to do a profile on Leonard Nimoy, into the dressing room. For his part, Nimoy refused to get into makeup until the photographer was let in. The two almost shut down production for the day.
With the many downs, their relationship did have its ups. They two eventually became close friends, a friendship that lasted decades. Shatner would later describe Nimoy in his book Leonard: My Fifty-Year Friendship With a Remarkable Man, as the only “real friend” he ever had.
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Still, after Leonard Nimoy’s death Shatner would be torched by fans for not being present at Nimoy’s funeral. In Shatner’s defense, how one chooses to deal with death can be quite personal and, at the time, Captain Kirk was in Florida for the Red Cross Ball. Fans didn’t see it that way, especially after it was reported that Shatner actually landed in Los Angeles a couple hours after the start of Spock’s funeral, leading many to believe that he could have been there if he truly wanted to.
The thing that makes the Shatner/Nimoy story even more complicated is that in the five years prior to Nimoy’s death, the pair had not spoken a single word to each other. Supposedly this stems from a misunderstanding the two had when Shatner asked Nimoy to appear in the documentary The Captains. When Nimoy refused, Shatner sent his cameraman to film Nimoy at a convention and used this footage without Nimoy’s permission.
They never fought or talked about it because the two never spoke again. Shatner mentioned that he did try to mend fences with Nimoy, even sending him notes but Nimoy never responded. His final letter to his one-time, long-time friend read: “I have had a deep love for you, Leonard—for your character, your morality, your sense of justice, your artistic bent. You’re the friend that I have known the longest and the deepest.”
SHATNER VS TAKEI
The feud between William Shatner and George Takei has lasted. It is also a feud that the two, Shatner and Takei, have not hidden and pretty much speak about as often as they can.
Perhaps it didn’t initially start with Shatner against Takei, it was more about how the rest of the cast of Star Trek saw Shatner as self-centered and egotistical. It rubbed George (as well as the others) the wrong way. Takei opened up to the New York Times (just one of the many publications he has spoken to about Shatner) about the on-going feud. “It’s all coming from Bill. Whenever he needs a little publicity for a project, he pumps up the so-called controversy between us.”
George Takei is famously out of the closet as a proud, happy, gay man who married his partner in 2008. Some of the Shatner/Takei feud stems from this wedding. Shatner made a comment about the wedding, not that he was opposed to Takei marrying a man but the simple fact he wasn’t invited. “There’s such a sickness there, it’s so painfully obvious that there’s a psychosis there,” Shatner said. “I didn’t know him very well on the series, he’d come in for a day or two, as evidenced by the role he played.”
Of course, Takei responded by saying he did invite Shatner but Shatner never responded to the invite. “Two months after my wedding, he went on YouTube and ranted and raved about our not sending him an invitation. We had. If he had an issue, he could have easily just phoned us before the wedding, simple as that. But he didn’t. And the reason he raised that fuss two months later is because he was premiering his new talk show, ‘Raw Nerve,'” he said to ABC News.
And then Takei touched on a common theme surrounding William Shatner, “It’s difficult working with someone who is not a team player. The rest of the cast all understand what makes a scene work — it’s everybody contributing to it. But Bill is a wonderful actor, and he knows it, and he likes to have the camera on him all the time.”
The mudslinging between the two Star Trek alums heated up in the second half of 2021, after William Shatner’s historic — if brief — space journey courtesy of Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin. George Takei responded to the news by calling Shatner a “guinea pig” for Bezos. Takei added, “He’ll be a good specimen to study. Although he’s not the fittest specimen of 90 years old, so he’ll be a specimen that’s unfit!”
William Shatner’s immediate reaction to Takei’s barbs was express what he called “pity” for his former costar, saying that he felt Takei suffered from some kind of “psychosis” that stopped him from feeling joy unless he was attacking Shatner. A couple of days later, Shatner shot back on Twitter, writing that — among other things — Takei only “got press” when he was trashing Shatner.
So far, the two have not buried the hatchet, and given the advanced age of both actors, who knows if they ever will.
Things must have been tense on the set of the original series for Nichelle Nichols (Uhura) to consider walking after only one season. She even went as far as turning in her resignation. But it was a chance meeting with a one Dr. Martin Luther King that brought her back to the show.
As she told PBS’ Pioneers of Television, “One of the promoters came up and said someone wanted to meet me. He said he’s my greatest fan,” says Nichols. “I thought it was some Trekker, some kid. I turned in my seat and there was Dr. Martin Luther King with a big smile on his face. He said, ‘I am a Trekker, I am your biggest fan.'” She couldn’t believe he was telling her this but she had to tell him that she was leaving the show. His response changed her life and career, “He was telling me why I could not [resign],” she recalls. “He said I had the first nonstereotypical role, I had a role with honor, dignity, and intelligence. He said, ‘You simply cannot abdicate, this is an important role. This is why we are marching. We never thought we’d see this on TV.'”
Nichelle Nichols stayed with Star Trek and she, along with Shatner, delivered the first interracial kiss in the history of television.
SHATNER VS JAMES DOOHAN
Like much of the cast, James Doohan (Scotty) had issues with William Shatner. Call it a feud or call it a simple case of not liking another’s personality, it was still there. It also could have stemmed from not only Shatner taking Nimoy’s lines, but on the rare occasion, also taking some of Scotty’s more brilliant pieces of dialogue.
The self-centeredness of Shatner didn’t have boundaries, something that Doohan, a former World War II fighter pilot, did not care for.
The two seemed to get along better in James Doohan’s final years. Shatner can even be seen helping an ailing Doohan off the stage during the TVLand Awards, shortly before Doohan’s death. But James Doohan was never shy about his dislike for William Shatner.
SHATNER VS WALTER KOENIG
Walter Koenig’s Chekov was an immensely likable character, as is the actor himself. He never really had a feud or dislike toward William Shatner, nor did Shatner toward him. He did notice everything else his castmates dealt with and understood their dislike for Shatner.
The way Koenig sees it, life on a TV or movie set was completely different then as it is now. Back in the Star Trek days, series would be built around one or two big stars and the rest of the cast would just be pieces. Such was the case on Star Trek and Shatner oft-times let the cast know. Koenig saw Shatner as self-involved but not in a malicious way, but because that was how he was expected to act as the main star.
Koenig also pointed out that the dislike didn’t spread among the rest of the cast towards each other. “The rest of us got along well, mostly because of our mutually grumbling of Mr. Shatner,” Koenig said to HIT.
By all accounts, DeForest Kelley had a most amicable relationship with William Shatner. Like the others, he had an occasional tiff with Shatner but nothing that ever drove a wedge between the two.
Kristine M. Smith, author, who became a great friend to Kelley and his wife, published a book in 2001 titled DeForest Kelley Up Close and Personal, A Harvest of Memories from the Fan Who Knew Him Best. In it, she commented on Kelley and his relationship with Shatner. “If he ever corrected you, you felt blessed rather than criticized,” she said. “At a ‘Star Trek’ convention once, someone asked if William Shatner was hard to get along with. De said he absolutely loved Bill but had to straighten his ass out a time or two!”
WILLIAM SHATNER’S OTHER STAR TREK FEUDS
JJ Abrams found himself staring down the barrel of Shatner’s wrath when Abrams decided to include Leonard Nimoy in his 2009 reboot, but not Captain Kirk himself. According to Abrams, Shatner wanted the reboot to focus more significantly on Shatner than the script called for and even though they tried, they just couldn’t make it happen.
Kirstie Alley was another actress Shatner felt no love loss for. According to the actress during her interview on the Howard Stern Show, Captain Kirk disliked her acting so much that he even hired a tutor to help her improve her acting skills on Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Brutal! She also made mention of an inappropriate action on set but said she declined Shatner’s advances.