William Shatner’s Forgotten Sci-Fi Follow-Up Flop After Star Trek

By Zack Zagranis | Updated

william shatner tekwar

The year is 1989. Paramount has just released Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, the first and only Star Trek movie directed by William Shatner, to almost universal disappointment. Many fans immediately dub it the worst Star Trek movie ever. How does one follow up such an unmitigated disaster? Well, if you’re William Shatner, you try to start your own Sci-fi franchise called TekWar.

William Shatner Started TekWar

William Shatner first conceived of TekWar during the production of Final Frontier. The franchise started out as a series of novels outlined by Shatner and ghost-written by Ron Goulart.

The series follows former police officer Jake Cardigan as he attempts to get the illegal drug Tek off the streets of Greater Los Angeles.

The Novels Spawned A Mini-Franchise

William Shatner tekwar

The novels somehow spawned a television series, comic books, and even a video game despite the fact that no known TekWar fans exist.

That might be a slight exaggeration, but let’s put it this way: you’re not going to find any Jake Cardigan cosplays at your local Comic Con.

We’re willing to bet anyone reading this has either never heard of TekWar or forgot it existed until they saw the words just now on their screen.

The reason for that is simple. It wasn’t very good.

Meant To Sound Like Star Trek?

William Shatner tekwar

Okay, it might be more accurate—and a bit nicer—to say that William Shatner’s TekWar wasn’t very original. It starts with the name.

Tek and Trek look very similar, and there’s no way that wasn’t done on purpose. Statistically speaking, TekWar has to owe at least one sale to a nearsighted Star Trek fan.

Even the addition of the word War feels calculated, as if Shatner wanted to confuse Star Wars fans into buying the books as well.

Reviews Weren’t Amazing

William Shatner tekwar

From there, the world of TekWar is populated with nothing but sci-fi cliches and highly derivative ideas. By the time William Shatner created TekWar, high-tech designer drugs and concepts like a Matrix that certain people can tap into had been staples of the Cyberpunk genre for years.

TekWar‘s autonomous robots, nicknamed “Andies,” are practically ripped right out of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? the novel Blade Runner is based on.

We’re not even the first to make that comparison. One review of the TV series actually used the term “Dullbladerunner,” to describe the show’s aesthetic. Ouch.

William Shatner Was Big Enough

But even a generic Sci-Fi story is going to sell with a big name attached, and William Shatner was a big enough name to guarantee TekWar‘s moderate success.

Soon after the first couple of Tek novels were released, Marvel started publishing a comic book based on TekWar, oddly retitled TekWorld.

The title ran for two years, from 1992 to 1994, before getting canceled amid Marvel’s mid-nineties financial crisis.

TekWar Series

William Shatner tekwar

The TekWar television series started the same year the comic book was canceled and, like the comic, lasted only two years, ending in 1996. William Shatner himself had a co-starring role on TekWar as Cardigan’s employer, Walter Bascom.

An adult animated reboot of TekWar was announced in 2021, but so far, nothing has been produced.

Despite TekWar‘s seemingly sizable cultural footprint almost no one ever talks about the franchise anymore. Perhaps that’s for the best. William Shatner’s TekWar stands as the perfect example of a ’90s property that’s best left in the ’90s.

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