If you ever heard about William Shatner punching Jesus, you’d probably think Captain Kirk just really hated The Sound of Freedom and decided to take it out on Jim Caveziel. But believe it or not, we came this close to seeing Kirk fighting Jesus at the end of the first Star Trek movie, which likely would have been a disastrous thing for this Paramount franchise.
And thanks to this Twitter user reposting an interview with writer Michael Jan Friedman, we know a bit more about what this cinematic showdown would have looked like.
The script in question here is actually the original script Gene Roddenberry wrote for the first Star Trek film, and it was called (somewhat appropriately, as you will see) The God Thing.
Captain Kirk and the rest of the crew of the Enterprise must mount up yet again in the script after an alien creature claiming to be God destroys a starship. When William Shatner faces the creature down, he discovers it can take many forms, including Jesus, and the alien claims to be responsible for creating various religions on planets all across the galaxy.
The original script Gene Roddenberry wrote for the first Star Trek film was called The God Thing.
And while we never got to see William Shatner punching Jesus out onscreen, fans who were interested in Roddenberry’s bonkers script came very close to getting a novelization. Once Roddenberry died, Michael Jan Friedman was hired to turn Roddenberry’s script and notes for the movie into a cohesive novel.
However, the writer was shocked at everything from the poor characterization to the “disjointed” scenes (he’s the one being quoted in the tweet), and after he pointed these things out to publisher Pocket Books, the novelization was left unpublished.
However, if you know your Star Trek well enough, you might have realized some of these plot elements still made it into different films in the franchise. For example, the initial call to action (in which Kirk has to get the gang back together to investigate a dangerous alien blowing up ships that get too close to it) remains the same in both The God Thing and Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
And while William Shatner never fought Jesus onscreen, he did take on God in The Final Frontier, a movie that heavily borrowed Roddenberry’s concept of Kirk fighting an alien being that takes the form of different religious deities.
Ultimately, The God Thing remains one of the most tantalizing bits of Star Trek lore for many fans, and not just because the idea of William Shatner fighting Jesus sounds completely amazing. Indeed, part of the appeal of the weird script is the confirmation, once and for all, that being a creative genius doesn’t mean all your ideas are good.
Gene Roddenberry’s script was keen enough to understand Kirk’s inevitable midlife crisis, yet it somehow overlooked the chemistry that makes these characters so special. Now, even as some critics complain NuTrek is nothing like Roddenberry’s Trek, it’s time to admit that Trek is sometimes at its best when it least resembles the excesses of its creator.