- Born: March 22, 1931
- Biggest Franchise: Star Trek
- Wives: 4
- Children: 3
“O Captain! My Captain!” Although poet Walt Whitman began this poem as such and its true nature was a dedication to President Abraham Lincoln, Trekkies could definitely use it in reference to their favorite Star Trek Captain, James Tiberius Kirk, played by the formidable William Shatner.
Although Star Trek’s original series ran for only three seasons, William Shatner’s Captain Kirk left an indelible mark that carries on even today, nearly 54 years after the original series’ final episode.
WILLIAM SHATNER WAS BORN IN CANADA
William Shatner was born on March 22, 1931, in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. He grew up in a conservative Jewish household along with his parents and two sisters: one older, one younger. As a child, Shatner went to school in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce. The first was Willingdon Elementary School and the second was West Hill High School.
While William Shatner was in elementary school, he also attended the Montreal Children’s Theater, where he got his first taste of acting. Although he was keen on acting, after high school, Shatner went to college at the McGill University Faculty of Management in Montreal where he studied economics. He graduated from the University with a Bachelor of Commerce degree.
WILLIAM SHATNER STARTED ACTING IN COLLEGE AND TOOK SMALLER ROLES TO START
William Shatner actually started his movie career while he was still in college. This was in 1951 when the future Captain Kirk would star in a Canadian comedy, The Butler’s Night Off. It would be a very small part, as his character was simply, “a crook.”
The role did little to forward his career, so after graduating college, William Shatner took on an assistant manager and actor position at two places – Mountain Playhouse in Montreal and the Canadian National Repertory Theatre in Ottawa. He held those positions before moving on over to Ontario’s Stratford Shakespeare Festival.
William Shatner was beginning to gain some traction. His work, which included a part in Marlowe’s Tamburlaine, was highly thought of and it was one in which Shatner made his Broadway debut in 1956.
Shortly after that, Shatner was introduced to the entire Canadian television audience when he had a strong, albeit small, role in the opening scene of Sophocles’s Oedipus Rex. He turned that into a role in Henry V, where he not only had a part as the Duke of Gloucester but was also the understudy to screen legend Christopher Plummer.
Early on, William Shatner was gaining comparisons to other screen legends such as Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, and Robert Redford. Plummer was even impressed when Plummer had to pull out from a performance to deal with kidney stones, forcing Shatner to take his place. Plummer lauded Shatner’s interpretation of the character, one in which he went in an entirely different direction than Plummer had previously.
HE MOVED TO NEW YORK CITY TO PURSUE A MAJOR ACTING CAREER
It was in 1954 when William Shatner decided it was time for a change, so he pulled up stakes in Ontario and headed for the Big Apple, New York City. His goal was to start a career on Broadway. But that plan was pushed aside when, that same year, Shatner was offered his first opportunity to appear on American television. This came on the TV series, The Howdy Doody Show.
On The Howdy Doody Show, William Shatner created the part of Ranger Bob, starring not only with the show’s puppets, but also Clarabell the Clown. The appearance on the popular show opened up more opportunities for Shatner. Over the next four years, he would appear on TV series like Playbill, Scope, On Camera, The Kaiser Aluminum Show, Omnibus, and Studio One.
All of these shows led William Shatner to his very first feature film, The Brothers Karamazov. The film also starred Yul Brynner (The King and I, Westworld), Lee J. Cobb, Claire Bloom, and Richard Basehart (Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea). Unfortunately, it didn’t lead Shatner to more feature films.
1958 was a busy year for the career-building William Shatner. Not only did he get his first feature film with The Brothers Karamazov, but he was also seen in no less than eight television series that year. These included Suspicion, Climax!, Playhouse 90, The United States Steel Hour, and The Ed Sullivan Show.
Over the next couple of years, William Shatner continued to build his resume. More television shows followed, along with a number of TV movies such as The Christmas Tree and Point of Departure. Perseverance paid off, and in 1961 Shatner grabbed two feature films – The Explosive Generation and the big one in his early career, Judgment at Nuremberg.
Judgment at Nuremberg told the story of a 1948 American court that was in occupied Germany trying four Nazis for their war crimes. The film had an all-star cast that, along with William Shatner, included Spencer Tracy, Burt Lancaster, Richard Widmark, Marlene Dietrich, Maximilian Schell, Judy Garland, and Werner Klemperer. The highly-rated film won two Academy Awards.
WILLIAM SHATNER WAS IN THE TWILIGHT ZONE
Another one of William Shatner’s most notable roles in his early career came in 1963 on the trippy series, The Twilight Zone. Shatner had actually appeared on the series in a 1960 episode titled “Nick of Time,” but it was the 1963 episode that gained him much acclaim and attention. It was a freaky one.
The Twilight Zone episode was titled “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” and saw William Shatner star as Bob Wilson, a man who is traveling by airplane with his wife. This episode is oft considered to be one of the very best The Twilight Zone had to offer. Maybe you’ve seen it.
In the episode, Shatner’s Bob Wilson thinks he sees something on the wing of the airplane. That something, according to Bob, is a gremlin. It is on the wing, looking to do damage that could cause the plane to crash.
Bob tries to get his wife and the stewardess to believe him but to no avail. Any time they look out the window, there is no gremlin. To make matters much worse for Bob is the fact that he is on his first airplane flight since he had a nervous breakdown six months prior. That event also had taken place on an airplane.
With no one believing him, Bob decides to take matters into his own hands. He steals a gun from a sleeping police officer, straps himself in so he won’t be blown out of the aircraft, then opens the emergency door to rid the wing of the gremlin. When the plane finally lands, we find Bob in a straitjacket, headed back to the sanitarium. But the final scene heads on over to the wing and shows us the damage done by that gremlin. Seems Bob was right all along.
Although the role of Bob Wilson was a nice feather in William Shatner’s cap, his career still didn’t jump. For three more years, Shatner continued to appear on numerous television series that included Burke’s Law, The Man from U.N.C.L.E, The Defenders, The Fugitive, The Big Valley, Dr. Kildare, and Gunsmoke. Little did William Shatner know, but they were all leading him to a role that would be career-defining and career-making.
HE WAS NOT IN THE ORIGINAL STAR TREK SERIES
In 1964, a gentleman named Gene Roddenberry first presented a draft of Star Trek to Desilu Productions, the company run by Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz Jr. At the time, Ball was the head of Desilu Productions and although she was not familiar with Roddenberry’s Star Trek script, she was very instrumental in getting the pilot produced for Roddenberry.
The very first pilot was titled The Cage, and when it was finally produced in late 1964, it had a much different feel than Roddenberry’s initial script. One thing very noticeable about the first pilot is that there was no Captain James T. Kirk anywhere in the script. Instead, Jeffrey Hunter was on board as Captain Christopher Pike. There was, though, a very familiar name in that first pilot – Leonard Nimoy had been hired to play Mr. Spock.
Back in the day, Desilu Productions had a first-look deal with the CBS network. Oscar Katz was Desilu’s VP of Production, so he grabbed Roddenberry to pitch Star Trek to CBS. Although they liked the pitch, CBS eventually turned it down because they already had a space drama, Lost in Space.
The Star Trek team then turned to NBC and Grant Tinker. He decided to move forward with the pilot that eventually became The Cage. Unfortunately, after seeing the completed pilot, NBC turned it down, calling it “too cerebral.” All was not lost though, because even though they turned down the first pilot, they still liked the idea of the series, so they made an unprecedented move by backing a second pilot.
WILLIAM SHATNER LANDS THE ROLE OF CAPTAIN KIRK IN STAR TREK, BUT NOT RIGHT AWAY
With the second pilot ready to roll, the question then became, would Jeffrey Hunter return to the role of Captain Christopher Pike? Hunter had a six-month exclusive option for the part if picked up by the network. But he was not obligated to film the second pilot since the series had yet to be picked up. So, instead of once again appearing as Pike, Hunter instead decided to concentrate on his film career and passed on coming back to Star Trek.
At this point we would love to say, “enter William Shatner,” but that wasn’t the case initially. Although Roddenberry eventually landed on Shatner, there were other big names under consideration for the part of Captain James T. Kirk. The two big names on the list were Jack Lord, who played Detective Steve McGarrett on the original Hawaii Five-O series and James Coburn (The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape). The latter was considered as Captain Pike, had the network been on board with The Cage pilot.
There were also a couple of other names considered for parts on Star Trek. Martin Landau was in the running for Mr. Spock before Leonard Nimoy landed the role and James Hong was being considered for Sulu before they went with George Takei.
There was also going to be a Star Trek spin-off back then called Assignment: Earth featuring a character, Gary Seven, who was sent back to Earth from the future. Next to him would have been a young assistant, Roberta Lincoln, who was to be played by Dawn Wells. Instead, Wells took the part of Maryann on Gilligan’s Island.
The very first Star Trek episode with William Shatner as Captain Kirk was actually the second pilot for the series. It was titled, “Where No Man Has Gone Before.” When it was eventually released for TV viewer consumption, it ended up being the third episode of the first season.
This episode was also the first produced with William Shatner as James T. Kirk, James Doohan as Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott, and George Takei as Lt. Sulu. Fun fact: when Sulu was first introduced, he was USS Enterprise’s Astro Scientist. Sulu quickly becomes the ship’s helmsman.
Also in the cast was Sally Kellerman (the original Hot Lips Houlihan on the 1970 film M*A*S*H). Paul Fix played Dr. Mark Piper in the second pilot, but he never made it any further. DeForest Kelley joined the cast as Dr. McCoy and remained the ship’s doctor for the duration of the series.
Most of the originals, including Leonard Nimoy who continued on as Spock, appeared in Star Trek’s first season. The only one who didn’t was Walter Koenig, who didn’t join the cast as Ensign Pavel Chekov until the second season. By then, the original cast was set with little thought of what the future would hold for them all.
WILLIAM SHATNER DEMANDED TO KISS NICHELLE NICHOLS ON SCREEN
Also joining William Shatner on the bridge during Star Trek’s first season was Nichelle Nichols as Lt. Nyota Uhura. Her role became important for a couple of reasons, namely Nichols became the first black actress to have such a major role in an American TV series.
The second important reason for Nichols’s appearance on Star Trek was because she and William Shatner shared the very first interracial kiss on television. Nichols, who sadly passed away on July 30, 2022, at the age of 90, said in a 2001 interview how she saw that kiss.
“That was so funny,” she explained. “By that time, I didn’t think of it as the first interracial kiss. I just got the script, and I said ‘Oh, wow, great! We’re going to get a little romance in here!’”
Nichols then dropped some knowledge about her co-star, William Shatner. “Not many people know this, but it was originally written as being between Uhura and Spock. But Bill Shatner said ‘Oh no! If anyone is going to get to kiss Nichelle, it’s going to be me!’ And so they rewrote it, and we all laughed about it.”
STAR TREK WAS CANCELLED AFTER THREE SEASONS
It wasn’t what William Shatner had hoped for and it most definitely wasn’t what the rest of the original cast had hoped for either. After three seasons and 79 episodes, running from 1966 through 1969, the days of the USS Enterprise boldly going “where no man has gone before” was no longer.
The writing was on the wall for William Shatner and his Star Trek crew as Season 2 got underway. The show’s ratings were dipping precariously, even though the network had received over 29,000 fan letters during Star Trek’s first season. When rumor leaked that there was a strong possibility the series would be canceled after the second season, Roddenberry and friends began a secret campaign to get fans to write more letters to the network.
Between December 1967 and March 1968, NBC received nearly 116,000 letters requesting the show stay on the air. NBC did not anticipate this type of response. The mail the network received came from doctors, scientists, university professors, and museum curators, professional people who truly loved the show and wanted to see it continue, so continue it did.
For Season 3, with William Shatner back helming the USS Enterprise bridge, NBC planned to move the series to Monday nights in hopes the time slot change would draw more eyes. Eventually, though, and this could have sounded Star Trek’s death knell, NBC moved the series to Friday nights at 10 p.m. Their reasoning was to keep Star Trek away from the very successful Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In that was dominating Monday nights.
Obviously, Roddenberry was upset with the move. At the time, he noted, “If the network wants to kill us, it couldn’t make a better move.” Try as he may, Roddenberry was unsuccessful in persuading NBC to make the change. So he began to step away from the series in Season 3.
At the same time, NBC reduced the show’s budget. William Shatner became frustrated with the stories, feeling they were becoming exaggerated and improbable. Leonard Nimoy felt the whole thing was financially motivated, and he was probably right.
Even with all those letters, NBC still wasn’t getting the return they said they needed from the Nielsen ratings. So, after three seasons, William Shatner and crew shot their final episode of Star Trek on January 9, 1969. In February of that same year, NBC finally pulled the plug on the series, announcing its cancellation.
CANCELLATION HELPS STAR TREK FIND ITS AUDIENCE
It is clear that the quality of Star Trek Season 3 did not live up to the first two seasons, but it actually in many ways did give William Shatner and the rest of the crew new life. Namely, the show now had enough episodes to get into syndication. Kaiser Broadcasting had the foresight to purchase syndication rights to the series during its first season run, which paid off significantly.
When Kaiser started airing the series in syndication, William Shatner’s show began to find its audience. Kaiser made sure the series was shown much earlier in the day when younger eyes could easily see it. And that demographic tuned in, adding to the new and larger audience, and eventually turning Star Trek into a cult classic.
William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and the rest of the Enterprise crew were beginning to find their fame. By 1970, the reruns continued to run and bring in bigger and bigger audiences, which had the Associated Press call Star Trek “the show that won’t die.”
In 1972, over 3,000 “Trekkies” attended the very first Star Trek convention in New York City.
WILLIAM SHATNER STRUGGLED TO FIND WORK AFTER STAR TREK AND WAS HOMELESS
Life for William Shatner after Star Trek’s cancellation began to change both professionally and personally. Shatner’s marriage of 13 years to Gloria Rand came to an end in 1969, the same year that Star Trek bid adieu. His professional life, unfortunately, took a dive.
For a period of time after the cancellation of Star Trek, William Shatner had a little bit of trouble finding work. Networks continued to see him as James T. Kirk, and it was something that actually went against him.
Unable to find a job, he lost his home and was actually reduced to living in the San Fernando Valley in a truck-bed camper. It was a humbling time for Shatner, one that saw him take any odd job he could, including appearing at small parties.
It wasn’t all bad for Shatner though. He eventually began to find work and once he did, he was one busy actor.
From 1970 through 1973, William Shatner appeared in just about every television series imaginable while also grabbing a number of TV movies. Some of the series he appeared in were Medical Center, The F.B.I., Hawaii Five-O, Mission: Impossible, Marcus Welby, M.D., Barnaby Jones, and Mannix. Some of the TV movies he starred in were The People, The Hound of the Baskervilles, Go Ask Alice, and The Horror at 37,000 Feet.
WILLIAM SHATNER RETURNED FOR STAR TREK: THE ANIMATED SERIES
With the popularity of the original Star Trek series still high, Gene Roddenberry decided to give it another shot, so he came up with Star Trek: The Animated Series. To make this happen, Roddenberry brought back the cast from the original series, with one notable omission.
The series, which ran for two seasons and 22 episodes, brought back the bulk of the cast for voice work. William Shatner returned as Captain Kirk, Leonard Nimoy as Spock, DeForest Kelley as Dr. McCoy, George Takei as Sulu, Nichelle Nichols as Uhura, and James Doohan as Scotty.
The one person missing from the original cast was Walter Koenig as Pavel Chekov, who did not provide vocals, as it was determined that the series’ budget couldn’t afford the entire cast to return.
When the idea of an animated series was first conceived, the only voices that were going to be used were William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, and Majel Barrett (who ended up marrying Gene Roddenberry).
It was Leonard Nimoy who put his foot down, saying that he would not be voicing Spock unless Nichols and Takei were brought in for Uhura and Sulu. For Nimoy, this stand was a matter of principle, knowing the rough go some of the actors had been facing since the original Star Trek was canceled.
HE HAD MANY OTHER ROLES INCLUDING THE WESTERN, BARBARY COAST
Star Trek: The Animated Series came to a conclusion in 1974, though it didn’t leave William Shatner jobless. Shatner continued his television run, appearing on such shows as The Six Million Dollar Man, Ironside, Police Woman, and The Rookies.
In 1975, William Shatner found himself starring in another TV series, Barbary Coast, which also starred Richard Kiel and Doug McClure. The series only lasted two seasons.
During the mid-to-late ‘70s, William Shatner also found himself starring in a number of B-movies, both made for television and on the big screen. These included Perilous Voyage, The Devil’s Rain, A Whale of a Tale, Kingdom of the Spiders, Land of No Return, and Disaster on the Coastliner. Still, there were those Trekkies asking for more Star Trek.
STAR TREK HAD PLANS TO KILL OFF CAPTAIN KIRK
Paramount was listening and Paramount was planning. Star Trek was still a thing and by 1978, the studio began to make plans for a prequel series called Star Trek: Phase II. The intent was to introduce Trekkies to a new cast, younger than the OG Star Trek crew, but bringing them in alongside some of the original group.
William Shatner was called upon to usher in the younger cast and most of the original cast members were also called back. The one exception was Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock. At the time, Nimoy had an ongoing dispute with both Gene Roddenberry and Paramount, so he was not going to appear in the new series.
The series was slated to go into full production in late 1977 with the premiere of the two-hour pilot in February 1978. Although William Shatner was to be brought back, the negotiations for his return were much more difficult to work out.
Shatner knew that he would be signing on for the pilot episode and the first 13 episodes. But he also knew that his Captain Kirk character was going to be greatly reduced after the first 13 episodes, thusly reducing his pay for Kirk. It was either that, or he was going to be killed off permanently if he were to refuse the pay cut.
Negotiations between the studio and William Shatner began in the summer of 1977 and the announcement that he would return as Captain Kirk finally came in September of 1977.
STAR WARS HELPED TO SAVE STAR TREK
Although Paramount still had intentions of moving forward with Star Trek: Phase II, especially after reeling in the big fish, William Shatner, a surprise movie made them change their minds. The studio began to realize that perhaps Star Trek would be better suited for the big screen after seeing the popularity of George Lucas’ Star Wars.
So, instead of Star Trek: Phase II, the studio opted for the return of Star Trek to take place on the big screen in feature film format.
STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE STARTED THE MOVIE FRANCHISE
With Star Trek: Phase II officially kicked to the curb, Paramount set its sights on a Star Trek feature film. The first order of business was to make sure the original cast returned, including the wayward Leonard Nimoy. Paramount and Roddenberry needed to make it right with Nimoy if they were to get him back as Spock, and they eventually did.
Star Trek: The Motion Picture is a prime example of biting off more than one can chew. Not for the actors involved, as each and every original series star returned to USS Enterprise action. No, the issues came when the film finished shooting and the special effects were set to be laid into the film.
Unfortunately, the special effects team was unable to handle the large number of effects needed to finish the film, putting it behind schedule and threatening to miss the premiere date.
A new special effects leader (Douglas Trumbull) was then hired and given a blank check to finish the film, which he did, just in time to hit the film’s premiere date. Although Phase II never made it to the screen, the preparation behind the series, along with the new enhancements that were to be seen in the series, were incorporated into Star Trek: The Motion Picture, which pushed the film’s final budget to over $45 million, a big number at that time.
Star Trek: The Motion Picture brought in over $139 million at the box office, though it was hit with mixed reviews. Thankfully, it didn’t dissuade Paramount from moving forward with their long-term plan and a sequel was beginning to take shape. William Shatner finally got the franchise he was looking for.
STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN IS THE FRANCHISE’S BEST FILM
The second film in the OG Star Trek franchise came two years later and is often considered to be the absolute best in the entire franchise, including The Next Generation films and the Star Trek reboots.
William Shatner was back as Captain Kirk, along with his entire original series crew, in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. This film was exciting from the get-go and had Ricardo Montalbán return as Khan, the villain Kirk stopped from taking over the USS Enterprise some 15 years earlier. Khan wanted his pound of flesh, and he wanted it from Kirk.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan had somewhat of a swashbuckler feel to it and to many, it was the film that saved Star Trek. The film was very well received and easily paved the way for a third film. Little did William Shatner know, there would be more than just three films.
WILLIAM SHATNER WAS IN SEVEN STAR TREK MOVIES IN ALL
Two years later, Trekkies got more Star Trek action with Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, a film that had more emotional weight to it. The entire cast was back, led by William Shatner, but this time, Leonard Nimoy took over the film’s directing duties. The movie was another hit for the Star Trek franchise.
Film number four in the franchise was Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home which saw the crew of the Enterprise on their way back to earth to face a court martial for their actions in rescuing Spock. This film involved time travel, which sent the crew back to the 1980s and added much more humor than seen previously in any Star Trek episode or film. Leonard Nimoy was also back as the film’s director.
For Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, the crew returned to find their fight with Spock’s half-brother, who has taken over the Enterprise. What was notable about this film was the fact it was the only one in the franchise where William Shatner was also the director.
Apparently, Shatner had a clause in his contract that gave him parity with Leonard Nimoy, meaning that once Nimoy directed a Star Trek film, Shatner was contractually obligated to direct one himself.
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country would be the final film in which the entire original series cast would be seen together. Nicholas Meyer returned to the director’s chair (he also directed The Wrath of Khan) from a story that Leonard Nimoy helped write. It was a nice send-off to the original crew, though it wouldn’t be the absolute last time fans would see William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk.
Three years after Undiscovered Country, Star Trek’s New Generation began making films. Their first film, Star Trek Generations, was released in 1994 and starred Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, Brent Spiner, Gates McFadden, Michael Dorn, and Marina Sirtis. It also brought back William Shatner as Captain Kirk.
Star Trek Generations was the bridge between old and new and saw Kirk and Picard team up to take on Malcolm McDowell’s Tolian Soran. The film was going to include more of the original series cast and although they got Shatner, James Doohan, and Walter Koenig to appear, both Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelley declined to appear in the film, stating that their characters had received the proper send-off in Undiscovered Country.
WILLIAM SHATNER HAD A STRAINED RELATIONSHIP WITH LEONARD NIMOY
There are two relationships William Shatner had with his Star Trek co-stars that need mentioning. The first one is with his partner in crime, Leonard Nimoy, and it may haunt Shatner until his dying days. Their relationship began almost 60 years ago.
William Shatner met Leonard Nimoy for the first time in 1964 on the set of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. While the meeting was fast since the two did not share much screen time, it set in motion things to come for Shatner and Nimoy. It was a relationship that would have its ups and downs.
Maybe the thing that caused some bitterness between the two, and perhaps more on William Shatner’s side, is the popularity of Mr. Spock. In Shatner’s mind, he was the lead in the original Star Trek series, so when fans began to take more toward Mr. Spock, Shatner had concerns about the direction of the series and who it was going to focus on.
“Nothing is ever one person’s fault — one hand clapping doesn’t make a sound,” Shatner explained before giving a large amount of praise to Nimoy via The Hollywood Reporter.
“And at the same time he had created a unique character with Spock, and it’s a beautiful example of an actor bringing pieces of his own life to bear on a character that he’s playing. When I realized that, I found that admirable. I was filled with admiration for Leonard on many levels. His intelligence and his creativity and his passions and his focus as an actor.”
Unfortunately, William Shatner could not hide the one thing that caused a bit of uneasiness between the two. “I would think that any clashes that we had in the beginning … you know it was so long ago that I am forced to try and re-create what fireworks that might have been. I don’t remember any fireworks, I remember going to the producers and wondering whether they were going to change the thrust of the show as a result of the popularity of Spock. So my anxieties were never directed at Leonard per se, it was about ‘How was the show going to go?’”
These were the issues that William Shatner fought through and finally got over. The pair did lead the six Star Trek movies and continued a nice working relationship. To Shatner, though, it ended up being much more. He had Leonard Nimoy as his best man for his marriage to Nerine Kidd, Shatner’s third time down the aisle.
Things appeared to be going well between the two, that is until William Shatner was putting together a documentary in 2011 called The Captains. The film was to focus on the captains who have been a part of the Star Trek franchise. Shatner had asked Nimoy to be part of the documentary, but Nimoy, for some reason refused.
“I don’t know. I thought he was joking at first and treated it as a joke because he sometimes would pretend and say, ‘No, I’m not going to do that’ and then say, ‘yes,’ so that’s what I thought he did. But that time he really meant, no. … I just don’t know, and it is sad and it is permanent. I don’t know why he stopped talking to me.”
Well, the simple fact of the matter was that Shatner decided to film Nimoy anyway, without his permission. It was something that Nimoy never forgave William Shatner for and it was something that would last the final five years of Leonard Nimoy’s life. The latter lost his battle with COPD in 2015.
“Leonard was my dearest friend. I loved Leonard Nimoy. We had success, envy, anger, love, passion,” he told The New York Post. “I loved Leonard as my dearest brother,” he continued. “When he died, a part of me died.”
WILLIAM SHATNER AND GEORGE TAKAI HATE EACH OTHER
At first, one might have thought that the issues between William Shatner and George Takei were simply fun and games. A slight here, a put down there, but all for the cameras. Little did anyone truly realize until much later that the beef between Shatner and Takei was real.
Calling Shatner a “cantankerous old man” is just one of the many “truths” George Takei has lobbed in Shatner’s direction. Takei has often also used the term, “prima donna” when referring to his ex-castmate. Takei has also said quite often that no one in the original cast got along with Shatner, adding, “He was self-involved. He enjoyed being the center of attention. He wanted everyone to kowtow to him.”
The two have been hitting the ball back and forth like this for years. William Shatner recently spoke again about George Takei, saying that Takei was “bitter” and he “has never stopped blackening my name.” Not only did Shatner speak about Takei, but he also talked about his other castmates to The Times.
“I began to understand that they were doing it for publicity. Sixty years after some incident they are still on that track. Don’t you think that’s a little weird? It’s like a sickness.” Shatner didn’t stop there. “These people are bitter and embittered. I have run out of patience with them. Why give credence to people consumed by envy and hate?”
Shatner’s comments, mainly directed at George Takei, came shortly after Takei again ripped Shatner, this time for Shatner being on board Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and the trip into space. “He’s a guinea pig, 90 years old, and it’s important to find out what happens,” Takei said.
“So, 90 years old is going to show a great deal more on the wear and tear on the human body, so 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.”
Of the original Star Trek cast, only three are still alive – William Shatner, George Takei, and Walter Koenig – who doesn’t appear to want anything to do with the Shatner-Takei feud. Can you blame him?
WILLIAM SHATNER WAS TJ HOOKER
Star Trek and all that goes with it are not the only big series that William Shatner has been a part of and it was his work in these later series in which Shatner received his two Emmy Awards.
Before we get to those Emmys, let’s talk about one series that was a popular run for Shatner. For five seasons, Shatner was the lead in T.J. Hooker, a series that actually ran for a longer period of time than the original Star Trek series.
The show featured Shatner as the title character, a 15-year veteran detective, who returned to life as a uniformed police officer after his partner was killed. Hooker became motivated to clean up the streets and felt the best way to do so was to go back to being a uniformed police officer. The series starred Heather Locklear, Adrian Zmed, Richard Herd, and James Darren.
HE WAS DENNY CRANER ON THE PRACTICE AND BOSTON LEGAL
Two more television shows of note for William Shatner were series in which Shatner won his two Emmy Awards. The first series was when Shatner was introduced in the final season of the David E. Kelley legal series, The Practice.
The series had run for eight seasons and starred Dylan McDermott and Lara Flynn Boyle, bringing on Shatner as attorney Denny Crane. It was a role tailor-made for Shatner and won him an Emmy for his five episodes.
With The Practice ending, Kelley was able to bring together another series, an offshoot of The Practice called Boston Legal. Shatner reprised his role of Denny Crane, along with a few other The Practice stars such as James Spader, Rhona Mitra, and Lake Bell.
Joining them were Candice Bergen, René Auberjonois, Mark Valley, Monica Potter, Julie Bowen, Taraji P. Henson, and John Larroquette.
The series found Spader and Shatner often at odds with how each other practiced law. In the end, though, they were best friends and were often seen at the end of episodes commiserating over scotch and cigars.
What was interesting about this series is that it marked the first time that actors (Spader and Shatner) won Emmys for portraying the same character in two different series, seeing as how both had roles in The Practice and Boston Legal.
HE WAS IN OTHER SERIES LIKE $#*! MY DAD SAYS
In 2010, William Shatner found himself on the comedy series $#*! My Dad Says. It was very underrated, lasting for only two seasons, and starred Jonathan Sadowski as Henry Goodson, a young-ish man who moves back home with a very old-fashioned and cranky father (Shatner). Also in the series were the ever-reliable Nicole Sullivan (MADtv) and Will Sasso (MADtv, Drop Dead Gorgeous).
Over the years, there was a couple of other TV series that William Shatner was involved with. He enjoyed a two-episode stint on Psych, as well as a 16-episode run as the narrator on William Shatner War Chronicles. He was also seen on The Indian Detective, The Big Bang Theory, Private Eyes, and most recently in My Life is Murder.
Besides his work on television, William Shatner also continued to star in feature films, though mainly in cameo roles. In 2000, he appeared in the Sandra Bullock comedy, Miss Congeniality and then followed that up five years later by reprising his role in Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous. Shatner also grabbed a fun cameo in the Vince Vaughn/Ben Stiller comedy, Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story.
WILLIAM SHATNER STARRED IN SENIOR MOMENT
Throughout his career, William Shatner made his living on both the big and small screens. Although he no longer carries that leading man status, it doesn’t mean he can’t lead a film, as evidenced by one of his most recent feature films.
The film is called Senior Moment and stars Shatner, along with Jean Smart and Christopher Lloyd. It tells the story of a retired NASA test pilot (Shatner) who, after drag racing, has his license taken from him. Now, forced to move around by public transportation, he meets Caroline (Smart) only to realize that what he truly is missing in his later years is love.
William Shatner has never mentioned retiring and it doesn’t appear that he ever intends to. With a professional life that spans over seven decades and one character that will last beyond his lifetime, Shatner has left an indelible Hollywood legacy. But that is not all he is known for.
WILLIAM SHATNER’S FIRST MARRIAGE WAS TO GLORIA RAND
Four times William Shatner has walked down the aisle. His first marriage came in 1956 to Gloria Rand and the couple lasted 13 years. It was from his marriage to Rand that Shatner had his three children, all daughters.
William Shatner first became a dad on August 31, 1958, when his daughter Leslie was born. Leslie, who is now remarried with two sons, actually made an appearance on the original Star Trek series as a child, portraying an Only Girl in an episode titled, “Miri.”
William Shatner and Gloria Rand gave birth to Lisabeth, their second daughter, on June 6, 1961. As she grew up, Lisabeth decided to follow in her parent’s acting footsteps (Rand was a Canadian actress). She, like her older sister, appeared in the original Star Trek series but continued on with her acting career. Lisabeth also appeared in the Huey Lewis and the News video, Do You Believe in Love, TekWar, and her father’s other hit series, T.J. Hooker.
William Shatner and Gloria Rand’s third daughter, Melanie, was born on August 1, 1964, and like her parents and older sisters, she too ventured into the acting business. Melanie’s feature film debut came in her father’s 1986 film, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. She also grabbed a part in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier as well as films like The First Power, Camp Cucamonga (with Jennifer Aniston), The Alien Within, TekWar, and His Bodyguard.
Although William Shatner was a busy actor when his girls were growing up, he remarked in a 2014 interview with The Guardian how his daughters considered him a “hands-on” dad, which came as a surprise to him.
“I must have been a hands-on dad because that’s what my children tell me,” Shatner explained. “In my mind, I was gone a lot of the time in an effort to make a living, so I am gratified that my kids think that they are who they are today because of my influence on them and my sense of being there for them — although it was only at weekends.”
HIS SECOND MARRIAGE WAS TO MARCY LAFFERTY
Shatner’s second marriage came in 1973 to Marcy Lafferty and lasted the longest, at 23 years. Lafferty was the daughter of a television producer, Perry Lafferty, who was well-known for producing hit TV shows like All in the Family, M*A*S*H, Maude, and The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Marcy Lafferty was an actress as well, and after the two married, she found herself in a number of William Shatner vehicles.
With William Shatner, Lafferty appeared in Barbary Coast, Kingdom of the Spiders, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Airplane II: The Sequel, and T.J. Hooker. The 23-year marriage never produced any children. The couple spent a lot of their married life at Belle Reve Farm, the Kentucky horse ranch that Shatner bought.
Of his eventual split from Lafferty, William Shatner wrote in his autobiography, “I think if a young actor were to ask me for advice about relationships I would probably respond, whatever you do, don’t marry an actor.” He then said, “Of course, Marcy probably would respond exactly the same way.”
HE THEN MARRIED NERINE KIDD WHO DIED TRAGICALLY
Shortly after his divorce from Lafferty, William Shatner married Nerine Kidd, with Leonard Nimoy as his best man. Sadly, this marriage would only last two years, ending tragically. Shatner had returned home around 10 p.m. on the night of August 9, 1999, only to find Kidd lifeless at the bottom of their swimming pool. After an autopsy, it was reported that Kidd had both alcohol and diazepam in her system, so it was ruled an accidental death.
It was revealed later in William Shatner’s book, Up Till Now: The Autobiography, that Nerine Kidd had been an alcoholic and that Leonard Nimoy had even tried to help Kidd get help.
According to Shatner in his book, “Leonard Nimoy’s personal experience of alcoholism now came to play a central role in my life and it helped us bond together in a way I never could have imagined in the early days of Star Trek. After Nerine and I had been to dinner with Leonard and Susan Nimoy one evening, Leonard called and said: ‘Bill, you know she’s an alcoholic?'”
He continued, “I said I did. I married Nerine in 1997, against the advice of many and my own good sense. But I thought she would give up alcohol for me. We had a celebration in Pasadena, and Leonard was my best man. I woke up about eight o’clock the next morning and Nerine was drunk. She was in rehab for 30 days three different times. Twice she almost drank herself to death. Leonard (sober many years) took Nerine to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, but she did not want to quit.”
WILLIAM SHATNER’S FOURTH WIFE WAS ELIZABETH MARTIN
William Shatner would marry one more time, this time to Elizabeth Martin in 2001. The pair met when it was discovered they both had a love for horses. They also had one more thing in common; they both were grieving the loss of their significant others, as Martin’s first husband, Michael Gleen, died in 1997 after a battle with cancer.
The pair enjoyed many years together, but ultimately things did not pan out. Shatner filed for divorce in 2019, but the timing of the filing was unfortunate, as Martin’s brother had sadly passed away around the time Shatner filed. According to the couple’s pre-nuptial agreement, Shatner was able to keep the majority of his $100 million fortune.
Although the couple has been legally divorced for a few years now, they are still, actually, good friends. In fact, Martin reunited with Shatner in 2021 to celebrate with him and his family for Shatner’s 90th birthday.
HE IS A RECORDING ARTIST WITH 10 ALBUMS
William Shatner is more than just a screen (big and small) legend. He is also a recording artist and an author. His very first album came out in 1968 and it was titled, The Transformed Man. Although Shatner did not actually sing, his album was a collection of dramatically read works from artists such as Bob Dylan and John Lennon/Paul McCartney. Two of the best-known hits from the album were Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” and Lennon/McCartney’s “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.”
William Shatner released a “live” album in 1971 that went by two names, William Shatner Live and William Shatner Live: Captain of the Starship. In 2004, Shatner released his third album, Has Been.
In 2011, he released Seeking Major Tom where he teamed up with notable music artists such as Brad Paisley, Peter Frampton, and Brain May from Queen.
In 2013, William Shatner then released a 15-track album titled Ponder the Mystery. On this one, he also enlisted the help of some musical artists that included Edgar Winter and Vince Gill.
2018 found Shatner tapping into his country roots with the album, Why Not Me? With this collection of music, Shatner teamed up with the likes of Neal McCoy and Home Free. He also released a Christmas album in 2018 called Shatner Claus.
In total, William Shatner has 10 albums to his name and along with the aforementioned works, he also has Exodus: An Oratorio in Three Parts (2008), The Blues (2020), and Bill (2021).
HE IS A PUBLISHED AUTHOR
William Shatner is also an accomplished author. He has written nine novels in the Tek War series, two in the War series, five in the Quest for Tomorrow series, two in the Samuel Lord series, and yes, Shatner has even written 10 books in his Star Trek series.
On top of his fiction novels, Shatner has also put together a number of impressive non-fiction works. Of the 11 non-fiction books, his book, Leonard: My Fifty-Year Friendship with a Remarkable Man is probably his most recognized.
He also has a litany of non-fiction books that revolve around Star Trek that include Captain’s Log: William Shatner’s Personal Account of the Making of “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier,” Star Trek Memories, Get a Life!, Star Trek: I’m Working on That: A Trek from Science Fiction to Science Fact, Live long And …: What I Might Have Learned Along the Way, and Boldly Go: Reflections on a Life of Awe and Wonder.
WILLIAM SHATNER ACTUALLY WENT INTO SPACE
If that’s not all, William Shatner finally got to live much like his alter ego, James Tiberius Kirk, when he went into space at the ripe young age of 90. On October 13, 2021, he was part of Blue Origin’s second space flight, along with Chris Boshuizen, Glen de Vries, and Audrey Powers. Shatner became part of the crew after an invitation from massive Trekkie and Blue Origin creator, Jeff Bezos.
Taking off from the Blue Origin launch site in West Texas, William Shatner boarded the RSS First Step and at age 90 years, 6 months, and 22 days, became the oldest person to make it into space. The previous oldest was Wally Funk, who manned the first Blue Origin space flight at 82 years of age.
Before Shatner actually made it into space, Jacki Cortese, the Blue Origin launch commentator said, “This is a pinch-me moment for all of us to see Capt. James Tiberius Kirk go to space.”
For Shatner’s part, he spoke to Jeff Bezos almost immediately after returning to Earth, as Bezos conducted a post-flight interview.
“What you have given me is the most profound experience,” an obviously emotional Shatner told Bezos “I hope I never recover from this. I hope that I can maintain what I feel now. I don’t want to lose it.”
He was even able to share how he felt once they lifted off. “Everybody in the world needs to do this. Everybody in the world needs to see,” he said. “To see the blue color whip by, and now you’re staring into blackness, that’s the thing. The covering of blue, this sheath, this blanket, this comforter of blue that we have around, we say, ‘Oh, that’s blue sky.’ And then suddenly you shoot through it all, and you’re looking into blackness, into black ugliness.”
While the trip out was an amazing feat for Shatner, it was his return to Earth that truly had him worried. His training, apparently, did not prepare him for the reality. “Everything is much more powerful,” he said. “Bang, this thing hits. That wasn’t anything like the simulator. … Am I going to be able to survive the G-forces?”
As far as the G-forces are concerned, passengers of the space flight get close to 6 Gs as the spaceship heads back towards Earth. At 90 years old, William Shatner passed all medical and physical tests prior to heading out into space.
University of Rochester astrophysicist, Adam Frank, wrote in an email about Shatner’s venture into space saying, “William Shatner may be ‘just an actor,′ but Captain James T. Kirk represents a collective dream of a hopeful future in space that ‘Star Trek,’ and science fiction in general, gave us all. Bezos gave Shatner a seat on his rocket because he, like millions of others, fell in love with ‘Star Trek’ and its vision of a boundless frontier for humanity.”
WILLIAM SHATNER IS 91 YEARS OLD AND CONTINUES TO WORK
What else is there? William Shatner not only has delivered on the big screen and the small screen, but he has also lived out a dream by venturing out into the great unknown. The man is now 91 years old and, by all accounts, still going strong. He continues to act, his last TV work coming on a 2021 episode of My Life is Murder. He also provided the voice for Jimmy Murray in the 2022 animated film, Fireheart.
There is nothing more that William Shatner has to prove if there ever was anything. Regardless, he continues to work. He has two upcoming projects, one on the TV series, The Elevator, and the other in the film, The Keeper of the Cup. It is nice to see William Shatner still boldly going.
While in real life William Shatner has never dated any emerald-hued beauties as far as we know, he has tied the knot more often than most. Between 1956 and 2020 (though not when he was homeless), the Star Trek star has been married four times. Most of his marriages have ended in divorce while his briefest union, tragically, ended in his spouse’s death.
WILLIAM SHATNER’S FIRST MARRIAGE WAS TO GLORIA RAND IN 1956
Like many actors, William Shatner’s career began not in front of a camera but on the stage. A native Canadian, Shatner joined the Canadian National Repertory Theatre not long after graduating from McGill University and began performing as a classical Shakespearean actor in 1954.
Two years later — the same year he made his Broadway debut with Christopher Marlowe’s Tamburlaine the Great — the future Star Trek lead married actress Gloria Rand.
The marriage lasted 13 years and along the way Rand gave birth to three daughters who remain Shatner’s only children: Leslie, Lisabeth, and Melanie.
Their union weathered Shatner’s rise to fame with the premiere of Star Trek: The Original Series in 1966. In 1969, the same year the iconic series was cancelled, Shatner and Rand divorced.
HE MARRIED MARCY LAFFERTY IN 1973
William Shatner’s next marriage was once again to an actress. While most of his wives would prove to be performers, Marcy Lafferty — who Shatner married in 1973 — was the only one of Shatner’s spouses to enjoy a long screen acting career, including appearing with her husband on TV and the big screen a number of times.
She landed multiple one-offs on her husband’s popular police drama T.J. Hooker, a part in the outrageous 1982 comedy Airplane II: The Sequel, and she even served on the bridge of the Enterprise as Chief DiFalco in 1979’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
While eventually, their marriage ended in divorce, William Shatner’s union to Lafferty would survive longer than any before or since. Their divorce was finalized 23 years after their marriage in 1996 — the same year the former Captain Kirk’s short-lived series TekWar premiered on Canadian TV.
As Shatner grew older, the age gaps between himself and his brides grew larger. There were only two years difference between Shatner and Rand. He was 42 when he married Lafferty at 27.
HE MARRIED NERINE KIDD IN 1997
In 1997, at the age of 66, Shatner tied the knot with Nerine Kidd, who was 38 at the time. Unfortunately, Kidd didn’t live to see 41.
William Shatner and Kidd married in 1997, and the Star Trek actor would later speak to the National Enquirer (via E Online) saying that his former wife’s “serpent of alcoholism” was what took her from him. The actor described multiple attempts to help her with her disease including medication and two stays in rehab facilities.
In fact, Shatner said their marriage happened because Kidd told him it would help beat her addiction.
Shatner filed for divorce from Kidd in 1998, but he told the National Enquirer this was part of a “tough love” strategy suggested by a psychiatrist. They were still together in 1999 and the actor described her regularly sneaking alcohol any way she could get it, including hiding vodka in water bottles.
Three days before she died, Shatner told Kidd he was leaving her for good. The night of her death — less than a month after her fortieth birthday — Shatner found Kidd at the bottom of their pool.
According to the LA Times, an autopsy determined Kidd dived into the pool, hit her head on the bottom, and lost consciousness. Her blood-alcohol level was 0.27%: over three times the legal driving limit.
WILLIAM SHATNER MARRIED AND DIVORCED ELIZABETH ANDERSON MARTIN
In his 2018 memoir Live Long and… What I Learned Along the Way (via Meaww), William Shatner wrote of his horrific period of grief following Kidd’s death, including considering suicide. With a new millennium, however, came a new chance for love.
In 2001, at the age of 70 Shatner married the 41 year-old horse trainer Elizabeth Anderson Martin. Sadly, like the actor’s other marriages, it didn’t last. In December 2019, TMZ broke the news the pair were divorcing after 18 years of marriage.
That being said, a few years later the two have reconciled and decided to give their time together a second chance.
Now, at the age of 90, William Shatner isn’t single, though there’s a chance that is always around the corner.
Look, in 2020 he finally took a brief but historic trip into space. If you can achieve orbit at a decade shy of 100, what can’t you do?
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