The (Likely) Return of William Shatner to the Star Trek Franchise

Trekkies of all ages held their collective breath this week as rumors began to swirl about the possibility of the “Star Trek 3” screenplay having a significant role for the original captain of the Starship Enterprise, 83 year old actor William Shatner himself. There was certainly excitement among fans, but it was mixed with more than a fair share of skepticism and trepidation, based mainly upon the fact that Shatner’s Kirk is technically dead in canon (he was killed off in 1994’s “Star Trek: Generations”) and the frankly unpleasant interactions that Shatner has engaged in publicly with J.J. Abrams and others involved in the rebooted franchise.

When the rumor of Shatner’s return first started gaining traction, around September 22nd, many people brushed it off, most likely remembering the awkwardness associated with Shatner and the 2009 film. For those who don’t recall the events, J.J. Abrams, who directed the first two films but has stepped down for the third installment to focus on “Star Wars,” wanted Shatner to appear in the movie, but was shot down. He had this to say in 2008:

“The bigger thing was that he was very vocal that he didn’t want to do a cameo. We tried desperately to put him in the movie, but he was making it very clear that he wanted the movie to focus on him significantly, which, frankly, he deserves.” – J.J. Abrams
It was this history of not wanting to cooperate with the filmmakers and needing 100% of the attention that made a “William Shatner returns as Kirk” rumor difficult to believe. When Shatner addressed the rumors on September 23rd through his Twitter account, saying, “Nobody has contacted me. Right now it’s just rhetoric to cause hype.” With that, hope was all but extinguished for fans desperately wishing to see Shatner’s Kirk alongside Leonard Nimoy’s Spock on the big screen again.

However, just as soon as the rumors seemed to be dying down, the unthinkable happened: Shatner essentially confirmed his involvement, stating on September 29th at the Wizard World Nashville Comic-Con that Abrams had called him to discuss an idea that the new director, Roberto Orci, had about how to incorporate Shatner’s Kirk into the movie. Shatner said that he had a dilemma because, of course, he had been told to keep absolutely quiet about the conversation, but he was “very excited,” and couldn’t do anything about the fact that his conversation was all over the Internet the day after it happened.

Clearly, if Shatner is to reprise his famous role as James T. Kirk, there are some mountains to climb. Getting Shatner to actually agree to consider it seems like a large battle already won, but there’s still the concern about making his return believable, as well as not angering the “Star Trek” fans who have been with the series for decades. Many people feel that the contemporary reimagining lacks the spirit and heart of the original series, and that bringing back Shatner and Nimoy is perhaps a simple way to solve this problem. Roberto Orci said about the 2009 film, “We didn’t want it to be a gimmick; we wanted to really bring him back in the right way,” and that seems to still be the biggest issue facing them.
The friendship and bond between Spock and Kirk is one of epic proportions, and seeing Spock Prime reunited with his Kirk (not the younger version played by Chris Pine) after all this time would surely be both emotionally satisfying and the most fantastic bit of fanservice to ever grace movie theater screens, but the question remains: can they pull it off? Shatner himself was clearly skeptical, posing the question; “How do you get me 50 years later into the movie? How do you rationalize it?”

All that remains now is to wait and see what the third installment of the series will hold, but it seems safe to say at this point that the chances of seeing not one but two Captain Kirks in the 2016 film is quite high.

By Alysha Boynton


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