Star Trek fans have a lot of feelings about Star Trek: Enterprise. It’s one of the least-liked shows in the franchise. It had a lot of promise when it first premiered, but it failed to deliver on those promises in a lot of ways, as Giant Freaking Robot outlined in its analysis of the show.
Overall, Trekkers were disappointed with Enterprise. They wanted a complex and revealing look at Starfleet’s early days and Earth’s role in the universe before the Federation. What they got wasn’t what they expected or wanted. The fanbase’s disappointment was evident in the ratings. The show was such a ratings failure that it was abruptly canceled in 2005.
Many of the Star Trek series struggled with ratings at some point. One tried and true tactic for boosting ratings, which was employed successfully by Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, was to bring on a familiar character from another Star Trek franchise. So, when William Shatner pitched a guest spot to the Enterprise showrunners, it arguably would have made sense for them to jump at the opportunity. However, they didn’t.
Here’s how it went down.
Shatner Pitched a Mirror Universe Storyline
In Star Trek: The Original Series, Shatner played both Captain James Tiberius Kirk and his evil counterpart in the Mirror Universe, Tiberius. According to Memory Alpha, Tiberius’ dominance in the Mirror Universe was maintained because of his possession of an alien technology called the Tantalus field. This technology allowed him to vaporize beings at will.
In a Star Trek novel based on Tiberius’ experiences in the Mirror Universe called “The Sorrows of Empire,” Tiberius ultimately met his demise because of the same technology that brought him to power. He was vaporized in the Tantalus field by Marlena Moreau, his right-hand woman.
Shatner’s pitch to the Enterprise showrunners proposed a twist to Tiberius’ apparent ending. A few of the showrunners detailed the pitch during a convention panel shortly after the show was canceled, Trek Today reported.
Shatner suggested that the Tantalus field was not, in fact, a vaporizer, but a transporter device that sent people through time and space. The proposed destination was a penal colony in the past. Given the fact that the crew of the Enterprise NX-01 traveled through time regularly, it wasn’t farfetched for them to encounter a penal colony in the past.
The pitch outlined an elaborate attempt by Tiberius to return to his own universe. He would escape the penal colony and board Enterprise with the goal of using their transporter to get him to the Mirror Universe. In the ending Shatner pitched, Tiberius would discover that his universe didn’t exist yet. He and the Enterprise crew were so far in the past that the Mirror Universe had not yet diverged from the Prime Universe.
The Showrunners Had a Pitch of Their Own
When Shatner was done with his pitch, the showrunners pitched him their idea instead. They told Shatner about a storyline that involved him playing an ancestor of Kirk’s who ended up on Enterprise. The character would be the center of a plot laid out by Daniels, the time-traveling Federation operative who frequently sent Archer and sometimes the whole Enterprise crew into different timelines. The pitch hinged on Daniels needing to find this ancestor of Kirk’s so that he could replace Kirk when he went missing in the future.
However, Shatner was not a fan of that pitch. One of the showrunners on the panel revealed that after they finished telling Shatner their idea, “there was a long silence.”
Apparently, Shatner and the showrunners were never able to find a storyline that everyone liked. Shatner never ended up appearing on the show.
It’s unlikely that a single episode or even multi-episode appearance by Shatner would have changed Enterprise’s fate. However, it would have been a really interesting cameo if it had happened.