At 91 years old, William Shatner is done holding back. If asked his opinion, he will share it. Whether on his Twitter feed, on a television interview or in front of a live audience, Shatner is never short of opinions.
His most recent missive may have crossed a line for some fans of “Star Trek.” Shatner is closely associated with Trek, as he portrayed the iconic Captain James T. Kirk character on three seasons of “The Original Series,” two seasons of “Star Trek: The Animated Series,” and seven feature films. The actor has not reprised the role for any of the new iterations of Trek, even though there was a plan for him to return for “Star Trek Beyond,” according to SFX magazine.
But in an appearance at the San Diego Comic-Con, Shatner dropped a bombshell that may be as powerful as the Nexus ribbon that helped kill Captain Kirk in the first place. On July 21, 2022, as moderator Kevin Smith looked on, Shatner answered a fan question about the newer Trek series and if any “rivaled his own.” According to The Hollywood Reporter, Shatner said that “none of them” are as good as TOS.
“I got to know [Trek creator] Gene Roddenberry in three years fairly well,” Shatner added, “he’d be turning in his grave at some of this stuff.”
This comment caused shockwaves through the fan community. While some agreed with Shatner’s remarks, others pushed back. One fan said Trek does not belong to Shatner or Roddenberry, and their time has passed.
The question remains, is Shatner correct? Would Roddenberry not approve of the so-called “NuTrek,” much of which has been made since his death? Roddenberry died in 1991, during the early stages of development for “Deep Space Nine,” and there are conflicting reports on whether he approved of it.
However, Roddenberry created guidelines for every show he created. These are known as show bibles or writer’s guides, written to keep everyone on the same page. Roddenberry wrote writer’s guides for TOS, TNG and other shows, like “The Questor Tapes.” Using those, fans can interpret whether the creator would have liked what the current Trek shows have become.
In his “Next Generation” writer’s guide from 1987, Roddenberry said that “‘Star Trek’ is not melodrama. Melodrama is a writing style that does not require believable people. Believable people are at the heart of good ‘Star Trek’ scripts.”
Fans have long accused “Star Trek: Discovery” of being full of melodrama. An excellent example of this is Trek fan Anthony Thompson, who wrote July 14 that “Discovery is an embarrassment with convoluted badly written storylines and melodrama with more crying than you find on ‘Young and the Restless.’” There’s even a thread on Reddit dedicated to questioning if “Discovery” is full of too much melodrama.
‘Swords & Sorcery’
Roddenberry famously disliked space pirates, knights and princesses. In the ’87 writer’s guide, he said that “knights and princesses, stalwart yeomen and dragons are not science fiction for our purposes.”
Fans might instantly point out that the TOS episode “Shore Leave” featured a yeoman dressed as a princess (and a giant bunny, too). Perhaps Roddenberry did not want to allow that sort of thing again on TNG. However, the TNG episode “Qpid” got pretty close.
The recent “Strange New Worlds” episode “The Elysian Kingdom” featured Anson Mount and the rest of the cast dressed in fairytale costumes. Roddenberry might not have liked that one.
Roddenberry advised that TNG should not feature Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) and his crew flying around the galaxy “in the role of galaxy policemen.” The first episode of “Strange New Worlds” featured Captain Pike getting in the middle of a civil war on an alien world. Some might suggest that Pike was not a galactic cop and more like a mediator, but he was there trying to stop a civil war.
‘Fantasy Instead of Science Fiction’
Roddenberry underlined a lot of text in this manual section, which meant he was earnest about these comments. “Despite the fact that both science fiction and fantasy can deal with unusual events, a science fiction story is based on an extrapolation of a generally accepted scientific fact or theory.”
Many fans were disappointed in the “Star Trek: Discovery” spore drive technology, which is entirely fictional without any scientific basis. Forbes said the “Discovery” mycelial network, which the spore drive works with, “disappointingly does not exist as a higher dimensional space we can traverse.”
Trek & Gene
Though Roddenberry might not approve of some aspects of the current era of Trek, he was often unhappy with what was happening to the shows and films while he was still alive. He frequently tried to stop things he disagreed with from moving forward, including trying to stop the TNG episode “Redemption” from airing, according to Screen Rant. He also famously disliked “The Wrath of Khan,” considered the best of the 13 Trek films. He disliked Patrick Stewart as Picard, Screen Rant reported. According to Vanity Fair, he disliked the fan-favorite episode “The Trouble with Tribbles.” He even tried to stop the entire development of “The Next Generation” at first, according to Shatner’s documentary “Chaos on the Bridge,” Gizmodo reported.
Roddenberry — like George Lucas and “Star Wars” — created something that was taken over by new people and he did not approve of every decision. That would mean that he’d probably not like everything — but he’d probably like the fact that his franchise is worth an estimated $4 billion.