Not everybody gets along with their co-workers. The actors of Star Trek are no exception. While a variety of feuds have been reported over the years, the biggest is arguably between George Takei and William Shatner. Hoping to understand why these former co-stars are constantly fighting? We’ve constructed a timeline of every major gripe, grievance, and diss in the pair’s long, long history.
1966-1967: Early Conflicts on the Set of Star Trek
In a 2020 interview with the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies (APAICS), Takei reminisced about one time Shatner shut down production for half a day while they were filming the original Star Trek together.
While Takei doesn’t give an exact date for when this anecdote took place, he clarified in the interview that it took place “more than half a century ago” and was his most memorable moment on set.
Yahoo! Movies previously reported a more detailed version of Takei’s account in 2016.
“One morning Leonard was getting a TV Guide photo essay done,” he recalled. “‘Leonard Nimoy becoming Mr. Spock’, the process of the make-up and so on…Bill came in…made a phone call to the front office, and a minion came from the front office and dismissed the photographer.”
In that interview, Takei included some crucial details about why Shatner had the power to pull that move in the first place.
“We found out that Bill had in his contract approval of photographer on the sound stage, and apparently he’d exercised that clause,” Takei recollects.
Takei has admitted in the past that he wasn’t perfectly behaved on the set. In a 2020 interview with StarTrek.com, Takei reminsced about the time he was reprimanded on set, erroneously in his opinion, for being a bit dangerous while rehearsing with his fencing sword for the classic first season episode, “The Naked Time”.
In fact, according to SyFy, Sulu was written out of the show in an early draft of the second season episode “Catspaw”. However, he was written back in during later drafts, and ultimately survived.
1983: Arson Strikes the Star Trek Set
Watch this 1983 news clip, which features an interview with William Shatner about the infamous Paramount studio fire.
The clip above reveals that the fire started in the false front of a tattoo parlor set, but spread throughout six acres of the backlot, and ultimately damaged the soundstages where Star Trek III was in production. Officials ruled the scene was a case of arson, according to a UPI report from the time.
In 2017, Nerdist interviewed Shatner, and the actor was happy to share additional details from his memories of that day.
“A fire started on the set, and while we waited for the fire department, I remember I was so desperate that nothing be harmed that I ran in with a garden hose, and I started to hose the fire down,” Shatner recalled.
Shatner went on to position himself as a potential hero of the day.
“The fireman said if I hadn’t done that, the set would have burned down, and they would have had to rebuild it. It would have delayed the film.”
Shatner’s heroism in the face of a fire makes for a heck of a yarn. However, George Takei has raised concerns that Shatner’s account of the fire doesn’t tell the whole story.
A 1994 piece in the Buffalo News, archived online in 2015, reported that one of Shatner’s books also included the Paramount fire story, with that version featuring Shatner himself holding a fire hose at one point.
The same reporting from Buffalo News reporter Catherine Artman reveals an alternative account. According to George Takei, Shatner’s use of the fire hose was nothing more than a publicity stunt.
Takei made this statement in his 1994 autobiography, To the Stars. In the same book, he also alleged that Paramount publicity picked Shatner up in a car to drive Captain Kirk to the scene of the infamous fire.
1988: Takei Resists Joining The Final Frontier Because of Shatner Directing
In the 2014 interview above, Takei talks about why he almost skipped Star Trek V, which was in production during 1988.
“I have a lot of friends in my Star Trek cast, except for one. We had a friendly tension going between us,” Takei states, referring to Shatner. “And I thought, the best thing to do with Star Trek V, which was being directed by him, was to demur from doing it.”
Eventually, Takei agreed to join the cast. However, the film was released to disappointing reviews. Rogert Ebert’s review famously panned the production, calling it “the worst” of all Star Trek movies.
1993: Shatner Releases Star Trek Memories
Shatner has gone on the record about one particularly intense day of filming on the original series, and the story doesn’t paint Takei in a particularly favortable light.
In Chapter 5 of Shatner’s memoir, Star Trek Memories, Shatner contends that he was injured by Takei during the second take of the infamous Sulu-Shatner swordfight in “The Naked Time”.
He referred to Takei as a “loose cannon” in the context of filming that scene, with Shatner stating in his book that: “I really do think that some small part of [Takei] was upset that he didn’t get to run me through.”
Takei has admitted to getting into hot water with his fencing sword while filming, but his interview only makes mention of bothering actor James Doohan and an unnamed assistant director, not Shatner.
It may be worth noting that, according to the Chicago Tribune, James Doohan famously refused to meet with Shatner when Star Trek Memories was being written. The reason given? Shatner “won’t want to hear the negatives,” according to Doohan.
1994: George Takei’s Autobiography Is Released
The NY Post reports that Takei’s 1994 autobiography made several assertions about what filming with Shatner was really like during those early Star Trek TV years.
There are two interesting takeaways from that report. Firstly, Takei alleged that Shatner would act as if he was unaware of who Takei was when the two both happened to be on set.
The second takeaway is that Takei believes Shatner altered the original plans for the fifth Trek film, preventing Sulu from attaining the rank of captain. Shatner did direct Star Trek V, so Shatner was arguably in a position to influence decisions about the screen time was allotted to his co-stars.
2006: The Comedy Central Roast
Takei was invited to be a “roaster” during the televised Roast of William Shatner. In addition to making a dig at Shatner for drinking too much, Takei also joked about Shatner’s rumored toupee, noting that “toupee” and “Takei” rhyme…if you pronounce them correctly.
Years later, Takei looked back on that night while speaking with USA Today, and recalled “I had 40 years of material, and they only gave me four minutes. I could have done the whole roast myself.”
2008: George’s Wedding Drama
In our comprehensive guide to understanding the Shatner-Takei wedding drama, we explained that Takei and Shatner got into a very public disagreement about whether Shatner was invited to Takei’s 2008 wedding to Brad Altman. The two actors have conflicting takes about whether Shatner was invited or not, with Shatner taking the fight to YouTube, shortly after Takei’s nuptials.
In 2015, Takei looked back on this time in his life and told reporters at the New York Times he believed that “the reason [Shatner] raised that fuss…is because he was premiering his new talk show.”
That show was Raw Nerve, and a 2008 report from a Washington NBC affiliate confirms Shatner did ask Takei to appear as a guest on that show.
2011: Shatner Fires Back in New Book
In 2011, Shatner released a book called Shatner Rules. The Christian Science Monitor‘s coverage of the book release revealed a potentially shocking allegation about Takei’s wedding. According to Shatner in that book, Takei only invited Nichelle Nichols and Walter Koenig to the wedding as a publicity stunt.
2012: Shatner’s One-Man Show
The Washington Post review of Shatner’s one-man show famously featured the observation that one thing audiences would definitely leave the show knowing was: “William Shatner thinks George Takei can’t stand him.”
2013: Takei Takes to the Talk Shows
In addition to the appearance with Conan above, where Takei takes some pot shots at his former co-star.
When asked if he felt that older Trek stars had a place in newer Trek movies, Takei laughed and pointed out that seeing William Shatner running around the way Chris Pine does would be “not a pretty sight.”
Takei went on to state “[Shatner] should not be playing Captain Kirk.”
Takei also appeared on Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen that same year. In that interview, he referred to Shatner as a “douche”.
2014: Takei & Shatner Reach an Agreement
Takei went on the record about the feud with Oprah in 2014. In the clip above, he refers to Shatner as a “problem uncle” in the Star Trek family, and states that “all” cast members had issues with Shatner on set.
Despite the duo’s ongoing feud, the two actors did actually manage to reach some kind of accord that same year. USA Today reported that the men were able to arrange a “quid pro quo” to both get something they needed.
Takei wanted Shatner to appear in Takei’s documentary, To Be Takei. Shatner agreed, but only if George would allow Bill to use the old footage from the 2006 Roast to update his one-man show, Shatner’s World: We Just Live In It.
With an agreement reached, for a moment, it seemed like the feud was cooling off.
2015: Shatner Calls Takei ‘Disturbed Individual’
Things took a turn during a 2015 interview in the Australian press. Shatner called Takei “a disturbed individual” while also claiming not to have seen him in 25 years.
That same year, Takei spoke to the New York Times and speculated about why the feud refused to die.
“It’s all coming from Bill,” Takei stated. “Whenever he needs a little publicity for a project, he pumps up the so-called controversy between us.”
2016: Reunion & Auction
Given all the years of tension, it surprised some fans when Shatner and Takei reunited for a publicity photo during a Star Trek event in Europe.
Also in 2016, Newsweek reported that an auction of Star Trek memorabilia was an unexpected source of clarity about the origins of the feud. Their report noted that one of the letters being auctioned was a hand-written note, from Shatner, about his feelings towards Takei.
The lot detail information from the auction house reveals some of the fascinating text of this letter.
The most interesting passage of the letter indicates that Shatner might blame himself for some of the bad feelings that have haunted the decades-long relationship between the two men:
“I had never really got to know [George]. He would come in every so often during the week while we were shooting Star Trek. I was busy learning lines and dealing with my life, so I really can’t remember a meaningful conversation – I’m sure that would be my fault – my lack of attention.”
2017: Takei Opens Up
In 2017, Takei gave a candid interview to the Edmonton Journal, in his he alludes that the feud was more “silliness” than “war”.
When asked what it would take for the two actors to reconcile, Takei explained “We work together…We do conventions and we do cross paths. I’ll say, ‘Morning, Bill.’ And he’ll say, ‘Morning, George.’ And that’s it.”
2018: Shatner Jokes About Wishing Takei Dead
At a 2018 Q&A appearance at a theater in England, Shatner made a joke that shocked some fans and made others laugh.
The Telegram reports that Shatner was asked which Star Trek character he’d play, if he was not allowed to play Kirk.
Shatner’s response? “Sulu. So I wouldn’t have to deal with George Takei.”
The actor then doubled down on his Takei-bashing. He was asked, “Do you wish George Takei was dead instead of Leonard Nimoy?”
“What a terrible question,” Shatner said, before jokingly adding, “Yes.”
2019: Takei Jokes About His Dream Dinner Guests
The Guardian interviewed Takei, and asked him who his dream dinner party guests would be.
Takei’s short response cut straight to the point: “My colleagues from Star Trek, with one exception.”
2020: Shatner Accuses Takei of Making Stuff Up
When Takei appeared on actor David Tennant’s podcast, he used some veiled language to suggest that Shatner was to blame for the bad blood.
“Some actors seem to feel that it’s a one-man show,” Takei stated in the podcast segment. “That’s the source of some tensions.”
In August of that year, the Radio Times published an article on Shatner’s Twitter-based response to the podcast comments.
In October, Takei responded via a Yahoo! interview, aruging Shatner’s always had a combative relationship with his Trek co-stars.
“Jimmy Doohan used to rail at Star Trek conventions about Bill and the latest offense that he committed on him,” Takei told reporters. “Every one of us had experiences.”
2021: Is the Feud Finally Cooling Down?
So far in 2021, there appear to be no new “shots fired” in this ongoing celebrity feud. Takei appears to be focusing most of his vitriol towards the Trump Administration and its supporters, particularly in the wake of the events at the Capitol on January 6.
Meanwhile, Shatner’s Twitter feed has been populated with things like upcoming 2021 event announcements and answering fan questions about doing more sci-fi TV.