William Shatner

Every long running series has its moments that some fans just can’t forgive. Maybe someone literally jumped over a shark on water skis. Maybe they abruptly replaced the entire cast. Whatever the case, a seemingly innocuous plot point becomes a major sticking point over time. For ‘Star Trek’ fans – some of us, anyway – one of those sticking points has long been the death of Captain Kirk in the 1994 feature film ‘Star Trek: Generations’.

Widely considered anti-climactic at best and insulting at worst, Kirk’s death was a reflection of the intent for ‘Generations’ to serve as a “passing the torch” moment for the film series (arguably, the television torch had long since been handed off). But whatever the intent, the reception of this particular creative decision makes it hard not to wonder, “What if William Shatner had simply turned down the role?” Well, now we have our answer, and from the captain himself, no less. Speaking with TrekMovie while promoting his latest book, ‘Live Long and… What I Learned Along the Way’, Shatner revealed that his character would have been killed regardless.

“Well, I didn’t think I had any choice in the matter. Paramount had decided that the ceiling that they could reach in our box office had been reached and they thought that by putting in the ‘Next Generation’ cast that they would reach a higher box office. That decision had been made. It was either I was going to appear and die, or they were going to say he died. So I chose the more practical of the two.”

With this being the case, fans like myself can always take comfort in the knowledge that it could have been worse. In fact, it very nearly was, even with Shatner’s participation. In the original version of ‘Generations’, Kirk died after being shot in the back by Malcolm McDowell’s Dr. Soran. This was changed to the version of events featured in the finished film following negative responses at early test screenings (this came so late in the game that the original version is presented in early printings of the novelization).

And now Shatner’s recollection presents us with the possibility that they might’ve simply killed Kirk off camera? Who would have thought we actually were living in the best of all possible universes (at least where this movie is concerned)?