When Leonard Nimoy passed away last month, there was a fair bit of controversy over William Shatner’s decision not to attend his funeral. Of course, he tried his best to fly to Los Angeles in time, but his flight didn’t quite make it. The fact that he was unable to attend was a reminder that, yes, Spock and Kirk have had some bad blood over the years. With that fresh in our minds — and with today being William Shatner’s 84th birthday — let’s look back at some of the long-running feuds Captain Kirk had with his cohorts on the U.S.S. Enterprise.
The feud between Shatner and Nimoy goes back to the very beginning of Star Trek in 1966. Shatner was reportedly healous of Nimoy over the fan mail he was getting, specifically the letters he had received from female viewers. According to Nimoy, Shatner was also concerned that by having the super-intelligent Spock come up with the solution in most episodes rather than the more brash Kirk, the writers were undermining Kirk’s intelligence:
“A major area of conflict was Bill’s concern that Spock was getting ahead of Kirk in terms of problem solving,” Nimoy laments. “Bill was worried that Kirk would seem unintelligent by contrast. And so lines of dialogue that had logically been Spock’s soon became Kirk’s.
Rumors are this conflict continued throughout the run of the show, with Shatner often blatantly stealing dialogue intended for other characters. The story paints a picture of insecurity on Shatner’s part. As Captain Kirk, he had to be the leader. The Enterprise had to revolve around him. Anything that gave even the slightest indication that someone else — especially Spock — was in control was going to set him off. The end result was a bread crumb trail of acrimony between Shatner and Nimoy over the years that by all accounts was mended later in life as personal battles brought them closer.
But of course, Nimoy wasn’t the only Star Trek cast member with whom Shatner has had ongoing animosity. According to reports, Nichelle Nichols nearly quit the show over his antics, but only stayed because Martin Luther King, Jr. encouraged her to continue to do the show and act as a role model for young African-American women.
There’s also Shatner’s famous feud with George Takei, which has been going on for nearly five decades now. If you watched Comedy Central’s Roast Of William Shatner in 2006, you may remember that Takei’s set was particularly vicious. Granted, being as cruel as possible is the idea at events like that, but when Takei closed by saying “f*ck you and the horse you rode in on,” there was a distinct vibe that suggested he wasn’t completely joking.
If you couldn’t shake the feeling that something was boiling under the surface that night, you’re right. Takei hasn’t exactly been shy when it comes to talking about his dislike for Shatner. In an interview with Bill Maher last July, he spoke openly about his feud with Shatner, stating that their relationship was contentious throughout the run of the original series. perhaps the most interesting detail of this interview was the revelation that Shatner was the only cast member who didn’t know that Takei was gay.
That Maher interview was not the only place where Takei’s contempt for Shatner has come up. Last year, Shatner appeared in Takei’s documentary, To Be Takei, but while his appearance might have seemed like the extension of an olive branch, things were apparently quite contentious when Shatner made his appearance:
The documentary interview took director Jennifer Kroot by surprise.
“I never dreamed in a million years that William Shatner would agree to this,” she says. “I doubt any of these guys is losing sleep about their mutual dislike. On the other hand, they really just don’t like each other.”
Shatner followed through and talked about how little he knew or thought about Takei during their time shooting TV’s Star Trek (1966-1969) and six movies.
“He didn’t sugarcoat it,” Kroot says. “And at the end of 10 minutes, he said: ‘That’s it. That’s time. That’s the agreement.’ ”
Kroot says she finds the dysfunctional relationship between the former starship captain and the human-rights activist hysterical.
“They cannot get along. They are both human. I love Star Trek gossip as much as the next guy, and it’s hysterical. What can be more interesting than this media feud?”
From all we know from reports about Shatner’s feuds with Takei, Nimoy, and Nichols, it’s quite clear there must have been a great bit of tension aboard the Enterprise. While the cocky arrogance that Shatner brought to the Captain Kirk role translated as charming to the audience, in real life — if Nimoy and Takei are to be taken at their word — it may have turned Shatner into a pariah among his castmates in real life.