Do you remember all that talk about William Shatner having some kind of role in Star Trek 3? Sure, it was confusing, what with Shatner being 84-years-old and his Kirk long since dead, but it was something the producers were hoping to make happen since Star Trek 3 is supposed to come out during the franchise’s 50th anniversary. That was back when Roberto Orci was co-writing and directing, at which point the plot was rumored to involve time travel thus suggesting one possible explanation for the presence of a much older Kirk. Orci is gone now, replaced by Justin Lin. Simon Pegg is co-writing. So, do they still have a role for an 84-year-old Kirk in the movie?
Umm, I’m not sure because when asked about it by Digital Spy this is what Pegg said:
“William Shatner is an amazing actor, and has such an incredible body of work which transcends his time as Captain Kirk. It’s always about whether the story’s right. It’s pointless crow-barring these things in as a gimmick. That does the story and the film a disservice. I have no doubt in my mind that he could play Captain Kirk until the day he goes off to the final frontier.”
Of course, he never mentions whether the story is right for a cameo at this point.
Maybe some don’t really care if it is a gimmick. Maybe some would just love to see Shatner play Kirk one last time, similar to the way Leonard Nimoy got to delight us again as Spock in the first two J.J. Abrams films, an especially appreciated treat considering Nimoy’s recent passing. Maybe Paramount can still find some role for Shatner in order to honor the 50th anniversary.
Truthfully, the larger concern at this point is that Pegg recently told the Radio Times Paramount has only just now seen the first draft of the new script even though filming is scheduled to kick off in Vancouver in four weeks. Let’s hope Pegg and co-writer Doug Jung hit it out of the park with the script and Paramount doesn’t have any extensive notes for them, although if they end up re-writing the script throughout filming it will join a long, long list of movies to suffer such a fate (the first Iron Man comes to mind). Cameos would be nice and everything, but at this point we might simply settle for the assurance that this film will actually get done in time to make its July 8, 2016 release date. However, the prospect of a cinematic swan song for William Shatner in the Star Trek franchise has been especially tantalizing for fans who still haven’t forgiven the way Star Trek: Generations handled Kirk’s death.
At one time, Star Trek was the Marvel Cinematic Universe of its day. In the movies, Kirk, Spock and the crew fought Khan, Klingons and giant space rods looking to hang out with some whales, and on TV Picard, Data and crew fought the Borg, Cardassians and the ongoing annoyance that was Wesley Crusher, eventually giving way to spin-offs Deep Space Nine and Voyager. Eventually, we got our version of Batman vs. Superman when Kirk and Picard co-starred in Star Trek: Generations, saving an entire planet as well as the crew of the Enterprise by stopping Malcolm McDowell’s megomaniacal villain Dr. Soran. The writers had created a perfectly sci-fi explanation for Kirk and Picard to meet, essentially placing Kirk into stasis thanks to an outerspace energy ribbon called the Nexus. History recorded Kirk’s death in his own time as a tragedy when in fact he was simply caught up in some kind of scientific anomaly where time operated differently, eventually brought to his senses by a similarly captured Picard before joining forces to save the day.
However, Kirk was definitely going to die for good and hand off the baton to Picard. As Shatner bitterly recalled in 2012, “The studio wanted to try The Next Generation to see if they could break through this $100 million [ceiling.] It seemed that an audience was coming, they could count on an audience and a box office of $100 million but they thought that the Next Generation cast would bring in more, and it didn’t. They were stuck with the same $100 million or thereabouts.”
So, when Kirk and Picard confront Dr. Soran on a mountaintop platform Kirk gets in a couple of good shots before taking a tumble, trapped under some metal railing:
Shatner still doesn’t understand why Kirk had to die, but if that was the way they had to go there should have been “more trumpets for the death of the character.” Even Malcolm McDowell was displeased, responding to a 2011 StarkTrek.com question about his reputation as “the man who killed Kirk”, “Pose this one for me (to the powers that be): If you have – which they had – this icon of American television, why the hell didn’t they give him a spectacular death? Why did they give him such a really paltry death? Me shooting the bridge out or some BS whatever it was? They should have sent him off in a glorious fashion, and they didn’t. They missed an opportunity.”
It could have been worse. Originally, Soran simply shot Kirk in the back after a very brief encounter, with McDowell explaining, “Yeah, they re-shot. What did they reshoot? It was just as bad as the first one. And they spent several million dollars (on the reshoots). If you’re asking me, I thought it was poor, very poor, even the reshoot. They should have seen Shatner off in a big way.” Not everyone thinks it is thoroughly underwhelming. When StarTrek.com conducted a poll asking readers which Star Trek character should have died differently, Kirk led the way, but not as much as you would have expected, taking 29% of the vote (of 10,000 total voters) following by Tasha Yar and Data (both 21%).
To be honest, I wasn’t actually that let down by Kirk’s death when I saw Generations in theaters as a little kid. He got to save the day one last time! As he said his goodbyes to Picard I started getting verklempt. Still, I was very ready to see solely Next Generation films, and the next one they did, First Contact, is still among the best Star Trek films of all time. It’s through re-watching Generations over the years that I’ve seen why so many felt Kirk deserved a better executed send-off. As far as cinematic deaths go, it does look like something done by people still figuring out how to do action scenes on a larger scale than they were used to on Next Generation.
Giving Shatner a cameo in Star Trek 3 could be a more fitting send off. Plus, we are talking about the 50th anniversary of the franchise. When Doctor Who went through this, most of of the surviving Doctors starred in a very meta, tongue-in-cheek short movie about their fictional efforts to land parts in the 50th Anniversary Special episode, and then the actual episode concluded with a somewhat nonsensical but nonetheless brilliant extended cameo for Tom Baker even though he’s aged considerably and his character has changed faces multiple times since his departure. For Star Trek, I am open to the idea of Shatner, Picard or just about anyone taking part in Star Trek 3, but I recognize the truth in Simon Pegg’s statement. It comes down to whether or not it makes sense for the story. Shoving it in would do the story and a film a disservice. I hope they make the best Star Trek film possible, with or without cameos. However, now that the 84-year-old Nimoy is gone I am suddenly hyper-aware of the fact that William Shatner is the same age, and while he very well might have many years left this could also be our last chance to see him as Kirk.
What about you? Do you really like Kirk’s Star Trek: Generations death? Do you loathe the idea of seeing a much older Kirk, or forcing Pegg and his co-writer to bend over backwards to figure out a way to work in cameos? Or do you simply want them to get this dang film made already?