James Kirk was always going to die in Star Trek Generations, with or without William Shatner.
Star Trek Generations was always going to be the final film that had anything to do with the original series. We’ve mentioned before that the original idea was to have the entire original series crew do one last turn as their characters, essentially taking a final bow for fans in the first portion of the film.
Of course, most didn’t want to return or couldn’t, so instead of the whole crew, it was whittled down to just James Kirk, Montgomery “Scotty” Scott, and Pavel Chekov. Yet, it was only Kirk who would appear in the film past the opening portion of the film.
For fans who’ve seen the film, they know this is the one where Kirk actually dies. It ended the run of original series movies and Shatner’s curtain call as Kirk. While some believe the ending of Kirk deserved more gravitas, it still did the job.
What fans may not know is that whether Shatner returned or not, Kirk was always doomed.
William Shatner couldn’t have saved James Kirk by not doing Generations
By all accounts, even if Shatner didn’t return to the franchise, Kirk was going to be killed off. According to Screenrant, producers told Shatner that James Kirk was getting 86’ed whether or not he was in the film.
To further highlight this point, Ronald D. Moore revealed that he and Brannon Braga’s script was always about the death of Kirk.
"One of us just kinda threw out, ‘What if we kill Kirk?’ And we all kinda looked at each other and said, ‘Wow. That would be amazing.’ …From that point on, Kirk’s death became part of the fabric of our story, and as a big surprise to us all, there was never a moment where it really came into question."
Shatner, according to Screenrant, decided to reprise the role one last time because it was the more “practical” option.