William Shatner helped launch Star Trek into a franchise that has been going strong for well over fifty years.
Most Star Trek fans know that William Shatner took over the role of captain of the Enterprise on Star Trek: The Original Series after Jeffrey Hunter opted not to return as Captain Christopher Pike for the second pilot. Shatner recently appeared at the South by Southwest in Austin, Texas and was asked how he got the role that changed his life. [Via The Hollywood Reporter]. Shatner’s response was a quick “talent,” which earned uproarious approval from the audience.
Shatner then went on to tell the tale we all know about how NBC executives opted not to buy the first pilot and then how the role was presented to him.
"“So they went around looking for a new captain. I was in New York doing some work. They called me and said, ‘Would you come and see the pilot?’ With the idea of me being the captain. And I watched the pilot [and thought], ‘Oh my God, that’s really good. Why didn’t they buy it?’ Yet [the actors] were a little ponderous. Like, [soberly] ‘Helmsman, turn to the Starboard.’ You’ve been out five years in the middle of space, wouldn’t you say, [casually] ‘Hey, George, turn left’? ‘There’s a meteor coming!’… ‘Well, get out of the way!’ So I added a little lightness. Then it sold. And that’s the answer.”"
William Shatner created a captain that, to this day, exists as one of the all-time greats.
There have been, and will continue to be, the great debate as to who made the better Star Trek captain. Usually, the choice is down to Captain Kirk or Captain Picard. As both actors brought something different to their roles, I don’t think it’s fair to compare the two.
Kirk has been labeled as aggressive and prone to fight, but Picard could be just as aggressive in his own way. While he might not be the first one to thrown a punch, he could hold his own in a fight. And where Picard has been called more diplomatic, there were plenty of times when Kirk used diplomacy to extricate himself and the Enterprise from a bind.
Both actors brought a sense of bravado to their characters, and both carried the mantle of authority extremely well. William Shatner just happened to do it first, and his performance as Captain James T. Kirk remains unparalleled to this day.