William Shatner’s iconic role as Captain Kirk in Star Trek: The Original Series solidified his fame, but not all of his Star Trek castmates had great relationships with the man behind the captain. Star Trek’s devoted following means plenty of deep dives have been made into the history of Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek: The Original Series and how it influenced the rest of the franchise. This means a lot of dirty laundry has been aired about how Shatner and his Star Trek castmates felt about each other.
Star Trek: The Original Series only ran for three seasons from 1966-1969. However, the stories of the USS Enterprise and its crew traveling through space in the distant future captured a huge following and defined the careers of the lead actors in the TV series. Star Trek’s effect on popular culture cannot be overstated, and fans of the show at the time protested NBC’s repeated attempts to cancel the series with passionate letter-writing campaigns. It is perhaps not surprising that Star Trek: The Original Series developed a strong cult following as it aired during the height of the space race and the lead-up to Neil Armstrong’s first moonwalk in 1969. Since then, the series has spawned many books, movies, and other TV shows, both live-action and animated. In many of these, the Captain Kirk that Shatner originated is an important part of the Star Trek mythos, even if he doesn’t actually appear in person.
While Shatner holds an important place in science fiction history, the man himself has had somewhat of a tumultuous relationship with his castmates, fans, and marginalized groups. Roddenberry’s family voiced displeasure over Shatner’s 1986 appearance on Saturday Night Live in which he mocked cosplayers at a convention, and more recently he has provided unnecessary hot takes on the word “cis” and attacked the LGBTQ+ community over its use. Clearly, Shatner has always been a strong personality, so how did his Star Trek: The Original Series castmates feel about the actor over the years?
Leonard Nimoy – Spock
Leonard Nimoy’s Spock was the Vulcan first officer of the USS Enterprise and second in command to Captain Kirk. Consequentially, Nimoy shared a lot of screen time with Shatner, and the two actors were the only cast members credited during the opening title sequence for the first season, while the rest of the cast was listed in the end credits. During the filming of Star Trek: The Original Series, Nimoy and Shatner had a sometimes strained relationship as Shatner became jealous of the love and attention Nimoy received from fans. This escalated to the point that Shatner would occasionally steal some of Spock’s lines (in the hopes of making his own character seem more intelligent) as well as perform petty acts around the set such as hiding Nimoy’s bike. In later life, Shatner acknowledged he had been jealous of Spock and did not handle the challenge to his ego well.
Despite their on-set rivalry, Shatner has made much of his relationship with Nimoy in the years after Star Trek: The Original Series. In 2016, a year after Nimoy’s death, Shatner published a book titled Leonard: My Fifty-Year Friendship With a Remarkable Man in which he referred to Nimoy as the only real friend he ever had. However, in the final years of Nimoy’s life, the two had a falling out potentially related to Shatner using footage of Nimoy in his The Captains documentary against his wishes. The two did not speak for the last five years Nimoy was alive, but Shatner expressed his regrets he was unable to attend Nimoy’s funeral, with Shatner’s children going in his place.
DeForest Kelley – Leonard “Bones” McCoy
While Kirk and Spock might be the first to come to mind when thinking of Star Trek: The Original Series, Deforest Kelley’s chief medical officer, Leonard “Bones” McCoy, is never far behind. Famed for his “he’s dead, Jim,” line, Kelley received equal recognition alongside his co-stars in Star Trek: The Original Series season 2 and 3, with his name appearing in the opening credits along with Shatner and Nimoy’s. While Kelley did not have as close a relationship with Shatner as Nimoy, Kelley said he loved Shatner despite some occasional arguments and having to set the captain straight on points here and there.
George Takei – Hikaru Sulu
Star Trek: The Original Series saw the helmsman Hikaru Sulu brought to life by George Takei, who has gone on to become just as well known for his online presence and bringing greater acknowledgment to the internment of Japanese-Americans in the United States during World War II. While Nimoy and Kelley had largely close or amicable relationships with Shatner for most of their lives, the same cannot be said for Takei. The two have been outspoken about their struggles to get along, with both accusing the other of bringing up the controversy between them to garner attention for their careers.
Takei has criticized Shatner’s ego, both before and after his time as Hikaru Sulu, noting he is a hard man to work with as he is not a team player. At various points, the two have downplayed the seriousness of their feud, including during Comedy Central’s 2006 Roast of William Shatner, when they suggested past tensions were behind them. However, more recent events make it clear that is not the case. In 2021, the two argued after Takei criticized Shatner’s trip into space and mocked him, with Shatner speaking out against Takei in return. The poor relationship between Takei and Shatner is certainly the most enduring and well-publicized of the Star Trek: The Original Series feuds.
Nichelle Nichols – Nyota Uhura
Nichelle Nichols played the USS Enterprise’s communications officer, Lieutenant Uhura, a role that was ground-breaking for African American female characters on TV in the United States. Neither Nichols nor Shatner have spoken much about their relationship with each other, and there is no reason to think it is not amicable. The two made TV history together when they filmed the first interracial kiss on scripted U.S. television, and Nichols made a quip about the fact during Comedy Central’s Roast of William Shatner.
James Doohan – Montgomery “Scotty” Scott
Montgomery “Scotty” Scott was the USS Enterprise’s chief engineer and was portrayed by the Canadian James Doohan. A common theme in Shatner’s relationships with the other Star Trek: The Original Series cast members is a frustration aimed at Shatner’s ego and desire to hog the camera and the best lines. This was a key component of Shatner’s relationship with Doohan. While they worked together on the original series and many Star Trek movies, Doohan clearly didn’t care for Shatner and is quoted as having said “I like Captain Kirk, but I sure don’t like Bill. He’s so insecure that all he can think about is himself.” He refused to be interviewed by Shatner for either of his Star Trek Memories books. However, after their working relationship ended with Star Trek Generations in 1994, it seems the two were able to mend their relationship; they made a final convention appearance together in 2004 before Doohan’s death.
Walter Koenig – Pavel Chekov
The navigational, tactical, and security officer Pavel Chekov, played by Walter Koenig, was introduced in Star Trek: The Original Series season 2. While Koenig has acknowledged the feuds and poor relationships some of the cast had with Shatner, he was never overly bothered by it himself. Koenig has suggested he simply expected the lead actor on a show to be somewhat self-absorbed. It is possible that Koenig’s laid-back attitude towards Shatner and the issues the others struggled with might be attributed to the fact he came to the series after other dynamics had already been established and was also the youngest member of the main cast.
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