'Star Trek: The Next Generation' Only Got Made Because William Shatner Is A Jerk

Kirk’s contract demands inadvertently led to TV gold.
'Star Trek: The Next Generation' Only Got Made Because William Shatner Is A Jerk

Good news for fans of space adventures and geriatric trombone solos; Will Riker, Beverly Crusher, Worf, and pretty much every Enterprise-D crew member not named “Wesley” are joining the cast of Star Trek: Picard for the upcoming third (and final) season, as evidenced by this new trailer in which Picard thrillingly rummages through an old suitcase.

The Next Generation crew have rightfully become iconic in their own right by this point, but they would never have existed in the first place if it wasn’t for William Shatner’s lovably raging ego. Following the success of Star Trek III: The Search For Spock, Shatner refused to come back for another movie unless he got a “significant pay increase.” 

While Shatner’s contract was being negotiated, Star Trek’s producers, and director Leonard Nimoy, attempted to brainstorm a new, Shatner-less story. And they came up with a good one, a prequel; Star Trek: The Academy Years, which, not unlike the first act of the 2009 reboot, would have focused on the youthful school days of Kirk and Spock and “would not require the services of any of the regular Star Trek members.” According to producer Harve Bennett, at one point, they wanted Ethan Hawke for Kirk and John Cusack for Spock. Also, the script was reportedly inspired by Top Gun, so we may have been robbed of a scene in which Kirk and his friends play beach volleyball against The Gorn.

The Academy project was pushed to the side (later to fall apart completely) when Shatner was eventually given $2 million for Star Trek IV (or $2.5 million according to some reports) plus the gig directing Star Trek V (and we all know how that turned out). Nimoy was then paid the same as Shatner. Not bad for the leads of a franchise all about a utopian future in which money has been abolished.

According to reports at the time, it was the “sky-high salaries” of these two stars that served as the “trigger” for Paramount to build on the “seeds” of The Academy Years and greenlight a brand new Star Trek TV series featuring a fresh crop of, well, far more affordable actors – thus Star Trek: The Next Generation was born. Thank you, William Shatner’s love of buying up horse ranches.

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Top Image: Paramount Pictures


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