Comfort Entertainment: Are We Really Going to Defend Shatner Right Now?

Screenshot of George Takei as Hikaru Sulu from ‘Star Trek: The Original Series’. Copyright goes to Paramount Pictures.

Hey! Hallie here!

I didn’t expect to come back to Star Trek so fast but here we are. As most people know, William Shatner was recently sent up to space via Jefferey Bezos and his new interest in sending rich people to space. As is typical with trips like this, Shatner and his party spent only a few minutes just above Earth before coming back. However, not so typical is the fact that William Shatner is ninety years old, the oldest person to endure the trip to space. There were split reactions to this whole endeavor. One was the understandable continued frustration over rich people getting the complete privilege of entering space without any real reason. The other was gratification over sending such a huge icon in Sci-fi, and such a huge influence in the public’s interest in space travel, to the exact place an entire generation always pictured him inhabiting. George Takei’s take on this subject was a bit different from both of these. I’ll get into exactly what he said in a moment, but it started an entire twitter war with fans taking either Takei or Shatner’s side. I’ve been vocal about how much I dislike Shatner. And I’ll also talk about that in a bit. But this entire argument is ridiculous even without Shatner’s character coming into question. With it included? I can’t even begin to imagine why people are defending him.

What George Takei Actually Said:

What seems to be going around most is the headline that George Takei referred to Shatner as an “unfit specimen”. News sites are spinning this as a complete attack on Shatner’s character and many people are taking direct offense at just this quote taken out of context. What George Takei actually was trying to communicate, was his interest in the result of sending a ninety-year-old to space. He claimed that whatever space is like for regularly fit individuals, Shatner, who cannot be considered fit mainly because of his age, would demonstrate how less fit individuals would fare during a trip to space. Therefore, an “unfit specimen” to study. It was a blatant jab at Shatner’s age, but most people expressed some level of concern over how the trip to space would affect William Shatner. I’m not saying George Takei was expressing concern here. He famously hasn’t gotten along with Shatner and there was certainly a bit of humor in the way he referred to Shatner’s age. But he wasn’t attacking him either.

Why George Takei is Right to Dislike Shatner:

This is where my title comes from. I don’t know if Shatner’s defenders are individuals who don’t care about the way Shatner has treated others, toxic fans who claim the many, many, reports of his behavior are lies because it isn’t in line with the actor and character they idolize, or fans who don’t know much about Shatner at all. The point is, Shatner doesn’t get along with most people he works with. And most of the cast of ‘Star Trek: The Original Series’ came away with pretty poor opinions of him. Nichelle Nichols, a long time friend of Takei, nearly quit the series with many reporting that Shatner’s ego contributed to her difficult time on set. After all, it heavily contributed to both George Takei and James Doohan’s hard experience on set. Shatner frequently demanded that others scenes be cut or their lines given to him. This resulted in a much smaller role for Takei specifically in some of the Star Trek films, while Doohan had various lines throughout the series given to Shatner at Shatner’s request. Even Leonard Nimoy went through this behavior from him, sometimes more than either Takei or Doohan. It’s well known that Shatner became extremely jealous once Spock was established as the most popular of the characters on the show. And he didn’t just steal his lines, though that would have been enough. He also hid the bike Nimoy used to get around set and refused to let a photographer do a piece on Nimoy, resulting in Nimoy threatening not to get in makeup until the photographer was let in and the near shutdown of production for the entire day. Nimoy and Shatner did become close friends at some point after all this ended, but they didn’t speak for the five years before Nimoy died and Shatner didn’t show up to his funeral.

Shatner has also been pretty famously creepy on set with his women co-stars. Kristine Alley, most famous among Star Trek fans for her role in ‘Wrath of Kahn’, reported both inappropriate advances on his part and has a well-known story about how Shatner hired her an acting tutor because he felt she wasn’t good enough. Even Deforest Kelley and Walter Koenig, who didn’t report issues with Shatner, expressed complete awareness of his childishness. And if you think this behavior is all in the past, think again. J.J. Abrams tried to give Shatner a role in his recent reboot movies, but had to end negotiations because Shatner wanted the story to focus largely on himself. Of course, with Takei specifically there’s more examples of animosity outside of Star Trek. Shatner frequently plays the victim, calling Takei’s public dislike of him “psychosis”, which is ironic considering that this is Shatner expressing public dislike of Takei. Takei fires right back, saying Shatner brings up his past feuds for attention. Shatner also publicly complained that he wasn’t invited to Takei’s wedding, which Takei denies. A lot of this situation specifically is a he-said-she-said situation, but given the fact that most people, including the Star Trek cast, have had bad experiences with Shatner, I know who I’m more inclined to believe.

As for Takei, he’s been outspoken about LGBTQ+ issues, the struggles minorities face, and achieving equality for all of us. William Shatner got in a twitter feud with a bunch of trans people because he didn’t like being called cisgender. I don’t know either of these two personally. But I do believe that actions speak louder than words and all the actions I’ve seen from Shatner have left me deeply unimpressed. As for Takei, love him or hate him he stands up for some very important causes. I don’t see any world where I would rather defend Shatner over Takei. I don’t understand why this is even a debate.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

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