Pioneers of Television Clip: William Shatner On How He Made Star Trek “More Fun”

As previously reported, tonight the PBS series "Pioneers of Television" takes a look at science fiction pioneers, including Gene Roddenberry. We have a new clip from the show, featuring William Shatner talking about the origins of Star Trek and how he influenced the series.


Clip: Shatner talks about making Star Trek  "more fun"

Pioneers of Television episode on science fiction airs tonight, Tuesday January 18th at 8 PM (7 central).

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ensign joe
January 18, 2011 1:51 pm


January 18, 2011 1:59 pm
January 18, 2011 2:17 pm

Great stuff.

nitpick (of course): How is it that even in the same clip, using the same production still of Shat they manage to reverse it once? JJ should just put a delta shield on each boob cause this is never going to quit.

Rocket Scientist
January 18, 2011 2:31 pm

Let’s hope Star Trek once again becomes “the science fiction show with something important to say”. That’s essential

Rocket Scientist
January 18, 2011 2:32 pm

Oh, and The Shat rules. He *IS* Captain Kirk.

January 18, 2011 2:44 pm

Yes … REALLY GREAT!!! ….and we’re talking about Star Trek untill now! .. and more I hope!

ensign joe
January 18, 2011 2:58 pm

Loving it SirMartman


January 18, 2011 2:59 pm

Hell, he made LIFE more fun!

By the way, hope you’re all still checking out the ongoing comments on the earlier ‘3D’ topic, as there’s plenty of fun to still be had there too. :)

January 18, 2011 3:06 pm

I’ve always said Star Trek wouldn’t be quite what it was without Shatner.

January 18, 2011 3:34 pm

CmdrR: If that’s an original page from TV Guide they’re using there, then the flipped photo is TV Guide’s fault. Probably it was done for reasons of composition – but yes, it’s annoying how often it seems to happen.

January 18, 2011 3:40 pm

10 – The TV Guide insert photo is a crop of the two-shot used just seconds later. They obviously made there own. I’m old enough to remember the state of 60’s dot matrix printing and you’d never see the wild back lighting in a TV Guide of that era. In fact, I have to wonder how they got that photo. Wonder if a puter acted as midwife.

Meanwhile, I do appreciate the recreated footage. It gets very old, very fast watching pushes on still photos used to fill an entire doc. (I’m lookin’ at YOU Ken Burns!) I hope I can catch this special tonight. Looks like my kinda stuff.

January 18, 2011 4:32 pm

Funny listening to WS take on the first pilot, and it was that “momentous” acting that Bacula seemed to deliver on Enterprise, this feeling that command was crushing this emotionally constipated individual.

Lt. Bailey
January 18, 2011 4:49 pm

Nobody does it better than the Shatner. I really like Jeffery Hunter, but I am so glad that he bowed out of the 2nd ST Pilot and Shat stepped. I doubt TOS would have been the same with Jeff Hunter in the center seat.

January 18, 2011 5:02 pm

Is that Kelsey Grammar speaking?

Starbase Britain
January 18, 2011 5:25 pm

Bill for King of England!
Greg UK

John from Cincinnati
January 18, 2011 5:29 pm

Shatner is a pioneer of early Star Trek and deserves to be in the next movie!

The fans demand it!!!!!!!

Anselmo Melo
January 18, 2011 5:45 pm

4. Rocket Scientist – January 18, 2011
Let’s hope Star Trek once again becomes “the science fiction show with something important to say”. That’s essential

If you want classic StarTtrek with something important to say you should watch Star Trek Phase II. Don’t expect it among lens flares and shaking fast-panning cameras.

January 18, 2011 6:20 pm

16. John from Cincinnati – January 18, 2011

Some fans demand it. Others don’t.

January 18, 2011 6:43 pm


Commodore Mike of the Terran Empire
January 18, 2011 7:03 pm

WoW. Jack Lord could have been Capt Kirk. hmm Book UM Spocko. Long Live the Shat.

January 18, 2011 7:03 pm

Did Shatner see ST2009?

January 18, 2011 7:07 pm

@19 PBS
Show appears interesting, unfortunately I won’t see it because I don’t watch TV. Only do YouTube, iTunes, DVDs.

I had no idea that Hawaii 5-0 actor was almost Kirk. Interesting stuff.

January 18, 2011 7:11 pm
January 18, 2011 8:10 pm

Bring Back the SHAT!!!!!!!!

Red Dead Ryan
January 18, 2011 8:20 pm

“Star Trek” would not be what it is today without William Shatner. The other cast members played pivotal roles too, but THE SHAT is the face of not just “The Original Series” but the entire franchise.

January 18, 2011 9:21 pm

I saw the program tonight. It was great. Interesting things said about not just Star Trek but Lost in Space. When its rival show Batman was beating it in the ratings, the show became more campy to compete with it. And I didn’t know this, they let Jonathan Harris (Dr. Smith) rewrite his lines and he became more flamboyant as time went on. The show devolves into lunacy with the episode “tThe Great Vegetable Rebellion.”

January 18, 2011 9:27 pm

And when NBC pressured Roddenberry to put more monsters in the show, he resisted. As the clip above shows, it was the science ficiton show with “something important to say.” Thanks Gene for intelligent science fiction. Great documentary.

January 18, 2011 9:37 pm

Organic way for Shat cameo:
Before Spock knew he would have to ram the jellyfish into the Narada, he downloaded and pocketed data files. Some belonging to Spock prime, which incl. holo-files of Shatner.

January 18, 2011 10:01 pm

So true. I can’t imagine (TOS) Star Trek without Shatner/Kirk. I was instantly “in love” with the character, and the programme as a whole. I knew that Kirk (Shatner) was one good looking guy, but seeing those pictures of him in shows before he did Star Trek – now he was one super gorgeous looking hottie (to use the current modern lingo)… How could they not choose him, once they saw him (ie Leonard Nimoy and Gene Roddenberry)? Sorry, but Jeffrey Hunter, Jack Lord…simply couldn’t hold a candle to William Shatner when it came screen presence, voice and acting style and ability.

And now they have Chris Pine to carry on the mantle – another rare and wonderful find!

Brett Campbell
January 18, 2011 10:09 pm

Lovin’ the Shat love here! His contribution to the show’s success can’t be over-estimated, although it is too often under-appreciated.

ster j
January 18, 2011 10:11 pm

This was a wonderful show! My local channel will re-run it on Sunday. Maybe I can watch it in peace!

Toothless Grishnar Cat
January 18, 2011 10:51 pm

I seem to recall Lloyd Bridges being approached to play the captain at some point, as well (and he declined).

January 18, 2011 11:07 pm

I too am happy how the casting worked out that way. I think frequently with great shows the casting works out a certain way and a magic just happens. I still can’t imagine the level of success of Indiana Jones with Selleck or Lord of the Rings with Connery.

Regardless of whose choice it was neither of the other two could have delivered what made that show what it was.

No more important than not painting Spock but no less important.

The First Son of Krypton
January 19, 2011 1:23 am

More from Bill on why he made Star Trek, Star Trek…

I think I’ll pass this perticular ego trip thank you very much. Not that I don’t like the Shat, I do, I love him. But I can’t help but feel he loves himself more….

January 19, 2011 1:50 am

@34 George Takei, is that you again?

Steve Pinsent
January 19, 2011 4:18 am

@34 I saw this last night… not much of an ego trip at all – it was a really good show – a lot on Roddenberry which was nice to see as well the show also featured Irwin Allen’s show’s, The Twilight Zone, and a little on Batman.

This show may of tipped the scales for me as well… I’ve been on the fence about buying twilight zone.

January 19, 2011 4:55 am
January 19, 2011 6:06 am


Nonsense. Star Trek was much, much more than ‘the William Shatner Show’.

January 19, 2011 7:20 am

I might be behind the times, but I saw a preview for the up-coming season of “Raw Nerve.” Walter Koenig will be a guest. That should be interesting.

star trackie
January 19, 2011 8:34 am

#38 “Nonsense. Star Trek was much, much more than ‘the William Shatner Show’.”

… of course, we’ll never know, but I’d wager the phenomenon would not have exploded with Jack Lord at the helm. And, obviously, any reunion movies with an alzheimer-ridden Jack Lord would not have been possible. And without the reunion movie you lose any interest in bringing Trek back to the small screen, in which case you lose any possible spin-offs. Yes, Star Trek was very lucky to land William Shatner as the star.

Mike Poteet
January 19, 2011 8:54 am

This moment was so much revisionist bogus junk. The second pilot was “a lighter vehicle”? Oh, yeah, Kirk has to kill his best friend who has become a god-like murdering thug. Loads of laughs.

January 19, 2011 9:35 am

I would have to say Shat carried himself well. this special did trdk alot of justice. I only wish more time was dedicated to trek. However too it was fun to see tribute given to the other scifi franches too. They all made valuable contributions to the small screen. come to think of it a part 1 @ 2 would have covered the scifi shows. It would have been …Logical. In the mean time I will spend time with the Shat in%*@& my dad says…until he makes it into the new movie….I can dream can’t I ?

January 19, 2011 10:25 am


Mike, you make a good point.. Shatner’s generalizing about something he barely remembers. I also find WNMHGB somewhat tragic, but it is also a great first episode to this series. And it was shown at first a few weeks in after “Man Trap,” etc.

There’s no trouncing the Shat’s cred, however, and his ability to inject some extra energy into the proceedings for three years. Not sure Jeff Hunter would have been able to do so (regardless of how wonderful his portrayal is of the conflicted Pike).

Jerry Seward
January 19, 2011 11:20 am

And “The Man Trap” was shown first by NBC because it had a “monster” in it.

Greg Hester
January 19, 2011 1:44 pm

Mike and AJ:

You guys get it! Besides a stellar production by PBS, and besides his brilliant contributions to the 1st and 2nd seasons of Star Trek, Bill Shatner adds absolutely nothing to this documentary.

He has no idea of what he is talking about, can’t remember a thing about the show and most importantly, and realistically, he doesn’t care. He doesn’t have the intelligence or compassion to even begin to embrace Star Trek’s cultural relevance. What a joke.

His blurb about the “ship going this way…” and “the ship turning that way”…. “A lighter vehicle.” WTF??????????????????????????? What is he talking about???????????????????

Anyway, young William Shatner’s true contribution to Trek is an amazing portrayal of Captain Kirk. But without great writing (1st season esp.), production values and supporting cast, Star Trek would have been nothing.

Jeff Bond
January 19, 2011 1:56 pm

Other than the clip from “The Lieutenant” and the footage of Rod Serling this program didn’t have much to offer beyond the same stories and observations that have been made a hundred times before. There was one interesting photograph of Roddenberry standing at a podium on the stage where the Enterprise effects shots were filmed–real or photoshopped? Never saw that one before. But this was really no more insightful than the lame TOS DVD features. The problem is too many of these people are dead, and the ones who are alive suffer from fading memories, which is not surprising.

January 19, 2011 2:36 pm


I don’t necessarily think fading memories are the culprit for repeated stories.

Repeated questions are, as well as not wishing to provide any “meat” for any petty negativity from back then.

I think preserving a positive legacy for Trek and especially Roddenberry is a priority for surviving cast members.

January 19, 2011 5:10 pm

Are you kidding or something? Why wouldn’t William Shatner remember those times? Actually, he sounds a very coherent, intelligent person who will be 80 on 22 March 2011. Being part of a show like Star Trek would clearly have been a very poignant time in his life. Nobody questions the memories of Nichelle Nichols who is a similar age to William Shatner. God, I get so sick of the stupid Shatner bashing.

He was right. He did inject a more humourous, lighter touch than Jeffrey Hunter was able to do. Just because you are able to be show humour does not mean the same person is not forced or able to do other stuff like killing a friend who is lost to himself and has become a threat to everything and everybody. It is called being an intelligent, emotionally integrated individual. Besides, much of life is a funny/sad event. I doubt that it will that much different 200 years from now.

January 19, 2011 6:54 pm

Shat has forgotten tons, but all of this about the light touch he brought is stuff he has said all along.

Go back to that first bio, SHATNER WHERE NO MAN, from 1979 — he saw the pilot and thought everybody was doing the ‘i’m so important because I’m on a starship’ thing. There’s a chapter in there with he and Nimoy talking about the chemistry that was not there with Hunter, too.

He even acknowledges knowing he was playing things too broadly at the time, but that it was a choice to do that or do it too flat in the ‘just the facts’ way, and he didn’t think that was the way to entertain.

I’m going to skip seeing this show because it seems to me that you need to do half the TREK end of such a show just on Gene Coon to be honest about TREK, and face it, nobody on the tube or in print outside of Gross and Altman seems to even remember Gene Coon, even though he is probably more important in terms of there being a TREK to remember than anybody else on the planet.

January 19, 2011 10:06 pm

I just watched it. I didn’t know the story about Gene forcing the studio suits to read his ideas. That was new for me.