Director David Carson had the ignoble duty of being the man who had to shoot the death scene James T. Kirk, twice. In a new interview the Star Trek: Generations director talks about how he fought the studio, trying to at least give the icon Kirk the proper send off. Excerpts below.
Carson on shooting (and reshooting) the death of Kirk
Speaking to the official Star Trek site, David Carson recalled his thoughts on shooting (and then reshooting) the death of James T. Kirk in Star Trek Generations:
Kirk was to be shot in the back. What was written and what was accepted by the studio and the producers was never acceptable as far as I was concerned. I mean, here’s this great icon. This Captain Kirk is an icon. He means a lot to people. So to have him die in an ignominious way, when you’re shooting in this incredible mountain area… I fought for that not to happen, but lost the battle. And when we were out on the set I remember that Bill and Patrick and I called the studio to say, “Please, can we not do this? Can we do something else? Let’s stay here. Let’s re-write it.” Because we didn’t feel it was going to work. They did it as well as they could, but frankly, shooting somebody in the back on a narrow ledge on a mountainside is not the most dramatic way for someone to die, especially when the baddie, Malcolm McDowell, also got shot. So it was like an antiquated gunfight, if you like.
Of course Carson was right and the ending with Kirk being shot in the back tested poorly and the studio ordered a rewrite and reshoot of the scene. Carson explains the process:
So we shot for another two weeks, which cost a huge amount of money, and it was so disruptive of the final process. Dennis McCarthy, who wrote the score, wrote the score for the whole movie up to that point. He had 10 minutes to add and was waiting, waiting for us to finish editing it. However, I will say that the reshoots were very exciting. The crew loved doing it because it was such an action ending and much more fitting for Kirk. Captain Kirk’s death now meant something. Before, being shot in the back, it meant absolutely nothing. This time he really saved the day. So it was well worthwhile in the end, I think.
For those that haven’t seen it, here is rough video of the original version of the Kirk death scene in Star Trek: Generations.
For more from Carson on his other Star Trek TV see full interview: Part 1 & Part 2.
so glad they changed it…being shot in the back just doesnt seem a fitting end to Kirk
Having seen this on the DVD deleted scenes, I believe they went with the better one.
I would have been pissed off if they had done the original ending. Being shot in the back is a terrible way to kill a legend such as Kirk
Oh yes. LOOOVE how he fell off of a bridge.
That’s so much more fitting.
Go buy a clue.
Both versions suck.
Terrible quality but here’s somebody else who had a bash at recreating the original ending.
They’ve made some attempt to put the unused score in and add the Nexus & rocket explosion.
A sucky ending by any other name…..
1. Okay, so they went from worse to bad.
2. Apparently, delivering a sound ass kicking to Malcolm McDowell is harder than it looks.
What a waste of a movie. Seriously.
Something that’s always bugged me, as good as the Blu ray/DVD special editions are… there are yet more Deleted Scenes kicking around the web.
I know most would continue to despise Generations no matter which version, but I’d actually like to see an alternative grim version… to compare with the final theatrical cut, if the day ever comes Paramount can retransfer some of this material. Or at least, cut material that’s not the ropey videotape extracts (with a timecode burnt in) we’ve seen so far.
I hated it! … Whatever… :-( :-(
This movie, more than anything else, demonstrated how obsessed Berman was with putting his own imprimatur on Trek and doing his best to eliminate any vestige of its legacy. The absolutely pointless killing of Kirk is the single biggest blunder in the entire history of the Trek franchise.
Rick Berman really screwed this Movie up. At least the reshoot of Kirks Death meant soomething. Berman was just trying to kill Kirk to just get rid of him.
Both versions are ridiculous.
What’s wrong with Kirk getting shot in the back ? The whole idea of the film was that we can’t escape the sad realities of life, which is death. Getting shot in the back was perhaps the best way to represent that notion. I guess ppl wanted a happy ending, as most of us do. It was a business decision to satisfy the masses, who failed to see the greater idea of the story.
Rick Berman to Ronald Moore and Brannon Braga: “Well we finally have our own movie, how do we get rid of that stupid sixties show and make people see mine as the only Star Trek?
Braga:…ummmm… we could kill Captain Kirk and therefore kill that legacy.
Berman: YES!!! And we can have Picard “bury” Kirk to symbolically “bury” that stupid old show.
Moore: I think that idea sucks. I know Gene wouldn’t have,,,
Berman interrupting: Gene shmeen. This is my baby, not his. Lets kill that old bastard, and by that I mean both Kirk and that stupid old show. We will put those original series fans, who I remind you we had to placate for 7 years, out to pasture. This franchise will be mine, all mine. By the way Brannon and Ron, did you know that I never even saw one episode of that stupid old show even once? I’m glad you guys had a clue. Anyway, it won’t matter anymore since I will bury that show once and for all!
One more idea. Lets kill that old fat bald bastard, Kirk I mean, in a way that is undignified and has no meaning. YESSS!!! I am a genius!
16 years later…Kirk and the legacy of TOS lives on. Jokes on you Berman!
Hmm… I actually think the original ending is more powerful and, somehow, meaningful. However, I will always contend that killing Kirk in Generations, in any manner, was a mistake.
There were two pointless things in Generations, 1) Killing off Kirk, how the hell did Shat ever consent to this? If I were him, I would have flat out refused being killed off. 2) blowing up the Enterprise-D. Sure it made for a cool crash scene, but why? Was it really that bad of a ship that they had to get rid of it for a more “movie friendly Enterprise?” I really wish we could say this one was non-canon.
Neither ending was any good, but at least the ending that’s in the official release is the better of the two. Getting shot in the back is a slap in the face to Shatner and all Trek fans.
They should have just had Kirk wind up in the Nexus again. Give a way for Kirk to basically be eternal, and have a way for him to come back at any point in the Trek timeline so that fans could go crazy with their fanfics and not force Shatner to write his own book to bring Kirk back.
Let be honest here…both endings were a HORRIBLE ending for Captain Kirk. Captain Kirk should NEVER have died falling or being shot in the back. This is the same Captain Kirk that survived a Mugatu bite, fell from Mount Everest, has been in many near death experiences with Klingons, Romulans and Salt Vampires. He survived torture from the Vians. He fought and won on the planet Triskelion. Escaped by a narrow margin being beamed back aboard the Enterprise while the Defiant was being eaten by the Doomsday Machine. Held on to one last breath while he was trapped in innerspace until Spock beamed him back to the Enterprise. And lets not forget his battle with the Gorn who almost killed him. But Kirk’s stamina, determination and intellect won out. IS THIS THE SAME KIRK THAT DIED FALLING FROM THE BRIDGE??!!! KIRK’S LAST WORDS WERE “OH MY”! YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!!! I hardly think that was a fitting death scene. REMEMBER when Kirk told Bones, “I’ve always known, I’ll die alone”? When Kirk was sucked out into space when the energy ribbon hit the Enterprise, that was a GOOD death scene. You never saw him die, he was ALONE, he died saving the Enterprise and he was lost in space, the place that he spent his life. They should have left well enough alone!!! I know…I know…I get a little emotional on this!
I waited 15 years to watch this miserable movie – I refused to see it in the theater. And then it was worse than I thought. The Kirkless fan version is better. That was a crummy thing to do to Kirk and Shatner.
Huge mistake. Both Moore and Braga have said they let too many cooks into the kitchen for the plotting of this movie.
And I still don’t understand the difficulty in bringing him back if anyone really wanted to, there is an Echo of Kirk in the Nexus, just as there was one of Guinan there. Just say that Spock was able to stabalize the echo and bring him back, it’s really just one line of dialogue that no casual fan or lay person would blink at.
Read the Kirk book of the CRUCIBLE trilogy:
The re-shot death scene of Kirk is almost worse than what they originally put in the can..Because they unbelievably thought they were going out of their way to make Kirk’s death more heroic with that lame reshoot.
“Generations” was terrible on a number of levels. I won’t even waste time listing them. It’s easier and more fun to note when Star Trek does it right.
I’m not a giant fan of Abrams & Company’s take on Star Trek, but at least I don’t have to fear the horrifyingly bad storytelling and direction that Berman, Carson and crew inflicted on Star Trek. The new guys might not have the best writing and directing chops, but they’re awesome when compared to Berman’s boys. Man…17 years since I sat through that lame story and pathetic death scene..I’m still pissed about it.
Still think that had Shatner actually said “Kirk dosen’t die” this story would have been shelved. It was a bad concept all the was around, but then, so was Trek III.
The original version just looks like old people fighting.
I DO think getting shot is a more dramatic ending for Kirk than falling from a bridge, but the problem with the original version was it was just he gets shot after all the fighting is over. Like, oh, and now he dies.
The problem with the bridge scene was that Kirk’s death falling from the bridge was out of his control. He put himself in that situation, true, but once there all he could do was wait for the bridge to fall or not fall. There wasn’t very much drama in a circumstance that he had nothing to do with.
A better way to have done it, and this is drawing from something Shatner said in an interview somewhere, would have been to have him actually get fatally wounded during the fight, or have him do Picard’s job and stop the rocket when he is killed. I believe Shatner said something about Kirk trying to stand back up and simply being unable to do so, stumbling, until his final collapse. Much more dramatic than seeing him lay there.
Terrible first version: Kirk is physically beaten-up by Soron; Kirk, our hero, cowers on his knees before Soron, after having been shot in the back, and after making a pithy comment in a death-cliche; too much footage of Picard and his computer screen where nothing’s happening; Soron trying to ‘jump’ into the Nexus….Soron is shot once, after all that fuss….and Kirk dies without saying anything…
Positively awful, I’m afraid.
However, I actually like Generations: the final version. It’s probably my favourite TNG film. It has an interesting story; good cinematography, aided by those beautful model shots; it has a lot of action; it has Kirk AND Picard (to the fans’ delight); it has a big hollywood actor as the villain; etc.
I know the fans like FC. But I can only view that film with regret and sadness when I think what could have been: compare FC with Best of Both Worlds. They should just have made an extended, film version of that episode instead. Moreover, in FC all the characters are acting out of character: Troi gets drunk; Picard, the stoic, explorer-philosopher goes mad and starts destroying/killing….Nemesis had a good story but it lacked originality and the special effects were often poor. Let’s not talk about Insurrection: my least favourite TNG and Trek Film.
I didn’t used to like Gen as much as I do now. I had various problems with it:
1. When Picard is given the choice to go back to reality, instead of going back to arrest Soron in Ten Forward, or getting Kirk or someone to do it on the ENT B, he, very dramatically, choses to go back only a few minutes just before the planet was destoyed.
2. So long as none of the three on the planet die before the Nexus arrives, they can repete the fight ad infinitum: Picard can always choose to go back. Hence, there’s no real danger.
3. An old Bird of Prey, even when clocked, is no match for the Federation Flagship: the battle was exagerated and unrealistic.
4. On a related point, when the D realised that the Klingons had their shield frequency, they should have randomly changed it: as they do every week almost. Yet, they didn’t here: the ship was destroyed, dramatically.
5. Kirk doesn’t die alone. Nor does he die in a way befitting the legend that he is.
6. Some of the footage of the last battle was taken directly from the last battle of the last film: when the Klingon sisters’ ship explodes, it’s the same footage as when Chang’s exploded. Given that this film comes directly after, it seems a little cheap.
I have answers to these issues, though.
A1: Picard can’t alter the time-line; or, he must minimise the impact. Going back too far would create a different history.
A2: they can still die. The danger, then, is that they won’t get a second chance.
A3: the Klingons did heavy damage to the D when they got through the shields: they set off a warp core breach. The D had no way to track the ship initially: no way to target her.
A4. The D was too busy trying to target and destory an invisible ship: perhaps they thought not being able to attack was a bigger problem than not being able to defend.
A5. Kirk’s death is no way near as powerful as Spock’s; however, it’s a much greater sacrifice. Spock died to save his shipmates, perhaps just his friends. Kirk died to save millions of strangers, just to make a difference once more. That was a fitting death. He was burried under a few rocks and left. But there was nothing else on the planet to use. And Kirk was very humble (ironic, I know) he wouldn’t have wanted to be taken back to Earth and given a hero’s burial. That thing about Kirk’s knowing that he would die alone came in TFF; hence, once could argue it’s not a great authority. Besides, how can you know you’ll die alone. Moreover, there were only three on the whole planet; and Kirk was on his own until Picard found him….
A6. They had a shoe-string budget. Not until JJ did they have a proper budget: more than the first six films combined, in fact. Even then, they couldn’t deliver a proper engineering set; whereas, GEN did.
I encourage my fellow Trekkies to re-watch and re-evaluate GEN. It’s not the best, no; but it’s got merit; and it’s fun.
Awful. Just awful.
As terrible as Generations is, besides Berman to blame there is always Shatner to blame too. Should of just stay retired Shat.
Both are terrible (and I’ve always felt there was no reason to kill Kirk – there’s no reason to kill off characters central to an epic, you close a door on future imaginations. [Hoban Washburne and Shepherd Book notwithstanding. But I digress…]
Personally though, I actually prefer the unused ending – again, not to say I ‘liked’ it. The great Kirk succombing to something as simple and undramatic seems more ‘epic’ to me; the cinematic pun of Kirk ‘dying on the bridge’ was as comical as it was stupefying.
Plus, there was more hand-to-hand combat, which is always fun to watch. They could have thrown in some karate chops and forward rolls, better fight choreography (Soren waits for Kirk to regain his footing away from the edge of the cliff before making with the fists again? What a polite man!) THAT could have been the great ‘epic’ final Kirk memory.
Didn’t like either version. Can’t see any reason to ditch Kirk at all. I thought it might have made financial sense (for them) to get rid of Shatner’s paycheck –now and forever– but they ended up paying Stewart as much or more.
I had a thought that it might have even been better if Kirk’s death was on the 1701-B the way everyone on that ship THOUGHT it was. If they had the entire original cast for the maiden voyage of the Ent-B, and then Kirk running down to deflector control, explosion, and that is the point where he died. the original crew is stunned by the tragic turn of events, say some poetic words, and then flash forward to the rest of the movie. NO meeting of the two captains. I think that was the mistake. It would have been more of a “mystery spanning the generations” via Soran and Guinan’s involvement, Riker’s mention “that was the mission where James Kirk was killed…” etc. In my mind that would be the more elegant way to go.
Kirk deserved a better death scene. I remember watching the end of Generations and thinking, “What the hell is this? He’s Captain Kirk! He doesn’t die by falling off a bridge–he’s to awesome for his last words to be ‘It was fun–oh my!'”
If there’s going to be a Kirk death scene, forgive me if I’m being blunt, but I wish they’d just kill him again in a new movie to make up for Generations.
23. rm10019 – May 12, 2011
Well, there’s always that posibility: perhaps leaving that imprint was for that reason; Kirk, a time-less Kirk, can be ressurected at any point. Also, this way, Kirk never dies: never truly leaves our universe.
26. Phil – May 12, 2011
I agree that GEN and TSFS were both fan-boy films. But GEN appeals to a larger audience: people who might want to see Kirk and Picard in one film. That will appeal more to the mainstream that simply searching for Spock, when, of course, we all knew he would be found. In fact, Meyer refused to be involved with TSFS for that reason: it wasn’t a true Trek story; it was just a whole film to bring Spock back.
22. TrekkieJan – May 12, 2011
On a repete viewing, it might be better now. There’s no comparison to INS.
11. SoonerDave – May 12, 2011
Kirk was a human character, not just a character who is human. He’s mortal. He has to face death. He realised this in TWOK. He has to die to complete the circle. The other situation is where his story has no end: with either no closure or a rather silly set-up. No closure, because w’ll have a character with no final appearance; a character who maybe hasn’t made a final appearance for years and maybe never will. As soon as the baton was passed, Kirk was history. He might as well die. Rather silly, as he goes on forever. Take James Bond. How many mission has the cinematic Bond been on now: over twenty, with five different actors, I think, to try and keep up. That’s arguably too much for realism. One of these missions might take a decade to plan. We’d have Kirk still saving the galaxy into his eighties…
2. captain_neill – May 12, 2011
If you’ve seen the deleted scenes, you’ll have seen Kirk’s orbital sky dive that was parodied (copied) in Trek 2009….
Kirk should have helped saved the day and beamed to the rescue ship with Picard and Riker from the wrecked Enterprise bridge alive.
@30. Been making that point for a while now, that had Shat decided that Kirk needed to live, this stinker of a script would have been dumped. Can’t kill Kirk if Shat’s not in the movie now, can we?
#4 there you go! It was awful,when i say awful,i mean BAD!! I don’t know,its just that were talking about Kirks death scene here,he should have had a better death scene than that!!
I am glad they reshot it. The death scene in the theatrical version was much better. I can swear that Kirk even put up a much better fight in the theatrical version and the interaction between the characters was much better in the theatrical version.
Soran: Who are you?
Picard: He’s James T. Kirk. Don’t you read history?
Soran: As a matter of fact I am familiar with history and if I’m not too much mistaken, aren’t you dead?
Also I am not one that has problems with the death of Kirk no matter how much I liked that character. If I am correct, Paramount was wanting to bring the Original Series to a complete end and Berman felt the only way to really end it would be to kill the captain. And although many of you may disagree with me, I can see his point.
One of the things that bothered me right from the moment I first saw Generations in the theater, was the whole illogical construct of the Nexus. You can’t “fix” a timeline; you only get a new, alternate one. That’s why I like how the story of ST2009 is put together; it is built around the concept of multiverse.
To make this comment directly relevant to this thread, if we buy into the idea of “fixing” a timeline at all, then by frustrating Soran’s plans, at the moment the rocket fires prematurely and fails to alter the course of the Nexus, both Picard and Kirk should simply vanish, a la “Back to the Future”. In other words, the causal chain that led Picard into the Nexus — which is what allowed him to meet Kirk and convince him to return to the moment of Soran’s successful alteration of the Nexus’ course — is broken the moment that Picard and Kirk succeed.
The writers can’t have it both ways: EITHER the ‘Prime’ timeline (to borrow a phrase) was changed irrevocably when Soran succeeds, Veridian III plus the survivors of the Enterprise-D crash are all dead, and Picard & Kirk’s success in foiling Soran are part of an alternate timeline, OR Picard & Kirk’s success in foiling Soran has the effect of restoring the ‘Prime’ timeline, in which case Kirk should vanish back into the Nexus.
Since Generations is clearly written around the notion that the ‘Prime’ timeline is restored, not a ST2009-style multiverse idea, then it would be far preferable that Kirk disappears back into the Nexus, and we let the ‘mystery’ (@33) and ambiguity stand, with the official story that Kirk ‘died’ in the Enterprise-B incident.
@35 – Sorry, but I just don’t agree with all the sophistry. The whole point of fiction is that characters don’t have to obey the rules that real people do, and that means that such characters most certainly do *not* have to die. Kirk’s death was pointless and gratuitous, and added exactly *nothing* to the “Generations” storyline (except, perhaps, to demonstrate Picard’s utlimate grafted-in impotence as a character). “Too much for realism?” As opposed to an FTL starship, phasers, transporters, and Vulcans? Think about that for a second.
The Bond analogy is flawed, because primarily the producers ran out of original material, and the manufactured material that followed could never hold up to the Bond ethos. That the series endured through as many actors as it did is a testimony to the writing of those core, original stories. Had there been more original stories, I think Bond would have endured beyond that which it has, presuming its host studio didn’t go through bankruptcy.
The point is that Kirk’s death is a black mark on the storytelling legacy of Trek. Shame on Berman for the ego trip that’s implied for his having conceived it, and shame on Shatner for being convinced to do it. In that vein, he wrote his own “epitaph” as far as his ability to appear in Abrams’ Trek…
Kirk’s last words “Oh my.” is now George Takei’s signature line. So that’s where he got it. Mmmmm.
I think that falling from the bridge and dying the way Kirk did, after saving those planets, was better than having him shot in the back. However, it did not make sense that Picard buried him there. It would not have been protocol even. It was just nuts.
I’ve already said how I think it should have ended with a very minor change to script. It could have worked even if you had Kirk say those words, “Oh my!” but not dying, just losing consciousness. Picard stays with him until the rescue ships come and both are beamed aboard. We hear that Kirk was just barely alive when rescued and is rushed to the medical bay… It is left unclear as to whether Kirk survives, however he was alive, when Picard was with him.
Come First Contact, and there could be a short scene at the beginning of the movie where audiences find out whether Kirk survives. Hopefully, Shatner and the studio would have come to their senses and have Kirk live! Too late now. DUH!
maybe if they make a new star trek movie they can bring back the enterprise-d
Yes, Driver, that is where George Takei got the “Oh my!” from. I would love it if somehow if Shatner or Pine/Kirk could take it back, without, obviously, of course, having the alternate Kirk die in order to do so. George Takei seems to be everything but original…Oh dear, perhaps I’m being fair here…oh well.
killing off Kirk was a good decision, even though it could’ve worked without Kirk being in the 24th century and just at the beginning like Chekov and Scotty. Shatnerverse makes no sense. The original ending is too slow with too much fist fighting which looked a little cheesy in places in the final edit too.
Edit: “I would love it if somehow Shatner…” (too many if’s – ugh)
Typo or Freudian slip on my part – “perhaps I’m being fair…” I meant to type, “perhaps I’m being unfair…”, on the other hand, was the first version the correct one? Not sure now. You decide.
40. I know. I guess the Nexus let Picard go back to his body at that point, bringing Kirk with him and, er, creating an alternate timeline, and unicorns. I know.
Is that scene A LOT longer than the final scene? It seemed like Kirk a lot less screentime in the final version, which I like… but yeah, a line or two would have been nice. I wonder if Soran’s “you… you” (wascally wabbit?) would have been heard in the finished version.
I prefer the shot in the back to the fall, and to the being sucked into space while sticking a bunch of things into slots (which, even though not his real death, lacked drama… at least he could have been in the middle of a lovely intercom conversation with Spock, er, Chekov when it was suddenly cut short… I don’t know, just riffing).
I can’t say enough bad things about the travesty known as Generations. It was an awful, awful movie and a great injustice to the franchise.
But I will say that the above scene works better without the background score. Apart from the inappropriateness of Kirk’s demise, I think the scene works much better and is more powerful, bare-bones, without music and with just the sound of the wind, the earth and the people.
If the man shot in the back in the above scene were not James T. Kirk, and it were not a scene from a ridiculous story unworthy of the Star Trek brand, I’d have enjoyed it as an action scene from some unnamed movie.
The death of Kirk in Generations was one of the worst, as in stupid, moments in the history of cinema!
Rick Berman should be horsewhipped for recommending such GARBAGE!