William Shatner Offers JJ Abrams Some Critical Star Trek Advice + More TNG Doc Details

William Shatner is getting ready to take his Shatner’s World Tour into 2013 and in a new interview promoting his next stop (in Aurora, IL) Bill gave some more details on his upcoming Star Trek: TNG documentary and he also paid a compliment to Star Trek Into Darkness director JJ Abrams (while at the same offering what might be seen as some combination of advice and a critique as well).


The Shat talks TNG doc and J.J. Trek

In an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times to promote the upcoming show, Bill discusses the experiences he’s had performing night after night, and gets around to talking a little Trek.

In early September Shatner announced that he was producing a documentary about Star Trek: The Next Generation and the challenges the show faced early on. We now have a little more information. The working title for the production is "Wacky Doodle" (yep you read that right) and will cover the tumultuous first two seasons of the show. He elaborates:

"It’s about how crazy it was, how difficult it was to get it started and do it right."

Mr. Shatner also shares his opinion about J.J. Abrams and his interpretation of Star Trek:

“What [director] J.J. Abrams has done is really wonderful. He’s opened the field to a much larger audience. Perhaps, if he does more, he will come to the idea that ‘Star Trek’ is also a wondrous story and not just a ride of derring-do.”

The interview, where Bill talks more about the show and hints that he’s working on a new music album, can be found at the Chicago Sun-Times.

William Shatner talking about "Star Trek" uring his "Shatner’s World" stage show – Bill is also offering JJ Abrams some Trek advise

Shatner’s World 2013 Tour Kicks Off On Friday in Chicagoland

The original James Tiberius Kirk has spent the better part of the past year touring the globe with his popular one-man show "Shatner’s World: We Just Live In It". After a month-long break Bill is taking his multimedia production to the Midwest, specifically the Paramount Theatre in Aurora, Illinois on January 4th. For more tour locations and tickets visit shatnersworld.com/tour.

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Bill’s got it right.

I understand what he is saying. Movies are spectacles. Episodic Star Trek got inside the characters heads. I don’t think the first movie did a bad job of this about a young man finding his way in the world after tragedy shadowed his whole life.

Some wisdom there.

I don’t think he is suggesting there is not Story to Abrams Trek but that it’s not just about the action.

Even if it were about action it should not be about someone seeking vengeance all the time either.

I am looking forward to this Trek but if they do another angry alien film for the third i may give it a miss as i plan to miss Iron Man three due to then redoing the same story as they have done in the first two.

In fact they should never have revisited a vengeance story after twok, to do it three more time and that in a row is a fail.

mr. Shatner is right.
Strip away all the special effects, and you should still be left with a good story which could be a good stage performance. TOS always had that.

January 3, 1993: airing of the first episode of ST:DS9!

You all say that Bill got it right. But what Shatner managed to do in mid-sentence is say “yeah yeah, you are making successful movies. But I’m not in them.”

Of course, Bill is right, but it’s really about perspective. After 20 years of TNG and similar themed lack-luster spin-offs, “derring-do”….a common element of the original series, was conspicuously absent. It was very refreshing to see it again in Trek 09. As far as the story goes, I, along with a pretty large chunk of the world, found the time traveling/alternate universe/origins story to be quite good. Trek should always be a mixture of rip-roaring adventure, romance, imaginative awe of the unknown laced with SUBTLE social commentary and a good dose of humor. IMO, JJ and the writers got it right.

Really? DS9 Started up today? yeash damn it I need a time machine.

I miss the 90’s when we had new trek more or less every week, along With B5, sliders, the X files and all of that great sci fi.

and oh come on, he is the original and still working Barihawk, maybe by the time they do a 5th or 6th film or decide to end it they could have him do a cameo

as he probably feels left out as his best buddy got one.

but all that aside, he is shatner, how can you not love him? lol

but back on subject yeah Bill is right, TNG had a hell of a hard start up and those who watch SFdebris know why.

its true and its a plug for my main man there on youtube/blip

I mean maurice hurley does kind of come off as well not a very nice guy, plus well remember all of the stuff Will Weaton has made fun of when it came to the early seasons of TNG.

@7 But what Shatner managed to do in mid-sentence is say “yeah yeah, you are making successful movies. But I’m not in them.”

Sure you’re not really saying “I’m desperate for attention, give it to me”.

they got some of it right for a first go that pretty good, i hope the 2nd go they get more of it right

i am not having a go star trek is hard to do right i.e you want action however not to much and the right type of action for trek however you have to get other people in who want other type of action and so on

just look how boring encounter was! they got the trek story right just blow it with action and Dialogue

i like trek 5 and feel its a trek movie however they is stuff in the film which could of been improved

#11: Um… what?

Looking forward to Shat’s documentary on TNG so I can see where and why it went astray. An idea so right, with execution so wrong, TNG was so radically different from Star Trek in both structure and content that it gave me a sour stomach from day one. Expecting Star Trek and getting TNG was like coal in the Christmas stocking. Yep, huge TOS fan here, TNG …ummm…not so much. lol

Having said that., I think Shat is a bit off with his assessment of JJ’s Trek. Original Star Trek was always thoughtful, sometimes not as thoughtful, fun sci-fi action/adventure, whereas TNG was, well, lets just say it always seemed to lean more to the side of pretentiousness than fun. JJ’s version of TOS was fun sci-/fi action adventure, as it should be. There’s not one thing wrong with that. More of the same please. Leave the talky-bland tecno-babbly Trek for the TNG reboot!

He’s 82 and into everything….Of course he’s gotta be pissed he didn’t get into the new TREK movie…I don’t think he is ever starved for attention though….#10….He’s as relevant as ever, buthe does need to get over dying in Generations as he did…JJ doesn’t have to explain anything anymore….there’s no magic to bring him back from the dead…. at least he recognize quality and isn’t complaining about it…as much….


This is the guy who directed “The Final Frontier” – not a “wondrous story” by any measure, but certainly an attempt to interpret Trek as “a ride of derring-do.”

Bill I love and admire you dearly..but do you remember your own installment?

Long Live the Shat!.

Would Shatner have been too old to have been the head of Starfleet Academy instead of Tyler Perry?

18 – in a film where Nimoy is playing Spock, to have Shatner NOT as Kirk would have been very strange, so no that would have been just weird and confusing.


TNG didn’t go ‘astray’, it solidified Trek’s position in the pop culture at large. It wasn’t perfect and may not have been your cup of tea, but it was wildly successful and remains hugely popular.

Saw SHATNER’S WORLD in Pittsburgh in November and its a great show…even got a picture and autograph with Bill afterwards.

He’s right about TREK, but I’m not sure JJ hasn’t done that with his new film. Of course, all we’re getting is action bits now (that’s how you “sell” a movie), but I think there will be plenty of story (i.e., moral/social issues) in there as well. We’ll see.

6. T’cal – January 3, 2013
January 3, 1993: airing of the first episode of ST:DS9!

Wow. It’s been 20 years since DS9 aired. I remember watching it in my dorm room! Has it really been that long since I was in college? Wow I’m old. I miss the 90s.

When did Shatner get interested in TNG? Didn’t he once say he’d never watched it — and now he wants to do a documentary about it? Maybe he’s had a marathon viewing and become a fanboy since that quote…

Though I get the feeling he did the entire ‘Captains’ documentary without actually having watched any of the shows/movies involving said captains, so it’s probably possible.

Shatner is on record as having never watched any of the post-TOS series, which is why Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens were hired to write “his” Star Trek novels for him.

TNG was pitched at the times, seriously too Reagan-era, only paying lip-service to the sorts of themes that they should have been diving head-long into. Unlike TOS, TNG seemed more like a show that waited for others to do the cutting-edge stuff, then jumped on the trend. Your statement sounds like old Michael Dorn comments, where he basically says the show is too successful to bitch about.

Back in 91 when Meyer described Trek’s future as being a plaid-pants Republican thing, he HAD to have been thinking of TNG, a show where (to paraphrase something David Gerrold once said about TOS’ failings) the heroes were rarely challenged, instead it being more about us going places and showing the natives the error of their ways or talking down to them about how we long ago moved beyond this kind of thinking …

If you take QWHO out of the equation, there are practically no shows that reveal Picard as a guy with self-imposed limitations who has to acknowledge them. Whereas ERRAND OF MERCY (Kirk’s equivalent of Picard getting chocolate spilled on him episode) was just a major ep illuminating Kirk wasn’t perfect, with plenty of others where he also had to acknowledge it and occasionally grow from it.

TNG was just so flatline … maybe that is why it was so popular, because it was just THERE … if you don’t have too many outstanding eps like QWHO or MEASURE, then for devoted viewers the horrible ones probably don’t seem so horrible (I’m guessing there, cuz some of the rottenest TNGs I never even got through or gave a second viewing to, since they seemed to lack the charm of TOS turds, which at least have the alchemy of the cast going for them.)

In retrospect, I’m now not sure what is worse … trying to honor the notion of TREK and screwing it up (pretty much all of that ModernTrek era with the exception of DS9) or the StarWarsification of it with Abrams, which is so far afield that I don’t even see the characters as remotely resembling the same people. The latter approach is certainly dumber, but the TNG approach was actually offensive a lot of the time. At least the TNG approach allowed for occasional great ones, whereas I don’t imagine there’ll be anything like that for trek century 21 for quite awhile, unless Whedon or maybe even McFarlane (laugh if you want to, he has got a really good idea of how it should be playing) got a shot at getting things back to what TOS was about. Hard to imagine there is much Gene Coon-level talent out there that would be spending time doing TREK at this point though … go do your own thing on FX or AMC or HBO instead of knocking your head against the wall with a lose-lose proposition like TREK.

I really hope Shat’s TNG doc is honest about all the crap from early TNG BTS … get Gerrold and Fontana in there (too bad Robert Lewin and Herb Wright — didn’t know about this till just now — are dead), along with Torme and Hurley (those last 2 in the same room would be pretty interesting!)

I was going to agree with you, but look at SKYFALL and how they mess stuff up. You have Craig turning up not with his CASINO ROYALE Aston Martin, but with Connery’s fully-kitted-out one, which is probably as wrongheaded a call — as in not jumping the shark, but jumping out of the universe — as one could imagine, though audiences ate it up anyhow. Then again, most people actually found something to like in that movie, so there’s no accounting for taste.

Having Kirk in the Tyler Perry part walk past Spock and do a double-take wouldn’t have been any more over-the-top than that …

23. Didn’t he say Patrick Stewart had told him about that crazy first year during the interview for the Captains, or somewhere, and Shatner was amazed that a Roddenberry would pitch a TV series without any conflict between characters!

Although, even though we’ve heard a lot, since Gene died, about Gene’s no interpersonal conflict rule — that series launched with plenty of built in soapish drama (Picard hates kids! Picard and Crusher have a history, and sexual tension! Tasha Yar! Geordi’s never seen a sunrise! Decker and Ilia… oops, Riker and Tr…).

#26 I liked it all :-) And as a good friend pointed out to me Skyfall passed the $1 billion dollar mark without a hint of shakey cam, lens flares or a poorly written romance, which was also entirely pointless and only in there to satisfy the Director..

I am somewhat confused about Bill’s sudden interest in TNG? Lord only knows why.

13. Star Trackie: ” I think Shat is a bit off with his assessment of JJ’s Trek. Original Star Trek was always thoughtful, sometimes not as thoughtful, fun sci-fi action/adventure, whereas TNG was, well, lets just say it always seemed to lean more to the side of pretentiousness than fun. JJ’s version of TOS was fun sci-/fi action adventure, as it should be. There’s not one thing wrong with that. More of the same please. Leave the talky-bland tecno-babbly Trek for the TNG reboot!”

Agreed! I think you can have intelligent human drama without big actory speeches and clunky “this is the moral!” allegories. This is the guy who made Star Trek V, after all.

In spite of what the Shat has done to piss people off in the past, it’s important to not forget his contribution to Star Trek. He made the character of James T. Kirk his own, and week after week we were mesmerized by his delivery. I for 1 think it’s imperative that he reprise his role in one way or the other in this alternate universe. I understand that he was killed in Generations, but his death is not set in stone. Suppose Kirk is half way across the galaxy, and is unable to be there on the Enterprise B’s maiden voyage, and subsequently never dies? And what of this Nexus that consumed Kirks being? Since he was never TAKEN from the nexus, as Soren was, the being that aided Picard in subduing Soren was only an ‘echo’ of James Kirk. So Kirk is still there living comfortably in the Nexus. Now I realize that the Nexus’s nature is discussed, but it’s origins, and full capacity has been left open to interpretation. And it would seem that the actions taken by Captain Picard may have resulted in an alternate reality being created. Remember: Guinan, and Soren were TAKEN from the Nexus. Kirk left the Nexus via Picards experiences of what was happening outside the Nexus, and therefore never really “left”.
All I’m saying is that if the powers that be wanted William Shatner to reprise ‘his’ role as the prime universe Kirk, it would not be difficult.
And there are an infinite number of ways to bring his character back so prime Kirk can have the closure the character deserves. And William Shatner should just take whatever monetary compensation (within reason) he is given, and shut up. It’s just as much his responsibility to give Kirk closure, as it is the powers that be. It was done half azz, and the viewers deserve to see it done right.

Just saw Mike Okuda mention on twitter, 20 years ago today DS9 started it’s run with Emmisary. A show that was years ahead of it’s time in serialized storytelling with some of the best awriting, acting and characterisation in all of Trek.

“Of all the stories you told me, which ones were true and which ones weren’t?”
“My dear Doctor, they’re all true.”
“Even the lies?”
“Especially the lies.”

Happy Birthday DS9!

Oh and fair point from The Shat there with the derring do comment…

I agree with The Shat. I’ve been a fan of Trek since 9/8/66. I think JJ Abrams & Co. got it just right with the movie franchise. But I would LOVE to see them try a new Star Trek TV series once they complete the trilogy. JJ Abram, Orci, etc. have a proven track record with TV series – Alias, Lost, Fringe, Five-O. Can you imagine what they could do with a weekly Trek TV series? I want to see that – – and I sure hope there are discussions at CBS & Paramount regarding a new series.

Happy 20th, DS9!

@29 – You can’t compare the grosses of SKYFALL, an action/adventure product of a 50-year old *INTERNATIONAL* film-only franchise to sci-fi STAR TREK, which has a traditionally USA-European driven audience (it does not do well in places like Japan, etc).

In other words, different directorial style had nothing to do with their respective grosses. QUANTUM OF SOLACE, which was absolutely horribly directed, made huge amounts of money worldwide and more money than STAR TREK (2009).

I’d also like to know, as has been pointed out by #24, how Shatner is suddenly an expert on a show he never watched or had anything to do with. Not to mention resenting the show and blaming it for the failure of THE FINAL FRONTIER…Trekkers had “fresh turkey sandwiches” every week and weren’t so hungry for the film “Thanksgiving” anymore.

Shat’s ideas for the films nearly sank the franchise…it was his pitch that got made. It’s similar to MC Hammer giving financial advice. NEMESIS had the same problem: leave the big ideas to the filmmakers, not the cast!

I think Shatner gave a fair assessment of ST09, and it’s not really all that critical. With a first movie, you can’t delve into particularly meaty ideas, although the Kirk/Destiny idea is very compelling from that movie. However, like others have said on this board, you can’t really go into a lot of ideas with a movie, compared to a series. You can do veiled stories about racism, politics, war, etc. in an episodic series, but when you have a movie, which you have to go and pay to see, if someone just says, “Oh, that movie is just a thinly veiled allusion to equal rights” then people can say, “Oh, well, I really don’t care to see it.”

Betting that TNG “first two year” review talks a lot about the obstacles Roddenberry himself put in front of it, and how (in a way not dissimilar to the shift between TMP and Wrath of Khan) he *had* to be put to the side in order for something credible to get produced.

Realize there are lots of TNG fans out there, and that’s great, I surely enjoyed a good portion of those episodes, but there’s gotta be an acknowledgement that the first couple of seasons of TNG were just wretched, and no small number of them were almost literal word-for-word rehashes of TOS scripts. It is amazing Paramount stuck with it long enough for it to get its own sense of direction.

Bill is, once again, quite correct.

“Perhaps, if he does more, he will come to the idea that ‘Star Trek’ is also a wondrous story and not just a ride of derring-do.”

True. So so true.


David Gerrold, in “The World of Star Trek” written back in the early 70’s, talked about this very concept when delineating the issues that separate TV and movie production. Movies, necessarily, have to be about *the single biggest thing going on in the characters’ lives*. Episodic TV necessarily has to be *precisely* the opposite – recurring interesting themes and stories involving the *same* characters on a regular (weekly?) basis.

That’s why the criticism hurled at many of the Trek movies has been less the fault of any one Trek movie (well, excepting V, which was just embarrassing) than it was the mere fact of transplanting TV Trek’s “DNA” onto the theatrical format.

The Aston Martin in Skyfall was an easter egg, 50th anniversary reference, but hardly more unrealistic than “hacker computer interfaces” that look like Flash screensavers – and an IT department that doesn’t use firewalls.

Skyfall was a kind of end to the “hero’s journey” arc of the Daniel Craig reboot. We saw him as newly-minted agent who has his heart, and trust, tragically broken; then as a rogue out for revenge; then, seemingly years later, nearly worn out, forced to face his own history (in parallel with Judi Dench’s M) – and literally blow it all up, Aston Martin included – to survive.

Not too different from Episodes IV-VI, or bits of ST II and III, really. It’s storytelling.

We’ve had the newly minted captain who’s been given a newly tragic and troubled upbringing. It would seem that, with the lack of any real biological family, the Enterprise crew *is* Kirk’s family now. Becoming the head of any family while you’re still in your 20s, genius or not, is a huge challenge, and in time of war, more so.

Mr. Shatner had 70+ episodes to play out those more interesting dramatic moments, and we’re thankful for them, but it’s a different beast. If it wasn’t the best episode ever, or relatively light on action, another one would come along next week.

In the movie business they don’t have that luxury; it has to pay off fans who’ve been waiting for four years with visuals, spectacle, action, drama and a great story; and satiate a studio that wants a worldwide hit to pay back $100-million-plus investments. I thought JJ, his team and the cast did spectacularly well. As a 40+ year fan, there wasn’t a cringeworthy moment. Now the challenge is: can they do as well, or better?

We’ve heard Leonard Nimoy say good Star Trek worked on many levels. Great adventure. But there was also “something important to say.” It could be science. Social commentary.

The 2009 movie had a dedication to Gene Roddenberry. But what did Roddenberry think about the creative process when it came to good writing? He believed that artists should have things to say in the context of the story. Link. So William Shatner is correct. Abrams is a wonderful director. I liked his 2009 Star Trekbut it was somewhat light weight. But we should get excited about the next film since the Supreme Court has said they will go deeper. And the first nine minutes has already raised The Prime Directive. It was also exciting. It’s a very good start.

Link. Roddenberry’s view on what artists should do.

Link. Roddenberry wanted Star Trek to be a mass entertainment that had substance. Letter to agent.


That was Harve Bennett with all the turkey sandwich references, not Shatner (unless he has since pirated them.)

I’m 100% certain on that, because I was actually rereading Bennett’s comments in the old CINEFANTASTIQUE (st 6 cover) yesterday afternoon.

BTW, I interviewed Ralph Winter a couple years back for ICG magazine, and he still felt bad about TFF, saying that production let Shatner down enormously in many ways on TREK 5. The guy seemed incredibly decent, nice to know that good guys can succeed and last in the film biz.

I keep thinking that TFF’s FX problems (besides some hairy logistics) tie in with TMP’s … the studio didn’t stay on top of the vendor and didn’t pull the work to another house once they realized things were getting so far behind schedule. In the case of TMP, they did finally pull the work, but that was with 9 months to go prior to release … on TFF, there was barely 9 months from the start of shooting till release, so the time frame was severely constricted. Peter Wallach, Ferren’s choice for shooting the models, really should have read some trade magazines, so he would have had some idea of the cheats and shortcuts used when filming and having to composite ship models against bluescreen … the shots of ships with the no-blur motion were totally unacceptable in 1989, and only marginally so today, now that everybody’s visual sensibilities have been corrupted by 600hz televisions showing weirdly no-blur football games.

@44..production failed him BIG time in the movie.

The “turkey sandwich” statement was in Shatners book “Star Trek: Movie Memories”..he interviewed Bennett and that was when the “turkey sandwich” deal came up. Perfectly valid, of course, but not the reason 5 failed. Trek 5 failed due to the studio being cheap and cost cutting gutting a film and turning it from an average ok film to a train wreck bad film.

It’s really funny that it took Paramount up to 10 films worth to finally decide to keep their nose outta the overrall production of the films and to give them the funding needed to make amazing productions. Gotta wonder how TNG films would have turned out if Paramount was not being cheap.

DS9 premiered the “week of” Jan 3rd. 1993.

In most markets I remember it actually aired Jan 5th. Most promos I saw mention that date. “Week of Jan 3rd”, is because it was a syndicated show, instead of a network show. So there is no actual premiere date. In fact Jan 3rd, 1993 was a Sunday.


Did anybody read Captain’s Log, about Shat’s directing Trek V. Interesting.

I loved the TNG, but it took about midway through the 2nd season. I think 38 had it right. Once Roddenberry was pushed into a more consultation role, TNG markedly improved. I think Roddenberry was a genius with his creative ability in a general sense, but when it came to details is where he had problems.

I’m afraid I have to disagree with #13. Yes, there are episodes, particulary in the 1st season that causes some eye rolling (Code of Honor anyone). But as the series went on, they started tackling more sophisticated subjects. There were episodes questioning the wisdom of the Prime Directive, and episodes where Picard breaks the directive. “The Drumhead” was an excellent episode portraying what happens when a celebrated admiral goes on a witchhunt. Yes it did portray an idealized vision of humanity in the future, but even the Original Series would do that. That is what attracted me to Star Trek in the first place, a future where we didn’t annihilate ourselves, where we have learned from many of our mistakes and became a more enlightened society.

Happy Birthday to Deep Space Nine. Another show that took until about the 2nd season to catch on for me.Loved the Dominion War arc and the struggles the Federation had in still trying to be an elightened society in a time of war, and not always succeeding.

I think each incarnation of Star Trek has tried to reflect the particular period they were made in. The Cold War references of the original series, the many wars going on around the world in the 90’s reflected in Deep Space Nine, and terrorism reflected in Enterprise and Star Trek (2009) on to Star Trek Into Darkness.

Captain’s Log, along with MAKING OF EXORCIST 2 THE HERETIC are two of the more honest making-of books I’ve read, not PR puff pieces at all.
Though to be totally honest, I’ve also heard that the original writer on Captain’s Log (NOT Shat’s daughter) delivered a manuscript that Shatner didn’t like (could he have been painted in an even LESS flattering light?) and so she was paid off and the book trashed, with parts surviving into the ‘as told to’ published version.

Very little online substantiation if any for this story, but I got it from a seriously devout fan of TMP (who never understood my interest in TFF and would be known by various usernames on trekbbs years back) who reached the original author via snail- or email about 10 years back.

I can say that the guy who did PHYSICAL effects — not vfx — on TFF, Mike Wood (who also did great work on Spielberg’s ALWAYS and on POLTERGEIST and I think INNERSPACE too), told me they all really busted their butts trying to make it happen, but that they were really crippled in terms of not having the necessary resources on hand. If you look at it, the fact they could actually ‘land’ the shuttlecraft and have all these people inside run out of it all in one shot is pretty impressive. Even the elevator shaft stuff s fairly ingenious given that they didn’t really have money to do it right while hanging millions of dollars in above-the-line talent on a pole way up off the ground.

Back on topic, I hope they talk with director Rob Bowman too … he was the only guy who could get around the ‘no handheld cameras in the future’ rule to some degree in early TNG, getting steadicam shots into a couple shows. The way TNG staged fights was usually lame beyond belief … look at the fight between the guest star and O’brien in THE HUNTED … they’ve got the camera way the hell down the hall away from the action, which is not exactly dynamic. Even when Worf gets a hunk of styrofoam dropped on him later on, it actually bounces off.