Star Trek: The Motion Picture Admiral James T. Kirk
Welcoming back The Motion Picture
A couple of weeks ago, we took a look at EXO-6’s “Kolinahr Spock” limited edition figure from Star Trek: The Motion Picture. EXO-6 is producing figures of Admiral Kirk, Spock and Dr. McCoy as they appear when they first step on board the USS Enterprise in the 1979 movie, the first theatrical film to feature the Star Trek characters. It was a big moment when we first saw these people board the Enterprise in preparation to intercept the mysterious space entity V’ger, and EXO-6 has chosen to memorialize that vibe with these painstakingly detailed, instant purchase additions to their rapidly growing line of 12-inch collectible figures.
Of course, Kirk was the first release in this little line and both Kirk and Spock rapidly sold out, but I just got my Kirk and damn if I’m not gonna review it! If you must have a TMP Admiral Kirk you’re welcome to hunt for one on eBay or elsewhere where it will likely be going for several times its $175 asking price, but you may want to save your money as EXO will definitely be offering other versions of the character (including one from the movie sequel The Wrath of Khan) in the next few years.
Star Trek: The Motion Picture has fallen in and out of favor over the years, but a 2022 update of the 2001 Director’s Edition and a 4K HDR Blu-ray release have done a lot to rehabilitate the movie in the minds of fans. One element of the film that still comes in for criticism: the drab gray Starfleet uniforms designed by Robert Fletcher, which tended to make the characters blend into the woodwork as the bulk of production designer Harold Michelson’s set designs (including the familiar Enterprise bridge where the characters spend 90% of the film) were the same shade of cool gray. That may be one reason EXO chose to highlight the costumes the characters wear as they first board the Enterprise, as Fletcher did a bang-up job on those. In Kirk’s case, Fletcher came up with a slimming, hourglass design that looks a bit like a futuristic tuxedo, with a white panel down the front and back framed by green. Yes, green—not gray, although various prints of the film may make the costume look white and gray. Admiral Kirk wears this outfit as he exits a Starfleet air tram in San Francisco (his actual entrance in the movie), briefly confers with Enterprise science officer Sonak (soon to be killed in a horrific transporter accident), beams into an orbital office complex to meet Scotty and get a tour around the newly refit U.S.S. Enterprise, and finally board the drydocked starship for a tense confrontation with its soon-to-be-ex-captain, Will Decker (Stephen Collins).
The Admiral is on board
If you’re familiar with EXO-6’s online presence you’ll know that a lot of time was spent figuring out exactly what color Admiral Kirk’s uniform is, and I can’t find a fault with the execution of this beautiful design, from the green boots (bootstrapped into the green uniform pants) to the distinctive life-sign-monitoring “belt buckle,” gold rank braid, updated Starfleet badge, and shoulder epaulets. I saw at least one person complaining about some unevenness in the triple line of stitching in Kirk’s white collar, but the stitching on mine is flawlessly parallel.
As with Spock, the figure includes no accessories to keep the cost of this very limited edition down—but of course, Kirk doesn’t handle any props while he’s in the admiral uniform, so there’s really nothing to reproduce. In addition to his open hands, though, the figure does include two fists, just in case he needs to punch Decker. Also included as with Spock is a decorative badge, in this case a gold Starfleet one that can be displayed on the front of the figure’s transporter pad display stand.
William Shatner has long been one of the most difficult Trek actors to get a decent likeness of as far as action figures and other collectibles are concerned. Unlike Leonard Nimoy’s and DeForest Kelley’s craggier, more lined faces that lend themselves to sculpture, young Shatner had a notably smooth baby face (there’s a published fan fiction story where a criminal gets a rise out of Kirk by calling him that) with a small, somewhat blunt nose and a high forehead and temples that give his brow a distinctive “V” shape. He’s a handsome devil, but getting that certain Shatner je ne sais quoi is a challenge for sculptors. But if you think sculpting 1960s Shatner is hard, try 1979 Shatner. In Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Shatner and Kirk are 10 years older—Shatner’s face is a bit more lined, maybe there’s even been a little work done, so he doesn’t look quite like the old Kirk. In the movie, the actor’s makeup seems to change from scene to scene, sometimes chalky and pasty, sometimes ruddy.
But the big difference between ‘60s Kirk and Admiral Kirk is the character’s hair. Now I might be shocking some of you, but in the original Star Trek and Star Trek: The Motion Picture, William Shatner’s hair is not quite his own. Shatner’s natural hair began thinning at a young age and the actor found himself needing a little assistance from Hollywood hairdressers to give him that classic, high-hair-lined “hero hair” every ‘60s TV star needed. If you watch the original Star Trek in high definition, you can see the telltale signs of this hairstyling magic—check out the edge of Kirk’s hairline and the “widow’s peak” at the center of his forehead and you’ll be able to see the faint hint of a hairpiece “net” that holds a toupee down on the forehead and is then covered and hidden by makeup. Also note that the hair on the top of Shatner’s head is a lighter, almost blonde color while the hair on the sides and back of his head is closer to black. Now you don’t have to take my word for this, and don’t be too awestruck by my encyclopedic knowledge of William Shatner’s coiffure—there’s an entire, exhaustively-researched and very entertaining blog about this. Rumor has it that one or two of Shatner’s original Kirk hairpieces still exist in a box somewhere, hidden in the recesses of some enterprising fan’s collection.
So what does this have to do with the EXO-6 Kirk figure? Well, fast forward from 1968 or so to 1979, and a lot of thought was put into just what Admiral James T. Kirk’s hair should look like 10 years after he captained the original Enterprise. Test photos even exist of Shatner modeling his original hairpiece from 1960s Trek, but ultimately the decision was made to boldly go with a brand-new, giant black rug that would stick with Shatner for much of the early 1980s, through several Star Trek movie sequels and his cop show T.J. Hooker. This new hairpiece is huge, and in some shots seems piled high enough atop Kirk’s forehead to make him look like Elvis Presley. I say “some” shots because this hairpiece, much like Shatner’s makeup, does not look consistent from shot to shot, so in duplicating one specific look from the film, this Kirk figure may disappoint some whose favorite sequence is one of the later moments where Kirk’s hair seems a bit more flattened down.
So far, all of EXO-6’s figures have featured plastic, molded hair that’s part of the overall head sculpt, and Admiral Kirk is no different—it would be impossible to reproduce Kirk’s hair in this scale with rooted “Barbie doll”-like hair, although EXO seems to be looking into some characters with longer hair having rooted hair down the line. Molded hair generally works just fine with characters that have short, masculine hair, and EXO sculptor Sean Dabbs has done a heroic job of capturing all the waves and curlicues of Shatner’s 1979 hairpiece. Dry brushed paint details lighten up the dark black/brown look to something a little closer to Kirk’s ‘60s hair color in a nice compromise that even looks a little more convincing than what we see in the film.
But reproducing this look is a tough, tough job, as is recreating Shatner’s face. EXO-6’s exquisitely subtle paint details give Kirk a distinctive five o’clock shadow and a ruddy look, along with a wistful half-smile designed to reproduce Kirk’s expression as he sees the Enterprise head-on for the first time while touring around the ship in the travel pod with Scotty. You really have to get the proper lighting on the character to get the full effect of the likeness and as others have noted, this is tough to do in photos—I tried a lot of approaches, and then once I got the figure in a kind of dark alcove, the soft lighting really made it look right to me. (EXO-6’s professionally shot photos on their website do a much better job of capturing the Shatner likeness than I could.)
I will wager this will be one of the most challenging Trek figures EXO will ever tackle. That said, take a look at the side-by-side comparison with my old Frankenstein combination of the original 1979 Mego Admiral Kirk 12” costume and a Playmates Wrath of Khan figure from the early 2000s. The ill-fitting admiral uniform is a straight gray and white, doesn’t include boots and gets the rank braids totally wrong among other problems, and Playmates’ Shatner sculpt and hair looks like something carved out of a bar of soap.
Admiral Kirk features the same rainbow-style, gold-inlaid packaging as Spock, and with a similar piece of showmanship on the inside—when you open the display lid (which is smartly armed with magnets to make it snap closed), you’ll see what Kirk saw as he and Scotty prepared to board the Enterprise: the starship’s docking port lighting up in greeting.
For anyone who’s been eager for a high-end reproduction of the Enterprise crew from the 1979 movie, these figures are well worth the wait. “Disco McCoy”—DeForest Kelley’s unforgettable, one-scene bearded look as he appears on the Enterprise transporter pad early in the movie—is due out in March, so close monitoring of EXO-6’s website is in order.
A closer look at TMP Kirk
Details on TMP Kirk
Find more Star Trek merchandise news and reviews at TrekMovie.com.
The pic where he’s in the bag looks like a deleted scene from Halloween.
I was going to mention the same connection. Make his face pale and he looks like Michael Meyers… hahahaha..
If they are going to recast Kirk for a TMP-remake or are moving SNW toward the TMP-era, they should cast Anson Mount. Is it the smiling or the hair of the figure? The resemblance to Pike in SNW is stunning!
A friend of mine draws portraits, and she thought Leonard Nimoy’s face was difficult to draw … until she tried to draw Shatner. She said that Shatner’s face was incredibly difficult to get right, and looking at the covers of the Star Trek novels, it looks as if other professional artists also found his face a challenge.
So this sculpt doesn’t look perfect to me, but when it comes to reproducing Shatner’s face, I think perfect isn’t possible.
Now I know what a child of William Shatner and Martin Laundau would look like.
Yeah it’s weird how close these sculpts get but still don’t quite look like the actor.
Landau would have been GREAT in a Star Trek movie as everything from the main villain to a fellow captain to the President of the Federation.
It’s said that Landau was a possibility to play Spock originally, but it’s not clear how accurate that legend is. (Nimoy was the first offered- Landau may have been seen as a fallback.)
It’s very accurate. However, the order offering of the role goes:
DeForest Kelly (yep!)
Martin Landau is quoted in the excellent “These are the Voyages: Volume 1” by Marc Cushman:
“I was offered the role of Mr. Spock, but I turned it down. I felt the emotional range of the character was too limiting, and I didn’t want to be locked into playing a character like that, week after week.”
Here’s a copy of an interview with him in 1986 saying essentially the same thing: https://catacombs.space1999.net/press/wrefplandau.html
That…does not look like Shatner. Is it the nose that’s wrong? The eyes? It’s kind of unnerving.
As Corylea said above, his face is extraordinarily difficult for artists to capture, in either drawing or sculpting.
Just getting human figures to be believably human is always challenging, as witnessed by the uncanny valley problem in computer generated people, even when they are created with motion capture from real actors.
But there’s something about Shatner that seems exceptionally prone to give us that in just about any sculpture. He’s commented on it in interviews, saying he doesn’t understand why they never really look like him.
Is the hair piece removable? :-)
I wish Fred Phillips and GR had overridden Shat on the toup choice for TMP. Shat should have stuck with an older TOS era wig, since that already looked a little receded. The Brady-Hawaii hair he clung to through most of the Trek films was distracting and unintentionally humorous (tho the TUC hair, which I think of as aging Steve Austin, does work okay.)
the Generations hair was his best movie piece in my opinion, but I agree for the most part. Even if they didn’t want to use the same TOS hairpiece, they could have used something similar , albeit more wavier and textured to keep up with his real hair.
Thank goodness! I’ve been hoping for an action figure like this of Ron DeSantis!
An action diorama as he necks with Gaetz, perhaps? While they put the constitution through a shredder and stomp their kinky boots on Mickey Mouse’s throat. (images described are intended as parody only, not intended to reflect views of trekmovie or its staff.)
Constitution through a shredder? Which articles? The Tenth Amendment?
The facial sculpture reminds of a young Christopher Plummer more than a young Shatner.
When Mr Shatner go in to space in Bezos space capsule, I have a big worry that his wig float off his head.
Much glue was needed, I imagine?
There’s usually something keeping it on. Although I think by this point Shatner has gotten implants (according to some blogs on the topic).
For me, I have no qualms about Shatner’s hairpiece or the make up for the cast on TMP. Looking at the films now up through the Kelvin timeline, TMPs look has stood the test of time. I’m thinking its Fred Phillips and that older style, the techniques and materials. You don’t see much wrinkles or blemishes on any of the TOS cast. Sure the crew is 10 years older. The makeup does them justice for the BIG screen. Kirk looks tan and his toupee I would say an ‘update’ much like someone cutting his hair differently or styled differently. Big deal.
However, jump to Beyond. I can’t get over how the late Yelchin’s make up did nothing to cover this humongous boil or mosquito bite he had on the back of his neck! I cringe everytime I see him in those scenes. How is it the production crew did not notice especially in dailies. Too bad he didn’t live to see himself. Like Shatner demanding CGI slimming of his rear in VI for what was it.. $100K, Yelchin’s relatives should’ve demanded CGI removal of his boil. If I were his brother, I would.
Shatner’s head is quite flat at the rear and with the Elvis pompadour, it’s quite a strange shape. His nose is broader which is a characteristic sign of a facelift (from behind the ears.) And he has that strange deep wrinkle on one side of his brow and not the other.
“Molded hair generally works just fine with characters that have short, masculine hair.” There is no gender to short hair. It is simply short hair. Many people have long hair, many have short hair and this has no bearing on gender or gender expression. This language reinforces a very absurd, out-dated and repressive concept that boxes people into ridgid gender roles that serve no purpose. Are Thor and Aquaman, who both have long hair not “masculine?” Is a woman with short hair breaking this rule you are propping up? Of course, the author meant no harm, but this text should be updated to take it out of the 1950s. LGBT people, women and even cis-gendered men get boxed in by a thousand little “rules” like this that are perpetuated in small ways with language like this that shapes thoughts and expectations of people. It creates “rules” assigned by gender and then when people don’t conform, there is something “wrong” with them for breaking these made up rules. I hope TrekMovie will update the text. Thanks! :)
Men tend to have shorter hair than women. It is what it is. We speak everyday language.
(I say this as a man who married a woman whose short hair he found rather attractive.)
I remember when I first saw a picture of TMP Kirk, the hair made me think they had a new actor.
Is it already sold out? How unfortunate…
Yeah I only ever seem to find out about them after they’re sold out :(
Is there a link to the TMP test shots where he’s wearing the original hairpiece??? I love any photos of those crazy late 70’s years in trek
Agreed – that would be a tremendous discovery.
Just got this and my Spock is on the way too! I think these will be some of the most collectible Star Trek figures / merch in the future due to their limited number (they’re fetching stupid prices already on ebay!) so I didn’t want to miss out – but my caveat is that this is really something I’d only recommend for the die hard Motion Picture fans (of which I am one). This is not one for the casual Star Trek fan due to limited accessories and it being very “niche” in appeal but I love it. They’ve really captured the likeness and the “feel” of Kirk in TMP. Great work EXO-6.