George Takei is making the rounds on a number of shows, hawking his newest project "To be Takei." It's a Sundance documentary on the life of the actor/activist that started got his first big break as Mr. Sulu on the timeless Star Trek original series.
(Side Note: Nothing is better than this gif. Nothing.)
He was on Bill Mahr's Real Time this week talking about the documentary, but also bringing back up his long running feud with William Shatner.
Everyone on that show had a feud with William Shatner ... everyone. I started to go over the grounds for these long, not so forgotten feuds and hands down the biggest had to be between Leonard Nimoy and Bill Shatner. Spock was becoming a cultural phenomenon in the late 1960s. Bill couldn't handle the competition. Nimoy wanted more power and money. Gene Rodenberry (the creator of the show and executive producer through the first three seasons) couldn't handle the stress. Things were annoying.
It's all told pretty well over at the startrekdome.blogspot with quotes and stories and it's a fun little bit of gossipy reading. Like a Gawker article from the way-back machine.
One part struck me as a one of those particularly, beautiful missed opportunities. In their book, "Inside Star Trek: The Real Story," producers Herbert Solow and Robert Justman recount a meeting between Nimoy, Shatner, Rodenberry, and new executive producer Freiberger in which ... well ... let me just quote the whole thing.
Nimoy's constant demand for scripts with a more involved Spock – and a Spock who maintained his original character values – and Shatner's insistence that he was still the star of the series put unusual pressures on Freiberger. In his desire to solve the problem, Star Trek's new producer, frustrated and fed up with the bickering, arranged a meeting with the players: Shatner, Nimoy, and Roddenberry.
Freiberger held the meeting in Roddenberry's old office, where he explained the complex nature of the situation, something that Roddenberry had been well aware of for at least two years. Freiberger then proceeded to confess that those pressures were preventing him from properly performing his role as the series's producer. Shatner and Nimoy hung on his every word.
"Gee, I'm sorry to hear that, Fred, " said Roddenberry. "I hope you get it straightened out real soon." Roddenberry stood. "Well, I have to go now."
As Roddenberry started to leave his old office, Freiberger stopped him and asked the million-dollar question: "Gene, please tell me. Who's the star of the series? Is it Bill – or is it Leonard?" Both actors leaned forward eagerly.
Roddenberry became quiet. He grabbed a cigarette, lit it quickly, inhaled deeply, and stared wide-eyed into the space above him. "Ahh… I see," he mused. He looked out the window, shock his head in Buddha-like fashion, but said nothing else. He looked at neither Bill nor Leonard. Perhaps he was hoping they would jump into the conversation and solve the matter, actor to actor. They did not…
Roddenberry walked toward the door to leave, but turned and stared, angrily, at Freiberger. Roddenberry was sweating.
"It's Bill. Bill is the star of the series."
Roddenberry left immediately, and a smiling Shatner and a sullen Nimoy returned to the set. (Justman and Solow, 396-398)
Damn, right? I mean, damn it all.
What would the world be like if Gene had just ...
Roddenberry walked toward the door to leave, but turned and stared, angrily at Freiberger. Roddenberry sweating.
"It's the U.S.S. Enterprise. The U.S.S. Enterprise is the star of the series you pompous, arrogant pricks. The captain has the honor of commanding it, but it's the ship that will live on, long after you and I are gone."
Right? I mean .... damn.