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William Shatner Clarifies What He Meant When He Said Gene Roddenberry Would ‘Turn In His Grave’ Over Modern Star Trek

 Captain Kirk in Star Trek.
Captain Kirk in Star Trek.

William Shatner is one of the first to admit he doesn't watch Star Trek, but that doesn't stop him from having opinions about it. In 2022, he invoked Gene Roddenberry's name at San Diego Comic-Con and said the creator would be "turning in his grave" due to the latest Trek content. The comments drew a lot of responses from fans and stars alike, to say the least. Now, after speaking with Shatner, CinemaBlend has received some clarification from the star on his headline-grabbing sentiments.

I had the honor of interviewing William Shatner about his upcoming documentary, You Can Call Me Bill, which heavily focuses on the actor's personal life, philosophies and even his thoughts on Star Trek. With that, it seemed as good of an opportunity as any to ask him about the polarizing Trek statement he made a couple of years back as well as how people responded to it. I specifically mentioned to him that the comments "ruffled feathers" and prompted responses from stars like Strange New Worlds' Melissa Navia and fans. That led Shatner to talk about what he meant specifically when he made that comment:

I wonder why some feathers would be ruffled by my saying the guy, the gentleman I knew, Eugene Roddenberry was very strict about military protocol. So, having an intimate relationship with somebody you're working next to is verboten. You don't do that on the military thing. And they [modern Trek shows], you know, I don't know about the latest things, but the couple of things I've noted is that there are relationships, sexual relations, relationships going on between the people that would make Gene Roddenberry turn in his grave.

On the whole, William Shatner stood by his comments, though his response was a lot more specific than the statement he originally gave. It seems he was referring to the fact that Discovery, Strange New Worlds and upcoming Trek shows allow for intimate romances amongst the crew. That's an element Gene Roddenberry was very much against, according to the actor, and he apparently wouldn't be happy about it.

I can't speak for all Star Trek fans, but I personally had to admit I thought his original comment was in reference to the increased inclusion and diversity. Those are elements that opponents of the new shows hammer on frequently. Of course, the 92-year-old Captain Kirk actor likely wouldn't be privy to that as much, considering he doesn't watch the franchise at all. I'm also guessing he wouldn't be aware that intimate relationships have happened amongst crew within Trek shows since The Next Generation. I ultimately thanked the star for clarifying and suggested that perhaps the backlash was due to fans not specifically knowing what he meant, and the actor had this to say:

I hadn’t thought of that.

It's a candid response from William Shatner, but one that I would expect after watching You Can Call Me Bill. The documentary, produced by the fan investor-driven company Legion M, reveals the actor's most honest takes about his life, career and legacy. Shatner told CinemaBlend he finally agreed to do a documentary on his life in order to leave behind a legacy for his family to look back on.

Star Trek Icon William Shatner Recalls The ‘Biggest Fear’ He Had While Attending His First Fan Convention Decades Ago

William Shatner on Star Trek
William Shatner on Star Trek

It was a scary experience.

Trek fans who have admired the actor from the beginning or have strayed away from him in recent years due to his comments will appreciate the film. As a whole, it's an intimate and cerebral look at the the actor's thought process. I believe even his harshest critics will walk away with a better understanding of his perspective and viewpoints after watching, even if they still don't agree with everything he says.

The doc also touches on other big moments in his life, including his space flight on the Blue Origin. He said at the time that the experience was far darker than he expected, and that certainly shows in the new movie. It's truly possible that viewers might walk away feeling that the star is a bit misunderstood in some ways. And, in fairness, that does seem to have been the case when it comes to his Gene Roddenberry comments.

You Can Call Me Bill debuts in select theaters on Friday, March 22nd, which is William Shatner's 93rd birthday. Be sure to check out where you can find the movie closest to you using Fandango and, as always, check out the actor's best work in Star Trek by using a Paramount+ subscription.