William Shatner managed to put phasers on stun during the show’s 50th-anniversary Las Vegas convention over the weekend when the Canadian actor stated Star Wars had saved Star Trek. “First of all, Star Wars created Star Trek. You know that?” he said.
The actor’s bold statement had the same effect as if someone had launched a photon torpedo in the assembled audience. I mean, Star Trek: The Original Series aired between 1966 and 1969, while Star Wars: A New Hope was released in movie theaters almost a decade later, in 1977. So, what's wrong with this picture?
As it so happens, his explanation makes a whole lot of sense. Shatner said that it was the Star Wars movie that sparked Paramount’s renewed interest in Star Trek, which had gotten the ax in 1969.
“Every year there was the threat to be canceled. The third year, we were canceled, and everybody accepted it,” Shatner said. Then came A New Hope, which made a whopping $775 million at the box office. Which was pretty impressive by 1977 standards.
“At Paramount Studios they were running around bumping into each other: 'What do we got?! What do we got to equal Star Wars? This is a big thing! There was this thing that we canceled, under another management, it was called Star ...Trek? Let's resurrect that!”
As we all know, Star Trek’s first big-screen effort, The Motion Picture, wasn't the success the studio had hoped for when it was released in 1979, and the movie often finds itself at the bottom of many a “Best Star Trek Movies” list. Shatner put the blame squarely on Paramount’s shoulders for rushing the movie, saying: “Star Trek was done so hastily ... there were no time to edit the special effects, and so the movie was flawed and didn't make as much money.”
The good news is that despite that setback, Paramount stuck with the franchise and gave us 13 movies in all, including some of the best Star Trek with The Wrath of Khan (1982), The Voyage Home (1986) and my personal favorite, First Contact (1998), rebooting the franchise in 2009 with J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek. The latest film, Star Trek Beyond (which was actually a good movie, go see it if you still haven't had the chance), opened in movie theaters on July 22.
And what differentiates the two beloved franchises? Here's what Shatner said:
“Star Trek at its best tells human stories. It's philosophical. There's humanity. There's a principle involved. And it's well done. It's about people. Star Wars was grand, like opera. It was huge with great special effects. It was a marvelously entertaining film, but it wasn't specifically about people the way those Star Treks were.”
Do you guys agree with William Shatner that Star Wars saved Star Trek?