WTF Happened to William Shatner?

In this episode of WTF Happened to This Celebrity, we look back at the turbulent life and times of a sci-fi icon, William Shatner!

Whether you know him as Captain James T. Kirk, Sgt. T.J. Hooker, Denny Crane, or General Mortars from National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon 1, William Shatner is one of entertainment history’s most iconic figures. The Canadian actor is seven decades into his career as a celebrated actor, science-fiction legend, author, musician, and more. His career began in 1951 when he landed a small role in the Canadian comedic drama The Butler’s Night Off. Compared to actors like Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, and Robert Redford, Shatner continued building his credits on the Broadway stage and performing minor roles in television and film.

Shatner eventually entered the world of science-fiction with a part in two episodes of The Twilight Zone: “Nick of Time,” and “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.” In 1966, Shatner beamed up as the captain of the USS Enterprise, James T. Kirk. When his history-making role ended after three seasons and seventy-nine episodes, Shatner hit a wall. He’d become a victim of typecasting, finding it impossible to shake the James T. Kirk persona from his shadow. He began haunting the sets of B-movies and returning to television for guest roles. When Star Trek fans organized a swell of enthusiasm for the series, the property returned significantly, with Shatner crowned a favorite of the enthusiastic Trekkies.

The resurgence of Star Trek helped get Shatner back on track after labeling him an integral part of science-fiction entertainment history. Taking note of his celebrity, Shatner rose like a mighty phoenix with cherry roles on shows like Boston Legal, TekWar, and T.J. Hooker.

William Shatner, James T. Kirk, Star Trek, WTF Happened to William Shatner

With time marching on, Shatner’s reputation has had its ups and downs. Beyond agreeing to host the science documentary I Don’t Understand with William Shatner, a project that landed him in the hot seat in the political aisle, Shatner also went to space, joining a flight that took him 66 miles above planet Earth. When he returned, Shatner said his trip to space “felt like a funeral” for Earth, a sentiment many found depressing and fatalistic.

Join us as we look back on the life and times of William Shatner, investigating the twists and turns of his legacy with more scrutiny than Spock trying to navigate a modern-day smartphone.

WTF Happened to William Shatner is written by Brad Hamerly, with edits and narration by Taylor James Johnson.