Wednesday, February 25, 2004


by William S. Kowinski

It was during the feature films---around Star Trek III and IV---that William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy became close friends. These days (in 2005) they're often seen on stage together at Star Trek conventions, doing a kind of comedy improv, answering questions, baiting and teasing each other. (At the Farewell Scotty convention last summer, Shatner took lavish advantage of Nimoy apparently not knowing that a moon is not a planet.) Towards the end of their DVD conversation, '>Mind Meld, Nimoy spontaneously says to Shatner, "you're my best friend." Nimoy has come to appreciate the "bad boy" in Shatner, and Shatner clearly admires Nimoy.

The seeds of their friendship were planted years before, during the TV series, by none other than Issac Asimov. As Nimoy tells it in '>I Am Spock, Gene Roddenberry was at his wits end trying to defuse the rivalry growing between the two. Spock was becoming such a popular character that Shatner felt Kirk's importance was being reduced, and he was being slighted. Memos flew, there were tiffs and strains inevitably involving the other actors and people working on the show, and Roddenberry as producer had to be the peacemaker. So finally he asked his new friend Asimov what he should do. Asimov suggested that stories should show that Kirk and Spock are close friends, so the audience couldn't think about one without thinking about the other. For Nimoy it was the perfect solution.

It also became an enduring part of the Star Trek ethos, especially as it included the third member of the trinity, DeForrest Kelley as Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy. Apparently it worked for Shatner, too, because the relationship, the camaraderie among these three, would get its fullest expression in Star Trek V, the film he directed from his own story.

The friendship of Nimoy and Shatner also had an important business component: they decided that for their contracts to do Star Trek films, what one got, the other got also. So when Nimoy got to direct Star Trek III and IV, it was a condition of Shatner's contract to appear in IV that he get to direct '>Star Trek V. (According to Nimoy, both had lobbied to direct Star Trek on TV starting in its second season.) So this is William Shatner's film: he came up with the story, worked on it to its final form, and directed the motion picture, as well as starring again as Captain Kirk. Harve Bennett produced and got story credit, along with David Loughery, who got sole credit for the screenplay.

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