The Earth stopped on March 22, 1931 for just a few seconds, because yes, even Terra Prime needed to mark the moment William Shatner came into the world.
It’s hard to believe that today’s he’s 85 years old. We see him in the original “Star Trek,” in six movies, and how active he is today — this man is never going to retire. And we don’t want him to.
In fact, Shatner has the energy of a 35-year-old, which is exactly how old he was when “Star Trek” first premiered in 1966. If someone told him — or anyone else from the cast and crew — that 50 years later, we would still be honoring this show (and those involved), we’re sure Shatner would’ve never believed them.
Shatner’s birthday is the first milestone we get to celebrate in this 50th anniversary year, and one that is definitely worth celebrating. While Shatner’s reputation has had its ups and downs with fandom (anyone remember when he told a “Saturday Night Live” sketch audience to get a life?), the fact is, Star Trek is what it is today because of not only Gene Roddenberry’s vision, but the people who helped bring it to life. And Shatner is one of them.
So I thought I would take moment to not only wish happy birthday to Mr. Shatner, but also to look at where some of our other Trek favorites are when it comes to getting better with age.
Before I do that, however, I do want to recognize those we’ve lost from the main casts. Primarily, all from the original series, which makes sense, since it’s the older show.
We have to start, of course, with Roddenberry himself, whom we lost in 1991. He was just 70 years old when he left us, and if he were still alive today, he’s be a rather spry 94-year-old. A former Los Angeles Police Department cop, Roddenberry was determined to get his writing talents into television, and he did just that, finding every way possible to get agents spec scripts.
That landed him freelance work in shows like “Highway Patrol” and “Have Gun-Will Travel,” before getting his own chance to create television in “The Lieutenant.”
Many future Star Trek greats would be a part of this show, including Gary Lockwood, Nichelle Nichols, Walter Koenig, and even Leonard Nimoy.
Nimoy, as we all know by now, passed away on Feb. 27, 2015. He was 83 years old. He actually was born just days after Shatner, except in Boston (not Canada, like our favorite Kirk actor).
As Spock, Nimoy helped create a love for “Star Trek” that may not have been possible otherwise. Which was funny, because Spock was a Vulcan, and they were not very emotional. Yet fans were quite emotional about Spock.
Nimoy would go on to direct, not only Trek films, but also the popular 1980s comedy “Three Men and a Baby.” He also was a singer, probably most infamous for “The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins,” about the popular character from “The Hobbit” book.
The other part of the main Star Trek trio was Dr. Leonard McCoy, played by DeForest Kelley. He died in 1999 at the age of 79, and would’ve been 96 this year. Kelley was known for playing bad guys, especially in westerns, and there really was some concern whether or not he could pull off playing a friendly, yet moody, doctor on a futuristic spaceship. Not only did Kelley pull it off, but it’s hard for any fans today to imagine him ever playing a bad guy.
Did you know that Kelley’s popular paraphrased line of “He’s dead, Jim?” was actually started in 1956, where he played a medic in “The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit,” where he tells Gregory Peck, “This man’s dead, captain.”
And finally, we can’t forget James Doohan, who we lost in 2005 at the age of 85. He would’ve turned 96 earlier this month if he was still with us.
Doohan was amazing with accents, and even did the initial creation of the Klingon language for “Star Trek: The Motion Picture.” Like Roddenberry, Doohan eventually made it into space a few times, thanks to some trips with his ashes.
But birthdays are not about focusing on those we lost, but celebrating life. And many Star Trek people have remained active. In no particular order …
Nichelle Nichols will turn 84 in December, but won’t even let a stroke slow her down. The actually was set to appear in Roddenberry’s “The Lieutenant,” but her episode was pulled from the schedule because it featured an inter-racial couple. It was that action that led Roddenberry to make “Star Trek” the racial allegory it was later on.
George Takei turns 79 next month, and has become a social media god. He remains active, like Shatner, with documentaries, Broadway plays, and acting gigs. In fact, his latest commercial is with Taco Bell, promoting his social media status.
Walter Koenig will hit the 80th birthday mark this year, and has slowed down a little bit when it comes to acting. But he still makes the regular convention circuit, and makes fans very happy to see him.
I thought about seeing where the rest of the casts are of the other shows … but man, isn’t this column long enough? We’ll wait for someone else’s birthday.
So yes, happy birthday, William Shatner! Thanks for being a part of the Star Trek family, and look forward to many more years!