An Open Letter To William Shatner And George Takei: Please Stop

Dear Mr. Shatner and Mr. Takei,

I’ve never had the privilege of meeting you gentlemen either in professional situations in the entertainment industry or at the many of Star Trek conventions you’ve headlined. I would consider it a privilege if one day I got the opportunity to shake your hands and say “Thank You” for the many years of entertainment you’ve provided me and millions upon millions of people around the world.  And it is with the utmost respect that I make this impassioned plea:

Please Stop.

Stop fighting. Stop feuding. Stop publicly calling each other names. Stop recounting the stories of difficulties on the set. Stop throwing more gasoline onto a fire that should have long burnt out.

You may be saying “But Tim, this is really none of your business. Our feud is our business, not for you to tell us how to conduct” and well, fair enough.  Except of course, you are public figures who’ve taken an on-set personality conflict and made it the subject for numerous public interviews, Q&A’s and books.

Things had quieted down for a long time.  I was heartened to see George Takei appear on the William Shatner roast in 2006.  They exchanged insults as is the custom of a roast, all in and good fun. They even exchanged a hug!  But then came the wedding-invite-gate of 2008.  I’ve read some of the articles covering this particular breakdown and my head spins.  Mr. Shatner felt slighted by not being invited but Mr. Takei and his husband (Congrats by the way, guys) insist they did invite Mr. Shatner. I think, I’m honestly not sure.

It’s a dizzying conflict to be sure.  I’ve looked up a lot of articles and videos covering it this morning.  One can easily find in a google search “Takei just wants peace from Shatner” and conversely “Shatner just wants peace with Takei.”  One reads these excerpts hoping against these two television (not science fiction, but television) icons will finally bury the hatchet.

But recently, Mr. Takei appeared on Bill Maher and said this:

Why The Wrap thought this was headline worthy is beyond me. Mr. Takei has documented his dislike of Mr. Shatner in his autobiography, on the Howard Stern show, in numerous media interviews and God knows how many conventions.  To the best of my knowledge, and I could be wrong but Mr. Shatner has yet to respond this particular barb.  (Though I’ve seen some say that Takei’s comments on Bill Maher are a response to comments in about recent Takei in a recent Shatner book and Oh My God are you realizing what I’m typing, does this read anywhere near as ridiculous as it feels to be typing it?)

Of course, entertainment is filled with epic feuds:

-Pink Floyd fans have long taken side and debated about who was right – Roger Waters or David Gilmour in one of rock’s most acrimonious split.

-Vince McMahon had blistering public feuds with Bruno Sammartino, The Ultimate Warrior and Bret Hart.  Like real-life feuds not wrestling feuds.

-Recently, the Sunday night cartoon landscape saw harsh words exchanged between Family Guy and the Simpsons.

And  Star Trek, it’s got William Shatner vs George Takei.

To be honest, I’m not unsympathetic – to both of you.

Mr. Takei – I’m so very sorry you felt disrespected and slighted by Mr. Shatner while shooting Star Trek.  I’m very sorry that he’s the kind of person that you just don’t like and probably will never like.  It’s the entertainment business.  I don’t have to tell you the bottomless egos involved.  At the same time, one can’t help but also feel like, “William Shatner was the lead in the show. He had the most lines, the most scenes.  He was under the most pressure.”  It’s not a complete defense but I can understand why Mr. Shatner did not always go out of his way to talk to the other cast and crew.  (Compared to some stories I’ve seen and heard from leads in the business, Mr. Shatner doesn’t sound remotely the worst in this category.)

Mr. Shatner – You’ve been blasted by most of the Enterprise crew.  Leonard Nimoy is your staunchest defender and possibly in part because he could relate the most the amount of work you had to do and pressure you were under.  I’m sorry that you’ve been judged so harshly by your shipmates.  I don’t think the public forum is necessarily the place to air these grievances. Someone should have pulled you aside and talked to you face to face. Maybe they did and you didn’t listen. You probably could’ve been nicer and more cordial to your costars but as sins like this go, I certainly can’t point fingers.

But let’s also take a look at Mr. Shatner and Mr. Takei away from Star Trek.  When it comes to reinventing themselves in the internet age, it’s hard to find two better examples.  Except for maybe Weird Al.  (Thanks again everyone for reading last week’s blog on him. Very overwhelmed)

George Takei has embraced the internet in not just spreading goofy jokes and Memes.  He’s become an inspiring champion for gay rights and equality in general.  Sometimes he does it with great gravitas:

Sometimes he does it, tongue firmly in cheek:

And Mr. Takei’s best work of his career may be happening right now on stage with the powerful play about Japanese internment camps in the play “Allegiance.”  If you get the chance, do not hesitate to see this production:

Bravo, Mr. Takei!  Anyone who wants to sum up your career as Mr. Sulu is doing you a great disservice. You’ve taken the platform that Star Trek gave you and used it spotlight stories of injustice and human courage. And you’ve become role model, not only for gay people, but for anyone who feel themselves crushed by the weight of intolerance.

The William Shatner of today has so reinvented himself that when I watch the original Star Trek series, it’s hard for me to believe it’s the same man playing Captain Kirk.  Sure, there are stories of Mr. Shatner being a jerk on set.  If you google “Stars who were jerks on set” you’ll find that Mr. Shatner is in excellent company.  As in most stars.  Everyone cracks under the pressure sometime.  Remember Christian Bale’s rant on the Terminator: Salvation set.  Roy Scheider didn’t seem like a prince in some of that Jaws behind the scenes footage.  I still get in debates with friends over who was right, Lily Tomlin or David O’Russell.  And of course us Doctor Who fans have many a William Hartnell and Tom Baker story recounted at conventions.

Sure there’s those stories.  But there’s also the stories of a William Shatner who had to live out of his truck for years because he was typecast for work and had to give what money he did have – and rightfully so – toward feeding his children.  There’s William Shatner who’s written dozens of books, fiction and non-fiction (including the must read Star Trek Memories series, as honest a look at film production as I’ve read). There’s the William Shatner who’s constantly tweeting with his fans, recently the poor souls stuck in line for Hall H this past weekend at Comic-Con.   There’s the William Shatner who made not just one but several comebacks which included leads in TV shows in the 1980’s (TJ Hooker) and the 2000’s (Boston Legal).  For a guy with (unfounded) reputation for overacting, he stole Boston Legal as a show and has a couple of Emmys to prove it.

He’s also a master Equestrian and has brought a spotlight to aiding horses, even establishing the annual Celebrity Horse Show.  And through his association with Star Trek has given more time and money to charities such as Habitat For Humanity and American Cancer Society so one can’t exactly question his generosity.

And Patrick Stewart likes him, so I mean, really, how bad could William Shatner be?

And if that doesn’t convince you, just take a minute and watch William Shatner steal the show, the entire show, at the AFI salute to George Lucas:

So what happens when Bill Maher has George Takei on to talk about gay rights?  “George Takei explains why he can’t stand William Shatner.”

“But it’s the media overblowing one small part of the interview”  Don’t give them that small part.  Don’t say anything bad, untoward, mean, spiteful, sliteful and do your best to be mindful. This stuff can overshadow all the wonderful, wonderful work you both do.

I mean, you guys are both in your 70’s – can you really NOT make up?  Do you want exit stage left with feelings of resentment and bitterness still in your souls about something that happened in the late 60’s?  Patrick Troughton was The Doctor when you guys were making Star Trek for crying out loud.

And let’s revisit those other feuds:

-Roger Waters and David Gilmour may never record together but they’ve mended fences for both charity and peace of mind:

-Bruno Sammartino, Bret Hart and The Ultimate Warrior are all in Vince McMahon’s WWE Hall Of Fame.

-And Family Guy & The Simpsons?:

If I had my wishes or a bunch of money, I’d hire you guys to do a two-hander, either a play or one-off TV special. Force you guys to sit in a room and work together, battle it out, yell, scream but ultimately work together toward the greater good of putting on a good show with a greater respect and understanding of each other.  But I don’t have the money and it looks like you guys don’t have the will so it’ll probably never happen.  (Hell, I would take you guys performing Comfortably Numb.  Maybe we can do it at David Gilmour’s house, he can fight with Roger Waters over he’s a better grillmaster. I’m kidding. Maybe.)

You guys are heroes to countless people.  You are bigger and better than this.  If the grand finale of this isn’t a peaceful resolution, then please let each other be.  You’re both doing fantastic, wonderful work with long, wonderful careers behind you. You’re both doing selfless, generous work that’s important to charities, to the helpless and the voiceless.  You may not ever like each other – or be able to forgive pass transgressions.  But you guys are both awesome. You should be awesome together. But if really can’t, I think the best thing for each of your souls would be if you looked across the stage, exchanged a nod and raised a glass.

At the very least, you each deserve that.



One thought on “An Open Letter To William Shatner And George Takei: Please Stop

  1. Mark Edward Askren says:

    Just saw the episode “That Which Survives” on Star Trek this past Saturday, part of MeTV’s airing of the original series. You may recall the episode. The Enterprise discovers a planet that hurls it 997-something light years away while stranding Kirk, Bones, Sulu, and Costello (?) to do “battle” with Lee Meriweather. There is an interesting exchange of hostility between Kirk and Sulu as Sulu suggests possible causes for their being stranded and Kirk wanting answers. Does art imitate life? I suppose that’s an age-old philosophical question. Anyway, I enjoyed your letter, though I don’t know whether it will change minds. I do think, though, that the public doesn’t need to share in revisiting over and over again Shatner and Takei’s dirty laundry. And you’re right. Whatever was at issue back then is not worth fighting over today.

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