Gene Roddenberry Said William Shatner’s Star Trek V: The Final Frontier ‘Wasn’t Star Trek’

In an appearance at San Diego Comic-Con 2022, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier writer and director William Shatner responded to a question about the currently ongoing Star Trek shows with vitriol. When asked if he thought any of the current Trek shows rival his own, he stated, “none of them.”

“I got to know Gene Roddenberry in three years fairly well,” said Shatner at SDCC, referring to his time portraying Captain James T. Kirk on Star Trek: The Original Series. “He’d be turning in his grave at some of this stuff.”

Shatner is correct: during his life, there were times that creator Roddenberry previously spoke out against the direction the studio was taking Trek. One of the most notable was because of Shatner’s story for Star Trek V.

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Gene Roddenberry Star Trek V: The Final Frontier Wasn’t Star Trek

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According to Star Trek Creator: The Authorized Biography of Gene Roddenberry by David Alexander, Roddenberry reacted very poorly to Shatner’s story for Star Trek V. After reading the script, which included the crew of the Enterprisebeing bamboozled by an Evangelist named Sybok (Laurence Luckinbill), called “Zar” in earlier drafts, Roddenberry was enraged.

On June 3, 1987, Roddenberry wrote a memo to Shatner expressing his distaste for the story. “Bill, as you undoubtedly know, I expressed to Harve Bennett at lunch last Monday my deep disappointment in the proposed Star Trek V film story,” Roddenberry wrote. “I simply cannot support a story which has our intelligent and insightful crew mesmerized by a 23rd Century religious charlatan.”

Roddenberry went on to point out that Shatner had previously agreed to recognize using religion in the script, which Roddenberry felt was unsuitable for the post-religious world he had created in TOS. The memo continued: “I had also thought that we had a clear understanding, man to man, that I would be consulted before any story went to screenplay.”

Roddenberry was so upset by the narrative Shatner had proposed that he also wrote similar letters to Bennett (who ignored him and appears in a cameo role in the final cut), his lawyer Leonard Maizlish, and head of the studio Frank Mancuso. In fact, Roddenberry was so incensed by the narrative direction Shatner had chosen, that he also wrote to sci-fi literary legends Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke to enlist their help in discouraging the studio from making the film. Both authors sent letters agreeing with Roddenberry’s position: Star Trek V “wasn’t Star Trek.”