Star Trek's William Shatner Reflects on Kirk and Real-Life Spaceflight: "I Felt This Sadness"

Star Trek star William Shatner gave a keynote address at SXSW, where his new biographical documentary You Can Call Me Bill debuted. In addition to appearing on the InvestiGates: Who Do You Think You Are? Season 2 premiere, where Star Trek: The Next Generation's Gates McFadden conversed with him, Shatner spoke previously about why he chose to make this movie now in frank terms, saying, "I don't have long to live." During the keynote address, he remembered his time playing the iconic James T. Kirk in Star Trek and his real-life space journey aboard a Blue Origin vessel. Alamo Drafthouse founder Tim League hosted the event, prompting Shatner with questions.

League asked Shatner what he brought to Star Trek. After quickly quipping "Talent," (via the Austin America-Statesman), Shatner recalled seeing the original pilot episode of Star Trek, "The Cage," and thinking, "That's really good, why didn't they buy it?" In a rare move, the studio ordered a second pilot that replaced Jeffrey Hunter's Capt. Pike with Shatner as Kirk. This one they ordered to series. "I added a little lightness, I think, and then it sold, and that's the answer."

William Shatner in Space

Shatner then reflected on his spaceflight. He admitted that he was a little disappointed after being cut from the first Blue Origin flight despite being invited back for the second ("like being vice president when you want to be president") and that he considered getting off at the last minute before, "I think, 'I'm Captain Kirk, I can't.'"

Shatner then shared some words about his experience. He recalled seeing the blackness of space and thinking ("It was DEATH," he said) and then looking down on Earth, saying, "The beige, the white, the blue, was life."

William Shatner's Message for the Future

Looking back at Earth, Shatner said, "I felt this sadness." He says that he felt sadness for Earth as it experiences climate change, thinking about the natural beauty and undiscovered life that will suffer for it.

"How sad is that, that this beautiful sacred thing called life has evolved and disappeared and we didn't even know it was there?" he mused. "What can we do? That's the question I leave with you all.

Willam Shatner's three seasons adventuring in space as Capt. Kirk in Star Trek: The Original Series stream exclusively on Paramount+. Paramount recently released the six Star Trek movies he led as Kirk in a box set in a 4k for the first time.