William Shatner And George Takei's Feud Started Early In Their Star Trek Days

"Star Trek" is one of the most influential television shows of all time whose impact on popular culture can only be measured in megatons. While there had been other science fiction programs before it, never before had the far-flung future and alien life been depicted with such attention to detail and world-building. Since its original run which began in 1966, the show led to various films, other Star Trek shows, and more, resulting in a massive following that competes with the fanbase of "Star Wars" in terms of loyalty and knowledge of obscure trivia.

However, over the years the legacy of the original show has become somewhat tainted by drama between some of its cast members, specifically the drama between William Shatner ("James T. Kirk") and George Takei ("Hikaru Sulu"), which continues today, according to The A.V. Club. It's unfortunate that the actors, who starred in a show that offered audiences an optimistic view of the future of humanity, could have such enmity between them that's lasted for decades.

The feud begins on the set of Star Trek

Because William Shatner and George Takei's feud has appeared so often in headlines over the last few years, it may be easy to assume that their tiff is a fairly recent development. However, its roots go all the way back to when they were starring in the original "Star Trek" series. In an interview with Yahoo! Movies, Takei talked about an incident in which Shatner essentially delayed filming by half a day for a petty reason: jealousy.

The story Takei recounted to Yahoo! Movies goes like this: Leonard Nimoy, who played Spock, was extremely popular with fans at the time and received considerably more fan mail than Shatner. On the day in question, Nimoy was being interviewed for a "TV Guide" photo essay and was having his makeup process documented by a photographer. But when Shatner found out about the extra attention his co-star was receiving, he had the photographer removed from the set, a power that he had in his contract. While the photographer was eventually allowed back hours later with the interview and photoshoot taking place, this made everyone else on the set sit around and wait, wasting half a day's shooting.

The feud continues into the 1980s

Long after the original "Star Trek" TV series had concluded and made the transition to the big screen, the squabble between William Shatner and George Takei continued. It was during the filming of 1982's "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" that another onset incident occurred that widened the "he said, he said" rift. Shatner recounted to Nerdist that a fire broke out while filming the movie, pushing the actor into action: " ... [W]hile we waited for the fire department, I remember I was so desperate that nothing be harmed that I ran in with a garden hose, and I started to hose the fire down." It's exactly the sort of thing that fans of the self-sacrificing Captain Kirk hoped Shatner would do, who stated that his quick thinking helped save much of the set.

However, that's not how Takei remembers that fateful day. Via Heavy, he recalled in his 1994 book, "To the Stars: The Autobiography of George Takei, Star Trek's Mr. Sulu" that Shatner wielding a hose against the blaze was a publicity stunt. He further explains that Shatner wasn't even on the set when the fire started, and that someone from Paramount publicity department had to escort him to the fire.

Shatner and Takei take shots at each other

The 1990s saw the feud between William Shatner and George Takei only get worse, with each of them releasing memoirs that revealed early details on what caused them to hate each other so much.

Via Heavy, in his 1993 autobiography, "Star Trek Memories," Shatner recounts how Takei injured him while shooting the sword fight scene from the episode "The Naked Time," and how he believed it may not have been an accident. "I really do think that some small part of [Takei] was upset that he didn't get to run me through," he wrote.

The following year, Takei delivered some return fire with his own memoir, "To the Stars: The Autobiography of George Takei, Star Trek's Mr. Sulu," wherein he revealed a source of contention between the two actors that occurred during the filming of the original "Star Trek" series. Per the New York Post, according to the book, Shatner pretended like he didn't even know Takei, and frequently interrupted filming to have the director give him more time on camera.

George Takei's wedding causes more drama

As we boldly went into the new millennium, the feud between William Shatner and George Takei tagged along with us. Their ongoing fight only heated up when, on September 14, 2008, Takei married his partner, Brad Altman, as stated in Heavy. It was a galactic wedding ceremony that included such "Star Trek" alums as Nichelle Nichols (Lt. Uhura), Walter Koenig (Chekov), and Leonard Nimoy (Spock). Missing, however, was Shatner, who claimed in a YouTube video posted only a couple of months after the ceremony that he wasn't invited. He stated, "George has been mean to me for a long time. I mean decades and decades ... and I never said anything."

As expected, Takei's story differs from Shatner's. Takei said in an interview with People, "It is absolutely baffling to us because, in fact, we did invite Bill and we didn't hear from him. But it wasn't surprising because it's true to his history. He's never responded to an invitation." Like so many aspects of this feud, it's hard to parse out exactly who's at fault as there doesn't seem to be much hard evidence that one side is lying and the other isn't. Maybe if Takei had sent the wedding invitation via the USS Enterprise instead of USPS, this misunderstanding wouldn't have happened.

The drama continues

Despite the fact that William Shatner and George Takei's feud is pushing 60 years, it's still as active as ever and shows no signs of mellowing with age. In a November 2022 interview with The Times, Shatner expressed disdain not just for Takei but with much of the rest of his old "Star Trek" cast mates.

Of course, Takei has never been one to ignore the criticism that Shatner threw his way, and responded to his negative comments in an interview with The Guardian: "He's just a cantankerous old man and I'm going to leave him to his devices. I'm not going to play his game." Takei also stated that Shatner had always wanted everyone to give him praise and attention, ever since they shot the original "Star Trek" series together. While it may seem like Takei is the first one to lay down his arms and walk away from this fight, time will tell if the two actors will return to their battling ways.