Why William Shatner's SNL Performance Outraged Star Trek Fans

William Shatner is not known for taking himself particularly seriously. Sure, he may have tearfully waxed philosophical after returning home from a first-of-its-kind tourist space flight in 2021, but in general, his public image is one of snark and self-deprecating humor. In his later career, in particular, the Canadian-born actor has leaned into "being William Shatner" as the source of his comic schtick, as KQED reports. Writer Gabe Meline described him as "the king of overacting for no apparent reason," who performs his staccato delivery — which appears to have developed as a caricature rather than organically — even when carrying on daily conversation.

Back in 1986, however, Shatner, with his tongue planted firmly in his cheek, committed a rather legendary act of Failure to Read the Room. Appearing on "Saturday Night Live," Shatner performed a sketch poking fun at the obsessive fandom accompanying the "Star Trek" franchise. While the sketch killed at Studio 8H, the "Star Trek" community was less than appreciative at one of its key subjects of fandom was poking fun at it. To this day, some people are still rather salty about it.

Shatner called "Star Trek" fandom "a colossal waste of time"

Back in 1986, Shatner appeared as a guest host on "Saturday Night Live." At the time, the original "Star Trek" TV series had been off the air for decades, but the franchise still lived on in movies, and Shatner was right in the thick of it, reprising his role as Captain James T. Kirk on the silver screen. And while these days obsessive fandom over popular culture franchises is a mainstream part of daily life, back in the 1980s it was a new and strange thing that wasn't as fully understood and accepted as it is now. It was in this context that the show's writers developed a sketch in which Shatner would portray himself, appearing at a "Star Trek" convention, to greet the fans.

The writers of the sketch "Get a Life!" appear to have started off on the wrong foot even before the actors and extras took the stage, as you can see by the sketch's name (per Screen Rant). It got worse from there. Shatner then made fun of the fans, asking them if they'd ever kissed a girl and telling them that they'd turned "just a TV show" into a "colossal waste of time."

The sketch was well-received by the studio audience, and by the audience (as well as critics) at home. However, within the "Star Trek" community, the reaction was, and remains, decidedly mixed.

Gene Rodenberry's son certainly isn't feeling it

It is, of course, impossible to say who was the most upset by the "Get a Life!" sketch, but one contender may very well be Rod Roddenberry, the son of "Star Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry. As Screen Rant reports, he thought the sketch was "demeaning" to the fans. "I think it was disrespectful, especially for a character who was an open-minded, intelligent leader," he said.

As for "Star Trek" fans, it seems that most have come down on the side of the sketch being all in good fun, although there are a few holdouts who agreed with the junior Roddenberry's take. According to a companion Screen Rant report, after Roddenberry's comments came to light, the debate about the sketch moved to Twitter, where the consensus was that the sketch was hilarious, although a few sided with Roddenberry.

Shatner, for his part, did the most William Shatner thing possible with the whole controversy and turned it into the title of a book, releasing "Get a Life!," inspired by the sketch, in 1999, per The Ringer.