The Real Reason Star Trek's Malcolm McDowell Received Death Threats

As you are well aware, fans of popular culture are often quite invested in their favorite characters — sometimes, perhaps, a bit too much so. This matter of loving a fictional character to the point of near madness was explored to great effect in the Stephen King novel "Misery," where a fan, upset at an author killing off her favorite character, responded by holding the writer hostage and torturing him. And while this example comes from fiction, six decades earlier a somewhat-similar situation played out in real life. As Screen Rant reports, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, bored and frustrated with writing Sherlock Holmes, tried to kill off the character, and fans were having exactly none of it. Though none are believed to have resorted to violence, thousands angrily canceled their subscriptions to the publication that printed the Holmes stories, and rumor has it that thousands were seen in London wearing black arm bands in mourning after Holmes' fictitious death.

Back in 1994, another example of excessive fandom occurred, and it had very real consequences for one of the people involved in the whole situation. The writers of the film "Star Trek: Generations" made the decision to kill off Captain Kirk, and the actor who portrayed the villain who killed the popular character was so bedeviled by death threats that he had to have police protection.

Malcolm McDowell didn't kill anybody, but he got death threats anyway

For those who haven't seen the 1994 film "Star Trek: Generations," the villain, Tolian Soran, portrayed by legendary actor Malcolm McDowell, through a series of events, winds up taking the life of Captain Kirk, according to Movie House Memories. Now, it should be painfully obvious that McDowell didn't actually kill anybody. He showed up for work that day, portrayed a fictitious character, read lines, then went home. Maybe he even had a pleasant conversation with the man he "killed."

Nevertheless, some fans, on seeing their beloved character killed off (again, it bears noting), were so outraged that they channeled their anger at the actor who "killed" him. As McDowell told Film-News in 2020, he learned from his nephew that he was getting death threats on this new thing called the internet. McDowell wasn't sure what to make of it. "It was such a joke, but nobody knew whether to take it seriously, because the internet was in its very early days," he said.

It was no joke, however, as he found out when he noticed that two detectives had been assigned to his security detail. Nothing ever came of the death threats, and today McDowell jokes about the whole ordeal.