Why Leonard Nimoy Couldn't Stand William Shatner

While Gene Roddenberry may have created the seemingly perfect utopia back in 1967 with the introduction of the groundbreaking sci-fi television series, "Star Trek," behind the scenes, however, things were not as perfect as NBC broadcasted out into the world. According to Comicbook.com, rivalries and jealousies quickly arose between castmates on the set of the iconic show, particularly between the lead of the series, William Shatner, the actor who portrayed Captain James T. Kirk, and Leonard Nimoy, who played the iconic character, Spock.

As history tells it, Shatner and Nimoy knew of each other's work before arriving on the bridge of the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701). Both actors starred in the same episode of the 1960's television show, "The Man From U.N.C.L.E," called "The Project Stragis Affair" (via IMDb). During that time, a working relationship between Shatner and Nimoy began. Nimoy appeared as Mr. Spock in the original pilot episode of "Star Trek" entitled, "The Cage," which trashed by network executives. Following this, a new pilot was eventually ordered (via CBR) and Nimoy reprised his role in the new pilot. Shatner, meanwhile, was recruited from a string of memorable guest appearances he did on shows like "Gunsmoke" and "The Twilight Zone" (via IMDb) to helm the show's starship. A relationship on set began amicably enough between Nimoy and Shatner because of their previous work together.

A Captain and his number one

While Shatner held the lead role as the classically handsome Captain James T Kirk, it was Nimoy's enigmatic Spock that fans gravitated toward (via Liveabout). According to Time, the first few weeks following the show's premiere on September 8th, 1966 saw NBC's mailroom filling up with fan mail. Early on it became clear that the majority of the letters, requests for autographed pictures, and cards were not for Shatner's rogue-like Kirk, but the stoic Mr. Spock.

In fact, Shatner admitted to hurt feelings in an excerpt from a special edition of Time Magazine dedicated to the "Star Trek" franchise. In the excerpt, Shatner detailed his feelings toward all of the attention that Nimoy was getting during their early "Star Trek" days. "This was long before Leonard and I became friends, and honestly, I hadn't expected it, and I was not especially thrilled about it. I was being paid the largest salary, I was out front for the publicity, I had the most lines, my character's fate carried the story line, my character got the girl and saved the ship. The natural flow of events should have been that Kirk would receive the most attention, not some alien with strange-looking ears."

jealousy on the enterprise

It turns out, however, it wasn't just the ugly green head of envy that caused friction between the pair. According to the New York Post, Shatner liked to play pranks on his fellow "Star Trek" castmates, including instigating Nimoy by hiding the bike he regularly rode to the studio. Eventually, the pair got over the rivalry and began working together, even going so far as negotiating equal salaries for their respective roles on "Star Trek" together (via New York Post).

After "Star Trek" ended in 1969, Shatner and Nimoy, like the rest of the cast, went their separate ways in search of other acting opportunities. According to Liveabout, the pair began forming something more of a friendship as "Star Trek" reached cult status in the 1970's. Shatner and Nimoy started running into each other more and more at "Star Trek" events and conventions, with Nimoy even lending a sympathetic ear to Shatner when his then-wife, Nerine Kidd, unfortunately drowned in the family's swimming pool in August 1999.


While things remained contentiously friendly between the two over the decades, appearing in subsequent "Star Trek" movies and spinoff series, both apart and together, relations between Shatner and Nimoy fell apart in the years prior to Nimoy's death in 2015 (via New York Post). With the cause of the unresolved bit of friction between the pair stemming from an incident involving Shatner recording Nimoy for a documentary without the actor's consent (via Liveabout).

In 2011, while filming the documentary, "The Captains" — a documentary about all of the actors who portrayed captains in the "Star Trek" universe — Shatner reached out to Nimoy to appear in it. According to the Daily Mail, Nimoy, however, wanted no part of Shatner's venture. His friend's refusal didn't stop Shatner, though. During an appearance at a "Star Trek" convention, Shatner had a cameraman film Nimoy without his consent. While it is not certain that this was the incident that caused the friendship's demise, Shatner is quoted saying, "It is something I will wonder about and regret forever."

Unresolved feelings remain

According to Shatner, the whole thing stems from a simple misunderstanding, In a 2016 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Shatner shared his thoughts on the incident. "I thought he was joking at first and treated it as a joke because he sometimes would pretend and say, 'No, I'm not going to do that' and then say, 'yes,' so that's what I thought he did. (Laughs.) But that time he really meant, no ... I just don't know, and it is sad and it is permanent. I don't know why he stopped talking to me..." 

While that may be true, Shatner may have been more cavalier about Nimoy's feelings than he let in on in The Hollywood Reporter interview. In his 2016 book, "Leonard," Shatner stated of the whole affair: "I thought he was kidding; It was such a small thing." No matter how Shatner justifies it, in the end, Nimoy died without any kind of resolution nor restoration of his friendship with Shatner.