Legendary Star Trek actor William Shatner has revealed what it would take to persuade him to appear on Star Trek: Discovery, the new Trek incarnation currently streaming on CBS All Access. Despite many cameo opportunities over the years, Shatner has not appeared in a Trek movie or TV show since 1994's ill-conceived Star Trek: Generations, the film that infamously killed off his iconic Captain Kirk (unless you count the episode of Star Trek:Deep Space Nine that featured Shatner in footage recycled from the TOS episode 'The Trouble With Tribbles').
After a 12-year absence from the small screen, Star Trek returned to much fanfare with Discovery, a series set 10 years before the original show. As soon as it was learned that Discovery would be set close in time to the events of the original series, speculation began about TOS characters possibly making appearances on the new series. Considering all the many ways Star Trek has found to bring back characters from past movies and TV series, it was logical to think Captain Kirk himself might make it into the mix, either via a Shatner appearance (which would obviously require some kind of time-travel scenario, or other story that allowed an old Kirk to communicate with the distant past) or a young actor taking over the role.
Speaking to IGN from NYCC this weekend, William Shatner himself discussed the possibility of appearing on Star Trek: Discovery, and gave a blunt and somewhat joking response to the question of what it would take for him to agree to a cameo appearance:
"A great deal of money. I don’t know what you’d do with a character who appeared 50, now 51 years ago. You know, I am 51 years older, with all the exigencies of age."
Getting somewhat more serious, Shatner went on to discuss how one might approach Captain Kirk as an old man, using the analogy of an aging athlete to capture the effects of Father Time on the once-virile and unrelentingly vigorous Starfleet super-stud.
"So here’s this aging athlete, who isn’t [what] he was in his twenties and thirties. Still carries himself grandly and has a sense of humor and all, but he’s not the athlete he was. What would Captain Kirk be like 50 years later, with the sagacity of mind, and yet the body doesn’t do what he wants it to do? I mean, it’s an interesting story."
Shatner has already explored the waning years of his most famous character in a series of books (in which he explains how Kirk managed to survive the events of Star Trek: Generations), so he clearly has thoughts on the subject, but the question is whether at this point anyone besides Shatner is genuinely interested in exploring the travails of a geriatric version of Kirk. Star Trek: Discovery, a series that, if nothing else, is committed to pumping new, youthful vigor into the rickety old franchise, certainly would not be the proper venue for such an exploration.
Discovery has shown a willingness to tip its hat to earlier incarnations of Star Trek, via Easter eggs and the return of TOS characters like Sarek and Harry Mudd, and the planned return of the infamous tribbles. But it has also done a lot of other things to establish its own identity separate from the history of the series, introducing new tech that was never hinted at in previous shows/movies, and most importantly completely overhauling the Klingons. While Star Trek: Discovery will always be beholden to its own on-screen past, the show's producers need not necessarily feel they must kowtow to that history at every step, and make way for every aging Star Trek actor to step onto the stage one last time and take their bow. So while it might be cool from a nostalgia standpoint to see Shatner on Discovery, the show isn't in an way obligated to make it happen.