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William Shatner Does NOT Get Royalties from Star Trek: The Original Series


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Original Captain Kirk William Shatner reveals that he receives no royalties from Star Trek: The Original Series. Shatner had already established himself as a familiar face on television when in 1966 he debuted as Captain James T. Kirk of the Starship Enterprise on the famed sci-fi show created by Gene Roddenberry.

Star Trek would famously run for only three years (despite impassioned fan pleas to keep the show alive), but Shatner was not done playing Kirk. He would soon return to voice the character in Star Trek: The Animated Series, and would of course continue playing Kirk in live-action form on the big screen beginning with 1979’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture. After playing Kirk in six more movies, including the gauntlet-passing Star Trek: Generations, Shatner finally retired from hopping around the galaxy (though he has expressed interest in appearing in recent iterations of Trek) and these days mostly spends his time fighting with trolls on Twitter (when he’s not releasing blues albums).

Indeed it was during one of these troll fights when Shatner revealed a somewhat surprising fact about the on-going income he receives from his three years at the helm of the Enterprise on Star Trek: TOS: namely, that he doesn’t get any. As Shatner told a troll who was giving him a particularly bad time, “Anything before 1973 (that includes Star Trek Original Series) doesn’t pay a cent in Royalties. So please don’t think you own me or I owe you something for watching. It doesn’t work like that.”


Though Shatner evidently doesn’t receive a penny for his work in the first Star Trek series, which still generates revenue through reruns on TV and streaming as well as sales of physical media, he no doubt gets plenty of payment for his work on the movies including Star Trek V: The Final Frontier which he co-wrote and directed. Shatner of course has also carved out a career as an author, co-writing numerous novels including several Star Trek-related fiction books as well as a number of non-fiction books connected to the show.

Shatner over the years has indeed had a somewhat contentious relationship with Star Trek fans, and even famously told them to “get a life” during an SNL sketch parodying Trekkies who take their favorite franchise too seriously. Thanks to Twitter, Shatner still gets to spar with fans on a daily basis, though it certainly seems he does it more for fun than out of any real sense of animosity. At the end of the day, Shatner may not receive any royalties from his work in the original series, but he does still owe much of his success to the devotion of Trek fans who made the show a cult phenomenon and of course created the demand that led to the movies being made (not to mention all those Trek books Shatner has been credited with co-writing). Shatner’s point about not getting direct payment for playing Kirk on Star Trek: The Original Series is taken, but if he means to suggest that somehow his personal success isn’t intimately tied in with Trek and the on-going love of its fans (even the ones who troll him), he is being disingenuous at best.
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