While Star Trek helped launch one of the biggest fandoms (and television / movie franchises) in the world when it premiered in 1966, it also put diversity front and center and helped viewers dream of a world where our differences made us stronger and that fact was universally recognized (OK, at least on Earth) and everyone truly got along. Unfortunately, there have been rumors of a major feud between series stars William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy for decades, and Shatner has just called out co-star George Takei over his claims about that supposed discord.
If you're thinking that word of any such rivalry would have settled with Leonard Nimoy's passing in 2015 at the age of 83, think again. George Takei was recently interviewed on the podcast David Tennant Does a Podcast With..., and was, of course, asked about his time working on the Star Trek series and the movies the cast filmed. When the topic of the rumored rift between Nimoy and William Shatner came up, Takei said:
"It got more and more intense. How do I put it? It began from the TV series. There was one character whose charisma and whose mystery was like a magnet. It was Spock, the strange alien with pointy ears. That intrigued the audience and women thought ‘I’m the one who can arouse him.’ His fan letters were this many, and Leonard’s were that many, and that created a tension, that insecurity [within Shatner]."
This has been the main through line whenever people (including, previously, George Takei) talk about how William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy didn't like each other when filming Star Trek. The story pretty much always goes that Shatner was playing the captain, and was, basically, the lead of the show, and was less than pleased when it became clear that a lot of people really dug what Nimoy was doing as Spock. Spock's popularity annoyed him, Shatner took it out on Nimoy, and a grand science fiction fight was born...allegedly.
Here's the problem, though. There have also been public tensions between Shatner and Takei for decades, and Shatner is not in the mood to hear the former Enterprise helmsman diss him or his friendship with Nimoy. So, Shatner took to Twitter after news got out about what Takei said on the podcast, with this rebuttal:
"George needs a new hobby. Now he’s making things up. We never saw fan letters. That’s why there’s so many secretary signed photos. We barely saw George. He was in once a week at most-how would he know anything? The only person with jealousy is George."
Ohhhhh, myyyyyy. Alright, as you can see, Shatner made a specific effort to poke holes in Takei's main argument. According to him, Takei doesn't even have anything to back up his claim that Shatner was jealous of Nimoy's popularity, because the cast never saw fan letters, so it wasn't readily apparent how many people wanted to reach out to each actor. On top of that, Shatner noted that Takei wasn't even on set that much, so even if the cast had seen fan correspondence every now and then, he likely wouldn't have been privy to it, at least, certainly, not any but his own.
For his part, William Shatner has admitted that there were tensions between himself and Nimoy during the early days of the show. In 2016 he told The Hollywood Reporter that those disagreements were both of their faults and that he doesn't remember there being any "fireworks" because of it. He also came clean about Nimoy not talking to him right before the time of his death, but says he doesn't know for sure why that happened, seeing as how they had a long friendship.
This is one of those situations where we're never going to really know what happened back in the days of Star Trek, because we weren't there and everyone has their own view of a situation, anyway. Let's just be thankful that Leonard Nimoy, George Takei, and William Shatner were able to do such good work on the legendary show that they helped to kick the franchise off right.
You can revisit all of Star Trek: The Original Series on Netflix, Hulu, or CBS All Access.