Kirk, James T.

The Changeling (Star Trek: The Original Series)
Image of William Shatner portraying Captain James T. Kirk from Star Trek: The Original Series episode, The Changeling © 1967 Paramount Pictures, produced by Gene Roddenberry via Wikipedia (Fair Use).

James T. Kirk is the captain and, one could say, mythic hero of the starship Enterprise in the American science fiction TV program Star Trek: The Original Series.

After the show’s early demise in 1969 and before its resurrection on film in 1979, William Shatner, the Canadian-born actor portraying Kirk, did various film and TV jobs, including supermarket ads for Loblaws, a Canadian supermarket chain.

Since then, Star Trek and its various spin-offs arguably have created a global mythology. It’s also proved to be a lucrative franchise. Among other things, Captain James Tiberius Kirk embodies the victory of human freewill over societal and religious tyrants and their oppressive demands for slavish obedience.

Kirk was always the ladies man and the original series seems sexist from a contemporary perspective. But its creator Gene Roddenberry made efforts to overcome this pitfall in the pilot episode, which included a woman first officer to the original captain, Captain Christopher Pike (played by actor Jeffrey Hunter).

After completing the pilot episode, TV network brass made some changes. They brought in Shatner to play Kirk because Jeffrey Hunter didn’t want to film another pilot for the Pike character. They also moved to a less significant female presence on the set. Majel Barrrett now played the character of Nurse Chapel instead of No. 1 to (the departed) Pike.

More recently, Shatner authored and acted in the less commercially successful but innovative TV series, Tek War. He also appears as a befuddled lawyer in the TV program, Boston Legal. And he starred in the 1980’s TV program T. J. Hooker.

While many actors quietly disappear in their golden years, Shatner has remained in the spotlight. He’s still doing ads and spoke at the 2010 Olympics closing ceremonies. Also, he’s the host of the Discovery Channel television series Weird or What? and can be seen on his own show, “Shatner’s Raw Nerve” on the BIO channel. His continued success might be partly due to ability to not take himself too seriously, and partly due to that same charisma that landed him the role as Kirk, back in the ’60s.

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