Why William Shatner Allegedly Blocked Kirstie Alley From Returning For Star Trek 3, According To A Trek Documentarian

 Kirstie Alley stands in front of William Shatner as he gives her feedback in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
Kirstie Alley stands in front of William Shatner as he gives her feedback in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
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Space may be the final frontier in the Star Trek world, but apparently earthbound grudges can still travel quite keenly through the vastness of space. Icons Unleashed director Brian Volk-Weiss knows that firsthand, as an interview he conducted for another project involving Gene Roddenberry’s “Wagon Train to the stars” saw Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan’s Kirstie Alley tell a story about how William Shatner allegedly blocked her from returning for the next film in the series that gave us some of the best sci-fi movies.

William Shatner screaming as Kirk in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
William Shatner screaming as Kirk in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

William Shatner’s Alleged Reason For Blocking Kirstie Alley From Star Trek III

While I sat down with Volk-Weiss to discuss Icons Unleashed: James Bond, which is currently airing Wednesday nights on Vice, our talk hinged on one fact he held dear when it came to his work. As it turns out, he prides himself on getting the stories that you’d be more likely to hear at conventions rather than through official studio produced featurettes.

A prime example of that happening on this new run of 007 stories was, in Brian Volk-Weiss’ recollection, a wild interview with George Lazenby. However, the director/producer also made the History Channel series The Center Seat: 55 Years of Star Trek, which chronicled the property’s place in pop culture.

So when it came to stories too hot for Starfleet, Brian shared a couple of those stories with CinemaBlend, which is where Kirstie Alley’s supposed Star Trek sendoff came to be discussed:

I've never looked at the movie again the same way, Wrath of Khan, other than Star Wars, is the most important movie in my entire life. [I’ve] conservatively seen it two or three hundred times. So I'm interviewing Kirstie Alley, and we're going back and forth, and she was like, ‘Yeah, you know … if you watch the film carefully, you'll notice in the opening shot I'm like, hair's back, you know, very, very serious, you know, Vulcan. And by, you know, the end of the movie, I'm like wearing an eyeshadow and my hair's down,’ and I'm like, ‘You know, I gotta be honest with you, I never noticed that before.’ ... But basically that's the reason why she's not in Star Trek III, because William Shatner was so mad about the whole thing, the bath robe, everything, that he made such a to-do about hiring her again, that they gave her an absolutely ludicrous financial offer designed to get her to say no.

The story that the late Kirstie Alley shared with Brian Volk-Weiss expands upon the original narrative behind why Star Trek III: The Search for Spock recast Lt. Savvik with actor Robin Curtis. As recalled by director Leonard Nimoy in his autobiography I Am Spock (via ScreenRant), the legendary sci-fi actor maintained the long held reason that Alley failed to return was the following:

...the salary [Kirstie Alley's agent] wanted... was higher than what was being paid to DeForest Kelley after seventeen years! We couldn't afford her.

So if Ms. Alley’s wardrobe was so upsetting to Mr. Shatner, how’d she get away with it in the first place? Well, despite her role as a cool and logical Vulcan, Kirstie was a charming and beautiful human who played her own game to see how far she could push her look. That led to the gradual transformation that Brian Volk-Weiss, and some other Star Trek fans, may not have noticed until she pointed it out.

William Shatner looks taken aback by Kirstie Alley in a bathrobe in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
William Shatner looks taken aback by Kirstie Alley in a bathrobe in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

How Kirstie Alley Was Allowed To Push Her Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan Wardrobe

Elaborating on how he didn’t even notice that Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan kind of pulled the rug out from under fans, Volk-Weiss continued to share just how and why Kirstie Alley changed her look. Continuing to unravel this story, Icons Unearthed’s director provided these further details from his interview with Alley:

She's like, ‘Yeah, I was this beautiful young girl. I had just gotten to LA, I was like 20 years old, and I was playing this character that like, all you can see are her hands and from her neck up.’ And she was like, ‘I had this great body, and I was a model. So every day I was trying to push the line further.’ And I'm like, ‘Kirstie, I am blown away. I never noticed that.’ She's like, ‘You never noticed the scene where I'm in the bath, where I'm in a bathrobe in the elevator?’ And I'm like, ‘I gotta be honest with you, Kirstie, I've never thought of that before. That blows my mind. You're absolutely right. Why were you in a bathrobe?’ She basically said she had been charming hair and makeup, charming the wardrobe department, kind of implied there was something going on with [director] Nicholas Meyer; which I asked him about, and he denied completely.

Admittedly, there was a lot riding on director Nicholas Meyer’s sequel, which led to even more wild Wrath of Khan stories. With happenings like Gene Roddenberry accidentally leaking Spock’s big death to the public, and the production’s jump from a TV movie to a theatrical release strategy, chaos reigned to a certain extent.

So you can kind of see where Kirstie Alley would be able to get away with charming people into letting Lt. Savvik let her hair down, as well as walking around in a Starfleet standard issue bathrobe. It was a gambit that saw Alley supposedly priced out of any participation in the Star Trek universe’s future. If that’s true, then William Shatner’s outrage robbed the fans of what could have been an ongoing story that almost ended in a betrayal of the highest order.

Leonard Nimoy mind melding with Kim Catrall on the Enterprise bridge in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.
Leonard Nimoy mind melding with Kim Catrall on the Enterprise bridge in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

The Notable Absences Star Trek Sequels Saw As A Result

Both Star Trek III: The Search for Spock Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home saw Lt. Saavik returning through Robin Curtis’ performance, but the absence of Kirstie Alley had always stuck out with fans. This was only more pronounced as her star continued to rise thanks to one of Alley’s best movie and TV roles on Paramount’s hit sitcom Cheers. Which is probably why a potential third return for the character was considered by the time 1991’s Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country was written.

While we eventually saw Kim Cattrall’s Lt. Valeris fill that role, the initial intent was to cast Saavik as the traitor on the Enterprise. Two big decisions shot that prospect down, according to Star Trek VI’s text commentary (via Wikipedia): Gene Roddenberry thought that the fandom would riot if Saavik was a traitor, and Cattrall didn’t want to just play the next iteration of that same character.

Valeris was born from this perfect storm of elements, which ScreenRant also attributes to another salary dispute between Kirstie Alley and those in charge. It’s for certain that you don’t get a franchise like Star Trek to exist for almost 60 years without stories as juicy as these. Leave it to documentarians like Brian Volk-Weiss to find them as he puts together the series that dive deeper into the entertainment we love.

Fans of the James Bond movies can learn more about the wild history that went into making them, as Icons Unearthed: James Bond continues to air on Wednesday nights, only on Vice. However, if you stick around, we’ll have some more details on stories of both Bond and Star Trek, as our interview with Brian Volk-Weis gave us even more to talk about on those twin fronts.