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Star Trek: William Shatner Fine with AI Kirk As Long As He Gets Paid

William Shatner believes AI is here to stay - but if Paramount is interested in seeing his Star Trek TOS-era Kirk return, he has conditions.

Article Summary

  • Shatner open to AI Kirk if family is compensated after his death.
  • AI presence in creative industries helped spark 2023 SAG-AFTRA, WGA strikes.
  • Shatner already involved in AI through StoryFile for future generations.
  • Paramount used archive footage for Nimoy and Barrett-Roddenberry in "Trek."

Artificial intelligence is a subject as old as science fiction itself. Several franchises from Terminator, Marvel, DC, The Twilight Zone Doctor Who, and many others have attempted to answer that question about synthetic lifeforms gaining sentience and if they can co-exist with humanity. It's certainly been one of the most recurring ideas in Star Trek, with its best examples in Lt. Commander Data (Brent Spiner) and conquering cybernetic species, the Borg. As AI technology becomes more sophisticated, the prevalent fear, which was one of the biggest sticking points from the SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes of 2023, is the role AI has in creativity. Star Trek: The Original Series star William Shatner was faced with one such question during his visit to MegaCon in Orlando about whether he would want to see Paramount recreate his likeness and incarnation of Captain James T. Kirk using AI.

You Can Call Me Bill: Shatner on Star Trek BTS Reputation, Takei Feud
William Shatner in "Star Trek: The Original Series." Image courtesy of Paramount

Shatner's Requests to Paramount If They Bring Back His Star Trek: The Original Series Era Kirk Back Via AI

"It's an interesting question," Shatner told "The strike was all about getting permission to do that. And so if I'm alive, I don't want AI to do that, but if I'm dead and they ask my family, and they're going to pay my family very well to sound like me, I would advise them to say yes." This is certainly not the first time Shatner's been confronted with the prospect of his recreation with AI. He's worked with StoryFile to create a digitized version of himself to answer as many questions as he can for his family and fans saying in 2021, "This is for all my children and all my children's children and all my children's loved ones and all the loved ones of the loved ones," he said. "That's my gift to you down through time." The controversy surrounding digital recreation at times has had mixed results.

Reaction to Disney's use of AI recreated the late Peter Cushing for Grand Moff Tarkin in 2016's Rogue One, a direct prequel to 1977's Star Wars: A New Hope. Lucasfilm secured permission from his estate as the actor passed away in 1994. Cushing's likeness was imposed over a stand-in, and a soundalike was used to recreate his voice. On the less dramatic front, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill also granted the use of their likenesses with stand-ins to use for various Star Wars projects. Archive audio was used from Fisher for her Rogue One line, and Hamill worked with ReSpeecher to clone and de-age his voice for The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett.

With Star Trek, there hasn't been a drive to recreate late actors with Paramount using archived footage when they showed the late Leonard Nimoy from his The Next Generation appearance from the two-parter "Unification" to show his adopted sister Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) what he accomplished in the remainder of his life in the Discovery season three episode "Unification III." Archive audio of the late Majel Barrett-Roddenberry was used in the third and final season of Star Trek: Picard as the Enterprise-D crew took control of their reconstructed ship for one last hurrah. Shatner's latest project is his autobiographical documentary for Legion M called William Shatner: You Can Call Me Bill. Until then, you have perfectly capable YOUNGER torch bearers in Chris Pine and Paul Wesley.

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Tom ChangAbout Tom Chang

I'm a follower of pop culture from gaming, comics, sci-fi, fantasy, film, and TV for over 30 years. I grew up reading magazines like Starlog, Mad, and Fangoria. As a writer for over 10 years, Star Wars was the first sci-fi franchise I fell in love with. I'm a nerd-of-all-trades.
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