Forty-four years ago today, William Shatner logged his first Stardate entry as Captain James T. Kirk of the starship Enterprise on NBC’s Star Trek. Thus began a sci-fi and pop cultural phenomenon that would trek far beyond anyone’s expectations.
Shatner played Kirk for the following three years, later voicing the role on the 1973-1975 NBC Saturday morning cartoon and then returning as the character in live action for seven big-budget theatrical motion pictures from 1979 to 1994.
The franchise has lived long and prospered beyond Shatner’s participation, with four additional television series spanning 18 consecutive years, as well as four additional movies and counting.
Shatner hasn’t done badly for himself, either. He has maintained the highest, most visible profile of any Star Trek actor, writing several Star Trek and other science fiction novels and starring in several TV shows, including T.J. Hooker, Rescue 911, TekWar, Boston Legal, and the soon-to-premiere CBS sitcom $#*! My Dad Says. Let’s not forget Shatner’s long-running stint as the spokesman for Priceline.com, the latest incarnation being his role as the Priceline Negotiator.
Shatner’s career can basically be divided into two phases: Star Trek and William Shatner.
But Star Trek is where it all began, 44 years ago today.