Inspired by the film, we put together this Kübler-Ross-style chart of the Seven Stages of William Shatner, tracking his transformation from young Canadian unknowning signing on to a sci-fi series to mid-career actor trying desparately to distance himself from the franchise to the current shamelessly self-aware legend embracing his destiny as a genre icon.
"Star Trek," 1966-1969*
Role: Capt. James T. Kirk
"To boldly go where no one has gone before" fittingly launched a young Shatner into an uncertain franchise that would define his career. The true shock of a cult hit comes when you're a young actor and no one is sure what will stick. By now, most people are familiar about the original run of "Star Trek," as it's been made subject of self-parody (1999's "Galaxy Quest") and pop-culture significance (an episode from "Futurama" where the original cast returns when kidnapped by an alien fanboy).
In the original series, Kirk came across as an awe-inspiring figure with a bravado that was as easy to capture as a sexy green alien. It would be a role that would power fanboy culture into the 1970s with the "Star Trek" films and convention appearances, one that would forever link Shatner to a ham-fisted sci-fi world fandom that clearly became the type of addiction that's tough to give up.
2. Pain and Guilt
"T.J. Hooker," 1982-1986
Role: Sgt. T.J. Hooker
In his second franchise, the Shat gave up the ensemble sets for a combination "elder statesman" role and the chance to lord his screen-time over a younger additional cast. Running for five seasons and spanning ABC and CBS, "T.J. Hooker" featured a post-Trek Shatner who now craved more of the attention he got from "Star Trek." He acted as the mentor figure to a trio of young cops -- including Heather Locklear -- and would occasionally get his "ladies man" act on as well.
Sparing the obvious connection, "Hooker" showcased a Shatner desperate to never be called "Captain Kirk," despite the continuing "Star Trek" films. This was a pure attempt to get away from the USS Enterprise while proving that he could be the same randy officer who can awkwardly disarm you with a karate chop. Except Trekkies didn't entirely buy that their Captain had abandoned them, and so Sergeant Hooker moped onward.
3: Anger and Bargaining
Role: Walter Bascom
"TekWar" is original idea Shatner toyed with that would've been "T.J. Hooker in Space," but instead grew into a series of books during the 1988 Writer's Guild strikes. The novels were pumped out for four years before leading to a TV movie adaptation that premiered on USA and served as a backdoor pilot for what became a two-season show. Shatner played an eccentric CEO who freed a wrongly imprisoned cop to track down virtual drug lords.
The show would be marketed as "William Shatner's TekWar." While the hubris may seem a bit much -- his face is also on every book cover -- it can be read as the man's self-realization that the co-production effectively decided to wring more blood from Captain Kirk's name for rabid fans. It's a sort of partial appeal from Shatner: use my name rather than Kirk's to bring my show to life.