Star Trek: Generations Director and McDowell Recall Kirk’s Death

Star Trek Generations kirk deathThere seems to be few people who were satisfied with the way that Captain James T. Kirk was killed off in 1994’s Star Trek: Generations feature film.

The first version of the Generations script had Kirk being shot in the back by Dr. Soran (Malcolm McDowell). That scene was filmed but tested so poorly that the filmmakers returned to the desert to reshoot the scene. The new one wasn’t much better. After being an iconic hero for decades, most felt that William Shatner’s on-screen persona deserved a much bigger send-off than being crushed by some scaffolding and rocks.

Director David Carson recently reflected on the movie’s original ending:

Kirk was to be shot in the back. What was written and what was accepted by the studio and the producers was never acceptable as far as I was concerned. I mean, here’s this great icon. This Captain Kirk is an icon. He means a lot to people. So to have him die in an ignominious way, when you’re shooting in this incredible mountain area… I fought for that not to happen, but lost the battle. And when we were out on the set I remember that Bill [Shatner] and Patrick [Stewart] and I called the studio to say, “Please, can we not do this? Can we do something else? Let’s stay here. Let’s re-write it.” Because we didn’t feel it was going to work. They did it as well as they could, but frankly, shooting somebody in the back on a narrow ledge on a mountainside is not the most dramatic way for someone to die, especially when the baddie, Malcolm McDowell, also got shot. So it was like an antiquated gunfight, if you like.

After the test screenings, Carson recalls that the studio ordered reshoots:

So we shot for another two weeks, which cost a huge amount of money, and it was so disruptive of the final process. Dennis McCarthy, who wrote the score, wrote the score for the whole movie up to that point. He had 10 minutes to add and was waiting, waiting for us to finish editing it. However, I will say that the reshoots were very exciting. The crew loved doing it because it was such an action ending and much more fitting for Kirk. Captain Kirk’s death now meant something. Before, being shot in the back, it meant absolutely nothing. This time he really saved the day. So it was well worthwhile in the end, I think.

McDowell, the actor who played the villainous Soran, doesn’t agree and wasn’t satisfied with either ending:

Pose this one for me (to the powers that be): If you have — which they had — this icon of American television, why the hell didn’t they give him a spectacular death? Why did they give him such a really paltry death? Me shooting the bridge out or some BS whatever it was? They should have sent him off in a glorious fashion, and they didn’t. They missed an opportunity.

Yeah, they re-shot. What did they reshoot? It was just as bad as the first one. And they spent several million dollars (on the reshoots). If you’re asking me, I thought it was poor, very poor, even the reshoot. They should have seen Shatner off in a big way.

I don’t care whose fault it was. Whoever came up with his death at the end, I thought it was really cheesy. I just think the man, whether you like him or not, should have been given a blazing death. And I, course, would have been happy to have supplied that. Look, I just think it was a missed opportunity for this great, iconic figure that everybody loved or everybody loathed. He was one of those great figures that caused dissention and debate and arguments.

If you haven’t seen it, here’s Captain Kirk’s original demise:

What do you think? Which ending do you prefer? The original or the one that we saw on movie screens? How would you have ended it?

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11 Comments · Read them below or add one

  1. Elric says

    They should never have killed Kirk. Remember Spock’s death? It took a whole movie to fix that. What Kirk’s death showed was the utter contempt the producers of THE NEXT GENERATION had for the older TREK series. Look at the episode with Scotty. And the two parter with Spock, which admittedly was better, but still had some big issues. Sarek dying from Alzheimer’s? Scotty treated an an old, useless relic? It was fine, though weird, having the Picard and Kirk together. They evn made it work with the Nexus plot and all. But this…sorry, this was unforgivable, imho. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why J.J. Abrams did his STAR TREK, to restore Kirk? Who knows, right?

  2. Coffeemarc says

    It’s important to remember what Kirk said in Star Trek V: he said he always knew he’d be alone when he died. So I can understand the setting for his death IF that’s what they were trying to adhere to. That being said: the original scene is even worse than what ended up in the movie. The first time he died at the beginning of the film was better.

    • says

      Years ago, I remember someone wrote an alternate ending that wasn’t perfect but I really liked the general idea.

      Basically, Kirk stops Soran (I think the missile goes off) just as the Nexus flies over. They’re both blown to bits, or so Picard thinks. Cut back to the scene where Scotty and Chekov are staring into space in disbelief on the Enterprise B. A hand comes from below and we see it’s Kirk, pulling himself and Soran up. Kirk dies twice in the movie but ultimately lives on to save the galaxy again.

      As I say, it’s not perfect but I like it a lot better than either ending they filmed. Ultimately, I think most people wanted to see characters from the original series and Nex Gen come together, not just see Kirk die.

  3. Kat says

    I think shooting Kirk in the back would’ve been a terrible way for the original captain to go out. At least he went out heroically in the film and I’m satisfied with it (of course, I was never a huge fan of the original series, just all the other Star Trek shows).

  4. Victor says

    Is SyFy Reviving Terminater: The Sara Connor Chroniles Or were ThEY just teasing us fans with rebroadcasting of the series a couple of weeks ago?

  5. Victor says

    I don’t think either give justice to this awsome character. Luckily Kirk was brought back by the Borg in One of Shatnerts books, Take that Holloywood. Long Live James T. Kirk>

  6. Andy says

    This clip is from Generations which takes place in the 24th century with Picard. All the new Star Trek movies take place in the 23rd century. So, even though Kirk died in the 24th century he would still be alive in the 23rd century. meaning he can still be in the new Star Trek movies.

  7. Fisheatppl says

    This movie was on syfy just the other day and I was thinking the exact same thing. And I totally agree with Malcom McDowell. Both endings are bull. I think thats why Shatner wrote his Star Trek books, starting with “The Return” which picks up after generations, and brings Kirk back.

    Now I’m not screen writer or scientist, but wouldn’t it have been fitting to have it end with him saving the universe from that nexus thing? Perhaps he becomes a part of it, saves the universe, his lives forever eternally happy and is never heard from again? Seems more fitting than a gunshot or some rocks anyway. Its more epic.

  8. MK says

    Man that stunk! Kirk’s up there having this epic fight and Picard is playing boop boop with a console. It’s long. It’s boring. And it’s ignoble. The one they shot is marginally better, but the thing is it wasn’t grand enough for Kirk. Spock got a rip your heart out death scene surrounded by his friends, Kirk got to die with a stranger. It always irked me.

  9. says

    To be honest, this original Kirk’s death was FAR too long and drawn out. Considering when this scene is supposed to take place in the movie, towards the end, it probably would have slowed down the pace.

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