There 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?