The Return Of James T. Kirk?

Sure, this title seems like your typical Aprl Fool’s Joke on Trekkers, but the possibility in official Star Trek canon was raised last week with the recent Star Trek: Picard episode, “The Bounty”. Spoiler warning for anyone who has not seen the episode.

During the episode Worf, Riker and Raffi raid the clandestine Daystrom Station. Unlike the noble, scientific think tanks named after Daystom shown and mentioned in other Star Treks, this orbital facility was the 25th century version of Area 51. The station stored many of Starfleet Intelligence’s top secret technology, weapons and alien contraband. The Daystrom Station was littered with many Star Trek Easter eggs and call backs, but the one that raised the most eyebrows among fans was the revelation that the station had the remains of Captain James T. Kirk.

The last time Kirk was seen onscreen, as played by William Shatner, was in the 1994 film Star Trek Generations. The late, great captain of the starship Enterprise met his end anticlimatically when he fell off a bridge while aiding Captain Jean-Luc Picard. To many fans this was an unsatisfying way to kill off the beloved Enterprise captain as they felt he warranted a more heroic death. Of course, this was not the last fans saw of James Kirk as he was portrayed by other actors, notably Chris Pine and Paul Wesley. But Shatner’s version of Kirk remains the definitive Kirk that is beloved by fans and many hoped that the actor would someday reprise the role. The closest we got to that was in Star Trek: Enterprise where there were plans for Shatner to reprise the Mirror Universe version of Kirk, and Shatner was slated to cameo in the Star Trek reboot film, but these plans never came to be.

Shatner himself expressed his dissatofaction with the way his character died on screen and went as far as to co-author a series of books with Garfield and Judith Reeves-Stevens where Kirk was resurrected. The first of these post-Star Trek Generations books was The Return and its plot revolved around Kirk being revived by Romulans using Borg technology to use him against the United Federation of Planets. Kirk with the aid of many Star Trek heroes overcame this plot and went on to live a full life in the 24th century. The books, called the Shatnerverse, are considered an alternate reality for obvious reasons, Still, they were popular with Kirk fans.

Getting back to Star Trek: Picard, which is official Star Trek canon, when Raffi passed by a containment unit in the Daystrom Station, a holographic display showed an image of a skeleton with the signage “James T. Kirk”. This image also had some biographical data and what was interesting was that the display revealed that Kirk was “critically injured” in the events of Star Trek: Generations. It does not say that he died in the film even though Picard was clearly seen standing over Kirk’s grave. So what gives?

Technology will be much more advanced in the far future, especially when it comes to medicine. For all we know a critical injury like falling off a bridge and being clinically dead as we know it today may not be the actual end of a person’s life. It can be possible to revive a person hours after death in the future and it’s possible this could be top-secret technology in the Federation that is reserved for very important people. Or perhaps Kirk remained dead but Starfleet Intelligence and its black-ops offshoot Section 31 may be trying to clone James T. Kirk for their own reasons. This is not far fetched since the Romulans cloned Picard in the film Star Trek Nemesis.

Most likely nothing will come of this, but this Easter egg is fertile ground for future screenwriters. It is also unlikely that Shatner, who is in his early nineties, will reprise his role one last time. However, this tantalizing Easter egg gives fans of the legendary James T. Kirk some hope that he can somehow return someday for one last, great adventure, at least in their imaginations. After all, legends never die.

8 comments on “The Return Of James T. Kirk?

  1. Bringing back characters after a most unforgettable death sequence is always a major challenge. It may have worked for Spock and Data. But for Kirk, it will demand creatively great care. Especially if Shatner decides to somehow return to the role. Thank you for this article.

    • You’re welcome. Bringing back Shatner would be very expensive with his salary demands and possible de aging technology. So the time for Shatner’s return has passed. But the Easter egg is a nice bone thrown to the fans who can use their own head canon to resurrect the captain.

  2. I totally missed this Easter egg! While I do agree that Kirk was given an ignoble end, Shatner is much too old to revisit his character on screen. But this clue does lead to many different possibilities…

    • Kirk’s last words: “Oh, my…” are my favorite memory from his death scene, as ignoble as it might have been. Spock and McCoy not being there was also somewhat disappointing. It’s quite understandable with all the Trek opportunities over time to somehow bring back the most memorable characters, especially from the dead, for which Trek’s creativity has been quite unique, that the powers that be want to attempt it. And after Ro Laren’s very special return, I think that they deserve a fair chance.

      • If indeed they want to bring back Shatner, it would have to be NOW and I don’t see that as a possibility with this last Picard season. It makes me think about years ago when they rebooted Dallas with Larry Hagman as JR and due to delays it didn’t happen for awhile. I was so worried he would die IRL, and he did in S2. But of course, the Star Trek producers could have just included the Easter egg to give them possibilities in the future, and to get fans into a tizzy.

      • Kirk had a poignant death scene but the opportunity was wasted in that film. I read that the writers and the production was rushed by Paramount. The film studio should have waited two more years for Trek’s 30th anniversary to give them more time to deliver a better film of the two Trek casts meeting each other.

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