Leonard Nimoy Died Hating William Shatner

Kirk (Shatner) and Spock (Nimoy) fight in the Star Trek episode "Amok Time"
Paramount Television

William Shatner (Captain Kirk) has had a difficult relationship with all his former co-stars from Star Trek. James Doohan (Scotty), Nichelle Nichols (Uhura), and Walter Koenig (Chekov) have all come forward to talk about how disliked Shatner was during the filming of the Classic Series. Most notably, he's had an on-going and public feud with George Takei. One of his few defenders was Leonard Nimoy, who had been friendly with Shatner for years. However, in 2016, Shatner revealed that his friendship with Nimoy had ended and the two didn't communicate for five years before his death.


Nimoy and Shatner's relationship goes back all the way to the 1960s. On the original Star Trek series, Leonard Nimoy played Mister Spock and William Shatner played Captain Kirk. The relationship between the two soured when Spock quickly became the most popular character on the show. The two clashed often over the fact that Shatner played the heroic captain, but Nimoy was more popular with viewers. The show ended, but their relationship didn't. Eventually, the two began meeting at conventions together, starting in the 1970s. Shatner and Nimoy developed a close friendship that lasted decades. But when Nimoy died in 2015, Shatner was criticized by fans because he didn't go to the funeral. At the time, Shatner insisted he had a prior engagement. Now Shatner has released a new book that may reveal another reason why.

On the anniversary of Nimoy's death, Shatner released Leonard: My Fifty-Year Friendship with a Remarkable Man. The book, co-written with David Fisher, details Nimoy's life and Shatner's relationship with Nimoy. In the book, he describes how they met, their struggling relationship, and the bonds they shared. But in the end, it also describes how Nimoy refused to speak to Shatner in the final years of his life.

A Strained Relationship

In several interviews, Shatner insisted he had no idea why Nimoy stopped speaking to him. But in an earlier article in the Daily Mail, Shatner made a pretty good guess.

In 2011, Shatner released a documentary called The Captains, where he interviewed actors like Kate Mulgrew and Avery Brooks who played starship captains on the Star Trek series. Apparently, Shatner had asked Nimoy to make an appearance in the documentary. Nimoy refused. Despite that, Shatner's cameraman filmed Nimoy secretly during a convention appearance to include as footage without Nimoy's permission. There was never a final argument or blow out over it, but that seemed to have been the last straw. They never spoke again.

"I thought he was kidding," Shatner said. "It was such a small thing."

But apparently, it wasn't a small thing to Nimoy. Even though they met again in 2014 to film a German car commercial, Shatner and Nimoy apparently never spoke off camera. They only communicated through their agents. Nimoy himself indirectly confirmed this. When Piers Morgan interviewed Nimoy in 2014 and asked if he'd seen Shatner, Nimoy merely said, "Not in a while… we don’t have that kind of relationship anymore. We used to."

A Failed Reconciliation

Shatner says he tried sending notes to Nimoy. His final letter to Nimoy read, "I have had a deep love for you, Leonard—for your character, your morality, your sense of justice, your artistic bent. You're the friend that I have known the longest and the deepest." But Nimoy never sent a response.

His friend said no, and Shatner couldn't respect his friend's wishes. When Nimoy shut him out, Shatner couldn't see how he had hurt Nimoy. In the process, Shatner lost one of his oldest and closest friends over his desperation to make a movie.

Shatner now says the fact Nimoy died without reconciliation is "something I will wonder about and regret forever." With his 2016 book, perhaps Shatner will find some closure on their friendship that he couldn't find in life.