Let’s face facts and say that for a lot of people, the death of Captain Kirk in Star Trek: Generations, was a tragedy that was likely downplayed since a lot of people didn’t want to admit it or people were already smitten with Picard and didn’t lament the death of a Starfleet captain that had lived a full life. I could be way off base here, but the outcry for Kirk wasn’t nearly as big as it’s been for other characters and yet his following has been one that a lot of people would admit is still pretty big and impressive. James Hutchins actually posted a great explanation on Quora that he found, and it goes like this:
“I thought about dying, my death and this beloved character who’s going to be put to rest. How do I play it? You know there’s got to be a moment, you’re alive, and you’re going to die, now you’re alive, and now you’re going to die. There has to be a moment when we all, at that moment of death, we say, ‘Holy cats, I’m dying!’ And you’re dead. How do you treat that moment? And I think we die the way we live. If we live filled with fear, a fear of flying, a fear of leaving the village, you’ll be fearful, you’ll lose your breath, you’ll panic, and you’ll die. Or if you look forward to the next adventure, maybe you’re conscious, maybe we’re conscious when we die. Maybe, we’re aware. A lot of people believe in heaven. We’re all going to go to a lovely place and see somebody. I don’t know what age we see our mother and father. Are they still old? Or are they young? We don’t know. That would be a lovely thing to happen, but we don’t know. It’s how we die that’s interesting. And I think we die the way we live.
Captain Kirk always treated the imminent death by the alien, and the way I played it was, ‘Wow, oh, look at that, I wonder if he’s going to eat me, with awe and wonder.’ And so Captain Kirk, I wanted him to die with awe and wonder.”
Hopefully this clears up the whole idea of why Kirk’s death scene appeared to be so low-key, but for a lot of fans it might still not be enough since the iconic captain obviously is the type of character that many feel deserved more. Going out in a blaze of glory might be what a lot of fans wanted to see since Kirk had been around for so long that a lackluster ending didn’t feel right, nor did it feel like the proverbial passing of the torch. In a big way the original Star Trek cast was eventually phased out until only a few of them were left, and only the memory of them was really pertinent to the story. To hear that William Shatner had some say over his death scene, not how it happened but how it ended, is kind of interesting, but it’s also kind of expected since for years he exerted his own dominance on the show when it came to certain moments. But in this instance he did something that was at least respectable, not giving a huge speech to Picard as he lay dying and not bothering to make it too dramatic. He kind of just drifted off after saying what he had to say and that was it. In a way this was a fitting moment to a captain that had helped to write the story of Star Trek for some time and deserved a good amount of honor following his passing.
To think that Kirk’s legend has dimmed in any way is hard to believe but thank to the rising popularity of Picard and other captains, Kirk did kind of see a dip in his numbers if only because he hasn’t been an active character for quite some time. Obviously Chris Pine brought the character back, but it’s just not the same for a lot of people since Pine isn’t Shatner and to be fair he doesn’t quite embody the character in the same manner. Like him or not, William Shatner was the guy that brought Captain Kirk into the mainstream in a way that a lot of people enjoyed since he was what a good number of folks would call an alpha male and he did manage to make the role of a Starfleet captain look pretty cool even if he was followed by a lot of captains to come that would work out the kinks that his character possessed. He was still a favorite, and still is, of many of those that idolized the TV show, but once the movies started coming out he had a lot more ups and downs. But when it came to delivering a great moment he could usually be counted on.