‘Star Trek’: Malcolm McDowell says Captain Kirk deserved a better death scene

June 07, 2011 | 6:57 a.m.
picard kirk generations Star Trek: Malcolm McDowell says Captain Kirk deserved a better death scene

Patrick Stewart and William Shatner in "Star Trek: Generations." (Paramount Pictures)

James T. Kirk plunged to his death some 17 years ago in the film “Star Trek: Generations,” and Malcolm McDowell played the villain who sent him on his way — but the actor says that in hindsight he wishes the lion of Starfleet had been given a more memorable offing. “It was a paltry screen moment in a situation that called for something dramatic and inspired, something spectacular, even,” McDowell said.

hcffteaser2 Star Trek: Malcolm McDowell says Captain Kirk deserved a better death sceneI sat down recently with McDowell to discuss the 40th anniversary of “A Clockwork Orange,” but at the end of breakfast, the topic turned to the 1994 Starfleet movie that sent Kirk beyond the final frontier but did so in ungainly fashion. The hero defined by his cosmic gusto essentially took a bad fall off some scaffolding on a bleak, rocky planet. It’s a topic that comes up whenever McDowell runs into William Shatner, the colorful sci-fi icon who knows that his signature character went out with the narrative equivalent of a whimper, not a bang.

“I like Bill, he’s fun,” McDowell said. “You don’t take Bill seriously, he’s a lot of fun to be around. He’s actually very talented too. Every time I see Bill I say, ‘I’m the guy that killed you.’ And he says, ‘Yeah, you shot me in the back.’ I say, ‘Talk to the producers about that.’ They gave him such a lousy sendoff. I mean, what a cheesy move. He falls off a bridge; I shoot the bridge and he falls. That’s the best thing they could come up with?”

McDowell added: “It’s so nuts. It’s really a shame, to be serious for a moment, considering all of the history. This is an icon, loved for decades. And you know that Bill wanted to do a Jimmy Cagney [in the final moments of ‘White Heat’] dancing on the way down the steps. ‘Top of the world, Ma!’ And we missed that because instead they let Kirk fall on some rocks off screen.”

McDowell said the fringe folks among the sometimes scary fans of “Star Trek”  let it be known they weren’t happy about the death or the way it was handled. “I killed Captain Kirk and I got death threats. And some of them were in Klingon.”

— Geoff Boucher


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13 Responses to ‘Star Trek’: Malcolm McDowell says Captain Kirk deserved a better death scene

  1. Horace Austin says:

    They shouldn’t have killed off Kirk in the first place.

    • cynic says:

      True. Killing Kirk was a petty act by the producers of the Next Generation series, who felt that if Kirk were alive fans would always prefer him and the original crew. They would have done better to deal with the fact that they produced inferior films and work to improve their own product, rather than capriciously destroy a legendary character for nothing.

  2. Kevin says:

    Kirk isn’t dead… In typical comicbookesque fashion, he survives within the energy ribbon space matrix thingy. Just like Guinan, who appeared to Picard within the dream sequence, Kirk will also possess the multi-dimensional ability to be in both places at once. Heck, this could also be used to spin Picard around if they really want to… Give them time and technology, and you may very well see a CG Kirk in his thirties, voiced by Shatner, appearing next to live actors aboard a ship after barely surviving some kind of cosmic storm. That would be awesome.

  3. RACER7 says:


  4. tevon3 says:

    If you read shatner's autobiography (Up Till Now), he talks about this scene. Apparently the scene was originally written as "something dramatic and inspired, something spectacular, even." But Shatner, the man himself, didn't like it, and rewrote it as it is now. Kirk needed a more personal, emotional death scene, apparently.

  5. brettghampton says:

    No, Kirk isn't dead, but not because of the Nexus. Shatner himself revived Kirk in a post-Generations novel, "The Return," co-written by Shatner and Judith and Garfield Reeves-Steven. The Borg retrieve Kirk's body and "assimilate" him before attacking Picard and Co., but eventually Kirk breaks free of the Borg collective and is once again alive, now in the 24th century, to have new adventures and new hairpieces.

  6. Tmiller says:

    I would have preferred seeing his head explode on the rocks below.

  7. David Knowles says:

    No matter what they did, people would be moaning about killing Kirk of or any major character in fact. I have never seen a series kill of a major and fans not moaning about the death not being dramatic enough or the actors for that matter.

  8. plowery says:

    wtf ? a writer talks to malcolm mcdowell about the 40th anni of clockwork orange, and this is his story ? an overblown bad actor, shatner, even managed to take over a story about a really great film by one of the best directors ever.

    beam me up, please.

  9. Guesting says:

    Sorry no, Clock Orange is not a great film. It is nasty, prurient rubbish.

  10. bruce kenwood says:

    kirk is a hero saved the world died fell down and died buried on top some where like a nobody bad choice sucked in fact best captain ever re write please.

  11. eds says:

    Kirk got to die twice. He dead. Im a hardcore ST fan but this is over the edge. You dont get to pick how you die. He died in action, move on.

  12. Syd says:

    Well of course Alex DeLarge would be the one to kill Captain Kirk.

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