William Shatner’s relationship to the original Star Trek series is a predominantly fond one, save the odd feud with fellow actors or playful jokes about the obsessiveness of some fans. What might come as a surprise, though, is that Shatner receives no royalties from Star Trek: The Original Series, which included 79 episodes, and has been a staple of syndication since the 1960s.
The actor is a prolific presence on Twitter, and frequently gets into debates (to put it nicely) with people about the show and his career. Indeed, the recent argument with George Takei demonstrates how quickly things can get heated when it comes to Star Trek, and as part of a thread this week, Shatner reminded a particularly virulent troll that he doesn’t get royalties for any franchise material made before 1973, which presumably begins with the animated version of the show.
“Anything before 1973 (that includes Star Trek Original Series) doesn’t pay a cent in Royalties. So please don’t think you own me or I owe you something for watching. It doesn’t work like that.”
The three seasons of TOS ran from 1966 and 1969 on NBC, but eventually found a larger audience in syndication on local stations during the 1970s. This success helped create both a passionate fanbase and the motivation to produce the animated run and 1979’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture. It’s likely through the movies, of which Shatner appeared in seven, that he’s made the most in residuals outside of in-universe Trek books and conventions.
Although it’s had its ups and downs, Star Trek remains a valuable brand for ViacomCBS, who reportedly have its television side mapped out until 2027. News on the future of the movie productions is less clear, at least for now, but there’s a lot of Trek-related content believed to be in various stages of development. Anyone wanting to catch up with Shatner as Kirk, however, might want to check out the current Amazon offer for “Star Trek month,” where various DVD and Blu-ray deals are available that include bonus comic books.