MIAMI (AP) — "Star Trek" has always looked to the future (aside from episodes where the crew fought Nazis, Romans and other things the producers could easily get costumes for), but Capt. James T. Kirk himself can't help but be impressed by the franchise's half-century of history.
Sporting his gold captain's uniform, William Shatner first swaggered onto the bridge of the starship Enterprise in 1966. Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, the original television series has spawned four spin-off series and 13 feature films, including this summer's "Star Trek Beyond."
"A unique position for a show that was tremulously hanging on for three years," Shatner recalled Wednesday during an interview with The Associated Press. "Each year, it looked like we were going to be canceled. And 50 years later, we're still talking about 'Star Trek.'"
The show was canceled in 1969, but a dedicated following of Trekkies and Trekkers (depending on the preference of the fan) kept the series alive in popular culture until the first motion picture in 1979. Shatner tended to distance himself from fans in those days and even appeared in a 1986 "Saturday Night Live" sketch where he told a room full of overly enthusiastic convention attendees to "get a life." But his feelings about conventions have changed, and Shatner has regularly appeared at events in recent years.
"Some years ago, I made a documentary on the actors who were the captains on 'Star Trek' and the qualities that they had in common and what they didn't have in common," Shatner said. "That sparked the five of us appearing at various comic cons to talk about that very subject."
The documentary, "The Captains," was released in 2011, and Shatner began making joint appearances in 2012 with the four spin-off captains, Patrick Stewart, Avery Brooks, Kate Mulgrew and Scott Bakula. Shatner continues to attend conventions, the next being MegaCon in Orlando, which runs May 26-29. He'll be there May 27-28.
"I make an appearance every so often at these comic cons and answer questions about what people want to hear," the 85-year-old Shatner said. "It's been an interesting experience, a joyful experience."
Reflecting on his history with "Star Trek," Shatner is happy to see the franchise move forward on the big screen and the small screen. CBS has plans for a new series on its upcoming video-on-demand service.
"I think it's wonderful. I'm looking forward to it," Shatner said. "Some of the iterations have been good, and some have been not as good. But generally it excites the public's interest."
Shatner acknowledged that he'd like to appear in one of the new films, similar to the way his original series co-star Leonard Nimoy reprised his role as Spock in the last two films, but Shatner isn't sure how that would work.
"How do you account for the passage of all this time and what 50 years does to your face and body?" Shatner said. "So it's a tough one."
Whether Shatner ever plays Kirk again, he continues to keep busy. He appeared in several episodes last year of the Syfy channel series "Haven." He released a book earlier this year about his relationship with the late Nimoy, "Leonard: My Fifty-Year Friendship with a Remarkable Man."
Capt. Kirk has now excited and inspired several generations of fans, and Shatner can't deny the impact the character has had on his life and career.
"The character's been around for 50 years, and it's given me entree into the variety things that I've done," Shatner said. "So as a result of the celebrity acquired by being on 'Star Trek,' all these other things flowed. So I know that I owe 'Star Trek' a great debt, and I never forget it."