William Shatner made a surprise appearance on my show, The Markets Hub (wsj.com), last year. He was in the Wall Street Journal newsroom taping an interview for his new (at the time) book, and one of our producers thought it would be exciting to have him walk onto our show live.
You can watch the video here; Shatner comes on right at the 16:00 mark, and if I don’t seem all that surprised, trust me, it was just because I was keeping cool. Capt. James Kirk was a childhood hero, and to have the guy who played him come onto my set unannounced was an out-of-body experience.
Also, and much to his credit, he actually talked about the markets with us.
Anyhow, as you may imagine, I had Capt. Kirk on the brain a lot after that appearance. I started thinking Kirk deserved a better send-off than the one he got in Generations (as a truly deranged Trekkie, I will watch just about any Star Trek story if I come across it on TV, but Generations is pretty lame when you think about it). I started thinking if J.J. Abrams could screw with the Star Trek universe to launch his silly re-boot (see my take on that one here), then why couldn’t we redo Kirk’s finale tale? That’s when this Kirk story started forming in my mind.
I thought of it primarily in terms of a movie at first, because Shatner seemed like such a vibrant guy I figured he’d be great for another Trek movie. But realistically, that’s not likely to happen. Then I thought, I’ll write it as a story. But I’ll probably never get the time to write it. Besides, I don’t have the whole story worked out yet anyhow. So, at the least, I’ll jot down what I have here, for posterity’s sake. Maybe Shatner or Abrams or somebody will find it, and like it.
Like I said, it’s a rough sketch. Importantly, it’s not a “Star Trek” story in the way we usually think of them. There isn’t any real action or adventure, or even the Enterprise or any starships. Maybe I could work in an Enterprise cameo. But this primarily just a story about a man, Jim Kirk, and his life after retirement, about getting older and dealing with mortality and regret, themes that appeared in Wrath of Kahn (which, incidentally, is the best Trek movie, which I told Shatner during the interview).
So here it is: The Marcus Conversion
James Kirk is retired, living on Earth, alone. He doesn’t know what to do with himself. He’s trying to write his memoirs, set his place in history. He’s also being wooed by political factions that want him to run for the presidency of the Federation. He’s lonely, although he doesn’t quite realize it, and he’s having terrible headaches.
He goes to see a doctor about the headaches, a colleague of McCoy’s (Bones is off on a humanitarian mission in the Alpha Quadrant or something like that (if this ever were a movie, that would explain why McCoy isn’t in it)). The doctor, a young man, diagnoses him with a brain tumor, it’s malignant, and beyond treatment. Almost. The doctor tells him about a new procedure, the Marcus Conversion, that can take old cells and recreate them, can make them new again.
Marcus? Kirk says.
Yeah, it was named after the doctor who developed it. Kirk’s uneasy.
Carol Marcus? Kirk asks.
No, no, some guy. Donald, or David. He was involved in that Genesis thing. Ever hear of it?
It rings a bell, Kirk says.
Kirk goes to visit Carol Marcus, who’s teaching at Starfleet Academy. She explains the whole thing to him. While she was viewing the Genesis project as a large scale effort, David, Kirk’s son, was taking the procedure in the other direction, going smaller, targeting not entire planets, but individual cells. After his deaht, others took on his work and finished developing what is now called the Marcus Conversion. David had he right idea, she says, he was the real genius.
This totally throws Kirk for a loop. His life can be saved by a medical procedure his son developed, who died at least indirectly because of the whole Kahn affair, and while it seems the obvious decision is to have the procedure done, something’s keeping him from doing it.
Kirk visits Marcus again, and asks her if she’d like to go for a trip with him. Some otherworldly resort. He needs to get away, to figure things out in his head.
Are you asking me on a date, Jim? she says, smiling.
Can we still have dates at our age?
Let’s just not call it anything, and go all the same. What do you say?
I haven’t quite figured out all this middle part, which is the heart of the story, really, but it’ll involve them going on what’s basically a cruise together, and coming to grips with their respective disappointments. Carol hated Kirk after David’s death. But she started looking inside, she started becoming more spiritual. It wasn’t Kirk’s fault, and besides, Kirk gave her David, and David gave the universe a great gift. Despite the pain, she found a way to go on.
Stuff like that. What I’ve really got is a set-up. Not sure what else happens in there. But after their trip together, they’ve come to some kind of agreement, and if they’re not exactly about to get married, they are finally close.
Kirk decide to have the procedure, and to run for president of the Federation. His memoirs will have to wait.
Kirk meets with the politicos who are going to manage his campaign. First thing we have to do, they say, is get you into the public spotlight, and we have a great idea.
The Enterprise-B is about to take her maiden voyage, one of them says. We want you to be there for the launch…
Hey, I can’t undo Generations. But if you just kind of pretend that movie doesn’t exist, this would be a much better way to send off one of sci-fi’s most iconic characters.