When William Shatner Went To Space, All He Saw Was ‘Death’

When William Shatner Went To Space, All He Saw Was ‘Death’

William Shatner is not now — and never was — a spaceship captain, but he played one on TV. In 2021, William Shatner finally went to space aboard a gratuitously phallic spacecraft owned by billionaire Jeff Bezos. Don’t read into that too much. But instead of feeling triumph or the undaunted spirit of James T. Kirk, Shatner felt dread and says he saw only “death,” as CNN reports.

Instead of awe, outer space filled Shatner with despair for what we’ve done to the Earth. It’s ironic that the 91-year old actor who sat in the captain’s chair of the USS Enterprise on the show Star Trek in the ’60s (and, later, reprised his role on Futurama) felt unsettling despair and dread upon going to space in real life, after having boldly gone into the unknown for decades.

When William Shatner Went To Space, All He Saw Was ‘Death’
Photo: Mario Tama

Shatner explains why space was such a gloomy muse in his recent biography, Boldly Go, but he also says he saw nothing but death out there because of the perspective space gave him. During an interview with CNN, Shatner said:

When I got up to space, I wanted to get to the window to see what it was that was out there. I looked at the blackness of space. There were no dazzling lights. It was just palpable blackness. I believed I saw death.

And then I looked back at the Earth. Given my background and having read a lot of things about the evolution of Earth over 5 billion years and how all the beauty of nature has evolved, I thought about how we’re killing everything.

I felt this overwhelming sadness for the Earth.

I didn’t realise it until I got down. When I stepped out of the spacecraft, I started crying. I didn’t know why. It took me hours to understand why I was weeping. I realised I was in grief for the Earth.

The infamous actor isn’t wrong to weep for the waste we’ve wrought on Earth, which is so often blamed on individual people rather than lucrative industries — whether it’s big ag, energy, or the automotive industry.

When William Shatner Went To Space, All He Saw Was ‘Death’
Photo: Patrick T. Fallon

I have a theory about Shatner seeing only death in space that involves being greeted at landing by one of the world’s richest people, whose workers have to keep working during natural disasters, but Shatner pokes holes in my theory by mentioning billionaires like Jeff Bezos who want to expand to space, per CNN:

The whole idea here is to get people accustomed to going to space, as if it’s like going to the Riviera. It’s not only a vanity – it’s a business.

But what Jeff Bezos wants to do and what is slowly accruing because of our familiarity with space is get those polluting industries up into orbit and get the earth back to what it was. (Editor’s note: Bezos has routinely talked about moving heavy industries into orbit to help preserve the Earth, and that idea also has its sceptics and critics.)

That explanation came right before Ol’ Bill went off on a tangent about mining the Moon before we get to the planet Mars, in a veiled mention of Elon Musk.

Well, William, sorry to say, but the death you saw on Earth will probably reach Mars, too. If Shatner wants to extend that feeling of despair to the Red Planet, then Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles is prime reading material. The point being that unless we suddenly become a society modelled after the (good) one in Nausicaä, death and decay will likely follow us into space, the final frontier.

When William Shatner Went To Space, All He Saw Was ‘Death’
Photo: Patrick T. Fallon

The Cheapest NBN 50 Plans

It’s the most popular NBN speed in Australia for a reason. Here are the cheapest plans available.

At Gizmodo, we independently select and write about stuff we love and think you'll like too. We have affiliate and advertising partnerships, which means we may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. BTW – prices are accurate and items in stock at the time of posting.