34

This central character died in Star Trek: Generations in 1994:

Captain Kirk

(spoilers below are not hidden)

When and why was it decided that the character would die?

As of 1994, the characters of McCoy, Spock, and Scotty were still alive in-universe. The fates of Uhura, Sulu, Chekov were unknown, which I take to mean that no definitive decision was made to have them be dead. (It's unlikely that they lived to the late 2370s, but in McCoy's case, he did so naturally, and so it can't be ruled out for Uhura, Sulu, Chekov. The point is that the creators didn't decide to say something definitive and thereby left it "open.")

Why was it necessary to kill this character? Why not have his/her fate uncertain like Uhura, Sulu, and Chekov, or why not have him be alive in the TNG time like Scotty? Scotty was preserved to the 24th Century by the transporter loop on his ship stuck to the Dyson Sphere, and Kirk was brought to the 24th Century by the energy ribbon. Kirk could have gone on to live out his last years in the 24th Century like Scotty did....

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    Because the last time a human lived forever was . . . ? – imallett Oct 4 '15 at 3:19
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    ^ The question specifically pointed out that same disbelief has to be suspended for the many other characters who didn't overtly die. What is your point? – underscore_d Oct 4 '15 at 8:59
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    Because Shatner's ego was displacing all the other matter in the universe? – DVK-on-Ahch-To Oct 4 '15 at 15:05
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    @PaulDraper - the spoilers are also in the tags which are visible on the question list page! So I will remove. – Wikis Oct 5 '15 at 7:47
42

The decision was made between The Undiscovered Country and Generations, for the purpose of having a "clean" break between the original and new casts on the big screen.

William Shatner addresses the timing and rationale behind Kirk's death in his autobiography, Up Until Now (pp. 284-285):

I had been James Tiberius Kirk for almost thirty years when Paramount called me and asked if I was willing to play his death scene.

I was Jim Kirk but I didn't own the rights to me. Paramount owned the character and could do anything they wanted to him. The decision had been made by the studio that after twenty-five years the original crew of the Enterprise had finished its "five-year mission". The Star Trek movies had an average gross of about $80 million. The executives believed they might make more money with Captain Jean-Luc Picard and his Next Generation crew in command. They were determined to kill off Captain Kirk so the movie torch could be passed cleanly to Patrick Stewart's Picard. They explained their decision to me with the great sensitivity I came to expect from the studio: Kirk was going down, baby!  There was a New Generation in space. If I wanted to appear in the movie [Generations] it would be to play his death scene. But whether I agreed to appear in the movie or not, Kirk was going to die.

You may also be interested to know that:

In the early drafts of the script, Kirk took control of the Enterprise[-D] from Picard and flew it into battle against the Klingons — and died fighting for mankind at his station.

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    That would have been av interesting way for Kirk to go. More in tune with his character than the actual way, but I couldn't see Picard abandoning his ship, to Kirk or anyone. – Xantec Oct 3 '15 at 21:52
  • I could tell this was the reason just watching the film the first time. Screwball business decision. They didn't even give him a no-win situation, just a random injury. No doubt they were afraid even as they killed him off that he'd upstage Picard. Lamers. – Dronz Oct 4 '15 at 3:44
  • You've done it again Praxis! Great find. – Avatar_sully Oct 4 '15 at 7:29
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    The most realistic way to die would be for him to be a complete ass to everyone on the bridge and they collectively decide to throw him out an airlock. It would be more in line with how the cast generally felt about him. – corsiKa Oct 5 '15 at 0:41
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    Of course, Shatner immediately had him brought "back to life" in the EU books so he could single-handedly defeat the Borg by throwing the only non-redundant switch in all of Borg technology. Stupidest. Book. Ever. – BBlake Oct 5 '15 at 12:56
0

He wasn't

As far as I remember, Guinan spoke to Picard in the Nexus and told him that even though she had left the nexus (at the same incident when Kirk was sucked into it) a part of her (that was right now talking to Picard) was still in the nexus (as opposed to his family who were rather an imagination or projected future). We can conclude from this that a part of Kirk (and of Picard) remained in the nexus when they left. Hence Kirk lives on in the nexus. It is unclear however, if those remainders in the nexus would be able to leave it a second time (i.e., if we could have a second Guinan or another Kirk or Picard); if they would leave (and wanted to leave, which seems to be the hardest part) the nexus they could do so at any time they wished, future or past.

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    Guinan explictly calls her 'nexus-self' an "echo'" of her true self. – Valorum Oct 4 '15 at 15:36
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    Guinan also said that she couldn't leave- Picard asked her to go back him and help him but she couldn't. An echo of them will exist in the Nexus, but no-one outside of it will see that. – PointlessSpike Oct 5 '15 at 7:07
  • Ha, it's actually like a new black hole theory out there. One where you pass through the event horizon unharmed and a copy (or original, however you want to look at it) remains at the boundary getting pummelled by the effects of gravitational distortion. Only considered it now. It doesn't disobey the law of matter/information conservation, as they can not interact (the inner one can never leave) – user001 Oct 5 '15 at 9:11
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    @user001: I never cease to wonder how people come up with new ideas of what might happen to "yourself" at the event horizon. Given that we haven't solved the problem of, you know, not dying. – DevSolar Oct 5 '15 at 12:51
  • @DevSolar I know but gravity should only affect you in relation so another object. In free fall who knows? Not dying would be good – user001 Oct 5 '15 at 16:27
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In one alternate reality, dubbed the "Shatnerverse," Kirk did survive the events of the movie. In 1996 the novel The Return was published, co-written by Shatner, Garfield Reeves-Stevens, and Judith Reeves-Stevens. In it, the Borg resurrect him through use of nanotechnology. This book was followed by Avenger, by the same writing team.

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    While interesting, this doesn't answer the asker's question, which is why the producers of Generations decided to kill off Kirk. – Praxis Oct 5 '15 at 1:07
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    Yeah, doesn't answer the question. I tried reading that book, btw. I don't often give up on books, but that one I did. – PointlessSpike Oct 5 '15 at 7:06

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