William Shatner And Leonard Nimoy Threw Futurama's Crew Into Chaos

In the future setting of Matt Groening's and David X. Cohen's "Futurama," merely uttering the words "Star Trek" invites arrest. As explained in the fourth season episode "Where No Fan Has Gone Before" (April 21, 2002), Trekkies had grown from a mere fan group into adherents of a full-bore religion. The Trek-based religion grew and fractured, leading to a bellum sacrum nicknamed the Star Trek Wars (not to be confused with the vast off-world migration of "Star Wars" fans called the Star Wars Trek). To prevent further conflict, "Star Trek" was banned on Earth, and every episode of the original series and six movies were launched into deep space. The show's stars — now preserved as heads in jars — were also shipped off world with the exception of Leonard Nimoy, who stayed on Earth to discuss his books of photography and his play "Vincent." 

"Where No Fan Has Gone Before" follows the Planet Express crew to the distant planet where all the old "Star Trek" episodes ended up, along with the Trek stars' heads. Thanks to the cosmic powers of a nerdy energy being named Melllvar (Maurice LaMarche), the cast is resurrected and forced to live out eternity at an endless, one-guest Trek convention. The episode features guest performances from Nimoy, William Shatner, Nichelle Nichols, Walter Koenig, and George Takei (DeForest Kelley died in 1999, and James Doohan merely refused, leading to the creation of a character named Welshie). 

Fans of "Futurama" may be able to intuit that the showrunners were enormous Trekkies. As such, the day when Shatner and Nimoy came to the recording booth to perform — at the same time, no less — the entire writers room was thrown into frothing disarray. Cohen described the chaos of the day in a 2013 interview with Mandatory

Now, it's my turn

One might be reminded of a dialogue exchange in Robert Meyer Burnett's 1996 film "Free Enterprise." Two 29-year-old Trekkies see William Shatner in public, and debate whether or not to approach him to declare their devotion. One Trekkie points out that Shatner has likely been harassed quite enough in his lifetime, and that thousands of Trekkies have made utter fools of themselves in front of the distinguished Canadian. The second Trekkie, determined, declares that it is merely his turn to do just that. He proceeds to strike up a very, very awkward conversation with Shatner (who initially tries to slip away). 

Imagine that scene, but multiplied by 20. Cohen describes a moment when the entire staff of the show, in order to secretly catch a glimpse of Shatner and Nimoy acting together, had to cram together in a secret vantage point in order ogle them in private. Cohen, when asked about his favorite moment on the show, described the experience thus: 

"I think it was when we had William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy in the studio at the same time recording an episode of 'Futurama.' And our entire crew, all of the producers' assistants, writers, wanted to see them, but we didn't want to terrify them by having a hundred people jammed into the studio. So everyone hid in the tiny recording booth while Shatner and Nimoy came in and did their lines."

With so many human nerds in a confined space, one can merely imagine the odor in that booth. 

As long as we have you here...

Of course, stuffing a multiple people into a tiny recording booth — Cohen doesn't elucidate on the size of the booth or the fire safety violating number of people inside of it — led to the embarrassing "Now it's my turn" moment regardless. As it turns out, it's quite difficult to repress Trekkie enthusiasm when the opportunity to meet Shatner and Nimoy presents itself. Despite Cohen's attempts to keep the mob's terror factor at a low ebb, the riot could not be quelled. As he said: 

"And the second it ended the door burst open like a clown car, everyone exploded out and we said, 'Since you've already done this, we're going to ask you for a few photos.' And we then kept them there for like another hour taking photos with 100 people. So, it was fun."

From the brief description, Nimoy and Shatner appeared to be good sports about it. One would hope Cohen and his staff didn't intentionally keep the actors there against their will. 

Since the airing of "Where No Fan Has Gone Before," Nimoy, Doohan, and Nichols have also passed away, making the 2002 reunion episode a particularly special occasion. For one last time, most of the show's original cast was able to playfully goof on their place in popular culture, and prod at their own foibles. Shatner was allowed to deliberately rip his shirt, Takei showed off his killer abs, and an incredibly game Koenig chuckled at a joke about how, after "Star Trek," he went on to become an actor. 

A new season of "Futurama" comes to Hulu in 2023.