Captain Kirk thanks 'Star Wars!'

Star Wars: The box office guide
Star Wars: The box office guide

William Shatner veered into uncharted space on Saturday when he told fans the "Star Wars" sci-fi franchise deserves credit for the success of "Star Trek."

Shatner surprised thousands of fans attending his talk at the massive Star Trek convention in Las Vegas.

"First of all, 'Star Wars' created 'Star Trek.' You know that?" he asked, as fans gasped and looked puzzled.

Actually, the original TV series "Star Trek" aired from 1966 to 1969. "Star Wars" didn't hit theaters until 1977.

But Shatner clarified what he was saying: The blockbuster success of George Lucas's "Star Wars" film brought "Star Trek" back to life.

"Every year there was the threat to be canceled. The third year, we were canceled, and everybody accepted it," he said.

But then "Star Wars: A New Hope" made a mind-blowing $775 million at the box office.

Shatner recalled the event: "At Paramount Studios they were running around bumping into each other: 'What do we got?! What do we got to equal 'Star Wars?' This is a big thing! There was this thing that we canceled, under another management, it was called Star ...Trek? Let's resurrect that!"

But the movie was a dud compared to the fast-paced, swashbuckling "Star Wars" and its special effects. Shatner acknowledged the movie's poor reception, and he ripped into Paramount for rushing production.

"'Star Trek' was done so hastily... there were no time to edit the special effects, and so the movie was flawed and didn't make as much money," he said.

Related: Want a picture with Captain Kirk? That'll be $100

Shatner said he remembered someone arriving to the premiere of "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" in Washington, D.C., with the just-completed film reel tucked under his arm.

Shatner then returned to his point that "Star Wars" deserves credit for the revival of "Star Trek."

"It was 'Star Wars' that thrust 'Star Trek' into the people of Paramount's consciousness," he said.

And the more brainy, science-based universe of "Star Trek" has indeed had significant success in Luke Skywalker's wake.

What followed were 13 Hollywood films and 624 episodes on network television over the next four decades. And CBS has yet another Star Trek TV series on the way -- this time on its upcoming, separate on-demand internet service.

Related: Postal Service gets geeky with Star Trek stamps

star trek william shatner

Shatner ended his answer by defining the two vastly different science fiction universes.

"Star Trek at its best tells human stories. It's philosophical. There's humanity. There's a principle involved. And it's well done. It's about people," he said. "'Star Wars' was grand, like opera. It was huge with great special effects. It was a marvelously entertaining film, but it wasn't specifically about people the way those Star Treks were."

The audience was full of people dressed as crewmembers of Starfleet, aliens and bionic robots. Everyone cheered.

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