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It goes without saying that Star Trek is one of the most popular series ever created. The franchise has existed for 50 years in some form or another, with scores of fans still pouring into convention centers or tuning in to watch the latest series. Despite all this, it might be surprising to learn that the cast members of the original series from 1966 don't receive any residuals from reruns of the classic show. This is not so much the actors signing bad contracts as much as it is that this type of deal just didn't exist yet, according to William Shatner.
The series Star Trek that I was in, was so early on, there were no residuals. So none of us ever have received residuals. That came into being about three years later.
Being a star on a television series can be extremely lucrative if the show has been on the air long enough. It's commonplace for actors and creatives to have in their contracts that should the show make it to syndication, they get a certain percentage of the profits. The cast of Friends, for instance, each reportedly earns $20 million a year from just residuals. While few shows ever reach the heights of Friends, you'd think it's logical that the cast of the original Star Trek would be making a nice penny from reruns of their popular show. Not so much.
William Shatner told IGN that neither himself or any of his former co-stars receive any money from Star Trek reruns. The reason for this is because those types of deals didn't exist while Star Trek was on the air from 1966-1969. According to Shatner, receiving residuals didn't become a thing until three years later, so it was really a matter of wrong place, wrong time.
While it stinks that William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, or any of the original cast never received money for what is now a fairly standard deal, it's not like they don't get anything from their Star Trek fame. They still received multiple movie deals, they make regular appearances at conventions, and one would think they make something from merchandising. Star Trek came at the right time to make a cultural impact, but that doesn't really put money in the wallet like 2% off the backend.
While the original cast may have gotten screwed by timing, let's hope the actors on Star Trek: Discovery do a little better. The newest addition to the Star Trek franchise is set to premiere on CBS on September 24, with all subsequent episodes airing on CBS All Access. To learn more about all the new and old shows returning to the airwaves, make sure to check out our fall TV release schedule.