Four original cast members from the 1960s TV series “Star Trek” have received a collective $1 million from Paramount to resolve a long-simmering dispute over merchandising royalties and other matters, while ensuring their future appearances on behalf of the entertainment franchise.
Although merchandise from the “Star Trek” string of four TV series and seven feature films has generated nearly $2 billion worth of retail sales, four of the actors in the series that started it all reportedly had received less then $85,000 between them before last month.
James Doohan (who played Scottie), Walter Koenig (Chekov), Nichelle Nichols (Uhura) and George Takei (Sulu) maintained that they were contractually entitled to 2.5% of the money Paramount made marketing their images from the TV series and feature films in which they appeared.
Paramount acknowledged the settlement but disputed the amount involved.
“We did enter into a deal with them, but it was not a $1-million payment for name and likeness,” a studio spokesman said Wednesday. “The deal involved future appearances as well as settlement of various claims relating to their prior services in ‘Star Trek’ properties over a number of years.”
A portion of the financial arrangement does cover future services--namely, sources said, personal appearances at the opening of a “Star Trek” theme park in Las Vegas late next year, marking the 30th anniversary of the cult science-fiction drama created by Gene Roddenberry.
The actors’ attorney, John Lawrence Allen, refused to discuss the settlement, which was quietly reached last month, except to describe it as amicable.
The actors could not be reached for comment.
“Yes, there was a settlement,” said David Moss, Koenig’s agent. “To quote Walter, ‘Everyone seemed pleased.’ As part of the agreement, they are not allowed to discuss the settlement or their problems [with Paramount], and they wish to honor that agreement.”
The settlement is the result of two years of negotiations between Paramount and Allen, a San Diego-based fraud litigator whom the four actors hired. The studio initially maintained that the four actors had been paid what they were owed, sources said.
There are currently more than 250 “Star Trek” licensees, with products ranging from Christmas ornaments to CD-ROMs to a Franklin Mint chess set. “Star Trek” stars William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy had long ago sought and received compensation from the studio, which pockets a 7% to 10% royalty on the sale of “Star Trek” goods.
The actors reportedly did not want to test their case in court, citing the long, arduous Art Buchwald case against Paramount as a deterrent. Similarly, they could have launched an independent audit of Paramount but considered the cost prohibitive.
“The main thing was that these guys wanted to put this behind them,” a friend of one of the actors said. “After a quarter of a century, they wanted to close the ‘Star Trek’ book and move on.”
The book hasn’t entirely closed yet. Cast members from two spinoff series, “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” had been watching this case closely. Sources said that several performers have made inquiries with attorneys about pursuing a similar course of action.