“Loneliness is endemic to human beings,” William Shatner said in a 2021 interview with CBC Radio. “We are all essentially alone. As much as we are with other people, we are alone now. People who are religious say, ‘Well, there’s God. And God is with you and is the father figure.’ And I don’t happen to believe that. I envy those who do. I think we die, and our bodies are consumed, and we enter the universe.” And enter the universe he did, when in October of 2021, at 90 years old he became the oldest person ever to go into space, calling his journey in Jeff Bezos’ New Shepard spacecraft “the most profound experience.”
Throughout his life, Shatner has battled loneliness, finding companionship in the form of four beloved wives: Gloria Rand, Marcy Lafferty, Nerine Kidd, and Elizabeth Anderson Martin. And even though his marriages have all ended, his love for each of his wives will outlast the stars. Here’s a look at the women the Star Trek icon has married.
William Shatner was married to his first wife, fellow Canadian Gloria Rand, from 1956 to 1969. William met Gloria on Dreams, one of a series of screenplays that he had written for the CBC. “While in Toronto…I was running around doing television, films, and writing. I wrote a television drama, in which I cast the girl that I subsequently married and became the mother of my three children,” Shatner said in an interview with the Archive of American Television in 1999. Shatner described his first wife as a “lovely, doe-like woman” who lived on “the edge of the pasture of life.”
The two got engaged after four months. They wed at the Toronto house where her parents lived. Over the next decade, they’d welcome three daughters: Leslie (b. 1958), Lisabeth (b. 1961), and Melanie Shatner (b. 1964).
“I must have been a hands-on dad because that’s what my children tell me,” Shatner told The Guardian in 2014. “In my mind, I was gone a lot of the time in an effort to make a living, so I am gratified that my kids think that they are who they are today because of my influence on them and my sense of being there for them – although it was only at weekends.”
“Admittedly, I wasn’t good at being married,” Shatner wrote in his 2008 autobiography. When his career took off in the 1960s, he felt that his success changed the dynamic of their relationship. “I was becoming a star; she was remaining my wife. And for an actor, the role of a star’s wife is not a very pleasant one to play.”
“I was working so hard to support my family and resented Gloria because I was getting so little joy out of my marriage,” he wrote, adding that his wife “probably [had] many reasons” to resent him. “Gloria stayed home with our girls, and it seemed like each week new and beautiful — and seemingly available — women showed up on the set.”
The distance – both metaphysical and literal, with Shatner staying away from home for months while shooting Star Trek – was too much for the marriage. The couple divorced in 1969.
Shatner met his second wife through work. They were both cast in The Anderson Trial, a 1970 television adaptation of a 1959 broad play by Saul Levitt. “I was down on my luck, and [director George C. Scott] wanted a female — it was an all-male cast — to run lines with the actors. And Bill was the only one who wanted to run lines with me because his part was bigger than Hamlet. And I fell in lust with him,” Lafferty told the Washington Post in 1991. The couple married in 1973.
Lafferty is an actress of her own right. She appeared in Hawaii Five-O, Bronk, Barnaby Jones, and more. She worked with Shatner in his series, TJ Hooker, in the 1980s and Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1979. She also appeared as the title role in 2002’s Vivien Leigh.
However, the Washington Post noted that Shatner and Lafferty shared a mutual passion for horse breeding. “These horses are kept deliberately a little wild, and they’re very dangerous if you’re not an experienced rider. Being at one with a horse as passionate as that is to have an epiphany,” Shatner told the Washington Post. “They’re like these wonderful divas. I mean they’re like Maria Callas and Baryshnikov,” added Lafferty.
After nearly two decades together, William Shatner and Marcy Lafferty divorced in 1996. “The failure of our marriage certainly wasn’t her fault,” Shatner wrote in his autobiography. “Where divorce is concerned, it takes two to tangle. And I played my part. I certainly played my part.”
“The reality of some marriages is that over time, a husband and wife grow apart,” he added. “Their needs and desires changed. Marcy realized that; in fact, she once told a reporter, ‘Life took us apart, and it was time to move on.'”
Their love of horses would become an issue years after the divorce when Marcy would sue him for “breach of contract over breeding privileges of three American saddlebred stallions,” per the AP. She claimed they had an agreement for him to provide semen from three of their horses in a “freshly cooled format” and that his decision to give her the semen “in frozen form is unacceptable. … Potential buyers of the breeding privileges do not want the semen in frozen format.”
“I have all the anger, rage, desire, and sensuality about me as when I was 20,” Shatner told the New York Times in 1994. “I’ve been uplifted and supported in every sense of that word by Star Trek. The only thing I didn’t allow was for it to be the only thing in my life. My personal life is in turmoil now, renewing itself. The professional, too.”
William Shatner met Nerine Kidd “in the bar of a hotel” in Toronto when he was in town shooting a project. “I was there meeting an old friend of mine,” he wrote in his autobiography. “and we were laughing maybe too loudly, and I looked over his shoulder and saw her.” Nerine was an actress and a model from Boston, and she had an instant connection with Shatner. The first days of a relationship are a gift that lives forever in memory,” he wrote. “You always remember the smiles and the laughter and the moments of discovery.”
“I married Nerine against the advice of my family and friends. Against my own good sense. But I absolutely worshipped her, and I thought, stupidly, that I could heal her,” Shatner told the Sydney Morning Herald in 2008. He and Kidd wed in 1997, with his Star Trek costar and lifelong friend, Leonard Nimoy, as his best man.
You know, Leonard Nimoy telephoned me just before I married Nerine,” Shatner told the Morning Herald. “He said just one sentence, ‘Bill, you do know that Nerine is an alcoholic.’ I’m not sure what Leonard expected me to say. ‘I know she is,’ I told him. ‘But I love her.’ Leonard didn’t speak for a minute, and then he said, sadly, ‘Well, Bill, then you are in for a rough ride.'”
“Our wedding day was wonderful,” Shatner said later in the interview. “Nerine was sober, and we went to bed that night ecstatic. I woke up the next morning at eight, and she was drunk. Later, I found she had hidden bottles of vodka all over the house.”
Nimoy, out of loyalty to his friend, “tried desperately hard to help” Kidd with her alcoholism. “He had battled his own demons with the bottle when we were making Star Trek,” said Shatner. “He kept it hidden so well that none of us knew at the time. He didn’t get dry until the late ’80s, so when I introduced Nerine to him, he knew what an uphill struggle it would be if I married her. And he knew, too, the awful toll it takes on the person who loves an alcoholic.”
Sadly, it all fell apart. Nerine Kidd died on Aug. 9, 1999, when she drowned while alone in their house. An autopsy revealed significant levels of alcohol and Valium in her system; authorities ultimately ruled out foul play. During that period, rumors swirled around whether or not Shatner was involved in her death, even though he was never considered a suspect.
“I remember diving into the pool,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald. “I had enough breath for one deep dive. One of her arms was floating above her, and I grabbed her by that arm and lifted her, pulling her towards the shallow end. I laid her by the pool. Her skin was blue. I remember every second; for someone to suspect I killed her? I gave my life to my wife because I loved her. I devoted myself to her until the day she died. And believe me, alcoholism had Nerine by the throat.”
“I don’t think you ever really get over an event like that,” he wrote in his autobiography. “You deal with the grief, then as that passes, you absorb the substance, and it becomes part of you.”
“During that period when we were together, we were so much in love, and she was drinking, but I didn’t understand addiction,” he would later tell The Guardian. “Subsequently, I was able to form a charity called the Nerine Shatner Foundation, which has a house, which is connected to a halfway house, and eleven women can live there.”
Elizabeth Anderson Martin
“After Nerine’s death, I had received hundreds of letters from people offering their condolences or advice or sympathy,” Shatner wrote in his autobiography. One letter from Elizabeth Anderson Martin caught his eye due to her excellent penmanship. The two had met through their shared love of horses since they often entered their steeds in the same competitions. “I remembered having thought in passing that she was a beautiful woman, but I don’t think we’d ever said more than a few words in passing,” he reflected in his book.
“She understood my grief because she had nursed her husband in cancer for a year and a half, who died about two years before Nerine died,” Shatner said in an interview on CNN’s Larry King Live in 2002 per the Irish Examiner. “I lucked out. You met my wife Elizabeth, a most wonderful, loving person. I was so lucky in finding somebody.
“Elizabeth is a strong, independent woman — and a very talented one,” he wrote in his autobiography. “She was a wonderful trainer, and the energy that once went into that now goes into our life together and her painting. She’s discovered her creative talents.” She used her horse training experience to co-hose the Hollywood Charity Horse Show, an event Shatner began in the 1980s to help raise money for children and veterans.
Martin and Shatner married in 2001. Sadly, the couple’s luck seemed to run out in March 2020, when they filed for divorce. “Nothing makes me sad at this age. … It’s all good here. It’s all good. I wish everyone well,” Shatner told The Mirror following the split. However, in May 2021, Shatner hinted in an interview with The Guardian that he might have reunited with Martin. She also reportedly joined him for his 90th birthday in 2021.