Before he became a household name for his portrayal of tough as nails Steve McGarrett on Hawaii Five-O, Jack Lord was an actor who appeared in movies and television during the 1950's and 1960's. Although work never eluded him, he couldn't land a solid gig. His TV western Stoney Burke only lasted a season. However this didn't stop Mr. Lord from plugging ahead and he continued to land guest star roles on television and occasional film roles.
One might think that someone trying to get the big break that would propel them into lasting stardom might be flexible but not Jack Lord. After he landed the role of Felix Leiter in Dr. No, he asked for co-starring credit, a bigger role, and a larger salary to appear in Goldfinger. Goldfinger's director Guy Hamilton recast the part and Lord missed out in a recurring role in a film series that would become legendary.
Mr. Lord's acting chops caught the attention of producers. One such producer was Gene Roddenberry who was looking for someone to play Captain James Kirk for his new series Star Trek (the show's previous lead Jeffrey Hunter, was shown the door after Hunter's wife proved to be a cosmic pain in the neck). According to William Shatner, Mr. Lord was offered the role until he asked for 50% of the show's profits. Mr. Roddenberry balked and the role went to William Shatner.
However what if Mr. Lord had accepted the role? Suppose Mr. Lord had dropped his demands for 50 % ownership (or even suppose that Mr. Roddenberry gave in to the ridiculous stipulation). Would Jack Lord have succeeded as starship captain James T. Kirk?
As anyone who has seen Hawaii Five-O can attest, Mr. Lord had the stage presence to pull off a leading role. There's no question in my mind that he could play a lead in a dramatic television series.
However that doesn't mean that he was the right man to play James T. Kirk. First off, Lord was a little bit too stiff for the role. While Captain Kirk was portrayed as a strong leader, he also had a boyish sense of humor. Could Jack Lord pull this off? After watching Mr. Lord in multiple episodes of Hawaii Five-O, I have to say no. While Mr. Lord was no stiff, he really didn't have the same comedic range as Mr. Shatner. Sure, Steve McGarrett shared the occasional laugh with his Five-O team but I just can't picture him having the snappy banter that William Shatner exchanged with his Star Trek stars.
More importantly, I don't think that Mr. Lord's approach to acting would have lent itself to Star Trek's format. Mr. Lord was THE star on Hawaii Five-O. The series regulars who appeared with him never received co-star billing and their role on the show was for the most part, as window dressing for Steve McGarrett's character. This approach worked on Hawaii Five-O but it would not have worked on Star Trek.
Star Trek revolved around the characters of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. Sure, William Shatner was the show's lead but as the show evolved, the stories focused on the triad of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy (this would become even more evident when McCoy's DeForest Kelley received starring credit during the show's opening credits). One of the major factors in Star Trek's popularity was the dramatic (and sometimes comedic) interaction between the three characters' personalities.
It's difficult seeing Star Trek having the same chemistry with Mr. Lord as Captain Kirk. If Mr. Lord played Captain Kirk as THE star of the show, the character of Mr. Spock (who became wildly popular amongst the show's fans) would never have broken out. Dr. McCoy's role might have diminished as well. I cannot imagine Star Trek working without all three main characters . Had Mr. Lord dominated the show the way that he did on Hawaii Five-O, the show probably wouldn't have lasted more than one season.
With the advantage of hindsight, it's clear that things worked out for the best for everyone involved. William Shatner went on to play his greatest role while Jack Lord finally found the lasting success that had eluded him. Mr. Lord starring role as Steve McGarrett on Hawaii Five-O (which lasted an incredible twelve seasons) made him a household name.
Look past the bad Photoshopping and ask yourself-could Jack Lord have portrayed Captain James T. Kirk?