William Shatner ‘Appalled’ by IRS Star Trek Video

The man who played Captain Kirk is not amused by an IRS training video featuring his iconic character.

The man who played Captain Kirk is not amused by an IRS training video featuring his iconic character.

The Hill (“Shatner ‘appalled’ by IRS ‘Trek’ spoof“):

William Shatner said he is “appalled” by the Internal Revenue Services’s spoof of “Star Trek” — the television show that made him famous for his portrayal of Captain James Kirk.

Last week, the IRS apologized for spending $60,000 on the parody, which was intended to be used as a training video. Lawmakers — and now the show’s star actor — have blasted it as a senseless use of taxpayer money.

“So I watched that IRS video. I am appalled at the utter waste of U.S. tax dollars,” Shatner tweeted Tuesday Morning.

As of this writing, it’s been retweeted 573 times and favorited 212 times.

Apparently, the IRS is more creative than we thought, having made a series of these videos for employee training a few years back.  Now that the news is public, the agency has seen the error of its ways.  From an earlier Hill report (“IRS: ‘Star Trek’ and ‘Gilligan’ training videos were a mistake”):

The Internal Revenue Service says it regrets making two $60,000 training videos in 2010 that parodied the popular TV shows, “Star Trek” and “Gilligan’s Island.”

In the wake of congressional criticism of the two videos, the IRS said it has taken steps to make “wise use of taxpayer funds while ensuring a tone and theme appropriate for the nation’s tax system,” according to the Associated Press.

The IRS videos are the latest instance of lawmakers cracking down on expensive parody films made and used for training exercises by federal agencies to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars.

In October the head of human resources for the Department of Veterans Affairs resigned after an inspector general’s report found that the agency spent $6.1 million on two weeklong conferences, one of which included $49,516 to produce a parody video of the late-Gen. George S. Patton.

Chairman of the House Ways and Means oversight subcommittee Charles Boustany (R-La.) blasted the IRS’s videos that were recently discovered, telling the AP that they were a “frivolous” waste of money.

“There is nothing more infuriating to a taxpayer than to find out the government is using their hard-earned dollars in a way that is frivolous,” said Boustany. “The IRS admitted as much when it disclosed that it no longer produces such videos.”

Commenters on both stories are rightly outraged by this waste of money. Too many are directing it at President Obama, as if the White House signs off on this sort of low level decision.

The more reasonable inquiry is: What now? That is, Ways and Means is quite reasonably investigating. But will anyone actually be held accountable? Or will the apology be the end of it? My guess is the latter.

FILED UNDER: Bureaucracy, Popular Culture, US Politics, , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. NickTamere says:

    …rightly outraged…reasonably investigating….held accountable…

    Can one of the offended explain what it is specifically about the videos that causes offense- production values? the humor? the Star Trek license? Do you feel that the costs are out of line compared with the production of most corporate training videos? Are they bad training videos? Do you feel that they should not have done training videos at all?

    (As a point of reference, a good wedding videographer can cost upward of $5K a day and that’s not including the cost of sets, actors, and anything else required for a scripted training video.)

  2. James Joyner says:

    @NickTamere: These are humorous videos for a conference, not some sort of training film that will be used hundreds of times. It’s absurdly extravagant.

  3. ernieyeball says:

    @NickTamere: You are posing reasonable questions. But can they even be asked in a political environment?

  4. MarkedMan says:

    Here’s a question worth asking: was the information retention higher for the parody videos then for the standard training videos? If so, was it enough to justify the cost?