After 36-Year Mission, Man Finally Learns William Shatner Is Not His Dad

DNA tests reveal Peter Shatner (formerly Sloan) is not the son of Canadian icon William Shatner, the man he once sued for $170 million for denying paternity.
December 4, 2020, 11:00am
​Peter Shatner (L) in a 2011 photo with a man who is not his father, William Shatner
Peter Shatner (L) in a 2011 photo with a man who is not his father, William Shatner. Photo courtesy Peter Shatner. 

After a decades-long mission to prove Canadian William Shatner was his dad, Peter Shatner now says his biological father was not, in fact, the Star Trek actor. 

The 62-year-old insurance salesman based in Tampa Bay, Florida, began his quest to find his biological parents four decades ago. He learned that his mother, Kathy Burt, was an actress; the two reunited in Toronto, where they established a loving relationship.

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“For me, that was enough,” Peter told VICE World News. “I was really only interested in knowing who my mom was.”

Then, one evening in 1984, Peter was watching a Star Trek rerun with his biological mother, and a close-up shot of its star flashed on the screen. “Dad!” Peter blurted out. His mother immediately said, "Yes!"

According to Peter, Burt claimed that his biological father could have been one of two men: Shatner, or a man she knew simply by a nickname, “Chick.” (William Shatner has said he did not know Burt.) 

Peter was struck by the sheer physical resemblance he shared with the Star Trek star. 

Through connections, he claimed he managed to have a meeting with the star shortly afterwards, then appearing in the 80s police drama T.J. Hooker. Peter claimed William Shatner ushered him back into his trailer to talk for a couple of hours in a break during shooting. “We both cried,” Peter said, a scene he recounts in his self-published 2016 book, The Search: How I met my father William Shatner. (William Shatner, through a spokesperson, has long denied this meeting ever took place.)

Peter has claimed, both in interviews and in court documents, that after the alleged meeting he received a phone call from “someone who sounded very lawyerly” about a week later, telling him that William Shatner did not believe the two were related.

Peter insisted he was absolutely fine with this and had “plenty of other things to keep (him) busy” until earlier this decade. 

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But the father of six found his curiosity was piqued again in 2011 when one of his daughters suggested they attend a fan convention and meet up with the elder Shatner. They did, and, after the three had their photo taken together, she became quite emotional about the physical similarity between her father and the Montreal-born actor. 

Peter, then going by his previous name Peter Sloan, began publicly asking for a DNA test, so that the question of paternity could finally be cleared up. This triggered what could perhaps best be described as an almost decade-long episode of The Maury Povich Show (the celebrity edition).

Many of William Shatner’s denials only led Peter to believe he was on to something. At one point, Shatner denied ever having met Peter’s biological mother. But someone then sent Peter photos of a CBC TV episode from 1955 in which William Shatner and Kathy Burt appeared together.

There were some other similarities if you squint. William Shatner, of course, has a resume of Krusty the Clown proportions, having worked as an actor, author, singer, producer, director, and screenwriter over seven decades. Peter has also proven himself quite versatile; beyond his main gig as a life insurance salesman, his Facebook profile includes singer, songwriter, filmmaker, writer, radio personality, stockbroker, and magician.

In 2016, some saw his quest to learn the truth about his paternity in a cynical light, when Peter sued William Shatner for $170 million for libel, defamation, and slander. He conceded that this could easily look like he was looking to profit from their possible relationship, but now says he was just suing for such a huge amount “to get Shatner’s attention, and that worked.”

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The case was thrown out of court, but Peter did legally change his name to Peter Shatner in 2019.

He now says he’s not sure if he will change his name back again. “It’s actually quite a hassle to have your name changed; you have to have all your IDs changed, including your passport,” he said.

Peter said he learned about who his biological father was after entering his DNA on several heredity sites. He also worked with a heredity specialist who helped him to track down possible leads. He connected with a woman a DNA test revealed was his half sibling, which led him to who his biological father was.

He is now sorry he never got to connect with his biological father, who died years ago. But Peter said he was intrigued to find they had something in common. “He was also a life insurance salesman,” he said. “What are the odds?”

And he said while there are no hard feelings, he finds a silver lining to his well-(self-)publicized, mediated trek to learn if he was or wasn’t William Shatner, Jr: “I became the most famous life insurance salesman of all time.”

VICE World News reached out to William Shatner for comment but did not receive a response by press time.