For the last 8 years of my life there has been only one actor to me besides William Shatner that has been Captain James T. Kirk, and that is James Cawley. Watching James as Kirk as a fan for the first 4 years of that span and the last 4 as a crew member of Star Trek: Phase II. In that span these episodes were released: "In Harm's Way", "To Serve All My Days", "World Enough and Time", "Blood and Fire Parts 1 and 2", "Enemy: Starfleet!" and "The Child."
I have to be honest, the reason I liked James so much as Kirk before I met him in person was because he was not Shatner and didn't try to be Shatner. There have been people who have criticized him by saying he's not Kirk because he isn't Shatner or Pine. I maintain that without James and Phase 2, there would be no JJ Trek movie, and therefore no Chris Pine Kirk. Besides, James is not Shatner... James embodies Kirk with his personality and his body language.
As a crew member I was amazed and dazzled by James. I was unprepared for his charisma, generosity and friendship, that to me is James. And as an actor, he has so much range... in fact on an episode I was the Script Supervisor, I was about ready to kill him because he kept changing and playing with his lines... but it only made the scene better, because he is in the head of Captain Kirk, and knows what he thinks and feels, so he knows how to get the best out of himself for the role.
I have to be honest... I was shocked and heart-broken when I heard about James stepping down as Captain Kirk, it was almost like watching Spock die in "The Wrath of Khan". And James has his reasons for leaving the role, but during the June shoot he was as happy as I have ever seen him. And honestly I understand his reasons for doing this, I know that every crew member on Phase 2 is sad that an era is about to close, but as James has said our job is to have fun and to continue to make our episodes better and better each time out. To that end Brian Gross will take over the center-seat from "Bread and Savagery" on. James and I have raved about Brian looking like William Shatner, but also acting like Captain Kirk. I look forward to working with Brian in the fall for "Troublesome Minds" written by Dave Galanter. I would also look out for Brian's first appearance as Captain Kirk soon, if the posts I am reading are correct.
And, don't worry... there are still a couple of Phase II episodes of James as Captain Kirk, to end his historic run as James Tiberius Kirk, "Kitumba" and "The Protracted Man". My final thoughts on James are these: William Shatner left some pretty big shoes to fill, and he did it without the aide of a girdle, he did it with his own style and presence. Although he is leaving the cast as the Captain, he will always be the Captain of the crew of Phase II as he continues to inspire us to go boldly... where no fan has gone before.
To the Great Bird of our Galaxy... Thank you James for everything, As Captain Kirk, a fan, an Executive Producer and a dear friend