A decade before he first travelled the galaxy in Star Trek, William Shatner was a Stratford Festival sensation and, on Monday night, festival organizers toasted his achievements at a Toronto gala.

Friends and colleagues paid tribute to the veteran Montreal-born actor, Stratford's 2013 recipient of its Legacy Award, at a celebration in his honour at Toronto's Four Seasons Hotel.

Shatner, 82, joined the southern Ontario theatre troupe in 1954 and spent three seasons there. He performed in nine productions (including The Taming of the Shrew, Julius Caesar and The Merchant of Venice) as well as in a tour of Tamburlaine the Great that travelled to Toronto and New York.

One performance of note was when the young Shatner understudied Christopher Plummer in Stratford's acclaimed 1956 production of Henry V.

Shatner found pop culture fame in TV's Star Trek, first appearing as James T. Kirk in 1966 and continuing as the memorable spaceship captain in subsequent films. His TV credits also include T.J. Hooker, The Practice and Boston Legal, which earned him Emmy and Golden Globe Awards. He is also a recording artist and author of more than two dozen books.

Stratford presented its inaugural Legacy Award to Christopher Plummer, who spent 12 seasons in the company, in 2011. Last year's recipient was British star Maggie Smith, who spent four seasons with the festival in the late 1970s.