The Captains - A Film By William Shatner
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Sitting in a starship captain's chair is a big job. Making a documentary about the actors whose posteriors have occupied that hallowed space through four decades of "Star Trek" and its spin-offs takes a big man. Thank the Vulcan gods that William Shatner was available.
In "The Captains," which Mr. Shatner wrote and directed, he interviews the five performers who have succeeded him as "Star Trek" leaders, on starships or space stations: Patrick Stewart, Avery Brooks, Kate Mulgrew, Scott Bakula and Chris Pine. The film will make its debut on Friday on the Epix premium-cable channel and epixhd . com as part of Shatnerpalooza, a conglomeration of television marathon, film screenings and live appearances.
A couple of observations: Mr. Shatner is pretty much always available. The Biography channel is now showing the second season of his interview show, "Aftermath With William Shatner." He has a new album, "Searching for Major Tom," due out later this year. He will accept your homage on Facebook (90,000 fans and counting) and let you know when he's coming to a convention near you.
And, as you might have guessed: "The Captains" turns out to be largely about William Shatner. That's not a criticism. Mr. Shatner's genial, relaxed self-absorption is a large part of his charm, along with his odd cadences and his unparalleled knack for blurring the line between pomposity and sincerity. He has a kind of reverse Midas effect: everything he touches should turn creepy, but somehow it doesn't.
Much of the fun of watching "The Captains" is waiting to see just how shameless a huckster and self-promoter Mr. Shatner can be. You don't have to wait long. He starts his journey by flying to England to visit Mr. Stewart, and on the tarmac he greets an executive of the aerospace company whose plane will carry him. It's a blatant product placement, but it's more than that: in the course of the conversation, it comes out that the man's career choice was inspired by "Star Trek." "He became an aeronautical engineer because of me!" Mr. Shatner says, with limpid satisfaction.
This two-for-one reciprocal endorsement is so good that it's brought up again near the end of the film, in a rather astounding monologue delivered to Mr. Stewart. Hearing the engineer's story, Mr. Shatner says, has cured him of his long-standing embarrassment about playing Capt. James T. Kirk. It's a lengthy anecdote that includes an ever so slightly bitter reference to the Emmy nominations Leonard Nimoy received for the original "Star Trek." Mr. Stewart can only nod, his face frozen in what looks like deep apprehension for what his supposed interviewer will say next.
"The Captains" has many more moments like that, which makes it pretty tolerable as vanity projects go. And it should be catnip for Trekkers and Trekkies, a number of whom are seen at a Las Vegas "Star Trek" convention reacting to Mr. Shatner's presence with appropriate reverence. ("Oh my God," a woman says. "I was this close.")
Striding among the booths, he encounters a series of actresses who are there to make money off their "Trek" connections -- Jeri Ryan, Sally Kellerman, Grace Lee Whitney (the ageless Yeoman Rand). Each time he turns to the camera and says, this was the most beautiful girl in the history of "Star Trek." And each time, you almost think he means it. -- The New York Times, July 21, 2011
Top Customer Reviews
Shatner is a living spectacle of his own accord. He is controversy and entertainment wrapped into one. And unfortunately, his package deal sometimes comes off a bit pompous and egotistical. Few people really like someone who may revel in the enjoyment of his own voice. Shatner at times does this, and yet... if you can get past that veneer, underneath you will find a very fascinating and earnest man. He is someone who lucked into a legendary role that has made him supremely famous, something that for a long period he derided, yet eventually relented and embraced. He is flawed, he knows he is flawed, but he admits it openly with sincerity. I admire him now, more than I ever did.
"You either love him or you hate him," is how I've often heard Shatner described. And in various on-line forums that I've had the pleasure to read, you'll see a wide range of polarized opinions about him. Love him or hate him, he played a very important part in the world of Star Trek. He is essential.
NOTE: There's a review of this movie up on the New York Times website, worth a read. The author hit the nail on the head saying that Shatner's "genial, relaxed self-absorption is a large part of his charm."
So, "The Captains"... Shatner is typical Shatner in some respects, and yet he is also so much better than that. He usually behaves as alpha male, and yet he is ingratiating with his guests. He loves to talk about himself, and yet he is also genuinely interested in others. Making this film was a very humbling experience for Shatner and you can see it in the content.Read more ›
But I came back to it, for what I would estimate as the last 3/4, and to say it redeemed itself would be an understatement. Like any eccentric character, you have to warm up to Shatners antics, and look for the sincerity amongst the ego. He'll interrupt Patrick Stewart, who is making a profound thought verbal, with some inconsequential question about the smallest of detail, yet tie it all together before its over with and give everyone enough latitude to truly make the interviews two-way. This is a unique but highly interactive interview technique, and as I saw more of it, I grew to like it.
There are some moments, as mentioned before with Avery, that leave you chuckling uncomfortably, but the majority of interactions between Shatner and his fellow captains are earnest, heartfelt, painful, uplifting, and humorous. Pine is the weakest link, but his time on this earth is a fraction of the others. Scott Bakula's catharsis with Shatner about divorce was poignant, and Stewart's earnestness about the love of his craft left me misty-eyed.
Speaking of misty-eyed, the shots from the convention really reminded me what I think most of us that love Star Trek are in it for: the celebration of the ideals and universe that Roddenberry imagined and many have developed into the mythos we have today.Read more ›
There were some touching moments in this documentary. Even through Shatner's ego, I could see his vulnerability regarding his relationship with his larger-than-life character, Captain Kirk. He makes an honest attempt to bring the other actors into that light as well, but ultimately he kind of fails. It was hard to watch as the other actors started to get irritated with him and either talked over his interruptions or fell silent with a pained look on their face. I liked the Patrick Stewart and Scott Bakula interviews. The Chris Pine interview didn't get too much attention and the arm wrestling scene was just weird, but his role as Captain Kirk wasn't as significant as Shatner's anyway.
Totally uncomfortable and almost painful to watch were the Avery Brooks and Kate Mulgrew segments. Those two represented modern-day minority actors so their portrayals of Sisco and Janeway in positions of influence always topped my list of inspiring characters. So I was kind of disheartened to see that Avery Brooks seems to be suffering from some kind of mental illness ... or maybe he's just gotten VERY eccentric. Either way, not even Shatner seemed comfortable with the turns his interview took. The way Avery Brooks talked through most of his interview reminded me of the crazy babbling I find printed on the label of every Dr. Bronner's Castile Soap bottle I buy.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Decent piece. Even though it does include interviews with the "other" Captains, Shatner is definitely driving the discussions. Read morePublished 1 day ago by Gerald H
I REALLY enjoyed the conversations with all of the Captains of one of my favorite programs!Published 1 day ago by writerlyn
Avery Brooks is absolutely high for all of his segments. The others were interesting. I feel cheated by the (extremely) short segment with Chris Pine.Published 1 month ago by Young Bones, M.D.
I was impressed with Shatner as interviewer. He is clearly having a ball interviewing the other people who sat in the Captain's chair. Fun for us Trekkies as well.Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
Great documentary. Fascinating interviews that show the benefits and hardships of being the Captain in a Trek show. Worth a watchPublished 2 months ago by hetaanma
I love documentaries and I love Star Trek so I thought I would enjoy this movie. I was wrong. There were very few details offered about Star Trek. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Book Reviewer