It was just last September when I saw “The Wrath of Khan” in a theater again. This second visit within such a short time reflects my love of the film, but more importantly, it was a special event that gave me an opportunity to encounter Captain Kirk IRL. William Shatner is making the rounds this year in an experience for fans that has slim production values but great emotional depth.
Let me say, that whatever it is that William Shatner and Mel Brooks are eating in their lives, order me a plate. Brooks is 97 and Shatner turns 92 this year. If you have ever been to a live event with either of these gentlemen, you will know why I am impressed with their diet or exercise regime. These guys are as sharp as a tack and have boundless amounts of energy. I’ve seen Brooks a couple of times at the TCM FF and a presentation of “Blazing Saddles“. He has a boundless energy, like a kid with ADHD. This was my first time seeing Shatner live, but it was close to having lightning strike twice in the same place. He takes the stage, walks through the opening segment with commanding authority, and is never less than enthusiastic while talking to us.
The host who was interviewing him was in the same situation that I saw the hosts in the Brooks presentations found themselves, hardly able to focus the subject of the interview as he was overwhelmed with content, stories, stream of consciousness meanderings and quick quips. Yes the Captain spoke a bit about Wrath of Khan, but he also talked about the Original Series, The Robert Wise Star Trek The Motion Picture, and a bucket load of philosophical thought that seemed to overflow his brain.
I’m sure he has told some of these stories before, but nothing that happened at this event sounded like it was pre-planned or anything less than spontaneous. A couple of things that he mentioned about “Wrath of Khan” are worth noting. He said that the scene with he and Leonard Nimoy, in the engine room at Spock’s death, was shot with the glass separating them and unable to do more than press their hands against the glass, was his suggestion. He also mentioned that his “favored nations” contract allowed him the same treatment as his friend Leonard Nimoy, and that after Star Trek III, he was supposed to direct Star Trek IV, but his TV contract with T.J. Hooker, prevented him from taking that opportunity. He was very complimentary of Nicholas Meyer, the director, who wrote and directed another Trek film, and dated Shatner’s daughter at one point.
Shatner also confessed that he had not seen the other Star Trek films, so he was unfamiliar with the cast, and he shared an anecdote about accidentally stealing lines from a young actress (we think it was Zoe Saldana) at an event where they both appeared at the podium and he simply read everything on the teleprompter. He mocked himself a couple of times about the strange takes his career has followed, but he is quite proud that he has a song and music video coming that reflects an artistic level that he was once mocked for. His story about the Carson show was pretty amusing, he had to cut down a song routine that he did where he mixed his words and ideas in a mash up with contemporary songs. He ended up singing “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” without his contextual material and Johnny Carson was mouthing “WTF” in the background at his desk.
When the host started asking the questions that the audience had submitted, Shatner gave answers, but they were not always direct. He joked that the host could ask anything he wanted, but that the answer might not always go in the direction that was expected. For example, he was asked why he continues to work, and make an effort like he was doing last night, when he is probably well off enough and old enough to skip it. While Shatner did say it was about boredom, he said it in a way that was anything but boring. The question about his reaction to traveling to space last year, was elaborate, enthusiastic and went in some strange but fascinating directions. It was not ultimately tied to the Star Trek question contained in the initial query, but it was close enough and interesting enough that no one seemed to care.
William Shatner spoke for an hour after the screening. The film itself sounded great in the concert hall that is the Long Center here in Austin. It is a beautiful venue, but could maybe use a slightly bigger screen for film presentations. I did see people come in late, and while the show was not sold out, the house looked above 75% and everyone there seemed pleased with the event.