William Shatner – the legendary actor, Captain Kirk from the Star Trek series, will soon be the oldest man to fly into suborbital space with Blue Origin. We take a closer look at the profile of the man who is a science fiction icon – both on and off screen.
In the early 1970s. William Shatner was living in a trailer park and playing only small roles. A few years earlier, he was Captain James T. Kirk, a legend of the United Federation of Planets, the main character of the TV series “Star Trek”. However, the now iconic production was taken off the air, because it did not enjoy great popularity. The actor was left without a permanent job.
In retrospect, the 90-year-old Shatner calls these difficult few years of his life “this period”, treating them as an instructive experience. But like any true hero, he lived to see his comeback – to the world of Star Trek, to show business, and on Wednesday, October 13 – with Blue Origin’s next New Sherpad mission – will fly into suborbital space. He will thus become the oldest human to leave Earth. A role indeed worthy of someone of Captain Kirk status.
Star Trek – Shatner’s rebirth
The Canadian-born actor wasn’t the first choice of producers and creators to captain the Starship Enterprise, but today only fans of the series remember that. The Star Trek universe created by Gene Roddenberry deserves a person article, or even several, but the first association with this world for many is and will be William Shatner and his iconic role of James T. Kirk, for friends – “Jim”.
There is no such thing as the unknown, there are only things temporarily hidden
One of the wisdom of serial Captain Kirk
Screened on NBC from 1966 to 1969, the series did not have high ratings. Arguably, “Star Trek: The Original SeriesStar Trek: The Original Series” would have been forgotten along with many other productions of the time had it not been for reruns on local TV stations – with time, the crew of the Enterprise became so popular that NBC decided to revive the series. But then “Star Wars” entered theaters – so instead of a series, there was a theatrical film titled “Star Trek“. In 1979 Shatner returned to the captain’s chair and since then he has not stopped being a star and traveling among the stars.
Shatner continued to play the role of Captain Kirk in other big-budget productions until 1994 and the film “Star Trek: Generations”, teaming up with another captain from the world created by Roddenberry – Jean-Luc Picard. It was the Canadian actor’s official farewell to the cinematic universe, but for many it was meaningless, because he could not escape his iconic role – Shatner for some fans of the series was an object of worship. Sometimes an unhealthy one.
Kirk’s salvation and curse
Star Trek made a comeback in the 1970s thanks to the fans – if not for them, the brand would have disintegrated, using the nomenclature from the series. Thus was born one of the most active fandoms (fan groups) in the world – Trekkies. Salvation for Shatner, the rest of the actors from the series and the production itself became a partial problem over time. Some of the fans were able to be more than pushy. Kirk was promoted in the eyes of many to the role of a demigod, the archetypal superhero captain who always knows what to do and no member of the opposite sex, regardless of planet of origin, is able to resist him. Meanwhile, the series had a much deeper message, touching on very difficult themes, especially for the 1960s (including racial segregation), and the film’s Kirk himself was not without flaws.
You either believe in yourself or you don’t
One of the wisdoms of the serialized Captain Kirk
The apogee of fan fatigue was expressed by Shatner in a skit he prepared with the “Saturday Night Live” crew, delivering the message to a fanatical faction of Trekkies: “Get a life!”
The 1986 skit didn’t sit well with some fans, although in those days, without the Internet, this type of information spread differently. However, as we already know, Shatner never stopped playing Kirk despite being tired of the role and the archetype. The period after his return to Star Trek was also an attempt for him to gain popularity outside the science fiction series.
William Shatner – Rocket Man
Shatner recorded an album called “The Transformed Man” while still producing the first three seasons of “Star Trek: The Original Series”. Over the next years of his career, the Canadian gave the world another 10 discs with his sung works. Although they are not tragic albums, over time, some of the recordings became an element of derision, just like his interpretations of famous songs. To this day, Shatner is followed by a 1978 recording from a science fiction film awards gala where he performed his own version of Elton John’s song “Rocket Man.”
One of the most famous parodies of his performance comes from the animated series “Family Head”:
Shatner in the 1980s decided to swap his United Federation of Planets captain’s uniform for a police uniform while appearing in the TV series “T. J. Hooker.” However, it was not a big hit. It was simply difficult for the actor – as we have already established – to get out of the trap of being Kirk. Shatner’s popularity in those years and his connection with science fiction decided to use people responsible for promoting Commodore computers. Shatner became an ambassador of the brand, appearing in subsequent commercials. After years head of marketing Commodore mentioned in “The Retro Hour Podcast” that Shatner didn’t know anything about computers before recording the commercial. The company provided him with the equipment; the actor was very soon to throw away his typewriter and start using computers exclusively.
Writing was indeed something that was to accompany Shatner regularly over time. In the early 1990s, together with another writer, he brought to life a futuristic vision of the future called “TekWar,” in addition to helping write a series of books from the Star Trek universe and writing several memoirs.
New Shepard – Captain Shatner’s last mission
By the end of the 1990s, Shatner realized what – we would write today – his memeticism was all about. He regularly began appearing in movies and skits that more or less referenced his past as Captain Kirk. At the same time, he appeared in other roles, not necessarily related to the iconic series – one fueled the other. Over time, his past made its way onto the internet, including scenes that are parodied to this day, such as the duel between Kirk and Gorn:
Star Trek has been an inspiration to many scientists, engineers, computerStar Trek has inspired many scientists, engineers, computer scientists, and people from other walks of life over the years. Star Trek represented a vision of the world in which cooperation, science and faith in each other can overcome anything. Kirk has become one of the symbols of the series, and William Shatner represented that vision while having his own approach to fame. All of this has earned him cult status to this day and an invitation to fly New Shepard.
– I’m terrified. I know! I’m a cursed Captain Kirk, but I’m still terrified,” Shatner commented on his planned flight with Blue Origin at New York Comic Con last week.