Did you grow up watching Star Trek like I did? Was Kirk, Picard, or one of the other, lesser captains of a titular starship or outpost a hero to you? Well, be prepared for William Shatner As Captain Kirk: The Movie, a film in which William Shatner can celebrate his most popular role, display his vast adoration for the crowds that adore him, and interview the subsequent Star Trek captains who hold reverence to him for allowing them to have jobs with incredible visibility. Do you get the hint that it’s self-serving, yet?
In the opening moments of the film, we watch Shatner fly to England to interview Patrick Stewart, but not before he receives a compliment from an airline CEO that Shatner influenced him in his role as a spaceship captain in a cancelled 60s-era TV show. Bill flips this around later in the film while chatting with Stewart about how influential he is. In my heart, Kirk and Picard are the only captains in Star Trek, so the film (read: Shatner, who wrote and directed) spends more time on Picard and, well, himself. It’s nothing against Sisko (Brooks), Janeway (Mulgrew), Archer (Bakkula), or New Kirk (Pine), but I really didn’t care for their shows, and Pine’s only been in the Star Trek sphere for less than two hours. It’s also obvious that those latter captains have had far less influence on Trek, so spending more time on them in a documentary designed to show their influence seems antithetical. In fact, if the movie had really just been two hours of Stewart interviews minus Shatner, it would’ve been ten times better.
Excuse my fanboyism, but all of these interviews would seem to have done better without Shatner. He takes his time interviewing the other Captains, but since he’s also profiling himself, he ends up answering the questions he asks others to provide context and introspection while they look on with a ‘oh, that’s pretty cool, I guess’ gaze. Shatner also dusts off his Shakespeare-ian roots, bringing in a tenuously-related interview with long-time pal Christopher Plummer (who played General Chang in the best Star Trek film ever made) who mentions not once, but twice during a five minute interview that he didn’t have to wear a Klingon headdress. That was pretty cool when I read it on Wikipedia years ago, and it seems incredibly unnecessary here. The most bizarre part of the film? Anything involving Deep Space Nine captain Avery Brooks, who is insane. He is completely off his rocker. Even Shatner seems out of his element while asking him questions, to which the primary response is a wide smile while he hammers away at a piano. Their attempts to philosophize about life and the universe while Brooks plays are even worse when Shatner says something and Brooks rebukes him (they barely touch on Sisko’s role, stock footage makes up for it). I wasn’t a DS9 fan, but maybe Brooks needed some stiff medication to keep his performance stable.
In reality, this could’ve been the coolest documentary ever, but instead it’s merely William Shatner And Friends. It was nice to see a personal side of the six noble figures of a massive science fiction empire, but as soon as Shatner reveals his m.o., the effect is ruined.