It’s my pleasure to wish a very happy 82nd birthday to William Shatner. A man who apparently doesn’t know the meaning of the word retire. He is still going strong today as he was when he was a young man. So in his honour I will be looking at one of his most recent projects.
The Captains is a documentary about the different captains of the Star Trek franchise, obviously. Including Avery Brooks, Scott Bakula, Kate Mulgrew, Chris Pine, and of course William Shatner. A few people have wondered why other people weren’t in it like George Takei or Stephen Collins, who played William Decker in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. At first I was going to say that there wouldn’t be much to talk about because they were only captains for a film as opposed to a full TV series, but Chris Pine only has one movie and he got to be here. There was even time for a small clip with Christopher Plummer who is not a captain, just a really awesome villain so I think they could have included others captains and kept the film from getting too long. Well for whatever reason they’re not here so let’s talk about who is.
With Chris Pine I think he’s a little out of place being easily the youngest actor of the bunch, but I do like that there is talk about his early life , what he wanted to bring to the role of the new Kirk, even if I think that protryal is of an annoying asshole. And I really love the arm wrestling contest. Of course that is a whole play on the new Kirk versus Kirk debate in fandom, and we never get to see how it ends which I like. I like that we get to see the different hobbies everyone has. Avery with his piano playing, and I never knew he was a professor too. Bakula’s singing, people’s early careers, and love of theatre, and Shatner’s horse-back riding. I also adored Shatner coming to a new view about his relationship with the role of Captain Kirk. He had always seemed to see it something he shouldn’t be proud of, something frivolous and silly in a way, and now realizes that yeah good work was done there. That he has a legacy as that character and its positive one both for himself and for society, and that if he will be remembered for being Captain Kirk as Stewart will for being Captain Picard and that’s okay.
Another nice bit for Shatner was him talking about meeting the president of the Bombardier Company, who loaned the film crew a jet to get to all the places they needed to go. It seemed to contain the nugget of what would become his next project Get a Life!/Fan Addicts. Setting up the next step in his arc of coming to a new understanding of the way the fans view the franchise.
The clips from the convention at Las Vegas were kind of hit and miss for me. While it was a nice lead up to the clip near the end where he talks about filming the project during his panel I think some of it was a bit extraneous. Although watching Shatner randomly popping up in people’s pictures was hilarious, as was Picardo announcing that Shatner was sold out, and I like that we got to see a variety of people from the convention. From people in costumes to people just wearing the lanyards and regular street clothes, I thought that showed a nice variety of the fan base as opposed to something like Trekkies which I think skewed mainly to one side of the spectrum.
Now while this project is fun and funny to watch there are some things that I don’t like about it. Frankly I’m not sure what the heck to make of Shatner and Mulgrew’s conversation about men and women in show business thing. With the whole hormone line and how do women do certain roles in society thing I want to peg it as sexism, but Mulgrew makes the comment about show business being a boy’s club, and from an outsider’s point of view that seems to be the case. The most prominent and influential people in the industry both in the past and today tend to be male. But then there’s the issue of this whole women and children idea and how it’s different for men, but in the clip almost directly before this Bakula and Shatner were talking about how they never had time for their children or other relationships when working on the TV shows and it cost them their marriages so obviously there’s difficulty everywhere and no one can really have it all. Also single fathers do exist so the expectation that all men leave child-rearing to their wives is wrong, along with this whole children and career are separate things when there are lots of people out there that don’t have children, so for them that particular divide or difficulty isn’t there. I don’t know if anyone is really trying make a point here, and I honestly I go from being offended to just plain confused by that whole section, it really annoys me.
However, what doesn’t annoy me is the music. The soundtrack is lovely and was done by Andy Milne. It’s a great piano score that of course matched the clips of Avery Brooks with his piano, but it also has great upbeat moments and a wonderfully soft intimate tone that reinforces the intimacy that these interviews have. They’re getting at the heart of everyone as individuals what they think about, acting, their pasts, regrets, live and death and it’s really great. The only spot I don’t like the soundtrack is when it places over the clip of Picard playing the flute from ‘The Inner Light’. The Inner Light is a beautiful piece of music all on its own you don’t need to drown it out with other stuff.
What was really surprising to me though was how Shatner has certainly improved as a film director since his first attempt with Star Trek V. This film is far more focused and entertaining than that one was. He also has a nice interview style, making people comfortable and yet asking personal and interesting questions, probing for good responses and digging into them.
So overall I think it’s a great film. There are a couple of things that irk me, but as a whole it’s a very well made, interesting, and fun film that I think any fan of Star Trek should check out for themselves.