"The Captains": Or, "William Shatner's Ego is Larger Than a Borg Cube"

Following the sage advice that MidnightFrost1701 gave me during a lengthy tangent in a recent thread, I logged into Netflix and looked up a 2011 documentary written and produced by William Shatner titled simply, The Captains. It is, as you might surmise, a retrospective on the lives of every person that has played the primary captain character in all of the Star Trek iterations, helpfully interrupted by endless pontificating from emceed by William Shatner.

(What? Of course this is a relevant topic for this blog. Dr. Leonard McCoy attended Ole Miss, and Georgia's playing the Fighting McCoy Bears today in basketball. So there!)

I have to admit that I went into the documentary with a skeptical eye... but I have a fondness for the absurd, and what I discovered was that this 96-minute film is a theatre of the absurd at its glorious height.

First of all, the real title of the film (as MidnightFrost1701 intimated) should really have been, "William Shatner interviews some people he probably doesn't even know, then struts around a Las Vegas Trek convention like the 81-year-old pimp that he is."

Hey, I know, brah... pimpin' ain't easy. (Via)

If you have the time and a Netflix subscription, I highly recommend that you go there now and watch this docu-drama, then come back and bask with me in its delightful glow. For those who don't have the time or means right now, however, I jotted down the following notes while I was watching:

General Observations and the Picard Chronicles

  • I can truthfully say that, from beginning to end, this film has Shat all over it.
  • Fun trivia time: Shatner got his break in Shakespearean acting as an understudy for a guy named Christopher Plummer. Plummer got sick one night, and the Shat got his big break. It just goes to show you that sometimes the understudy can have an even better career than whatever dude originally got the leading role. (Was that Plumber guy ever a naval officer in any good movies? Anyone? Anyone?)
  • I really like that, in addition to the captains, Shat's production crew helpfully interviews the first officers from TNG and DS9 (Johnathan Frakes and Nana Visitor), but also helpfully leaves out Leonard Nimoy, who nobody really cares about anyway. (I also think Adrian Beltran from Voyager was out doing some baseball thing or something couldn't make it.)
  • Here's a transcript of Shat's first interview excerpt with Patrick Stewart: "Hey, Patrick, listen to this 5 minute diatribe about how much I have changed people's lives with my great work! Oh, and you were awesome, too!" Stewart: "Yes, you were awesome, Shat. And I am only too happy to bask in your glory."
  • What I love the most about this whole film is near the end, when Patrick Stewart practically leads the Shat around by a nose ring, and Shat laps every minute of it up. Stewart says he's ok with being known only as Capt. Picard in spite of all the other great work he's done, and Shat says, "Wow, you just made me reach that same epiphany, too!!" (Patrick Stewart then politely declined to remind Shatner that he hadn't done any great work since Star Trek. Or before. Or during.)
  • Based on the face-to-face interactions between the two, it's obvious to me now that if Kirk were ever pitted against Picard, the latter would simply sit down with Kirk around a conference table, and within 30 minutes, Kirk would be sitting there drooling and staring in awe while Picard sawed the top of his head off Hannibal-style and started removing pieces of Kirk's brain and serving them back to him sauteed with shallots and olive oil. And Kirk would thank him for it.

Avery Brooks

  • Dude. Every scene with Avery Brooks is like what a Jackson Pollock painting would be if it came to life. He definitely has some of teh crazie in him now.
  • Most of the scenes with Brooks consist of Shat just sitting on the edge of the piano staring provocatively at Brooks, and Brooks just jazzing and crazying it up. I don't know if this is the case in real life, but the way they cut this documentary made him look just as out of his gourd as the "Apple Annie" old-lady hobo Shat interviewed on the streets of NYC.
  • My favorite scene with Brooks was near the end. You see Shat trying to improvise along with Brooks as he plays the piano and sings... and then you realize in a stunning moment of clarity that Shat's the crazy one and Brooks is just stringing him along in a master stroke of playing off the original crazy with even more crazy.

Scott Bakula (I don't have to go in chronological order here, it's my review, dang it.)

  • "Surreal" was one way to describe the experience of hearing Shat talk religion with Scott Bakula, that noted quantum theologian and master of the philosophical leap.
  • And it might have been just me, but I thought Bakula went out of his way to say, "LOL QUANTUM LEAP, YOU KNOW THAT OTHER SUCCESSFUL SHOW I HAD," as much as possible.
  • Also, gotta give props to Bakula for inadvertently saying (100% seriously) that the cast of Enterprise was complete shyte compared to the The Original Series cast. Thanks, cap!
Kate Mulgrew
  • Mulgrew's story of trying to do the series while be a single mother at the same time was touching. It would have been more moving, though, if she hadn't just admitted that she neglected her kids completely and never saw them, to the point that her kids hated her for years and never watched a single episode of Voyager. (Ahhhh, treasured family moments.)
  • It was hilarious when Kate Mulgrew asked Shat if he thought there was a life after death, and made it clear she wanted a serious answer. Shat responded by talking about chugging a cold beer after a hot workout and passing out. (Then he admitted that he was scared of death and just didn't want to think about it... which is probably why his portrayal of Kirk's death in Star Trek:Generations sucked so much.)
Christopher Pine
  • His interview was genuinely interesting. As is usually the case when an older actor interviews a younger one, the differences in culture and mannerism are glaringly obvious. if you stand a Chris Pine (the real person) next to any of the previous actors who have played a captain, his "2010 Hollywood culture" mindset becomes very apparent. It's hard for me to put into words exactly what that means, other than to point you to the HBO series Entourage.
  • In spite of the huge culture gap, Pine actually came across as very thoughtful and insightful when it came to the role of the "new Captain Kirk." He bantered with the Shat well, and generally carried himself professionally and made an excellent impression. (That is, when Shat wasn't forcing him to arm-wrestle him on the sidewalk in front of the Paramount Studios.)
So have you seen the documentary? If not, why not? And how crazy do you think Avery Brooks actually is? Crazier than William Shatner? Is such a thing even possible?
Discuss... and

Go Dawgs!

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