As a long-time Star Trek Original Series fan and a lifetime fan of William Shatner, I know quite a lot about both. When “The Captains” was made available to me for viewing on www.epix.com, I reluctantly settled in for what I thought would be nothing but a simple round of interviews with the various captains of all the incarnations of Star Trek.
What I didn’t expect was the high degree of personal truths that were thrown at me as if I were a catcher with too small a mitt. The stories, admonitions, regrets, and dark pain of each of the actors’ minds were hurled at lightning speed, so much so that I found I was having trouble keeping up.
Patrick Stewart seemed the stable force in all of this mish-mash. He discussed his interests in the role of Jean-Luc Picard (ST: NG) with eloquence and obviously careful thought. Clear of mind and imminently comfortable in his country retreat, he shone like a bright star.
Avery Brooks, who portrayed Benjamin Sisko (ST: DS9), was troublesome. In his role as a tenured professor he seems right at home, but when asked to express any emotion, he preferred to emote it through the keys of his piano. He sang, he prodded Shatner to improvise, and even got Shatner to show that yes, he can indeed sing. And all these years we thought he was completely tone deaf. Not so! Unfortunately, Brooks appeared to be light years away, floating in a dream of music.
Chris Pine was also briefly interviewed, and arm-wrestled with Shatner before opening up a little. Shatner seemed more delighted that he was looking at his own protege, perhaps, than Pine was of dealing with Shatner’s eccentricities. His interview was much too short, possibly because he was supposed to be filming at the time.
Kate Mulgrew (Janeway, ST: V) made for an interesting interview, in that she told a story from her beginnings as an actor, how she forced herself on later as a single mother, and how she managed to get things done. Certainly she seems a strong woman as well as a contemporary for Shatner to bounce off of.
Most surprising and delightful was Scott Bakula, who seemed nothing like his Star Trek character, Captain Archer, was full of glee, joy and inner light, He expressed his life as a Star Trek captain with clarity and affection despite it being the only Star Trek series to fail.
Mr. Shatner managed to weave his own history into most of the actors’ interviews, and seemed a bit too preoccupied with his own journey as he ran from city to city, chasing down his interviewees. Most of his stories were well known, but he added a smart Easter egg: a short talk with Christopher Plummer, with whom he’s worked in Canada many years before Star Trek was created. What stood out the most about his interview process was that he kept commenting on his own feelings about Captain Kirk, how he resented the character and the role, and how he’d learned to deal with it through this series of interviews. This seemed much too much like a false revelation, a marketing ploy, and a real Shatnerism. It’s too bad, for if he had kept this film a little less about himself and his own ego, and a bit more about everyone else, this might have been a very poignant memoir for all the Captains of Star Trek.