We chatted to William Shatner at San Diego Comic Con about everything from life on other planets to his enduring legacy as Captain James T. Kirk and his upcoming documentary called Get A Life.
Based on Shatner’s hugely popular book, this film examines the mystery, longevity and the cultural phenomena of Star Trek and its long-obsessed fans known as “Trekkers.” On the surface, the film is an exploration of strangers who have for years attended conventions which looked foolish and almost laughable to some – but Shatner discovers the many secrets and hidden motives behind these individuals’ compulsion to attend these events. The end result is a film that reveals a fun and touching side of the fanfare surrounding Star Trek, and examines the thrill of what’s happening at these fantasy conventions and the enduring popularity of the film and TV series as Shatner further embraces his role as Captain James T. Kirk and his own impact.
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us. Tell us a little bit about the movie.
The documentary is called Get A Life and it’s about people who come to Comic Con and people who attend Star Trek conventions. I did a sketch a couple of years ago called Get A Life and its humour resonated, as it was meant to do and then some time later I asked myself ‘who are all these people I’m talking to’ and I wrote a book (also called get A Life) in which I conclude that they’re coming to these conventions to see each other and renew old friendships and be a part of the community. That was the conclusion of the book. But when I asked that same question again years later, this year, I found something very different; that there is something very ritualistic, very mystical and sociological about these conventions and that have a far deeper meaning than even the people themselves know.
Last year we saw you at a news conference and you were doing ‘Captains’, now you’re doing this one and both seem to be retrospectives on your career. What’s happening with you, Bill Shatner?
I’m dying! (laughs) Well, it’s true. I’m just not sure of where and when yet. It’s not that I want to leave a legacy… It’s just that I’m having a sense of an entirety, I’m beginning to see the ‘whole’ and I’ve been given the opportunity by Epix … to make this documentary. Doug Lee in fact. He has given me the opportunity to work on these documentaries. I’m working on one on Xena (Warrior Princess). Who goes to see Xena twelve years after it’s been cancelled? It’s far deeper than you understand. There is a depth (in the series) and it’s human. Who goes to Comic Con? It’s (the reason) far deeper than you understand and it’s far deeper than they understand. When they see this movie, I hope that they conclude, ‘my God, is that what I’ve been doing’?
You became famous for being Kirk, people identified you as Kirk and you wanted to get beyond that as an actor and to do other roles. And now, it seems that you have returned to Kirk, that you love being Kirk and being identified as him. Is that true?
I never disliked being Captain Kirk but the show was over, I moved on because I had to make a living. But the Star Trek franchise has been extraordinary and I love the genre, I love the imagination behind it; the emotional appeal, the curiosity about what’s out there. As you know, it’s staggering how much we don’t know; in fact what is staggering is knowing that we don’t know anything. We’re spreading rumours about what you know is only rumours. The science is evolving every two or three years and there are always new conclusions…it’s too complex for us to grasp.
Through your career and your writing you have inspired so many people to enter the sciences. How do you balance science with science fiction?
They’re both the same. An astrophysicist looking out there is thinking in terms of science fiction. He’s stargazing, wondering if it’s possible that a planet he’s looking at has heat or if it’s got water. Our earth is 5 billion years old, what happened for 10 billion years? What was evolving for 10 billion years?…you just know when you’ve done all the calculations that there’s got be life burgeoning at every corner of the universe. The distance between us is so enormous, The dark matter that we don’t see has got to have some life in it.
And with the addition of a limited edition Curicon issue #2 metal card in his back pocket, William Shatner heads off to his next appointment.
Get A Life will premiere on July 28 at 8pm EST on EPIX