January 25, 2000

William Shatner comes to speak at the University of Alabama.

Admission: Free for students, $5.00 for anyone else.

I barely got there in time, I stood against the wall drinking a Frappuccino.

Shatner's main points were

When someone does something so bad for so long, they actually can get better at it. I am (God, I hate to admit this) now un-muting the TV when I see one of these PriceLine commercials come on.

What was once too horrible to witness has now actually become interesting. Shatner obviously not only has no shame, but he must have a sense of humor. I realize that I'm out on a very small limb here, but I'm laughing my ass off at . . . / . . . with this guy as he rakes in gazillions in stock options from this dot.com enterprise of his.

When he looks right in the camera and ends the most recent ad with, "Dog?!" I'm in tears. How can something so wrong be so right?

For all the opprobrium heaped upon him, William Shatner was not always a bad actor, though he has become a cliché. (The price of greatness, or at least fame.)

His training at the National Theatre School of Canada in Montreal gave him a strong start. After he honed his talent at CBLT, the CBC station in Toronto--where many Canadians have been before their fame down south.

He went on to great guest work in such television series as Rod Serling's Twilight Zone: He was in the famous, black and white, episode of the monster on the plane wing--now re-done in color with John Lithgow in the Shatner role.

William Shatner is not the first Canadian to take on the role of American, so well, and so woodenly, that we think him a ham. Nor is he the last.

In fairness to Bill, as an actor he's had to work with a lot of bad material. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan showed me a side of Shatner that I did not think existed. It was a strong script, with the serious human issues of aging and death underpining the strong action plot.

Bill showed a real empathy for Kirk's aging, for his feeling that time had passed him by. Maybe Bill felt it too, but regardless it was one of the few times I really *believed* in Kirk as a character. He was real, he was three dimensional. It's the only Star Trek movie I'll watch over again (except for Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, which is really a movie that happens to have Star Trek characters in it, more than a "Star Trek movie" per se. )

None of which forgives the awful Star Trek V ... but given decent material to work with, I do think Bill can, or at least could, act.

Also, the brief "Nightmare at 20,000 feet" homage with John Lithgow when Bill first appeared on 3rd Rock from the Sun made me laugh - credits to the writers more than Bill, nonetheless a great moment.

Incidentally, this reminds me of another Star Trek actor, Jonathan Frakes - with a good script, he can be quite good, as several Riker-focussed TNG episodes attest - but with a bad script, he's horrible.

Shatner also released an album of cover versions such as the Beatles' Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds in Kirk-like soliloquy style. The album is called The Transformed Man and is truly awful.

Track list (from CDDB)

King Henry The Fifth 
Elegy For The Brave 
Theme From Cyrano 
Mr. Tambourine Man 
It Was A Very Good Year 
Romeo And Juliet 
How Insensitive (Insensatez) 
Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds 
The Transformed Man 

Bill Shatner was born March 22, 1931, in Montreal, Quebec.

His first break was actually in The Brothers Karamazov in 1958, a testament to his acting ability. Star Trek is where he gained fame and recognition (aside from an episode or two of The Outer Limits and The Twilight Zone). When Star Trek was cancelled in 1969, Shatner did little, aside from projects related to Star Trek. In 1973, he provided voice in Star Trek: The Animated Series. He acted in a series called The Barbary Coast, only to move back to Trek again in 1979, with Star Trek: The Motion Picture. After ST: TMP, Shatner became famous again for a rather impressive stint on T.J. Hooker, during which time the Star Trek movies were achieving great success as well. He's been seen on film less and less over the years; after Star Trek: Generations, there was nothing but bit parts. It's unclear at this point if this is because this is the way Bill Shatner wants it, or if it's typecasting.

Though he is typecast as being Captain James T. Kirk, he's also become somewhat of a cliché, in that the way he speaks is constantly made fun of. Shatner's tendency to pause momentarily, and then blurt out (there's... something on the wing!) the rest of the sentence has been parodied, even by Shatner himself. Leonard Nimoy, in his semi-autobiographical novel I Am Spock, states that he saw such pauses as remarkable dramatic effect, in that Shatner, on stage, had such a strong persona, that it was difficult to miss anything he said. Nimoy also goes on to state that while Star Trek V: The Final Frontier was a pretty bad movie, Shatner's directorial job wasn't to blame - it was the poor script.

In addition to his acting and directing work, Shatner has also authored and co-authored a best-selling series of science fiction books called Tek, which later became a series on Canadian television. He has also written several Star Trek-themed novels.

Shatner doesn't see retirement in his near future.

February 5, 1968

From: Bob Justman
To: Gene Roddenberry


If you haven’t already heard about it, we are missing some wigs and hair pieces.

Bill Shatner borrowed all four of his hair pieces when we finished shooting. There are two new ones and two old ones. The new ones are worth approximately $200 apiece and the two old ones are worth approximately $100 a piece. Should “Star Trek” go again next season, this no doubt means that we will have to construct new hair pieces again for Bill because he will have used both the old ones and the new ones to such an extent that they will not be photographable. This I guarantee, since it has happened to us before.

Excerpted from a memo reprinted in Star Trek Creator: The Authorized Biography of Gene Roddenberry by David Alexander, 1994.

It's also notable to mention that Shatner graduated from Montréal's McGill University, in 1952. McGill has a kick-ass academic program and is generally considered on par with American Ivy League schools. As well, the Student's Society of McGill University building is named the William Shatner building, in which there's a beautiful William Shatner Ballroom on the 3rd floor. Also known as "the University Centre," the Shatner Building is home to the many clubs, services, and publications of the SSMU. Gert's bar and nightclub (One of the best in Montréal, I might add), is located in the basement, and is a great place to hang out, have a beer, and watch Star Trek reruns.

It's a ska song. Just one verse, sung twice--once before the instrumental break, once after. The Scofflaws make it great, though: trumpets or trombones blare the distinctive woop! woop! woop! of the Enterprise's siren. A low horn plays the uncanny rumble of the engine room. Orders are shouted to Scotty. The up-tempo portion sounds like a quintessential ska tune or maybe a game show theme song from the seventies. The slow part during the verses is more like a reggae tune--not the kind of tune you'd ordinarily pair with Star Trek lyrics. But until they release a dance remix of the theme to Reading Rainbow about Geordi LaForge, well... this is all you've got. This, and a sad collection of VHS tapes full of priceline.com commercials.

He's got a fine tan shirt with an emblem on the chest.
The interstellar girls all like him the best.
Captain of the crew, and he knows kung fu,
and he did Joan Collins in 1932!
Really just an actor, and a genius to boot,
and he never gets to fire when the enemy shoots.
So he ends each show looking neat and clean
after staring down the mouth of a doomsday machine!
I really like the one where he reads the Constitution
after ending all the fighting in the future revolution:


voice offstage: "Scotty--we need--more--POWER."

other voice: "I am... KIRON!"

Verse and chorus repeat, then vamp and repeat out.

Published by Brian O'Sullivan (BMI), available on many ska collections, including the Scofflaws' albums Ska in Hi-Fi, and Scofflaws LIVE! Vol. 1. It is the eleventh song on both albums. Permission to use lyrics applied for, not yet received; lyrics comprise less than 250 words.

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