Set Phasers to Fun: Q&A with William Shatner

Josh Hadley

josh hadley | the shadows of pop culture | april 2019

William Shatner is a name that honestly needs no introduction. The man and the mythos surrounding him are almost larger than life. Love him or hate him everyone knows William Shatner and the imprint he has made on pop culture is massive. Whether you know him as Captain Kirk or T.J. Hooker, Denny Crane or Walter Bascom or even as Dr. Edison Milford Goodson III, William Shatner has been part of our media diet for decades.

Television is not the only place the man has made his mark, movies such as “Kingdom of the Spiders,” “The Devil's Rain,” “Loaded Weapon 1” and “Miss Congeniality,” not to mention one of his best performances and most out-of-character roles in Roger Corman's “The Intruder,” also have him giving his all.

Often Shatner plays the good guy or the goofy villain. The actor was, however, afforded the chance to branch out, as in the underrated 1962 Roger Corman film “The Intruder,” where Shatner plays a charismatic racist attempting to rile up the south and prevent integration in schools. After decades of growing accustomed to the stalwart Captain Kirk, the straight-arrow T.J. Hooker and the eccentric Denny Crane, many people have trouble going back to watch Shatner play such a loathsome character. That said, “The Intruder” is an important film that I recommend all see.

It was in reference to his most recognizable role as Captin Kirk that Shatner, appearing on “Saturday Night Live” in 1986, presented the most accurate retort to his own legacy by telling the Trekkies to "Get a life,” adding, “It's just a TV show ... Move out of your parents' basements and grow the hell up.”

It's as Captian Kirk that he appeared in what might arguably be called his most famous film, “Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan.” Long hailed by Star Trek fans and non-Trekkies alike as the best of the Star Trek films and a seminal science fiction movie of the 1980s, on April 4, the Weidner Center for the Performing Arts presents a special screening of this film followed by the man himself, William Shatner, live on stage to answer questions from the audience.

In anticipation of this one-night-only event, I spoke to William Shatner about the film and his legacy.

'Star Trek II' is generally held up as the best of the Trek movies even after 10 more films (counting the reboot series).

I have a feeling it is too; it connects with the audience. You can hear the audience identifying with the film as it plays.

How does it feel bringing this movie back after all of these years?

Quite a lovely journey ... I come out after the film is over and it always raises a little ruckus. I'm embarrassed it's 35 years later ... You see the film and then I come out. It must be a little bit disconcerting for everybody to see the live figure of the enormous image on the screen 35 years later. It has to be like a shock.

Do the audiences respond the same way they did back in 1982?

I'm of the opinion that you don't need to have been an aficionado or a rabid member of the clan to enjoy this film. I think you can go to this film without knowing anything about Star Trek and still have a good time. Afterwards, with the questions and the answers, they are all fun. Generally speaking, after I see the audience, after everything, it's a great evening of entertainment. Seeing the film on the big screen with the big sound and then the live version of me makes a great contrast.

With you doing this live Q&A after the film do you think your 1986 Saturday Night Live sketch is more or less accurate than it was in 1986?

It was all done in fun and the fact that you remember the sketch is mind-blowing. People really remember that sketch and I don't know why. Most people saw it as fun, a few didn't but I didn't hear from them.

What kind of people are you seeing at this traveling event? Are you seeing older Trekkers such as myself or younger people seeing the film perhaps for the first time?

The audiences have always been mixed with very young people, 6, 7 and 8-year-olds and then the old-timers who were there in the beginning who took that 'Saturday Night Live' sketch either seriously or in fun but they were there in the beginning. No one has ever measured what the audience is composed of, though. From my view, both before and after the movie, it looks like there is a pretty healthy generational spread.

Do you have people tearing up when Spock dies or when you deliver that emotional speech at the end of the movie?

Moving the audience like that, even though it's on the screen, when I glimpse at it going on (I don't like to look at myself), the audience reaction is always a source of amazement to me that they suspend disbelief like that; you reach them and you reach them in an emotional center.

Has Captain Kirk become so ingrained into pop culture that he is sort of timeless?

I make a joke about grandmothers coming up and introducing their grandsons to Captain Kirk and the kid is looking around for Captain Kirk, 'cause he has only seen him when I was 50 years younger.

Catch William Shatner Live on Stage after a Screening of “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” at the Weidner Center for the Performing Arts on April 4 at 7:30 p.m.

Save $10 on tickets by using promo code FRONTIER when ordering at


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