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Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!
In 2011, William Shatner released a documentary titled The Captains. In this, he visited and had lengthy conversations with each of the actors who have played the Star Trek captains in each of the franchise’s incarnations about their careers, lives, and the impact of becoming a part of Star Trek. During the film, Shatner, himself, explores his origins as an actor and how, through the conversations, comes to terms with his association with the franchise and his role of James T. Kirk.
The film, itself, is extraordinary fascinating to watch. As someone who has been a fan of film and filmmaking, I love hearing stories about how actors started out and built their careers over long periods. That sort of stuff just interests me. Getting to watch people such as Patrick Stewart, Avery Brooks, Kate Mulgrew, Scott Bakula, and Chris Pine discuss the ups and downs as they were trying to make it completely captured my attention. I was very much surprised by how honest the actors were about their lives and careers, with some of them explaining how their career caused marriages to fall apart or other personal misfortunes.
What helps this greatly is, well, William Shatner. He has is able to bring such a conversational tone to his interviews, which seems to disarm and relax who he is talking to, thereby allowing them to open up. Helping this out is that Shatner seems 100% genuine when conducting the interviews that it seems that he really wants to know more about the others who have sat in that center seat.
When the documentary was first released, a common criticism was that it was more of a vanity project for William Shatner. While I cannot argue against that idea (the structure of the movie was ultimately about Shatner accepting his role in Star Trek – which seemed dubious given the film was made in 2011 and not 1990), I think it is slightly exaggerated. Personally, my problems with it was that I wanted to see more of Shatner interacting with his fellow actors and learning more about them.
Luckily, I got that opportunity as in 2013, the film was re-edited and re-released as The Captains: Close Up. Restructured as five episodes of approximately 30 minutes each, every installment focused completely on one actor as Shatner interviewed and discussed his or her career. It included much more interview footage (though I noticed some bits were cut out between releases) than the previous release and gave me more of a sense of where these actors came from.
For Star Trek fans, the highlight is to see Shatner with the other captains. It gives you that gleeful, if stupid fanboy moment. You can tell from the movie that Shatner and Stewart have a strong relationship (which was previously known in Trek circles), but the real surprises are Shanter’s interaction with Mulgrew and Brooks. Mulgrew is so incredibly smart, witty, and exudes elegance that it seems obvious that Shatner is completely entranced by her. She has such a tongue-in-cheek, no bullshit attitude which is a marvel to watch. She even turns the tables on Shatner by starting to interview him.
Avery Brooks is completely out of his mind. Or at least thinks on a very different level giving him a unique outlook on life.
The Captains is a really fascinating documentary which should be required viewing for any Star Trek fan or anyone who is interested in acting. The Close Up version is currently on Netflix, and I highly recommend checking it out. You won’t be disappointed.