William Shatner

By: Peggy Nelson
March 22, 2010

Despite commercially viable efforts (T.J. Hooker, guest appearances on many other TV shows) to shake his typecasting as Star Trek’s Captain Kirk, WILLIAM SHATNER’s (born 1931) career seemed destined to stall out at that fictional peak. Before nerds and science fiction conventions were cool, Shatner was their icon; the 1986 Saturday Night Live skit in which he pointed at a Trekkie and bellowed, “You! Get a life!” gave voice to the anger of a highbrow adored by lowbrows. And despite the precedent of song-speakers like Rex Harrison and Richard Harris, Shatner’s song-poems were too avant-garde — closer to the stylings of Yoko Ono or Björk — and therefore alienating to earth-bound listeners. However, Shatner the actor eventually figured out how to gain creative leverage on Shatner the icon. It’s been a pleasure to watch Shatner captain Boston Legal as Denny Crane, and perform indie rock reflections with Ben Folds on the 2004 album Has Been; casting him as the voice of “MyDad” in the movie spinoff of @ShitMyDadSays was brilliant. How did he pull all this off? By subverting television’s middlebrow aesthetic of artifice with hilobrow playfulness.


Star Trek fans, check out our 2012 series KIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM: Dafna Pleban: Justice or vengeance? | Mark Kingwell : Kirk teaches his drill thrall to kiss | Nick Abadzis: “KHAAAAAN!” | Stephen Burt: “No kill I” | Greg Rowland: Kirk browbeats NOMAD | Zack Handlen: Kirk’s eulogy for Spock| Peggy Nelson: The joke is on Kirk | Kevin Church: Kirk vs. Decker | Enrique Ramirez: Good Kirk vs. Evil Kirk | Adam McGovern: Captain Camelot | Flourish Klink: Koon-ut-kal-if-fee | David Smay: Federation exceptionalism | Amanda LaPergola: Wizard fight | Steve Schneider: A million things you can’t have | Joshua Glenn: Debating in a vacuum | Kelly Jean Fitzsimmons: Klingon diplomacy | Trav S.D.: “We… the PEOPLE” | Matthew Battles: Brinksmanship on the brink | Annie Nocenti: Captain Smirk | Ian W. Hill: Sisko meets Kirk | Gabby Nicasio: Noninterference policy | Peter Bebergal: Kirk’s countdown | Matt Glaser: Kirk’s ghost | Joe Alterio: Watching Kirk vs. Gorn | Annalee Newitz: How Spock wins

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