Review: William Shatner’s “The Captains” |
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Review: William Shatner’s “The Captains” July 22, 2011

by Anthony Pascale , Filed under: Trek Franchise , trackback

Tonight William Shatner’s The Captains premieres on the Epix channel and Shatner has described the new documentary about the captains of Star Trek as a journey of discovery for himself. Discover how I think it turned out below, plus watch a particularly interesting new clip.  


Review: William Shatner’s "The Captains"

The documentary The Captains has a premise which promises to be catnip to Star Trek fans: have William Shatner sit down with the actors who played captains in the Star Trek series which followed his original Star Trek (Next Generation’s Patrick Stewart, Deep Space Nine’s Avery Brooks, Voyager’s Kate Mulgrew, Enterprise’s Scott Bakula and Chris Pine from the 2009 Star Trek movie). William Shatner, who produced and directed the documentary, has called it a journey of discovery, and it is. Of course being a William Shatner production, we discover more about Shatner than his subjects. And it doesn’t take long for this to be clear as before he meets his first captain we are shown a segment (with blatant product placement) where Bill is informed that he (as Captain Kirk) was the inspiration for the successful career of the CEO of Bombardier Jets.

Clocking in at a feature-length of around 1 hour and 40 minutes, The Captains covers a lot of ground, hopping from conversations with the various Star Trek captains to clips from Star Trek TV and films, along with chats with other Star Trek luminaries. Like the jazz score supplied by Avery Brooks, The Captains has a somewhat disjointed and almost random feel to it. If there is a structure it roughly correlates to firstly going into discussions of the early careers of the various actors, then moving into how they got started with Star Trek, and then how Star Trek impacted their lives. The final portion of The Captains gets somewhat philosophical (and even morbid) with thoughts and reflections on life and death — which clearly is something on William Shatner’s mind as he enters the ninth decade of his life.

Like the actors themselves, the chat segments are very different. Sir Patrick Stewart is very thoughtful and reflective, Kate Mulgrew speaks more emotionally and (with humor) spars with Shatner, Scott Bakula provides a mix of being analytical with joviality (and singing), Chris Pine is very respectful and reverential, and Avery Brooks is just kind of out there. And all the while this varied group talks about their lives, Shatner always finds a way to bring it back to himself. In the end you will probably ending wishing their were more time spent with Chris Pine. You have to wonder why Shatner spent time talking to Pine’s about stunts on Unstoppable and not about their respective Star Trek work. Hearing the two actors compare the logistics of Kirk-fu or dealing with green-painted actresses would have been priceless, but alas that is not what you get in The Captains. You will also likely grow frustrated with following along with Brooks’ jazz-like stream of thought, but it is all entertaining. One highlight of the documentary is all the great rare photos and film of the early careers of the different actors, again with the best stuff being from Shatner’s own past.

Avery Brooks’ jazz-style discussions with Shatner are one of the more interesting aspects of "The Captains" (Photo: EPIX)

While watching The Captains even the most devoted Trekkies are certain to learn many new things about their on-screen heroes, with each captain opening up to some extent with Shatner. The best interaction in The Captains are between Shatner and Stewart. The two (who worked together on Star Trek: Generations) had the most relaxed chemistry which provided for some of the more insightful and emotional segments. Stewart really opened up when talking about how his career, including how the grueling TNG schedule had a big negative impact on his family life and a failed marriage (something shared by other Trek captains).

And The Captains isn’t just about captains. Interspersed are comments and Shatner interview clips with Star Trek luminaries such as Jonathan Frakes, Richard Arnold, Bob Picardo, Nana Visitor, Rene Auberjonois, Connor Trinneer, and Chris Plummer. Some of these segments actually provide the best analysis and insights into the various Captains, especially with Frakes.

There are also a number of clips from last year’s Las Vegas convention, with quite a lot of fan adoration aimed at Shatner as he walks the halls of the Las Vegas Hilton. Although fun, mostly the convention footage bloats the documentary which feels longer than it needs to be. And with each of the captains there are little bits of scripted first encounters with Shatner which don’t always work. A picture of the arm wrestling challenge between Chris Pine and Shatner went viral in a big way a few weeks ago, but when you see it in the actual documentary it drags and in the end feels overly awkward.

This is a funny moment in "The Captains" – but a little goes a long way (Photo: EPIX)

What is certainly going to be the most talked about element of The Captains is how Shatner approaches his various subjects and Trek franchise. He seems to know very little about the actors who sat in the captain’s chair after him, and even less about their work in Star Trek. This culminates late in the documentary in a chat between Stewart and Shatner where Bill talks about how he has in the past had a negative view of many interactions with people who he felt used a "derisive tone" when talking Star Trek and yelling "beam me up Scotty" to him. Bill then calls back to his earlier interaction with the head of Bombardier to come to the epiphany that he is no longer embarrassed to be associated with Star Trek. Of course astute Shatner-philes will note that he has somewhat of a pattern of going on a journeys of discovery (with associated epiphany), as he has expressed similar things in at least two of his memoirs.

Here is a clip where Sir Patrick Stewart talks about how he is "absolutely fine" with being largely known for Star Trek, and then Bill offers his "gift" of his "realization" that he is happy with Star Trek in his life:

In the end The Captains is overly-long, a bit self-indulgent, and possibly overly-ambitious. The direction and editing are trying a bit too hard with Shatner not really letting the core content of his interviews stand out. So the final product ends up not being as satisfying as simple one-on-one conversation style of the William Shatner/Leonard Nimoy Mind Meld: Secrets Behind The Voyage of a Lifetime DVD released in 2004. 

That being said, The Captains is still a must-watch for any Trekkie. You will learn, you will laugh, and you may even cry watching The Captains. Sure there is an element of being an ego-trip for the director, but what else would you expect from The Shatner. It is still a delight to spend almost two hours with these six outstanding actors who have entertained us for decades.

Captains Premieres Tonight + Coming To Canada & DVD later this year

The Captains premieres On Epix at 8PM. Also remember you can watch The Captains for free online by signing up for a 2-week trial at

The Canadian premiere will be in the fall on Movie Central Channel. The producers are also working on a DVD release for the USA this year, with international DVD releases to follow. TrekMovie will provide more updates when details become available.



POLL: Did you like The Captains?

Give it a grade with 10 being best, and sound off below.


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1. Lt. Bailey - July 22, 2011

I would really like to see this on a DVD so I can keep it in the collection. Nice poster though, would not mind having ones of those on my wall.

2. nscates - July 22, 2011

Bah! DirectTV does not carry Epix and I can’t get good internet at the house! I’m with Lt. Bailey: GET US DVDs!!!!

3. CmdrR - July 22, 2011

God bless Bill.

4. Ruue - July 22, 2011

William Shatner is an egomaniac person.
Avery Brooks and Patrick Stewart…those are my Star Trek Heros, those are the ones who made showstopping performances in their uniforms.
While i respect Shatner historic significance in the Trek universe he certainly has become too self-obsessed and ignorant imo
The whole Star Trek 09 discussion show it

Still ooking forward to this documentary hope it will be available in Germany

5. Andy Patterson - July 22, 2011

“Like the jazz score supplied by Avery Brooks, The Captains has a somewhat disjointed and almost random feel to it”

I’ve found that random quality is usually indicative of brilliance if not just plain unigue creativity.

I look forward to seeing this. A good birthday present- – two days before my birthday. Me and Lynda Carter.

I’m a Shatner fan

6. Jon Spencer - July 22, 2011

I’d like a blu-ray. This seems like it might be kind of inaccessible to me for some reason. Hope it’s everywhere!

7. Christopher Roberts - July 22, 2011

Good to read it will reach DVDs (or maybe Blu ray?). Even if it doesn’t get an international release, a few of us probably have ways of importing Region 1(A).

8. Buzz Cagney - July 22, 2011

To be honest, Anthony, your review has put me off watching it!

9. Vultan - July 22, 2011


Howdy, Buzz. How are things in merry old England?

10. steve - July 22, 2011

Chris Plummer? That’s Christopher Plummer to the rest of the world! :p

11. Buzz Cagney - July 22, 2011

Hi Vults! All’s ok here my friend. I’ve been a bit sidetracked of late. Was made redundant from the job i started at 16 years old (31 years ago!) as the company went belly up. A long story but basically pure bad management.
I was pretty relaxed about things as I knew i was going to be getting Redundancy Pay equal to about 8 months wages (do you get redundancy pay in the States?) and pretty much thought i’d take a couple of months off to enjoy the summer.
A nice idea.
I landed a job in the Motor Trade (a bit of a dream of mine and a big departure from Printing!) within 3 days of finishing my last job!
Its in Customer Services and involves quite a bit of driving! yeah!
That being said just one week in i’m a bit tired of driving! lol
No, all joking aside, I consider myself very lucky. Got a new job and £12 grand in the bank. :-D
Some days life just gives you a good bounce!

Are you ok?

12. Vultan - July 22, 2011


I’m doing fine, Buzz. Trying to work my way into the animation world. Pixar or bust, I suppose. ;)

Congrats on the new job! Sounds great. Now you just need to get Top Gear to lend you a Bugatti Veyron for the driving and you’ll be all set—work at warp drive! Vrrrooommm!!! Land’s End to John o’ Groats in twelve seconds! :D

I believe what you call “redundancy” is called “layoff” over here (and a thousand other euphanisms used to soften the blow of unemployment). Anyway, yes, we do have it.


13. Vultan - July 22, 2011


By the way, “redundancy” in America is the creative philosophy of Hollywood. It’s really caught on there in recent years! ;)

14. Jeff O'Connor - July 22, 2011

Can’t wait!

15. Buzz Cagney - July 22, 2011

Sadly, rather than Veyrons, its been strictly the tree huggers favourite Prius and iQ’s this week. Never mind!

I wish you every good luck on getting into animation. Though you are a terrific artist are those skills needed these days? How much is done by the programmer now? Clearly its nothing like in Walt’s day.
That being said they must have had amazing patience back then. 8-]

16. Buzz Cagney - July 22, 2011

btw Vults, the latest series of TG has been pretty good. Look out for the Car Train episode. Genuinely amusing.

17. Harry Ballz - July 22, 2011

The Captains has a disjointed and somewhat random feel to it”

With Shatner directing it, you expected something else?

18. RCD - July 22, 2011

Dish Network is having a Free Preview this weekend for Epix. So if you have Dish, you can watch ‘The Captains.’ Miss it tonight and it is airing several more times over the weekend.

19. Vultan - July 22, 2011


The new season of TG starts Aug. 22 over here, Buzz. Looking forward to it!

20. weyoun_9 - July 22, 2011

4 – I have to agree. I respect and even enjoy some of Shatner’s Kirk performance…particularly in the movies…but his ego has made it difficult for me to care about any of his current work. I did not tune in to “S#!t My Dad Says” for that reason.

Still…I’d probably watch this at least once. When will it be on Netflix?

21. Robman007 - July 22, 2011

Patrick Stewart is the man. A class act along with the others in the TNG cast. The original cast can learn a thing or two from those guys on how to treat each other, the fans and the roles that have immortalized them.

Funny thing, I prefer TOS over TNG..ha! Still, love Sir Patrick. Class act!

22. Christopher Roberts - July 22, 2011

Just a quick note of thanks for the live stream of Scott Bakula at SDCC. The thread itself about that, Quinto and Shatner’s Q&A seems to have disappeared – so I’ll mention here.

Scott spoke at length about the nature of the business, the cancellation of Men of a Certain Age after 22 episodes, as well as constantly being surprised at new fans who come up to him at events having discovered Quantum Leap and Enterprise years later. He raised the possibilitity of a Chuck return, saying his character did die but that we never saw the body. Regret that he’d never met William Shatner until recently and that they are buddies. Likened their meeting at his ranch as a wild west showdown. He arrived from pathway and he another. Disbelief (at first) over hearing his character named checked along with his dog in the last film.

He joked about trying to raise $70 million for an Enterprise movie… LOL. I would if I had that kind of money. :)

23. OLLEY OLLEY OLLEY - July 22, 2011

It;s certainly a change from the SNL “GET A LIFE” joke.

24. Greg2600 - July 22, 2011

I saw it on epix today, I thought it was well done. With so many people to talk to, it was tough I think to center on any one person. I found the anecdotes very heartwarming, particularly for everyone but Shatner, because I’ve heard his so many times. You just don’t get to see the actors from the recent shows reflect like that. I found Avery Brooks to be just bizarre. I did find it so odd that Shatner still can’t seem to accept praise for his work on Star Trek, he just seems so torn by it. Unlike Shatner hater uno Harry B, I didn’t find it disjointed. In fact, it followed almost every interview format that Shatner has done (Mind Meld, Raw Nerve, etc.). It’s how he relates to the actors, thoughts of dealing with the fame, affect on family, thoughts on death.

25. 12YearOldTrekker - July 22, 2011

Ah, Shatner. He may have an ego that couldn’t fit TWO Enterprises, and he may overact and underact at times, but in the end, no one else is better suited for the captain’s chair.

26. Keachick (rose pinenut) - July 22, 2011

I am a bit disappointed that there appears not to be more time spent with Chris Pine. I know it is about all the captains, but Chris Pine is the actor who plays the most current and relevant of captains. However, Chris also plays Captain Kirk, the character that William Shatner as an actor is most associated with. To some extent, it is to be a bit hard emotionally for Shatner. I am glad, though, that Chris and Bill were fine and gracious with each other. That is what counts.

I am also pleased that there will be a DVD coming out. So there is more waiting for me to do, but it is said that “patience is a virtue”.

27. Canadianknight - July 22, 2011

“In the end The Captains is overly-long, a bit self-indulgent, and possibly overly-ambitious. ”

Shatner? A bit self-indulgent? *NEVER!* ;)

28. Frank Jay Gruber - July 22, 2011

Although I agree with most of Anthony’s points (particularly about the atonal Vegas convention clips bloating the running time), Shatner’s film impressed me on most levels. Technically, I thought it was a wonderfully shot production, with some of the Stratford sunset sequences and shots of a reflective and pensive Shatner quite memorable indeed. I could have lived without the set pieces (Shatner in a box, arm-wrestling in front of Paramount, etc.) and the piano-heavy musical score was less than inspired (even the Avery Brooks portions), but Shatner and his crew managed to capture enough moving and revelatory footage to make up for these minor deficits.
A nit-picky observation:
Shatner recalls acting in a play about the Holocaust when he was around six years old, which seems odd since he was born in 1931.
All in all a worthy companion to the Shatner/Nimoy Mind Meld DVD and (hopefully) the eventual release of the Nimoy and Koenig episodes of Shatner’s Raw Nerve on home video. Recommended!

29. Ryan Gromm - July 22, 2011

I was lukewarm on it… I thought the scenes with Patrick Stewart were excellent, and Shatner could have just framed the entire hour and a half around his time with him…

The stuff with Avery Brooks was very “out there” and he just didn’t seem like he fit the kind of question/answer methods that Shatner was trying to hit with him….

I thought the stuff with Shatner talking about his own career was very self-serving and didn’t really matter… I thought more time could have been spent with the other “Captains”….

I’ve always gotten the impression that Shatner is actually terrified of social settings and interacting with regular people, but when he gets on stage he’s able to loosen up quite a bit…I saw much of the same here…

The gentlemen who had rode in a car 12 hours each way to go to the Vegas convention, and be around Trek was one of the most touching things I’ve seen in a long time… Got me thinking about what’s really important for those of us who do have full physical capabilities to walk, talk, breath, etc..

Overall, it was so-so, I’d rather throw “Trekkies” in again if I’m looking to be entertained..

30. VOODOO - July 22, 2011

It was better than I thought it would be.

By the way, Avery Brooks is nuts.

31. Keachick (rose pinenut) - July 22, 2011

#28 – “Shatner recalls acting in a play about the Holocaust when he was around six years old, which seems odd since he was born in 1931.”

Perhaps he meant to say sixteen (16) making the year 1947. That would make sense. The war had been over for about two years and no doubt the horrific stories and pictures from the Holocaust were being made public.

32. Ryan Gromm - July 22, 2011

There’s one point in this documentary where Avery Brooks basically tells Shatner that you shouldn’t always need a “return” on something you send out… it was quite subtle, but I swear it was Brooks letting Mr. Ego know that you shouldn’t expect attention for everything you do in life…

So as much as it’s easy to label Brooks as nuts, he’s actually quite the opposite but comes off as “out there” to most people….

I wonder if anyone else caught that moment?

33. Alex - July 22, 2011

I thought it was great. It gave a look into the real lives of the actors that are the Captains of Star Trek.
I thought there would be just ling interviews with different actors. But they were interlaced with other opservations. That made it a good insite into their lives before and after Trek.

After watching, all i could say is Wow!!

34. Patrice - July 22, 2011

I had no idea the sacrifice these actors went through In order to bring to life these great characters we hold so dear. Many families and relationships were strained and broken due to the pressure of Trek. No wonder some of the actors have bittersweet emotions toward Trek including Shatner. I understand now.

Trek is inspirational but it also is a heavy burden to those actors who are called to portray these soon to be cultural icons.

Thank you Mr. Shatner for the insight into these actors’ lives. I am also pleased to see that you have accepted Cpt. Kirk for the motivational being that he has truly become. “Beam me up”‘

35. Frank Jay Gruber - July 22, 2011

31: It was pretty clear he was describing a stage performance as a small child that decided his life’s path. He then acted throughout his childhood.

36. Keachick (rose pinenut) - July 22, 2011

Avery Brooks being a bit “out there”. Funny, because that is how Bruce Greenwood described Chris Pine as being sometimes, “out there”.

#33 – “…just ling interviews…” What does ling mean?

37. Markus McLaughlin (@MarkusMcLaughln) - July 22, 2011

There wasn’t enough Chris Pine in it, and no Zachary Quinto’s input on Pine… Otherwise, it was a good show…

38. Red Dead Ryan - July 22, 2011


Well, there is the tv personality Lisa Ling…..maybe #33 thought that she’d be interviewing the captains. ;-)

39. Quatlo - July 22, 2011

2 out of 5. The editing was lousy and indeed gave a very disjointed feel to the show. The background piano music during some parts of the interviews was annoying and mixed in way too loud and ruined many moments of the interviews. Did not like hearing the actors whine about their work, especially when they claim to have worked on over 40 episodes a year or didn’t get a day off for 5 years, which is an insult to our intelligence. Not enough Chris, way too much Avery and Kate. One day in the future somebody may well take all the video collected for this project and present it much better. Oh yeah, one more Bombardier for the road. Shat def knows how to fly.

40. Ryan Gromm - July 22, 2011

Yes #39, the piano music was on overkill mode. Having it play constantly over Patrick and Bill just felt so wrong…

41. MJ - July 22, 2011

@32 “There’s one point in this documentary where Avery Brooks basically tells Shatner that you shouldn’t always need a “return” on something you send out… it was quite subtle, but I swear it was Brooks letting Mr. Ego know that you shouldn’t expect attention for everything you do in life…”

Agreed — I picked up on that do. While it had a few gold nuggets, the documentary was worn down by the Shat-centric approach. Well, what else should we have expected from Shatabullshitpooza week on a TV channel that nobody has ever heard of.

42. Brandon R - July 22, 2011

I’m not sure if we watched the same film, but I don’t recall any clips of Connor Trinner in the version I watched streaming online.

43. MJ - July 22, 2011

@34. “Trek is inspirational but it also is a heavy burden to those actors who are called to portray these soon to be cultural icons.”

Wow, you fell for that whining and self-centered pop psychology nonsense? Excuse me why I play my violin for this group.

44. MJ - July 22, 2011

@30 “By the way, Avery Brooks is nuts.”

Actually, Avery Brooks and Chris Pine are the only “real” ones in the bunch.

45. jjh - July 23, 2011

I don’t get all the negative vibes around here.

I watched The Captains tonight and the documentary was outstanding. Thought-provoking, detailed, and entertaining. The different Captain’s were as unique as the shows they were on. Yet all had a passion for the work. What more can we as fans ask for?

Thank you to Mr. Shatner, and all the actors for taking part.

Put me down for wanting this film on DVD. And I’d buy the jazz score too.

46. LaBarre - July 23, 2011

Shatner is a total ham. It’s part of his appeal. I don’t think he’s particularly self-aware or self-reflective even – a view I’m not dissuaded from holding having watched various excerpts of this show.

Yet, I kinda still like the guy. He’s interesting for all his schtick.

47. DJT - July 23, 2011

Just saw it. I liked it very much. It was very insightful. I wonder if all the actors realize just how beloved they are.

Glad I had a chance to see it.

48. Rod of Rassilon - July 23, 2011

MJ as you seem so full of hate, why do you bother tormenting yourself coming here?

Let go of the hate.

49. P Technobabble - July 23, 2011

In his review, Anthony wrote: “It is still a delight to spend almost two hours with these six outstanding actors who have entertained us for decades.”

And this was pretty much how I came away from the show. I didn’t think it was spectacular, nor did I think it was disappointing. It was what I expected from William Shatner. For those who think there was too much Shatner, well, he was also a Captain, after all. I don’t think the show was meant to be only about the other Captains.
I wouldn’t expect this show to have been some deep, psychological session, but I thought they all participated in revealing some things about themselves and didn’t just chit-chat, or toss off a lot of un-funny one-liners. I thought they all seemed pretty open in talking about their failed relationships as they devoted most of their time to their job. Talking about death was the kind of thing I’ve come to expect from Shatner, the kind of interview he likes to do, the kind of subject matter he likes to get into.
Overall, the show could have been a lot more superficial, slick and polished, just putting a bunch of posers in front of a camera — which is the kind of thing we usually get. Instead, I thought we got a warm, thoughtful, sometimes humorous look at some serious actors who just happened to become a part of the Trek universe.

50. jim Mower - July 23, 2011

I’m sure it always comes back to Bill, but I kind of think thats ok. Its his project and I get a sense he’s always sruggled a bit with Trek being such a huge part of his life. The guy is in his 80s and deserves a bit of self indulgence! Besides, he’s Captain Kirk….

51. MJ - July 23, 2011

@48. “MJ as you seem so full of hate, why do you bother tormenting yourself coming here?”

Sheesh, why don’t you comment on what you thought of the production, like I did. Dude, you are way to sensitive to my posts. Chill out!

52. jamesingeneva - July 23, 2011

I have to agree 100% with the review. Sadly, as much as I loved Avery Brooks as Captain Sisko there were a lot of parts I had to skip as I just couldn’t reconnect with him. What a shame. That said, it was good to see everyone, it was like seeing an old friend you haven’t seen in a while.

53. trekker 5 - July 23, 2011

It really was great,in fact,I might say that it was beautiful in a way,I really enjoyed watching it,it made my Friday eveing!! :) :) :)

54. Jack - July 23, 2011

51. yep. Actors are self-centered by definition. I learned that quickly in my early, wide-eyed journalism days naively trying to talk about some aspect of a play or film with actors, and it was usually like talking to jello. If it wasn’t about them, there wasn’t much to talk about. And, yeah, I don’t mean that hatefully. Their job, generally and at its most basic, is to show up on time, sit for makeup, put on their costumes, know their lines and say them, do what the director says, and stand on their marks — and I’m not trying to diminish the craft or the greatness of many actor’s performances, or make it sound easy. For some, a job is a job and, yeah, they’re a brand — they need to keep getting work. When they do it well, it’s easy to confuse the character with the actor.

55. rag451 - July 23, 2011

I don’t think the Emissary has left the wormhole…

56. grigori - July 23, 2011

#22 thanks for the info–but what I’m gonna do now with the new sparkle of hope for Stephen Bartowski–sheesh!! :D
we certainly have quite a range of “characters” behind the Captains, all right. pretty cool by itself.

57. Keachick (rose pinenut) - July 23, 2011

#54 That could be the *problem*. The actors become consumed with the role and everything that goes with it – makeup, costumes, learning lines, doing it right in front of a camera etc, that they don’t necessarily get (or bother to get) a greater, more objective sense or perspective of the whole film, show, project. The viewers have that advantage though.

I have seen interviews with Chris Pine talking about a film he has just done. You get the sense that he has a better overall perspective of the story, not just about his own character and what he did or didn’t do and why. His attitude appears more inclusive, if that’s the right word.

Anyway, it is just an impression I keep getting of Chris Pine. It is one of the reasons I like him, and not just because he is visually very attractive, tribbles beard and all…:)

I am sad to hear about all the failed relationships, apparently because of all the work/time pressures associated with making a television series and/or movie(s).

58. Argelius - July 23, 2011

Loved the show. But then I could watch Shatner all day. I can’t believe he’s 80. Still a ball to watch. Ever seen “Free Enterprise”?

59. Schiefy - July 23, 2011

I enjoyed watching “The Captains” because it seemed real and entertaining.

Perhaps others have heard some of things shared (especially from Mr. Shatner) as they can only be “fresh” in con appearances so many times but I found what each actor shared to be fun and interesting.

I think the reason for the more limited time with Chris Pine is more related to his youth when compared to the length of career and experience of his fellow “captains.”

While not perfect, “The Captains” is throughly entertaining and informative as documentary goes and especially for a Trek one.

60. Joseph Sidney - July 23, 2011

Avery Brooks was fantastic- we gave the film a huge dose of creativity in his interview style.

61. BringBackKirkPrime - July 23, 2011

It made me laugh, it made me cry, it was what Trek has always been about, the human condition. A great film!

62. LaBarre - July 24, 2011

^ Out of genuine interest, WHAT made you laugh? WHAT made you cry?

63. Groucho - July 24, 2011

Does anyone know of a link to an online version that’s accessible outside the US? I was hoping it might be on Youtube. :(

64. el capitan - July 24, 2011

I have been a big Shat fan since Sept. 1966, I was nine years old. I just recently got around to reading Up Till Now. I did not enjoy it. It was a shame William Shatner was not included in the last trek film, but him complaining and whining about that was very unfortunate. The film turned out just fine without him. Shat should have followed his own advice GET A LIFE!!. Now this. He is/was ashamed of Star Trek? He did not realize until now all the real life scientists/astronauts/engineers inspired by James Kirk?
Was he ashamed of all the millions he made or the doors that opened for him because he played Kirk. Heck, he’s done tons of embarassing projects, just for the money.There is plenty he should be ashamed of but Trek is not one of them. If not for Trek he would be an unknown broke 80 year old living out of a camper. He really makes it hard to be fan.
I will always admire James T. Kirk but William Shatner not so much anymore.

65. Canon Schmanon - July 24, 2011

Bill has always skirted around the deepest emotions, jabbing at them instead of grabbing them and really tousling. It’s how he protects himself, because I think he is a pretty fragile ego. That’s not unusual among actors. But I think he’s much more self-effacing than ever.

Describing Brooks’ thought process as jazz-like was brilliant, Anthony. He really IS out there, and I think he’s a brilliant man, but has probably had a lot of trouble being understood throughout his life. I love him all the more for that.

I agree with your assessment of the Pine interview as well. Definitely the least successful one of the bunch. I think Bill included him only because he felt he had to, and because he wanted to. Nobody likes being replaced, I suppose. But Bill very obviously avoided talking to Pine about playing Kirk.

Overall, I enjoyed it, and it was a far more successful directorial effort than Final Frontier. I wasn’t embarrassed watching this one.

66. MJ - July 24, 2011

@65 “Was he ashamed of all the millions he made or the doors that opened for him because he played Kirk. Heck, he’s done tons of embarassing projects, just for the money.There is plenty he should be ashamed of but Trek is not one of them. If not for Trek he would be an unknown broke 80 year old living out of a camper. He really makes it hard to be fan. I will always admire James T. Kirk but William Shatner not so much anymore.”

Well put!!!

67. Anthony Thompson - July 24, 2011

48. Rod of Rassilon is NOT the excluvive province of Shatner Kool Aid drinkers!

68. Keachick (rose pinenut) - July 24, 2011

#44 – “Actually, Avery Brooks and Chris Pine are the only “real” ones in the bunch.”

I can’t see the Captains Documentary. I am curious as to what you meant by the above statement.

69. mateo - July 24, 2011

wretched, just like William Shatner.

70. Magic_Al - July 24, 2011

^64. There was a time when, because of Trek, Shatner was a broke 40 year old living out of a camper. From his point of view, I guess, success was not a direct result of Star Trek but an eventual result, that is strange, indirect, and disconnected from what he remembers doing.

71. MJ - July 24, 2011

@70. “There was a time when, because of Trek, Shatner was a broke 40 year old living out of a camper.”

That was not becuase of Trek. That was because of his divorce and bad financial decisions. Also, part the reason he was in the camper was to be able to act in a summer series of plays in multiple cities…it wasn’t like he was living in a trailer park with no work.

72. Basilicious - July 24, 2011

I thought thought Avery Brooks was takin’ a piss on the whole interview. He toyed w/ Bill Shatner the whole time and made him look silly.

73. Magic_Al - July 24, 2011

^71. In The Captains and in previous memoirs Shatner blames his divorce on the demands of Star Trek, and Bakula agreed his own divorce was similarly because of Quantum Leap, and both had an expensive divorce settlement in the aftermath of their first big success.

74. MJ - July 24, 2011

@72. Agreed. Brooks is obviously not drinking the Shat Kool-Aid here…I love Brooks — what you see is what you get — the complete opposite of Shatner.

@73. Of course it was “the shows” that caused their divorces. It couldn’t possible be because any action of theirs or mistakes they made. Sure, is the show’s fault. LOL

75. Jay - July 25, 2011

I watched this over the weekend and was pretty disapointed. There were moments of great interest when the actors talked of how they came to play the roles for their respective Star Trek shows/movies. However, these moments were way too brief. You kept wanting them to go deeper and talk a little longer about their experiences and decisions to do the work. How they thought it would be. How that contrasted with the reality of how it was. How it changed their lives, or affected their lives.

There was some of this, but not nearly enough. Too much time spent on Shat’s personal thoughts about everything. Too much time spent on ramblings from Brooks that made no sense. Too much time spent watching Shat walk through hotel’s at Star Trek conventions.

And hardly any time at all learning anything about Pine.

It seemed just when they started getting into how they came to Star Trek and what their early thoughts were, etc. it would cut to Shat walking through a hotel with him philosiphying (sp?) about his life.

I heard way too much about their thoughts on life and death and way too little about their experiences filming Star Trek and how it impacted their daily life and their career.

76. Desstruxion - July 25, 2011

I’ll only watch it when it’s considered canon.

77. Mike in Iowa - July 25, 2011

Excellent review, Anthony!

I watched this documentary over the weekend and reached many of the same conclusions. There are three observations I’d share, however:

1.) William Shatner is an actor. And actors are often reluctant to spend any time watching the shows they’ve been in or paying attention to what comes after them once they’ve left a series (or a franchise like Star Trek). I suppose the intensity of the experience they associate with that series burns them out. So from my point of view, it seems very plausible that Shatner has had little interest or enthusiasm for following Star Trek as a cultural institution. It was – and is – a job.

2.) The Captains, as a documentary, suffers from a fatal flaw that no amount of editing (or opining from Shatner) could overcome. In various interviews, Shatner has explained that he shot 30+ hours of footage for this documentary.

That’s not nearly enough.

Each interview appears to have been shot in a single day. Good documentaries require multiple interviews and time spent with the interview subject so the director/producer can peel away the layers and get to the heart of the matter. It’s no surprise, then, that Shatner’s best interview was with Patrick Stewart – someone he had already become familiar with through his work on Generations and various conventions.

I think if Shatner had more time – and money – to spend interviewing Avery Brooks, Kate Mulgrew and Chris Pine, those interviews would have turned out to be much more insightful. The interview with Scott Bakula seemed to work as well as it did because Shatner totally met Bakula’s expectations of what he’d be like and, as a result, Bakula was able to open up quicker than the other “Captains.”

3. This documentary suffers from the producer (Shatner) announcing the concept before he had the film in the can. When you make a documentary, you can start with a notion of where the documentary should go – and that notion can be pretty tight based on the research you do. But when you “wing it” like Shatner did, you’re leaving yourself open to bad interviews, unusable footage, out-of-control production costs (i.e. travel) and commercial interests (e.g. Bombardier’s blatant product placement to defer travel expenses).

The resulting product can go from “good” to “craptastick” in no time.

I wouldn’t say this documentary was crap – but I would have much rather seen a sharper interviewer with some Star Trek cred (like a Jonathon Frakes) interviewing the Captains (and relevant cast members) than William Shatner.


78. Dr. Image - July 25, 2011

As out there as Avery Brooks was, he seemed a step ahead of Shat all the way. Cool… cool.

79. bintrepid81 - July 26, 2011

I agree completely with everything you said. I felt it was too short and was a missed opportunity to hear more about their experiences during their time as Captain. Shatner could have easily spent an hour with each of them as well as some bits of the other actors that worked with them during the years on set. It was pretty obvious that they were all bitter in some fashion so there was that barrier to overcome also. The convention piece to me just felt like fluff to make it longer when that time could have been better spent talking to the actors. Not very well done.

Maybe having them all together and doing a group interview would have been better?

80. Lt. Bailey - July 26, 2011

We were able to watch it as my wife did the free 2 week preview. It turns out that we are seen in the film at the Vegas CON.

It was a bit random but that is the Shatner style since he wrote it and directed it. I think he added Chris Pine at the last minute so he did not get the depth as the others. But a lot was brought out about all of them. I actually enjoyed the Shat walking around the CON, I remember people running around the hotel saying he is coming down the hall or in the casino.

All in all, we enjoyed it very much.

81. Keachick (rose pinenut) - July 26, 2011

“#44 – “Actually, Avery Brooks and Chris Pine are the only “real” ones in the bunch.”
I can’t see the Captains Documentary. I am curious as to what you meant by the above statement.

Well, MJ? What does real in inverted commas mean in this context? Do you mean that you think that Chris Pine is as *crazy* as Avery Brooks or what? I don’t know. That is why I am asking…

@ Anthony Pascale – Since it appears that the interview with Chris Pine is the shortest, is it possible just for this to be shown on this site? Please – not Hulu!

82. MJ - July 27, 2011

@81. They come across like genuine people, not concerned about how they come across, and not acting in the role of “Star Trek interviewee.”

83. Dan Siciliano - August 6, 2011

I thought it was very good. Shatner was a riot. If any of you trekkies out there own a Roku streaming box, then add the “EPIX” channel (you get the first two weeks FREE) and the “Captains” documentary is on there. You will enjoy it…bravo Bill!!!

84. Basilicious - August 17, 2011

Just watched “The Captains” again for the umpteenth time just to see Avery Brooks. It never gets old. I heard during one of the breaks in shooting, Shatner left to go make a few phone calls; came back about 20-30 minutes later to find Brooks still talking to himself.

85. Tom - October 2, 2011

Very early in the show, while talking to Patrick Stewart, Shatner claims that when he was a little boy, he was in a play about the holocaust. Stewart asked him how old he was, and Shatner said “6, maybe 5″.

Patrick Stewart was immediately taken aback by the statement. You can clearly see the look on Stewart’s face, and he then puts his hand to his mouth as if to keep himself from blurting out “BULLSHIT!!” to Shatner. Then, he looked like he was going to laugh at the absurd statement that Shatner just made.

Shatner was born in 1931, so “let’s do a little time computation”, as Number One said in “The Cage”: This alleged play about the holocaust would have taken place in 1936 or 1937 if Shatner was 5 or 6 years old.

After watching “The Captains”, I now understand why the rest of the cast of TOS hates him: He is an arrogant and pompous ass.

86. Kyle - November 10, 2011

the thing is… about the play Shatner was in when he was 6, the Nazis had been in power in Germany since 1932. the play was about a boy who had to flee the Nazis and the audience was made up of many people who had to flee the Nazis. Now it might be uncommon but I could see defining the Holocaust to include the early period of 1930’s Nazi Germany when laws segregating Jewish people from German society were first enacted.

87. JKP - November 16, 2011

Just watched this docu. Was great. I love Bill, one of my childhood heroes. I get sad thinking of his advancing age. I was very pleased with the docu and thought he did a nice job. Brooks is nuts, though.

88. Aaron - December 4, 2011

This was a great documentary. I loved it. And hey – stop hating on Shatner. Star Trek wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for his role as Kirk.

89. J - December 28, 2011

Well, according to the votes, most people liked it.

William Shatner/Captain Kirk is a name that will be remembered long after most of the ‘It’s easy to be a critic, try and do better yourself?’ names will be…

I would name a few, but I can’t remember what they were called…

Point made :)

It’s worth watching for any Trek fan.

90. Wucash - January 11, 2012

Brooks might come off as mad, Shatner as self-indulgent, but MJ here comes off as someone with a serious chip on his shoulder. Seriously, sort your life out mate.

Anyway, out of all the interviewees the one I like the best was Scott Bakula. No B.S., he did what he was supposed to – and be interviewed properly. Seemed everyone else either didn’t want to be there or could not be bothered to talk about Star Trek. He also came off as genuinely warm, funny and thoughtful human being.

Shatner might be an ego maniac, but Patrick Stewart seems much worse. He knows it though, which kind of makes it fine. His story about the crew not messing about on set is exactly what the man is like. Also the most touching part of the documentary was him admitting that work came first, and his family second. Sir Patrick Stewart might be a horrible human being, but at least he isn’t hypocritical about it.

Coming back to Shatner, the one thing that taken me back was the touching story of the disabled kid/man. Not only Shat was extremely patronising to him, but it seemed forced, just like his big revelation. I call B.S. on it. It seemed like he was gunning for the emotional thing, and instead of making in natural, I bet he though he was onto a winner with it. In his mind I’m quite sure he thought this will get him an Oscar or something, instead my opinion of him has lowered substantially.

91. Bemused - January 20, 2012

Totally, totally, weird. So bizarre. Shatner tried to ham it up with self-promotion per usual, but it just ended up revealing how aloof and perhaps sad he is, an expose that maybe he subconsciously was yearning for. I respect and defend his work in the franchise, but he is totally odd, and increasingly so.

All of them are really strange, Brooks awesomely so (I agree he was way ahead of his interviewer, even if only because he is so out there), others less. Mulgrew seems slurringly drunk. Pines absolutely bores me, I’m afraid. Bakula is pretty sane by comparison to Shatner, but also dull. I did like the Stewart portions, and appreciated how he was able to graciously recognize the lessons he took away from TNG.

Probably the best segment was the appearance of Christopher Plummer.

92. Dave - February 1, 2012

Brooks will always be my favorite captain, but his erratic behavior during that interview brought back memories of my Uncle John whose mental illness caused a lot of pain for my family. I hope to Avery seeks help and gets better.

93. Ricky H - March 15, 2012

I gave this a 6. The only reason I didn’t rate it lower was due to the interviews with Patrick Stewart and Avery Brooks. I have always found these two gentleman to be extremely articulate, and they did not disappoint me. I found them to be “Fascinating”!
On the downside, ST fans learned years ago from Star Trek V that you should NEVER let Shattner near the directors chair. Once again Shatners egomania and bad directing/editing, rears it’s ugly head to ruin what could have been an extremely interesting film. is represented by Gorilla Nation. Please contact Gorilla Nation for ad rates, packages and general advertising information.