Review: William Shatner’s ‘Get A Life!’ Documentary | TrekMovie.com
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Review: William Shatner’s ‘Get A Life!’ Documentary July 28, 2012

by Anthony Pascale , Filed under: Conventions/Events/Attractions,Fandom,History,Shatner,Trek Franchise , trackback

William Shatner’s new documentary "Get A Life!" premiers tonight on the Epix channel. For the second year in a row Bill explores Star Trek, but this time he turns his focus to the fans. Find out how it all turns out in the TrekMovie review below.       

 

 

REVIEW: William Shatner’s Get A Life!

William Shatner’s Get A Life! follows his other Star Trek doc "The Captains" from last year. While that doc focused on the Bill’s fellow actors who have sat Star Trek’s captain’s chair, this time he turns his focus to the fans. While the title and the focus on the fans is the same as Bill’s 1999 memoir "Get A Life!", this hour-long documentary premiering Saturday night on Epix goes in a new direction. Of course the actual origin of the title comes from the famous 1986 Saturday Night Live skit where Shatner, speaking at a Star Trek con, told his adoring fans they needed to "get a life." And this doc actually opens with footage from that famous sketch. It then moves to the crux of the doc, and Bill asking the question "who are all these people and why do they come to these conventions?"


Famous SNL sketch kicks off "Get A Life!" doc

The documentary then moves to the 2011 Star Trek convention in Las Vegas and uses that event as a jumping off point to explore Bill’s question about what makes fans tick. There are some interesting glimpses of the work that goes on to create the conventions, with the behind the scenes footage from the Las Vegas con as well as at Creation’s offices in Los Angeles. There is also a bit of insight into the perspective of the celebrities and how they perceive the fans. The doc takes some time with Creation’s team, including the co-founders Gary Berman and Adam Malin. However with the focus on exploring fans, these inside looks at cons are brief. I feel that there is a glimpse of what could make a different doc or series on conventions, including going back into the history of cons, but that isn’t this doc.


"Get A Life!" gives some brief glimpses at how big cons are put together

Most of the doc mixes scenes of the convention with talking to specific fans who have interesting stories about why they love Star Trek and come to cons. Unlike with The Captains, this time Shatner is mostly in the background, with the focus being on the fans themselves. Bill appears on camera bookending the doc and in a couple of the segments, but for the rest he is mostly off camera (but you can hear him asking the fans questions).

For about half a dozen of these fans, the doc actually visits them in their homes and does a good job of understand their Trek fandom and how it has impacted their lives. These fans include just regular folk as well as, a NASA scientist, military officers and even a fire battalion captain who makes her own costumes, and also says that she has learned lessons about loss and leadership through watching Star Trek.


Fire captain Katherine Ridenhour shows off her costumes for the 2011 con

These insights into the fans are where some of the best content from the doc emerge. Fans will be able to relate to some or all of those featured in the doc, and non-fans will get insight into Star Trek fandom in a way that is not exploitative and is more sympathetic that some past documentaries, such as Trekkies. William Shatner’s Get A Life did not go out of their way to find the extremes of fandom, but instead tries to show how Star Trek has been a benefit to many people’s lives.

One example will be Eric Allen Hall from Utah, who really likes to dress up as Star Trek: TNG’s Mr. Data. He even has a "MR DATA" license plate. He met his wife through Star Trek, and the pair started a family but in the doc he admits that he had always been shy and actually never even went to his prom. However, dressing as Data at conventions allows him to come out of his shell. 


Eric Allen Hall gets loose as "Mr. Data"

The doc also gets emotional with segments on fans who have looked to Star Trek and conventions as a way to deal with serious struggles. A lot of time in the doc is devoted to the young David "Capt. Dave" Sparks, Jr. who was also featured in Shatner’s The Captains. Sparks has suffered from serious illness that requires major amounts of medical equipment just to get him and his wheelchair out of the house, and yet he ventures to many cons. His mother talks about how Star Trek had helped keep him alive. And then there is the story of the head of the Terry Farrell fan club who has been dealing with the loss of her fiancé in an auto accident. In this case the doc producers actually orchestrated a meeting between her and her hero, where (of course) there was a lot of tears and hugging. While the filmmakers use these segments to be somewhat manipulative in tugging on our heartstrings, these fans also give an insight into how Star Trek can be a big benefit to some people.


Farrell comforts her biggest fan

But being that this is from William Shatner, he is not satisfied with just visiting with various fans and hearing their stories. Bill is on a mission to understand these fans and to that end the doc also intercuts with discussions with some experts including a fan and college professor who teaches about the philosophy of Star Trek, Star Trek: DS9 showrunner Ira Steven Behr and most notably Robert Walter, President of Joseph Campbell Foundation. With Walter, Shatner dives deep into how Star Trek is just one of many mythologies, and how conventions are more than just social settings for like-minded fans, but also rituals.


Shatner and Campbell Foundation president Robert Walter delve into fandom

Get A Life! is a well made exploration of fandom, and specifically Star Trek fans, albeit with a bit too much emphasis on cosplaying fans. Even for those who are not Trekkies or Trekkers, the doc will give you a good understanding of the social phenomenon behind fandom, and possibly even break some of the stereotypes about fans. While there are a few lags, the doc actually moves along at a very nice clip and in fact feels a bit short. This is by design to fit it into the hour long programming slot, and apparently there is going to be an extended version called "Fan Addicts" airing at a later (not yet specified) date in Canada. Shatner’s directing and writing also seem to have improved since the Captains, which was still a very interesting doc in its own right.

In the end Shatner, like with The Captains, has his epiphany and answers his own question about why the fans do what they do, and the answer and his journey to get there are worth seeing.


Fans setting a new record for costumes at last year’s con

"William Shatner’s Get a Life!" premieres on the EPIX channel on July 28 at 8pm EST. It will repeat over the next few weeks and also be available online. More info at epixhd.com/william-shatners-get-a-life/

If you don’t have Epix on your cable or satellite system you will be able to watch the documentary (and all Epix programming) for free online by signing up for a free 2 week trial at epixhd.com/freetrial.

 

Comments

1. follettcraig - July 28, 2012

Can’t wait to watch this! Looks interesting.

2. NCC-73515 - July 28, 2012

He should have interviewed people at the recent FedCon… ;)

3. tony - July 28, 2012

you can see me in captains wonder if they got me this one go shat youve come along ways from when i saw you at earlier cons in the early 90s you just wasnt very friendly

4. @MarkusMcLaughln - July 28, 2012

I think the LAST Trek Doc he should do is covering the FAN FILMS, esp. Star Trek Phase II, the most successful one… As well as the rest of Trek Actors who have appeared in such Films… I am developing a “Radio Drama” series, I hope will be the audio equivalent to Phase II, attracting veteran Trek Actors to lend their voices as well as amateur actors…

5. Jeff O'Connor - July 28, 2012

Watched it earlier. Pretty good stuff! Thanks go out to Shatner and his crew. The bit with Terry Farrell’s fan was very touching, as was the memoir on Captain Dave. RIP, Captain. :)

6. Cygnus-X1 - July 28, 2012

Anthony Pascal, you wrote:

“While somewhat manipulative, these fans also give an insight into how Star Trek can be a big benefit to some people.”

Would you elaborate a bit on how the fans in the documentary are manipulative? Are they manipulating the viewer…or Shatner… or…?

7. Anthony Pascale - July 28, 2012

my point, which i clarified in the article, is that the filmmakers (not the fans) were being manipulative in trying to tug on the viewers heartstrings. Some of these people they profiled are not your typical fans and the doc team even manufacture a one-on-one session between a mourning fan and Terry Farrell which is certainly not a typical thing a fan would experience without the help of a documentary crew. So my point was they went past documenting the story of a fan to creating the drama.

8. Bodger - July 28, 2012

I wish someone would manipulate me into a meeting with Terry Farrell. Damn!

9. Jimw - July 28, 2012

I don’t get Epix. Will it show on another channel?

10. Bob Tompkins - July 29, 2012

Sad about the kid Capt David….that was deserving of a tug or 3 on the heartstring.
The fan with Terry Farrell should have been out of mourning and moved on, his having been gone for 5 years.
My wife has been gone dfor 2 1/2 and I can talk about her without tears.
Talking about her today brightens my day7 as a matter of fact.
That’s the way a person should be, not dwelling on the sadness. Shame Terry didn’t tell her to get some counseling.

11. Bob Tompkins - July 29, 2012

I saw a couple of people who were royal pains-in-my- ass in Philadelphia in May, the lady who thought she was entitled to use my reserved seat in the front row because she was a regular at the conventions- and the thinner of the 2 CEOS who told the crowd if anyone heard anything about Nimoy and Fringe the night before, he wanted to hear about it- I told him Nimoy had appeared the night before and he got angry and tried to make me look the bad guy who spoiled it for him
So I later told him I heard Nimoy then went to LA and shot scenes for JJ Abrams the next day. He wouldn’t even look at me..

12. Daoud - July 29, 2012

I lost hope that night in 1986. Sorry, Bill, I’m never forgiving you!
.
;)

13. Ciaran - July 29, 2012

I’d love to see this documentary. I’ll have to wait until somebody uploads it to YouTube, the same way I had to watch The Captains. I do find it fascinating to see how the actors of these shows perceive us, the fans, and I think that by making this documentary, Bill Shatner is not doing it to make a quick buck, but to really better his understanding and, dare I say, appreciation, for us, the people who made him into who he is. Because let’s face it, if it wasn’t for the fans, Star Trek would never be what it is today.

14. Red Dead Ryan - July 29, 2012

I agree that the woman who lost her fiance should have moved on. And you really have to question not the intent of the filmmakers so much as the woman’s motives in this. I think she is obsessed with Terry Ferrell, and used her fiance’s death as an opportunity to meet her. Shameful.

15. Ivory - July 29, 2012

R.I.P. Captain Dave. It’s people like him who are the heart and soul of the Star Trek fandom… Let’s hope the future he saw in ST comes true and horrible diseases like he suffered will be wiped out.

16. Frank Jay Gruber - July 29, 2012

At last, the documentary that began life as “Fan Addicts” in June 2011 during the NJ Creation Con has reached our screens. Since I reported on that event for TrekMovie, and trailed Bill Shatner and crew around for two days (and was even interviewed and directed in a few scenes myself!), I was particularly eager to see the finished product.

While I did enjoy it very much, and encourage all fans to watch it, I was a bit disappointed to see the usual emphasis on oddly-costumed attendees and select atypical fan moments (such as the young mother’s heartbreaking arranged encounter with Terry Farrell and the repeated Captain Dave interludes). Most of the natural and truly insightful comments I overheard Shatner elicit regarding fans’ personal motivations during filming did not make it into the final cut. (I can only hope they will be available as extras on the eventual DVD. Some of them will be of particular use for academics interested in fandom.)

Instead, the focus is largely on Bill’s much-promoted “Epiphany!” that the appeal of Star Trek has mythical underpinnings along the lines of Joseph Campbell’s theories. While this may indeed be an epiphany for Bill, it is not really a surprising revelation to most people intimate with the appeal of the franchise. Much has been written about it over the years.

Although all of the material has a certain charm, I would prefer to have heard fewer comments from select fans in costumes and instead heard from more of the mild-mannered regular attendees in street clothes that, at least in my 37 years of convention-going, usually outnumber the brightly clad people by at least 5 to 1. These people are not busy posing for photos, but often spend time in serious conversations about the show’s concepts and their ramifications. They are thoughtful and quite often funny. This is a side of fandom that remains underexposed.

Random observation: The documentary containing the Trek musings of a rescue worker from Aurora, CO, also struck me as a bit ironic considering the recent tragedy there and the flap over a commentator’s Batman/Trekkies mention.

Like Anthony, I think another documentary centered on the actual preparation and execution of a large scale convention would be a worthy endeavor. Adam Malin and Gary Berman of Creation both have years of great stories to tell.

For my part, this documentary will always have a special place in my memory because I participated in a very small way. Shatner and producer David Zappone even gave me a “Special Thanks” credit in the finished documentary, which was a nice surprise.

17. Plum - July 29, 2012

I just had to post this.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vsSdLD_YodQ

Everyone should have a friend like Jimmy Doohan.

18. Geekazoid Prime - July 29, 2012

Some pretty sad little geeks in that documentary! HAHAHA!! The kind I’d go to conventions and laugh at with buddies! LOL!!! I never dressed up for cons. Granny Vulcans and portly geek Starfleet officers who would never make it through the Academy. The over the top idol worship and utopia cult just makes me wanna barf too!!

It just makes me wanna grab em and shake em and yell — “It’s only a damned TV show!!! WAKE UP!!!” Sometimes Star Trek fans give scientologists a run for their money!! HAHAHA!!!

19. Sid - July 29, 2012

#18: Costumes are fun. Try not to be so mad when other people have fun.

As for the people who do treat Trek like some secular religion and not just a TV show, yeah, agreed entirely.

20. Batclaw - July 29, 2012

Just who the hell are some of you people to think you have the right to tell someone when they should “get over” anything, much less the loss of a loved one?

You’re complete lack of social awareness and sensitivity is what gives Trek fans the stigma we’re often stuck with.

21. Red Dead Ryan - July 29, 2012

#20.

The lady was head of the “Terry Ferrell Fan Club”. I’d understand it if it was the “Jadzia Dax” fan club, but it wasn’t. Clearly she’s obsessed with the actress, as Anthony said how the scene was set up/staged in advance. Which means the woman’s tears were meant as bait for sympathy and attention.

I wouldn’t be surprised if her story of her fiance’s car accident death is a complete sham.

22. Vultan - July 29, 2012

#21

Not sure you should be jumping to conclusions about this. Remember the person with the shuttle going up for auction not long ago….

23. Gabriel Bell - July 29, 2012

Red Dead Ryan #21 – Wow. You really just wrote that? Completely uncalled for. A sad, pathetic comment that hopefully Anthony will delete.

There is absolutely no reason for you to make that type of assertion, since the woman has obviously suffered an immense tragedy.

You should be ashamed of yourself.

24. Dr. Image - July 29, 2012

It took Shat this long to figure out what the attraction of Trek is??
Not surprising, really, since his Raw Nerve interviews smack of interviewing others in order to gain some insight into HIS OWN psyche.
The costuming was entertaining- and nostalgic. My wife and I have been into costuming and make-up since the late 80′s- the “golden age” of fan-run cons. (Unlike the mega-cons- such as Creation- which are usually a bunch of talks, a dealer’s room, and an annoying auction.)
The title I find annoying- If Shat is so touched, then why the backhanded swipe via an overused cliche.
Oh well, it could’ve been a lot worse…

25. GarySeven - July 29, 2012

#20 wrote:

“The lady was head of the “Terry Ferrell Fan Club”. I’d understand it if it was the “Jadzia Dax” fan club, but it wasn’t. Clearly she’s obsessed with the actress, as Anthony said how the scene was set up/staged in advance. Which means the woman’s tears were meant as bait for sympathy and attention.
I wouldn’t be surprised if her story of her fiance’s car accident death is a complete sham.”
Unless anyone knows this woman on an close personal level, it would be, rationally speaking, impossible to know what her actual motivations were. Yet Red Dead Ryan represents an unfortunately large contingent of the Internet: those who make vicious statements about people based on pure conjecture, without any specific and valid information that would prove their assertion correct, and disprove other, and kinder, motivations. Such statements do say something about somebody, but not the person they are discussing. Instead, they reflect poorly on the speaker.

26. Twiddle Dee Dee - July 30, 2012

Yeah! You know what happens when you assume — you make a Talosian head (which looks like an a**) outta you and me! LOL!!!

27. Crys - July 30, 2012

Grief is not pathalogical, there is no time limit on mourning. Just because one person can cope with a loss and move on doesn’t mean the next person will move on in the same time frame. We all come from different points and experiences in life that contribute to our abilities to contend with tragedy.
Knowing the young woman personally, having had the privalige of working with her for many years I assure you that his death is not a sham. Her grief is not a mechanism for profit or fame. She has dealt with her fiancées death in the way that best works for her and the child she raises. I think she is remarkable.

28. Cygnus-X1 - July 30, 2012

7. Anthony Pascale – July 28, 2012

Thanks for the clarification. That makes more sense (and is less disconcerting).

29. rm10019 - July 30, 2012

Shame on those telling her where she ‘should be’ in her grieving process, what the HELL do you guys know about her situation or life since then!!!???

I lost my sister and brother 4 years ago, and shared Star Trek with my brother for over 40 years. If I was on camera talking to Nimoy, or Stewart about what Star Trek meant to our relationship I would cry too, now or ten years from now. Twenty years from now.

This site needs an ignore button, and a bullshit filter asap. Sorry Anthony, but I had to say it.

30. rm10019 - July 30, 2012

27 – thanks for that, and much love to your friend.

31. Twiddle Dee Dee - July 30, 2012

Yeah!! Damned jerks tryin to “shuttlecraft” this poor girl!!! It’s just like that big brouhaha with the TOS shuttlecraft that too place in a thread here recently — jackasses flying off the handle making assumptions about people they DO NOT KNOW and hiding behind the internet to pick on these poor people!!

All you jerkwads should be ashamed!!! Ashamed I tells ya!!! You give Trek fans a bad name!! DORKS!!!

32. Red Dead Ryan - July 30, 2012

Alright, guys, I thought about what I said and came to accept that I was out of line. What I posted was absolutely uncalled for, hurtful, and offensive. I had no right to attack the woman. I had no right to criticise her method of mourning the loss of her loved one. I deserve the scorn and backlash. I am embarrassed, just as anyone else should/would be if they had said the same things I did.

I am truly sorry. My condolences go out to the woman, and so do my heartfelt apologies.

As for my posts, they should NOT be removed. They should remain, as examples of what NOT to say. Nor do I think the posts condemning me should be removed. People have the right to be angry, and they have the right to respond to comments like mine that were very hurtful.

33. Twiddle Dee Dee - July 30, 2012

Apology accepted, Captain Nedar! Mwahahaha!!

It takes a big man to stand up and admit when he’s wrong….kudos to you!!

34. Red Dead Ryan - July 30, 2012

#32.

Thanks.

I like to brag about the things I’ve been right about, on this site. But I also accept that whenever I’m wrong, I have to admit that I’m wrong. In this case, I was SO wrong. And I made an ass of myself.

35. Vultan - July 30, 2012

#34

Don’t be too hard on yourself, man—and you are a MAN for apologizing. But hey, every once in awhile we all say things that we regret, both online and in the non-pixel world.

I’ve been there. Oh Lord, how I’ve been there….

36. Anthony Pascale - July 30, 2012

Red Dead Ryan

Just so you know, if you hadn’t come back and apologized you would have been banned.

Bear that in mind next time you are about to shoot from the hip

37. rose by any other name - July 30, 2012

Even if people do move on, that loss and grief can still remain with them and sometimes the memory and tears that go with it can get triggered at any time, at the oddest of times even.

My aunt (now deceased) was a great-grandmother, but still found herself waking up tearful and at first not knowing why. Then she realised that it was the date she suffered a miscarriage more than 50 years before. She had nine children to raise, so there was no question about her having to “move on” and get on with it…

Just saying.

38. Spuhura addict - July 30, 2012

How many “epiphanies” can Shatner have regarding the exact same question he asked in the Captains? He supposedly “got it” in that expose’ too.
I am feeling a little bit exploited as a trek fan by Shatner and Epix. I hope there is a larger meaning for this blatant exploitation of the trekkie such as a secret poll to access Trek’s popularity status for a new series/ channel or something like that as opposed to just padding Shatner’s pockets and drawing subscribers to the Epix channel which I do not usually watch otherwise.
Sadly, I think it’s the latter.

39. Red Dead Ryan - July 30, 2012

#36.

Yeah, I will start thinking in advance of what I’m about to say before I post.

40. Jim Nightshade - August 1, 2012

Well done mr ryan sir especially if its a lesson learned…sometimes in a sometimes cynical world,it can be easy to judge and assume the worst about people…it helps to try to not jump to conclusions especially with no facts to back them up with…we all deal with the losses of loved ones, especially hard if your loved one was taken too young too soon,suddenly…..even if it was manipulative i am glad they arranged the meeting between terry f and her fan….hopefully that will help her to heal some…i remember lincoln knew that death caused extreme sorrow at first which is slowly replaced with a sad sweet feeling toward loved ones…its never easy no matter their age…i cant stop grieving over the loss of my father last year despite him having a long mostly wonderul life of 92 years….god bless him n all our loved ones…and thanks for sharing feelings everyone…

41. Jim Nightshade - August 1, 2012

Also thanks to crys for giving us additional details about the womans loss of her fiance…my girlfriends cousin was a loomis car driverand two years ago was shot murdered at a big chain retail store by robbers…he had worked for them for over a decade..and was also engaged to be married…his fiance of course was devastated but also very strong in searching for justice and helping so this doesnt happen in the future to anyone else we hope…she has also been very loving n supporting of his family as well….

42. Frank Jay Gruber - August 2, 2012

Turns out that Bill’s “Epiphany!”is not exactly new. Here’s what he told Bob Thomas of the Associated Press in 1989: “Is it possible that we’re creating a mythology?…The more I read and the more I think about it, I wonder if the key to Star Trek is not all the wonderful stuff we talk about: the character interplay, the sci-fi, action and adventure, and all those good things that seem to be on the surface. Somewhere underneath, the chemistry and the concept touch upon a mythological need in modern culture. That’s my real thought.”
This was 23 years ago.

43. Basement Blogger - August 2, 2012

Good review, Anthony. It’s well known that we fans saved Star Trek from obscurity. There’s nothing wrong with being a hardcore fan. The more I think about following the ideas espoused in Star Trek, the more I think we’ll be okay in the twenty third century.

44. Red Dead Ryan - August 2, 2012

#42.

I guess Shatner has been milking his “epiphany” for all it’s worth.

45. Brad - August 3, 2012

I understand the potential here to feel exploited but I thought Shatner and the production team found a good balance to tell a story that would interest fans and friends of fans alike. A truly remarkable insight as to why so many folks love this show and these cons. Full disclosure: the story of meeting my wife through a Trek con is shown in the film (and our theme wedding was covered on the pages of this site). I will be forever grateful to have been a part of this endeavor. Having had the opportunity to be directed by Mr. Shatner is a moment I will always cherish. The fact that I met the love of my life thanks to Trek as well as so many friends from around the world at these cons is a priceless benefit of being a part of this amazing phenom. Off to Vegas!

46. Yancy - August 4, 2012

Actually Frank, Shatner has clearly vacillated throughout the years on his opinions of Trek and its importance and impact. He’s always acknowledged the mythological inspirations for the show as a whole, but I don’t think he’s ever really grasped how people’s passion for Trek is rooted in the primal attraction to that myth.

His interview with Robert Walter from the Joseph appears to be a revelation to Shatner who for years simply saw these fans as obsessive nerds… never really understanding how through fandom Trekkies are able, in their own ways, to be storytellers in the Trek universe are be joint participants in adding to the tapestry of the Star Trek mythos.

It’s pretty cool stuff.

47. Frank Jay Gruber - August 6, 2012

Thanks for the reply, Yancy!

This is clearly a project Bill has had in the back of his mind for years, an approach perhaps rekindled by meeting fans who used the mythology buzzword during his interviews. Part of Bill’s 1989 Associated Press interview I didn’t include is this quote: “I don’t quite know what I mean. It would take a far more intelligent and perceptive person to divine what I mean.” Well, it looks like Bill found him 23 years later in Robert Walter.

Personally, I feel it just adds an interesting backstory to the documentary and shows Bill has thought about the issue in depth over a long period of time–even though marketing it as a sudden “Epiphany!” in the trailer and program is rather deceptive.

Although this is Bill we are talking about. He is the master of promotion and never fails to wring every possible opportunity out of each talk show appearance to hawk his current wares. A Shatner “Epiphany!” suggests something new and a reason to watch.

I am more surprised that his casual mention in the documentary that he now considers himself a fan has not attracted any attention. To me, this is the biggest news of all. Not only has he made his piece with Star Trek (in last year’s The Captains) but now he apparently considers himself a fan of the show.

Bill will always be my Captain, and I both love and admire the guy in real life and treasure my interactions with him over the years (since 1975!), but his advertising acumen really does amaze me sometimes. In a parallel universe he would fit right in on Mad Men.

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