The Star Trek highlight of Phoenix Comicon on Saturday was William Shatner who delighted the packed crowd with stories from his life along with some of his insights into his career path, the nature of fandom, the mythology of Star Trek, how his Star Trek novels are actually autobiographical, and more. He even showed how he pranks stewardesses by reenacting his famous Twilight Zone episode. See below for highlights, quotes, photos and the full video.
PHOENIX COMICON – WILLIAM SHATNER ON SATURDAY
William Shatner appearing before a capacity crowd of 5,000 fans. Bill was his usual avuncular self, but also got serious at times. We have photos, highlights and full video of the event. Check it all out below (including a must-see story about Bill reenacting his look from Twilight Zone "Nightmare at 20,000 feet" when he flies.
- Opened with a couple of jokes about how he was amused Southwest Airlines instruct you on what to do in the event of a water landing when flying over the barren landscape between Burbank and Phoenix — "The only body of water that I can think of is in my bladder" got best response…he then moved to Q&A (after quick story about horses)
- Says that sometimes when he flies his kids have got him to reenact his famous panicked look from Twilight Zone episode "Nightmare at 20,000 feet" (see video below at 46:28 mark)
- Noted on a couple of occasions how he hates getting the question "What is your favorite Star Trek episode?"
- Currently editing new documentary on Star Trek fans called "Get A Life!" which will air on Epix later this year and in Canada it will be longer and called "Fan Addicts"
Some selected quotes:
"He had a little tummy when he played me – a little pooch in his stomach – and I thought that was kind of mocking"
– Shatner on Tim Allen’s portrayal in Galaxy Quest
"Like with riding, I’ve only recently discovered how to act. I have been acting since I was six years old, but it is amazing about how you get older and physically less capable, your ability to distill the knowledge grows so that you know what to do, you can’t just do it as well."
"The actor just feels, brings up, remember, allows to penetrate and permeate the body. And without thinking, like riding the horse, without thinking, no thought, just feels. The actor feels the words, feels the feeling. And allows it to come out through whatever means it will come out. And that’s the art of acting that I have only recently discovered."
– Shatner on how when you get older you learn how do to things (from riding horses, to acting, etc)
"Twilight Zone? Science fiction? I don’t do science fiction, I am a Shakespearean actor…so I do this show and it is essentially me and this Czechoslovakian acrobat in a furry suit pretending to be a gremlin on the wing of an airplane. I thought, I just came off of Marlow and Tamurlaine the Great and I’m doing this thing looking out at this idiot on a wing…my career is wrecked before it even begins! I thought"
– Shatner on working on Twilight Zone
"There are universals, and it doesn’t matter what it looks like. Our special effects in Star Trek – looking back now with the computer generated effect that they have now and what JJ Abrams can do with the new movie – are ridiculous. Sometimes the set would shake when they opened the door and the director would say "would you mind bracing that, just put another nail in it for god’s sake." But it didn’t matter what it looked like. That is why we are here. It’s not for the sets and the special effects. We are here to celebrate our love of Star Trek because of the stories and the meaning."
– Shatner on 60’s shows like Twilight Zone and Star Trek compared to today
"I started to do my documentary ["Get A Life!"] and what I have discovered blows my mind. It turns out that we are all here [at a convention] because of the mythology. We lack a mythology in today’s culture. We don’t how to explain our lives. You can talk about religion and to religion is to many people a mythology that gives you explanation…We are here to celebrate this mythology of Star Trek and you are here to celebrate the ritual of a mythology. The cast, perhaps the captains, are there heroes of that mythology. And the wearing of the uniforms and the getting of the autographs and putting on [your head] the omelet that looked like Klingon – all that is participating in the ritual because it is what we love. It is our explanation of our lives for that moment. And the people that don’t know this are the poorer for it. So what looks to the outside world as "who are these Trekkies/Trekkers – what do they want?" They don’t know the secret that I discovered as part of this
film. We are here as part of a cultural myth. And it all makes sense."
– Shatner on what he learned making "Get A Life!" documentary
"’The Transformed Man’ was a failure because it wasn’t very good."
– Shatner on his 1968 debut album "The Transformed Man"
"The franchise of Star Trek is jealously guarded by the people at Paramount and at this point I think it is JJ Abrams – holding on to and not letting it get out of hand. But somehow they let me go with some novels. In fact on the death of Captain Kirk, I played the death and did it and I walked up to the producer Rick Berman and I said "I have an idea on how to bring him back" and I wrote a treatment and they turned it down but they allowed me to write the novel called "The Return." So I wrote the novel and it well received and successful and so they allowed me to write others. So then I began to write stories about Captain Kirk that involved me – Shatner. The journey that Shatner was going through…how Shatner felt about death in my life, how Shatner felt about the aging process and the desperate grasp onto youth and not wanting to a moment to go by without living it to its fullest. I began a series of novels that are autobiographical. I didn’t realize it fully until some time later. So when I came up with what stories to tell about Captain Kirk, they were the stories of me and my marriage, and the death of marriage and the love and enmity and the stories of things that happened to people I knew…So if you read any of those novels they are things that either happened to me or I thought about."
– Shatner on his series of Star Trek novels
NOTE: Due to unforeseen circumstances, we were not able to cover the Wil Wheaton "story time" panel.
More to come + live coverage
On Sunday there is a Star Trek TNG mega-panel with Michael Dorn, Marina Sirtis, LeVar Burton, Wil Wheaton and Brent Spiner. TrekMovie will have a report on that later.
For live coverage:
- Follow @trekmovie and @startrekcon on Twitter
- Listen to live stream from the main ballroom (TNG mega panel on Sunday at 1:30 Pacific Time) at vtwproductions.com.
Photos and text by Anthony Pascale, video by Nai Wang