It’s time to start winding down our coverage for Star Trek Las Vegas with a report on one of the men that started it all. William Shatner was a highlight of the weekend and kept the close-to-capacity crowd entertained with anecdotes, jokes, and even some philosophical insights. Being Shatner, a good portion of the panel time was devoted to horses, which may be his greatest passion, but there was some good talk of Star Trek too.
Calls his Star Trek 2009 scene ‘fake news’ (it isn’t)
One of the more interesting exchanges during his Q&A time in Vegas was when a fan started off saying he thought it was a shame Shatner was not in J.J. Abrams’ 2009 Star Trek movie. Shatner emphatically agreed with an “I do too!” The fan apparently came prepared as he then asked Shatner about the scene written for him for the movie (which was exclusively revealed here at TrekMovie in 2009). Bill asked the fan where he saw the scene and the fan replied it was a “reliable source,” to which Shatner replied:
Reliable source? That’s fake news!…But seriously I have heard that story, but it has never been in my consciousness. I am not aware of that at all.
The fan then spent about 45 seconds describing the scene in detail (which involved Leonard Nimoy’s Spock giving Zachary Quinto’s Spock a recording of the original Kirk which would have been played by Shatner) until Bill stopped him and interjected:
That is the stupidest scene I have ever heard of! When I saw Leonard [Nimoy] in the first movie that J.J. [Abrams] made and he went back in time, I said to Leonard “You know you are old when you go back in time and you are still old!”… Those are gratuitous scenes! I want to play something – well the question is “How do you put this 50-year-older captain into that thing?”
While TrekMovie has confirmed that the scene was indeed written for Shatner, one of the reasons it is not in his “consciousness” is that it was only pitched internally to the creative team. The group decided not to include it in the movie and therefore it was never presented to Shatner. Director J.J. Abrams felt at the time Shatner’s Kirk being killed off in Star Trek: Generations created too many complications for bringing him back. Abrams actually spoke about this last year:
In all the years we’ve been working on this, I’ve yet to hear a pitch that didn’t sound too contorted and contrived for an audience to swallow. And I’ve talked to him (Shatner) about it. If Kirk had lived there’d be an answer. But there’s something about his having died that makes it impossible.
Including Shatner would have changed this scene in the 2009 Star Trek movie
Giving Kirk ‘the look of eagles’
Another highlight of Shatner’s time was in response to a question from moderator Scott Mantz on how the actor “nailed” the character of Kirk right from the beginning of Star Trek. Shatner began noting that it was all about his training and specifically his work with the Stratford Festival in Canada, noting:
I was a trained classical actor. And the thing about heroes in Shakespeare is they are known. They are kings. They stand in a certain way. They speak. The phrase I heard was “the look of eagles” so you are always looking either to the horizon to see if the enemy is coming or into the future. There is something about being a hero that puts your shoulders back.
So when I came to Star Trek and I [talked] to [creator] Gene Roddenberry, he said to read the books of Horatio Hornblower and I read them and he was just an ordinary captain, but he had his eye on the horizon. Because in those days you didn’t know if a strange animal would swallow the ship. And Captain Kirk had the same problem [laughs] “I wonder if there is a strange animal that is going to swallow the Enterprise.” So I played it like a classical hero and that gave me a little advantage.
Praise for Star Trek’s other Gene
Shatner was also asked about the other Gene who had a major role in the original Star Trek, writer and producer Gene Coon. He was quick to note his admiration:
[Gene Coon] was a marine. He set the style, the laconic English style: “Yes and no, yes sir.” And middle words and not being effusive, but being efficient … he was terrific. I am reminded of [National Security Advisor H.R.] McMaster in the White House. He was a marine. “Yes, sir!” “No, sir!” That is the way the military works, you do your job and get going. And if I say to Sulu, “Turn left” you turn left! No, right! … can never remember which is starboard and port.
Waxing philosophically on death and life
With a William Shatner panel you never know where it will go, and in Vegas things turned somewhat serious. While discussing his acting process Bill then went on a tangent that showed how he is contemplating his own mortality:
Life is a process of learning. But when you die do you finally know and then you are dead? You will say “Oh, that’s …”[feigns death]…The corollary of all that is you don’t know anything. You go through life and you know two and two and a little bit about politics, but you don’t really know anything. Nobody knows anything. I have talked to astrophysicists and they are all guessing…I am so wary of death. I think it it was George Burns who said “I can’t die, I’m booked.” And I’m booked.
Later in the program in response to a fan asking what advice he would give his younger self, Bill again got philosophical:
I’ve lived all these years, and I wish I could sum up “well this is what the truth is.” There is no truth. Life goes on and then it ends and there is nothing you can do about it. You can struggle to try to perfect yourself and do better what you work is or try and lead a full life so you are giving as well as taking. You do all those things, but in the end the sweep of history takes you. Life takes you on its own flood plains and you don’t really have any control, so relax! Enjoy the journey because the ending you don’t want to get to. So keep your head above the water and look around you and realize you’re surviving and it’s going to be alright, no matter what happens, it’s going to be alright.
Announces (possibly Star Trek) VR project
Of course Shatner will never stop working and during his time on stage he discussed a number of upcoming projects. This included a cryptic mention of something to do with VR that may be related to Star Trek:
I am going to be doing a big thing with virtual reality. It is going to be stunning and its new and nobody has done it yet. That’s how I can appear in a Star Trek movie.
Other projects he noted:
- Just got back from filming second season of the NBC series Better Late Than Never which involved visiting 60 cities in 5 countries in 40 days.
- Follow-up to last year’s Zero-G sci-fi novel is coming this fall (titled Green Space)
- Just finished writing an advice book on aging to be titled “Live Long and…”
- Completed filming the movie Senior Moment four months ago, said it helped him realize he is still discovering how to be a better actor.
More Star Trek Las Vegas Coverage