Review: William Shatner Live With ‘Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan’ Is A Night You Will Remember

(Photo: Susan Poulton)

Last week William Shatner wrapped up the first leg of five cities for his live tour of screenings and Q&As with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. The tour picks up again next month, with stops around the country. TrekMovie was at the stop last week in Philadelphia to see what the experience was like.

Shatner’s stop in Philadelphia was held at the historic and elegant Academy of Music – with a huge screen set back on the stage between two huge pillars of sound. Below the screen were two empty chairs bookending a small table resting atop a homey rug.

Prior to the movie’s start, the screen ran a series of facts and trivia slides about Star Trek II and Shatner himself, with most on the easy side for fans, but some impossibly challenging like “How many times has The Twilight Zone episode “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” been referenced in popular culture? (Answer 17 times, who could possibly know that?).

Do you know your Shatner trivia (Photo: Ray Lauff)

As for the film itself, what else can be said about the greatness of Wrath of Khan? Yet the experience of seeing it again on the big screen with a crowd full of fans whooping it up upon the delivery of each now-classic line of dialog, brought chills. I was lost in the storytelling and effects that have held up remarkably well. But then, once in a while I remembered with a sudden thrill, “we’re going to see Shatner, in person, in just a few minutes!”

Before you knew it, Spock’s ghostly reading of the mission statement faded in the theater, the credits began to roll and applause filled the room. The screening faded quickly as the credits rolled with Shatner introduced and taking to the stage with his first of several standing ovations for the night. After some quick banter with the moderator, Shatner set the relaxed tone for the event by telling everyone to call him Bill.

The moderator asked a series of prepared general questions, as well as some submitted earlier by attendees. Bill gave long, entertaining, at times wandering answers – but always came back to the question and always with a point or a joke. For listening to a man in his 88th year, you can forgive a lot of memory lapses and meandering, but with William Shatner, there was no need. He is sharp, funny, insightful and a born entertainer and raconteur.

William Shatner at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia, PA.

There were no big new insights offered by Shatner, especially for longtime fans, but one particular tale from behind the scenes brought down the house. It was a story of pranking DeForest Kelly at craft services by having Leonard Nimoy distract him while waiting for his bagel to be toasted so Bill could pop it, steal it, and press the toaster down so that DeForest would turn back and watch the toaster pop up empty — reinforcing Dee’s earlier concern he confided in Bill that he was forgetting things. After the second time he looked at Bill, saw his mouth stuffed with his bagel, and shouted “SHATNER!”

While some of the stories may be familiar, there is a special quality to seeing Shatner live, as he has a charm and wit that you can’t get from reading a book or interview. And while he may be known for having an ego, Shatner knows how to use self-deprecating humor well. His funniest line of the night may have been the answer to the question “Do you wear boxers or briefs?” Answer (after a long pause): “Depends.”

And it isn’t all Star Trek stories and jokes, as Bill is also happy to share wisdom from his life and experiences. Perhaps giving a preview of his upcoming memoir/advice book Live Long And ..: What I Might Have Learned Along the Way, Bill offered the simple, yet profound tip “The secret is to say yes, to life.” Bill also showed how much of a pro he is by deftly handling an overeager fan in the front row who was bordering on heckling. Overall, it was a room filled with love.

What a wonderful experience! As Sulu says in Star Trek VI, “Nice to see you in action one more time, Captain Kirk.”  Based on the long list of William Shatner’s projects in the works, I strongly doubt this was one last time. Seeing the William Shatner live tour with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is highly recommended.

Tour starts up again in June

Shatner will return to the road for his tour in late-June, with four stops starting in Denver on June 21st. There will be a stop in North Carolina in July and then a break until the tour begins again in September with stops in the Midwest.

For a list of stops and links to buy tickets, visit williamshatnertour.com. You can also keep up on news and get info on pre-sales and discounts at williamshatnerfanclub.com.

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Danpaine

Aw man, I was going to go to this but dropped the ball. And what a great venue that is. At 88, Mr. Shatner is a true inspiration, and his Kirk was a Giant role model for me growing up in a broken home years ago. Such a good influence.

Second star to the right, and straight on til’ morning…

Captain Dunsel

He is the man!

Arathorn

Meh. Kirk as character is indeed a great role model. But Shatner himself has always come off as too egotistical (in my opinion).

Disinvited

Arathorn,

Re: too egotistical

Perhaps, in the beginning, but his willingness to poke fun at himself seems to have leavened it somewhat. At least, I don’t recall him ever flagrantly campaigning for a Nobel prize.

And, whatever his motivations, his grabbing a firehose during TWOK sets raging fire takes a certain amount of guts few can muster. Not to mention his constantly getting on planes despite his phobia of flying.

And then there’s all the money he’s raised for charities.

People have done worse in picking role models.

BorgKlingon

Agree 100% with you on this one.

GQMF

If you have thousands of people telling you how great you are all the time it’s hard not to be a little egotistical. Fame is not always a good thing.

BorgKlingon

Got my tickets for Thousand Oaks – can’t wait!

Captain Dunsel

You’ll love it. He’s as entertaining as ever.

BorgKlingon

Thanks!

ML31

Crossing my fingers he’s taking this to the Bay Area at some point…

Tom

Would be nice to see him in action one last time.
2 movies being planned plus Discovery. He is 88 do it now!!

BorgKlingon

Just enjoy him and go see him at this event…let the past be the past and move on.

Tom

I hear you Borg. He is great at conventions and venues like this. Still gets stale after awhile. Since he is willing i dont think a Shatner appearance would hurt in a movie or an episode of Discovery. Everyone is going to nitpick anyway

Please come to Florida.

GQMF

Have to admire Shatner for always having a project on the go.

JoeTrekFan

I wish I could have seen him in Baltimore but my work schedule just wouldn’t allow it.

For anyone who is planning to attend a future event, please ask Shatner why he didn’t hock some of his Star Trek V salary to properly finish the movie when Paramount refused to give him the budget he needed. And, if he got what he wanted in terms of time and money, how would V been different? The often given answer about Paramount owning Star Trek might be true, but serious filmmakers have put up their own money, or waived their salaries.. think Coppola..think Cameron and Titanic. I can’t imagine with today’s CGI, that he could revisit V the way he wanted to..and do it soon before its too late.. :)

Just Another Salt Vampire

In Shatner’s book about the Star Trek movies he goes into depth about the budget problems that they had with Star Trek 5, especially for the conclusion. He wanted an attack of multiple rock creatures, but only had the budget for one. The one rock creature didn’t function properly, and likely any funds Shatner would have kicked in from his salary would not have fixed that.

BorgKlingon

Perhaps it’s best you were not able to attend the Baltimore event so you didn’t embarrass Shatner in person with this question?

He’s 88 years old. Let it go, man.

GQMF

Shatner was not a career director (he only had 10 episodes of TJ Hooker under his belt when he was given STV). Star Trek is not a serious movie franchise either and has always had bad effects.

Honestly, I’m pretty thankful that he didn’t contribute anything. It would have just funded more awful. The real problem with the movie was the script. No amount of money (or fighting rock monsters) would have fixed that.

Leave the poor guy alone. He knows it sucks and he can’t change it now 30 odd years later (I believe he gives STV as his answer to favourite movie for the reason that he learnt a lot from it).

Disinvited

GQMF,

Re: a career director

Neither were Meyer nor Nimoy when each directed their first Trek flick.

Disinvited

GQMF,

Re: can’t change it now

I don’t know, if Wise completed his at the age of 87 and Meyer’s in the editing room, yet again, for the 4k UHD edition of his, then it is still not outside the realm of possibilities.

JoeTrekFan

The question was meant not to put the man down. Its a matter of cinema history that directors have put their own money on projects they believed in.

If I wanted to put the man down, I would have asked him the question of where is the blooper shot of his toupee blown away by winds when filming a desert scene on V. Rumor has it he had those crew membered fired who did laugh. I wonder how much it cost toupee another one.

BorgKlingon

Yea, you really sound like a great Shatner fan, Joe

(sarcasm)

Thorny

“Star Trek is not a serious movie franchise either and has always had bad effects.”

That’s not at all true. ILM did Wrath of Khan and Search for Spock while they were at their peak. The Genesis Demo for Wrath of Khan was state of the art at the time.
There’s nothing wrong with the effects for The Motion Picture, either. That movie was let down by poor acting and terrible pacing, not special effects.

GQMF

I meant in the TV show. When people think of Star Trek they think of ships on strings and papermâché rocks.

Disinvited

GQMF,

Re: ships on strings

If they are thinking of that then they definitely are NOT thinking of STAR TREK. About the only time I recall anything in the area of “strings” would be the use of wires in the shuttlecraft landing and takeoff sequences in the bay.

ML31

“When people think of Star Trek they think of ships on strings and papermâché rocks.”

No… That is what folks might think of when they think of the old Flash Gordon serials. Certainly not Star Trek.

ML31

“Star Trek is not a serious movie franchise either and has always had bad effects. ”

100% false. The effects in the features were quite good. (Save for TFF). And the TOS effects were pretty state of the art for their time. Even the spin off shows effects weren’t “bad”. Some could have been better but I don’t recall ever groaning at the SPFX work.

Curious Cadet

@JoeTrekFan — the one thing I can’t see Shatner doing is putting up his own money to fix TFF.

Paul

Shatner asked Paramount more than once for funds to fix STV. Both times they declined immediately Paramount are not interested in ever revisiting despite a fan edition with new VFX being shown to them (via Shatner) as what could be possible with a small budget. Only way it ever gets fixed is a dedicated group of fans do it in their spare time & make it an anonymous Public Domain release…

Curious Cadet

@Paul — given all the wealth fans have given Shatner, I can’t really see anything happening with it unless Shatner is willing to put some of his own money into it, even if he lets someone organize a crowd-funded budget to add to it. If he’s not passionate enough to see it finished the way he envisioned it, then why should anyone else be?

But here’s the real issue — did they actually shoot the fight sequences? If the shots of Shatner don’t exist to cut into the new CGI, then it’s really moot for me. As others have pointed out, a rock monster fight will not save that movie, and if anything the GQ parody will only work in reverse here given that it came before the proposed updated TFF, despite being inspired by the absence of it in TFF. Having a CGI Shatner will only add to the hilarity and sadness of it.

Perhaps one day well into the future when technology on a fan’s laptop will allow the perfect realistic recreation of the scenes per Shatner’s official authorized storyboards.

Martin

When I was a kid, I wanted to be Captain Kirk. Now that I am past 50, I just want to live like William Shatner.

Martin

I really hope William Shatner can be in the new Star Trek film, whether that’s the stupid JJ-nonsense or the Tarinto project. Seeing Kirk die in Generations, though powerful and poetic was something that still makes me sad and I’d much prefer thinking of him living on as an old man on a ranch, maybe with a pretty wife by his side. I wonder if they could work something with the Nexus… that said, the JJ-verse films are in an alternative timeline that may not have a Nexus, and that said, it’s unlikely they would feature something from an older Trek film as studios are so obsessed with simplifying things and appealing to the lowest common denominator and as evidenced by Discovery or Disregardery as I call it, producers are obsessed with change for changes sake and reinventing the wheel. We like to think of our heros as living forever, it’s silly to kill off a Kirk or even a Data – cheap effect to the detriment of a franchise. Spock’s guidance in the first two JJ films and the photo scene in Beyond were the ONLY stand-out moments for me. Having Shatner being Kirk, not a cameo playing another character, would be a nice bookend to Nimoy’s appearances, things coming full circle. I don’t think they care about the fans that much. I don’t think they would want to do fan service in the way the new Disney Star Wars films do. The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi… Read more »

albatrosity

Alright gotta hand it to Bill that depends comment was perfect. In general though his personality doesn’t impress me very much. I’ve seen him twice on stage and both times his presence was overbearing, even when it was just him! It’s pretty clear to me how people find him difficult to work with. But I still would like the chance to meet the man and make my own call one way or another while he’s still willing to go on tour for this sorta thing. Maybe for the 40th anniversary of TWOK? He’ll be around at 92 I’m sure.

Jam

I saw the one man show with Shat a few years ago and it was great! Wish this was coming to my city

James Sob

just give him a role in new Star Trek Movie!

JoeKewl

Wish he’d consider a visit to Marquette Michigan. Could easily be held at one of the lecture

halls on campus = NMU or even at the Yooper Dome though having it there would be cost

prohibitive. Let’s see what’s out there…..✨ 🌎 ⚡️