Whoever your captain is, at least in the TV and movie “Star Trek” universe, he or she is on here in the surprisingly insightful documentary by William Shatner, who travels all over the place for interviews with those iconic figures.
Starting with “The Next Generation’s” Patrick Stewart, he goes on to visit Avery Brooks (“Deep Space Nine”), Kate Mulgrew (“Voyager”), Scott Bakula (“Enterprise”) and Chris Pine (the new “Star Trek”). Interviews are interspersed with clips from Shatner having fun with fans at a Las Vegas convention, as well as various supporting actors from the shows.
Swayed by Shatner’s gruff, muggy persona, I wasn’t expecting much from the film, which isn’t an official Paramount production. Maybe because he’s freed of Paramount’s grip, he really does dig deeper than the chirpy making-of features that appear on various “Trek” DVDs.
It’s not all happy recollections and backstage stories (though there are plenty of those). It’s positively touching as he talks about how hard being a “Trek” captain, or just being a TV actor, can be. That includes his own first divorce, as well as the ends of marriages for Stewart and Bakula during their runs, and gender politics and the difficulties in being a single working, acting mom for Mulgrew.
Bit it’s also light-hearted, as in the arm wrestling match with Chris Pine outside the Paramount Studios lot. He also gets a bit existential with Brooks, who’s an accomplished jazz pianist and singer, as well as a theater professor at Rutgers University. And, yes, he “sings.” With Bakula, a musical theater vet, too.
That theater link provides an interesting thread, as all the “Trek” captains come from theatrical backgrounds, even Pine.
The other actor interviews are a nice balance to the captain interviews. Shatner doesn’t try to dominate his fellow captains, necessarily, but he never lets you forget this is his film. (Of course, that’s his right, I suppose.) A highlight is his interview with fellow Stratford Festival staple Christopher Plummer, who played Klingon Gen. Chang in “Star Trek VI.”
But for all its insight, the movie does start to drag after a while. For even the most hardcore of fans, it would probably be easier to watch in two sittings.
And I’m admittedly biased because I’m part of one, but it would have been interesting if he’d talked to the captains from one or two of the fan series on the Internet. That would have been something different and added another level to his narrative — and brought it down to Earth a bit more.