"'Has been' implies failure. Not so. 'Has been' is history. 'Has been' William Shatner
was. 'Has been'...
— William Shatner, "Has Been".
(born March 22, 1931) is one of the most charming largest hams
of all time. Most well known for his portrayal of Captain James T. Kirk in Star Trek: The Original Series
, he has offered an assortment of impossibly intense, emotive performances
, often ... including! oddly placed ... emphasis and ... pauses!
His recitation of the Preamble to the US Constitution in the episode "The Omega Glory" is legendary: "WEEEEE . . . the PEEEE-ple!
As if his broad over-acting weren't enough, he also saw fit to record an album of spoken-word readings of poetry and pop-song lyrics called The Transformed Man
that has to be heard to be believed. His renditions of "Mr. Tambourine Man" and "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" are particularly legendary and inspired the Golden Throats
compilations of bad celebrity music recordings. An equally jaw-dropping video rendition
of "Rocket Man
" became a favorite bit of nonsense that was re-created years later by Chris Elliott
on Late Night With David Letterman
and Stewie on Family Guy
. Lesser-known is his cover of Harry Chapin's "Taxi"
on The Dinah Shore Show
circa 1973 (and yes, that's a timecode).
In the late 2000s
, Conan O Brien
picked up the gag: "To read the speeches of Sarah Palin
in the style they were meant to be performed, beat poetry
, please welcome Emmy-award winner and master thespian William Shatner." Shatner also read some of Levi Johnston's writings...and once, Palin went on The Tonight Show
to strike back, reading from Shatner's autobiography.
An ego the size of his native Canada
also did not help his reputation among his co-stars. Details vary, but he has said that he was unaware of how arrogant he was on set. Leonard Nimoy
helped him understand that just being nice to them personally doesn't mean that they respected him trying to take away what little screen time they had, and most of the other cast have in the past expressed dissatisfaction with what Walter Koenig
referred to as "them and us", "them" being Shatner, Nimoy and De Forest Kelley
, "us" being Koenig, George Takei
, Nichelle Nichols
and James Doohan
. His most famous spat was with Doohan, who was one of the most distinguished character actors before his role on Star Trek
; Doohan once famously said "I like Captain Kirk, but I sure don't like Bill." He outright refused an interview with Shatner during the writing of the "Star Trek Memories" book, but showing genuine regret for alienating the cast allowed the two to reconcile before Doohan was incapacitated by Alzheimer's Disease. Memories
also allowed Shatner to settle affairs with Nichols, with Nichols shocking him by telling him "how much I despise you
," though after his willingness to listen to her critiques and offering his sincere apologies, they reconciled and have remained friends. He similarly mended fences with Takei, but apparently their relationship soured again when Shatner did not receive an invitation
to Takei's wedding (Takei insists that he sent an invitation
In more recent years, Shatner has redeemed himself somewhat by developing a sense of humor, mostly about himself
, and becoming a new model of Self-Deprecation
. This has included playing a ludicrous version of himself in the film Free Enterprise
, and parodying his "musical" stylings in a series of commercials and a new, well-received recording with Ben Folds
). He also appears in the videos for the Brad Paisley songs "Online" ("What? I can't sing?"), and "Celebrity". ("I liked the end of the song. No, the end, when you stopped singing
. I liked that part.")
Not to mention his famed "Get A Life" sketch on Saturday Night Live
, wherein he berated Trek
fans for living in their parents' basement.
This later became the title of his 1999 autobiography, in which he self-deprecatingly admits he didn't give Trek fans enough credit. He has since been known to show up at conventions in Klingon guise, confirming that, decades later, he is finally one of us
. Since then, he's joined reddit
(username "williamshatner"), where he refuses to be treated as a celebrity.
Shatner has developed a moderately successful reputation as a writer, starting with two autobiographies about his time with Star Trek
that may have started his redemption; in the books, he faithfully recounts the brutal interviews he held with his former co-stars, who, one after another, lambasted him for being such an overbearing jerk, and admits to being humbled by the experience. He also got first billing on several Star Trek
novels (known as the "Shatnerverse
" as it apparently has its own continuity separate from that of other Trek
novels) that were actually largely authored by Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens, though the later books of the series have more of Shatner's influence—and it shows. In these books Kirk
comes Back from the Dead
and becomes even more of a Marty Stu
. Kirk was also a Marty Stu
in the Shatner-directed Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
, which opens with an obvious stunt double climbing El Capitan and ends with him fighting God (or at least an alien imposter with nifty powers). The success of the Shatnerverse novels inspired him to create the non-Trek Tek War
series as with coauthor Ron Goulart and finally strike out on his own with the Quest For Tomorrow
series. His latest book is an autobiography titled Up Till Now
, which is Actually Pretty Funny
, partly because he spends a great deal of it mischievously poking fun at himself, but mostly because Shatner is actually an extremely good (and funny) non-fiction writer. In the fiction arena he also achieved success as coauthor (with Ron Goulart) of the Tek War
series and sole author of his own Quest For Tomorrow
Shatner also starred as a cop in TJ Hooker
, and was one of the core cast of Boston Legal
, winning an Emmy for his role as the bombastic
, possibly insane
Denny Crane. He has also dabbled in Reality TV
, hosting Rescue 911
and the UPN version of Iron Chef
. His popular Tekwar
novels were adapted into a short-lived series and a video game, in both of which he played a supporting role. On the A&E Channel in 2008 he began Shatner's Raw Nerve
, an intimate interview show (no studio audience) where he talks with guest much like a news interview but done in a much more casual and friendly setting. In fall 2010 he starred as the title father in the CBS Dom Com $#*! My Dad Says
, which only lasted one season.
Shatner also happens to be an expert equestrian, and has been breeding and showing horses for years - namely, American Quarter Horses in reining competitions and Saddlebreds in their breed classes. Incidentally, the horse he rode
in Star Trek: Generations
was his own Saddlebred mare Great Belles of Fire. He also breeds Dobermans.
For a quick primer on how do a passable William Shatner impersonation, simply emphasize the first noun, then say the rest of the sentence as rapidly as possible:
- "YOOOOUUUU . . . can'tjustletthemalldie!"
Alternately, insert pauses at all conceivable (and a few inconceivable) opportunities:
- "Must... draw... on... old... drama club... training!"
Make sure you emphasize
, or the pauses without emphasis will sound more like Barack Obama
. Also make sure you include dramatic hand gestures, otherwise you'll just look silly (as opposed to the correct way you'll look silly while doing it right
(Shatner has himself claimed that the first, more accurate example of a Shatner impression was a result of how scripts tended to be delivered on the show... revised, often, and late. He basically said that the pauses sometimes came from struggling to remember a line he might have been given ten minutes ago and certainly hadn't rehearsed, and the rush came from making sure it would still fit into the allotted camera time. He also claims that the overall hamminess was because he really wanted the show to succeed, and so he "put everything! I! had! ... intotherole.")
(Still another story claims that Shatner, back in his theater days, was tapped at the last second to play a major role in "Julius Caesar". He spent most of the time trying desperately to remember his lines and not screw up... and woke up to critical praise for his "brilliant reinvention of Shakespeare
". Hey, if it ain't broke...)
Note that the more people try this, the better chance they're bad at it.
There is also a book called Shatnerquake
, in which all of Shatner's characters come into our world to destroy the original.
Shatner has now created a new social networking site for arts patrons called myouterspace.com
, which draws much influence from Star Trek
and is laid out in a way not too different from a sci-fi RPG.
In 2010, there was a movement about to have him appointed the next Governor-General of Canada
. For those who don't know, the Governor-General is the Queen's representative in Ottawa, and one of his/her most important jobs is to deliver the "Throne Speech," which is a speech outlining the government's intended plans for the next year. It'd be worth it just to hear him read it. Alas, the government chose a far more appropriate candidate, but no doubt everyone will try again around 2015—although his great age at that time may put a crimp in the plan (he would be 84 in 2015).
In May 2010, The Daily Telegraph reported
that when Shatner began doing ads for travel website Priceline.com in 1997, he took payment partially in stock. Since the company was young and unproven (having been founded earlier that year), the stock wasn't worth much, and it bottomed out at $1.80/share during the dot-com bust in 2000. It recovered, however, and was eventually worth about US $600,000,000. However, in an April 2012 appearance on Conan
, Shatner revealed he never made any money from the stock. Basically, everyone who took a stock payment had to sign a waiver agreeing not to sell the stock for 18 months, which was when its value soared. By the time the waiver expired, the stock was back down to almost nothing, and Shatner (along with most of the other shareholders) sold it. Then
it went back up.
As of June 2, 2011, he is now Doctor
William Shatner, having received an honourary doctorate from McGill University, his alma mater. In other words, he's a doctor, not a starship captain
Is currently the host and narrator of a Speculative Documentary
series on SyFy
called Weird Or What
Tropes Applying to William Shatner:
- Adam Westing: Both regarding his role as Kirk and his singing career.
- From the music video for "Online":
Shatner: "I can't sing?"
- The Brothers Karamazov: One of his earliest roles was Alyosha (the nice brother) in the movie.
- Big Giant Head: he played the dreaded egotistic and self centred alien overlord, the Big Giant Head's earthly incarnation on 3rd Rock from the Sun.
- Canada, Eh? \ Fake American: He was born and raised in Montreal, attending college at McGill).
- Chewing the Scenery: Shatner's acting is actually a very good barometer for judging the quality of an episode of Star Trek. It's no coincidence that in all the really good episodes, Kirk is either remarkably calm ("The Corbomite Maneuver", "The City on the Edge of Forever") or he has a double through whom Shatner can channel his urge to overact (see "The Enemy Within", or that one scene in "Mirror, Mirror"). Or it's a comedy episode, in which case Kirk is deliberately overacting ("A Piece of the Action"). Gotta give the guy credit... how many other actors can claim four hit series? (Star Trek, TJ Hooker, Rescue 911 and Boston Legal). And while people are quick to remember the "KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANNNN!" momentnote , reviewers have often praised Shatner's performance in the second movie - particularly for the grief Kirk displays over Spock's death; a scene Shatner actually conceived himself. In fact, in all of Shatner's Star Trek work, his best acting moments are those centering around Spock (but he also does very well opposite McCoy). Star Trek 2 writer-director Nicholas Meyer has said that he intentionally ran Shatner through repeated takes of each scene until he got tired and stopped overacting.
- Dramatic Pause: Some have ... criticized him of ... overusing this.
- Evil Is Hammy: I'M CAPTAIN KIRK!!!
- Flipping the Bird: Proof Bill is full of awesome.
- Go-Karting with Bowser: He's kept in touch with that Gorn captain.
- I Am Not Spock: He's done more than anyone else from the original Star Trek to escape this trope, mainly by Adam Westing to such a degree that The Shatner became an overriding identity, for which Kirk is but one small part. Still, we all know that when he dies, his obituary is going to read "Best known as the original Captain James T. Kirk from the classic Star Trek series..." Even Shatner himself is aware of this, and seems to be okay with it.
- This was brought up in his documentary "The Captains" specifically in his scenes with Patrick Stewart. He talks about how he originally wanted to distance himself from the role, but eventually he finally realized how important it was to people, and as a result, it became important to him too.
- It Is Pronounced Tro-PAY: "I don't say sabotage. You say sabotage, I say sabba-tadge."note
- Judaism: He was raised (and by most accounts remains) in the Conservative Jewish tradition. This might have helped with his friendship with Leonard Nimoy, who is a member of the not-too-different Modern Orthodox stream; Nimoy, by his own account, helped Shatner get back in touch with his roots and encouraged him to be more observant.
- Large Ham: Some say he is, in fact, the most defining example in American television. He even adorns the page image.
- Nice Character, Mean Actor: In one of the more famous instances of this trope, he developed a reputation for this during the original Star Trek series. Since then, he has taken steps to reconcile with those he offended and by all accounts has ceased throwing around the ego he had in his youth.
- Of Corsets Funny: His infamous girdle. Which he may or may not have worn.
- Older Than They Look: He looks like he's in his fifties despite being in his eighties.
- One of Us: Science Fiction fan, Science Fiction Author and the host of several documentaries on fandom.
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis!
- Rage Quit: He did this on a celebrity episode of Wheel of Fortune in 1997.
- Say My Name: The trope formerly known as The Khan.
- Self-Deprecation: He's well aware of his status as Snark Bait and very good-natured about it.
- Shakespearian Actor: Seriously, he performed both on TV and in Canada's Stratford Shakespeare Festival, one of the classiest theatre venues in the nation. Like with Avery Brooks, the years of reciting the Bard's lines in their specific cadences is thought to have played a large part in his Star Trek-era acting style.
- He once claimed, in Get a Life!, that he developed the style when acting in some minor theater, to keep the audience awake.
- Star-Making Role: Who knows what would have happened if Jeffrey Hunter had chosen to stay with Star Trek?
- Your Costume Needs Work: According to Get A Life, he was once told that his Captain Kirk was inferior to that of Kevin Pollack. By his daughter. The next time he saw Pollack, he got some tips from him.
- You Say Tomato: The way he pronounces sabotage as "sabataage".