William Shatner is 87 years old.
I kept telling myself this over and over because watching him live in Auckland for his Shatner’s World one-man show, this seemed a man 20-30 years younger than that. He laughed, he danced, he even sang in his patented Shat-scat fashion a bit. Shatner still has a volcanic energy that is a force of nature.
What a life Shatner has lived – over nearly two hours he took the audience on a meandering journey from his Canadian stage beginnings to his early TV days on through his ‘Star Trek’ success and later works like ‘Boston Legal.’ He could be hilarious one moment, but then touchingly human and self-aware the next, musing on his parents, family, beloved horses, and death, the final frontier itself. It was refreshingly intimate for a show by an actor known for his bombastic swagger, but a man who’s also engagingly self-aware.
For a while, it was fashionable for snobbier Trek fans to bash Shatner – he was seen as too egotistical, dominating the room and overshadowing great talents like Nimoy, DeForest Kelley and the rest of the crew. But Shatner is the spice that made classic Trek soar.
Would Star Trek truly have endured these past 50 years if you’d subtracted Shatner’s distinctive hammy charm as Kirk from the equation? Watch the original ‘The Cage’ pilot with the amiable but bland Jeffrey Hunter as Captain Pike to see what a Kirk-less Trek would be like.
Is he larger than life? Sure. I wouldn’t have him any other way. I took Mr 14 – a huge Star Trek fan who was born years after all the original TV series ended – and he had a blast.
Shatner is a showman – one of the great showmen of our time – and as he tours Australia and New Zealand and the rest of the world at an age when a lot of blokes would be happy to give it a rest, he’s kind of inspirational. Live long and prosper, indeed.