04/10/2021

Laugh Trek

Don't Wreck Yourself. Laugh Trek yourself.

Happy 90th Birthday William Shatner, Captain Kirk, TJ Hooker & Denny Crane

William Shatner turns 90 today.  Yes, my saucy Shatner students.  He’s now 90 years old!  Officially, Shatner should be referred to as a nonagenarian.  Sounds kinda sci-fi, right?  Well, it’s completely fitting isn’t it, since the man came to most recognizable pop culture prominence as Starship Enterprise Captain James T. Kirk, in Gene Roddenberry’s classic TV show Star Trek.  Before that, he starred in two of the most popular episodes of science fiction legend, The Twilight Zone.  If that wasn’t enough, Bill Shatner morphed into a noble crime fighter, that of crime buster, Officer TJ Hooker.  Later, he took center stage in the David E. Kelley legal drama, Boston Legal – winning an Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 2005.  

He did this all in a short 90 years.  Nearly a century of Hollywood hoopla.

Yes, this energetic performer is still going strong.  He also has a terrific hit show on History – The UnXplained.  That Xtraordinary title may justly define him best of all – his popularity, his talent, his drive and his limitless charisma may be stunningly powerful, but in many ways, a performer and artist like Shatner’s origins remain in some respects- unexplained.   

The Final Frontier

Gene Roddenberry created Star Trek for Lucille Ball’s studio Desilu, and it premiered on the NBC TV network in 1966.  Today it’s a different media landscape.  With Netflix, Hulu and Disney +, it seems like we were working with stone knives and bearskins – especially since now you pay for new Trek shows such as Picard or Discovery.  Back then, it was free and broadcast mostly on television sets under 20 inches – and most of us didn’t even have a remote control!

William Shatner wasn’t even first pick to play a Starfleet biggie in Prime Directive command of a Federation Starship.  Actor Jeffrey Hunter was initially cast as Captain Christopher Pike, but chose not to carry on when the show went to series, so Shatner replaced him, and Jim Kirk was born. The rest of the Trek impresses as stellar Hollywood history as original Roddenberry Wagon Train To The Stars not only excelled in syndication, but went on to six hit movies and helped launch Star Trek: The Next Generation, which begat Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise

Happy Birthday, Mr. Shatner!  Whether fans love Bill Shatner for galactic adventures, for his earthbound police escapades as super cop, Hooker, his legal latitude playing Denny Crane or his In Search Of style exploits on History Channel’s The UnXplained, it’s clear he’s an American treasure.  Of course, as a Canadian, the USA must always share him with our friends north of our border.