William Shatner will always be Star Trek’s Captain James T Kirk for the show’s millions of fans. He and the rest of the USS Enterprise’s captains will be appearing at Destination Star Trek London this month. Here he discusses the programme, its fans and his music career
ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO BEING IN THE UK?
I am! London is one of my favourite cities, but I hope it doesn’t rain. That’s a forlorn hope, isn’t it?
WHAT CAN THOSE ATTENDING THE EVENT EXPECT TO SEE AND DO?
I’m going to do cartwheels... I’ll get up there, stagger towards the front of the stage, limply hold the microphone in my hand and speak in a soft whisper and try to say something that doesn’t sound dumb. That sounds enthralling, doesn’t it? I will try to answer questions from the audience and try to make the answers sound as entertaining and informative and as jolly as I possibly can.
HAVE YOU SPENT MUCH TIME WITH YOUR FELLOW CAPTAINS BEFORE?
I think the genesis of all this was a documentary I shot called The Captains, in which I flew to many places in the world, including London, to interview them and to find a correlation, if you will, between the five actors, what their experience was, what their character was, how they approached acting, what they did in their life.
HOW DO BRITISH STAR TREK FANS COMPARE TO THE AMERICAN ONES?
They are equally voluble, passionate and loyal.
WHAT’S THE STRANGEST THING A FAN HAS EVER ASKED YOU TO DO?
Well... A lady took off her bra and asked me to sign her breasts, but I didn’t have a pen! I had a 3H pencil, which is a very hard point!
WHEN YOU WERE WORKING ON STAR TREK, DID YOU KNOW IT WAS GOING TO BE SOMETHING SPECIAL?
No. I’d done several series, and while you’re doing anything, you think it’s the greatest thing on Earth - you have to because it would be difficult if you thought, ‘This is terrible, I’m terrible...’ because the audience would know - and that has happened!
WERE YOU ALREADY A SCIENCE FICTION FAN?
I did read a lot of science fiction before I started the series. I was intrigued by it. Since then I’ve written quite a few books myself. But I didn’t realise the insight involved when I was reading it as a youngster, I just thought it was exciting. But I’ve come to realise that writing it is your take on what’s going to happen when you die - what the world is going to be like.
DID YOU WATCH ANY OF THE STAR TREK SPIN-OFFS?
No I didn’t, and I don’t know why I didn’t. I did see the recent JJ Abrams movie. So no, I’ve seen almost none of the other incarnations, and I’ve seen very little of my own stuff.
WHAT DID YOU THINK OF JJ ABRAMS’S MOVIE?
It was fun. JJ is a marvellous director and he understands the modern concept of those kind of movies, which are essentially a ride. You go into the theatre and you ride a rocket.
WHAT DO YOU THINK YOUR CAREER MIGHT HAVE BEEN LIKE HAD STAR TREK NOT HAPPENED?
I don’t know. I was pretty well established before I was hired to do that. I was doing movies and television - something else would have happened. But you know, Star Trek has been a stepping stone to a lot of marvellous things that have happened to me, and I never forget that. I am totally aware of what I owe Star Trek.
ARE THERE ANY ROLES YOU WISH YOU’D PLAYED BUT TURNED DOWN?
No, I don’t remember any of those things. I live in the moment; right now, talking to you, my health is wonderful, the loves in my life are wonderful, I’m happy. I can’t imagine that I would have the temerity to question what could have been better.
YOU’VE ALSO HAD A MUSIC CAREER. HOW DID THAT COME ABOUT?
I had been in love with the musicality of words, the onomatopoeia of words, and I was acquainted with poetry and Shakespeare and that kind of thing, so I seemed to naturally evolve into what the lyrics were saying rather than the melody. So I became intrigued by the lyrics and that’s what’s sustained me in the various records I’ve made over the years.
YOUR VERSION OF COMMON PEOPLE IS FANTASTIC
Thank you so much. I’ve fallen below that high standard several times, but that’s what I attempt to achieve.
YOU’RE 81 NOW...
I can’t imagine I am. I think they made a mistake on my birth certificate in Montreal.
DO YOU HAVE PLANS TO RETIRE?
I don’t have plans - nature may have plans for me! But she hasn’t let me in on them.
DO YOU HAVE ANY OTHER PROJECTS LINED UP?
I do. Several documentaries. The most recent one is Get A Life, in which I ask the question - who goes to these conventions and why? And I come up with an answer, but I’m going to leave it as a mystery because then you have to go and see it. I’m touring my one-man show in November and January to 20 cities. I’ve got a script for a series, I’m going to play a character in an animated film, and there’s an iPhone app which is unique and you’ll love it, but I’m not allowed to tell you anything about it.
WILL YOU BE BRINGING THE ONE-MAN SHOW TO LONDON?
I’ve been asked to come to the West End. But the reason I never went back to New York for so many years is the amount of time away from home. I have to leave my kids and my dogs... I bring my wife with me but it’s not the same. The mattresses are so different in hotels, and there are minor inconveniences that go on. They need you to be there for five or six months. I can manage a month, but then I begin to pine - I want to go home. But I may come to London with it, I don’t know. We’ll have to see.
:: William Shatner will be appearing at Destination Star Trek London (October 19-21, 2012, ExCeL Centre), alongside Patrick Stewart, Scott Bakula, Avery Brooks and Kate Mulgrew. For more information and to buy tickets, visit www.startreklondon.com