Denver Comic Con 2013: William Shatner And The Theater Of The Mind

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The one true captain and TV, film, and music icon William Shatner received a full-house during his Denver Comic Con panel!

It started with a speech about children and entertainment and ended with two nine-week-old puppies.

Shatner took the stage and launched into a story about his elderly dog Starbuck, who the "Star Trek" and "Boston Legal" actor says was reaching the end of the road. On the eve of an upcoming castration for the aged dog, Shatner's wife struck on the idea of saving his semen to potentially breed puppies (this is going somwhere, promise).

After an adventure to Kyle, Texas to a country veterinarian, and frenzied drive in a rented car through Texas and Oklahoma outrunning the recent Tornadoes, and a pair of Starbuck's puppies later, Shatner had an epiphany as the puppies looked up in wonder for the first time.

Shatner went on to marvel at the "theater of the mind," the ability of fiction to evoke wonder and joy in younger viewers, to open up worlds of fear and excitement. He had praise for most fiction, although he worried that comics could, to some extent, limit the imaginations of young readers. He looked further backward at radio programs, and the way that audio provided just enough to spark the imaginations of the audiences.

With this wandering musing on the nature of fiction and fandom and the way it enhances us, it was time for fan questions.

  • On being the Big Giant Head in "3rd Rock From the Sun": He's been known by the name for so long in Hollywood.
  • On kissing Nichelle Nichols in the original series: It was just part of the job, but in the aftermath of Southern broadcasters' refusal to show the episode, he hopes (and has seen) the country get wiser about interracial relationships.
  • On trying to having a personal metaphysical experience: Nope, none. He told about once camping at the base of a holy mountain in the Himalayas and his only metaphysical revelation was that even in one of the most holy spots in the world, he couldn't have a metaphysical revelation.
  • An aside about a fake metaphysical experience and a real accident: Years ago, he was drafted to participate in a supernatural mysteries-style news program. Well, to get on the show, he embellished a story where he crashed his bike in a hole some years before (he added the detail of a shimmering silver man leading him to a gas station.) When the episode was being filmed, the stunt man performing the crash was seriously injured and ultimately lost the use of his legs. Shatner expressed guilt at manufacturing a story that would create a situation where it would create a very real injury.
  • On his favorite "Star Trek" villain: "I don't count the villains, I count the women," he chuckled.
  • On Ricardo Montalban's pecs: The actor, who Shatner still holds great affection for, was injured in a horse riding accident, halting a very physical career dancing. Montalban subsequently developed his upper body, which was on prominent display in "The Wrath of Khan."
  • On seeing "Star Trek Into Darkness": "I haven't seen it. Have you?" (He then calls J.J. Abrams a genius.)
  • On "Star Trek V": He said he and Leonard Nimoy were given the chance to choose who would direct and write the fifth film based on the original series. Shatner struck on the idea of a film about the Enterprise crew going in search of God and ultimately finding the devil, with Bones being dragged down by his minions. He presented the idea to Gene Roddenberry, who asked "Whose god?" Struggles with the studio and Roddenberry about the question of what deity would be used in the film, led Shatner to ultimately go with the the "god" of the film being an alien. Shatner says that it was this compromise that troubled him. He says this decision--and the other compromises he had to make--that made him realize that you have to be deliberate about what you choose to compromise on. He says that he felt the movie as a whole was compromised because the first decision he made was one he didn't want.
  • On writing: Composing his upcoming album, "Ponder the Mystery," Shatner says he conceptualized the lyrics by imagining a man suffering in the aftermath of a breakup during the rising of the sun. He rattled off some of the strange, Shatner-ian lyrics and I have no idea what I heard. He's also working on a business tips book tentatively called "Hire Yourself" for the over-55 set ooking for work. "What we do is only to present to you the audience, and you tell us if it's any good or not."

Let's end with these (beautiful) words of wisdom from Mr. Shatner about his experience joining "Star Trek" for the pilot:

Science fiction is really trying to peer into the future. We're so out of control with what's going on in our lives... it's chaos, anything can happen to us. So in a desire to know what the future holds, in a desire to know that our children will be safe from all of the toxicity in this world, we cling to something like "Star Trek," which tells us that in 300 years, even if technology has gotten us into this, it will make us better.