An Ode to William Shatner
Today is the 80th birthday of William Shatner, best known as the original Captain James Tiberius Kirk of the USS Enterprise. You can have all the arguments you want over who’s the best Star Trek captain (the answer is Kirk), but there’s no arguing over the fact that Shatner set the stage for all the others. In spite of it’s wonderful and cheesy 1960’s vibe, Star Trek was a big deal, going far beyond what people expected from a network science fiction show. And the face of the series was William Shatner as the most memorable of the Captains in the franchise. He deserves a lot of credit for playing Kirk in such a way that over 40 years later, his mannerisms and speech patterns are still so recognizable.
In fact, the way this man talks is so unique that today is also “Talk Like William Shatner Day”. Yup, his birthday has become a holiday. If you celebrated “Talk Like a Pirate Day” by saying Argh! and Aye! all day then today you should be talking with unnecessary pauses and…..accents in…the oddest places. I don’t think there are many people out there, Star Trek fan or not, that wouldn’t recognize the distinctive pattern of Shatner’s speech. But it wasn’t just his portrayal of Captain Kirk that won him a place in my heart. If you grew up in the 80’s, then you probably also remember him as the star of T.J. Hooker. He played a tough talking veteran cop helping a rookie learn the ropes. He outran guys half his age, held on to the hoods of cars during high speed chases while holding a gun and banging on the windshield, and never failed to catch the bad guys. T.J. Hooker was cool.
Both these roles had no small amount of cheese to them, but they were fun and Shatner made them memorable. What makes William Shatner even cooler than Kirk or T.J. Hooker is that he doesn’t look back and talk about these roles as though they were dated and cheesy and worthless. He doesn’t make himself out to be some grand thespian who is so beyond those roles that he gives them hardly any note or credibility. He embraces those characters. So much so that he’s made fun of himself at roasts, awards shows and countless appearances. This guy has won two Emmy awards and a Golden Globe and still he’s able to not take himself too seriously.
This is what I love about William Shatner. He mocks his own halting speech as Captain Kirk, jokes about his days on T.J. Hooker, and sings songs that make fun of his success. All this from an award-winning actor who is a talented man who has provided hours of entertainment for all of us. Happy 80th Birthday, William Shatner!