'Star Trek' a small part of William Shatner's career

| Saturday, Nov. 24, 2012, 8:57 p.m.

He made voyagers just a little bit afraid of air travel after playing the passenger who saw the “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.”

He helped to inspire a generation to look beyond the sky and to consider what technology could do for mankind after playing Capt. James T. Kirk in “Star Trek.”

He helped to make millions aware of the everyday heroics of emergency responders in one of the first reality shows, “Rescue 911.”

And he made it OK for guys to be maybe just a little closer to their male friends after playing Denny Crane on “Boston Legal.”

So maybe it's not really hyperbole when William Shatner calls his one-man show “Shatner's World: We Just Live in It.” The show comes to the Benedum Center at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.

It follows the Canadian actor's life, from his childhood in the Montreal area and studies at McGill University to his early years performing — including replacing Christopher “Capt. Von Trapp” Plummer in a performance of “Henry V” — to his stints as Kirk and Crane. Audiences can expect to hear stories about his music efforts, the kidney stone he sold to benefit Habitat for Humanity and his love of horses.

“I am going to … try to make you laugh and cry, and entertain you, and perhaps have something to discuss after the show,” he says.

The biographical show debuted on Broadway in February followed by stops in 15 cities in March and April. The current leg of the tour began Nov. 8, after a break of about six months.

“I'm trying to remember what it is I said and did. I have it scripted, and I'm re-memorizing it and trying to sharpen it up as I go along,” he says.

Although Shatner has been in Pittsburgh before — he visited Carnegie Mellon University a decade ago while researching his book “I'm Working on That” — he says he isn't inserting city-specific anecdotes in the show. “The only tailoring I do is on my jacket; I'm trying to have them take it in,” he jokes.

But the show is no lark to Shatner.

Shortly after his run on Broadway, Shatner says he was to play at the Pantages Theater in Los Angeles, where he had recently seen a show with more than 2,000 performers.

“A week or so later,” he says, “I stride on the stage to do a sound check — empty theater, 3,500 seats, and I'm alone. And I'm going to entertain the same number of people, by myself, that 2,000 people held in the palm of their hand.

“If I allowed myself, it could be quite overwhelming. You have to go into a state of denial.”

While part of the actor's fame came from a “Saturday Night Live” TV skit where he enjoined hard-core “Star Trek” fans to “Get a life,” Shatner says dealing with people at science-fiction fan conventions over the years was part of the reason he felt he could mount this type of performance.

“(That's) exactly why I thought I was capable of doing a one-man show, involving projection and stuff like that. … I've done it over the years, in front of 15,000 people and not knowing what was going to come out of my mouth. Now, I know what is going to come out of my mouth — most of the time.”

At 81, Shatner shows no signs of slowing his pace of work.

He recently did voice work for an animated film he describes as “huge, monumental, everybody who's known in show business is in it,” and he's playing a villain, he teased. He recently hosted two seasons of “Shatner's Raw Nerve,” a talk show on the Biography Channel that features him doing offbeat interviews with celebrities, and had a guest starring role on USA's “Psych.”

Shatner has a documentary coming out, “Get a Life,” which looks at the phenomenon of science-fiction and comic-book conventions, and, he says, poses the question: “Who goes to them, and why? And I've come up with an answer that I think is interesting, and you'll have to see the documentary to know the answer.”

He says he has a potential new series, and several other projects, including an iPhone app that debuted this month. The application gives users access to a library of recorded words and allows them to create sentences they can then hear in Shatner's voice.

But why is he working so hard?

“I love what I'm doing, and I don't want to stop. It makes me feel worthwhile and gives me a purpose.”

Vaunda Bonnett and Catherine Artman are staff writers for Trib Total Media.


• “Miss Congeniality” (2000) and “Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous” (2005)

• Seven “Star Trek” movies, from 1979 to 1994

• “National Lampoon's Loaded Weapon 1” (1993)

• “Airplane II: The Sequel” (1982)

• “Incubus” (1966)

• Shatner directed “Get a Life!” (2012, TV documentary); “The Captains” (2011 documentary); “Groom Lake” (2002); “TekWar” (1994) and “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier” (1989)

TV roles

William Shatner won two Emmys and a Golden Globe award, and had four additional Emmy nominations for “The Practice” and “Boston Legal.” He appeared as Ranger Bob in “Howdy Doody” in 1954, a couple episodes of “Hitchcock Presents” (1957 and '60) and two “Twilight Zone” episodes (1960 and '63). We haven't space to list all his Tv credits, but here are some of his more memorable roles:

2010-11: “$#*! My Dad Says,” Dr. Edison Milford Goodson III

2004-08: “Boston Legal,” Denny Crane

2004: “The Practice,” Denny Crane

1999-2000: “3rd Rock from the Sun,” The Big Giant Head

1994-96: “TekWar,” Walter H. Bascom

1982-86: “T.J. Hooker,” Sgt. T.J. Hooker

1975-75: “Barbary Coast,” Jeff Cable

1973-74: “Star Trek” (Animated), Capt. James T. Kirk

1966-69: “Star Trek,” Capt. James T. Kirk

1966: “Dr. Kildare,” Dr. Carl Noyes / Toby Cunningham, M.D.

1965: “For the People,” David Koster

1963: “77 Sunset Strip,” Paul De Vinger

Shatner app

On Nov. 1, Blindlight Apps released “Shatoetry,” a celebrity app that allows users to choose from hundreds of words to arrange into a sentence, then Shatner recites the lines in his inimitable style.

On at the day of it's release, the $2.99 app reached the top of the entertainment app list on iTunes.

“Shatoetry” contains more than 400 words, and each word has three possible inflections. Shatner told Reuters that the app could expand.

“We have in mind holiday things. We have in mind events in your life, words so that you can use them as well. We will increase this if people love it and tell other people that they love it. When we get an audience we know that is worthwhile, we will add to it.”

Shatner in space

During the final flight of NASA's Space Shuttle Discovery, Shatner recorded a special message for the crew that woke up them at 3:23 a.m., March 7, 2011. With the “Star Trek” theme music playing in the background, Shatner intoned: “Space, the final frontier. These have been the voyages of the Space Shuttle Discovery. Her 30 year mission: To seek out new science. To build new outposts. To bring nations together on the final frontier. To boldly go, and do, what no spacecraft has done before.”

Sources: IMDB.com, Amazon.com, Tribune-Review research

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