William Shatner December 7, 2009Posted by General Zod in Heroes, Movies, Television.
A couple of weeks ago, I had started a tradition where I would speak about the heroes in my life… the people who taught me things and made a significant impact on who I am today. So it’s time to talk about another such hero…
Obviously, my introduction to William Shatner occurred on Star Trek. Like many others my age, I first discovered the show in syndication and thrilled to Kirk, Spock, and the gang as they soared through the galaxy.
However, it wasn’t until my middle school years later that I developed a serious respect for Bill’s acting abilities. I came home from school, and was scribbling on my homework when I glanced at the clock to see that it was almost time for my latest TV favorite… The Twilight Zone! Turning on my tiny black-and-white TV and fiddling with the aerial, I tuned the picture and sat back to see what mysteries would be revealed that day.
In the episode “Nick of Time”, Shatner plays Don, one-half of a honeymoon pair who are having lunch at a cafe while waiting for their broke down car is being repaired. Their table has a “Mystic Seer” machine that supposedly gives them the answer to Yes/No questions. Don asks about his car, and quickly discovers that the machine’s prediction is true. Soon, Don becomes a man obsessed and starts pumping pennies into the machine in hopes of discovering all of the mysteries of the unknown future. It takes his wife, Pat (Patricia Breslin) to convince him to stop and walk away from the machine.
Shatner’s performance was breath-taking. In that short span of time, I had seriously bought into the idea of him as a fragile man that found himself needing the comfort of the machine that could tell him what he should do next. It was definitely different from the powerful persona of Kirk that I was accustomed to . The story of Don and Pat are forever slotted as my all-time favorite episode of The Twilight Zone.
The one great lesson I took from William Shatner came in the 2nd Star Trek film. My mother and I had watched “Space Seed” one afternoon, and then we went out to see Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan later that afternoon. In the film, the following exchange took place:
Saavik: On the test, sir. Will you tell me what you did? I would really like to know.
Bones: Lieutenant, you are looking at the only Starfleet cadet who ever beat the no-win scenario.
Kirk: I reprogrammed the simulation so it was possible to rescue the ship.
David: He cheated!
Kirk: I changed the conditions of the test. I got a commendation for original thinking. I don’t like to lose.
Saavik: Then… you never faced that situation – faced death.
Kirk: I don’t believe in the no-win scenario.
And that’s when I realized that neither do I. No situation is unbeatable. No problem is unsolvable. It was Kirk who taught me how to “think outside the box”. Even today, when faced with a difficult issue, I ask myself… What would Kirk do?! (I know. It sounds lame, but it works for me!)
In truth, some of his later work (such as his roles as TJ Hooker and Denny Crane) have never thrilled me too much, but that’s more due to my lack of interest in the TV shows themselves… not a reflection on Bill’s work in them. And who knows, perhaps my tastes just have not developed to a point where I can appreciate him in these roles. So when that time comes, I’ll have to make sure my Netflix membership is paid up.