Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Star Trek, Kirk and Shatner

So here's the thing: Over the past few decades, it's become traditional to deride Kirk and William Shatner, if we discuss the original Star Trek at all. The Christopher Walken pauses, the hordes of alien women, the swagger.

Partially that's because fandom tends to be a young person's world, and if you're under the age of 40, the first "new" Star Trek you saw was Next Generation [shudder]. The original series, if you've seen it at all, looks cheesy, campy, very '60s, and most importantly - completely, exuberantly over the top. (Or at least, that's what fans of ST:TNG have told me.) And the first things that come to mind for younger fans are what Shatner, the working actor, has done since Star Trek - the Priceline commercials, the spoken word albums, the "evil" convention appearances, the toupee.

It's no coincidence that the one character of the original Star Trek that is universally popular, even with younger fans, is Spock, the reserved, detached, "cool" character, rather than Kirk, the scenery-chewing cowboy. Spock's hallmark is that he lacks exuberance, after all. (Which is not to say that Leonard Nimoy, in playing Spock, lacked exuberance - his enjoyment shines through, or Spock would never have been as memorable.) When it comes to mass entertainment, reserve travels through time better than excitement. And after Star Trek, Nimoy's career followed a different trajectory, ultimately to directing and then photography.

But there are a lot of reasons to like, if not love, Captain James T. Kirk, above all the other Star Trek captains out there - especially if one remembers the context of the original show. This excellent article from David A. Goodman tells you why.

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