The Captains (2011)


A bit of a change of pace, now. Netflix also has a fine selection of documentary films and one that caught my eye as I was browsing was THE CAPTAINS, a feature length documentary written and directed by William Shatner.

I am a huge Star Trek fan. I’m never happier then when I am watching Star Trek. So this documentary was pleasant viewing for a lazy Sunday morning. William Shatner travels around the country (and, in the case of Patrick Stewart, to England) to conduct candid, one-on-one interviews with all of the other actors who have played captains in the various Star Trek TV and movie iterations. The interviews range from the silly (Shatner sitting in a cardboard box in New York waiting for Kate Mulgrew, Shatner arm wrestling with Chris Pine at the gate of Paramount Studios),Shatner trying to sing with Avery Brooks) to the confrontational, to the intimate (Shatner bonding with Patrick Stewart). Through the series of conversations Shatner explores the differences and the similarities of each actor’s experience with the lead role in each Star Trek series.

If you are interested in acting this movie might interest you. If you are interested in learning about the challenges of being a lead in a demanding TV series, then this documentary might have something for you.

But, honestly, I cannot recommend this film to anyone who isn’t a Star Trek fan. I suspect that Star Trek fans, and only Star Trek fans will ever really appreciate this film. Star Trek fans, and, in particular, fans of William Shatner, are about the only ones who will really appreciate what is in this documentary.

Because at the end of it all, the star of this film is William Shatner and Shatner’s ego certainly does come into play. This is particularly evident in the way he walks around the Star Trek convention in a number of sequences. His presence causes a stir among the fans and he know it and he plays it up.

I don’t mean to say anything too disparaging about Shatner. I’ve met him. He’s a fellow Canadian, so I do feel an affinity with  him. I like the man. He’s an actor, though, and as an actor he is, naturally, self absorbed, as, indeed are the other actors that are featured in this film (with the possible exception of Scott Bakula, who comes across relatively free of rampaging ego).

If you can look past the self absorption, the ego gratifying moments, this film will give you  an insight into what it is like to be a lead actor in a Star Trek series, or any TV series and the sometimes painful toll that exacts on one’s personal life.

There are moments of levity and silliness and there are moments of great pathos. Some scenes are emotionally raw, like when Shatner and Bakula compare the way that the series proved disastrous for their marriages. The pain in Scott Bakula’s eyes that he isn’t quite able to hide, is heartbreaking.

If you are not a Star Trek fan, if you’re only casually interested in Star Trek, give this film a miss. If, however, you are a die-hard fan of the series, in any or all of its various incarnations,then this documentary is for you.



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