It’d be an understatement to say that Star Trek was a phenomenon. Not only is it one of the most successful entertainment properties of all-time, but it’s also viewed as one of the most intelligent. Although it has taken different forms, each version of the show and every movie has been anchored by a person in charge, the captain. And although there have been several great Star Trek captains, William Shatner’s will forever be the most iconic. Shatner maintains his spot as the franchise’s cornerstone with The Captains, a documentary in which he star and directs, trotting around the globe to have intimate conversations with each of the other Star Trek captains.
Although self-indulgent at times, The Captains shows a different side to the pop culture icons. The conversations are never dull, showing each of the actors in ways you wouldn’t expect.Well, at least not to me
The Captains is a way of coping for Shatner. It’s almost as though it’s taken more than four decades for him to accept his place as the icon that he is. While he is respectful to the franchise throughout his conversations, there were times where I sensed resentment, like he never wanted it to be what defined him. This is a common thread throughout his other conversations, particularly Patrick Stewart. But what it ultimately comes back to for each of the actors is that their role in Star Trek is what largely defines them, at least in the public eye. Even the straightforward title of the film shows this. They’re a brotherhood with one sister.
The first portion of the film, I was a little skeptical. It seemed more like something you’d find as a DVD bonus feature. But as Shatner made his rounds, it became a lot more. Not only does he show a lot of his personality, but he brings out the same with his peers. Whether it’s arm wrestling with Chris Pine or sitting down at the piano with Avery Brooks, it’s not what you normally expect with a sit-down interview. With Star Trek it’s tough to see any of the actors in another light. While they’ve all had careers outside the franchise, for all of them except maybe Scott Bakula who had a lot of success with Quantum Leap, it’s Star Trek that’s defined their acting career. Shatner does do a fantastic job of delving deeper, while still keeping it grounded for Trek fans.
At a couple of points, things get a little awkward as Shatner shifts the attention away from his interviewee and back to himself. It comes across as somewhat self-serving, although by the end it’s easier to understand as the focus of Shatner’s personal journey becomes clearer.
The Captains doesn’t provide much action but it does offer ideas to chew on. It does a good job of making conversation interesting. And while I’m far from the biggest Star Trek fan on the planet, I respect it and its spot in pop culture history. By offering an insightful look at some of the key players that made it happen, Shatner is able to break down some of the barriers that scare some people off from the franchise. Shatner himself seemed to have a hard time accepting it.
The Captains DVD Review
Presented in enhanced widescreen with Dolby 5.1 audio, The Captains looks and sounds great, although sit-down interviews and pontificating doesn’t necessarily require top-notch audio and visuals. The only bonus feature is a relatively short making-of featurette.