The Captains (2011)
The Captains is a curious beast. If you’re expecting a traditional documentary where Bill Shatner simply indulges in a standard Q & A with other actors that have portrayed captains within the Star Trek franchise, then you will be disappointed. The Captains is a horse of a different colour entirely. Throughout its ninety minute duration, this documentary veers from personal reflections on acting, muses upon the nature of fame and even touches upon contemplating one’s own mortality. It certainly wasn’t what I was expecting and was subsequently a far more rewarding experience.
Some viewers may see Mr Shatner as an egotistical one trick pony and this film as a colossal self-indulgence. I do not. I genuinely think that he is a passionate man who has wrestled with the pitfalls of international fame. He certainly is quite candid about times when his popular persona was a burden to him. Through the cross examining of his guests (and that is a very apt term at times) he highlights the parallels of what he has come to terms with. The documentary is somewhat erratic and eclectic yet through all its muddled musings does have points to make.
The interviewees are a curious bunch, to boot. If The Captains does anything, it is to highlight that an actors onscreen persona can often be radically different to their own. Kate Mulgrew discusses how the strong authoritative character she portrayed was the complete opposite of her in her family life. Avery Brooks could not be further from Benjamin Sisko if he tried. A talented pianist and an individual with a clear artistic temperament, his personal reflections are often extremely philosophical and on occasion impenetrable. Yet all of this contributes to the underlying narrative thrust of the documentary. Exactly what impact did being a “captain” have upon each actor.
The Captains is a little too long and languid for the casual viewer. A re-edit would certainly help make it more accessible such an audience. For hardcore Trekkies/Trekkers or those who have a fascination with actors, this documentary is informative and of merit. Bill Shatner is a potent personality. The scenes showing him interacting with fans at conventions and working the crowd are fascinating. I think that he genuinely feels for his audience. Certainly the influence of his fame has become clear to him. He appears to be conspicuously aware of being in his twilight years and wishes to use them as well as he can.