Today, March 22nd, 2011, is the 80th birthday of William Shatner, best known as the original Captain James Tiberius Kirk of the USS Enterprise. You can have all the arguments you want over who's the best Star Trek Captain (the answer is Kirk), but there's no arguing over the fact that Shatner set the stage for all the others. In spite of it's wonderful and cheesy 1960's vibe, Star Trek was a big deal, going far beyond what people expected from a network science fiction show. And the face of the series was William Shatner as the most memorable of the Captains in the franchise. He deserves a lot of credit for playing Kirk in such a way that over 40 years later, his mannerisms and speech patterns are still so recognizable.
In fact, the way this man talks is so unique that today is also "Talk Like William Shatner Day"!! Yup, his birthday has become a holiday. If you celebrated "Talk Like a Pirate Day" by saying Argh! and Aye! all day then today you should be talking with unnecessary pauses and.....accents in...the oddest places. I don't think there are many people out there, Star Trek fan or not, that wouldn't recognize the distinctive pattern of Shatner's speech. But it wasn't just his portrayal of Captain Kirk that won him a place in my heart. In 1966 William Shatner was cast in the role of Captain James T. Kirk in the sci-fi series “Star Trek”. Although initially the series success was fairly limited, causing the cancellation of the spaceship Enterprise crew’s adventures after its third season, this role influenced all his future life and became the one for which he’s best known.
Immediately after the end of “Star Trek” however William Shatner had trouble finding work, so that for a time he lived in a camper van on the road. During the 1970's anyway he managed to appear as a guest star in well known shows such as “The Six Million Dollar Man”, “Columbo”, “Kung Fu” and “Mission: Impossible”. In the 1970's “Star Trek” reruns led to the birth of a cult for this series and William Shatner began to appear at various conventions devoted to this show. There was even a project to create a new Star Trek television series but after a few years it was decided to produce a film, in which Shatner reprised his role as Captain Kirk. This film’s success led to the production of various sequels and Shatner was in them until the sixth movie, in which Captain Kirk dies.
During the 1980's William Shatner built a career that had nothing to do with Star Trek ~ becoming the star of the Police series “T.J. Hooker”, in which he was also a director of some episodes. In the ’90s Shatner produced the series “Tekwar”, where he was also an actor and occasionally a director. In T.J. Hooker, He played a tough talking veteran cop helping a rookie learn the ropes. He outran guys half his age, held on to the hoods of cars during high speed chases while holding a gun and banging on the windshield, and never failed to catch the bad guys. T.J. Hooker was cool.
In 2003 William Shatner started playing the lawyer Denny Crane in the series “The Practice” and later in the series “Boston Legal”. Actor James Spader (another god among men ) stars alongside. For this role Shatner won an Emmy in 2004 and 2005, when he also won a Golden Globe.
But, All of these roles had no small amount of cheese to them, but they were fun and Shatner made them memorable. What makes William Shatner even cooler than Kirk or T.J. Hooker is that he doesn't look back and talk about these roles as though they were dated and cheesy and worthless. He doesn't make himself out to be some grand thespian who is so beyond those roles that he gives them hardly any note or credibility. He embraces those characters. So much so that he's made fun of himself at roasts, awards shows and countless appearances. This guy has won two Emmy awards and a Golden Globe and still he's able to not take himself too seriously. He carries this forward to this day in his latest tv foray "Shit my Dad Says" ..... though that is not great!
This is what I love about William Shatner. He mocks his own halting speech as Captain Kirk, jokes about his days on T.J. Hooker, and sings songs that make fun of his success. All this from an award-winning actor who is a talented man who has provided hours of entertainment for all of us.
"I don't give a Damn ~ Captain T. Kirk! ....... Happy 80th Birthday, William Shatner!