An extra treat for those attending Destination Star Trek Europe’s 50th anniversary event at the NEC was the opportunity to enjoy headliner William Shatner’s one-man Broadway show, performed here as a European premiere. And what a wonderful two hours it was.
The greatest compliment you can give the show is that you really don’t need to be a Star Trek aficionado to appreciate the humour and showmanship on display here. Sure, there’s references to the show, but this is no in-joke sci-if geek fest, rather a mainly chronological series of anecdotes that trek Bad Billy’s journey from summer camp superstar, to father, to NASA hero.
The set is sparse – it’s one man and his chair, supported by well-chosen clips and photos. But Shatner doesn’t need extravagant stagecraft, and he even jokes on his entrance that he’s not beaming on to stage or with a rocket strapped to his ass! This isn’t the manic version of Shatner that you might have seen on talk shows – it’s a more considered and contemplative persona.
In-between stories such as how he understudied Christopher Plummer in Henry V we get to meet his mother, daughters and other key players in his life. The threads running through all of this are those of love, taking chances and the recognition of the frailties of being a human.
If you’ve read Shatner’s autobiographies you’re likely to recognise a number of the tales, but I guarantee you’ll find something new, and hearing them delivered first-hand and live is surely the best possible way. This is no rose-tinted view of the world, and we get to hear of personal tragedy and reaching rock bottom. But there’s a residence and tenacity that pulls him through to better times and places.
Before you know it, two hours have passed. No break, just a non-stop overview of this master showman’s life. Behind the self-deprecating humour is a man who (hopefully) knows that he has made an impact on oh-so-many lives. Whether as Captain of the Enterprise (and convincing young Trekkers to join the space program) or just by auctioning his asteroid-sized kidney stone to pay for a family to be housed, his place in popular culture is undisputed.
Verdict: A liaison with a signing gorilla, a stallion’s final moment of glory, a camping trip with a rat that loves oranges, and a multi-state road trip to get to the temple before sundown – yes, it’s Shatner’s world, and we just happen to live in it. But it’s one helluva world. 10/10