Let’s face it, Shatner is Star Trek royalty, and as he padded onto the stage in his white sneakers, to a rapturous cheer, there was no doubt who was Captain of the bridge.
William Shatner – Good afternoon. At least I think it’s afternoon. It’s ten to five AM in Los Angeles and I’m working on that time. Thank you for being here. Wow, I’m just looking at this room and thinking that I’m here tomorrow night with my one-man show [Shatner’s world – see review] and that’s a far throw to the back… people will be using their spyglasses. I’m ready for your questions.
My hand shoots up
WS – Look at you with your hand here. Please go ahead.
Bill, [I’ve decided we’re on first-name terms already] Star Trek was very good at predicting future tech, yet didn’t see social media coming. What do you think would be on Captain Kirk’s Facebook page?
WS – Hmm. [Pauses] He’d be making… appointments, for various… assignations. I don’t know. He’d probably not use it all because it’s not secret and everybody would know what he was up to. So… yes, he WOULD use it!
Do you have any plans to release more music? I loved your album ‘Has Been’.
WS – Thank you. I made an album with one of the leading members of the group Yes, Billy Sherwood, called Ponder the Mystery and it’s out there now. We’re making arrangements to go out this coming spring for at least 10 performances and see what we’ve got. We’re going to do part of the album and some cover songs and see what happens. I love music… and unfortunately I can’t sing. But I’ve tried to ameliorate that by finding some poetry in the lyrics. If you liked ‘Has Been’, I’ll try to do some more.
At the end of Star Trek II, Kirk said that he felt young. It’s now the show’s 50th anniversary – do you still feel young?
WS – Not as young as felt back then versus the jetlag [I feel] now! I’ve been asked to write a book on ageing gracefully so I’m going to start that book in a couple of weeks. I think that part of the theme of getting old is total denial. Being in denial about your age and staying active. A lot of my activity has a great deal to do with horses… it’s a very athletic, physical sport. A couple of weeks ago there was one of the biggest competitions in the United States in Las Vegas and I came in third and fourth out of 114 people, many of whom were about the age of 18 and born on a horse. I need to stay in shape if I’m on the back of a horse, and doing that doing that has kept me vital. At least I can still remember your question!
Looking back, is there anything you would change about Star Trek?
WS – All those speculative questions are just figments of our imagination. The reality is that we’re here as a celebration of 50 years of Star Trek. It’s a showbiz phenomenon… It went on air went on air and 50 years later – a lifetime later – we’re still talking about it. This magical show had enough magic in it to entice you to come here and talk to me about this show 50 years later. Why would anyone be so callow to think that I need to change something? I would not change anything. It might interfere with its longevity.
What is that magical quality?
WS – I wrote about this very subject in a book called Get a Life. The book concluded that [the reason fans came to conventions was] they wanted to see each other. I then did a film documentary with the same title – Get a Life – and the conclusion I came to is that it’s mythological. There is a mythology in science fiction that wishes to explain all that mystery in the universe that is inexplicable, much like religion seeks to explain why we’re here and what happens after we die. And like religion, which has ritual, science fiction mythology has the ritual of coming to these conventions, taking pictures, wearing the uniforms and participating in the ritual of this mythology
Vaughn Armstrong – I recently went to a middle school in Germany for war-torn families and in this school for war-torn families they based their philosophy on Star Trek – they believe in peace, hope and unity. That’s why I believe Star Trek is around today. Fans believe about each other than themselves.
Dominic Keating – I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. We have an election coming up in America and it’s the first one I can vote in now that I’m a citizen. It’s the same mind-set that Mr Trump is appealing to that got us out of Europe and I’m afraid the idea that we’re building walls and excluding people at this point in human history is just not right. That’s why this show is still relevant – because it was never about that and never will be.
Greg Grunberg – Some people look at Star Trek, see the technology and say ‘Wow, eventually we’re going to be beaming people up and doing this and that,’ but it’s the characters who are something to aspire towards. Instead of talking about how bad things are today, I think we need to look at all the good, and hopefully we’ll get to that optimistic place that Star Trek has always represented. And that’s why it will never lose its popularity.
Alice Krige – I was on a plane yesterday and I read an astonishing book about a guy who died, not once, but twice, and came back each time. And each time he was met by and angelic being who radiated unqualified love. The information he got from this angelic being, who was his guide in that dimension, was that angelic beings for the most part look upon human being as extraordinarily blessed because we, unlike them, have the power of choice, the choice to be our best, to function at the highest level, and that’s what I think Star Trek speaks to. All these re-runs are there reminding us that we have the opportunity to make a perfect world…
Eddie Paskey – …and that perfect world is diversity. Maybe you’ve got green ears and I’ve got a pointy head but we can still get along – that’s what it means.
Connor Trinneer – Leo will be there? Well, I wasn’t going to go but now I think about it… five years in space with Leo might be alright! No, I wouldn’t go, I’ve got a child and I want to see him grow up. I think it’s an extraordinary thing, the possibility is out there that were going to somehow colonise Mars in the future, but it would be a difficult decision to make. I couldn’t do it.
Marina Sirtis – OK. I wouldn’t go to Mars. I wouldn’t go to the Moon. And if know this is going to piss you all off, but I truly believe that the money we spend on the space programme, which is billions of dollars in America, is a little unethical when there are children going to bed hungry and we have so many problems socially. I know that being on Star Trek is the wrong show to be on to be saying this but I truly believe that we could spend that money now on people who need it. Healthcare. Education. One in five children in America have what they call ‘food insecurity’, which means they don’t know where their next meal is coming from. So, in my opinion, that’s a problem that needs to be dealt with before we even talk about Mars.
What’s it like seeing a new characters portraying a role you’ve played for such a long time, and did they ask you for any coaching or hints and tips?
George Takei – John Cho called me when he got cast [as Sulu] was very concerned about what he’d heard about the intensity of Star Trek fans. I assured him they won’t bite! They’re wonderful; they’re the ones that made it possible for you to get case in the reboot. I assured him the fans would be supportive and now he knows. I didn’t have to tell him any more than that.
Walter Koenig – It feels terrific. What am I supposed to say – that I hate being here? This is my second trip to the UK this year, but I’ve also been to Germany, Italy, all over the States, and it’s a most extraordinary feeling, to feel that we’re still viable, we’re still have some significance to the public at this late date. It’s quite amazing. We’re still recognised, acknowledged and appreciated by fans. I just turned 80 and people still know who I am, and I’m still working – God knows I’m still doing Chekov! That sounds pitiful doesn’t it: ‘God, god that guy is 80 years old and he’s still playing a part he played at 31’, but I’m still learning and growing and developing the character. I’m still contributing and exercising my craft. So I’m just tickled that this has happened.
Adam, how would your father feel to know that Star Trek is still relevant?
Adam Nimoy – He loved the fact that the show was still relevant. He loved the face that HE was still relevant. My dad felt very honoured and privileged to have appeared in the original pilot of Star Trek which shot in 1964. He was the only cast member to really survive to the series, and then bookended in the JJ Abrams reincarnation of Star Trek. For JJ to make an overture to my dad to be included in those projects was a great source of pride and joy for him. It was a big part of his life and really energised him. He was really sad when he had to turn them down when they were making Star Trek Beyond because he wasn’t feeling that well.
Armin Shimerman – Politics in our country has gotten a little scary and lot of us standing on here on the stage were concerned about how close the polls were getting against the two candidates. I was the first person in the community to take a step forward and say maybe we should speak to the populace about this, but it’s a community effort. Like Star Trek, it’s about teamwork and we’re hoping to add to the national conversation.