William Shatner's latest endeavor is the documentary "Get a Life!," a feature about "Star Trek" conventions and fandom based on his book of the same name and premiering tomorrow, July 28th at 5pm on Epix. Like his 2011 film "The Captains," "Get a Life" was directed by Shatner and finds the man who was Kirk delving into the subculture of the landmark series in which he starred, one that has, for better and worse, dominated and shaped both his career and those of many of his fellow castmembers.
Inspired by the film, we put together this Kübler-Ross-style chart of the Seven Stages of William Shatner, tracking his transformation from young Canadian unknowning signing on to a sci-fi series to mid-career actor trying desparately to distance himself from the franchise to the current shamelessly self-aware legend embracing his destiny as a genre icon.
"Star Trek," 1966-1969*
Role: Capt. James T. Kirk
"To boldly go where no one has gone before" fittingly launched a young Shatner into an uncertain franchise that would define his career. The true shock of a cult hit comes when you're a young actor and no one is sure what will stick. By now, most people are familiar about the original run of "Star Trek," as it's been made subject of self-parody (1999's "Galaxy Quest") and pop-culture significance (an episode from "Futurama" where the original cast returns when kidnapped by an alien fanboy).
In the original series, Kirk came across as an awe-inspiring figure with a bravado that was as easy to capture as a sexy green alien. It would be a role that would power fanboy culture into the 1970s with the "Star Trek" films and convention appearances, one that would forever link Shatner to a ham-fisted sci-fi world fandom that clearly became the type of addiction that's tough to give up.
2. Pain and Guilt
"T.J. Hooker," 1982-1986
Role: Sgt. T.J. Hooker
In his second franchise, the Shat gave up the ensemble sets for a combination "elder statesman" role and the chance to lord his screen-time over a younger additional cast. Running for five seasons and spanning ABC and CBS, "T.J. Hooker" featured a post-Trek Shatner who now craved more of the attention he got from "Star Trek." He acted as the mentor figure to a trio of young cops -- including Heather Locklear -- and would occasionally get his "ladies man" act on as well.
Sparing the obvious connection, "Hooker" showcased a Shatner desperate to never be called "Captain Kirk," despite the continuing "Star Trek" films. This was a pure attempt to get away from the USS Enterprise while proving that he could be the same randy officer who can awkwardly disarm you with a karate chop. Except Trekkies didn't entirely buy that their Captain had abandoned them, and so Sergeant Hooker moped onward.
3: Anger and Bargaining
Role: Walter Bascom
"TekWar" is original idea Shatner toyed with that would've been "T.J. Hooker in Space," but instead grew into a series of books during the 1988 Writer's Guild strikes. The novels were pumped out for four years before leading to a TV movie adaptation that premiered on USA and served as a backdoor pilot for what became a two-season show. Shatner played an eccentric CEO who freed a wrongly imprisoned cop to track down virtual drug lords.
The show would be marketed as "William Shatner's TekWar." While the hubris may seem a bit much -- his face is also on every book cover -- it can be read as the man's self-realization that the co-production effectively decided to wring more blood from Captain Kirk's name for rabid fans. It's a sort of partial appeal from Shatner: use my name rather than Kirk's to bring my show to life.