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Full Speed Ahead

From Captain Kirk on "Star Trek" to Denny Crane on "Boston Legal," William Shatner has played the macho man role with no regrets.
Betsy Model
From the Print Edition:
William Shatner, Sept/Oct 2006

(continued from page 6)

The impetus for the production of the movie was simple, remembers George Takei. Another George—producer/director George Lucas—and Twentieth Century Fox had had considerable success with another space-themed movie, Star Wars, and Paramount wanted to cash in on what it may have seen as a craze for which it had originally sown the seeds.

CAPTAIN'S QUARTERS
The decade between the television series and the first Star Trek movie wasn't what cast members had scripted for themselves, especially Shatner, who had become divorced from Gloria Rand toward the end of the series' three-year run. According to Shatner, Gloria wound up with the couple's house, the children and some healthy child-support payments, all at a time when the prospect of losing his series was a very real possibility with every Arbitron rating.

Shatner's father had died during this same period, and Shatner's grief, combined with the prospect of losing his family, encouraged him, perhaps, to explore new frontiers—female frontiers—at what has been suggested was warp factor two. Or seven.

Shatner, who for years had either ignored or denied rumors of a rather robust hobby of chasing women, responds to them now with a certain "Shatnerise."

"Doing a series is backbreaking work. It's like coal mining, although you might get some arguments from the coal miners. Still, fourteen-, eighteen-hour days, day in, day out. All the mental and physical work that you're required to do is life-consuming."

If the implication is that the divorce was inevitable based on his strenuous work schedule and his own demanding work ethic, he also apparently saw an obligation to meet others' needs with just as intrepid a work ethic and completion of duty.

"I was lost and lonely. I got divorced in the middle of the series and took affection," Shatner pauses, "wherever I could find it. Not every week from every one of the beautiful girls that was on the show, but there was always someone around who, uh, had needs to be fulfilled and who needed to fulfill."

While his explorations on the romance frontier might have been taking place at light speed, the wrapping up of the series meant that Shatner had not only career goals to fulfill but also child support payments; toward the end of the series, Shatner began to take on big-screen—if not big-budget—projects like Incubus, a sci-fi/fantasy film spoken entirely in the constructed language of Esperanto, Big Bad Mama and Comanche Blanco, a low-budget film that had Shatner playing twin, half-breed Comanche brothers living in the Old West.

Shatner took summer stock roles, driving cross-country to the theater productions and often living in his truck's camper to save money. There were guest appearances on television series like "Medical Center," "Mission: Impossible," "Mannix" and "Marcus Welby, MD" before he was asked to voice Captain Kirk once more, this time for a Saturday morning cartoon production.

Shatner had married Marcy Lafferty, a production assistant, in 1973, and even as the actor was figuring out his next career move, a new generation of "Star Trek" fans, watching reruns of the original series on television, was helping to make that decision for him. He was asked to reprise Captain (soon to be Admiral) Kirk in Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1979, Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan in 1982 and Star Trek III: The Search for Spock in 1984.


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