William Shatner stays culturally relevant
Colin Spensley

Captain Kirk … are you out there, soaring aboard the spaceship Enterprise, racing between galaxies and facing foes? Or are you just a memory kept alive by Space Channel re-runs and the often unnerving fan fervor of the “Trekkers/Trekkies”?

Playing Captain James T. Kirk in Star Trek from 1966 to 1969 catapulted William Shatner from lowly stage actor to sci-fi icon. 40 years is a long time for any actor to stay relevant, but somehow William Shatner has managed to remain in the public eye.

The Montreal born actor will be returning to Vancouver on Oct. 19 to perform a comedy show, entitled How Time Flies: An Evening with William Shatner, at the Centre for Performing Arts. Outside of comedy tours and celebrityendorsed appearances, Shatner has a long history with our fair city, dating back to a 1970 SuperValu commercial. Here’s a look back at the enduring icon that is William Shatner, Star Trek and beyond.

Sept. 8, 1966:
First episode of Star Trek is aired on CBS

James T. Kirk is the square-jawed, levelheaded Captain of the starship Enterprise. "Kirk was a man who marveled and greatly appreciated the endless surprises presented to him by the universe. ... He didn't take things for granted and, more than anything else, respected life in every one of its weird weekly adventure forms," says Shatner in his 2008 Autobiography Up Till Now. Supposedly, Shatner’s main influence for Captian Kirk’s character was the historical figure Alexander the Great.

Wiliam Shatner’s first album, The Transformed Man, is released (Also in 1968, Capilano College opens its doors for the first time)

“William Shatner knows he can’t sing,” Shatner says, in an interview with Time Magazine in 2010, speaking of himself in the third person as only a true star can. Shatner’s first album The Transformed Man featured drawn-out, gutwrenching spoken word recreations of songs like “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” and “Hey Mr. Tambourine Man.”

The often-parodied reading of “Rocket Man” was originally performed at a 1978 Science Fiction Film Awards ceremony. William Shatner is often mocked for his wonderfully abstract music career. However, the music website Pitchfork, a taste-maker for many, gave Shatner’s second album Has Been a 7.5 out of 10 rating.

William Shatner will be releasing his third studio album Seeking Major Tom next month. This destined-to-be-classic album features covers of many famous space themed songs including David Bowie’s classic “Space Oddity,” Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man,” and strangely not spacethemed at all, Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

William Shatner begins his first foray into fiction with “TekWar” of the “Jake Cardigan” series

Having penned over 36 books, many being Star Trek spin-off novels, as well as a few autobiographies, William Shatner is a master of the printed word. Shatner has a new book due out Oct. 4 which is hilariously titled Shatner Rules: Your Guide to Understanding the Shatnerverse and the World at Large. Co-written with The Daily Show’s Chris Regan, Shatner Rules claims to be a comprehensive guide to “becoming William Shatner. Or more accurately, beautifully Shatneresque.”

Release of documentary film Trekkies by Robert Nygard

Trekkies are the notorious superfans of the Star Trek series, and their reputation is probably as well known as the show itself. These groups exist all around us; from the dusty confines of a shag carpeted basement to the warming glow of a local comic shop, Trekkies meet and reminisce of times long past for the crew of the spaceship they love so much. Even in Vancouver, such groups exist. One is able to sign up online to the Star Trek Fan Group, The Klingon Language Group of Vancouver, or even the William Shatner Actor Appreciation Group. The annual Vancouver Fantasy and Sci-Fi convention, or V-Con, is also a little known and growing event held every September for the last 36 years.

January 1997:
William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy headline the Star Trek Convention in Vancouver

The pair, who have a joking animosity that has long been fodder for press, returned to the event in June of 2010. William Shatner also made an appearance at the closing ceremonies of the Vancouver Olympics in 2010, giving a speech in the vein of the Molson Beer “I am Canadian” commercial.

Sept. 14, 2006:
William Shatner hosts the first Canadian Awards for the Electronic and Animated Arts at the River Rock Casino in Richmond

On stage at the event, William Shatner was returned his kidney stone, having previously sold the piece of medical waste to to raise money for Habitat for Humanity. Goldenpalace. com, in returning the stone, also donated $10,000 to the Richmond Therapeutic Equestrian Society, as reported by the Vancouver Sun. William Shatner has an equestrian affinity. He breeds American Saddlebred horses and maintains a 360 acre horse ranch in Kentucky, regularly entering his champion purebreds in competitions across the country. He has also founded an Israel-based charity in hopes of spreading therapeutic relaxation through the riding of horses for at-risk youth.


William Shatner is a Canadian artistic demigod. Perhaps he uses Vulcan mind control techniques to keep us captivated; more likely, he has simply found humour in the massive ego that four decades of avid fan attention has created. At the ripe age of 80, Shatner shows no signs of slowing down, nor do any of his fans want him to. Live long and prosper, Billy boy.

// Colin Spensley, Writer
// Illustration by Miles Chic

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