With the cinematic future of the franchise in flux, many Star Trek fans are probably jonesing for a new movie right now. Well, we have good news and bad news. The good news is: an underseen Trek-based film recently hit digital platforms. The bad news? It's The Captains, a 2011 Canadian documentary directed and hosted by William Shatner in which James Kirk himself interviews the various actors who have played Starfleet Captains over the years. It sounds boring, but we strongly recommend that you check this thing out -- not because it's a probing look at 23rd-century leadership, but because Shatner is a goddamn maniac and this thing plays out like a real-life Christopher Guest mockumentary.
Shatner is famously a master of self-important egomania, and, unsurprisingly, his directorial style has the subtlety of Klingon mating rituals. He doesn't just want to interview Star Trek actors, he wants this movie to unravel the meaning of life itself. From the omnipresent, saccharine score to Shatner's interludes pondering existence while ducks play at sunset, the doc often feels like a low-budget commercial for a small town funeral home
And the interviews are a next-level work of inadvertently absurdist theatre. Avery Brooks, who memorably played Ben Sisko on Deep Space Nine, spends the entire time seated at a piano. When Shatner randomly asks him: "What happens when you die?" Brooks responds with several minutes of instrumental noodling while a confused Shatner grins and nods.
Rivaling even The Office for cringiness, when Shatner interviews Kate Mulgrew (AKA Captain Janeway from Voyager), she stresses that her experience filming the show while juggling her role as a new mother was fundamentally different from that of her male colleagues. Shatner follows this up by asking how a woman with all those "hormonal things" could be, say, Secretary of State.
Mulgrew politely proceeds to talk about gender inequality in Hollywood, which causes Shatner to go on a confusing, kinda angry, tangent equating her stresses as a working single mother with his jet lag during the interview he's currently conducting. And while all this is happening, what sounds like a John Tesh CD never stops playing in the background. He also talks to Sir Patrick Stewart, whose face is blurry, but whose patterned armchair is in perfect focus.
And Shatner is clearly still pretty pissed-off that someone else is playing Captain Kirk because Chris Pine is barely in the movie. And a good chunk of his screen time is devoted to a literal arm-wrestling contest.
The inadvertent comic timing in these scenes is so perfect, someone should probably check to see if "Rubber Shatner Suit" is somewhere in Sacha Baron Cohen's eBay history.
Top Image: Le Big Boss Productions