The Captains - A Film By William Shatner DVD

The Captains - A Film By William Shatner DVD

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Since first soaring onto television screens in the 1960s, Star Trek has become one of the most beloved franchises of all time. Now, the original Captain Kirk, William Shatner, travels around the globe to interview the elite group of actors (Chris Pine, Patrick Stewart, Avery Brooks, Kate Mulgrew and Scott Bakula) who have portrayed the role of Starship Captain, giving fans an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the pop culture phenomenon as well as the men and women who made it so.

Bonus Feature: "The Making of The Captains"

Review: To Boldly Go: A Starfleet Six-Pack
Sitting in a starship captain's chair is a big job. Making a documentary about the actors whose posteriors have occupied that hallowed space through four decades of "Star Trek" and its spin-offs takes a big man. Thank the Vulcan gods that William Shatner was available.

In "The Captains," which Mr. Shatner wrote and directed, he interviews the five performers who have succeeded him as "Star Trek" leaders, on starships or space stations: Patrick Stewart, Avery Brooks, Kate Mulgrew, Scott Bakula and Chris Pine. The film will make its debut on Friday on the Epix premium-cable channel and epixhd . com as part of Shatnerpalooza, a conglomeration of television marathon, film screenings and live appearances.

A couple of observations: Mr. Shatner is pretty much always available. The Biography channel is now showing the second season of his interview show, "Aftermath With William Shatner." He has a new album, "Searching for Major Tom," due out later this year. He will accept your homage on Facebook (90,000 fans and counting) and let you know when he's coming to a convention near you.

And, as you might have guessed: "The Captains" turns out to be largely about William Shatner. That's not a criticism. Mr. Shatner's genial, relaxed self-absorption is a large part of his charm, along with his odd cadences and his unparalleled knack for blurring the line between pomposity and sincerity. He has a kind of reverse Midas effect: everything he touches should turn creepy, but somehow it doesn't.

Much of the fun of watching "The Captains" is waiting to see just how shameless a huckster and self-promoter Mr. Shatner can be. You don't have to wait long. He starts his journey by flying to England to visit Mr. Stewart, and on the tarmac he greets an executive of the aerospace company whose plane will carry him. It's a blatant product placement, but it's more than that: in the course of the conversation, it comes out that the man's career choice was inspired by "Star Trek." "He became an aeronautical engineer because of me!" Mr. Shatner says, with limpid satisfaction.

This two-for-one reciprocal endorsement is so good that it's brought up again near the end of the film, in a rather astounding monologue delivered to Mr. Stewart. Hearing the engineer's story, Mr. Shatner says, has cured him of his long-standing embarrassment about playing Capt. James T. Kirk. It's a lengthy anecdote that includes an ever so slightly bitter reference to the Emmy nominations Leonard Nimoy received for the original "Star Trek." Mr. Stewart can only nod, his face frozen in what looks like deep apprehension for what his supposed interviewer will say next.

"The Captains" has many more moments like that, which makes it pretty tolerable as vanity projects go. And it should be catnip for Trekkers and Trekkies, a number of whom are seen at a Las Vegas "Star Trek" convention reacting to Mr. Shatner's presence with appropriate reverence. ("Oh my God," a woman says. "I was this close.")

Striding among the booths, he encounters a series of actresses who are there to make money off their "Trek" connections -- Jeri Ryan, Sally Kellerman, Grace Lee Whitney (the ageless Yeoman Rand). Each time he turns to the camera and says, this was the most beautiful girl in the history of "Star Trek." And each time, you almost think he means it. -- The New York Times, July 21, 2011