Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Amy describes the banquet and Legacy Awards, one of which was given to Jeff Bezos, the founder of Google, whose mother showed off the cardboard communicator he made as a child.

On Sunday, the final event was to be an original Star Trek “radio play,” performed by many of the actors in attendance. I don’t know how many versions of this play were actually written or by whom, though I do know of one that at least some of the actors rejected because they didn’t want to play their Star Trek characters: they wanted to play themselves.

So apparently Jack Trevino (cowriter of “Of Gods and Men” with Sky Conway) cobbled together a spoof in which various former Trek actors audition for roles in the new Star Trek Paramount movie, making their case to J.J. Abrams himself.

It was played for laughs, but it was also on peoples’ minds. Up in the Blue Room, someone asked a group of actors whether they thought they’d get parts in the new movie. “I hope so,” one said, “but I doubt it. We’re marked men.” “Yes, right down the back,” another said, “with the Mark of Berman.”

The play was preceded by a video montage that suggested just how thoroughly Star Trek was part of this culture. That had more of an effect on me than the play—it was something I knew, of course, but seeing it rolled out like that was almost overwhelming.

As for the play, it had its moments. Some of the participants seemed less than enthusiastic—and not all that terrific at a cold reading (I don’t think they had anything approaching a rehearsal.) Ironically perhaps, one of the more solid performances was given by Rod Roddenberry as a Paramount executive—he kept the story on track, he read well and even ad-libbed effectively. (And I'm not saying that just because he liked the cap I wore.) Another standout in keeping it all moving was Grace Lee Whitney, the erstwhile Ensign Rand.

But the premise of the play actually was the search for a new Kirk, which allowed everyone to do their Shatner imitations, as well as their own signature lines. (George Takei repeated his deep-throated “Oh, my” about a dozen times from offstage.) Walter Koenig did an expansive takeoff of Shatner doing “Rocket Man,” to the audience’s delight. Garrett Wang did his imitations of Takei—and Shatner.

For an upbeat description of it all, check Amy. It seemed about half and half to me—half amusing, half pretty lame. A few of the actors seemed to be running away from it.

By then I was also starting to feel that Shatner-bashing was becoming too popular a reflex. Apparently some actors were especially happy to participate in “Of Gods and Men” because it depicted a universe without Kirk. I know several of the original series actors have real and legitimate issues concerning Shatner, and clearly they’ve been hurt. But especially after that notorious roast, it’s getting old, and it’s becoming much too dominant and public. I’ve never met William Shatner, nor did he or his people respond to my requests for an interview for my Times story, but it seems to me he’s a complex person, and he’s done a lot of good, as well as a lot of good work as an actor. Captain Kirk didn’t come out of a cereal box. It came out of him: good, bad, ugly and beautiful.

No comments: