As mentioned in yesterday’s post, William Shatner has parodied himself quite a bit and found some success with that in commercials and bit parts in movies going back to 1982 in Airplane II, but I’ve had mixed feelings about that. I was glad that he could find exposure and work of some kind (especially the Third Rock from the Sun appearances), but I felt like the man who gave us Captain Kirk deserved better.
But it was that role of Captain Kirk that appeared to be a major hurdle to him. After Star Trek, Shatner went from 1969 to 1975 doing primarily guest star roles on TV shows. It wasn’t until Barbary Coast in 1975 when he got a full-time gig again, although it was very short-lived. Then he went another stint, from 1976 to 1982 (T.J. Hooker), without a regular gig. Kirk was clearly in the way and the only way to get non-Trek work was to play the parodies or find something that was Trek-like (the awful Tekwar movies and series). And in neither scenario did Shatner have the opportunity to really refine his craft.
Fortunately, David E. Kelly inserted Shatner into a role that would allow him to refine his craft. He was cast in The Practice and in the subsequent spin-off Boston Legal and played a character in Denny Crane that was unlike Captain Kirk in so many ways. Finally, Shatner had a chance to show off some acting chops and it even garnered him two Emmys and a Golden Globe.
By no means is Shatner necessarily at the end of his career, but he turned 78 on Sunday so one has to realize that we’re not talking about the 35-year-old starship captain anymore. But no matter what he does from here on out, he proved with Denny Crane that he could do it…he could get past Captain Kirk and finally become…The Transformed Man.