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Captains, The (DVD Review)

15 Oct, 2011 By: John Latchem

Street 10/18/11

$19.98 DVD
Featuring William Shatner, Patrick Stewart, Kate Mulgrew, Avery Brooks, Scott Bakula, Chris Pine.

It's always a good sign for a franchise when it can start generating documentaries about itself. That mark of longevity is certainly true when it comes to "Star Trek."

After 45 years, the famed sci-fi standard-bearer has left quite a legacy, with five TV shows, an animated series and 11 movies.

Each show has a different crew of explorers boldly going where none have gone before. And for every crew there's a captain, and none more famous than Capt. James T. Kirk of the original series.

Kirk was played by William Shatner in the 1966-69 original series, as well as the first six films, and is one of a handful of people who could be considered the face of "Star Trek." He's also picked up quite the reputation for having an ego. So who better to postulate that playing a "Trek" captain requires some kind of special stature?

With camera crew in tow, Shatner sets out to meet the other captains of the franchise and investigate their career paths before sitting in the big chair.

What follows is a series of conversations that has more to do with the profession of acting that it does "Star Trek," which makes one wonder exactly what Shatner is trying to accomplish here, beyond an intriguing PR experiment.

One by one he tracks them down. They include Patrick Stewart, who played Capt. Jean-Luc Picard on "The Next Generation"; Avery Brooks, Capt. Ben Sisko on "Deep Space Nine"; Kate Mulgrew, Capt. Katherine Janeway on "Voyager"; Scott Bakula, Capt. Jonathan Archer on "Enterprise"; and Chris Pine as the rebooted Kirk in the 2009 movie.

It seems more like an exercise for Shatner to compare his resumé with theirs. Or have a sing-along with Brooks. You also get a few interviews with other “Trek” actors discussing their captains. But it’s all played down in a very low-key way, practically drowned out by an annoying piano score.

Of the group, only Stewart and Bakula can approach Shatner’s iconic status — Stewart by following up “Trek” by playing Professor X in the “X-Men” films, and Bakula from his “Quantum Leap’ days.

An interesting moment occurs with Stewart, when Shatner admits he kind of hated being associated with “Star Trek” because of so many people quoting it to him. But over time, he says, he has come to accept it. When he says he was flattered when the owner of a private plane service was inspired to go into the airplane business by watching Kirk, it’s a touching moment, but you wonder how Shatner could have gone this long without understanding how much people have been inspired by his show. Stewart, on the other hand, tells him that if he is forever remembered only as a “Star Trek” actor, then he’s fine with it. And this is from a man trained by the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Like Stewart, most of the captains came from the stage, actually. Which may indicate just how theatrical “Star Trek” is.

Will “Star Trek” fans be enthralled by this? I don’t know. It might have raised a few more eyebrows had he assembled everyone in a single place for a roundtable. But then it wouldn’t be as personal. But imagine that photo op!

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