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William Shatner: A Man Of Many Talents

Kris King Kris King
July 17th, 2008 12:25pm EDT
William ShatnerWilliam Alan Shatner is a man of many talents. With over fifty years of acting experience, he is a critically acclaimed musician and author, and at seventy-seven he revels in his status as a titan of popular culture. Just one glimpse of the man's face brings on a deluge of images and names: Captain James Tiberius Kirk; long………… dramatic……… pauses; Priceline.com-the list could go on for pages. Below you will find the career of William Shatner broken down into a few categories, starting from his humble beginnings in the 1950s all the way through to the man we have today.

Early career
Despite Shatner's somewhat scattershot career, the man has a legitimate theatrical background. His acting career began on the Shakespearean stage of all places, and Shatner worked a number of plays like "The Merchant of Venice," and "Henry V." He even went on to have starring rolls on Broadway. However, one role in Shatner's early career signified the types of jobs he would get for the next fifty years of his life: Ranger Bob on Canada's version of The Howdy Doody Show. Oh to see William Shatner dressed in 50s cowboy gear. Shatner's early work saw him on practically every show on television. He did episodes of "Alfred Hitchcock Presents," "The Twilight Zone," "The Outer Limits," and even "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." Still, throughout the 50s and 60s Shatner never really landed any significant or lasting roles until a rather large opportunity arose.

Star TrekStar Trek
Yes! The voyages of James T. Goddamn Kirk and the Starship Enterprise coming at your face! Unless you've somehow been living in a hole or been in a coma for forty years, Captain Kirk needs little introduction. It's unimaginable that anyone could take the helm of the Enterprise in the original series other than William Shatner. It feels almost unreal that show creator Gene Roddenberry originally considered giving the captain's chair to actor Jeffery Hunter as Captain Christopher Pike. Judging by the single episode with Pike as the captain, Shatner single-handedly saves the show from relentless dullness at the hands of Captain Pike. It's unimaginable to see another man fighting large men in lizard costumes with large pointed sticks. Kirk is the type of man born to lead, and he proves it every episode by contorting his words, screaming at the heavens, and making it with every lady in the galaxy. Shatner's Kirk is everything that "Star Trek" fans want to be: brash, successful, and, best of all, acne free. It was through the massive success of "Star Trek," that Shatner rocketed into fame, and even at this early stage in his career Shatner earned his place canonized in the annals of TV history.

The History Changing Captain James T. Kurk:



Transformed ManThe Transformed Man
"The Transformed Man" might be the single greatest album released in 1968. Screw you "Beggar's Banquet." Hot off the success of Star Trek, Shatner decided to establish himself as a genuine Renaissance Man by releasing an album. "The Transformed Man" mixes dramatic Shakespearian readings with his now iconic spoken word renditions of pop songs. To this day, the album leaves critics baffled. Nobody seems able to tell whether Shatner takes himself seriously reading both Hamlet and Frank Sinatra in the same song of if he's simply f*cking with us. The album is either iconic in its corniness, or ingenious in its self-parody. "The Transformed Man" leaves an indelible mark on popular culture and defines William Shatner's career. Shatner's performance feels weird, cheeky, pompous and dumb all at the same time. It's honestly hard to tell just what the hell is going through this man's mind as he screams the words to "Mr. Tambourine Man." Figuring it out may be impossible. The album feels a bit like the Birch and Swinnerton-Dyer conjecture of music; you get a million dollar reward if you solve it. Regardless of how you feel the album, it certainly shows Shatner's tendency for overstatement. MR. TAMBOURINE MAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANNNNNNNNNN.




The 1970s
The 70s were definitely unkind to Shatner, especially considering his greatest contribution to the decade was his performance of "Rocket Man" during the 1978 Science Fiction Film Awards. After NBC cancelled Star Trek in its third season, Shatner had a rough time getting through the next decade. In order to pay for his camper in the San Fernando Valley, Shatner turned to bit parts in other people's successful shows like "Columbo" or "Kung Fu," and also made frequent appearances on shows like "Celebrity Bowling." Bill managed to tread water fairly well until he had a slight incident on "The $20,000 Pyramid" that kind of got him banned:




Way to keep your cool there, Mr. Shatner. For those of you that can't decipher what happened in that grainy, poorly transferred YouTube video, Shatner basically cost the contestant 20 thousand dollars by telling her the clue by accident. He then chucked his chair over the balcony and screamed a few times. I'm sure you could figure that last part out.

Star Trek V The Final FrontierStar Trek Movies
Once again, Star Trek saved Shatner's career in the late 70s and sealed his fate as being forever being worshiped by people with severe social problems. Throughout the 80s and into the 90s, Star Trek dominated Shatner's movie career to both great and horrible ends. Here's a helpful tip from Star Trek fans: Stick to the even numbered movies. According to this theory, exactly half of the Star Trek motion pictures are relentless piles of crap. For every sci-fi classic like Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, or Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, you have one where the Voyager satellite becomes an omnipotent super-being to cancel it out. Shatner even tried his hand at directing for Star Trek V, which even the most dedicated of Trekkies call "The really shitty one where Kirk meets a God-alien or something stupid like that." Regardless of the dubious quality of some of the Star Trek films, Shatner dominates the screen with his bumptious swagger, and his acting makes screaming people's names in rage fun again.

T. J. Hooker
Fresh off of his rejuvenated career, Shatner stayed alive on television via T.J. Hooker, a cop show whose credit sequence speaks for itself:




Basically T.J. Hooker is Kirk except not in space. Whatever works.

Commercials
Shatner's confident charm makes him an astounding spokesperson. His work in commercials just goes to show that ol' Bill here will pitch for just about anything, even before most people knew the internet existed, much less Priceline.com. Here are just a few examples of some of the products Shatner has pushed over the years:

Commodore Vic-20 Computer:



World of Warcraft:



Boston LegalBoston Legal
Aside from being a phenomenal spokesperson for Price Line, host of Rescue 911, kind of author of the kind of popular Sci-fi series "Tek War," and co-star of American Psycho 2, Shatner never reached many remarkable heights in recent years. That is until "The Practice" and "Boston Legal" came around. "Boston Legal" may very well be the best thing that has ever happened to William Shatner. Aside from making Shatner a legitimate, respectable actor, the show also earned the man two Emmys and a Golden Globe. What planet is this? Considering Shatner plays an egotistical, pompous blowhard on the show, it's not surprising that the role comes naturally to the man we've all come to love.

Kris King
Story by Kris King

Starpulse contributing writer