Shatner’s Trip to Space Was about the Man Himself. And It Was about Star Trek.
On Wednesday, Star Trek’s William Shatner, his crewmates, and the company Blue Origin pulled off this bit of majesty.
Shatner visited space for a handful of minutes, earning him the title of oldest man ever to do so. When he literally came back to earth, he was eternally grateful and spellbound.
While the moment was fantastic for Amazon kingpin Jeff Bezos and the prospect of space visitation, the experience was uniquely owned and personified by Shatner.
Pioneering a show 55 years ago about space exploration, Shatner is a forefather of science fiction — even if he’s “just an actor.” For millions, Shatner is the face of outer space, at least per psyches of their childhood. This week, the face of outer space on the little screen ventured to outer space in real life. That’s a big deal. It’s full-circle stuff.
If Shatner made his name six decades ago as the leading man in Bewitched, nobody would care if he traveled to space. And nor should they. The conglomeration of Captain Kirk in fiction, embodied by Shatner in real life with 2021’s version of true-blue space travel — made the Shatner trek so special. If you care, Leonard Nimoy could’ve pulled this off, too. Yet, Kirk was the boss — and bosses go to space when their name is called by the world’s richest man.
Shatner, the man, so inherently linked with Captain Kirk, the man, is also vital to recognize. With this brief journey, Shatner allowed himself to be forever likened to Captain Kirk, perhaps in an enhanced realm. Shatner humanly did Captain Kirk stuff on Wednesday, and he’s an actor. Actors don’t have to adore roles, nor do they have to carry a facade off-camera akin to the character. Was James Gandolfini really a mob boss? No. It might be cheesy if he tried to pretend as such in the real mafia. It is unlikely Dexter actor Michael C. Hall kills folks in real life who deserve to die. There’s separation between actor and character with those examples.
In West Texas with Blue Origin, there was no separation. Shatner was Kirk. Kirk was Shatner.
Then, his age caused even more endearment for the moment. So far, Shatner has exceeded the United States life expectancy for men by 11 years. Shatner is cool, hilarious, and gifted with hair — but he’s old. All 90-year-olds are. Let’s face it, this trip for Shatner will end up as one of the last remarkable — if not most remarkable — tasks he ever accomplished. Realistically, he will not live much longer. But he was spry enough and Kirk-like to conduct this mission, even at the age of 90.
Listen to his voice in the NBC video clip above. Shatner knows this about his age. And that’s why he’s so damn grateful and awe-stricken. It took him 90 years to reach this otherworldly apex. Most of us will be dead by then, but not Captain Kirk, an ancestral space frontman.
The man from the space television show flew to space 55 years later while watchers of the show from yesteryear looked on in amazement in the present. This was very much a Star Trek moment.
Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. His odyssey with Star Trek starts from beginning to finish, watching ‘The Original Series,’ all the way to the present day. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).