DVD Review: The Captains / Cert: TBC / Director: William Shatner / Screenplay: William Shatner / Starring: William Shatner, Patrick Stewart, Avery Brooks, Kate Mulgrew, Scott Bakula, Chris Pine / Release Date: Out Now (Region 1 US Import Only)
William Shatner has taken us on many exciting adventures over the years, most famously playing James Kirk. This particular adventure takes us on a journey to meet each of the Star Trek captains that followed him, so that Shatner can interview them and talk at length about himself.
Let me start by explaining one very important caveat of this review - I really like William Shatner and Star Trek. If you aren’t a fan of either, there is nothing for you in The Captains. You will feel both lost and irritated.
“You’re not exactly catching us at our best.”
Of the five actors that Shatner speaks to, only one is currently serving Starfleet, Chris Pine in J.J. Abrams’ rebooted film series. The rest have found other projects, moved on, returned to live theatre. All of them, however, seem to have been profoundly affected by their time in the Captain’s chair.
We spend the most time with Sir Patrick Stewart, who seems to have the best connection with Shatner. He admits that he only took the role of Picard because he thought the show would fail - and talks candidly about his worries following such an iconic show as the original Star Trek. When Shatner takes the conversation to the sacrifices that these roles demand, Stewart is again refreshingly candid and thoughtful on the subject.
Avery Brooks has nearly as much personality as William Shatner, and seeing them both on screen together is one of the most entertaining parts of the documentary. Early on we are warned that Brooks is an accomplished jazz pianist and singer. Most of their discussion takes place behind a piano, with one or both of them singing. It is bonkers, but brilliant.
Kate Mulgrew has always been good at snappy dialogue, and this really comes across in her interview, which cuts quickly between them. The discussion covers a lot of ground. Mulgrew is the only female captain, and she was also a single parent while shooting Voyager and these aspects are explored.
Also star of sci-fi favourite Quantum Leap Scott Bakula knew what he was getting into when he signed up for another long-running show. He explains that he only did it because he got to be the first captain, before even Kirk. With the experience of both shows, his thoughts are very interesting, and the discussion of things he’s given up is moving.
We spend the least amount of time with the newest Captain - Chris Pine. He is much more smooth and professional in his answers, giving little away but praise. A sign of different generations, perhaps, with much more media savvy responses. Either way, it is fun to see the two Kirks engage in an arm-wrestle.
“Please Captain, not in front of the Klingons.”
Not one of the six Star Trek Captains, Shatner also manages to fit in a brief interview with Christopher Plummer - who played General Chang in The Undiscovered Country. An unexpected treat, this also serves as a stepping stone for Shatner to talk about his days on stage before being cast as Kirk.
“One of the advantages of being a Captain is being able to ask for advice without necessarily having to take it.”
This is a William Shatner film, and he takes centre stage. His interview technique is original - ask a question / get an answer / speak about himself for a bit. He is good at touching on serious subjects without losing the upbeat feel that runs through the film.
“Captain, life is not a dream.”
The documentary is very enjoyable, and extremely silly in places. What comes across is the huge amount of work that each of these actors put into their show, and just how much they sacrificed. There is no doubt that it does take someone special to sit in that captain’s chair.