William Shatner coming to Capitol Center for the Arts for 90-minute Q&A session

By EMILY REILY
Special to the Union Leader
May 16. 2018 1:50PM
Aside from his “Star Trek” ventures, William Shatner is a spoken-word recording artist and an equestrian competitor. 

You’re wanted on the bridge. The leader of the starship USS Enterprise, Capt. James T. Kirk himself, will take your questions.

On Friday night, actor, author and director William Shatner will conduct a 90-minute Q&A at the Capitol Center for the Arts after a screening of the 1982 sci-fi classic “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan,” and he’s ready for anything.

“I’ll be entertaining an audience in an ad-lib sort of way; nothing is prepared. I’ll be at my best,” he says in a recent phone interview.

NHWeekend boldly caught up with the legendary star, now 87, to find out what makes him tick.

What will Trekkies and other fans see at your performance?

I will rely on the years that I’ve spent in front of an audience doing this very thing to entertain them, make them laugh and inform them and even make them cry at certain times. But it’s a performance.

What made “Wrath of Khan” (which memorably featured Richardo Montalban as the villain Khan) so popular?

There’s a lot of drama in it and a lot of emotion. Without emotion, things aren’t successful. You need to touch the audience both technically and emotionally. Sometimes films are very good technically, (but) they don’t touch you very much or at all, emotionally. The (1960s TV) series told a good story. And I think that when the ‘Wrath of Khan’ was finally made, it went back to those touchstones that had made the series.

It also has that powerful scene at the end with Spock (the Vulcan famously played by the late Leonard Nimoy) dying.

They were looking for things that would shock and entrance the audience — the writers were — and that was one of them. Absolutely.

Do you have a favorite memory of your time with Leonard Nimoy?

We spent a lot of time together alone, far more than most people — friends — would spend with each other, because we were performing together or making movies together. We were in each other’s company for reasons and thusly, like brothers, talking about the most intimate of subjects. The whole time I spent with him — it was something I look back on with great fondness. He was a dear ... He was the brother I never had.

What’s your favorite “Star Trek” episode?

There are a variety of them. Some are funny. The one you were watching, “The Trouble With Tribbles,” was fun, and yet there was a sense that that was about overproduction and taking care of the Earth, and that kind of thing. And there were several that had wonderful, underlying meaning but were told very entertainingly.

There was a show (“Let That Be Your Last Battlefield”) in which the (face of a) guest actor was painted half black (on the left) and half white (on the right), while another actor was half white (on the left) and half black (on the right). On the opposite side, they hated each other because the blacks and whites didn’t match, and how bizarre that is. There were many shows like that, that had fun drama but the underlying thrust was something humanely interesting. Those were my favorite shows.

I wanted to ask you about your interest in spoken-word music.

I’m making two albums this year. One is a Christmas album, and I may be mistaken, but I think it’s gonna be really superb. It’s going to be offbeat. Many of them are traditional Christmas songs, but done just a little differently.

Then I’m doing an album with Jeff Cook of (the band) Alabama — a western-country music album. They’ve handed me, oh, maybe a sheaf of 20 (songs). They’re like Tin Pan Alley back there in Nashville. They just turn these incredible songs out. I’ve picked out seven that I really like. If the songs are any indication, it could be some fun as well.

If you weren’t an actor, would your career have been in music?

Well, I envy people who can really sing, who can sustain a note, and marvelous singers who have such control over their voices. I wish I knew how passionate I was about music earlier in my life. I would have studied more.

The spoken word, the onomatopoeia of the English language, is something I go to frequently. That’s where my talents and training are, and so poetry and the rhythm and the melodic line of English is something that I’ve tried to put to music with varying success. The (2004) album “Has Been,” and some of the numbers there that I wrote with (singer, songwriter and producer) Ben Folds, are good examples.

Like the song “It Hasn’t Happened Yet,” where you talk about a fear of failure, and you say, “I need peace. It hasn’t happened yet.”

Right. I wrote that for obvious reasons.

You’re clearly not a failure, but you have these inner fears. Do you still feel that way today?

Basically, yes. I can’t sing (laughs). “I can’t sing ... I’m a failure.” It’s that kind of thing, you know. I’m trying to do things better, and I’m never content with what I do, even now, yes. Because when I’m asked, “What have I learned?,” I realized I’ve learned nothing. I know nothing.

Really?

That’s the way I feel.

You say you’ve learned nothing, but …

But I’ve always wanted to learn.

Is there something you’ve always wanted to do?

I’ve let it go for about a year, but up until then I had seven hours learning in the cockpit of a helicopter. So one of the things I want to do is fly a helicopter. And I’m a pilot with a single-engine plane.

Another is, I ride (horses) competitively, a lot, and I’ve won championships, world championships and things like that. I’d like to this year, win some more championships.

Will you do more cameos in movies?

Oh yes. I’ve got all kinds of things I’m going to do. These albums, by the way, are performances. There’s (reality-travel TV show) “Better Late Than Never,” films that I’m trying to sell, scripts that I own or partially own, documentaries that I’m making, either directing or producing or writing. Just a lot of stuff going on here that you’ll hear about as time goes on.

Do you think there is actually life in outer space?

No, I know there’s life in outer space. Mathematically, it’s impossible not to have life in outer space. We can’t be the only, this little blue planet in some hidden galaxy in ... one of billions of galaxies can’t be the only place there’s life. Just mathematically it doesn’t make sense.

So yes, life — whatever life is — is teeming. It requires only the slightest of conditions for something live to happen. We’ve seen that in the, I think they call them extremophiles, living at temperatures that are frozen, or above boiling. And so with conditions a little less than that, life flourishes. We see that. So there is a force in the universe that we call life.

Perhaps it’s only a matter of time until we come across somebody else out there.

Well, that may be a long time (laughs), cause space is maybe beyond ... I don’t know how old you are, but maybe long after I’m gone.


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