THE CAPTAINS by William Shatner

the captains

I’ve blogged about my love of Star Trek before, so when I heard about this documentary, I just had to get it. William Shatner (Captian James Kirk) hosts this documentary where he interviews the other actors who, like him, played Starship Captains in various Star Trek TV shows and movies. What I like most about this film is that I originally expected it to be a series of interviews, where he sits down with one actor and interviews him, then switches to the next, and so on. Done that way, it would be effective, but that could easily be done on a TV talk show. Instead, Shatner switches between the various actors, talking to each for a little at a time, keeping the film moving forward.

It begins with Shatner traveling to Sir Patrick Stewart’s (Captain Jean-Luc Picard) home in England, then he goes to meet Avery Brooks (Captain Benjamin Sisko) in Princeton, NJ. Then Shatner meets Kate Mulgrew (Captain Katherine Janeway) in New York, Scott Bakula (Captain Johnathan Archer) at a ranch in Los Angeles, and then, finally, Chris Pine (new Captain James Kirk), in Culver City, CA. He spends a few minutes with each in the beginning and then returns to each one several times throughout the film, as Shatner also visits a few Star Trek conventions and interacts with fans, and shares details of his own background.

The thing that’s most surprising is what a natural interviewer Shatner is. I know he’s hosted his own interview show before, but I never watched it, so I didn’t know. But he is very good at it. He doesn’t read from any notes while talking, and it’s not set-up like a formal interview, it’s just like you’re watching him having a regular conversation with each actor. Everything flows naturally, they put their guards down, and really open up. We see Shatner and Bakula riding horses together, Shatner and Brooks sitting at the piano, and Shatner and Pine playfully arm-wrestling each other on a public street. Overall, the least amount of time is spent with Pine, which is understandable, since he’s the newest actor in the bunch, who doesn’t have as much of a resume. But with the rest, you definitely get some fascinating insights into who they are. Scott Bakula started as a singer and said that he still considers himself a singer who acts, rather than an actor who sings, and Avery Brooks is a tenured theater professor at Rutgers University. I didn’t know either of those facts.

What’s most touching is how every single one of them, including Shatner, lamented the effect that Star Trek had on their personal relationships. Shatner, Brooks, Bakula, and Stewart all got divorced during the course of their time on TV, and Mulgrew was a single mother and said that her two, now-grown, children refused to this day to ever watch an episode of Voyager because they resent the way it kept her away from them while they were younger. Stewart almost breaks into tears when he talks about the failure of his two marriages. It’s very touching.

The documentary also includes some brief discussions with other Star Trek alumni, including Jonathan Frakes (William Riker), Robert Picardo (The Doctor), Rene Auberjonois (Odo), and Connor Trinneer (Charles “Trip” Tucker III), as well as from Gene Roddenberry’s former assistant, Richard Arnold (who reveals that Roddenberry had to be convinced that Stewart, who was not his first choice, was right for the role of the new captain on The Next Generation). Jerri Ryan and Sally Kellerman make brief appearances too.

Overall, this is a great documentary, and must-see viewing for any self-respecting Trekker. Two Thumbs Up!


  1. Watched that about a year ago. Seeing Patrick Stewart break down a bit about how his marriage fell apart was startling to see because it was so unexpected. I would have liked to have seen a bit more with Chris Pine. Captain Sisko is my favorite of all the Trek captains, but it almost seems that Avery Brooks has lost his mind. I have no idea why Shatner interviewed Christopher Plummer though. I know the two of them are friends, but it hardly warrants his inclusion in this movie. It would have been more interesting to interview George Takei (Captain Sulu) though I know the two of them don’t really get along.


    • Sisko is the one I was least familiar with, as I never watched DS9 regularly, I only saw a handful of full episodes. But he definitely seemed a tad, well, let’s say eccentric.


  2. Sisko starts out being the most bland Captain for the first three years of the show. He was given a lot of character development in the pilot episode “Emissary” but then they didn’t seem to know what to do with him and focused most of their stories on his first officer, Major Kira, instead. It wasn’t until about halfway through season 3 that they really got around to exploring his character more. By season 4 he had a steady girlfriend (later wife), his relationship with his son came to the forefront a bit more and he was actually leading his crew rather than just sitting in his office yelling at them. I think the two biggest moments for him was when he stopped the Maquis terrorist (formerly DS9 security officer) Eddington and when he manipulated the Romulans into joining the Federation and the Klingons against the Dominion.

    The Best Captain Sisko episodes (in chronological order):

    1. Emissary
    2. The Jem’ Hadar
    3. Past Tense parts I and II
    4. The Adversary (Sisko gets promoted to Captain)
    5. Homefront (pt. 1) / Paradise Lost (pt. 2)
    6. For the Cause
    7. Rapture
    8. For the Uniform (which has my favorite Sisko moment ever)
    9. In the Pale Moonlight
    10. What You Leave Behind


  3. Nice review of the documentary, J.R.! I watched it this weekend and really enjoyed it. Shatner is a hoot and I was impressed with how he got his interview subjects to open up about the toll “Star Trek” took on their personal lives. At the beginning of the film, it seemed as if Shatner seemed to like Bakula best, but by the end, his bond with Stewart was pretty apparent. I also loved his give-and-take with Mulgrew. As for Brooks: As Shatner told the convention audience, that guy is “out there” (although I still enjoyed their chat).


    • I was particularly pleased to see the apparent real-life friendship between Shatner and Stewart. It’s such a shame that GENERATIONS wasn’t a much better movie, something that had Kirk and Picard on the Enterprise together, I think with their chemistry they could have made the best Star Trek film ever.


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