William Shatner, Shakespeare And A Trip To Space

William Shatner
(Photo by Gage Skidmore/ CC BY-SA 3.0)

William Shatner recently made history as the oldest person to enter space, all thanks to Blue Origin, LLC and their New Shepard spacecraft. Although the launch lasted approximately 10 minutes, the nonagenarian who is best known for his portrayal of James Tiberius Kirk in the original Star Trek series was moved to tears. “It’s extraordinary,” Shatner told Jeff Bezos upon landing. “I hope I never recover, that I can maintain what I feel now.” It’s one of those capstone moments in a person’s life that is truly tough to forget.
An acquaintance of mine posted a picture of his meatballs on the day of the launch in what I can only assume is a tribute to Shatner. His quotation was a play on words uttered by Christopher Plummer’s General Chang in the 1991 film, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country: “Cry havoc and let slip the meatballs of war.” Of course, the items of war from the Shakespearean play Julius Caesar were dogs.

Hubby and I have been avid Star Trek fans since we began our courtship together. We saw several Star Trek films in the general area, including the old theater that used to be in the Plainview Shopping Center. I was a huge fan from childhood, as my parents often watched the sci-fi adventure. From time to time, Hubby or I will quote a phrase from the iconic TV show when appropriate. One of Hubby’s favorite lines is Engineer Scott’s/Scotty’s line, “It’s like sending up a flare.” Most of the time, this refers to our dog Luna’s flatulence, which is both silent and deadly. Dogs of war, indeed.

The whole “dogs of war” phrase intrigued me, especially where it related to a Shakesperean-quoting villain with excellent diction. Why was Plummer chosen? And what was up with all the quotes from Shakespeare?

It turns out that when the screenplay was written, The Wrath of Khan director Nicholas Meyer was a huge Shakespeare buff. He also wrote General Chang with Christopher Plummer specifically in mind to portray the Shakespeare-quoting villain. After speaking to Leonard Nimoy, Meyer stated that if they could not get Plummer for the role, nobody else could adequately fill it and they wouldn’t have a film. Meyer was also a self-professed “fanatic Plummer fan.”

Plummer rejected the request twice, but finally came around to the delight of Meyers and the rest of the cast. Plummer requested not to wear the traditional Klingon long-haired wig because it “looked phony” and Meyer championed him. Plummer’s General Chang was bald, precise and had perfectly clipped speech. It was a perfectly delicious role and he played it with gusto.
Plummer and Shatner were friendly rivals back in the 1950s, when Shatner was understudy for Plummer in a Stratford Shakespeare Festival production of Henry V. Plummer, who was out one night due to illness, had to miss the performance. Shatner stepped up to fill in. Not only did Shatner rise to the challenge, but he also completely upstaged Plummer’s performance. William Shatner was destined, from that moment, for greatness. Of special note is that both Plummer and Shatner are Canadian actors.

William Shatner is not only an accomplished actor, writer and “musician” via several spoken lyric albums, but he is involved with the American Tinnitus Association, a condition from which he suffers. Years ago, his kidney stone fetched $25,000, the funds which were donated to Habitat for Humanity. Shatner breeds and shows horses and is a leading force for the Hollywood Charity Horse Show, which often donates to charities for children. He has also been known to work with the Red Cross, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the Police Athletic League, the Starlight Children’s Foundation and the American Cancer Society, to name a few charities that he has supported.

William Shatner has led quite a life, and it continues to blossom on the daily. As the oldest person in space, he said of the adventure, “You’re immersed in things that are indescribable.” This is the perfect summation of how we feel whenever we watch him grace the screen, whether in film or television. William Shatner is the epitome of an indescribably well-lived life. I can’t wait to see what he does next.


Patty Servidio is an Anton Media Group columnist.

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