Last week William Shatner wrapped up the first leg of five cities for his live tour of screenings and Q&As with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. The tour picks up again next month, with stops around the country. TrekMovie was at the stop last week in Philadelphia to see what the experience was like.
Shatner’s stop in Philadelphia was held at the historic and elegant Academy of Music – with a huge screen set back on the stage between two huge pillars of sound. Below the screen were two empty chairs bookending a small table resting atop a homey rug.
Prior to the movie’s start, the screen ran a series of facts and trivia slides about Star Trek II and Shatner himself, with most on the easy side for fans, but some impossibly challenging like “How many times has The Twilight Zone episode “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” been referenced in popular culture? (Answer 17 times, who could possibly know that?).
As for the film itself, what else can be said about the greatness of Wrath of Khan? Yet the experience of seeing it again on the big screen with a crowd full of fans whooping it up upon the delivery of each now-classic line of dialog, brought chills. I was lost in the storytelling and effects that have held up remarkably well. But then, once in a while I remembered with a sudden thrill, “we’re going to see Shatner, in person, in just a few minutes!”
Before you knew it, Spock’s ghostly reading of the mission statement faded in the theater, the credits began to roll and applause filled the room. The screening faded quickly as the credits rolled with Shatner introduced and taking to the stage with his first of several standing ovations for the night. After some quick banter with the moderator, Shatner set the relaxed tone for the event by telling everyone to call him Bill.
The moderator asked a series of prepared general questions, as well as some submitted earlier by attendees. Bill gave long, entertaining, at times wandering answers – but always came back to the question and always with a point or a joke. For listening to a man in his 88th year, you can forgive a lot of memory lapses and meandering, but with William Shatner, there was no need. He is sharp, funny, insightful and a born entertainer and raconteur.
There were no big new insights offered by Shatner, especially for longtime fans, but one particular tale from behind the scenes brought down the house. It was a story of pranking DeForest Kelly at craft services by having Leonard Nimoy distract him while waiting for his bagel to be toasted so Bill could pop it, steal it, and press the toaster down so that DeForest would turn back and watch the toaster pop up empty — reinforcing Dee’s earlier concern he confided in Bill that he was forgetting things. After the second time he looked at Bill, saw his mouth stuffed with his bagel, and shouted “SHATNER!”
While some of the stories may be familiar, there is a special quality to seeing Shatner live, as he has a charm and wit that you can’t get from reading a book or interview. And while he may be known for having an ego, Shatner knows how to use self-deprecating humor well. His funniest line of the night may have been the answer to the question “Do you wear boxers or briefs?” Answer (after a long pause): “Depends.”
And it isn’t all Star Trek stories and jokes, as Bill is also happy to share wisdom from his life and experiences. Perhaps giving a preview of his upcoming memoir/advice book Live Long And ..: What I Might Have Learned Along the Way, Bill offered the simple, yet profound tip “The secret is to say yes, to life.” Bill also showed how much of a pro he is by deftly handling an overeager fan in the front row who was bordering on heckling. Overall, it was a room filled with love.
What a wonderful experience! As Sulu says in Star Trek VI, “Nice to see you in action one more time, Captain Kirk.” Based on the long list of William Shatner’s projects in the works, I strongly doubt this was one last time. Seeing the William Shatner live tour with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is highly recommended.
Shatner will return to the road for his tour in late-June, with four stops starting in Denver on June 21st. There will be a stop in North Carolina in July and then a break until the tour begins again in September with stops in the Midwest.