The William Shatner, Ponder the Mystery…

By Dr. Alan Carlos Hernandez on September 22, 2013

Shatner1958  Actor, director, author, singer William Shatner is best known for his roles on Boston Legal and Star Trek. He is one of the most recognizable stars working today. His distinctive voice and cadence has been the subject of many imitations, spoofs, and parodies—all contributing to his status as a pop icon and endearing him to his fans. In addition to being an Emmy Award-winning actor, he has also written numerous books, directed several projects, and even recorded a few albums.

In 1956, Shatner made his Broadway debut in Tamburlaine the Great, which was directed by Guthrie. He also found work in the emerging medium of television, appearing on such shows as the Goodyear Television PlayhouseStudio One, and Playhouse 90. Playing one of the title characters, he made his film debut in 1958’s The Brothers Karamazov with Yul Brynner.

In 1961, William had a small part in the Holocaust drama Judgment at Nuremberg (1961), playing an army captain. He had a lead part in The Intruder (1962) as a racist who fought against school integration.

On the small screen, Shatner had his first television series, For the People, in 1965. He starred on the short-lived drama as an assistant district attorney in New York City.

The following year, he took on the role that made him famous around the world. As Captain James T. Kirk on Star Trek, he commanded the U.S.S. Enterprise, a starship traveling through space in the twenty-third century. Kirk encountered all sorts of unusual aliens and challenging situations during his journeys. Accompanying him on these adventures was his loyal crew, which included first officer Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) and medical officer Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy (DeForest Kelley).

During the run of the show, Shatner also made an unusual career move. He recorded an album, The Transformed Man (1968), which featured spoken word versions of contemporary pop hits. Already known for his dramatic, but earnest delivery of his lines on Star Trek, Shatner recorded renditions of such songs as the Beatles’ “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.”

Not long after the album, Star Trek was cancelled. The show, however, continued to live on in syndication and became even more popular. Star Trek became a Saturday morning cartoon that ran during the mid-1970s, and it was resurrected in a live action film in 1979.

Returning to the role of Kirk, Shatner starred in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. The film’s warm reception by film-goers showed how much affection the public had for the old series. At the beginning of the film, Kirk has become an admiral, Bones has retired, and Spock has returned to the planet Vulcan. But the three return to work on a new version of theEnterprise to solve a crisis involving a mysterious cloud that has destroyed several spaceships

In the sequel Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), Kirk had to overcome an old adversary, Khan Noonien Singh (Richardo Montalban), who was out for revenge. Around the time of the sequel’s release, Shatner took on a new leading television role.

On T. J. Hooker, Shatner played a veteran police officer who turned in his detective’s badge to return to a street beat. The supporting cast included Heather Locklear and Adrian Zmed as younger officers who worked with and looked up to Shatner’s character. Unlike the original Star Trek series, T. J. Hooker was immediately popular with television audiences.

Shatner, however, never abandoned the part that made him famous. During the run of T. J. Hooker, he appeared in two more Star Trek films, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984) and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986). He remained a fixture on television even after T. J. Hooker went off the air, becoming the host for Rescue 911 in 1989. This show was an early entry into the reality television genre featuring reenactments of emergency situations.

The next chapter in the Star Trek film series received a lukewarm reception. For Star Trek V: The Final Frontier(1989), Shatner not only returned as Kirk, but made his debut as a feature film director as well.

The Star Trek film series continued at warp speed. The next installments were Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991) and then Star Trek Generations (1993). In Generations, the members of the original Star Trek hand the franchise baton to the cast of the spin-off series Star Trek: The Next Generation. At the beginning of the film, Kirk is believed to have died trying to save the new version of the U.S.S. Enterprise from total destruction. He is later found inside a strange place called The Nexus by Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart), the captain of the Enterprise from a later time. Together they tried to stop a villain named Soran from setting off a bomb that would wipe out a sun and an entire solar system with it. But, unfortunately, Kirk died while completing this mission.

With the character of Kirk at an end, Shatner moved forward in new directions. He appeared as a beauty pageant host on Miss Congeniality (2000) and its sequel Miss Congeniality 2 (2005) with Sandra Bullock. In 2003, Shatner made a guest appearance as a talented, but eccentric lawyer on The Practice. His turn as Denny Crane brought him his first Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series in 2004. He had been previously nominated for his guest appearance on the science fiction sitcom 3rd Rock from the Sun in 1999.

The Practice creator David E. Kelley created a spin-off series, Boston Legal, featuring Shatner’s character Denny Crane in 2004. Law partner and master litigator Crane acts as a mentor of sorts to Alan Shore (played by James Spader). For his work on the series, Shatner won his second Emmy—this time for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series—in 2005. Two nominations in this category followed in 2006 and in 2007.

In 2008, Shatner began work on Shatner’s Raw Nerve a celebrity interview program on the Biography Channel. During the show’s run, Shatner has spoken with a variety of guests, including Valerie Bertinelli, Rush Limbaugh and Jenna Jameson. In addition to hosting Raw Nerve, Shatner is working on another Biography Channel project entitled Aftermath with William Shatner. The program, which premiered in the summer of 2010, focuses on the stories of ordinary citizens who became overnight celebrities. Also in 2010, Shatner starred in the CBS sitcom $#*! My Dad Says, a show based on a Twitter feed of the same name.

In addition to acting, Shatner has experienced great success as an author. During the writers’ strike of 1987, he transformed a screenplay idea into a novel. The result was TekWar (1989), a work of science fiction featuring a middle-aged private detective working in the twenty-second century. More Tek titles followed and were later adapted for television. More recently, Shatner has worked with Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens to create a series of Star Trek novels.

Also a veteran of nonfiction, Shatner co-authored Star Trek Memories (1993) and Star Trek Movie Memories (1994) with Chris Kreski. He and Kreski also worked together on Get a Life! (1999), a look at the whole Star Trek fan phenomenon. His most recent work is Up Till Now: The Autobiography (2008) with David Fisher.

Shatner will be performing his new record Ponder the Mystery in its entirety along with the progressive rock heroes Circa: featuring Billy Sherwood, who produced and co-wrote Ponder the Mystery with Shatner, and Tony Kaye both former members of the legendary progressive rock band YES.

William Shatner is a film and TV icon with an intense passion for music which has yielded several solo records including the critically acclaimed Seeking Major Tom. This most recent solo record, Ponder the Mystery, which includes guest artists from the prog and fusion genres such as Rick Wakeman, Al DiMeola, Steve Vai, Robbie Krieger, Vince Gill, Edgar Winter, George Duke, Zoot Horn Rollo and Dave Koz to name a few), expands Shatner’s musical horizons due to the fact that all of the songs are original, written by Shatner and his musical partner in the project Billy Sherwood. The album will be released on both CD and vinyl on October 8, 2013.

This partnership of Shatner and Sherwood has created a vast and expansive artistic landscape for Shatner’s amazing gift of poetry while Sherwood composed the musical backdrop. The record is conceptual in nature: following a man in despair through the setting sun, twilight and finally darkness, and in the process, regains his joy of life.

Both Bills had a vision of taking the record to the stage and performing it live. When it came time to form the band for this event, Circa: was the obvious choice, Sherwood and Kaye have had a long running musical relationship playing on stage together with YES and forming Circa: in 2006. Circa: recently released a new album Live From Here There and Everywhere.

Shatner started his career as a child performer in radio programs for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. As a student at McGill University, he continued to pursue acting. He spent his summers performing with the Royal Mount Theater Company. He graduated from the university in 1952 and joined the National Repertory Theater of Ottawa.

Herald de Paris Deputy Managing Editor Dr. Al Carlos Hernandez had the rare opportunity to speak to the media icon about his life and his new CD – which he believes is his best one ever. (Many thanks to B. and Glass Onion PR)

Star Trek ConventionAC: You are an American/Canadian media Icon. You have succeeded on many levels and on many platforms. What do you feel is your greatest success in life so far?
WS: Success is measured differently by different people at different times so naturally one would say a lovely family, a loving family and I’m grateful that is so. One might say that good health is a success. Of course there is an element of luck in good health but also there is an element of discipline. Career wise, I am just grateful to be working.

AC: How much of the characters depicting Captain Kirk and Denny Crane were a part of you? How much of what they were was scripted?
WS: An actor brings all of himself to the role. So Kirk and Crane were Shatner and much of the time, the words they spoke were written.

AC: What did you bring to each character that made them legendary?
WS: I just did the best I could with what I had and what I had was really terrific.

ACYou were one of the first to jump on the new media band wagon and turned Price Line into a huge success. What do you think of new and social media?
WS: Social media is a modern day miracle. Where it will take us in the future is one of the great science fiction conundrums.

AC: How has the internet enabled artistic expression?
WS: The transference of information.

AC: You did your first recording in 1968 “The Transformed Man” featuring spoken word versions of pop tunes. You were way ahead of the curve. What was the artistic thinking behind that? What kind of responses did you get?
WS: I sought to unite the spoken word with music showing how music can support the spoken word and spoken word can support the musical line. The response was enormous.

AC: Why Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds? How did the remaining Beatles like the rendition?
WS: I am about to perform Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds in the next few weeks with Sir Paul McCartney. I’ll let you know what he says.

AC: There has been some speculation that your spoken word successes helped inspire Rap music. Do you bear witness to that statement?
WS: My rap sheet is somewhat suspect.

AC: How do you feel about post modern music? Who do you listen to right now?
WS: Mostly I listen to my wife. As for post-modern music, I think it examines horizons that are exploratory and nouveau.

AC: Who are some of the musicians who have inspired you throughout the years?
WS: I love Jazz and many of the great jazz musicians have inspired me as an actor.

AC: What are some of your all time favorite albums?
WS: Hot August Night and The Wall by Pink Floyd to name two.

AC: Your last project was Seeking Major Tom. It was quite successful and featured cover tunes so why the departure on this new project?
WS: I had written most of the songs in a previous album called Has Been. I accepted the challenge to write all the lyrics in Ponder the Mystery. With Billy Sherwood writing the music, I teamed with a musical genius.

AC: Let’s talk about your new progressive rock CD ‘Ponder the Mystery.’ You have gone on record as saying,“It is quite possibly the most creative thing I have ever done.” Why?
WS: I’ve written all the lyrics, I was in on all the mix and I performed it to the best of my ability. It is a unique creation of music and words. It stems from a concept that burst into my mind when asked what I would do for a new album. The whole creative gambit is taking such a chance that it speaks to me on many levels.

AC: I understand that you penned all of the lyrics for the album. What are your themes, what was your muse, and what can a music lover expect?
WS: This album takes a disaffected man who is in despair through various manifestations of love and life to the end of which he regains his love of life.

AC: What is the mystery? Is there one correct answer or is it subject to ethereal interpretation?
WS: There are many mysteries. If a mystery had an answer, there would not be a mystery.

AC: Carlos Santana once told me, “There are two kinds of music: music that inspires and music that incites.” How would you categorize lyrically what this album does?

WS: I would add to Carlos Santana’s opinion to say also music that entertains. I’d like to think that this album does all three.

AC: Tell us about working with Billy Sherwood. He is known as the best progressive rock producer on the planet. Did he get your concept? Are you satisfied with his execution?
WS: Billy Sherwood is one of the few geniuses I have ever worked with. Yes he got my concept, yes he wrote beautiful music and he made my words into songs. I had the best time working with him and had a great creative time with him as well.

AC: You have some heavy hitters on the CD: Ric Wakeman, Steve Vai, Mick Jones, Al Di Meloa, Robbie Krieger. Individually, what did these cats bring to the table? What about Vince Gill?
WS: Vince Gill brought us a simplicity and an expertise; these other heavy cats brought an individuality to each of the songs. Their contribution to the uniqueness of the music is immeasurable.

William-Shatner-Ponder-THe-Mystery-medACHow did you get them to work on the sessions? What did they think of the songs? Did you have a chance to hang out with these cats and talk music?

WS: Apparently they liked the songs and hanging out with them was not an option as much as I would have liked to. They came from disparate places all over the country. Their joy in the music brings us all together?

AC: Is there anything in the media arts you haven’t done and/or plan to do?
WS: I am waiting for inspiration to strike.

AC: What would you like your legacy to be? How would you like history to remember you?
WS: As one of the great opera singers that ever lived and very slowly that lie decays.

AC: What advice would you give to artistic visionaries starting out?
WS: Believe in your vision and keep your vision until some philistine wipes you out.

AC: How can people know more about you and purchase your new CD?
WS: By purchasing my new CD, they will get to know more about me.

Edited By Susan Aceves

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