Chemist is a long time reader of OCF and a self-avowed Shatner aficionado. He added this link to my last ShatnerKhan post and I just had to share it with the rest of the site viewers.
Chemist is a long time reader of OCF and a self-avowed Shatner aficionado. He added this link to my last ShatnerKhan post and I just had to share it with the rest of the site viewers.
After reviving ourselves again with refreshments we estimated that we had time for one last course before exhaustion would set in. Almost at random we selected Mudd’s Women. It was a mistake. What we thought we were going to watch was the episode called I, Mudd. This one is about Mudd selling women that he artificially beautifies with a drug. It’s boring and meaningless. At the end the women are seen to be beautiful without the drug because they’re self-confident. Yeah sure, and I’m Brad Pitt.
Anyway, this poor episode angered the delegates and disrupted the complacency that the massive junk food binge had produced. We set to work repairing the situation with mass quantities of supplies. Once we had re-established our equilibrium, we decided to quickly bring the ShatnerKhan to a rapid close. But we did ramble on about what we had learned and vowed less poisonous food at ShatnerKhan 2.
So, what did we learn?
But all agreed that ShatnerKhan 1 was a roaring success both academically and gastronomically.
All hail William Shatner, long may you endure as a shining beacon of terrible acting.
As stated at the end of the last post we settled on Star Trek episode “Space Seed” as our next course. And there it all was! Ricardo Montalban and William Shatner battling to settle the question of who could chew up the scenery faster. Khan proves to be an even more persuasive lady’s man than Kirk. He convinces a lady scientist to turn traitor to the Enterprise and assist Khan in taking over the ship. Of course, the most absurd part of the story is that Kirk provides Khan with the ship’s technical manuals that allow him to figure out how to selectively flood most of the Enterprise with knock out gas. Could there be any logical reason to provide a known megalomaniac with the details of these most sensitive technical secrets of the ship? Of course not. While he was at it, he might as well have given Khan his social security number and his bank account PIN.
There is a great scene near the end where Kirk and Khan are fighting mano a mano. Khan starts out by snatching away Kirk’s phaser and twists it in half with his bare hands. Kirk gets tossed around like a rag doll but at the critical juncture he grabs hold of a solid metal bar and clonks Khan over the head a few times with it and shows that even a super-strong super-genius should go for the quick kill instead of ending up having the tables turned on him like some kind of super villain in a James Bond movie.
Watching the final scene where Khan and his colony agree to be exiled on a world of their own is of course ironic. We know that in the future the Wrath of Khan is awaiting Kirk and the rest of the crew. This was discussed heatedly. What should have been done. Should Khan have been handed over to a re-education camp. Should Kirk have checked to see if Ceti Alpha was a stable star that would permanently support a colony? Should such dangerous genetically superior individuals have been liquidated, for the safety of all humanity? What, precisely, was rich Corinthian leather? The answers to all of these were debated endlessly and then abandoned because we got hungry again.
But certain things were agreed on. Kirk and Khan are both hounds and neither Shatner nor Montalban believed in understated performances. And these two things were linked with the fact that this is one of the most popular episodes of the series. Shatner and Montalban are over the top ham actors. The characters they are playing are out of a comic book. But they are fun. They are motivated by the things that men are interested in; women, adventure, honor. This makes them about a trillion times more fun and interesting than Spock or Picard or any of the other “futuristic” characters. Shatner taking shoulder rolls and bouncing around under pretend Khan pummeling is laughable and sophomoric but it’s still the best thing Star Trek had in this episode.
So this is the revelation. Kirk is the best part of the show because he provides the only example of a normal man doing normal manly things. He doesn’t do them well or convincingly but he’s all there is. So we gave one cheer for James Tiberius Kirk and took some time out to eat some more food.
You may think that there was an inordinate amount of time taken away from the proceedings of ShatnerKhan to eat junk food. You would be correct. The plain truth is that all the delegates there were taking the opportunity to eat types and amounts of food that their wives would normally prevent. In many ways it was almost as if ShatnerKhan was an excuse to pig out. Once again, you would be correct. But we justified this by pointing out that Shatner himself always looked like he could lose about thirty pounds and we perceived something heroic in men of a certain age throwing caution and wifely warnings to the wind and seizing the day and the Dorito (as it were).
In the final post we will look at the concluding viewing content and then our final thoughts on ShatnerKhan 1 and the prospects for later editions.
Shaking off the lingering effects of Rocket Man wasn’t easy. But after enough refreshments were absorbed, we were ready to go forward. Believing they had sustained the worst shocks possible they were steeled to delve deeper into the less familiar works of William Shatner. They knew that I possessed one of the few copies of the 1984 made-for-tv movie, “Secrets of a Married Man” (SOAMM). A unanimous vote decided that it would be next.
For those who don’t know about this little known “treasure,” Shatner plays an engineer, Chris Jordan, working on an important project that will make or break his career. He has a wife and kids but the wife (played by former Momas and Papas singer Michelle Philips) has been so busy with her own career that she has sort of neglected her conjugal responsibilities toward Chris. So, what with the stress of the project and his neglected libido, Chris starts availing himself of the services of various prostitutes. This provides moments of Shatneresque hilarity. One scene shows Shatner in the shower when suddenly he looks down and must see some kind of rash or other skin problem on his genitals and almost has a stroke in his own special Shatner style. In the next scene he has gone to some doctor other than his family general practitioner and is relieved to learn it’s just an allergic reaction to soap or laundry detergent or “something else.” One particularly funny scene involves Shatner driving down the main drag with his wife in the car and all the hookers are calling out to him “Hi Chris” and Shatner is trying to explain to her how the name Chris is just hooker code for a new customer.
This goes on way too long until finally he meets the dream girl. Cybil Shepard is a high-priced hooker who drains Shatner of cash and even has him second mortgage his house to keep up with his weekly visits. But when the hooker’s pimp needs five thousand dollars Shatner’s whole life falls apart as his wife finds out what’s happening and leaves him and the police step in. We watched about forty percent of the show fast forwarding to the scenes where Shatner brought his unique acting abilities to bear on this stunning plot. But even that was too much. We finally shut it off.
When it was over the delegates were restless. They felt we had strayed too far from the core of the Shatner canon. While it was agreed that SOAMM contained some powerful and unique Shatner moments nevertheless the unheroic nature of the role separated it from the true spirit of Shatner. Even the hideousness of Rocket Man maintained the heroic nature of the Shatner persona. We had a to regroup. So, after reviling SOAMM and making fun of Cybil Shepard’s career that allowed her to play in this kind of movie we moved on. We decided to go back to the classics. And we picked for our next selection Space Seed. ShatnerKhan needed a little Khaaaaan!
But first we decided to take a break and restore ourselves with our choice of refreshments.
On the 27th of October 2019 word spread that an opportunity existed for ShatnerKhan 1 to occur on November First. I scrambled to confirm that the resources were in place. I searched for any conflicts that could interfere with the operational excellence needed for such a critical mission. ShatnerKhan 1 was a go!
So much had to be done in such a short window.
The time it took to N/A each of these items on the public domain occasion planning list that I downloaded from a random website was time taken away from the planning of exactly which Shatner masterpieces would be included and which would have to be sadly excluded due to time constraints from ShatnerKhan 1.
When I arrived home that fateful night ShatnerKhan 1 had already kicked into high gear. The delegates, some of whom had travelled from locales almost as far a way as the Andorian, Tellarite and Coridan systems, were attempting to regale Camera Girl with droll anecdotes of their exploits on their far-flung travels. She on the other hand, being a woman and therefore of a practical nature, was more interested in when they intended to leave.
I bounded into the gathering full of enthusiasm and the bright good spirit of camaraderie and feasted on a sumptuous repast of not only wonderful chicken chop suey, marvelous won ton soup and priceless egg rolls but also a mysterious dessert that attempted to predict my future! O Brave New World!
And now sated of our ravenous hunger and perfectly receptive to the cinematic delights we were about to experience we discussed the program. What would be included in this inaugural edition of ShatnerKhan? What would have to be postponed for a subsequent occasion? And what order would we arrange the included courses? I proposed to start off the evening with “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.” This seemed a safe and non-controversial strategy. But surprisingly, the delegates were opposed. The attitude of the room was that this was too tame, too familiar. They demanded a more challenging, a more esoteric choice. I knew that some of the delegates had not delved as deeply as I into the less well-known strata of Shatneriana. I resolved to stagger them with something they were surely unprepared for. I played Rocket Man.
For those who had not seen it before, the effect was devastating. By the time the third Shatner appeared there were howls of pain emanating from the audience and shouts to stop the show. I refused. They had sown the wind now they must reap the whirlwind. When the last “long, long time” died out into merciful silence I could see that those who had revolted against the safe choice of “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” were now sadder and wiser. They probably wished they could go back in time and undo that revolt. But no one can unsee “Rocket Man.” Their innocence was shattered. Like the victims of a Lovecraftian eruption of eldritch horror, the image of the tuxedoed Shatners was seared permanently into their souls. I contemplated describing here the experience of watching “Rocket Man.” It can’t be done. The experience is inexplicable. You’ve either seen it or you haven’t. It’s like trying to describe green to a blind man. Suffice it say that it is Shatner at the height of his powers, confident, almost arrogant. In complete control of the audience and his cigarette.
We stopped to revive ourselves with licorice and pretzel rods.
Coming hard on the heels of the conclusion of my marathon review of all one hundred fifty-six episodes of the Twilight Zone series I’ve decided to handle the Star Trek series in a decidedly different manner. Instead of providing mostly a plot synopsis followed by a short critique of the show I’ll instead tackle each episode as it relates to the series as a whole. For instance, Star Trek consists of the personalities of the main characters interacting in whatever plot is provided that week. And those plots have components that can include action, drama, melodrama, romance and even comedy. And over time the characters develop predictable behaviors. What I intend to do is compare the characteristics of a particular episode with the typical or average portrayal of these characteristics in the series.
What I think this will allow is the maximum opportunity for mockery. And let me be clear. I am doing this to take potshots and make fun of the awful acting and bad scripts that makes up the bulk of Star Trek. I watched Star Trek as a child and at the time I thought it was fantastic. I have a permanent warm spot in my heart for the show but I also recognize how extremely awful a lot of it is. And right at the center of this awfulness is William Shatner. His patented brand of overacting is by turns hilariously bad and embarrassingly painful to watch. I will rate the levels of bad and may have to invent a Shatner Scale to accomplish this.
But I want to acknowledge that Shatner is also very good at certain types of humor. There are scenes in Star Trek where he is as amusing as anything that was on television at the time. These are relatively brief and somewhat infrequent. But when something is done well, I’ll celebrate it. And there are other outbursts of good acting that occasionally intrude on the dreck. I will definitely note those too.
So that’s fair warning for really devoted fans of the show. I have no reverence for this show but I am fond of it. I will mock it viciously but I will also point out the good stuff that also exists in it. I will talk about how the show uses or abuses various science fiction tropes of the time. I will rate the plots and discuss inconsistencies that annoy the nerd in me. I will talk about the character development (such as it is) of the lead actors and of course I will delve into the strange and frightening study of William Shatner’s acting technique. I intend to do one episode a week. That will give enough time to lavish all the loving attention each episode deserves.
I know that I will learn a lot about bad television and I hope I provide a faithful portrait of one of the most influential and durable science fiction franchises around. So, I watched the first episode and was surprised to learn that “The Man Trap” was the first televised episode. I had assumed that “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” which I had understood was the second pilot, had aired first. So here I’m learning new things about Star Trek right from the git go.
Now, I will boldly go where no sensible blogger has gone before. Dun ta dun ta dun dun dun dun …. da dunnnn!
One of the greatest Twilight Zone episodes. The magnificent awfulness of Bill Shatner’s acting is on full display.
The story is simple and short enough. Bill Shatner is Bob Wilson, a salesman who had a nervous breakdown on an airline flight and is returning home with his wife Julia after a six-month commitment to a mental institution. As the couple board the aircraft for their flight home, Julia tries to reassure Bob that he is cured and their lives are back on track. Bob pretends to agree but when he sees that they are sitting in the emergency exit row his panic is there for both to see.
Julia takes a sleeping pill but Bob is too nervous to sleep. But as he looks out the window into the rain storm he sees a furred man-like creature with a strange masklike face walking on the wing. Bob rings the service bell and wakes up Julia and tells her what he saw but when she and the stewardess look out the window there’s nothing there.
Now Bob is afraid that he is hallucinating. But shortly afterward he sees the creature again and he tries to get the crew to see it. He tells them that the creature is tampering with one of the engines. The flight engineer pretends to believe but Bob sees through his charade. Bob says, “I won’t say another word. I’ll see us crash first.” When the flight crew gives him a sleeping pill, he pretends to swallow it. When Julia falls asleep Bob leaves his seat and steals a gun out of the holster of a sleeping policeman. When he gets back to his seat and sees the gremlin at work again, he fastens his seat belt, wakes Julia up and asks her to get him a drink of water and when she leaves, he pulls the emergency exit handle. The window flies out and the depressurization and wind speed almost pull Bob out of his seatbelt and pin him against the outside of the fuselage. The gremlin sees him and trundles toward him menacingly. Bob pulls his body forward, brings up the gun and fires all six rounds into the gremlin apparently killing it.
The next scene is Bob under a blanket on a stretcher being removed from the plane and waiting on the tarmac for an ambulance to bring him to an insane asylum. He tells Julia that it’s all over but no one believes what he’s done but that soon they will believe. In the ending monologue by Serling he shows us the damage to the engine visible on the wing and tells us that soon other people will know and believe Bob’s story.
The story is fun because of its wild nuttiness. The gremlin creature’s suit and facial makeup is pathetic. It looks like something that you might buy in a cheap Halloween Costume Store. Whenever anyone but Shatner is looking the monster jumps off the wing and it’s obvious that a wire is involved. And when the gremlin is advancing on Shatner’s character at the end of the episode, he walks like he’s stuck on flypaper. The whole effect is laughably bad.
But what truly makes this story so special is Shatner’s facial expressions. Many of his grimaces at seeing the gremlin are hilarious but I have two favorite moments.
The first is when Bob first sees the gremlin pull back the engine cowling and start tampering with the wiring. The Shatner’s masklike expression of terror is uproarious.
The second moment is when he is trying to steal the gun from the policeman’s holster, Shatner’s attempt to look guilty and sneaky at the same moment is pure Shatner gold.
To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, anyone who can’t laugh at these two scenes has a heart of stone.
This episode is obviously an A+. Going beyond the scope of these Twilight Zone reviews this review will be a part of the ShatnerKhan corpus of scholarly papers. I will use this as the basis for a more detailed examination of this very important part of the Shatner canon.
This is a very special episode. The usual criteria for judging the quality of these episodes cannot be used here. One fact overrules all other considerations. William Shatner.
Don Carter and his newlywed wife Pat are travelling from Ohio to New York City on their honeymoon when their car broke down in a small town called Ridgeview, Ohio. Don is a salesman who is hoping to be selected as the manager back at his office. He is also extremely superstitious. While waiting for their car to be repaired they went into a small restaurant and ordered lunch. On the table was a napkin holder with a novelty devil’s head fortune teller. For one penny the devil would answer any yes or no question. Don, of course, wanted to know if he had gotten the job. He asked the devil and he was told it had been decided in his favor. He called up his office and the devil’s answer were confirmed.
After this he asked a string of questions of the devil and all of them seemed to be true. Pat became concerned that Don was becoming obsessed with the machine. She asked him to leave. But the devil warned him not to. While trying to cross the road Don and Pat were almost struck by a car.
Now Don was convinced that the devil could predict the future. The answers that the machine continued to give him were correct. But finally, Pat gave an impassioned speech telling Don that he must break free of this fear of the future and walk away from the devil.
As Don and Pat leave the restaurant to continue their trip to New York another couple enters and begin questioning the devil. Finally, after hearing that they could not leave Ridgeview that day the man asks, “is there any way out, any way at all?”
So, this is a pretty standard Twilight Zone story but what distinguishes it is the Shatner factor. The overacting, the hyper-emotionalism, the spastic facial expressions. All of the abundant skills of the famous thespian are there to see. This is ham acting beyond dispute. I must give it an A.
Over the course of over fifty-five years of television viewing I have become jaded and much of what I once felt was entertaining has lost its thrill. For instance, as a young kid I was convinced that “The Twilight Zone” was not only great acting and entertainment but also intellectually dazzling. I thought that “Flipper” was top-notch adventure and “Lost in Space” was cutting edge science fiction. Ah, youth.
But one thing has remained constant from the early sixties to the present day. And that is the Shatner. From my first sighting of him on the Twilight Zone as the panicked lunatic on “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” to his every close-up on the original “Star Trek” TV series to his every career iteration he has distinguished himself as the World’s Greatest Bad Actor. No one can compare.
And along the way I’ve cheered him on. I thrilled to the scene where he agonized about “losing command” when the transporter separated him into “Good Kirk and Bad Kirk” and he knew that “Bad Kirk” was muy macho and he, “Good Kirk,” was a wimp. I was transfixed as marooned Kirk shouted up to the sky, “KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!!!!!!” And I fought back the nausea listening to his riveting rendition of Elton John’s “Rocket Man.” It’s been a wild ride.
But his greatest role is one that few have seen or remarked on. In 1984 he starred in a made for tv movie called “Secrets of a Married Man.” In it he is an engineer who is going through a mid-life crisis. His job is on the line due to a difficult project. He’s stressed out and his wife is busy with the kids. He starts having sex with hookers. There are a number of hilarious Shatner overacting scenes that turn what is supposed to be serious problems into over the top comedy. In one scene he’s in the shower and looks down and starts spazzing out and choking out the words “Oh my God!” In the next scene his doctor is telling him he just has a rash on his genitals and he shouldn’t worry. Another gem is Shatner driving down the main street with his wife in the car next to him and all the hookers are calling out greetings to him by his first name (Chris) and him claiming that it’s some kind of standard hooker greeting. Ah, if only the Oscar went to the deserving.
But time is running out. Shatner was born March 22, 1931. In a few days he’ll be 87. One day soon the world will wake up to the news that the Shat is no more. And on that day, I will mourn. But in the meantime, it’s comforting to know that in this world of relativism and revisionist propaganda the gold standard for something has stood the test of time and will be there immortalized in all its tacky splendor, the life work of William Shatner. Well done Shatner, well done.