In March, William Shatner turned 90, an age when many artists are comfortably settled into retirement. But the actor best known for playing Captain James T. Kirk in the “Star Trek” saga remains productive.
The Quebec-born Shakespeare-trained icon spent part of the pandemic recording an “autobiographical” spoken word album called “Bill”. He hosts “The UnXplained”, a History Channel series that explores occult phenomena: werewolves, vampires, sects, etc. He recently flew to the Bahamas to swim with the sharks. He’s also a spirited presence on Twitter.
But his character, built on decades of nostalgia, took a hit this summer after Kremlin-backed television station RT America announced he would host a new talk show called “I Don’t Understand.” US intelligence agencies have described RT America, which broadcasts on cable in the United States, as “Russia’s state-run propaganda machine,” and the station is registered as a “foreign agent” with the federal government. .
Shatner, for his part, defended his decision to tie up with RT, say on twitter that he did not do the science-themed talk show specifically for the network – “I made a TV program and they bought the distribution rights to it” – and dispute assertions that he would be the “spokesperson” of the Russian government.
“I Don’t Understand” debuted earlier this month amid renewed public attention on UFOs and space travel. In a Zoom conversation on Wednesday, he offered his thoughts on these topics, freely alternating between philosophical reflections and light jokes. He also explained how his new talk show ended on RT America. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
NBC News: I know you are fascinated by mysterious phenomena, so I want to ask you about the Pentagon UFO footage. Do you have a theory on what you see in these videos?
William shatner: What little I know about space and the Last Frontier – I was in a cathedral in Cambridge two or three years ago, and the sunlight was shining through the stained glass windows. In an instant, it caught up with me: a little flurry of dust. I know someone [Carl Sagan] said our planet is like a speck of dust in a cathedral, and I saw what they meant. How lonely everything is, and how far away everything is compared to this speck of dust.
It is impossible, as far as I know, for life to live long enough to come from elsewhere here. It’s tens of thousands of years, however you rule the time: atomic clock, 24 hours, your heart rate, how much mileage you do.
I wrote a short story in which people fly into space, and 500 years after the trip begins, they forget where they are going. Do we remember 100 years ago? And 2000 years ago?
It seems you thought it would be unlikely that intelligent life would travel the equivalent of thousands of years.
Exactly. Tens thousands of years!
I have another question on space.
I will answer it as intelligently as the last. [Laughs.]
We’re talking about a day after Jeff Bezos flew to the edge of space and 10 days after Richard Branson made his own suborbital jaunt. But there is a cultural divide: Some people are excited about the new space race, others believe billionaires should use their fortunes to fight economic inequality and Covid-19.
It is their money. They can do whatever they want with it.
I know there is a point to be made about popularizing space travel, and I have spoken to many space travelers who are excited to go to Mars. But if a little speck of that speck of dust that we were talking about hits your spaceship, it pierces it and then they have to clog it. If you basically have a flat tire in space, that means you’re going to die. It seems to me that you are more likely to die there than on the Hollywood Freeway.
What is his name [Elon Musk] wants to colonize Mars? It’s ridiculous. It takes a year and a half to get there. People will think it is like we are traveling on a cruise line. No one! You are weightless and it’s hotter than hell and the air is putrid. “Help me, I’m dying, but I’m dying slowly!” What a terrible fate.
I recently watched you in an obscure but interesting Roger Corman movie called “The Intruder,” where you play a racist quack who shows up in a small town in the south and stirs up rage at integration. It made me wonder if there are any lesser known movies or shows that you have made that you think deserve a larger audience.
It’s a cult favorite, “The Intruder”. But you know, my mind is wrong. When something is popular, there is a reason behind it. When we were making the film, we were right in the middle of what was going on with school integration. People wanted to kill us.
Did people want to kill the cast and crew?
We were in the middle of school desegregation, literally right in the middle of it. We shot the film in the South during some of the most agonizing moments of desegregation.
You’ve been criticized for having your new talk show airing on RT America, and I know you said you won’t be a “spokesperson” for the Russian government. But what would you do if RT tried to exercise control over the content of the show?
I will not do it.
But let me go back. I did a show called “Brown Bag Wine Tasting”. It was a fun show where I was walking around with a bag of wine asking people to taste the wine and give me their opinion. Ora TV bought and sold it.
Ora TV came to me this year and said, “Would you like to do another talk show? I said, “God, that sounds good. I would love to do a show called ‘I don’t understand.’ They said, “Great. We will do 44 half hours. [I said,] “44 half-hours!” It’s awesome ! Here’s part of the topic, ”and we started working on it.
Then I hear it’s on [RT America]. I’ve never heard of RT America, I don’t know where RT America is, but it’s okay. Then all of a sudden people say, “Wow, how can you be on RT? ” They play [my] innocuous show that asks: “What is space waste and why is it there?” How can I achieve happiness? “
Are you concerned about the legitimacy of what many see as a propaganda network?
Is it a propaganda network? I do not know. Is it more than the BBC or the CBC or the French network or the Japanese network? I do not know. I am not the spokesperson for RT America. They are what they are. I’m doing an innocuous show about the investigation of obscure acquaintances.
During our last conversation in 2018, you told me about the experience of being misdiagnosed with cancer. Since then, we have experienced a devastating pandemic. Have the events of the past few years changed your perspective on mortality?
You know, at my age, you are constantly aware of mortality. At all times, “Oh, I’m a little dizzy. Am I dying? ”That’s an interesting question. [Laughs.]
It’s laughable, in a way, because then I bounce back and here I am talking to you. The issue of mortality is still with me. The desire to pass on what I can to my family and therefore, I suppose, to anyone else who is interested is very strong in me.
The story of our life is written and it unfolds and you live it. It’s circular. It seems that what goes down goes up and what goes up ends up coming down. With that in mind, my only words for my family and friends are: if it’s bad now it’ll be better, wait.