The great William Shatner was all too keen to talk about his upcoming prog rock album with fans at his NYCC panel, which adorably confused about half the audience. There was some kind of metaphor about how prog rock is to music what science fiction is to fiction, and about how it was exploring new boundaries, and how he doesn’t understand musicians because he can never figure out when he has to come in on a track.
This is why you go to a Shatner panel, of course. He is master of the ambling metaphor.
When the floor is opened to questions, Shatner will begin by admitting outright that he probably won’t answer every question exactly; he’ll get sidetracked and talk about horses or his brown bag wine-tasting video series (he did talk about this and, admittedly, it sounded kind of awesome). He doesn’t like that he’s stuck behind a table, and he’ll put one foot up on a chair, bracing against his knee. It’s very John Wayne of him.
At this point in his career, you can tell that he enjoys some self-deprecation. When one fan began their question with “I’m so nervous,” he replied, “I’m nervous, too!” When another said, “It is making my whole life, meeting you right now,” his rejoinder was, “I wish I knew why….” He’s happy to talk about space exploration and the wonder that it inspires in everyone. In his mind the ritual of conventions, and the longevity of Star Trek, is linked with mankind’s fascination for space travel and exploration. (Apparently, his granddaughter is into science and was awed when she viewed Venus through a powerful telescope at age eight. Awww.)
And yes, everyone, he does want Trek to return to television.
He’s also super jealous of Ian McKellen: “I thought Patrick was my best friend.”
He also shared a story about an amazing prank he pulled on Leonard Nimoy a long while back. Apparently, Shatner got an entire panel of fans to follow him out of a convention center and hide in the parking garage where Nimoy’s car was waiting. When the actor finally came out, Shatner yelled “Now!” and the entire group of fans popped out of hiding and charged towards Nimoy, scaring the hell out of the poor Vulcan. “I don’t think he’s ever forgiven me for that,” he said, chuckling.
Shatner is all too aware of how his life has evolved into stories that he can spin for audiences just like the one at New York Comic Con. He brought up his opening on Broadway a couple years back, when he did his one-man show. It would seem that he got a horrible case of food poisoning right before his opening night, and was so ill that performing in front of his first real audience and all those critics was terrifying him. “The only thing that got me through it,” he told us, “was that one day I’d be sitting in a room like this with all of you. And that it would make a great story!”
But here’s one story I really didn’t expect: Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson apparently host a Shakespeare reading series where they get well-known actors to read through various plays. Hanks and Wilson also invite famous musicians to play through each interlude between scenes. They asked Shatner to do Two Gentlemen of Verona, and wanted it done as though the characters were in the Mafia.
With Sir Paul McCartney playing the interludes.
This led to Bill and Paul doing a rendition of “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” which Shatner performed in-character as a Shakespearean mob tough. As soon as he started the verse in his wise guy accent, McCartney cracked up and became incapable of continuing. Once they finished the song they hugged, Paul’s head on Bill’s shoulder, and as Shatner explained to all of us, “It was as though my life had come full circle.”
Too perfect. Can’t compute. Must reboot….