This past Saturday in the Hudson River on the west side of Manhattan, aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Intrepid, William Shatner looked over the railing of his perch down at a throng of costumed Star Trek fans on the deck below and said, “We can pretend like we are on the Enterprise and are taking a break for some entertainment.” He then paused, said something about meeting the Klingons before declaring, “the reality of what is about to happen is soooo much better.” Shatner was referring to the screening of his new documentary, The Captains, a film in which he interviews each of the lead actors from every incarnation of Star Trek. But the stars of the evening weren’t the actors in the documentary, nor Shatner himself. Instead, the hundreds of wonderful Trekkies easily stole the show.
Sponsored by Epix, (the production company responsible for The Captains) this special screening of The Captains turned out to be a sort of mini-Star Trek convention. But instead of scores of dealer’s tables hocking Trek t-shirts and toy phasers, this gathering was all about the love of Trek. I’m sure the party on the Intrepid didn’t break any records in terms of numbers of costumed fans, but it was still a pretty impressive and extremely heartwarming.
Myself and Tor.com’s editorial assistant Emmet Asher-Perrin (dressed as Captain Kirk) arrived early and hit the red carpet to witness Shatner’s arrival. He spoke to the press briefly, highlighting the fact that he felt prior to making the film he had five “acquaintances” and now he had five “very good friends.” Shatner didn’t linger here long, and soon departed, only to reappear on his perch later. Emily and I then ascended to the deck of this retired aircraft career where we began witnessing the influx of an entire fleet of Trekkies. The most striking thing about this particular crowd was its diversity. This wasn’t exclusively a gathering of middle aged men. Instead, there were teenagers, families, children, parents, grandparents, and yes, some Klingons too.
I talked a little bit with couple Bryan and Melissa Murphy, both clad in awesomely accurate classic Trek uniforms. Bryan and Melissa told me they both grew up with Star Trek and that it’s always been a big part of their relationship. Bryan, claimed his favorite captain was easily Picard, while Melissa told me she liked Kirk. Then she quickly added, “But Scott Bakula is sexy, too.” The Murphys, total pros to outdoor screenings had brought their own folding chairs, an innovation shared by some neighboring fans; the three- part Bonini family. Though mom and dad Bonini weren’t in costume, their young daughter Diana was decked out as Lt. Dax from Deep Space Nine. (See the picture at the top of the article.) She told me DS9 is her favorite of the Treks, and that she and her family had recently seen Shatner a convention in Boston. Diana’s dad, Dan, also mentioned to me that their whole family was into science fiction, but that his (absent) son was more into Star Wars.
The New York City chapter of “Starfleet” was also present, lead by Brigadier General Jonathan Slavin of what he referred to as the Starfleet Marine Corps. Slavin and his crew were sporting a kind of Starfleet fatigues, though some in his organization were wearing more traditional uniforms. Starfleet is a nationwide fan organization and organizes its chapters into “ships” with the NYC ship being the U.S.S. Iwo Jima while Hudson Valley Chapter is the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln, which is “commanded” by Captain Keith Shikowitz. Complete with application forms, these guys were probably a little more hardcore than the Murphys or Boninis, but were just as endearing.
A costume contest proceeded the screening which included a woman dressed as the Enteprise, a man dressed as Kirk in a ripped and bloody tunic, a blonde Vulcan woman, the Murphys in their uniforms, Diana Bonini as Dax and our very own Kelsey Hicks and Emmet Asher-Perrin as Spock and Kirk! A group of children, and the Enteprise woman were among the winners.
When Shatner eventually rematerialized and introduced the film, he concluded his speech by telling everyone to enjoy the “soft summer weather” as only he could articulate. (Seriously, the way he said this was hilarious. If you know how he talks, you understand.) The documentary itself was a nice and touching journey for any Star Trek fan. I’ll not spoil the film for anyone, but there was probably something in there for every type of Star Trek fan. My favorite part was probably a sequence in which Shatner is walking around a convention photo-bombing groups of fans. The scenes in which Shatner and Avery Brooks do jazz improv also range from hilarious to surreal. However, it is probably the interviews with Patrick Stewart that are the most revealing and touching. Though the narrative of the documentary tends to meander a bit, there is an eventual epiphany that strikes Shatner towards the end. And when he reveals that epiphany to Stewart it is pretty powerful. (Hint: it has to do with how much Shatner loves you all.)
When the film ended, and I shuffled through Times Square with Emily and Kelsey, it occurred to me that their Kirk and Spock costumes weren’t so out of place in the middle of the Big Apple one bit. William Shatner and all the captains from Trek helped make diversity and acceptance a mainstream idea. And though all fandom has its high points, I have to say I’m a little biased in favor of Trek fans because they’re just so damn upbeat. And even if the documentary was a little corny in places, I couldn’t help but feel at the end of it that we’re all a little better for having Star Trek in our lives. And a lot of that has to do with Shatner.
But the longevity has to do with the fans too. So, thanks to you Trekkies! It wouldn’t be Star Trek without you.
All photographs by Ryan Britt. For TONS more pictures from the screening (including the Enteprise Lady) head over to BuzzFeed.com.
Ryan Britt is a staff writer for Tor.com.