wMany times in his life, illiam shatner has “bravely gone where no man had gone before,” as the opening credits of the sci-fi series “Starship Enterprise” say. Shatner played impulsive captain James T. Kirk for two seasons beginning in 1966. He not only explored boundaries into the future, but transcended them into his present. For the kiss with on-board radio operator Uhura, he is credited with showing American television audiences such intimacy between a white man and a black woman for the first time.
Early next week, Shatner wants to cross another, very real limitation. At 90, aboard Jeff Bezos’ spacecraft, he would be the oldest person to ever fly into space. He took Captain Kirk’s comparisons with self-irony: “I’ve been hearing things about this space for so long, I’ll take the opportunity to see for myself.” In fact, he’s been playing it ever since Bezos planned tourist space flights. The first announcement that Shatner could fly was made a year ago. He maliciously added at that moment that he would try to sneak a bag into his spacesuit in case he got sick.
Hairy leprechaun on the wing
Shatner, born in 1931 in Montreal, Canada, the son of Jewish immigrants, has already played the worst that can happen to you as a passenger in the air early in his acting career. In the horror series “Twilight Zone” episode “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet”, as a passenger on a stormy flight, he looks through the cabin window at the wing and sees a hairy goblin tampering with the mechanisms there. The gremlin disappears as soon as other people can spot it. Eyes wide in shock, Shatner watches the horror of the sabotage. His performance of him was so compelling that decades later he was asked “the thing on the wing” in events where the character Kirk was supposed to be the subject. “Even today my children, as adults, make fun of themselves on board a plane: Dad, you make that face again when the stewardess passes by”.
In real life, Shatner is as positive about technological advances as her character, Kirk. The actor has never spared his admiration for Bezos’ bold idea of making spaceflight accessible to individuals. All she wanted from him was the certainty that he would return safe and sound. “And if not, what have I got to lose,” he said, proving he can become even braver in old age.