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William Shatner
William Shatner, Patrick Stewart, Avery Brooks, Kate Mulgrew, Scott Bakula, Chris Pine, Christopher Plummer
Writing Credits:
William Shatner

The final frontier is only the beginning.

Since first soaring onto television screens in the 1960s, Star Trek has become one of the most beloved franchises of all time. Now, the original Captain Kirk, William Shatner, travels around the globe to interview the elite group of actors (Chris Pine, Patrick Stewart, Avery Brooks, Kate Mulgrew and Scott Bakula) who have portrayed the role of Starship Captain, giving fans an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the pop culture phenomenon as well as the men and women who made it so.

Rated NR

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1/16X9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby Stereo 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 96 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 10/18/2011

• “The Making of The Captains” Featurette
• Previews


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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The Captains (2011)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 27, 2012)

With 2011’s The Captains, we take an intriguing look at the Star Trek franchise. Directed by “Original Series” leader William Shatner, the documentary features interviews with all the other actors who played Trek captains – and a few additional participants as well.

Shatner leads the interviews as we hear from actors Patrick Stewart, Avery Brooks, Kate Mulgrew, Chris Pine, Scott Bakula, Jonathan Frakes, Robert Picardo, Nana Visitor, Rene Auberjonois, Connor Trinneer, and Christopher Plummer plus former Gene Roddenberry assistant Richard Arnold. The documentary looks at the lives and pre-Trek careers of the six captains and then delves into their Trek experiences.

Perhaps the most obvious negative about the film: Shatner never can gather all the captains in one place. He jets around the world to visit them and chat, but we never see more than two captains – Shatner and Whoever - at one time. Perhaps it would’ve been tough – or impossible – to pull off given various schedules and locations, but a “captains roundtable” sure would’ve been appealing. Shatner loves to tell us about the loaned private jet he gets to use here – maybe he should have utilized it to pick up the various captains and bring them to LA.

But then The Captains couldn’t have devoted nearly as much time to Shatner’s favorite subject: Shatner. It will come as no surprise to Trek fans that Shatner boasts an enormous ego, but his near refusal to allow any conversation to become about anything other than The Greatness That Is Shatner becomes an issue here.

Perhaps I exaggerate, as Shatner does try to engage the participants in their life stories. However, somehow these usually end up being about him in various ways. It’s not enough for the actors to relate their experiences; Shatner needs to toss in his 2000 cents about what he went through as well. If this added up to a compelling dialogue, that’d be fine. Instead, it simply seems fatuous and egotistical, as though Shatner can’t stand to avoid yammering about himself for more than roughly 12 seconds.

If The Captains went with a straightforward approach, it’d work better. Instead, Shatner gets cute. He visits the other actors in their own habitats and forces us to watch them bond in odd ways. This leads to idiotic – and borderline tasteless - moments like his “Captain Inside” residence in a New York City cardboard box as well as painfully awful sequences like the one in which Brooks and Shatner “sing” together at the piano. Do we need to see Bakula and Shatner ride horses? Oh yeah -–that reminds us how vital Shatner remains at 80. To him, it’s crucial. To a decent editor, it should’ve been on the floor.

The roundabout construction of The Captains means the movie barely touches on Trek until around the half-hour mark. I’m fine with the exploration of the actors’ lives and careers pre-Trek, but a) not for nearly one-third of the film’s running time, and b) not in the manner we see here.

If Shatner spent that 30 minutes or so on actual content, I could live with it. However, between the dopey sideshow scenes - like the cardboard box and the horse riding – as well as the loose interview techniques, we don’t really learn much in that span. We find many five minutes of real content during that half an hour – and it’s not even five particularly good minutes, either.

Shatner does occasionally allow Captains to follow a more straightforward path and – gasp! – actually allow us to learn something about Trek, but not for long. One minute we hear about how the actors came to the series, and then we get a pointless chat between Shatner and apparently homeless woman “Apple Annie”. Why? Ask Shatner – these moments come out of nowhere and do nothing but slow down an already sleepy program.

Even when Shatner tries to play interviewer, he flops. I guess he doesn’t think anyone would like to know much about Trek nuts and bolts, so he comes up with a mix of lame vaguely psychoanalytical queries. This leads to painful moments such as the sequence during which he asks Mulgrew if a female captain can really do the job given all the “hormones”. Oy – in 2011, he’s asking that? Why not just ask Mulgrew if she feels women should be allowed into the corporate workplace or if they should remain barefoot and pregnant?

And that might not even be the worst of it. Shatner also spends long periods musing about life after death with the actors. Who the frack cares if Scott Bakula believes in the afterlife? What does any of this have to do with a discussion of Star Trek?

In the end, The Captains should be retitled The Original Captain and Issues That Concern Him. Shatner can’t be bothered with subjects that don’t fascinate him, and it’s clear Star Trek itself bores him. In return, The Captains bores me.

The DVD Grades: Picture C+/ Audio C+/ Bonus D+

The Captains appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. This was a decent presentation but no better.

Sharpness usually seemed acceptable to good. The program consisted of a mix of archival materials and modern “talking head” interviews. These could occasionally look a little rough and blocky, but they generally appeared reasonably accurate and concise. Mild issues connected to jagged edges and shimmering occurred, but no signs of edge enhancement could be found. Source flaws weren’t an issue, though some light digital artifacts gave the show a bit of a grainy look.

Colors were satisfactory. The program featured a natural palette, and the hues looked reasonably clear and concise. Blacks were fairly dark and tight, and low-light shots seemed acceptably distinctive. While this was never a dynamic transfer, it remained perfectly watchable.

I thought the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Captains was also acceptable. The soundfield had little going for it. Music showed decent stereo imaging, and a few effects spread out across the front. These were minor, though, and didn’t add much to the experience. That said, a documentary like this didn’t need a dynamic soundscape, so I didn’t mind the bland presentation.

Audio quality was fine. Speech sounded natural and concise, without edginess or other problems. Music seemed full and rich, and effects were decent; they didn’t demand much of the mix, but they appeared accurate enough. This was a perfectly serviceable soundtrack for a documentary.

Only a few extras show up here. The Making of The Captains goes for 10 minutes, 59 seconds and features producer Dave Zappone, director/writer William Shatner, and co-executive producer Kevin Layne. They discuss the film’s genesis as well as aspects of its creation. We get a smattering of decent notes here, but the featurette suffers from some of the self-flattering tendencies seen in the final flick.

The disc opens with ads for Being Human, Haven, and The Lost Future. The DVD also tosses in the trailer for Captains.

Along with his persistent obsession with himself, director/star William Shatner’s obstinate near-refusal to give the people what they want – ie, information about Trek - kills The Captains. Shatner takes the film down a mix of borderline irrelevant subjects that seem likely to alienate all but the most obsessive Trek fan. The DVD offers acceptable picture and audio but lacks significant supplements. The Captains takes a cool premise and flushes it down the toilet.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.4285 Stars Number of Votes: 7
0 3:
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