Star Trek: The Original Series was cancelled over four decades ago. The Next Generation saw its last episode 17 years ago and even the finales of Deep Space Nine and Voyager are more than 10 years old. Wouldn't it be great to catch up with the captains of each of the series to learn what Star Trek means to them today? That's William Shatner's concept for The Captains... a commendable idea that unfortunately explodes into an awkward fireball of a train wreck.
I love Star Trek documentaries even though some can make me feel a little uncomfortable by holding up a figurative mirror into my soul (like Trekkies). I was looking forward to The Captains, hoping it would provide some great insight into the production of Star Trek. My friend Jason warned me beforehand, calling this documentary one of the most awkward things he's ever seen. I couldn't imagine how that could be the case. It's just a Star Trek documentary after all... how can anybody screw it up that badly?
Just ask Bill Shatner, the original Captain James T. Kirk who was the writer, director, and (tragically) interviewer of the other captains in this movie. Almost all of his interviews made me squirm in my seat, and not because it was a "mirror into my soul". Rather they often left me wondering, "What in the crap was he thinking?!" If I wasn't already a Star Trek fan before I saw this, I'd probably avoid it like the plague after watching this documentary. Almost every one of the interviews is an abject disaster in its own right.
Inside the Captain's StudioPatrick Stewart (Jean-Luc Picard): This interview was probably the most productive as Patrick offered a few genuinely interesting insights. But Shatner diminishes Patrick's statements by piggy-backing onto them, trying to make it all about himself (as Jason correctly pointed out). For example, Patrick says something to the effect of, "If I were to die today and be remembered mainly as Captain Picard, I'd be okay with it." Then, out of the clear blue Shatner fires back (again, to paraphrase) "Yeah, me too, and and the greatest gift I've gotten from this interview is you making me see that." Where the hell did that come from? What happened to the "Get a Life" Shatner?
Patrick is polite and has obvious affection for Bill so the interview is not as awkward as it could have been.
Avery Brooks (Benjamin Sisko): Avery is a very poetic person who lives and breathes Jazz music, which apparently causes him to speak in abstractions. This interview is very weird, but it's not Bill's fault this time. I commend the Shat for his attempts to work with Avery's flights of fancy, but Sisko is just working on another planet these days.
Kate Mulgrew (Katheryn Janeway): Kate's interview starts off nice and cordial but quickly snowballs into catastrophe. Bill departs from his usual softball questions into inexplicable misogyny, questioning the ability of women to take leadership roles because of their "hormones". Kate is visibly taken aback but seems to give Bill the benefit of the doubt... at first. When Bill relentlessly keeps harping on the same line of sexist questioning, Kate rightfully gets a little pissed. But that's not all: Bill even purposefully directs the questions in such a manner as to try to force Kate to admit that she was a bad mother for taking the role. Awkward. Weird. Wrong. Why?
Scott Backula (Jonathan Archer): A brief respite from the cringing awkwardness, Scott's interview is as they all should have been: respectable questions with amiable answers. But what a strange juxtaposition it is, as Bill and Scott yuck it up commiserating about divorce right after Shatner inappropriately grills Kate.
Christopher Pine (James T. Kirk, v2): Unfortunately Chris is not in the movie very much at all. As the resident Trek noob, it would have been nice to see more considering how little I know about him. Not to mention the fact that he's the future of Star Trek, so it would have been great to hear in what direction he would like it to go. But nope... he gets maybe three shots, that's it. More time is spent with Christopher Plummer (the Klingon General Chang from Star Trek VI) than with Chris Pine. What's Christopher Plummer doing in a documentary about Starfleet Captains anyway?